There has been a new wind that’s been blowing at home. And the wind is about losing flab. In fact, cutting flab dramatically !

Before you say, ‘oh no, not again’, stay with this post. The flab fighting on the body isn’t headed anywhere close to a photo finish. Its a lost cause. A non-starter. Lets move on. The quicker the better.

This post is about the house. The house, you see, has accumulated flab. Over the years. Possessions galore. ‘Possessions galore’ can seem to be a pompous boast of a vain man.

Only here, the possessions that are being talked about are not exactly ones that a wealth manager smile. So.

What would this wealth manager say, if he was shown cupboards of books, files, magazines, folders, paper clippings. etc.

Some dating twenty years. From the days of Narasimha Rao and Ronald Reagan. Old magazines. India Today. Time Magazine. Business Today and the like.

Artifacts picked along the way. Like, the odd stationary bill from a store that’s since been gulped down by a mall that intimidates by the sheer size of its parking lot !

A menu card from a fancy hotel. Flicked to rekindle in an unforeseeable future, the memories of a special evening with special people !

Overhead projector sheets from the first corporate presentation made, which seem today to be almost the time when the dinosaurs hatched their 11the egg.

Discussion notes from organisations organisations who helped pay the bills in an earlier time. Copies of mails. Approvals and such else. Heaps of study material. ‘Extra reading’ printouts . Notes from training programs that have long been forgotten.

Wedding invitations of friends who have now progressed to attend Parent-Teacher meetings and now organise dinners based on the tuition teacher’s calendar !

Bus tickets. Train tickets back home. Travel pamphlets from Bangkok to Bombay. Shimla to Sivakasi ! And beyond !

Books & small artifacts. Some picked specifically as memorabilia. Others accumulated in intense lazy stupour. Of course, each pregnant with a story of its time and place. As the hand ran a cloth to drive the dust away, a million memories got dusted too.

Four racks in the cupboard were emptied with the ferocity of Bruce Lee felling opponents in ‘Enter the Dragon’ ! Strange noises et al ! The remnants of the tearing, throwing and mowing remained on the floor for sometime.

Not very later, gunny bags of the ‘old newspaper’ chap held them. With grimace and glee ! Twenty odd years of accumulation. Carefully clipped newspaper cuttings. Innocently flicked menu cards. Carelessly kept old bills. Study material from a different age. Reviews. Publications. Occupying four racks of the cupboard. Moving along the many houses. City to city.

All gone. It required two trips on a bicycle like this. In a four hour span. They were gone.

We live an age were Google is a verb. Space is a perpetual constraint. Dust beats the Gods in omnipresence. And of course, the daily day offers new possibilities for life and living, much unlike any time before. Perhaps, the nimble mind, without baggage will soak it all up well. So is the case with homes ! That logic beat nostalgia’s seductive presence !

Net result : All gone. You would have expected the missus to have jumped with joy. Happy she was. But, she was a tad upset too.

For all of this yielded her a mega sum of Rs. 129/- ! The care with which these were preserved and the 20 year time stamp on some, seems to have had her imagining something like an inheritance from Bill Gates or someone !

‘Rs.129. Huh’. Was all that was heard.

So much for flab !


How many times has it happened with you that you get to what seems to be a ‘vacant’ seat, only to sight a handkerchief, or an old newspaper, or a book or some object of similar value there. Standing in for the ‘owner’ !

In some time the ‘owner’ shows up, indicating that he had ‘reserved’ the seat. And lays claim to the seat with such ferocity that would put the Chinese’s claim of Arunachal, to pathetic shame !

I guess this is a uniquely Indian moment. I guess. I am not sure. Please correct me if i am wrong here. My guess is given shape by the fact that we have a chronicled mythological precedent. Of Lord Ram’s footwear standing in for the gent when he went into the jungle! So.

So, in a busy movie hall (or wherever else, esp if there are no allotted seat numbers) you can stroll around, ogle about, wander with a pop corn or a cone of ice cream. All this while the old dirty handkerchief stands in for you !!

In smaller cities and towns, this scene is so often repeated in inter city buses. Where the clamour to get a seat is only matched by the ability to reach a handkerchief, newspaper, belt, tiffin box to ‘reserve’ a seat !

If a ‘representative object’ (dirty handkerchief, shredded newspaper or whatever) of the dude in yellow trousers got to the seat before you, well, the seat belonged to the dude in yellow trousers ! So we have seen. And heard.

It was ‘refreshingly different’ to see this gent, and his mode of reservation. Aboard the river cruise on Goa’s Mandovi river.

He clearly had outgrown the handkerchief and belongings of low value. For friends of his, for whom he ‘reserved’ seats, he gave it his one whole leg and one whole hand !

And warded off every body else who came close to the seat with a dismissive disdain that perhaps would befit a Taliban war lord looking at his goats, whom he was going to have for dinner !

This is a new standard that must quickly be made known to the rest of the country. We need more people like this gent.

Wont you be happy with friends like these ? Especially considering that they would give an arm and a leg. Just to get you seated.

Whose name is it anyway ?

Sporting a tattoo that an actor wears. Or growing a goatee like a cricketer. And setting hair like a footballer. They are all easy to do.

Of course, its going to be difficult to sculpt a body like Silvester Stallone or John Abraham. Not forgetting ‘size invisible’ ( or was it ‘Zero’ ?) like those thin lasses. Those are tough asks.

Easiest done is to imitate a ‘star’s outfit. Still easier is to wear a t-shirt bearing the man’s name ! Walk into a store and pick up a T-shirt which says a famous mans name !

Its kind of ironic though. Pay YOUR money, which the credit card company will send to YOUR address in YOUR name. To wear ANOTHER man’s name. On YOU ?!? How interesting !

Of course, this is so common ! The eye brows wont arch one bit if a man with ‘Ronaldo’ written on his T-Shirt is spotted hitching a ride on the streets of Daman.

Or for that matter, if ‘Torres’ is spotted at the Madurai railway station !

The stars themselves, are known to wear those low caps and big sun glasses to hide their identity in public. Perhaps trying hard to melt into the crowd. Becoming more common than common.

And the common man, wears the celebrity name on his sleeve. Actually on his back ! Mankind indeed finds numerous ways to stay busy. But such are the ways of the world.

The eye brows only half arch. That too, in irony. Looking at this ‘Ronaldo’ netting the small fish on a Goan shore !

While the stores rake in the big money, counterfeits rule the pavements. Hollering hawkers, are known to sell such counterfeits to highest bidders.

Just the shirts. With the names, of course ! The stars dont come as part of these deals.

For they have been auctioned long before. To clubs, who were highest bidders too. But that’s a different story. Of a different auction !


Distance in space !

Moving about is an inherent need of most human beings. Lets keep the rest of the folks out. For the present. And lets just consider the folks that indeed desire mobility. Now, who doesn’t want mobility.

Even the Gods do. The modern day self proclaimed Gods have streams of Roll Royces and BMWs perched in their courtyard, that would perhaps use the GDP of Norway on fuel ! Perhaps all of Scandinavia.

And still be left with some surplus change to pick up the islands in the pacific ! But that’s a different story.

Where were we…yes. The Gods. Moving on to the ‘Common Man’, the common man’s urge and need to travel is often times expressed in the most uncommon of ways. This blog has had several posts in the past. Often, showing how informatively local trains and buses have been used.

The urge to travel is universal ! Modern day man has it woven into daily life ! Mankind has been known to use anything that moves. For travel. From donkeys to Camels. And now, we are even talking bacteria led biological warfare !! Phew !

The point is if it moves, it will be used. Presence of a specifically designed seat / place for travel is rather immaterial ! Here is evidence.

That perhaps leaves us with the smaller families. Four member. Three member. Five member.

Well mention of a five member family is not something that will cause a flutter in your eye. But say, all of the five members travel on two wheels at the same time. On a busy highway. Without helmets. Without understanding of road rules. And without a lot else too.

And also. Not as a part of a circus trick. Or a politician’s austerity drive. Or a photo op. Or an advertisement promoting shock absorbers, engine power, fuel efficiency. etc etc. And the like.

The question of how much space is there between two wheels of a bike is yet to be answered.

Indian roads keep presenting a picture of space that can take as many people as required. A space that houses a seat that has no end.

A space which screams ‘no distance is too far’ !

Pump buzz !

The fingers punching the keyboard punctuates the still early morning air. In a distance the the ‘plonk’ of newspapers being thrown a.k.a delivered at the doorstep is just about the only sound.

In some time there are the others. Like the auto driver revving his engine. And the bus driver seeming to practice to race in Formula 1. All of them contribute to doing their two bit to the Mumbai air. The odd dog barks.

And some birds chirp. Half heartedly. Half in fear, perhaps. Of some wisecrack setting off a Diwali cracker. At 5.30 in the morning, he has to be a wisecrack. Maybe something worse.

The mind wanders to the smaller towns and quieter villages. Occasionally yearning. The sounds of small town mornings are getting to be mirror the big cities.

However, the one sound that’s missed,that used to be so much a part of the wonder years, is the buzz around the ‘hand pump’. The pump still survives, and is very much in use. In many parts of the country.

It goes by the name of ‘Adi-pump’ ( loosely translated to convey : ‘The pump that you have to hit’). People gathered around it, taking turns to pump that long straight handle, up and down. Out would flow water.

Well, water was the obvious reason. Yet, the buzz about the pump was unmistakable. For it was the point of convergence. Of men. Women. Children. Worries. Desires. Jealousies. Love.

And all that went within the whorls of the human brain. Everything was on display. Something like the military showing off its ware at a Republic Day parade. The hand pump being a completely unrehearsed natural event !

Exchanged glances, the extra puffed chest, the ‘help’ of pumping an extra pot-full for the girl. The wail of the complaining wife. The empty boast of the loud husband. Family economics. National economics. Politics. Movies.

The shrill cry of laughter. The sharp spank. Drunk men. Loud women. Washing. The quiet ones. The shy ones. The cleanliness freaks. Gossip. Teasing. Preaching. Repartees. Kindness. Despair. Bonding.

Several strands of society converging. All pumping. When their turn came.

It used to be magical. Almost as though, the buzz was in the water that came out. And so, the metal clang used to be the wake up call. An interesting wake up call. The house needed the water. But more importantly, the local news came through the hand pump !

Some years earlier, the hand pump having an artistic arched handle was more common. Like this.

That’s the journey. It seems. First things are straightened out. And then, they are replaced. These days, there is electricity. Motor pumps. And a battalion to keep the arm at the end of the hand, from going beyond making the odd noise at the keyboard.

To all those that talk about the buzz in the community gone. Or cry shrill about our panting news anchors on TV, and the ‘awesome’ editorial content of newspapers. And to those that hit the snooze button of the alarm clock…

Perhaps its time to try the hand pump !

Oh yes. The water. That’s a bonus.

A – 1 bliss

Take a look at this snap.

Those green chillies hanging like a string of wall decoration are sure to catch the eye. In some time, they will be dipped in flour, fried in oil and served with a flourish. Chilly Bhaji ! And as this is getting written, the ‘mouth watering’ phenomenon sees new levels of inundation.

Those are for another time though. Take a look at the name of the Tea – Stall : ‘A-1 tea stall.’ Now, that is something, isn’t it !

This must be a hybrid of two superlatives. ‘A Class’ and ‘Number One’ ! Both ‘A’ and ‘1’ by virtue of being the first off the starting blocks of their respective series, take pole position as they say in F-1 ( notice the ‘1’) races !

The modern day world has no time, money and patience for that is B grade ( or C or D or anything else for that matter). Similar is the case of positions 2,3…etc !

There is a vast array of products. That are sold as ‘A-1’ quality. ‘A-1’ leadership position. ‘A-1 taste’ and so on. A double reinforcement of sorts !

The effort to belong to / be SEEN on top of the heap is mind boggling. And after all that effort, how must it feel to continue to be, part of the heap !

As the mind masticates that thought in a way that would make a cow hang its jaw in bitter shame, inundation due to the mouth watering are a swallowed tale.

This shop, is set in the chill of Kodai. Serving chili bhaji, tea and coffee. The chill of the hills, offset by the heat of the bhaji and the aromatic milk laden, sugar soaked tea, (re)defines ‘bliss’ !

So ?

You see, this A-1 tea stall, indeed attracts crowd. How much of it was because of they calling themselves ‘A-1’ is a question that begs no answer. At its supreme best, all that the question can get, is a smirk from the missus.

Of course, when the servings redefine bliss, whats in a name. But, would it make a difference if they called themselves ‘B-2 Masala tea’ ?!?

Perhaps. Perhaps not! There is something that has no ‘perhaps’ to it here : The bhaji and masala tea.

Well, that taste…that’s bliss. Perhaps its important say it properly. …’bliss of A-1 quality’ !

Free Business

And so the TN government is distributing free TV sets to anybody who has a ration card ! What was supposed to get you two kilograms of rice ( amongst other stuff ), getting you a television set… is a giant ‘freee leap’ in fortune. And we talked about it.

Tax payer money being frittered away. Scheme being misused by well off folks who use their four wheelers to go and get themselves a free TV etc are legitimate and important issues that need to be debated.

For the moment, lets look at this ‘Free’ business. Visit any mall. Or any kirana store. Or watch the ads ( the serials are boring anyway & Rakhi Sawant has chosen). Or flip a magazine. What catches our eye, are the words, ‘OFFER’. ‘SALE’, and of course ‘FREE’ !

We ( the missus and me) are quite often amazed at the freebies that are being away. And the combinations.

Buy ‘Mixed fruit Jam’ free get ‘tea bags’.
A brand of soup, free with chicken. Soap with shampoo.
Get Shampoo free with shoe polish.
Vacum Cleaners free with ‘Holiday resorts’.
Dish washers with toilet cleaners.
Magazine subscriptions with zoo entry tickets,
cars with TVs,…and the like.

You get the drift..don’t you. And theres the other genre. Discounts.

Flat 50 % off. Upto 70 % off.
70 % + 20 % off. ( An offer where you get a 70 % off, and a 20 % off on the balance)
Buy one get four free !

(And obviously with that ubiquitous asterix leading to a ‘conditions apply’. Of which we will not speak of now).

Such offers tempt. And i am sure must be some part of the brain which gets activated, when this word ‘FREE’ is seen. Maybe ‘aroused’ is a better word there. And sometimes ( read ‘often times’) reality, need and such else is suspended. The card swiped, the purchase made and the deal done.

And leaving the wondering on whats to be done with the freebie (Or the main product), for later.

Like here. In this motel on the way to Daman. Buy ‘one Pakoda, get one tea free’ !!! Phew !

This was the most elegant offer that i have seen ! And unfortunately seen when we were well into plouging into our meal.

I was amused in a surprised sort of a manner. And even before the surprise was settling in and the lips could contract from the smile, the Pakodas were ordered, ( i bet they wouldnt have been ordered if wasn’t on offer).

And voila, after the sumptuous meal there wasn’t space in the tummy for tea ! Some freebie. This tea.

But today, i must tell you, we got two kilograms of sugar free. For using some card or something like that. And we have been gloating like Mohammed of Ghazni after his conquest of Delhi. Or some place like that.

PS :

1. Please notice, that i have said ‘WE’ all along.
2. And i must say this again. Any indication in this post that i am poking fun at the missus or that she is solely involved in this, is pure conjecture.

Just saying.

Whizz Theory !

There. I stand close to the door of the train. There is one another gent standing right at the door. A polite request to have some more space to click a few snaps has just been met with a stern silence and a sterner look.
‘What audacity to ask. I came here, first’. The look seems to suggest.

The sun beats down the other side of the train. I keep this door open. And I stay here.

And watch. As everything whizzes by. Everybody whizzes by. Women walking to work. Men lazing around. And the other way. White fences of the Indian railways. An old man standing by a puddle.

Ducks going about whatever they do in water. Still lakes. Lakes that were. Stiller mountains. Far away songs. A revving engine. Old men beneath coconut trees. Children in the green fields. Barren lands. All of them whizz by.

An ‘Abandoned’ railway shed. Fences. Platforms. Station masters. Pictures of Laloo Prasad and a few others. Some green and red flag holding gent. All of them whizz by.

Everything whizzes by. In super speed. I keep clicking.

I wonder at the speed at which life whizzes by. And then, it strikes me. Actually, everything else stays. Its actually the train that i am in, whizzing by ! All else stays put. And just because i am on something that whizzes by, i think of all else as whizzing by !

‘Can this be some grand theory ?’ I wonder. ‘At least a corollary or whatever they call it?’ As i keep clicking. ‘Whizz theory’ I tell myself.. Or may be ‘the theory of the moving train!’

From somewhere, the missus turns up. She has just had her tea. She sights the camera in hand. “you are at it. Already?’

All other thoughts including the whizz theory whizz away! ‘hmm’ I say.

‘Whats on your mind’ she says.

And i think of the Whizz theory. I look at the watch. Its not even 7.00 am. Its way too early to start the day on that note. And tell her….

‘ Actually, i think hmm… actually, you know, i wonder why would the railways want to differentiate by more than 50 % between taking a bath and…’ as i click this picture.

She sees the writing on the wall! Face palms. And gets started. About me. My mind. About water. About conservation. About men. And habits.

I wonder where the conversation would have gone if i had started out with my whizz theory. I know for sure it would have gone somewhere.

I wonder..I wonder what i would do without her.

Drives – 1

Its evening. And on the banks of the lake, in Kodai, i spot this memorial structure. In the name of Sir Vere Henry Levince Baronet.

‘ I haven’t heard of that name before’. I think. And so, whats written at the base of the memorial perks my eyes. And i peer through the evening dusk. And read. ( and reproduce from the photograph with minor punctuation changes)

“In memory of Sir Vere Henry Levince Baronet of Knockdrin Castle, Westeath, Ireland and formerly of the Madras Civil Service, born 26th Nov 1819, died at Madras 22nd March 1885

After a long service in the districts of Tinnevely and Madura where he won the sincere respect and affection of the people, he settled in 1867 at Kodaikanal and lived at Panmbar house until within a few weeks of his death.

To him are due nearly all the improvements which this settlement possesses

A true friend to the poor, no one however humble appealed to him in vain, while his upright character, his love of justice and his kindly heart endeared him to all classes of the community European and native. And thus he bore without abuse, the grand old name of Gentleman.”

I shake my head in disbelief and think that he must have been some man. I wonder, how it must have been in the early part of the 18th century. To travel all the way from Ireland. Set up base here. Work in Madurai and Tirunelveli. And the, trek all the way up into the Kodai hills and live there for many years

( It took us all of metalled roads, a Japanese engine, Italian tyres and Indian ingenuity and two hours to reach this place. I shudder to think of the 1845 effort !!)

The disbelief stays. What must have driven the likes of Sir Vere Henry Levince Baronet ? I don’t know.

His memorial inscriptions are carved in stone. And don’t bother answering that question.

Yes We Can !

So, a new history is being made out there. And a new history is being created for the world ! I have watched in great awe as the US Presidential election unfolded. And what a magnificient canvas it provided ! This blog has stayed away from politics. Well, atleast, has attempted to. But this post is not about policies or politics. This is about the what resides within us : human beings.

I for one, cant fathom what runs in the veins of an ordinary man, causing him to raise so meteorically. Combating a stiff headwind. One after the other. In the name of race, religion, powerful people et al. And to be a complete rookie, yet ooze confidence that befits a seasoned veteren, and most important : pull it off !! Thats a tall order.

So it is, a tall order. To be 72 years old. And take to the rigours of campaigning. Day in and day out. With a vigour that is eclipsed only by the power of a campaign that can be described as some kind of a mass movement ! A campaign who knew that the cake was baked much before it was ordered and yet kept the battle on, right till the last curve. Thats a tremendously tall order too.

As much as i winced at the acerbity of the contest, today I marvel at the grace of the acceptance of the victory. So too, the elegance of conceding the defeat. As much as i am sure of machinations that would work at a furious pace beneath the surface, what i see, moves me. Beyond a point.

Colour. Caste. Creed. Age. Resources. Education. History. Family background. Etc. Etc. Two men, as different as chalk and cheese on each of the above, just seemed to believe ‘all things were equal’ ! And carried it to the finish line.

Personally, that sets a new contour. A new context. That indeed it is possible to climb mountains. And scale them, even when there is a strong headwind. What perhaps is more important is a steady clinical resolve to keep going !!

Only one made it. But two men showed that it is possible to fight. To disagree. Yet accept, hold hands and move on. There have been very few moments in recent times that stood on the precipice of hope and possibility as this one. And suddenly it does seem we as a race will make it.

The networks dont call before its over. But i am no network. Suddenly, ‘Yes We Can’ seems to take a new meaning.