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Jon Stewart

Home

I sit in the same corner table, looking through the glass of Heathrow. Staring in smug contentment as aircrafts land and take off. People going and coming home with a sort of wistful energy that a wasp with a loud buzz would convey.

Two empty cups sit in the table in front of me. One I had nursed and the other, she had held. The coffee is gone but the conversations remain. She is gone too. The ruffled fabric of the cushion on the chair, the only other trace she has left behind. ‘So, how many days have you been away from home?’, she had asked a while ago. Her first question. I am still at the first question.

‘Two weeks’, I had said.

‘I mean HOME’. She had emphasised. With an emphasis that a stern teacher would reserve for the slowest student.

She wasn’t talking of where I lived now. She was talking of where we had lived earlier. Where we went to school together.

With the careless ease of slipping into the favourite shirt that got tucked beneath several layers or new purchases, we had dived in. Deep conversation abounded leaving me with abundant joy to think and talk of the easy times when innocence was still our skin. Now, she is gone. Her flight was on time and mine has ‘delay’ written in the air. The empty cups are on the table and the conversation runs in my mind.

So what is home? I ask myself. Still with the first question she popped. My mind darts in many directions. I watch one aircraft take off and my mind follows my eye.

It is but natural to think of HOME as a physical structure. The one that gets built with steel rods, bricks, mortar and paint. From time immemorial the need for people to add structure and territory to safety has existed. The cave men sought out caves for psychological safety as much for physical sanctuary. Over generations, the building of a home has morphed into a ‘life purpose’! It still is, for large parts of India.

I remember what it took to build our home. My dad ran to the architect and then made a dash to the bank. He worked insane long hard hours, to get the structure up. Mom kept the family together while he was at it. Me and my brother watched from the sidelines sometimes lifting a pipe or moving a brick. It was the quintessential man on the moon moment for him when he did build it. We called it HOME. He thought we would live in it forever. But it turned out quite otherwise.

As our age of making our own living arrived so did jobs. We nurtured new dreams of living under bright lights and bustle that big metros invitingly held out. Upon their urging me and my brother flew the nest while dad and mom stayed on. Since then, we have made homes our of mere houses and raised our families in different cities but we can say for sure, that we can never ‘outgrow’ the HOME that dad built. We were, and we are, wedded to the place mentally.

But now, our dear HOME that dad built will tell a curious visitor the tale of poverty of residents and the plentiful silence its privy to. The occasional hosting of the grandchildren, giving the arc of effort in its construction some angular (and only) redemption. But perhaps the building isn’t privy to how often I visit it. To take the memory route to get there, just takes a closing of the eye. Sometimes, that isn’t required either, when you could reach there with wide open eyes and easy ears.

My memories of HOME come alive when I recall conversations. Some hard fights, tender moments, the spanking that we got when we lied, the company of good books, lazy gawking and good coffee. Of course, good coffee! Memories bring the HOME alive. A sanctuary of care and love whose walls come coated with familiarity and ease. Where even the pillars seem to understand us well and the floors take to the careless toss of a well-worn shirt with a muted grin.

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Memories sparkle and rush out like pieces of iron sighting a big magnet. If a home is this accessible, is it a building in a particular place or is it an ‘idea’? To a migrant like me, memories of the place are as sacred as the place in itself. Long after the people moved on and the blue sky turned gray, the twinkle in HOME’s night sky comes from the glow memory offers.

Somedays, sitting in the new home, a memory begets sighs. A longing for what it was and how it would be to go back there. The famous lines from Garden State that my good friend Manu put into my head several years ago come alive

“You’ll see one day when you move out it just sort of happens one day and it’s gone.

You feel like you can never get it back. It’s like you feel homesick for a place that doesn’t even exist. Maybe it’s like this rite of passage, you know.

You won’t ever have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for your kids, for the family you start, it’s like a cycle or something.

I don’t know, but I miss the idea of it, you know. Maybe that’s all family really is. A group of people that miss the same imaginary place”.

HOME gives us renewal. But home can also dull us into inaction. With its familiarity and comfort. It does a few things to us. It makes us take to it and our lives thereon with a certain air of settled certainty.

Thoreau‘s brilliant thoughts on ‘living deliberately’ can bring a thought or two. We need seek out the unfamiliar and make new homes. For it is in the balance between the ‘wild’ and ‘cautious’ that new bearings must get taken. These often lead us to tearing down old ideas, learning anew and building new ones. Not only are homes built on the ground around us, but also what we structure our minds with. Perhaps, that makes all the difference.

A few days ago, I had a conversation with my brother. About home. Our HOME. We were sitting in a foreign land and talking. We are both migrants with stickers and seals in our passports that ease our entries and exits from places we now call ‘home’. We are migrants too, of a luckier kind. Our migrations forcing upon us a need to reinvent ourselves, renew our relationships and take new bearing. That it hasn’t been easy, is a story that will remain silent. But what retains eloquence is the idea that the HOME that dad built, remains our personal centre of reference.

It connects us back, I realise, not only to what dad and mom put into the building but what they put into us. While the building gave a dimension of physical space and comfort, the real giving was in the treasure trove of moments they have left in us to cherish. It is ironical that building stands in silence, for it has got us sing new songs in faraway lands.

The home’s essence lies in what we put inside it. The care with which we load its beams with strength walls with colour tell stories about the hopes we have for our future. Our children’s future comes from the moments we fill their lives with. The time that we take to talk to them and be with them. It constructs a sense of identity and gives us an inner resilience to build all over again with a sense of imagination and hope. Hopes from which new homes and new futures can get created.

Hopes that can cause us to honour this space with the title of HOME!

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I continue gazing through the glass window of Heathrow. Another flight lands and taxis away. So there, if you aks me ‘so where’s home’, I have this blogpost as an answer for you.

How wonderful would it be to sit down and go on a long memory ride to hear your stories of pillars, beams, lessons and moments.  I will buy you a coffee and spend a few hours with an inviting ear and a careful presence. Perhaps you will open to me, the grooves of your memory lines and the tenor of your dreams. And through the images of your HOME, I will see a little bit of your soul.

When even a bit of the soul is worn on the sleeve, dots connect and new skies become visible for everyone around. Of course, new skies make old clouds irrelevant.

Coffee anyone?

Written after viewing TATA Tiscon steel bars being made at the TATA Steel plant in Jamshedpur as part of the #buildingblogsofjoy campaign. Arresting sights & sounds of iron ore morphing into steel rods and some smelting conversations with people who exquisitely choreograph this, makes me think of HOME. What it takes to build a house and the stuff that makes it a HOME.   Part of a blogger group, put together by www.blogadda.com. Do read the posts from others for a different take. They are listed here. Vivek Patwardhan, Lakshmi Sharath, Shruti Garodia, Shoma Abhyankar, Vamshi Krishna,  Sammya Brata

Spinning the wheel – My reflections on blogging

A couple of years ago, I stood in Kathmandu’s famous Swayambunath temple. I stood transfixed, besotted by all it offered. Of particular interest was a stellar set of prayer wheels. They were exquisite and seemed to offer something deeper and more joyful than what was apparent.

I watched in quiet awe as people came by to spin the wheel, reciting something quick and muted. The older folk turned it with gentle ease and with a ready rhythm backed by an effortless flow. I stood there for a long time. Taken by the magic of it all.

There is a reason why I think of that now.

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A few days ago, I was in Kolkata interacting with some bloggers there. Friends at Blogadda were hosting a meeting and I was passing by and happening to have to time at hand. It was delectable. Both the conversation and the consequent thoughts that it has sparked off. I shared some of my views there and the kind folks there were kind enough to stay put and listen. Some of them reached out to stay connected after the event! Which left me smiling.

Ever since, ‘blogging’ has been on my mind, wondering if I could have been more pointed and coherent.

For, to me blogs are special. They offer the scale and opportunity to thoughts and expressions. Blogging has had a profound impact on my life. So much so, that I could go out on a limb and proclaim that it aided in changing the course of my life.

Here are some reflections on my journey of blogging. Five points. Not much I think. Top five, if you will.

1. Blogging is a craft. People excel in a craft because they love a craft. Awesome bloggers that I know, publish content because they love doing so. While their voice and points of view get heard, it is a relentless discipline at getting better at it, that rests beneath. They treat blogging with respect and intensity. A certain sense of joy and deep value that passionate practitioners of any craft can relate to.

2. Getting the basics right is such an important facet of any picking up a craft. The basics of blogging, in my opinion, revolve around creating good content and finding a way of reaching it to people. Now, ‘good content’ in itself lends itself well to a long conversation. But the idea is this: Content is key. Statistics on the number of hits, where the hits come from, at what time they come etc are incidental. Focusing on getting better at putting the message across makes a substantial difference. You become a great batsman by watching the ball and spending time at the nets. Not by staring at the scoreboard.

3. Participating and building community conversations matter. Making friends via blogs is a natural consequence. The bounty of friends that I have made just because my blogs have been around for a while is a true bounty. Perhaps bounty with a capital B! Blogging is about people and conversation.

I have enjoyed growing with a set of bloggers. Going far beyond knowing them through their blogs and being present when they turned a new page. Grooved by passion and polished by time, this intimacy has evolved beyond the URL. A blessing that is so rich, that it stays outside my limited capabilities of describing it.

4. Responses to posts and ideas over all these years have varied. Swinging from idolatry to the downright dismissive, teaching me a thing or two in the process. The famous lines from Kipling’s ‘If’ has much mindshare now:

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same…”

To be equanimous to comments and responses after I hit ‘Publish’ has been one huge piece of learning. Blogging lends itself well to comments and staying calm help.

People who read a blog in the initial years happen to be friends and relatives. People who are generally of the kind kind. A heap of good comments can show up every time you published. I learnt it the hard way, that it’s so easy to get swayed by it. I have one piece of advice: Don’t! Keep working on the craft. If you are into writing, do read this book by Stephen King.

5. After you have put down Stephen King, do make it a point to read other people’s blogs. The better ones. The getting better ones. The ones that you disagree with. The ones with a point of view. The ones with a flourish in language. Whatever. Do read.

For reading helps in finding inspiration and establishing a connection. These connections and inspirations span generations and geography. But present an interweave that goes beyond the obvious. And in a good way, will lead you to stay curious. In the present day templatised world, staying curious can sometimes make all the difference!

So there, those are my top five reflections on blogging.

Now, back to the prayer wheel.

The prayer wheel is profound at many levels, as I discovered. The prayer wheel is spun with a meditative stance. You stay focused and get better at it. There are several beliefs and practices that surround Prayer Wheels. There is one that hugs my mind, though. The Tibetan tradition has a practice ‘of dedicating any accumulated merits that one may have gathered during practice to the benefits of all sentient beings‘.

That to me is at the centre of it all.

To share a point of view, with love and a degree of compassion is an opportunity that is available to everyone with a blog. The choices, of course, are ours to make.

The Pongal Magic

 

The birth of the Tamil month of ‘Thai’ occupies a special significance in my heart. For a farmer, ‘Thai’ is the tenth month in the Tamil calendar.  The arrival of ‘Thai’ is celebrated with colour, splendour, nature, gratitude and of course, good food : Pongal, we call it.  For a long while now, Pongal festivities in urban areas have been relegated to a fun bonfire, a fancy ghee dripping Pongal (the dish) and a lazy time in front of the TV.

The festival, though, has a lineage of several thousand years and the least every succeeding generation did was to mark it on the calendar. Which is fantastic. Needless to say, they celebrated in accordance of the times they lived in and added a layer of flavour.

As a kid, I recall running with a carefree energy, in farmlands of a distant dusty village cluster near Madurai in Tamil Nadu on the day of Pongal. Careful not to trample on the colourful ‘Kolams’ that dotted every doorway. Running to see garlanded cows and goats with a fresh coat of paint donning their horns.  Jostling to get a better glimpse of events at the village centre, atop the shoulders of uncles and cousins.  A uniquely rural Indian moment, if you will. Replete with painted horns matched in their colour by glaring ribbons, and blaring megaphones.  Shy women stood at the doorway of quaint houses and watched drunken men, cows, and kids like us traipse by.  The world seemed to have a spring in its step.

That is my memory of Pongal. There was magic in the air. The Pongal magic.

For long, I believed that it was ‘Thai’ that did it. For it heralded new beginnings. It meant that there was a shift in the seasons. The seeds that were sown months ago and nurtured over several months had morphed into something else. Grain. Food. It was time for a harvest. It was time for abundance.

To date, on Pongal day, a traditional Tamil rural household converges outside of their homes under the benign grandeur of the Sun God and cook. Boiling the milk and adding freshly harvested rice, even as it overflows, to signify gratitude and abundance. Or at least, that’s the story I have experienced.

‘Thai Piranthaal Vazhi Pirakkum’ they say. ‘When the month of Thai arrives, opportunities arrive’ is a loose translation.

The urbanisation of our lifestyles has drifted away from the rhythms of its rural origins. Retaining the ritual and missing the flavour. Yet, the spirit of the festival permeates the mid-January air.

Sometimes, that’s all that matter.

Here’s to a super Pongal. May there be new vistas for health, happiness and fulfilment in all our lives.  And even as they knock on our doors, may we have the prescience to hear the knock and open the doors of our soul.

May we live!

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Rain

When it rains, it pours. I sit and watch the rain rail against the window sill. Many years ago, when Facebook was nascent (and seems like the world was a better place) – a different profile picture greeted you on my Facebook timeline. It was this picture.

 

Rain

 

I recall the clicking of this picture. The beauty of the moment stood tall in solemn elegance. That which had just jumped off the cloud, had flirted with the railing for a brief trickle of a second, was poised to leap and flow into another moment. It got me to smile.  That it was going to jump off was sure to happen. Yet there was a small swirl of energy to the moment. The moment when imminent change that was expected just about arrives, there is a certain magic in the dramatic poise. If you care to notice it, that is.

To me, this droplet of rain, held an entire monsoon together.

My dad lived in an era where there were no special days called ‘Fathers Day’.  He wouldn’t give a damn and urge us to think of ‘meaning’. Thinking of him today seems natural, when rain strikes. For several years he had a giant poster in the dining room. It said, “A single rose can be my garden”.

That was many seasons ago. Much rain has kissed the Earth since then. Facebook has since grown. Many new people came into it suddenly adding relevance to several lives. Many left. Because of the very reason that many ‘new’ others were in. The rains, though,  have been keeping their seasonal regularity with this part of the country. I have looked forward to their arrival like a child for the customary goodie from a visiting uncle. The rains have helped keep stock of the passing years, like nothing else. The most physical of the changes to seasons in this part of the world.

I write this, sipping freshly made filter coffee and staring into the Sunday evening that is fast giving way to the night before Monday morning. Monsoon clouds have enveloped the Sun and make the intense rays of summer a distant memory, and bringing smiles to a parched population. This monsoon will be intense. I think so. I hope so.

Last July, I was in Goa driving in the rain along with some wonderful folks.  When a sudden shower got the wipers on the windshield of a new car, work hard.  This picture resulted.

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For a long while I stared at this picture and realised that this picture held me tight. The new me. Whatever happened to the single drop, I ask myself? Nothing. Actually nothing. The beauty and poise of the single drop will always remain and stay close to me. The energy of a dash of drops moves me beyond the past.

As the coffee runs dry on the tumbler, I reach out to my camera. Wondering what new images my camera will capture.  Sometimes the pictures within you come alive in the words that sprout off the keyboard or the images that the camera captures.

And rain, oh rain. I have a song playing in the background. It goes like this.

Here comes the rain again
Falling on my head like a memory
Falling on my head like a new emotion
I want to walk in the open wind
I want to talk like lovers do
I want to dive into your ocean
Is it raining with you

Rose 2

A fresh sprouting of a rose catches my eye as much as it catches a bit of rain. The rain dances on the petal. The soul feels refreshed and there seems to be a colourful renewal. The rain does that to you. New hopes sprout. In a while, I peer at the images on my desktop screen wondering if I did justice to the rain. Or to the rose for that matter. A moment later I think about the new hopes and renewal.  The rain has that effect. Always.

Myriad hues of monochrome moments

Its the ‘wee hours’. As they call it. I sit still staring emptily into my computer screen. A side glance brings alive the dark sky that lies beyond the open window. The chill breeze and the lone star in the dark sky that seems to twinkle its way to attention, without much fuss.

The desktop screen has a to-do list with a heap of items that when described as ‘turn-off’s, would struggle to convey the depth of the emotion associated with it. I struggle. My eye catches a piece of paper held aloft by a butterfly magnet. The daughter loves butterflies. And magnets. That two disjoint pieces can suddenly cling on to each other fascinates her. It still does fascinate me.

Run Over

The Sun makes his preparations to shine a new light into the dark night. I continue to look at this piece of paper. A weak smile emerges thinking of the daughter. I tear my eye from the butterfly and double click on the minimised calendar. The computer obeys with a precision that I wish, was bestowed on my will to take on the to-do list.

“February”. Screams the calendar. Its the most silent scream I have heard in a while. January has been consumed by a relentless march of every day. One full month seems to have sneaked out. Tirelessly consumed by trifles, while starting with a promises and possibilities bordering on the momentous. Sometimes I feel its still the first of Jan. Of 2014! My mom says the last fifty years of her life have rushed off in this manner. Sometimes when memory of another moment from another time and circumstance visit me, I wonder whatever happened to the intervening years. The comfort in continuity, washing way any guilt that a possible stagnation can fester.

The monotonous clang of every passing moment speeds off with what seems to be a desperate lunge of an athlete who hedged his life on winning the Olympic Gold! The star on the horizon seems to flicker as though wanting to tell me something. I stare at the flicker and see a raw beauty in it. A colour and sparkle that is so brilliant, against the backdrop of what seems to be a hesitant dawn.

I pick up a pen and write. As is wont, when the urge to say something to myself is immediate. Every passing monochrome moment has a colour to it. In fact every moment has colour. It isn’t the moment’s fault if a monochrome lens envelops the eye. I write, ‘ Myriad hues of monochrome moments ‘.

I think of something I stumbled into sometime back.  “This is Water” said its title. Do give it a read. Below is an excerpt of the full piece on video. Pretty good, I must say. Here is the full speech. Perhaps it would provide you with insights beyond what emerged for me. Maybe we should talk.

I look into the night sky, which seems to seamlessly give way to light. Without a fight. The bright brilliance of the star on the horizon seems to have taken a different hue, settling behind the haze. I notice the time again. The date sneaks out from behind the curtain.

I get to work on the to-do list.

February will fly. Besides it has only 28 days.

Goan Zest

Buffaloes

”Ouuccchhhhh’.

Her scream from inside the car on any other day would have caused a scarecrow three miles away to jump in fear. Or so it seemed to me. I was at the wheel of a TATA Zest.

Its was a small road. A cowherd and his set of buffaloes were walking towards us, on our lane. I had steered the car to stay a safe distance away from the buffaloes. As we crosses them, one buffalo, on a whim moved to the centre of the road and swung his tail to hit the rear view mirror on the left. A couple of feet from where Nandita is sitting.  The sound was deceptively deafening. No collateral damage to the car. The last I saw the buffalo, there seemed to be none there either.

I could have sworn the bloody thing was premeditated. For as we passed the cowherd, his more than mischievous smile was on ineffable display. Nandita, fresh from the scream, expressed some rather pleasant thoughts she had for the cowherd and his buffalo. I spotted the cowherd’s trudge on the rear view mirror. He seemed to be on a song, while I was shaken.

The three of us, Nandita, Neha were the trio that was testing out the TATA Zest. Some more context and details are here.  This is my second and final post that I had promised. A review of a car(or for that matter, any product) on the blog, is something that I have never done and I barely have knowledge of automobiles as a nursery kid would have of the constitution. Or any other fat book, for that matter.  Earlier today, I asked myself how I wanted this blogpost to read. I wrote ‘precise, honest and flowing’. And then, I don’t know what got me to write ‘Clarkson’.

Car reviews with a soul, bring the visage of Jeremy Clarkson to my mind. None else. .

For several years, Top Gear was my favourite program on BBC. On all of TV, for that matter. Jeremy Clarkson James May and Richard Hammond, held attention in a rather unbridled sort of a way that escaped adjectives. Gripping drama and dripping quaint British humour, they had me tune in regularly. Clarkson was irreverent and had a deep resourcefulness to source a capacious assortment of adjectives. I write in past tense, for I dont watch much TV these days. But am sure (and I hear) they continue to be their usual selves to date. Every other auto show host since then, has looked like someone still recovering from a very intense combination of jaundice and constipation. As the buffalo swung his tail to catch the rear view mirror, that was my Jeremy Clarkson moment. My gripping drama. That was that.

Let me for a minute talk of P.Chidambaram. Now, Jeremy Clarkson and P.Chidambaram sitting on adjacent paragraphs must be enough for you to call an ambulance to ferry me to an asylum. No, all is well. Thank you. I have a reason to bring P.Chidambaram into the picture.

Who would believe if I told you that PC and his babus spawned an entirely new ‘genre’ of cars?  From my preliminary reading, they do seem to have worked on it and I am open to standing corrected here.  Well, as finance minister in 2006, he announced an 8% reduction in any car less than 4 meters in length for cars housing a 1.2L petrol or a 1.4 L diesel. He didn’t care to add, if the car could have a boot or otherwise. They just had to be less than 4 meters. An entire class of cars arrived : trimmed down versions of a hatchback with an appended boot as an afterthought that had no way of concealing how pronounced afterthought appeared! If there was a lousier evidence of mass production of ‘cut & paste’ technology, hmm, well, well..I am not sure how I should end that sentence.

The TATA Indigo was the first amongst a set of ugly, ‘cut and paste’ cars. If that was the worst one could have imagine seeing, Maruti Suzuki came up with Swift Dzire. An even more bizarre appendage of a boot to a wonderful car called Swift. One of the greatest ironies was to call this ‘cut & paste’ assortment of metal, ‘Dzire’!

A buffalo. Jeremy Clarkson. P.Chidambaram.  Hmm. What an assorted spray paint of a start to what was supposed to be a precise review. Sigh. Ok. Quick, let me add some zest!

First off, the TATA Zest is different. When designers sat on the table, their brief was to build this as a sub 4 meter car. It is not a ‘cut & paste’ car and It shows. The lines are bold and it has a rather ‘wanting to move forward’ kind of agile look. Maybe thats what pissed the sedentary buffallo and its wayward ways.

The car handled like a charm taking to the small roads of Goa almost with a familiar shrug of the shoulder. The Zest provides ample leg room with élan that clearly makes it inviting. Especially so for Indian families and their small extended ties. Of course, we know how small our extended ties are!

Now, let me get some petty things off my mind. Stuff thats been humming in there. Like a rattling fan. First off, the petrol engine. Wonder why they call it 3-in-1. Its an automobile engine. Not a dishwashing liquid.  ‘Three engines in one’ as a primary brand proposition requires a large dose of courage and a generous degree of audacity. Or so I think. Although am sure there must be reams of research to back it up. But then, thats that. Second, the engine operates in three modes to operate which TATA Motors have chosen to call : ‘City’. ‘Eco’ and ‘Sport’. Wonder if any one else thought of the Honda City and the Ford Ecosport, every time the three modes were spoken of! Maybe its just me and my cynical ways.  Sorry.

Nevertheless the engine did well and everyone said ‘peppy’. If you expect that car to turn into some kind of a ‘Batmobile’ at the press of a button as you move from ‘city’ mode to ‘sport’ mode, well, you will end up a poor sucker like me. So much for marketing.  Truth be told, overall the car handles well, for its class.

Goan cyclist

We clicked a few pictures shifted speed, accelerated, paused, stopped and got a few locals on the road driven to their wits end, as we tested out the horn. It seemed that the horn was placed by a campaigner against ‘noise pollution’. To get it going required the full supply of calories from a heavy breakfast. All the same, it was good for verdant Goa. Goa is a place where life happens in slow motion. Even rain seemed to be taking its time. People have a relaxed tonality to life that will inject you with allure or paralyse you in silly awe.

If you met the great Achilles himself and asked him to point towards the better example of his much famed heel, he could well point in the direction of Service standards of TATA Motors.  The TATA folks tell me, that story is changing. And that they have moved from 13th place to 7th on the JD Power rankings for service. Hopefully, that translates to something useful and differentiating.  I stay stubbornly hopeful that the new thinking of being a ‘design lead’ thinking versus being a ‘engineering lead’ company will take the car and the company a good distance.

The moment you switch topics and talk about the diesel car and the Automated Manual Transmission, you will catch me smiling far more.  In the middle of a rather fetching highway after manoeuvring to a position where no vehicle was in sight and after checking with the ladies if they had their seat belts on, I put some speed to the dial of the diesel Zest. It responded like a famished lion that spotted prey. It didn’t quite feel like diesel, had brilliant auto transmission and the noise reduction inside the cabin was near perfect.

More buffaloes dotted the greenery of Goan fields besides the highway. I stayed careful. Neha and Nandita took to the wheel with a matter-of-fact ease that didn’t surprise the car as much as it surprised them, I would think. They seamlessly wove through recalcitrant traffic and some indecisive rain which stayed troubled deciding if it should pour down or hold back.  While the windscreen wipers laboured with ease, I clicked a picture of what the windscreen held. Some remnants of what the clouds held a few moments ago. Pretty good picture I thought even as coherent happiness continued its elusive streak.

Rain

Back to the car. There are 3,75,369 reviews of the car now detailing the specs of Torque, displacement, head lamps with LED lights and some three zillion other categories where TATA Motors claims to be ‘segment first’. Please look them on up on the net.  The car is a neat package. And when TATA Motors will ‘price it for volumes’, as offline conversations threw in hushed tones, well, it will get many nods of approval.

Considering all of this, you may ask, with your head tilted to one side, “would buy the car?”. The answer clearly, is a ‘No’. End of story.

Except, that its not quite the end of the story. I am not in the market for car in this segment. If I were, this will get to my top three cars for consideration for sure. For those that are looking for a car in this segment, I reckon TATA Motors will be out to redefine ‘value for money’.

Good design and features that adorn higher segments sit pretty here. Maintenance doesn’t seem like (am hoping like hell here) it will take a generous stab at the bank account. It looks good. Drives good and has ample space all around. Plus, did I tell you about the Harmon Kardon audio system that besides playing music and all that, was said to take voice commands and do a slew of things just stopping short of ‘change my complexion’.

So there! Look at it for sure. Buy it if it fits you. Thats about the Zest. End of story.

Oh wait. The story has another element. While the Zest is just another car in the TATA stable, what it has more than convincingly done is this : forcing the TATA brand into consideration set of cars, that I will consider in the future. That is an even more important ask than just selling one car. But, that’s just me and I tell it with no qualms. I am no Jeremy Clarkson and there is no swarm of people who will do my bidding. Finally, its officially, end of story.

Ah, there is one more thing. Jeremy Clarkson once said, “Column writing is like gas. It fills in available space”. I stop right there. The end.

Drive Through

It’s a gingerly walk. You would be well within reason to assume that I was walking over shred glass if you saw my gingerly tread. Around me, an assorted bunch of bloggers are busy, blogging away. Peering into the keyboard with a precision that would befit a scientist launching a satellite to a planet beyond Pluto. I walk up to where Harish from Blogadda is standing. I tell him with my head held down in shame : ‘I cant… I cant blog like them, I cant blog at their speed’. He stares at me in silence. I keep my eyes trained on the carpet and ask for more time. He tells me, “The bus leaves at 2.00 PM”.    

“I will write. I promise”, I tell him. He remains silent. “God Promise” I say, hoping to infuse some humour. I think I see his jaws clench behind his generous cheeks that mirror a far more generous heart, while he says ‘Ok’. My shame redoubles. He walks away.

Road ahead

You see, Blogadda invited me to a preview of a new car TATA Zest. I sweated buckets. Part out of excitement but more out of trepidation. Excitement at the prospect of ‘Goa’ again in the monsoon. (I love the monsoons every year. And Goa, at all times). Plus the prospect of meeting bloggers from different walks of life was akin to a lavish buffet for a famished glutton whose appetite for stories spans the universe.

The trepidation came from someplace else. A large dose of a lazy outlook combined with a philosophy of ‘writing for writings sake’ (and not for rewards and contests) masquerades as righteous nonchalance for ‘brands’ and product reviews. I laid out my condition with a missionary zeal : I would write what I want to write. No censoring. No interference.

“Of course”. They said. Matching the righteous tone in more than good measure. I wondered why the good people at Blogadda humoured me and people like me. But God was in his heaven and all was well with the world. So.

The TATA Motors’ proposition was not only novel, it was bold and it appealed. It was to assemble a set of bloggers from walks of life that are as divergent as spaces between continents, to review and talk about the car they were launching. Now, I have the amount of knowledge about automobiles that you would expect Manmohan Singh to have about Punk music. (But the difference was, he could ride on reputation and keep quiet about it. Here I was to write two blog posts) The idea was to get the Zest experience reach different bloggers and their audience groups. Food bloggers. Fashion bloggers. General interest bloggers. That was more than merely good thinking.

Brilliant thinking, you could think. So did I. Soon, I flew into Goa. Goa is always brilliant. Trading a precious weekend with the family and looking forward to the prospect of meeting people from different genres and getting to know their blogs. Accompanied by a firm relief, plastered all over my mind, that there were going to be no experts in automobiles.

As luck would have it,the first gentleman I met was a Formula One enthusiast, who spoke about cars and races as though he relishes clutch plates for lunch and grease filled engine oil for dessert! If not for his friendly, calm demeanour and were he speaking about ‘ religion’ instead of cars, Obama and his drones would have taken our bus down. That kind of passion and a studied opinion of automobiles. My heart sank. I reckoned that taping my mouth, acting worldly wise with a smile now and then, backed by knowledgeable nods were my last resorts to escape the ignominy of being a frog in a flower basket.

But God was in his heaven and better things were due. There were people in the room who had other interests. Like jalebis, for example. A sigh that could be heard in Singapore, escaped my lips. As it turned out awesome things were due.

The hospitality of TATA Motors and the Blogadda teams was immaculate. I sat listening to stories of journeys from fellow bloggers. Some images remain etched. Like the widening of eyes of the bird watcher as he explained his exploits including one where he walked miles in Ladakh to spot one single bird. The wanderlust in another that is set to take him across the country on his bike for two months. Riding for two months and going to Nepal on a bike is awesome-crazy enough. But making it sound like he was going to the corner grocery store, had the head reeling.

My jaw hit the carpet and seemed intent on going all the way to the basement, when I heard yet another story of walking away from Corporate life and setting up a business model around blogs and blogging. Fixing the jaw, was unnecessary, for it soon was going to drop at the intensity and the nonchalant narration from every other fellow blogger’s story that wafted through the monsoon drenched Goan air.

TATA Motors is in the business of selling cars. Higher order pursuits like getting bloggers to exchange their stories falls in a vacuous place that the P&L statement will not like! But of course! But of course! Very soon, we were in what was called a ‘Masterclass’. A clutch of people from the design, engineering and Corporate Communications teams from TATA Motors presented facts, figures and data about the TATA Zest. Now, in my line of work, being subjected to legions of presentations and shiny corporate films with plasticky claims (and returning the favour in good measure), is common place. So, when the TATA Motors folks rolled out the same, the jaw returned to its place and stuck still as it normally does at the sight of pedestrian stuff.

The masterclass made as much of an impression as a weather report on TV, when you are expecting your favourite movie to turn up.  The masterstroke however was in the opportunity to interact with their designers and engineers over dinner. I am a sucker for stories and hearing them in first person was an experience to cherish. The TATA Motors folks wove magic for the rest of the evening.

I recall talking to a TATA Motors’ designer who designed the audio system. Sporting a trim, white beard, a black turtle neck T-shirt and a blue jeans, if you haven’t guessed who came to my mind, let me add that he also wore round glasses just like Steve Jobs. If not for the thick Bengali accent you would be in your rightful mind to think that TATA Motors resurrected the master of design himself.  As he spoke of his design of the audio systems, the twinkle in his eyes could have powered all of the hotel’s electricity.

I didn’t quite get the constraints until he explained them. One of which, was the ‘The two second test’. A design of the front end of the audio system that would be approved only if a tester were to make sense of it in two seconds, because two seconds was just about the time one could take the eyes off the wheel, while changing music. Some constraint, that! The pride in having done something awesome shimmered and rose far above the turtle neck.

Similar chats with different people ensued. Another that stays in the mind is the chat with the car designer from Vizag who spoke of straight lines, proportions, shapes and figures with an incredulous everlasting smile. Of course, I didn’t utter a word about how I loathed the geometry box and didn’t think of lines as anything beyond a scratch on a paper, back in school. But to meet someone who made a happy living out of doing this, required deep reflection of where I went wrong, I told myself. And hoped to forget about it.

The TATA Motors folks that I saw that evening, seemed to have passion oozing from every pore, were helpful to a fault, knowledgeable beyond measure and inspired a certain confidence in very good cars that we were to drive the next day morning. One thing was clear, TATA Motors was giving this car its best shot ever and it showed.

That night,as monsoon showers hit the Goan seashore in seamless ever-on kind of mode, conversations flowered. Cars. Passions. Blogs. Bloggers. Comments. Events. Readers. Twitter. Negative comments. Paid posts. Sick people. Beautiful people. Genres. Writers. And the like. There are surprises in store for me too. A few bloggers met and told me in that they read my blogs. I mumbled a few ‘Thank you’s and meant if much more than I said it. A couple of them kept silent after I said thank you. I have an odd feeling that they expected to be more generously compensated than a mere ‘thank you’, for reading the stuff that I churn out. If I would be them, I would! 🙂

The morning seemed to emerge in a hurry. The cars were readied. 20 odd cars. Fifty bloggers.

I was to join two very popular food bloggers who knew each other well.. First they knew each other, lived close by and blogged about food. Celebrity stuff. The swarm of anxiety riddled butterflies that lined my stomach wall at the prospect of meeting them soon melted into oblivion when I indeed got driving with the ladies. They were delightful people who accepted my ordinary fumbling ways like a phone would accept a random SMS, marketing an insurance policy!

clicking

We took turns at the wheel. Clicked some pictures while the other drove. Connected our phones to the audio device in the car. Changed channels. Commented on stuff.  Switched cars to drive the Petrol and Diesel variants. For a couple of hours! To do all of this on good cars that are yet to be launched in the company of wonderful people, indicated good Karma or at least, a feeling that I couldn’t have been all that bad in my past lives!

camera

Roadsigns

I cant afford to miss mentioning the GoPro cameras that were placed on the windshield, with three tonnes of adhesive tape,  ‘to capture expressions, as the car is being driven’. My tryst with cameras span decades. Over the last several decades, there are reams of snaps that seem to capture me at the exact moment when am least prepared or doing something ranging from incredulous to mildly preposterous. Like seeming to wag my tongue at the chief guest while receiving an award, when I could have sworn to God that all I was saying was ‘thank you’. Or eyelids closed. Unkempt shirt. Hands mysteriously coming in the way of the face. Etc! But this was supposed to be GoPro and all that. God help the editor, I thought!

Driving through an apology of a highway and picturesque narrow lanes filled with quaint houses in bright colours that would tear through monsoon induced green cover soothed the soul and the calf muscle that suffer Kurla’s whims. At every fork in the road, a TATA Motors gent with a bunch of curious locals in tow, would hold a board giving directions. At every pit stop, a handy bunch would give the car a rub and a shine making me wonder if I should attempt a smile and a wave of the hand befitting Queen Elizabeth.

That was that. After all the driving, we now are to ‘Live blog’ the event. That is a tall ask. After a few paragraphs of furious typing later I realise I am lost like a marathoner who went in the wrong direction, in a foreign land. I realise this is a lost cause. Words stutter and the keyboard crackle refuses to produce anything that can remotely be called ‘coherent’, on the screen.

It’s a gingerly walk. You would be well within reason to assume that I was walking over shred glass if you saw my tread. Around me an assorted bunch of bloggers are busy, blogging away. Peering into the keyboard with a precision that would befit a scientist launching a satellite to a planet beyond Pluto. I walk up to where Harish from Blogadda is standing. I tell him with my head held down in shame : ‘I cant… I cant blog like them, I cant blog at their speed’. He stares at me in silence. I keep my eyes trained on the carpet and ask for more time. He tells me, “The bus leaves at 2.00 PM”.

“I will write. I promise”, I tell him. He remains silent. “God Promise” I say, hoping to infuse some humour. I think I see his jaws clench behind his generous cheeks, while he says ‘Ok’. My shame redoubles. He walks away.

The days after the event is a whirlwind of sorts at work and home. Work piles up. My computer crashes. Mr.Murphy decides to do his visits. A few days after the event, I call up Harish. He is in better spirits. I tell him, I have a post that will go live soon. I gather he knows me well.  Between laughs and banter he asks me, “I hope it is about the car and the experience and not some…?” His voice trails.

I tell him, ‘Harish, the post about the car will be done too, but this one begins and ends with you’. Silence reigns on the other side. I think I hear his facepalm as I hit the publish button.

 

Monsoon showers

There is something about rain. As its constant pitter-patter rattles the window and shakes the thin steel sill. It began with a drizzle a while back. As the two arms move with ferocity on the watch dial, the drizzle has morphed into an ominous thunderstorm. Gusts of wind announce their presence by a ‘whoo’ noise that tears in through a crack in the window. Just like a scene straight out of horror movies. The ‘whoooo’ that precipitates the entry of a ghost or a grand ending!

Today, the horror movies run only in the mind, if they run at all. The wind continues to drive more drops of rain to the window with a ferocity that could be compared to the hunger of a famished jungle cat. The tea in the cup is fast exchanging some of its warmth for some chill in the air. The clock ticks in the background. It is surprising how the sound of the ticking clock reaches the ear. Beating the ‘whooo’ of the wind and the incessant pitter-patter of the rain drops marching in random splendour.

In a distance, the leaves sport a new coat of green. The rains wash away the dust and soot to the give the leaves new radiance and energy to the roots. The leaves and branches sway with recalcitrant ease. It’s some sight. A perpetual random sway of a swathe of green like an unkempt ruffle atop a drugged out rockstar on stage. These days the fields that gave the first space for the roots of the trees to spread are now paved with cement, tar and potholes. Potholes that warm up to the season by gluttonously filling up with whatever rain water that they can hold.

Beyond, the hills of Powai sprout patches of green. The washed out brown that was in vogue as the summer collection of sorts, is just about getting dismantled. Think of a mannequin in a fashion sore that’s getting a new set of clothes. The ‘Rain Collection’, if you will, is here.

Rain

A single rain drop holds on to the window grill with steely will. When it finally parts company of the grill and heads ground bound, there is almost melodramatic sadness from the separation. Like a lost love.

Meanwhile, children play. For them, the first rain is to be soaked up and wrung well. Not the sophisticated children who live in the air conditioned high-rises, relishing the freedom that ‘3d animated’ video games offer. The kids that are soaking up the rain today are real children, with life, jumping with joy. Raindrops driving away every worry on the brow. Shrill hoots and aimless running to catch other. Its a feast for the eye. The soul’s hidden thirst for such sights reveals itself in the voracious quench.

In a short while, the gusts of wind become a spent force. Suddenly a milder gentler breeze rules, in a change of guard that is smooth. The rain changes from pitter-patter mode to a drizzle-drizzle mode. Nature’s infinite assortment of ringtones never fails to impress with its variety and depth. The tea in the cup has traded its all of its warmth for a dose of chill.

Warming up to watching the rain and getting soaked to the toe is an allure that has held invitation beyond reason. There is something to the rain that elude words.

People, monsoon showers are here.

Role Models, besides the point

Her name was Mrs.DeMonte. She was my teacher in school.

Mrs.DeMonte was a stern teacher. I was of an impressionable age and it troubled me immensely that nothing I did elicited the simplest of smiles from her. I wonder what subject she taught me. That is still a blur. But an apparition of her stern self stays fresh in the mind. To this day.

One day, she announced with a flourish, that there was going to be an ‘elocution’ competition. ‘Here’, I must have told myself, ‘is the chance to impress her’. For I remember rushing home and declaring that I must prepare and all that. Memory fails me if it was a ploy to avoid maths homework or it was genuine excitement about the competition and the small window it presented to impress the lady.

The times then were different. There wasn’t any internet. My parents, like most parents then, thankfully were disinterested in my homework in a very interested sort of a way. If you know what I mean! But my dad, the genial man he was, was as interested in this project, for some reason. I wasn’t sure why, but I couldn’t care less.

The topic was “My Role Model”.

“So, who is your role model”, he asked. Looking up occasionally from a magazine that used to get published then, called “Gentleman”. Now, I hadn’t bargained for this. I thought they would write down a page that I could memorise and go ‘vomit it’ (as was the parlance and accepted procedure) to the silly judges under the watchful tutelage of Mrs.DeMonte. That was the plan.

If life taught me early lessons of mounting a tiger and just being unable to get off it, for fear of it devouring the rider and his audacity, it started with this. My dad would have nothing of the ‘mugging up’ or the ‘vomiting out’ business. Even more, he abhorred those phrases. It was clear, for this exercise, I had to go with him and his laborious questions that popped out in monosyllables.

“Gandhi”. I remember telling him. Afterall Gandhi was an old man. It was drummed into our head that ‘he got freedom for us’ etc. But then, I didn’t have any further answers to my dad’s grand question of ‘Why else’. So was the case with every other ‘role model’ I suggested.

In sometime after my options were exhausted, “Do you know of a man called Nelson Mandela”, he asked. Of course, I didn’t. A silent groan escaped me as I loathed the idea of having to figure out all about a man who I didn’t know at all. Forget connecting. But most important of all, I didn’t know how Mrs.DeMonte would react.

In about half an hour, he assembled a set of books and clippings of Nelson Mandela. He added some of his handwritten notes with handwriting that you would argue was more typeset printing. Along came a blue dictionary with frayed edges. “Read all of this, look up words you don’t understand and tell me the story. You will do well, don’t worry”. He said, and then quietly left the place, in the most matter-of-fact manner there ever was. He wasn’t the helicopter parent that hovers atop the modern day kid.

I dreaded it all. But the story of one man, who fought a Government, and was in jail for several years gripped me steadily. I read and reread all the clippings he left with me. Of course, I had to look up the dictionary ever so many times and often had to run back to him, not knowing what the dictionary was telling me.

In a few days, the speech was ready.

To save you more drama, the speech was done, and I cant remember if I won a prize. (To be read as ‘No-prizes-were-won. Not-even-consolation-prize”). It didn’t matter, for Mrs.DeMonte was clearly unimpressed. Or so I thought. “Next” she said, asking the next kid to go on stage, when I was done. Not a word of “Well done” or even the omnipresent meaningless “good” that got spouted when there was nothing else to say.

But that was besides the point. I was hooked to Nelson Mandela. He was my role model. A hero of sorts. We talked about him at length at home. That too was besides the point. The point really was, I was hooked to reading. Exploring. Imagining and discussing these with dad. My admiration for people and what they accomplished started going up infinitely. Naturally, in a few years, there were several people who came into my world.

My ‘role models’ kept shifting. Moving with elan from one person to another with a sophistication of a serial killer par excellence. Not that the earlier person would be dismissed from the memory or consigned to a place of lesser importance.  It was just that someone else came on to occupy the place of the prima donna. Gary Kasparov. Lee Iacocca. M.K.Gandhi. Ronald Reagan. R.K.Narayan. Shashi Tharoor ( At that time, he used to write a column in the Gentleman whilst being a diplomat at the UN). Rakesh Sharma. And so on.

Several years later, the day Mandela was released from prison, we saw those live pictures on TV. Me and dad. “He looks very different from the times we did the preparation for the competition, appa” I said. “He has changed. So have you”, he said. That was a telling statement. I wonder why, but I took it as a compliment and let matters rest.

At that precise moment, I realised, that through all the fickle changes to my ‘Role Models’ my dad had kept me company. Helping me reflect. Arguing with nothing but a point here or point there. An arched brow while swallowing the delicacies that mom made.

Over the years, I have myself listened to several people speak of their role models. Every story has been gripping. Generally, there are two categories to this. The first category consists of those in the public space. A celebrity. An outstanding sportsman. A politician. Statesman and the like. Generally, well written about and more than well known. The other category of role models is this deeply personal space. Like dad. He was my role model. People who you love. A grandmother. An uncle. A mother. Etc. Known in the context of immediacy and love of the family. Or friendship.

A few years ago while hearing the story of a cowherd in a remote village, as he narrated his life story tending to his cows, I had tears flowing down my face. It was his story that he narrated after considerable prodding. A story that he told without emotion and with no other more an ask other than filling time and limitless curiosity of a traveler and his camera. A story of how he pledged every single belonging save his cows to get his daughters educated.

As much as his story left an indelible impact, the premise of relishing heroes that donned ordinariness as their grand robes seemed to lead me somewhere. Ever since then the primacy of people who have been featured and are famous has ceded ground to ‘ordinary’ people and their stories.

I learnt from many and whoever I learnt from, automatically qualified to become a sort of a reference point for something in life. Giving me new found energy to wade further on in my own life.

a

Like this man who I met, one early morning, as he whipped out delectable glasses of filter kaapi at a roadside eatery. Making much of whatever came by from his kaapi joint.

b

c vada

Or this man, his co-worker, who made magic with his fingers and while making vadas that both tasted incredible and also had such perfect shape, that I bet the folks that showcase their ware on Masterchef can build a temple or two in honour of. They posed for these pictures with joy, not for a minute wanting to do their faces up or questioning ‘Why’. In their sparkling eyes, steadfast smiles, inviting demeanour amidst surroundings that you could mildly call ‘less than proper’, they taught me a thing or two of staying happy, doing their vocations well and rocking it even if no one noticed.

If that is not Role Model material, I wonder what is. In the tumultuousness of the ‘ordinary’, many people and their stories plod on, living their lives. In the quest of the spectacular, we miss the grand in the simple. I invoke this contrast in order to dispel it. The indescribable ordinariness that gets dismissively called ‘daily life’, holds extraordinary tales. Tales that other role model chronicles that come to the mainstream must hold a candle to.

May we have the eyes and ears to see and hear these well. May our hearts be grand enough to propel us to share these stories. When the good folks at Blogadda triggered thoughts on ‘My Role Model’ I wondered who really my role model was. It troubled me that I couldn’t come up with one name in a jiffy. Of course, there was dad whose deep searching questions made it impossible to believe what was in the surface was all that there is to life. He played a big part.  But several others have shaped it and continue to do so. Till date. By just living they live their own lives well.

I began writing to see if writing could clarify what was on my mind. This is where its brought me. With abandon I publish it here. Am sure this is not what they had in mind when they announced the contest. But contests and victories are, besides the point. A brusque wonderful lady, by the name Mrs.DeMonte taught me that well.

I am writing about #MyRoleModel as a part of the activity by Gillette India in association with BlogAdda.com

Developments in the family

So there are some developments. This is as personal as it can get. Sharing them with you here is the most appropriate and pertinent. You will realise why.

Several of you, going by the tenor of posts here, must have guessed that there is something brewing in my life with an accent on the future. Well, it is here!

A few weeks ago a stocky man with matching yellow teeth approached me with a proposal that was too good to be true. First of all, he claimed to have read all my intemperate writing on the blog. Now whenever someone says that, I am filled with a strange concoction of emotions. Of gratitude, surprise with an ‘are you for real’ kind of feel. Worse, he said the blog had a ‘lazy elegance to it’. ‘Lazy elegance’ is something that I reserve in reverence for the cover drives of David Gower. It perked my ears so much that my face had to work hard to keep the ears stitched to their place.

‘We must meet’ he said, on the phone.

So we did. At a five star hotel. ‘I’ll pay’, he said, even before we ordered anything. He gave subtlety such a stretch that it expanded its horizons considerably and got a new soul. His accent was impeccable, the perfume that he wore stood out and there were no creases on the cotton trousers.  These things don’t matter much, you would think.  Well, yes and no.

But what he had to offer, sure did. A job. A new swell job.

“You have to travel to parts of the world, talk to people source stories of their livelihood, click pictures to embellish the stories and tell it to the world”. On his magazine and website that is. ‘ You have a an uncanny knack of connecting strange dots’ he said, revealing teeth that suddenly seemed less yellow than they were half an hour before.

You could well imagine that my heart was at a different ebb. A fight to conceal the height of the ebb ensued. With a certain self effacing grim look, furrowing my brow, I asked, ‘why me?’

‘Oh. I need a fresh perspective. A bloggers perspective’ He said, resuming sipping his peach flavoured ice tea. That was that. His effortless eloquence was wafting in its brevity, when the questions were a tad important. Important to me, that is.

I told him that I had to think about it.

“Look”, he said, “The money is good. It will cover your home loan, pay for a world class education for your daughter and leave you with enough money for your missus to be happy.” And with a taciturn smile added, “and ofcourse, for your books. Unlimited purchases allowed on company account.” I felt my stomach churn. I seem to have shared way too much on the blog. Or he had been reading my mind. He knew the right buttons. Damn.

But more was coming. He was just warming up. “Your first assignment will be in the Nordic countries. You can start next week..I mean, as soon as you are ready. We’ll have the tickets arranged” He continued. In a span of time that can be safely called ‘very short’, he made me an offer and in another fifteen minutes, increased it by 50%.

The feeling of resting on what made you become who you are

I felt like a flower. Floating in the air and resting on a leaf.

Everything was perfect. The only let down was perhaps his sense of humour. Which swung from the sublime to the silly. I didn’t know which was worse. His sense of humour or his own impressions of his sense of humour. But that’s another unnecessary  side-story. Let me not digress.

In another fifteen minutes, he had got me to tamely agree to his terms, making them seem like my terms. “So, see you next week. My secretary Cynthia will reach out to you with the other formalities. She is a lovely lady and you better be nice to her”, he said. Letting out a loud belching laughter, that caused every eyebrow in the vicinity to arch in annoyance. I couldn’t care less. The row of yellow teeth seemed to be glowing white.

My head spun in happiness. We were wrapping up. He was preparing to go his way and to fill in a brief interlude of silence, “Is there anything that you want me to work on immediately?” I asked. More as a matter of courtesy than anything else.

“Nothing at all” he said. In quarter of a second, he jumped with energy filled gusto “As a matter of fact there is. Change your blog. Get your own website. And what kind of a silly name is ‘Kavi’s Musings’? You are not Salman Rushdie, are you? Get a website in your name. It will be good for you.”

I couldn’t connect this bit about Salman Rushdie. But then, my heart was all over the place to pay heed to hideous logic. Plus my head was still unrelenting in its spin  as I saw the cotton trousers disappear into what seemed like a horizon.

I don’t know for how long I continued sitting in the five star hotel. The next I knew the missus was shaking me up. As a strong filter kaapi began to shake each nerve and wake every ounce of blood that coursed the veins, reality struck that the short stocky man with the silly yellow teeth had played the most cruel trick on me by making the offer when the eyelids were firmly shut in slumber.

Of course, the missus laughed on hearing the story as I pranced about the balcony with poise. The silly dream was still sticking.

“So, the next time, you meet the short stocky man with shiny white teeth, who offers you a pot of gold in exchange of you having to visit the most exotic places on earth, carry a camera around and write about them all, negotiate a better deal”.

“Like?” I asked. In irritation, with a ‘whats wrong with you’ tone. How better can the deal get?

“Well, tell him that your stories come alive better when the family is around with you in your travel.” She said that with great poise and without bating an eyelid.

I gave her a grim steely glazed look that I reserve for those moments where I have been conscious enough to realise that whatever I say could be held against me later on.

With the reflex action of a kid who has lost an argument to the class bully and goes around kicking the cupboard, I decided to do away with the blog and launch this website in my name. www.kaviarasu.com !

I hope you like it. Please tell me you do.The next time the short stocky man arrives, I must be prepared. To negotiate a better deal, you see.