Thursday, November 13, 2008

That's all folks

My brothers and sisters always seemed a bit too hyperactive for my liking. I think there were 9 of them but who knows. I can't count. All I know is that these two strange looking humans put me in a blue basket and whisked me away.

The first few days are miserable! I miss my mommy and the warmth of all my siblings. I didn't even know these two people for heaven's sake. For some unfathomable reason, they keep taking me to the garden every couple of hours. It is fun and really makes me pee once I get back into the house. Apparently that's wrong somehow . Dang! I hate these rules!

I get the hang of things after the first week. The toilet is outside the house! And, if I pretend to look sad, I am handed lots of treats. I think I like these folks even though they're a bit dumb and can't understand the simplest things. However, they aren't too pleased when I finish my potty outside and bring it in to show them my achievements.

I am four months old now, or so they tell me and my new dad and mom take me to a place with funny looking dogs. These stupid animals are actually listening to the humans and doing stuff for them. Losers! I am too good for all this. I turn my back to them and eat grass. I am not gonna be doing stupid human tricks.

My dad and mom are really nice to me now and I feel I should repay them somehow so I start listening to them a bit. But, then, they leave me in the morning and come back only in the evening. I get bored and also need to work on my chewing skills. There's this thing called Bose that my dad is hung up on so I go to work on the wires. They're actually pretty good exercise for my gums. But, then, again, my dad is upset! So, next time, I leave those wires alone and go after other wires. This time cops show up and so does my dad. Some talk about security wiring and more admonishments. Can't a dog do anything right around here.

One other time, I take a strong fancy to some colorful stuff in a glass jar. It tastes yuck but it makes my lips and face purple. I can't get the damn colors off. Mommy comes home and says I ate potpourri and goes into a tremendous panic. Quite funny actually. It takes more than that kind of pot to hurt me.

Humans have it in their heads to make us dogs walk and run. Whatever for? Also, they keep telling me I'm a retriever so I gotta get stuff back they throw far away. If they really want it, why throw it away in the first place? I am not going to fall for that. I do enjoy running after what they throw though I am too smart to actually get it back for them. What if they throw it again and expect me to bring it back again! I have a sneaky suspicion that they're playing some diabolical game with my mind.

Not content with extensive exercises, my mom takes me on these unnerving hikes. I am a purebred and do not do climbs. I figure out that if I just hold my ground, one of the bigger humans will carry me. So, there you have it. It's pretty easy to train these humans actually!

I have an uncanny fear of plastic bags. The rustling sound just gets to me. Once, I jump out of the moving car because my parents were dumb enough to have a plastic bag rolling around in the back seat. Are they crazy or what!

I am about 2 years old now and I sense change in the air. Mommy, who hardly eats seems to be growing her stomach slowly but surely. Further investigation proves that there are two brats in that stomach. Mommy likes it when I lick her tummy and I like to feel those two tiny kids in there.

Dad and Mom are up to something now. They are painting the room upstairs and putting in lots of kiddy stuff and two small cots. What gives! Then, one day, they go out. I know what's going on here! Those two in mommy's stomach aren't going to remain there! They're planning to get out and take the focus off me! I am not going to have any of that. I protest by taking a nice long crap in that room. That'll teach them to give me competition...

I guess I know all this is futile. Sure enough, two little girls soon take attention off me. I am unceremoniously kicked out from my parents' bed too! Brutality!

Anyway, I soon figure out that the two little ones aren't so bad. Sure, I am not the baby of the house anymore but these two are a lot of fun. A little slow if you ask me because every time I wag my tail near them, they seem to fall down. I could run at high speed at that age, of course not that I ever did.

Suddenly, one day, my dad gets this humungus crate and bundles me inside. Luckily I have an old shirt of his for company. They make me sit in some dingy place with tons of suitcases and it's really uncomfortable, especially as I am hungry and also want pee badly.

Almost 2 days later, they let me out of that cage and it is a new place. My resilient bladder finally can let go and I pee for 5 minutes straight. What a wonderful feeling.

I like this new place too; well there's really no place I don't like as long as dad and mom are there and some other folks who give me attention. Talking about attention, I get it a lot. People just fall for my handsome face. 'Gentle' they call it, whatever that means! I just know how to get my way, which most of the time is someone petting me. What more can I possibly want.

I enjoy this wonderful time here. The kids are growing up too and I have more company than I did in that other big house. It's a great time to be alive!

I am over 7 years now. I can feel my body starting to ache. I get a lump on my head. My mommy promptly gets it removed. Then my back right leg starts to hurt. It's actually quite bad but I don't want to complain. What if my parents feel bad? I can't have that!!

Things are getting worse. They are now poking needles all over the place. I don't mind but it feels odd all over. Hey, wait a minute! I can't even feel my back legs anymore. And dangit, I can't even pee or take a crap. Not good man!

My parents take me to a huge place and put me in a cage and all around me are other dogs. I don't like dogs! This is depressing. Usually a voracious eater, I can't eat a morsel. Lots of people do come and visit me but I know they won't stay or take me back. Really really depressed now. I can sense things aren't going to get better. Oh well, can't complain. It was a good run while it lasted.

I think I'm just going to sleep now...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Thursday

Sizzling sozzled sloshed sirens, still smashed - some. Smirnoff shots succumbed. Soul searching shan't suffice. Shall Sunday see sunny side?

Monday, September 15, 2008


A small innocuous glint, an inconsequential spark. Easy to miss. Best to extinguish it then. A shadowy flame once in a while. A glowing ember. Think nothing of these. Aberrations.

More eruptions, so frequent that the timing between them blurs. They feed on each other in savage frenzy. The flame builds. There is no destroying it now.

Hungry, the fire seeks any opening to expand, to take over every fiber, every dark corner a starving welcome. Spanning, hunting, devouring. Unbiased destruction.

No death for this fire, except death itself.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Business Acumen

Manasi wanted to know why I was so exhausted yesterday. I told her I was in a 3 day class. My conversation with her:

Manasi: "Why did you go to class? Because your manager asked you to?"

Me: "Yes, he asked me to so I can do my work better"

Manasi: "You were doing your work wrong?"

Me: "No, I am doing it well, but he wants me to do it even better"

Manasi: "What did you do in the class?"

Me: "We played a game on how to run a company"

Manasi: "Did you win? Did you make money?"

Me: "Yes, our team won and we made 340 Million dollars"

Manasi (with a sharp intake of breath): "I love you papa!! How did you make so much money?"

Me: "We made lots of things in our factories and sold them to people"

Manasi: "Teach me to play"

Me: "Sure baby, go to bed now"

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


I almost sensed it an instant before it happened. A cold dread filled me. I could feel my testicles start to shrivel. Was this it? So simple? So sudden?

Why me? Why now? I trembled and knew that I had lost control of my bladder. It was astounding. How easily one gets scared. I always thought I was brave, but now fear pervaded my being. I had never been so terrified and so self pitying.

I looked all around. There was nothing around me but the horror clutching at me from without and within. I let out a thin whimper…or was it a wail…

What was I going to do? The options went through me and were all dismissed. I didn’t want this but where would I go now?

Minutes went by and I didn’t do a thing. I was still sweating like a horse after a race. I didn’t realize I had so much fluid in me. I had to take my mind of this thing.

I started thinking about my life. It did flash before my eyes! It was a good one. I had always done well and had never any reason to complain. Not that I had ever thought about it until now. The perspective seemed different now. Mundane events in my life that I thought were of portentous significance and earth shaking tragedies suddenly seemed inane. What the hell had I been so bothered about! Life had been good!

Strangely, the sweating stopped. I wasn’t afraid anymore. A sense of calm slowly took over. Maybe this was for the best. I actually smiled. Everyone I had loved was gone so what was left for me here?

Anyway, it’s not like I had any choice so might as well be brave about it. I was not going to close my eyes. Desperado! Bandido! God, I felt good. I’d never felt so confident and happy in my life.

My smile widened. I knew I looked silly. But I didn’t care anymore.

Slowly and deliberately I extricated my foot from the land mine….

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

LakeView or Bust

My nephew summarized the events of last night succinctly. "If we had this kind of determination in sports, we would all have more gold medals than Phelps".

With that opening, let me unravel an unnecessary adventure we went through.

The evening started innocuously enough with us visiting the homes of our cousins for Janmashtami. As luck would have it, the critical mass for the late night dessert trip took its ominous shape and unwilling the fight the hand of destiny, we acquiesced and proceeded towards LakeView for ice-cream in two cars.

The fuel gauge in my car showing a huge (negative) gap between the needle and the 'Empty' mark notwithstanding, we set out merrily in the heavy downpour. I was very confident that I could fill fuel on the way. Let us call this Mistake #1. The first petrol station we came across was closed. Well, duh! It was 11:30 p.m. and they close at 11.

Undaunted, we proceeded towards M.G. Road, some 10 km away. One more obstacle here. The double road was under 2 feet of water. A few cabs and bigger vehicles braved the water and forged ahead but the risks outweighed the dessert cravings for a bit here.

We made an elaborate U-turn on the one-way street amidst much honking, cursing and good natured ribaldry amongst our co-drivers who for some obscure reason were also driving around at this ungodly hour.

Next we attempted a different route to our destination. We shall officially peg this as Mistake #2. Any other normal human being would have thrown in the hat (into the fast rising water on the road) and gone home. But no! We are made of sterner stuff.

We continued along twists and turns of small streets and again ended up before a neat little reservoir on the road. A cursory glance at the Maruti Swift sailing effortlessly ahead told us all we needed to know. One more U-turn and by this time a strange sense of reasoning prevailed across the two automobiles and a consensus was reached to head home.

The fuel situation, meanwhile, continued to look grim and the weather gods continued to savage us with gale force rains. Just when I thought we might make it to a 24 hour petrol station, a sickening grinding sound dispelled any such notions. We had a flat!

At this point, the wife, one usually given to outbursts of humungus proportions when faced with adversity, broke out into hysterical peals of laughter. In a confined space, with rain pouring buckets outside, take it from me that this is not an enjoyable experience.

Luckily for us, our two nephews who would do any F-1 pit crew proud, jumped down and started changing the tire while the wife and I valiantly held aloft umbrellas successfully drenching both my nephews.

We sent the other car with an empty Coke bottle to get us some fuel.

Finishing the tire change in record time (about 4 minutes 37:22 seconds), one of my nephews said we should drive on. Mistake #3.

The other car and ours slowly increased our distance apart and with the threat of an empty tank looming, we jovially drove on...somewhere... My nephew was furiously trying to give landmarks to the other car and in the confusion even managed to ask how to give the cemetry as a landmark.

Putting a stop to the madness, we finally halted and guided the other car towards us.

We now move a little back in time to the happenings in the car (the fueled one and the one to bring us fuel).

After leaving us to our own devices, the other car moved at breakneck speed to get us the fuel. At a gas station, my nephew's friend started engaging the staff in a saga of epic proportions with intense melodrama involving hungry and crying kids stranded in the rain. The recepient, obviously a stalwart of such ocassions seemed unperturbed and wordlessly pointed to an oil shop nearby. Again, before my nephew could protest and just ask for an empty can, his friend broke out into the Darfur children mode. The man, without breaking a sweat and apparently ignoring the tragic tale, emptied a can and handed it to them.

With a 5 liter can of petrol, they journeyed to intercept us on our travels without petrol. For some unfathomable reason, my nephew hugged the can of petrol in the back seat, nearly knocking out the occupants with the heady intoxication of gas fumes.

At half past midnight, on the 27th of August, in torrents of rain, a Stanley and Livingstone like meeting occurred in the hallowed streets of Hosur Road (heading towards St Marks Road). With our auto suitably sated and after letting the other car go home, we of the indomitable spirit did attain our original objective.

Circa 1 a.m., we touched down at LakeView just as they were closing and ensured (one look at us and they knew we weren't leaving without ice-creams) that we all got huge scoops of ice-cream (mine was ButterScotch Cake with Fudge) and tore into them with abandon.

Like I said, the never say die attitude our family so proudly possesses helped us attain salvation and justified our
Raison d'ĂȘtre.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Technicolor dreams

Of late, I've been getting a lot of dreams. Not just at night mind you. Even when I take an afternoon nap, even if it's for 30 minutes. I'll keep updating my blog with these vivid picturizations that are beamed to me in surprising regularity because I think they're really cool dreams! Disturbing and meaningless no doubt, but cool!

The little boy
It's night and I'm looking up to the top of a bus where a guy is holding a 2 year old boy. My wife is in a hurry to leave for some reason but I really want to get that kid. The guys throws the kid from the top of the bus. I miss but the child falls safely next to my outstretched arms. I pick him up. Apparently he's Afghan. Fully padded up with woolen shawls and sweaters and socks; a really plump and fair kid with bright red cheeks. I am determined that I will adopt him and as I pick him up and hold him I start to cry uncontrollably.

The Chase
A long winding road in the middle of nowhere. I am stuck behind a slew of vehicles and getting very impatient. I need to catch up with a big Mobile Home that is a little ahead but making good progress as the traffic has cleared there. I decide that it's faster for me to run across the grassy plains and hills and intercept the vehicle that way. My only worry is the packet of yoghurt I have to leave behind in my car. Okay, I told you this was meaningless!

Anyway, I start running across dried grass fields and reach some farm houses. Strangely, there is no one anywhere other than the long line of cars on the road. I hear dogs barking in the yard but still see nothing. I also hear the sound of TVs and voices and start to fear that these folk are kind of the evil dead or something. I run past the houses and barns and finally come to steep mud incline which I need to climb to get to the road. A big brawny guy is already climbing the slope with little success. A guy in a military suit appears next to me as I try to climb. A gun shot rings out. The brawny guy is shot in the leg. I hurriedly climb down. The military guy (I think he's a general) walks past me with the chilling words 'You're already dead' and calmly fires another shot into my injured climbing companion. I am then escorted into a prison.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

One Night in San Francisco

Statutory Warning: This article contains alcohol, vulgarity and undetermined sexes. You have been warned! Now read dammit!

Thanks to a friend, we had reservations at Absinthe, a nice and posh Southern French and Italian restaurant in downtown San Francisco. The prices did make us catch our breath though. However, the French onion soup was delectable and Porus in a fit of dashing adventurism ordered the Bok Choy as it sounded exotic (Okay, no idea why!).

Mojitos seemed to be the preferred drink of the ladies and though a teetotaler, I threw caution to the wind and ordered one too. My alcoholic pursuits were not to bear fruit as Shaila neatly polished off both her drink and mine and not content with this already significant achievement, we did a fast pull and empty of Pallavi's drink too.

Realizing that the food menu was a little beyond an average person's income, we meandered out of this august French establishment. Well, when you order a miniscule bowl of chick peas and you get charged per chick pea, you know you are over your head.

Our entire evening seemed to be running to a script. We were next asked to go to Sugar, a small bar, a stone's throw from Absinthe. For some reason, I had Shaila's handbag on my shoulder and proceeded to wear her blatantly feminine sunglasses. Word has it that I was a dead ringer for Elton John. But, hey! This is San Francisco! Need I say more?

Sugar turned out be a cozy bar and somehow we garnered the only room in this environment. It did look a bit seedy but most of the ladies were a tad beyond noticing the mundane. Once more, living it up, I decided on a Long Island Iced Tea (LIIT). Mama mia! That sucker hits you like a rock between your eyes!

Random dancing, smoking, drinking ensued and we made merry listening to the atheist (80s?) music. I don't know about most men but I find it incredibly enjoyable to be around sloshed women. And the LIIT was slowly but surely working its magic. Okay, who am I kidding. I was buzzed. As I waited patiently for the bar to stop its lazy spinning, we thought we'll get something to eat. Not sure why, but Sugar is a place which is totally mobile. Everything inside keeps moving in circles. I wonder how the bartenders ever manage to pour their drinks!

Porus, now the man in charge ordered us to go to a Falafel place across the street. As we marched daintily in roughly the direction he had pointed, we realized after about 9 minutes of staring at the restaurant, that it was closed. It's a wonder how people figure this out in a jiffy when sober. Damn the sober people!

Full of the right spirit, we continued to saunter on and entered Marlena's. Bohemian in appearance and with lively music, something seemed odd. More investigation in the inebriated state provided us some succor. The ladies dancing on the little stage were not of the opposite sex. Hammering it home - they were drag queens. Quite nicely dressed I must say. At this point in time, Shaila, already a few notches above the legal limit for being behind a steering wheel, had the brilliant spark. She wanted me to wear the handbag and her glasses.

A man can be piss drunk but when it comes to protecting his manhood, the fuzziness in the surroundings disappear and you suddenly begin to think very sane and rightful thoughts. Essentially, I had no intention of being someone's bitch that night and firmly put my foot down on this proposal. A bit miffed but not beaten by any mean, Shaila marched out and started to call her mother in India. This, while running up and down the streets of San Francisco well past midnight. The remaining members of our ragged party didn't seem to be making any pedal moves so I staggered behind her to ensure she doesn't get into any trouble or worse, get me into trouble.

Some sound practical advice from the mother seemed to activate Shaila further and more rowdiness resulted. Luckily, we found a restaurant still open and bundled everyone inside.

Sudden realization dawned on Porus sometime during the last few events (I was high so can't pinpoint the time) that the last BART train is at 12:15 a.m. How nice!

Anyways, we decided to go to Porus and Yamini's place by a cab. Riding on our good luck, we found a cab with three rows of seats. Unfortunately, the cab driver was a Gujju (I think, but definitely Indian). Unfortunate because of the washerwoman-like lingo emanating from the last row. By now, I don't need to say who. You know who! A choice example was when the walkie talkie spurted out some disembodied voice. The last row had this to offer as a gentle rejoinder "Bhagvaan ke gaand se awaaz aa raha hai".

Gujju bhai's face contorted so much I thought he'd have a seizure. Porus, next to him blissfully slept Guppy Fish like with deep rumbling tones from the under belly. The fun and frolicking continued from the rear woofers with those evergreen numbers from superhit movies like 'Chameli Ki Shaadi' , belted out in surprisingly coordinated megaphonics.

We finally got to our destination without additional excitement and got a good night's sleep.

I say we don't party enough! We need more of these evenings man! Bring it on!

Standard Disclaimer: Ingesting alcohol is amazingly good for your humor and makes the world such a simpler place to live in

Bandwidth Live!

July 11th, 2008

We started a new music group in our company. We go by the name BANDWIDTH and boy was it fun performing live! Not bad for the first time methinks!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Village Dynamics and the Art of Agricultural Management

Another Farm Story! Okay, don't groan. I won't be talking about land development and produce. Well, not this time at least.

Having dug the bore-well and with light pressure from the wife, the construction for the farm hand's quarters has started in earnest. What's missing of course, is the farm hand.

From recommendations, we acquired one resume and the candidate showed up at a neighboring farm which was apparently the interview venue. To aid is in this complicated maneuver, we enlisted the august presence of the local headman's son. An imposing and towering person, one does not want to take undue liberties with him.

The candidate was brought forth by the referrer. Out of respect or some such thing, they both stood behind us to make it challenging for us to talk to them without craning our neck and body at distorted angles. For a while, everyone stood around and no one spoke a word.

A few minutes later, another friend of ours voiced his thoughts in the form of probing out the candidate's name and requesting the wage figures desired. More hemming and hawing and the person (Madhayya) quoted the salary he was making in some god forsaken part of the state. The number seemed unreasonable as there were murmurs in the interview panel and general disagreement.

On some unseen cue, two backers for the farmers' cause appeared out of the blue. Both put across their points very clearly on why a higher salary was warranted. Their arguments, peppered with facts and figures of daily living expenses, the price of gas, rice, rocket fuel etc, while very fascinating, did not make much of an impression on the village leader. Even existing salary structures in the immediate vicinity were treated with quiet disdain.

An interesting dance ensued, with neither party actually expressing a number, but at the same time, I was struck by the headman's sensitivity and tact. At no point did he raise his voice or directly contradict anything the farmers had to say. However, the moment they were out of earshot, he would give us hard statistics on wages and salaries in the area. A very delicate balance indeed. Though a big shot in the area, he was at all times very polite and civil to the farmers, not once disrupting the harmony of the conversation or putting them down in any way.

The fencing continued for a while. This was quite complicated as we didn't want to artificially elevate the market with a salary that was too high. This would have disastrous consequences on all the hiring in that area. So, the parrying went on.

We finally gave in and told Madhayya how much we were willing to pay. A detailed explanation on the total compensation package inclusive of all benefits and bonuses was given. However, Madhayya had been heavily influenced by the two cronies who were the voice of Madhayya for all practical purposes.

The hunt for the farm hand goes on! I'm now learning to work within the boundaries and framework of communication styles and approaches to this hitherto straightforward task.

Nostalgia - That weird feeling of reliving the past in the present

I'm not sure what got into me but last week, I suddenly had the urge to trace my friends from the years gone by. Effective sleuth work on the web helped me discover my class-mate, best friend and confidante for 5 years in Nigeria. 24 years since we parted ways and I was thrilled to reconnect with him. And, it was like we had never lost touch. We just got back into the same groove and the easy relationship we had as kids. Quite amazing actually.

More hunting on social sites got me in touch with an entire contingent of my primary school and senior school buddies. It's a wonderful feeling to get back in touch, see how people have changed physically and otherwise.

All we have is memories now. Cherished ones always. Even the events that caused us much stress and discomfiture are now remembered fondly and for a while we get lost in the history of ourselves and the people that were part of what once was.

A healthy dose of nostalgia is always good to rejuvenate the mind and body. I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Operation Sea Breeze or How to get a recharge in 24 hours

4 hours behind schedule! Our family is back in form, finally!! About time too! Breakfast at good old SLV (Raagi Gudda division) and we were off in three cars to Chilly Chennai.

The usual story of the tortoise and the hare, I tore off at breakneck speed, well ahead of the other two cars. A slight loss of concentration on my cousin’s and my part saw us take a miniscule detour into Krishnagiri. Well, it’s not really a detour. Apparently, a left turn is needed at the Krishnagiri junction under the flyover. We went over and into the bustling city center of Krishnagiri. A sudden realization dawned on the wife, a mute spectator until then and all hell broke loose. We were allegedly on the road to Salem and while this could have been brought to our attention BEFORE the damned turn in the highway, it was done when we were well past the town.

Anyway, no harm no foul and we sped back the ‘n’ km and regained our driving directions. Time loss numbers were being thrown around ranging from 15 minutes to 14 hours but for the record, we lost about 30 minutes though this will remain a bone of contention and fodder for healthy debate in the family for years to come.

Tamil Nadu road authorities or whoever posts the speed warning signs have an amazing sense of humor. ‘If you are married, divorce speed’ read one informative board. ‘Drive, don’t fly’ another helpful message proclaimed, to reduce our lead footedness (is that a word??). 'Know Safety, Know Injury, No safety, Know Injury' was yet one more example of a witty and diabolical play with words.

Our next pit-stop was the happening urban sprawl of Ranipet. While former residents claim that this is a township, it is no such thing. First of all, it’s about 73 degrees (C) in the shade and the place has a desperately desolate look about it. We were hard pressed to find a shop to buy water and short eats. However, our family stares challenge in the eyes and we did find a shack where we gobbled up cookies, chips and ice cream. As is normal for us, we created quite a ruckus and I’m sure the ‘township’ folk were glad to see us go.

Okay, I need to step back a bit here and talk about Operation Sea Breeze. The main reason for the third car on the trip was that 3 young men in our family were on a match-making mission for one of the young men and another cousin of mine (who had already arrived in Chennai). Actually, not the main reason; the only reason. The entire 5-6 hours of the journey witnessed frenetic planning and strategizing. This included mass SMS communications between cars. Planning continued at Chennai in my in-law’s home as we moved into attack/execution mode. Code words like ‘Ice Cream’, ‘Milk Shake’ and ‘Coffee’ were being bandied around in such a flurry that none of us actually remembered the decoded meanings.

Ah, and one more thing. We were all going to Chennai for my cousin’s wedding. And the fact that I’m remembering this nugget of information so late in the game shows clearly what our priorities were for the trip.

The wedding reception was the first event for us. Two of my nephews (early teens), not fully trained in the art of espionage and subterfuge, made a blatant display of looking for my cousin (the girl who was the latter half of the match-making mission whom we shall call ‘X’ from now on). And, even when I brought her to sit with us, the two apprentices plonked themselves right behind us intently watching every move. All that was missing was popcorn in their hands. We really need to do a better job in our training department.

After some confusion about a beach trip that night and a little bit of tension in the fold, we canned the plans and got back home for Sunday was going to be a long day. My elder cousin who does a great imitation of an earth mover with a missing exhaust pipe ensured we didn’t get too much sleep and we were all up and about by 5 a.m.

We actually got to see the entire wedding which was a great accomplishment. My cousin X also happened to be apple of another distant cousin’s eye and this brought her huge discomfort and unease. She really did not want the overt attention that was being lavished on her. Wheels within wheels, I tell you!!

Once breakfast was disposed off, we split up into two distinct groups. Aunties and other big girls went to the temple, the boys and X headed off towards the beach. Here I need to explain the sea breeze concept in Chennai.

Everywhere in the world, a lilting wind washes over from the water to the coast making it very pleasant for those dwelling near the sea. However, in Chennai, there is no breeze. Period! Locals claim that at 3 p.m. the fabled sea breeze begins to cool the land. While completely a figment of imagination, this belief is shared by all who belong. If you have never been to Chennai before and plan on making a visit there, make sure to bring up this topic. From the auto driver to the people you are visiting will give you a treatise about ‘sea breeze’ which cools Chennai incredibly warranting woolens and fur clothing apparel.

We picked up another cousin of mine from his house (to give us directions) and we spent a good portion of our time waiting outside his home and sitting in our cars with the AC running full throttle. We were also invited by an unknown person to come into my cousin’s house and his incessant requests could only be thwarted by my apprentice nephew who yelled ‘We have to go out of town’ and disappeared into the car, leaving the rest of us bemused and a little stunned by the turn of events.

Anyway, we were in Marina Beach, one of the more filthy coastal areas of Chennai at around 9 a.m. Brave as Chennai people are, they are not fool hardy and other than us, there was no one else near the water. We did make a fashion statement though, dressed in dhoti kurtha, pyjama kurtha, saree to name a few relevant beach-wear. The pyjamas that I was wearing is tight at the ankles requiring me to painstakingly wear the pyjamas like a woman’s stocking. Suffice it is to say that my pyjamas soon became flippers and was not very comfortable after that, especially when a big wave deposited some sand particles where the sun don’t shine. And, no, there was absolutely no sea breeze beyond the first 5 feet of the sea.

An interesting aspect of our beach visit was when I got my apprentice nephew to pick up a spring roll shaped piece of human crap that was traipsing merrily in the sand. I’m not too sure on the epoch when it had been deposited but I must say it was still shiny and looked fairly recent.

Once we were done with Marina beach, the cousin we picked up took us on a wild goose chase around the city of Chennai. We probably went over one particular bridge 7 times without knowing why. Post-mortem analysis showed that the hunt for a Badam milk joint was on. At one point, after clocking about 300 km in the city, the lead car pulled over next to a small Lassi stall. We all breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed our aching muscles. It was not to be! He just wanted to pick up a bottle of water! What’s with this state and water!!

More driving and we got to Grand Sweets & Snacks, the mother of all snack shops this side of the Vindhyas. The layout is very similar to a doctor’s office, with waiting areas and neatly arranged chairs. Once in a while, a complimentary snack would appear from the main door and a mad rush ensued to get a handful of whatever goody was being given away.

There was also the curious incident where my cousin spat out some Fanta on her Sari and my nephew turned an uncapped Fanta bottle to the side pouring more Fanta on my cousin’s sari. I cannot explain more here as I don’t know any more than what I’ve just narrated.

We got out of Grand Sweets & Snacks and then drove around aimlessly (with terrible coordination among the three cars) for another 282 km in Chennai and got to Sree Sweets or something. This was the magical oasis of Badam milk. Here we had 13 different types of chaats and one glass of Badam milk. Mind you, everyone wanted nothing more than Badam milk during entry.

Well now you know what’s next. Yes, you’re right. More driving! More passing the same places for the 17th time and again back to Grand Sweets & Snacks to pick up our sweets & snacks.

Our order was a wee bit over the top. My nephew brought out a small coffin sized carton which he could barely lift. The establishment was so pleased with us that they even gave us a free music CD.

Another highlight of our trip was my nephew’s constant urge to recharge his phone. From the moment he arrived in Chennai until about late afternoon the next day, his life’s ambition was to get his phone recharged. I’m sure there was some girl involved or else there is no way one youth could be so obsessed about recharging his phone.

All done with our shopping, eating, beaching and driving, we got home tired but not hungry. A few pleasant arguments about our departure time and then we were again off to Bangalore and this time we did not miss the turn at Krishnagiri, all thanks to my sharp eyesight, cat-like reflexes and uncanny driving abilities. Another successful and exciting trip in the books! Next trip – Kanchenjunga! NOT!!

Acknowledgments: A special thanks to Vasu, Eashwar and Abhiram for helping me recollect the signs of our times along the Bangalore - Chennai highway and also for filling in the juicy tit-bits in the story. Couldn't have done it without you guys!!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Poonal At Melkote

A bit delayed but never late than better as they say! After a huge uproar from the family frontlines on not getting to it and penning down the series of insignificant events that transpired during the significant occasion of the poonal, I have embarked on that slippery slope that is boat-full of trials & tribulations. Phew! 44 words in that sentence. Was actually trying to get to 50 but thought there should be a semblance of meaning to the diatribe so stopped when the going was good.

For those who are agog with curiosity and sitting at the edge of their seats wondering what the hell a poonal is, here goes – Poonal is the thread ceremony for adolescent boys in Brahmin families where they go through a day and half of frenetic pujas and rituals essentially transforming the unfortunate soul into manhood. A big event and as the boys’ side hardly do anything for their weddings (I mean the actual wedding ceremony before you all get your panties in a knot), the poonal takes on an all important significance as ‘THE’ event of the family!

Okay! Now, that the background is all there, allow me to indulge myself as I going into excruciating detail of everything that is not related to the actual poonal ceremony.

Departure from Bangalore, amidst much fanfare and hoopla was at 8:30 a.m. bang on schedule, a never before seen feat in our family. As is wont, breakneck speed from our car saw us reach Shivalli in an hour. Alright! We shall talk about Shivalli now!!

The wayside restaurant is roughly 60 km from Bangalore. The long cone frustum like idli (Kadabu idli) is the magnum opus here. An excellent place for South Indian vegetarian food, pretty much anything on the menus is delicious and the service is great. However, when a family pack of wolves descend on this august establishment, all hell breaks loose. Our tentative and refined ordering started with 25 masala dosas, 16 khara bhaats, a few Kesari Bhaats for thrown in for good measure and some other goodies that might feel bad for being left out. A look of terror flashed over the helpless waiter’s face but he was up to it and soon the Wolfgang Pack was digging in lustily. The first wave done, we were now ready to wash it down. Coffee and tea orders poured in thick and fast. And of course, there were customized orders too; no sugar, less sugar, less milk, more milk, I could go on.

Our feasting done in a new family record time (1 hr 17 mins flat), we set off once more towards our goal – Melkote. Enroute, I decided to have a futile race with a red Honda CRV and that battle was lost before it began. At Mandya, about 100 km from Bangalore, we took the deviation to Melkote. Here, we embarked on another speed racing adventure, this time with one of the family vehicles, a Tata Sumo. This match-up was to my liking and I drove like a maniac to ensure victory at the post (0 Km milestone in Melkote).

The temple town of Melkote is a huge sprawling metropolis of bars, pubs, discotheques and multi-storey office buildings. The suave and sophisticated citizens party all day and night and it’s a truly happening city.

Okay! Okay! I exaggerate a trifle. The road to this place actually ends in Melkote. Two temples, one on a rocky hill and one where the road terminates are all that this village has to offer. Chock full of Iyengars and priests, Melkote is a charming hamlet with scorching temperatures and nothing else.

As our retinue arrived, it was clear that this was the most happening event this town had witnessed since the temple was built in 1000 AD. Not the quietest of families, we soon made our presence felt in no uncertain terms.

The first ceremony in the evening saw the family attending in full force and other than the participants (my nephew, my cousin and his wife), no one really was into the intricate rituals that pervaded the big hall. We had other immediate concerns – you guessed it – FOOD! And how!! Starting from lunch, we pretty much stuffed our faces for 36 hours starting with the unbridled mayhem at Shivalli.

I know you’re all biting your teeth in excitement with the narrative thus far so am going to kick it up a notch now. Ready? No?? Well, I’m going with it anyway…

One of my nephews, a true Cassanova, was in his elements during this trip. The best part was that he didn’t even have to lift a finger. A distant relative ( a girl), whom for the sake of this public forum posting, I shall not name, was drawn to my nephew like bees to honey. Starting from the Saturday afternoon when my erudite nephew landed up, until the time we left on Sunday evening, she was Velcro to him. Every meal and every instance saw them together and she constantly went out of her way to ensure she was positioned next to him in any situation or family formation. While a source of immense mirth to the rest of us (not to mention a little insane jealousy by us guys that this fellow was eye candy in a temple town), it caused great discomfiture to my nephew. Heeheeheehee!!. At one point, when we were sitting for breakfast in the usual set-up i.e. my nephew and the girl next to each other, all I had to do was send a text message to another nephew in the adjacent hall to come check out the seating arrangement. Half a second later, he appears with a video camera to film the proceedings in an understated fashion. Our family is good! We also managed to provoke a Sivaji Ganesan like outburst from my nephew when confronted with some hard facts! I will not go into the entrails of this.

Sunday morning saw a few of us climb the rocky steps to the temple on the hill. Yoganarasimha is the god on top and ascending the 365 steeply inclined steps was hard work. Strangely, the deity himself resides on the side and not in the entrance and once inside, the place suddenly turns into a mass of sweating devotees pushing and shoving and making it very obvious as to why Yoganarasimha has a bewildered look on his pristine countenance.

That aspect of our religious duties done and having successfully but inadvertently eluded the core of the poonal ceremony, we returned to a sumptuous meal with the usual lunch-time seating regimen.

We finally departed from Melkote, stomachs sated, and content (of course my nephew was sated in other ways, dang it!!) in mind and body but never the worse for wear. A well spent weekend among gods and traditional brahmin rites, the extended time with the family was priceless and reinforces our decision to move back to India. Looking forward to the next big trip!

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...