Saturday, June 11, 2011

'Kela' Republic

Statutory Warning – This is my longest post. Maybe my last as well!

I see Baba Ramdev on TV everyday. I don’t like him. I will not compound facts here. I don’t care if anyone gets offended by this statement. My reasons are very personal. I guess, more than Baba Ramdev, it’s this ridiculous idea of a ‘New India’ floating around that I seem to dislike even more.

I have had a pretty eventful week. A wise man had once said ‘He who laughs at himself never runs out of things to laugh at’. My visa application (to The United Arab Emirates) was recently rejected as UAE Emigration records suggested I was residing in the UAE while applying for the visa from India. As funny as it might sound, there is reason to worry. For all that I know, I might be a victim of identity theft. I did feel important for approximately six seconds.

Countless mails were exchanged. My passport was scanned, scrutinized and sent to different places at once. I no longer felt important. I felt rather odd and isolated. It was slightly intimidating as well. My travel agent suggested me to investigate the matter once I reach there. Such intense invigilation was clearly not my idea of a lazy Thursday.

I decided to take a breather. I met my grand mom the same night, and we had a rather amusing conversation about marriage and family dynamics. For a 75 year old suffering from all sorts of geriatric ailments, she makes a lot of sense. I slept early as the whole business of getting my passport issue fixed had made me travel close to 300 kms in 18 hours. Famished, I slept like a dog, and woke up the next day afternoon to a rather bewildering sight.

My brother (A sane yet highly frustrated Indian citizen) was seething. I faintly remembered him discussing about applying for his marriage certificate the previous day. Honestly, I was a little apprehensive about approaching him at that point. He was so angry, he could have killed someone. He was swearing, his nerves throbbing, pulses racing and his face was plush red. He rarely loses his cool; I knew something was seriously amiss.

My brother was unable to apply for his marriage certificate within 45 days of his wedding. It was an error of judgment on his part. I guess he was too caught up with all the ‘tamasha’ that surrounds a wedding. He is a student of Emergency Medicine, works 7 days a week usually. The odd day that he gets a holiday, is on a Sunday. He lives in Calicut with his wife (A doctor again), which is approximately 3 hours from Kannur, by road. They have a lovely little kid, my niece, and she turned one recently.

The procedure to get a marriage certificate in Kerala is rather simple. You have to fill up a form, sign twice in front of the registrar with two witnesses, and in theory you would get your certificate in 2 months. Though in practice, there is an entirely different script.

My brother had patiently filled the form (printed in Malayalam) earlier in the morning. Considering the fact that the form was in Malayalam, he filled up a rather lengthy and slightly bizarre form in the same language. He attached his wife’s driving license and his passport copy as documents for verifying names/addresses. He signed wherever necessary, carried all the documents required, took my sister in law with him (Both of them had to be present at the registrar’s office in order to obtain the certificate) and headed to the registrar’s office.

He met the clerk in charge of handling marriage certificates. A Salt and peppery haired man, with a full sleeved white shirt and an air of scumbag entitlement around him; he epitomized all possible stereotypes! He was indeed the prototype government servant. He looked at the form, and mocked at my brother. The conversations that ensued ranged from borderline stupid to downright ridiculous.

He asked my brother if he possessed common sense. My brother was obviously offended. When asked why he felt my brother lacked common sense, the salt and peppery haired man said that if he did posses common sense, he would have filled up the form in English. My brother took the form, and asked him in which language were the questions printed. He replied ‘In Malayalam’. My brother asked if it was mentioned anywhere in the form that the applicant should fill the form in English. He replied saying ‘No’. Now, it was my brother’s turn to offend the salt and peppery haired man. He asked, ‘So what are you talking about?’

The clerk replied curtly ‘Do not talk to me about the technicalities of this form’

The clerk was bruised, quite badly. Round one was a clear knock out. His next statement was preposterous. He asked my brother why he would show his wife’s driving license as proof for verifying her name. My brother replied that it’s a document issued by the government. The clerk retorted with a vengeance saying ‘Driving license, really? Go to Mangalore, anyone can get a fake one, this will jus not do’

My brother knew that argument was clearly not the way out. Their sensibilities were distinctly different. He asked if my sister in law’s pan card would do. The clerk laughed. He said ‘Doctor Sir, It won’t do’.
‘So how about Election ID?’
The reply was terse. ‘You know how they are made as well, Get your wife’s ration card or SSLC book, nothing else will do. (She was not allowed to use her Passport, as she had applied for one only after she got married)

For the next few minutes, my brother just stared at the man in disbelief. SSLC book and Ration Card remain the only two documents in India that is immune to tampering. You can fake election ids, birth certificates, pan cards, but you just can’t recreate the SSLC book or the even more primitive Ration card. The logic, spellbinding! India Shining, Indeed!

I forgot to mention one key element here. The form had clearly mentioned that the passport, driving license, ration card or election ID can be used as a document to verify name/address. When brought to the notice of the clerk, he replied curtly ‘Do not talk to me about the technicalities of this form’

The entire form had to be refilled, in English, with a new set of documents. The clerk also informed my brother that he had to get a letter from the ward counselor certifying that the house in which my brother resides, was indeed his own house and hence, all necessary documents had to be furnished to the ward counselor.

He was also asked to arrange for two witnesses (not related to my brother), who would be available whenever summoned by the registrar to verify the details. There is no time frame here, it could be anywhere between a week and two months, and if by chance the witness leaves the state, falls sick or fails to show up, my brother wouldn’t get his certificate. I guess its applicable if the witness dies as well.

The story doesn’t end there. He also had to get a letter of approval from the Mullah who presided over the Nikah, signed and sealed by the Masjid Secretary. Since my Brother’s in-laws hail from Taliparamba, a small town situated 30kms from Kannur, he had to drive back and forth to get a mere signature from the hapless Mullah who had presided over the function.

As my brother’s wedding took place at my home, he was asked to get a document verifying the very existence of my home. The document has to be handwritten, the language prehistoric, only then would it hold value in the bureaucratic set up. One should not get confused with the ward counselor’s letter mentioned above. They are two separate documents.

And as a punishment for applying late, my brother had to also write an apology letter (In English or Malayalam) addressed to the registrar for committing such a terrible crime. He has to be back again next week, with his wife and child on a weekday, to sign in front of the Salt and Peppery haired clerk. Once that’s done, the registrar would call him to collect his certificate, and this time he would have to get along the witnesses as well, on a working day! That in short, is the task in practice.

We spoke over tea. My brother had calmed down by then. His questions were pertinent. Time and again, we gloat over the fact that we live in a free democratic set up. A citizen’s right remains the state’s prerogative. We also have a superpower. The Vote! Strike them down every 5 years, celebrate our power, and then continue to remain victims of bureaucratic demagoguery. We celebrate the victory of TMC in Bengal, and the AIDMK in Tamil Nadu. News Channels title it Democracy’s victory. The bureaucratic nightmare continues for another 5 years, we strike down the elected ones again, and the same old story repeats itself, like in a vicious circle. My right to vote is of utmost importance though. That’s my comeback. An exercise to inflate my thwarted ego!

Make the ‘empowered’ citizens run around for months to get a get a piece of paper, that in all certainty will not be accepted anywhere in India as the chances of getting a fake one is alarmingly high. And yet, The Dawood Ebrahim’s and Hasan Ali’s of this world have no trouble moving around in this country. The terrorists, politicians, bureaucrats, filmstars, civil society servants and Yoga Gurus in India live a charmed life. The rest of us have to be content with Bureaucratic Red Tapism. We are the empowered folks after all. We remain suspects in the eyes of the state, for marrying, for voting, for holding pan cards, for paying income taxes, for taking ration. That’s what I could infer from the salt and pepper haired man’s comments.

No Baba, No Anna Ji can/would want to change this. The intellectual elite of this country are interested only in discussing profound issues. Union Ministers are busy organizing red carpet welcoming sessions for self appointed civil society leaders. Political leaders dance to celebrate the idea of democracy, and they give press conferences to justify dancing. It comes on TV every night at 9, on all news channels. But we, the empowered citizens of India have the last laugh. We are the ones who send SMS’ to polls conducted by our beloved news channels. Our right to express, indeed!

‘He who laughs at himself never runs out of things to laugh at’

P.S It’s been 12 months since I gave exams for pursuing my further studies, and I still don’t know when my classes will begin. It’s a government run, prestigious institute.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Frozen Images - Lets Rewind!

Images. Frames. Compositions.

I would like to make it clear that I don’t like using the term Photo. Somehow it kills the very essence of what is being captured. Photo makes it sound technical, metallic, Silver Chloride like. I don’t get technology. Image sounds aesthetic, makes the ‘moment’ almost alive and breathing.

I recently happened to flip through a bunch of old images. Stacked, dusty and sticky, a peculiar smell permeated across the room, one that of years passed by. A stale stench, that of my childhood captured by my folks. It’s wasn’t their love for photography that led to this sizeable collection of childhood images, but it was more of an endeavor to document every aspect of my life as it passed by.

I was born fat. And by fat, I mean real fat. Legend says that I was a victim of many a bite, a painful yet unique way of expressing love. Babies make ideal subjects. Babies are small, round, often posses’ precocious smiles and wear wonderful clothes. They make pink look good! A stroke of Johnson’s baby powder, a cool cap and any baby would look angelic. Always ready for a Kodak snap.

And yes, Baby fat is often considered cute. Flabby fat. Rubbery Bands. Stretch. Release.

Our childhood images show that we are all well-brought-up. I don’t know if its colonial hangover, but most parents stick to the idea of buttoning up a child till he chokes to death. Talcum powder remains, but is often concentrated on the forehead and on the neck. One often gets to see things like White running shoes along with formal trousers (Terrible combo), but it’s often passed along as a ‘Kids thing’. I think for girls, it’s the infamous hair-cut. Crop cuts, often called boy cuts in my part of the country! More often than not, we all do okay. Our parents do realize that we are being documented, and hence a bit of effort goes down as to how we look. Again, most of it depends on how well versed they are with haute couture.

But just like the calm before a storm, teenage life awaits us. Waiting to shred our reputations to tatters, it crashes into us and stays forever, in the form of these candid images. I genuinely feel human beings look sick between the ages 10 – 16. Reasons - Bad haircuts, bad dress sense, centre parting, a lethally bad sense of fashion and ugly hair sprouting out of nowhere to cite a few. The almost unmissable moushy below the nose makes for some ugly viewing. Add to that those conspicuous countenances with a hint of rebellion! Puberty strikes with a vengeance indeed. It’s bad enough that we all looked so hideous back then, but the fact that we had readily accepted those images makes the idea of viewing the immediate present quite bizarre. And what’s with all the wannabe poses. Scrawny framed, arms crossed, cap flipped backwards, oversized shades (borrowed from siblings more often than not). That’s when we fall from grace, from sublimities to downright ridiculous! For a while I thought it was just me, but a gradual study on this subject convinced me that a large part of us were bit by this almost mutinous teenage bug. It should also be noted that some of us never grow out of it, which is indeed pitiable.

Fact – Talcum powder is detested by most teens!

College life straightens most people out (Not everyone). Although, one needs to seriously question the idea of taking party pictures. Its just bad photography (even at a technical level). Sweaty people drenched in alcohol, cigarette fumes, seductive gazes, disco lights, red eyes and what not! Ugh!

As the years go by, we broaden up a little. Bones flatten out. Some remain fit, for others triglycerides start accumulating steadily. Beer Bellies and Thunder Thighs! Hairlines recede further; a hint of grey starts appearing. All documented. Happier images! Images that graph our growth, our wisdom and experiences! A rather enlightening journey from being a beautiful baby, to ignored adolescent to a handsome adult. The spectrum finally ends at Old age, where we will all be called cute again, a painful yet unique way of expressing love!

It’s quite a nice feeling to look through these frozen images. It gives us a certain sense of perspective as to how we have aged graciously over the many years. How along with us, our surroundings too have changed drastically.

I thank those moments, I thank those images. It made me smile tonight!

P.S Digital images may have completely taken over, but the sheer joy of flipping through old, pale and sticky prints is incomparable.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Of Break Up’s and Hang Over’s

The head’s splitting. The stomach’s either twisted, or stretched. You wouldn’t know. You wouldn’t want to know what’s wrong. The tongue’s arid. It doesn’t want to talk. The eyes are blood red, it doesn’t want to unwrap. The early morning sunshine is no longer pleasant. It’s a transports you to a different hole. A space that is desolate. You become god, you declare yourself to be in hell for the many painful hours to follow. The legs hurt, almost everywhere. The knees are weak, the muscles have tightened up. There is seething anger, terrible despair. The question ponders? Why did I do that? Some call it an alcohol induced delayed reaction. Others call it, a hangover.

There is love. There is this unimaginable sense of togetherness. You feel her hands stroking your neck. A shiver goes up your spine. It’s not lustful, yet it’s border line tempting. You crave for more. You clench her hands, you stroke her hair. Her head rests on your shoulder. It’s not just support, it’s intimacy beyond ecstasy. You wouldn’t want it to end. You wish you could capture this image using the most powerful lens, and frame it on your favorite tangible wall. Yet, the clock ticks. The clock ticks to bring in compromises and arguments. Trust has taken a detour, Love goes hiding. There is intrusion of space, there is lack of privacy, and there are arguments beyond rationality. Love’s gone, distance is in. A fatal SMS, or a well rehearsed monologue. Let’s pull the plug! Some call it a failed relationship, some call it a breakup.

Suddenly, everything you loved in the past takes a holiday to Costa Rica and does not come back. All the remarkably romantic acts that you did, or rather performed, seem juvenile and sappy. You look back in bewilderment, and realize you were marvelously moronic. Social networking sites irritate you. She suddenly appears in every single wall post. She seems happy. She is socializing. You feel like an idiot on a donkey, depressed, angry and totally confused. You see her flashy smiles, and you confuse them for happy ones. At times she looks beautiful again, and you wonder why things went wrong. You berate yourself because she ‘likes’ your friend’s Google Buzz status. Rage engulfs you, how could she be so inconsiderate? Yet, you don’t accept that somewhere down the line, you too were wrong. You have officially become a victim of your own brain-thwarted expectations. You know begin to classify yourself. You feel like, and in the process, have become the ultimate Jackass. You go outside for a smoke. You see a bus with her name on it!

This is where alcohol comes in. Simple Logic, No rocket science. Man’s ultimate escape mechanism. Illusion sets as per proportions consumed. Euphoria follows. Dumb jokes are funnier now. Head feels light. There is an immense urge to let everything out. The opposite sex looks hotter. Testosterone levels seem to higher (at least at a psychological level). The music transports you to a new zone. Maybe, you are having a good time. Since common sense has gone for a siesta, you derive logic between consumption and contentment. the more you consume, the better it will get. Horrifying similar to your failed relationship. You get clingy, clingier and then it gets clumsy. Before you know it, the liver gets into action. Bile, whiskey, beer rum and pancreatic juices muddle up in all the convoluted tubes that keep us alive, and suddenly regret seeps in. The plug pulls up. The putrid cocktail comes out. The head spins for one final time, and then there is a fade out.

All the good times you just vanish without leaving a trail. The clock seems to be slow. Hours don’t pass easy. You are hungry, yet you can’t eat. You hate yourself for being so stupid.
You wish better sense had prevailed. You wish if you could remember the wild night. Present juggernauts the past. The past is a black hole, waiting to be forgotten.

To put it simply, both suck at a very towering level. More often than not, it’s a chain reaction. It’s bizarre, a fatal break up almost all the time leads to a near fatal hangover. History is sour, present sucks and future looks terrible bleak. A break up and a hangover are eternal twins, mystically connected. Let’s simplify, and call it, A Break Over!
Lime Juice and good music might give some relief. And of course, time. Time fixes everything, including the dry tongue.

P.S. I am not drunk. I am perennially single.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Ali, My Friend.

I have known Ali for 7 years now. I remember meeting this puny young boy when dad had moved into our new apartment. His Dad, a very generous entrepreneur used to run a small supermarket right next to our apartment. He had four sons, Ali being the youngest. They were very popular in the neighborhood. All of them possessed the most wonderful smile one could fathom, and each time I went there, Uncle gifted me one chocolate. They all ran the business together, and have done remarkably well.

Last April, if my memory doesn’t fail me, Uncle had met with a fatal accident in Abu Dhabi. He had gone to clear his telephone bills when a car took him out. A lethal crash, and the pleasant face I so often saw, had just left all of us for good.

I would meet Ali everyday. Every time I stepped out of my building, I would see him, hooked to his phone. He would have a wide smile on his face. It’s not that we were best of friends. We hardly fielded conversations, yet we used to meet everyday. A customary ‘Hi’ and a flashy smile just outside my building, was fairly routine.

The young man was now ready to get married. A week back, he had met my elder brother at the supermarket. Ali informed my brother about his wedding. He was a shy young man of 23, eager to start his life with the girl he had met a year back. Lost in love, hoping for a bright start, he clearly had the look of a happy man. He was heading to Iran the very next day. He told my brother that the Nikaah was scheduled sometime this week. We wished him luck. It’s quite surreal to see someone of your age getting hooked up and married. Apparently, in Iran it was quite a common thing to do.

Over the years, I have visited Abu Dhabi on numerous occasions. Over the past six months, I have been here, more or less, trying to find a suitable job. I can safely say that I have mastered the art of planning. Every week, a new plan was hatched. Regrettably, I haven’t yet mastered the art of execution; From Plan A to Plan J, if this trend continues, I shall soon run out of alphabets.

As usual, the day began on a mundane note. I woke up when the Sun was at its peak, Shining away, bright and happy. Considering the fact that my social life is at an all time low, Friday is indeed a day I dread. The world seems frozen yet bright, none of the cars move from their parking space, People sound like sleep-deprived androids. Friday is the day every working human in UAE loves to sleep.

After my prayers, I watched a horrendous Hindi Film called Life Partner. There was this one scene in that movie, when a ridiculously arrogant father in law compared his bride’s IIM Ahmedabad degree to that of any college degree in India. Clearly, I wasn’t in for a good day. Chauvinism, Ear Popping screeching, terrible filmmaking and Fardeen Khan followed. I tested my patience for an hour, and disdainfully, switched off the television.

I got into the virtual world. Spoke to a few friends - the usual everyday conversations. As the day ploughed along, my brother came online. We started discussing about my Plan K, and clearly this was reaching nowhere. Plans were struck down, new ones were made, and in the process of making a decision, a hundred different scenarios were sketched. A lot of effort goes into planning. Firstly one has to set a time line, secondly, everything has to go according to plan, and thirdly a lot of obstacles have to be considered, or maybe even manufactured. It involves faith, brains, and time. Time hasn’t been a factor off late; neither has been my indomitable faith. I was now officially a man, with many a plan. As the discussion stretched to every possible scenario we could comprehend, we arrived at Plan L and Plan M. Dad looked at me, smiled and said ‘let’s go for a walk.’

Just as we got out of our building, it seemed as if the lights went out outside. We figured out that Ali’s Supermarket was shut down. We met the caretaker of that building, and enquired. He told us that Ali had passed away in Iran; he had met with a fatal accident. On a Friday, He had performed his Nikaah just a few days back.

For a second, I felt completely numb. An unexplainable void, a sense of desperation, anger, and absolute helplessness, splurged through me. Both of us froze into oblivion. It was extremely difficult to recover from. I still remember, how my brother told me about his plans. The young man was looking forward to start a new life, paint a new canvas in his life, and suddenly he had vanished, into thin air. At the age of 23, the young man with a mobile phone, and a magical smile, was no more. I looked at the bench where he used to sit, it laid there, empty, without a companion.

It’s sometimes futile to think way ahead of our lives. Such incidents make us realize how important it is to live for today, be with the people we love the most. Death is so frightening sometimes, it’s not the pain that scares, It’s the emptiness that’s terrifying.

For a believer, these things are destined, for an atheist, this is how nature balances out. Yet, it’s unfair. I spoke to dad for about an hour after that. He said, Life doesn’t stop there though, we figure out ways to move on. New chapters unfurl in front of us, terrible grief is often followed by anecdotes of happiness.

Ali My friend, May your soul rest in peace. Amen.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Mystifying Colors

The day began on a very colorful note. As usual, I woke up very late, but it’s hard to blame myself for that. I understand why some organisms hibernate during winters; it’s indeed the best time to sleep. The warmth of your blanket, and also the realization that you don’t have to wake up to face a brooding boss early in the morning is quite blissful. I am enjoying this induced hibernation from tension, stress and work. An aesthetic city, plenty of movies, tea and the occasional kebabs make Delhi the ideal place to chill… Literally!

Anyway, I soon logged into the virtual world and bumped myself into a rather amusing puzzle. Mysteriously, I read colors all around. Dazzling colors, bright and dark, soft and hard. I must say that I love colors. Colors in concept itself excite me. The possibilities are never ending; the pleasure to the eyes is at times too appealing. So, I was curious to figure out was happening. Maybe it was color day. On enquiring among a few friends, I received weird replies. Some said it’s a secret, while some laughed at my ignorance, or rather naiveté. Now, this indeed was intriguing, there were colors all around and I had no clue what the mysterious secret was. Finally, a received a link from one of my seniors, and as I read through the article, I realized that there was a ‘strong social cause’ associated with this whole color ordeal.

A Detroit blog was one of the first to suggest that the color update craze was started by women in Detroit who were trying to raise awareness around Breast Cancer Another blog backed up that notion and included the following Facebook message which reads as follows:
“Some fun is going on…. just write the color of your bra in your status. Just the color, nothing else. It will be neat to see if this will spread the wings of breast cancer awareness. It will be fun to see how long it takes before people wonder why all the girls have a color in their status… Haha.”

So there it was. I had done my Sherlock Holmes routine and unraveled the truth. The mysterious colors where merely a vehicle to promote ‘awareness’ of breast cancer. The more I thought about it, the more I laughed at the sheer idiocy of the idea. The tidal wave of stupidity that followed for the whole day was irritatingly assiduous.
At times I think we have become absolutely numb and tactless. We are ignorant beyond belief, thought process is at an all time low, and like the famous comedian Louis CK said ‘we now live in an amazing world which is wasted on the crappiest generation of spoilt idiots who don’t care’.

First things first, let’s not confuse information for awareness. We live in an information age were news is readily available, but if people fail to dissect and assess this information obtained, it neither serves him nor humanity any purpose. Knowing about a social stigma is one thing, being aware of it is totally different. Does this bra color gimmick make people aware of the causes of breast cancer? Do people realize that late or no pregnancy, birth control pills, substance abuse, lack of breast feeding obesity and lack of exercise are some of the main causes for breast cancer. Long story cut short, do people realize the effects of lifestyle changes on the broadening of such a disease?

If someone is aware of these things, they would try implementing changes in their own lives. But overlapping cultures have changed our very way of living hasn’t it? Alas, there is a parallel line of thought where a lot of women are against pregnancy, citing it as an obstacle to a successful career. While some say its added responsibility and strain. There is no doubt that substance abuse is at an all time high. It’s nothing but a contagious combo of hypocritical ignorance which is truly hard to explain.

If one observes Human history, there have been many revolutionary movements. The bra burning movement in the 70’s, at an ideological level was very potent. It stood for a lot more than the terminology in itself. Very recently, the Pink Chaddi campaign against the Ram Sena gained phenomenal attention. Highly popular, not only was it strong structurally, but also the idea behind the movement was thought provoking. Sadly though, the latest ‘announcing my bra color movement’ makes absolutely no sense, and the fan following is just bewildering. At best it does provides for some voyeuristic pleasure. There is no reasoning or thought behind the whole ordeal, and sadly, people women from all over the world have readily accepted it without a flinch, and more frighteningly, without even a thought.

As a society by default, we take cribbing is taken for granted. We whine about how irresponsible the media is. We abuse the paparazzi, and hurl stones a media houses for their sheer audacity. It’s important to recognize that media regulation is possible only if one cares about his/her own privacy. Millions of users tweet every single day, informing peers and friends about every diminutive facet of their lives. It involves exchange of articles and information, photos and videos. At times though, some people express mood swings and at other times some inform people about the most irrelevant details like what someone got from the nearest supermarket. Dissipation of information is important, but informing people about when they are going to take a dump is not going to bring any sort of revolution.

What the likes of Facebook and twitter have done is something people need to closely introspect. Every photograph, every video and every bit of information one puts up is readily accessible to millions of people all over the world. While most people consider it as a minor hitch in an otherwise profitable venture, mindless acts such as the one above will not help anyone; rather it will modify social norms to a level beyond control, and maybe even beyond repair.

So where does the fault lie? Is it ignorance, lethargy, our mutinous ways of living, cyber space or the human intellect in itself? Is it really difficult to take two minutes off and think about our so called ‘humorous gags’ and the sheer stupidity of ones actions? Religion has often been termed as blinding, but episodes like these tell me that WE as a society never have been so blinded by what’s fed to us. People spend millions on post graduate programs but sadly education from the best universities all over the world do not help us in differentiating stupidity from common sense

At times it’s also a matter of self respect which somehow seems to have evaporated from within us. As one of my sensible friends Ruchika (very few that I have, I realized) commented about the girls who readily flaunted about their bra colors ‘If tomorrow you boys want to know what 'color' bra they are wearing ,and if you ask them casually, they should not call it eve-teasing or misbehaving’.
Social networking is indeed true democracy. There is absolute transparency, at every level, and that includes our own lives.
I surrender to the power of the Web World. It can mystify… and stupify millions!

Monday, November 30, 2009


How should I react if I knew that my house was virtually sold, without either me, or anyone in my family even having the slightest clue about it! After four hours of unfathomable lunacy, I am sitting in front of the system. I am angry, at the same time; I cannot help but think of the sheer audacity of the real estate nexus in Kerala.

Trust me guys, today has indeed been one of the most eventful days of my life. I don’t know if I should call it eventful, it was crazy, it was annoying, it was treachery like I have never seen before. I am irate; but yes, it has changed my perspective. It’s hard to think rationally now; I will try my best to derive some logic out of the whole ordeal.

Over the past few months, rumor mills had churned out a very infectious tale. My house, which I might add, is one of the most special assets in my family’s life, was apparently up for sale. Now, in a small town like Kannur, such news generally spreads like fire on gasoline. This is the kind of news that can transcend economic, social and even political boundaries. Everyone is mystically related to each other somehow in this town, and such topics are debated intensely whenever there is a congregation. In this case, the famous ‘Mallu Weddings’. After all people need to talk about something over Biriyani! They generally prefer talking about the sorrows and grief of other people. Isn’t that kind?

Now, such stories also have the potential to whip up tragic tales along the way. Stories that range from a father being desperately broke, to tales of misfortunes that occurred to the family after the house was built. Add the superstition element to the scenario, and we have a whole new ballgame. Some coincidental, some manufactured, but who cares, everyone has their AUTHENTIC SOURCE.

Now for some reason, the story never seeped down to my family. I am guessing it’s because people did not want to talk to a family who’s ‘financially devastated’. Some assumed we were in terrible grief, so they let us be. We were ignorant and insulated from predicaments that would have dire consequences; I would like to thank them for their sympathy. Thankfully, no one said that the house was haunted.

Over the past few months, my brother kept receiving calls regarding the sale of my house. It was annoying, but we didn’t care much. We thought it was just a harmless rumor. As time passed by, the rumor spread like crazy. Slowly, our close relatives began to know about it, and that’s when we realized the gravity of the matter. It was bemusing to be honest. Comments like ‘It’s sad your dad has to go through all this’, ‘all families go through issues like this, don’t worry’, ’Sell the house, it’s given you such bad luck’. A whole load of bullshit can piss anyone off. So now, we were incensed. We had to get to the root of this problem, or rather the rumour.

So, my brother and uncle proposed a fool proof plan. We decided to get in touch with the henchmen, and pretend to be a potential buyer. So we called the guy, fixed up an appointment. Our brief was simple, ‘We are expats searching for a new house, which is up for sale. Budget is subject to the condition of the house, but we are looking for a really beautiful house’. Now the guy informed us that there was a house, definitely up for sale for an amount that made our jaws drop! He was talking about my own home! They had by then decided the price for my home.

The deal was simple. We had to get the guy home, he was our main link. My brother entrusted me to GET HIM HOME, at any cost. I knew, I had to use all my acting talents to convince him that I was a buyer. Think of the irony though, I am a buyer planning to buy my own house! He said he would meet us at the nearest petrol bunk. Me and my cousin took off to the bunk. I conveniently dressed myself as the ideal GELFY! Shirted tucked in, shoes polished, and hair neatly parted (it’s terribly suffocating) I had just declared war against the real estate mafia.

We waited for him for about 10 minutes, and as predicted he was on time. He was awaiting his big scoop, little did he know he was selling the house to its OWNER. He asked us to follow him, and I gave directions to my brother “we are coming, be ready”. As we were heading towards my home, he stopped abruptly, my heart skipped a beat. He showed us my school mate’s house, and said this is 'the house'. Now, this was unexpected. Surreal Shyte! He showed me my friend’s house from outside, and said it’s up for sale too (What a bastard!). We started negotiating the rate. I said it’s too expensive. I had to coax him somehow to show me my own house. 5 minutes of 'beating around the bush' worked, he said there is one more house, just down the road. Yes, I got the fucker! I slowly told myself ‘Somebody is gonna get a hurt real bad!”

We followed him, and he stopped near my house. Boy oh Boy! Weren’t my folks waiting for him. My uncle enquired what’s happening. The poor guy had no clue that I had just fucked his case; he swallowed my bait, and now he’s going to pay. Pay for his crime, Pay for his misdemeanor. I felt like Quentin Tarantino, acting in my magnum opus movie! Sigh! there was no background score to accentuate the tension.

We called him inside, and that’s when the saga unfolded. Apparently, our man (We’ll call him ‘The Idiot’ for convenience) was informed by another agent that the house was for sale. So we called the other guy. Now, these guys are bloody thick skinned i must say. The agent came inside, screaming at ‘the idiot’. He then said what he should never have said “Who the hell asked you to get the people inside the house without consulting me’. I have no clue how he got to the conclusion that he could decide who should enter my house! Thankfully, my brother didn’t kill him. It was outrageous. Now, the agent and the idiot started playing the blame game. The agent introduced one more character into the saga , the Big agent.

Now, the Big agent was not in town. (Maybe he was wreaking havoc in someone else’s life), so two of the big agents friends (and they were big, literally) came home to sort out the issue. As the hours passed by, we realized that the hierarchy was a lengthy and scary one. We decided to get to call everyone involved in the scandal. The number’s increased. Slowly, there were around 10 real estate agents in the house, add along with that their friends. Madness ensued, and yes… it was turning ugly. Now, all of them had been assigned to sell our house. I could not control my fury. Very sarcastically I told one of the BIG AGENT’S “Is this how you work”. He said “Yes, you don’t have to make this a big deal out of this” Selling my house without me knowing it, shooting rumours that my family was broke and in grief was a not a big deal after all. Tempers flared, the tension had reached boiling point. It was getting dark; it was getting even uglier. As we figured out the nexus slowly, and how it functioned, we got through to the man who might be the guy who started the rumour. He has apparently struck a lucrative deal with a Doctor who loved the house. The amount has been agreed by word. They are coming tomorrow. We are waiting for him. Thankfully, some of the agents understood the significance of the issue. They have said they will cooperate with us. Tomorrow, we are hoping we can nail the guy behind the madness.

In a nutshell, this is how they work. The big agent assigns many small agents to search for houses. They run around the city, pick and choose houses, and they blatantly declare in the market that the house is for sale. The news spreads like wild fire. They decide the rates too. Exorbitant amounts, we are talking in Crores here. They start showing the chosen houses to clients, and they fix a deal. Then, the agent meets the owner, and gives him an offer. An offer he can’t resist! Some people succumb to temptations. Some succumb to humiliation in society. So slowly, the rates are manufactured, and prices shoot up, like crazy! A house worth 30 lakhs is hence sold for 1 crore as it becomes the market price. Also, these guys have bureaucratic contacts who can manufacture documents. All paper work concerning the house can be made in weeks. Scary isn’t it. Your house might be sold, on paper, without you even knowing it.

Honestly speaking, there is nothing much we can do. As I overheard conversations, some lead me to terrifying spaces. The top agents are not even in Kannur, they are spread over different states and countries. It’s a nexus that is strong, extensive and potent. They are influential, they have big contacts, they can turn things on its very head and they know how to pull the strings.

I can’t help but wonder what has happened to society? Treachery, deceit, profits and cold blooded instincts! It’s indeed a mean, at the same time funny world.

As the madness continued, the agent asked my brother if he could leave for prayer. My brother smiled. Even in treachery, there is always a prayer.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


When one finishes reading a book, there is this sense of pristine satisfaction that he/she experiences, a feeling that cannot be matched by any other action or thought. Life is nothing but a voyage of chapters, blissfully skipping from one to another, with a few heart aching moments, some engaging ones and some filled with mystery, the very catalyst that fuels us to go on and read the rest.

As I was packing my bags to glide towards a new chapter in my life, I sensed a certain numbness that is hard to elucidate. Premier Residency’s ledge is indeed bliss most of the time (barring the mosquitoes), but sometimes it makes you feel frozen. Frozen in time, Frozen in space, a feeling that is indeed hard to explain. The weather was grim, the breeze made the leaves rustle, I could feel the raindrops in the air, but I couldn’t touch them. It reconfirmed my belief that existence is not always tangible. Was it Solace or Exasperation, I wouldn’t know, and might never know.

Once I finished my course, I felt a sense of delirium to be very honest. 3 years in Manipal can be an awfully long time for some. The characters often remain the same; such is the very structure of the student town. Puzzled countenances were easy to find, because the place often freezes one to oblivion. The place gradually grew on to me; I enjoyed the ruthlessness of the freedom it granted. The ecstasy of independence was too pleasurable to evade. I followed the rules I set for myself, and had the liberty to break them at my own will. I began to understand images, sounds, colors, randomness, emptiness, faces, hearts, tantrums, anger, fear, politics, ego and slowly, myself. It pained me to face rejection, but I slowly embraced it too. Indeed, the Manipal Bubble had encapsulated me and a host of others into a sense of false belonging. A fascinating mixture of elation and anguish, coupled with the most insane people one could ever get to meet.

But yes, I was looking forward to a new chapter in my life. A Chapter that had promised me knowledge. A chapter that would lay the path for my monitory needs, a chapter of new experiences, new interactions, more learning, freshness and radiance.... Deep down though, I wanted to get back to that Bubble, and feel the sensation all over again

The few months post college were bitter sweet. Family time was refreshing; the warmth is infectious, the food is mind numbing, the coziness of the blanket back home is something unexplainable. But the world suddenly seemed mean. Materialism, Money, Paid favors, and Portrait smiles were all that I could see. Frustration grew exponentially; the randomness I enjoyed so much in the ‘bubble’ seemed to be my biggest opponent. I feel conviction kills spontaneity, but the moment I stepped out of the ‘bubble’, I realized spontaneity is not the order of the day. This chapter was tough for me to digest. I was a man without a plan, and now in a very precarious place… No man’s land. What next? The question kept popping up, I no longer felt insulated. I needed the bubble back, or I had to face the music, rather the cacophony of the vicious world and its heartless souls. This chapter was indeed distasteful, and I couldn’t wait to get back.

Once again, I set the rules by myself. I needed time, to experience the euphoria again, to meet the ones that meant the most to me, to escape the ferocity of the competitive rooster coup, I wanted some imagination back into my life, a spark of inspiration that I could not ignite in my previous chapter. In search of a new beginning again, I was back, back into the bubble again!

I saw those faces again, some were filled with elation, some cheerful, some were flustered, some confused, some angry and some fed up. Nothing much had changed in the ‘Bubble’, but that’s how it’s designed to be. I sensed people around me after a long while; the isolation I endured in the saturated world was now a thing of the past. I was jubilant, as I saw emotions again. Real or fake, it sometimes doesn’t matter, I prefer symphony over monotone.

The long lost associations were reignited. Discussions, Conversations, Monologues and at times silence, they all followed. It was overwhelming. Many stories were reminisced; many moments were felt all over again. There was warmth, touch, and resplendence. Some new friends were made, some were re born again. There was theatre, there were people, there was rebellion, and there were many sappy songs to add zest to this exciting chapter. Over the many lunches and dinners, I let everything out. It took time, but I was able to share my happiness, thoughts, annoyance and frustration to those who mattered. And yes, there was romance in the air, adding spice and life to this beautiful chapter. No wonder the colors looked more vivid. Love is to sense, Love is to feel. I wish she held my hand sometime.

Some atrocious movies and many goodbyes’ later it was time to leave. Was there are reason to leave, not really, but time draws up on everyone. It’s never easy to say goodbye, but that’s one thing the bubble thought me. You need it let go, even if it’s tough. I think I am letting things go, I am ready to be consumed by the mean world, I don’t feel inspired, but at least I don’t I don’t feel lifeless. Maybe that’s what the bubble offered me this time.

In the pastiche of faces that I came across, some endeared to me, some were ignored like the many we choose not to look at during our journeys, and some may have become etched in my heart forever.

As I boarded the bus to No Man’s Land, I wasn’t sure if the memorable chapter had come to an end. Some chapters are left incomplete, and I have a feeling this chapter is one among them. Maybe there is more to add, maybe there is more life left. Till then I shall wait…

Here I am, back in No man’s land… waiting to be pristinely satisfied…..