Saturday, June 27, 2009

Punch Lines

the most excruciatingly true and hard ones people have tossed over me.

1. You don't get ratings for the stuff you do out of your project. Your rating directly graphs to how well or unwell you perform in the required area - my manager on my defiance to claim better ratings for all the hop-on-the-wall kind of activities I was involved in, outside project ofcourse.

2. Wow. From Elf to Santa Clause - My cousin on seeing me after a couple of years (Reference made to my hair).

3. You know what. It really pisses me off when you don't give a damn about how brilliant I am in the game - my friend on winning chess against me for the millionth time.

4. Whenever you are sad, just look at the mirror and say 'I'm so cute'. But don't make it a habit because liars go to hell - my brother-in-law, everytime I sulk.

5. It's a Friday for God's sake - my team mate on having asked to kindly get to work.

6. After a few minutes of slient gape. But I think it's wonderful you didn't get promoted, at least you'll stop flaunting how good you are at work- Mom (that was the meanest one I ever got)

7. There's no need to be alarmed. We will reach the destination soon, if we don't just try and float around a little longer - The announcement that sent creeches down my body, on flight to Mumbai.

8. I bought you a beaded bracelet with all the money I had when we were kids. Now we are grown up and you can't even get me a diamond studded bracelet. You are such a loser - Another cousin on suggesting the best ways to spend my first pay cheque.

9. Me to my 10 year old neighbor Sam: And they lived happily ever after.
Sam: You just ruined the suspense. I thought they were going to unite.
Me: They did.
Sam: Then how can you say they lived happily ever after??

10. It's unfair to leave cigars out when you visit the smoky mountains. You know the mountains might just feel a little insulted - Another cousin to his wife.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Train Story - 2

It was past midnight. We had hit Coimbatore late by an hour. I was trying to transcend from the coma my mind was in.
“Is there a problem? We are here for more than what it normally takes” I told Mr. Dad who seemed the only other soul in my compartment, awake. He shrugged and returned to his magazine. Mr Dhoti took the upper birth. The kids were buried in blankets. Their mom amused herself with some nicely orchestrated snoring. I checked the time and hoped for an arrival no later than 10:00 in the morning. After fifteen more mystifying minutes, the train started rolling much to my relief.

There wasn’t any sleep hinting to rise by me. For the hundredth time, I squinted on my watch which adamantly went at its own pace. My eyes took a ride around as much as they could see. Mr. Dhoti’s birth was left alone to a blanket. I immediately checked on his luggage. Gone. He couldn’t have left, was here last station. I climbed down to stretch my legs and made way as I saw Mr.Dhoti walk by. He walked erratically, holding the edges of the seats and concentrating on his feet. I waited to ask him if he had moved his baggage but he climbed upto his birth and diligently slid inside the blanket, never attempting to throw a glance anywhere else. I peeped down the lower seat again and there was no loosely knotted bag of his.

Some noise aimed my way took me out of the thoughts about Mr Dhoti’s baggage. It was the ticket collector. Why is he wandering about at 2:00? “Do you have a problem?”, he frowned at me.
“uhh, no, no, I am fine.”, I insisted though whatever happening that night in the train seemed of questionable diligence.
“Why is the train stopped here?” I threw back one at him.
The TTR lifted his gaze from the papers and went “We have some problem. I don’t want anybody outside the seats till morning.”
The calmness with which he spoke left me at a loss for words. But I just went up one step anyways “Why, what’s wrong?”

Though his appearance presented friendliness and his tone floated within what anybody would call calm, the force with which he had thrown his second glance convinced me it was time to go.
I turned to the seat when he came close and said ”We have a report of some smugglers sneaking in. That shouldn’t worry you. Everything is in control”.

Everything is in control? You are telling me there is a gang of muggers in the train and you are telling me not to worry!! I was about to pass out. I pulled my trembling knees together and hid myself under, well under what, that thin translucent blanket.

The ticket collector stood there, as if to make sure I didn’t pass the news. I didn’t feel up to any conversation. In fact, I didn’t feel up to anything. The train was on the move again.After what seemed like an era, five minutes crept out and this thought suddenly yanked me out of seat again. Mr. Dhoti’s bag!

“Ssshh, Hello”, my voice was feeble with fear but I couldn’t get away with the news just like that.
With great effort I pulled myself down again and tapped on the feet of Mr. Dhoti. He didn’t seem asleep and responded promptly to my call.
“Uhh, just that, umm, did you move your luggage? It’s not there under the seat. Just wanted to let you know.”

“It’s there”.
“Uh. No, it’s not. Actually, I..”

“It’s there. I mean the bag”, he cut me across “but what was inside has gone. Somebody stole it or it has gone on its own will.”

“What? Gone on its own will?” Was he nuts!? I am telling him his bag has gone missing and he is responding as though it would return from an errand at the toilet.

“Well, you could report it to the ticket collector. Actually you know”, I couldn’t resist the urge. "there are some burglars in the train. You just need to be careful.”

Mr. Dhoti decided to stay with silence. For a moment I grew suspicious of his looks. Could he be the real burglar? If so, would he harm me because I knew? He would. As if the night wasn’t enough with surprises, his looks gave me the chill, the freezing, numbing chill from my throat to spine. My tongue did some favor momentarily.

“Ok, just thought of telling you. Things are in control.” And I let out a silly grin as though to convince him.

He looked at me for one more time and buried his face in the pillow. His looks carried some reproach which threw me back to the seat and I finished some water left in my bottle in one swallow.
In desperation of needing some sound, I almost cried when I heard a boy’s voice from outside chanting ”chai, coffee, chai..” It’s morning!!!! A part of me screamed. I wanted to break open the window glass and throw my head for some air but more than anything, I wanted to use the toilet. For the fear of so many things my imagination warned of, however, I still clung to the seat. My watch showed 4:50. There was an aged couple from the other box collecting their toothbrushes. Nobody from my compartment seemed to care for a tea. With fear clutching my throat, I checked on Mr. Dhoti. He wasn’t there, nor his blanket, nor his pillow. He had left. That was a relief. How many more minutes for the day to break?

The world seemed normal a few minutes later and everyone was up and talking and laughing in the slowly piercing daylight. May be it was a dream. I am just a silly girl. I treated myself to a cup of garmagaram coffee and looked over the top birth. Even if Mr. Dhoti was a smuggler, he is gone anyways and I should soon be out of this. The mom complained how little sleep she had and for the first time, she seemed more funny than annoying when I thought about the non-stop snore which was the only sound that rang around my ears the whole night.
She smiled at me and went on to her kid, “Get up Ammu, we are getting down in the next station. Pack your things. See, you left the bag open after taking your snacks. She zipped it up; sat next to me and hopped onto a conversation. “Are you getting down at Raichur?”

“No, Chikmagalur”, I smiled

She kept talking for the next ten minutes. As her destination was declared arrived, they left amidst what I felt like a thunder of noise. Most of the passengers from that compartment got down at that station.

There weren’t more than a handful of people in the whole boggie. An hour to go. I was almost drowning in the summer tales of Calvin when he takes Hobbes for a fishing afternoon.

“Good Morning.” The ticket collector planted himself in the seat. He was gifted with a smile that no one could leave unattended.
“Good Morning. So everything fine now?”

“We cannot say anything yet. But considering we had a smooth night, things shouldn’t bother anymore.”, he sounded positive.
After my watch promised fifteen more minutes to arrival, I said, ”whatever.I am gone in fifteen minutes.”

He returned a smile and got up to leave.

Some things in life bring great depth of joy even if you don’t get anything out of it. It was such a moment when the train slowed down to stop at Chikmagalur. I picked my bag and as I was about to hop, the ticket collector wished me a great stay.

“Thanks”, the spirits were up and alive again and that prompted me to ask “hey you never told me what the smugglers were doing here?”

With a tone that lacked expression, he went on looking straight in my eyes, “Ohh, it was those jungle rogues again. They sneaked in a dangerous cobra. Of course, cobras go for a million bucks in the hidden markets.” And then he sighed. “Those assholes. They will pay for it one day.”

I thought I didn’t hear it right and then I thought it meant something else. My knees pushed me to just flee but my brain automatically threw words at him “you mean, a cobra?? A snake?”

He nodded mildly and continued “Yea, it’s really huge.You would have seen it only on Discovery”. Garnished it with a smile.

He didn’t have to say anything more. My heart had stopped functioning or it functioned beyond a healthy rate that it was hard to feel. Like a tray of well served wine, it all ran thru’ my eyes - The man, his bag, his empty bag, , the mom’s bag that lay open all night, she had zipped it up and taken it home and stronger than all of this, his words, “it would have gone on its own..."

I thought I would faint. Everything around me felt like creeping. More than anything else the double shouldered bag that weighed down my back seemed to vigorously crawl thru’ my spine.

I dropped the bag and picked some life to move forward. I could. Great. I could move. I didn’t dare stop. Every human being in the railway station that day appeared like crawling, creeping, poisonous creatures we called snakes. I ran out of the station to find a friend waiting for me.
“You are late.” He said, looking behind my back to see if there was someone else.”Where are your bags?”
“Let’s go.” I said.
We boarded his car and he started on one these silly pranks they played last night. I didn’t hear anything more. Well, there was one thing that kept ringing loud enough to deafen the world,
“it could have gone on its own...”.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Train Story

I would rather live for the journeys that make great tales than get stuck in destinations that absorb you like quicksand. It was the year 2001. The world had slowly roosted off the millennium fizz. Summer was hot but vivid; perfect season for real life adventures and I was already in the midst of great plans.
The throbbing joy in the mind was insatiable; having dealt with the semester, travelling to a town I haven’t visited, two weeks of rollicking around with long lost folks whom I loved to call friends-summer is my best season of the year. I already had news from some of those long lost friends that reservations were done for a three day stay in Coorg.
Good byes bade to mom n pop. Bag stuffed under the seat. I picked up the new three-volumes-in-one summer edition of Calvin n Hobbes. I started to feel hungry but saved the only packet of Lays for a hungrier, lonelier, sleepless, middle-of-the-night part of the journey. Amidst chaos strictly catering to a railway station, the Bangalore express started rolling on time.
Getting lost (after you have boarded your train of course) in the views of an Indian railway station is something travel-loving Indian souls will understand. Those last minute chorus good byes to the kin from everywhere and promises to call after arriving, the constant train announcements with beeps in between, the chai walas hurrying in hope to find that one customer who will make them business, people running from platform to platform – it is an experience to travel by the rails in a country thriving with people.
There was a family to share my compartment; a couple with two kids. The teenage son seemed to shut himself away from the world with his music. Then there was this little girl who kept grilling her irritated mom with all sorts of questions. The man started turning the pages of India Today, the moment he took his seat.
“I told you we would leave tomorrow! At least we could have travelled by third-AC. Now see, we haven’t even got a window seat. I don’t know how to put up with the heat. Ammu is already sweating heavily, see?”, the lady indirectly gave us a prelude of them occupying this compartment. Her mood went further hot after an elderly man in dhotis politely took over the window seat from her, claiming it was where his ticket pointed. “Shut up and eat your biscuits, god knows what they’ll bring for dinner”, she went on to her daughter. I was wondering what was more difficult for her family to put up with, the heat, the third class or her temper.
The elderly man looked grim. I grinned at the thought of having seized the other window seat and decided to enjoy the chill that hit our faces from the outskirts of Nagercoil. Twenty minutes later, the lady, let’s call her the mom, went manic again, yanking me suddenly from a world of my own. A half filled bottle of juice in the daughter’s hand and the trail of the flowing juice under the seat explained enough. “You can’t keep the bottles on the seat Ammu. Finish them or put them in the bag if you don’t need”.
Calvin and Hobbes was sliding from my lap and I thought it was time I opened it. The elderly man checked on his bag which looked like a loosely knotted rice bag, you know the one you will find in the kitchen store room.
He wore a cotton shirt, looked very simple and preferred to rest his chin on the window bar. Night slowly crawled in. Mom had packed chappati and chicken curry, the thought of which shut off my comic book with a thud.
Lights were on; I could hear the incessant chatters and laughter from all around except my immediate neighborhood. I looked around in hope of exchanging a nominal smile with those whom I had travelled with for the past three hours. Nobody seemed interested to look back. I thought I would move on to fill my tummy. It was a beautiful summer night after all.

Let me conclude this part here and save the actual story for the next post, cause I guess cramming everything up here will 1)make this post very lengthy and 2) take away the essence of surprise.

The night held a package of the most bizarre thing I have experienced in summer train journeys.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

100, finally…

My Blog: At last, you hit 100. Other bloggers have hit a triple century, started supplementary blogs and even ..

Me: Hold on, at least I did. Time to toast!

Blog: You know we should be doing it more often.

Me: Toasting ?

Blog: Yea, like for instance, when you change your blog templates! It happens way more frequently than the number of posts you do.

Me: Shut up; anyways, tell me, which is the best post of mine so far?

Blog: Tough to choose, since there aren’t really great ones. But I really liked your last post; the one on what you thought.

Me: Really? I thought that was cool, too. A little philosophical, here and there.

Blog: Hold on. Most of your posts are quite dreary anyways. When I talk about posts, I generally mean the pictures; the one you had on the last post, that’s the best picture of yours you have ever published. Very thoughtful!

Me: How mean !

Blog: I mean what I mean. I have the right to say what I feel; am a blog after all.
Me: Aaargh! That's enough. We all did evolve from monkeys.

Blog: You did.

Me: Anyways, tell me what’s the best part about being my blog?

Blog: The best part about being your blog is that I don’t get disturbed by posts too often. You peacefully let me hibernate most of the year.By the ways, haven’t you finished the book yet? The one you have joyfully put under ‘UNDER THE READING GLASSES’.

Me: oh, I did. 10 pages and the book went back. Not my kind.

Blog: Now that you have hit 100, let me ask you. What has been the best part about blogging?

Me: hmm, actually, when I started to blog..

Blog: Yawn. Forget it, I don’t want to know anyways. Will you post this chitchat too ?

Me: Good idea. But now that you have mocked me enough and more, I am leaving here.

Blog: Wow! You are quitting blogging?

Me: Keep dreaming, I said I am quitting this natter.

Blog. Good for me. Would you care to listen to just one thing I’ve got..

Me: What? That you would be better off being someone else’s blog? Well in that case, ..

Blog: No, that’s not it.

Me: What’s it?

Blog: Congratulations on hitting 100 !

Me: Than

Blog: Now, just go.