Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Russian Roulette

Click, Click, Click
I await my turn
The chambers moves are slick
A momentary burn

It’s now only a matter of time
No thought to the lack of a crime
Hark, the end is nigh
Wont you grant me my last sigh...

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Ode to my angels

Flashing anger, heated words make way
For an involuntary smile, as a strong reprimand
Dilutes to a dull and ineffective nay

Ceaseless energy, a yen for fun
Open my eyes to something very special
With two varied insights into eternal bliss

Love doesn’t quite encompass
The bottomless pit in my heart
For now what overflows through its every crevasse
Is contentment, that of me, you are a part

I know not what it is to have a son or two
But am enthralled by the miracles that you do
My girls, my babies, my joys
Without you, my life is but meaningless noise

A bow to the heavens for a twin gift
Which endlessly provides my soul an unearthly lift

I thank each of you for being my daughter
And to God, for letting me be your father

Monday, July 03, 2006

Trials & Tribulations of a new club membership

I have been trying desperately to join a club in Bangalore where I could swim as well as use the gym and tennis facilities. The obvious selection criteria was distance as everyone who's been here knows about the traffic. I found one where my uncle is a member and went to talk to the President of the club. I found out that a scheme called a temporary long term membership existed which was for a whole 3 years. The expense was much lower than a permanent long term sentence..sorry..membership. However, the President was all for coaxing me into getting the permanent membership, and after hearing my plaintive attempts at bringing up the significant cost differential, finally gave up and agreed to the temporary membership. This happened while he summarily said a goodbye right in the middle of my sentence where I was trying vainly to come up with a good justification of why I did not want to spend the extra $6000.

A little bit of description of the exalted abode is in order. For one, you cannot go upto this executive floor (2nd) unless you are wearing pants. Anything a centimeter above a normal pair of pants prevents entry into the hallowed halls. Once you have survived this key hurdle, you are allowed to enter the President's inner chamber. This is a large room (can probably accommodate about 20 people easily) with a mighty desk and the President sits in a big comfortable chair behind it. There are a few uncomfortable chairs lined up facing him. Numerous sheets of paper and different colored files lie on the table in haphazard order. A curious object resembling a large matchbox turns out to be a beeper which alerts the staff that the President needs someone in the room right away. This object is made of polished wood with an impressive antenna to boot. The fact that all the Presidential staff are within talking range is irrelevant.

The first part of the process involves getting the application form. There are numerous details to be filled out in the form including long forgotten nuggets of information like when did you last cheat in an exam, or how many dogs have you stoned etc. The form requires a photograph to be attached and it has to be mandatorily of yourself. Hints of chauvinism surfaced when my wife, ever the aggressive one, grabbed the form and started filling it out. The President, recovering smartly from the shock of a woman filling out the form, quickly restored the status quo by saying that it's better that the man of the house do the honors and anyone in the family can use the facilities after that.

The completed form then had to be signed by three existing members who have been members in good standing for at least 5 years and they have not already signed a form for another new applicant. My enterprising nephew located three such members in a few days time, staking out the club at the appropriate times and obtained the all important signatures.

This done, we had to make another trip to the office of the President. Not an easy task considering that it is the President that we are talking about. One enquiry during his office hours led to a response that he was busy in the bar. We were unable to fathom that one. After a few days, we were granted an appointment to meet the President.

We should have realized that this was not going to be a routine evening, when, as we drove into the club parking lot, the watchman raised one leg while saluting us.

Since it had been a while since he had graced us with his presence, he had forgotten us (one cannot be expected to remember all the lowly mortals you come in contact with) and promptly handed us another new form. Once we had established that we were there only to get the final signature, he demurred, and again enquired why I was not taking the full-time long-term life time till-death-do-we-part membership. Despite me speaking the local language fluently, he insisted on talking in English. His words, and I quote verbatim "Temporary membership is three years. After three years, you should not feel". After a few more attempts, he finally caved in, again. He then used his trusty buzzer to summon a hapless assistant who had probably forgotten to go home. He enquired of this person as to what the cost was for a temporary membership. The assistant gave him a number. This was met by a cold stare and an immediate outburst (in English) of "If you don't know, shut up. Don't use your imagination". Not really picking up the thread of the conversation (probably because he didn't understand a word of English), the assistant meekly left the office. The President, now obviously pleased with his command of the English language, then turned to me and asked me which part of the US I lived in. On hearing 'Phoenix', he viciously turned on my nephew and asked if I was bringing him Phoenix shoes regularly. All this while, I was trying to make a quiet getaway and eyeing the door wistfully. However, this new line of conversation did not allow me such liberties. My nephew made a few conciliatory sounds on the shoes but Mr. President insisted that there was a world famous factory in Phoenix aptly named 'Phoenix Shoes'. I nodded my head vigorously hoping to continue my escape plans but now my nephew got into the act and vehemently denied the existence of any such shoe brand, let alone a factory in Phoenix. A stalemate quickly developed, and the Vice President, who also happened to be sitting there attempted to put an end to the 'Phoenix Shoe Factory' debate. Not succeeding, he sullenly gave up and we used this opportunity to pull a Houdini on them.

Walking out, we were met by the recently yelled at assistant. First he informed us that we should have talked to him before going in to the Oval Office. Somehow, we were supposed to know that we needed to hand this form to some random person in the outer office. Suitably chastised, we enquired if we could pay the check and get a receipt as the President had told us that though it takes a week to process, he, in his magnanimity, would add a note to the receipt that would enable us to avail of the facility from the very next day. Looking back, that was the turning point, where things took an even more confusing turn.

The assistant, let's call him Ramachandra (so we dont keep calling him by the shorter & easier generic term of assistant), explained that he would not be able to give the receipt immediately. Nonplussed, we asked why. He proceeded to explain that if he gave us the receipt immediately it would be more expensive but if we came by the next day, it would be the same cost. Our befuddlement exponentially rising, we requested further clarification. Supremely confident of his stand, Ramachandra took out a sheet of paper, mumbled something incomprehensible and wrote down a list of numbers which he added up. This came to a much lower amount than the check we had ready. My nephew, valiantly trying to keep pace asked for the purpose of all these numbers as we already had the required amount written on the check. Ramachandra, a wily veteran, would have none of that and came up with another different set of numbers which came out to be higher than the check amount. He then called his own assistant, a dumb looking teenage kid who looked completely disinterested in the proceedings. We continued our lost thread of requiring the signature of the President so we could use the facilities the next day. Ramachandra was riled at this and asked what we wanted to use. He said we could go use the bar right away. We gently reminded him that our intent was to improve our physical fitness, use the pool and the tennis court and we really didnt need the bar. By this time, Ramachandra was very worked up. He yelled at his assistant to go bring the bar owner. Once he heard from us that we wanted to use the other facilities, he continued yelling at his assistant to bring the pool in-charge, tennis court in-charge, gym in-charge. Before he could summon the entire working staff of the club, we stopped him and assured him that we realized the extent of his powers but we really didnt need to see all these people. Interestingly, amidst all these commands, Ramachandra's assistant had not budged an inch from his vantage point. My nephew also made a point that Monday was a holiday and all the denizens summoned were not going to show up. This was met by an impressed stare by Ramachandra and a look in the eye which bespoke admiration for a worthy adversary.

We still did not have our receipt. Finally, he assured us that we could get it the next day at 10 a.m. and asked us to leave the form and check with him. Once I gave him the check, he drew two lines across the top left corner with a flourish and proclaimed that the check was now crossed. As we didn't look very impressed, he showed us the form and explained that he knew all about our application and the adminstrative areas of the form were written in his handwriting. For the full effect, he held up the form aloft pretty similar to how one would hold up an Olympic gold medal at the podium. He repeated in hushed tones that it was indeed his handwriting. My nephew and I were unable to muster the admiration that was obviously expected and Ramachandra put down the form in some disgust and asked us to return the next day for the receipt.

Of streamline, starboard and other aquatic arts

Left to my own devices, I probably would have indefinitely postponed this as one of the things I always wanted to do but never got around to doing. However, the wife, ever persistent, ensured that I signed up and there I was, ready for my first lesson, bleary eyed and in a foul mood at 6 a.m. on a Monday morning.

I had company in my misery, as my nephew, in similar disposition, gave me a wan smile as I picked him up. This was not going to be fun, we grimly thought.

The pool itself looked uninviting and menacing. We looked around at the dozen or so fellow poor souls, a majority whom I was sure were forced to enroll by identical circumstances as I was.

One look at the instructor gave our hearts further impetus to sink lower. He was built like a Greek god, with colossal shoulders and a miniscule waist. Mouthing unprintable mumbles, we stood under the shower which had been specially designed to dispense water at a temperature slightly lower than the already chill morning.

The class of Summer 2006 comprised of males from ranging from 15-50 years. A majority was on the wrong side of 40. We joined the mostly pot-bellied gentlemen in the pool and were pleasantly surprised to find the water not as cold as we had been led to believe by preliminary inspection.

The first few days essentially involved a lot of ungainly kicking of the water with our hands safely clasped on the side rails and our bodies stretched out. On the 3rd day or so, we were taught to float.

The initial week went off without much incident or excitement other than a lot of aches and pains for me as my body had been subjected to alien movements after eons.

The second week saw more familiarity developing between the apt pupils. A few categories distinctly emerged at this point. There was the ‘Know-It-All’ group which boasted as its members people who were chock full of advice and tips on swimming. Then, there was the ‘Leave me alone’ group, who just wanted to learn and get the hell out with minimum interaction with other students. Finally, the fun loving bunch who basically wanted to…you guessed it…just have fun. My nephew and I fell in between the second and third category. There was also one person who was in a separate category which I shall describe in excruciating detail in due course of my narrative.

Unfortunately for my nephew, one of the most active members of the ‘Know-It-All’ group took it upon himself to be a secondary coach for our 18 day extravaganza. We quickly named his ‘Streamline’ as he explained in a austere and scientific way as to how the body, the legs and the hands have to be in a streamlined position before the dive and how this would help the swimming. We were also the unwilling audience for other theories of aerodynamics that were missed, as both my nephew and I routinely disappeared under water to laugh insanely and surface only when we had control over our facial muscles.

After the first lecture, we watched with rapt attention as Streamline stood at the edge of the pool, eyeing the water with the easy confidence of Ian Thorpe. Once Streamline took off from land and entered the water, we gleefully realized that there was an abyss between his theoretical expositions and actual execution. He touched the water with all the grace of a dosa (pancake) hitting a tava (pan). The hands stretched outwards, the legs splayed and the head facing up all completed a 100% variation from the techniques imparted to us a few minutes earlier.

Then there was the extreme right-winger who, no matter, what he did, always headed right and consistently showed surprise at where he landed up. He was very sure he was going straight. Our infinitely patient instructor did all he could to divert him but right-winger was hell bent on going only one direction, i.e. starboard.

Now comes the part I delight in expounding. There was this one guy who had a perpetual issue with his nose. Irrespective of the number of times he went under water or swam, there was always a gravity defying semi-viscous substance dripping from his nose. He did try to get rid of it on many occasions but the substance invariably returned, precariously dangling, but never completing its journey downwards. I was fascinated by the elasticity of this but my nephew; as usual the prey of such situations could never quite get out of this guy’s reach. We named him G-Force, for the simple reason that ‘Gonney’ in Kannada means snot, which, to further clarify, is the output of nasal congestion. One cool thing that happened due to G-Force was that my nephew learnt to swim very fast and did quite a few laps in attempts to elude G-Force. If anything, G-Force should be thanked for my nephew’s remarkable turn of speed in water, without even surfacing to breathe.

In the 18 days we attended, we picked up rudimentary swimming skills. However, there was one technique that we could never master, as hard as we tried, starting from Day 2. Our instructor would dip both hands in water, bring them out clasped and aim a jet of water towards anyone he pleased. We were amazed by the range and accuracy. We practiced this surreptitiously for the entire duration of the class but failed miserably. This has now become a lofty personal goal for both my nephew and me. The latest on this: We can both manage about a few inches but never in the direction that we intend. Long way to go there but we shall overcome!

Despite our impressive showing in three weeks, our dreams for gold in Beijing 2008 are fast fading, especially as I wanted to participate in the individual medley. No matter…we shall wait for London 2012. In the meantime, there’s always the English Channel…

A wedding in Chennai

It's been a while since we had a massive wedding on the wife's side of the family. This one was especially important as it was the...