St. Valentine, I am looking for ya!

Hailing from a not-so-metropolitan city called Madurai, I had never heard of Valentines Day.

Now that I have spent four years in Chennai…I know what it takes to go thro` the torture. Sometimes I feel jealous of the Madurai boys, who do not have to undergo the pain.

When February begins girl-friends start hinting. Hints vary from the subtle, “It has been a long time since you gifted me something,” to the hard-hitting, “how about a Gold necklace this time.”

Poor guys. They need their share of affection from their girl friends, and hence just bite their lips and hold their tongue. While we are at it, I might as well tell you about this bunch of friends, who still believe affection and sex are different!

As the Day nears, one gets lot of affection. I did.

On the 12th of Feb, previous year, she was nibbling at my ears…when all of a sudden I was brought down to Earth from the 7th heaven. Between blowing her breath into my ears like a vacuum cleaner that had forgotten its purpose, she whispered in my ears: “Lovie-dovie, have you bought my gift yet?”

I was in two minds. What do I say? If I said the truth, my evening would have ended then and there. And if I said yes…the questions would go on. Immediately, the Liar in me took over, and I was describing this cool earring I bought. Her breathing became heavy, and she pulled me closer. If I had thought, I had gotten rid of her I was mistaken. For now she wanted to know the price.

She enquired, “Costly huh?” She was using her vantage position to good effect. Even as she closed her eyes and inched towards my nape, I blurted out: “Yeah, paid two thousand.” I am not sure if I heard her counting, but I saw a smile escape her lips. She was happy. Needless to say, the evening went on well.

On the 13th, I rushed to a shop that I thought sold stolen Gold articles and bought a stupid looking earring for a fifteen hundred ruppees. Looked like my grandma`s, but did not care. Luckily, the fashion had come a full circle…and my girl thought it was awesome. She gave me a hug. Big deal.

On the 14th she decided to go to Hotel Basera, on East Coast Road, here in Chennai. A nice romantic place, she said. If I were on my own, I would never go there. Saravana Bhavan is fine with me.

The menu did the appeal to me, for it proudly mentioned that a one liter Bisleri water bottle would cost me Rs 30. At home, I get the 20 liter Bisleri for Rs 30. The Chicken Tikka came at Rs 150. No wonder, the food did not seem tasty.

Like any boy friend with some self-worth, I waited. Did not ask her to part with my gift. Soon we were at her door-steps. I was dropping her, and was yet to get my gift. Come on, I had wasted Rs 1500…and I was not going to be conned like this.

The darkness helped hide my anxiety, as I casually remarked, “hey, where is my Valentine`s Day gift?”

She just smiled. When I asked again, she said, “remember, when we first met in 2002, you asked me to marry you?” I nodded reluctantly. “Well, I am ready to marry you. And that`s my gift.”

We broke up on the 16th of February…. because I had wanted my gift back!

My innocence, Terrorism & Osama

As if forced habit – courtesy a military captain for a father – I had got up early every day.

The verbal duels at the park reserved for exercising, where an army of housewives and children would gather as early as 4 in the morning, was always welcome. It helped me vile away time while I held my science text book in front of my sleepy eyes.

That fateful day, the discussion sounded different. There was fear in it. The words were first dipped in deep anguish and then gift-wrapped with emotion. Something big had happened. I pressed my ears between the rusted iron bars of my window, and heard it. It was 21st of May 1991. Rajiv Gandhi had been assasinated by LTTE.

That was my first encounter with terrorism. I had seen Rajiv Gandhi on TV. The charisma. The magnetism. As a school going kid, politics and policies did not matter but personalities did. Since then terrorists have enamoured me. The curiosity in me increased over the years and today has taken the form of this piece.

LTTE, which was founded one year after I was born (founded in 1976), unlike me, has come a long way. This most powerful Tamil group in Sri Lanka uses overt and illegal methods to raise funds, acquire weapons, and publicize its cause of establishing an independent Tamil state.

In the course of its still unfinished struggle a LTTE suicide bomber had assassinated Rajiv Gandhi – my idol of the day.

At the cost of sounding dark, the kudos for most number of suicide attacks goes to HAMAS, the Palestinian Islamic resistance Movement. With the goal of establishing an Islamic Palestinian state in place of Israel, this terrorist outfit has numerous attacks to its credit. Most of them against Israeli civilian and military targets, not to mention some US buildings.

Talking of buildings one can easily drift to Osama Bin Laden for the only reason that he was a builder before he took to bombing them. Harakat ul-Mujahidin (HUM), formerly known as Harakat al-Ansar is one of the many outfits that has his blessings. Based in Pakistan, this group operates in Kashmir and over the years has become a perpetual headache for the Indian Governments. It was HUM that hijacked an Indian Airliner to Kandahar on Dec 24 last year and sought the release of Azhar, a dreaded terrorist in this part of the world.

Besides playing Marlyn Brando to a few small outfits, Osama Bin Ladin has something that he can call his own. Established in the late 1980s Al-Qaida is an outfit that hopes to establish a pan-Islamic order throughout the world by working with allied Islamic extremist groups to overthrow regimes it deems ‘non-Islamic.`

Bin Ladin, who was a builder before he went on to head Al-Qaida, has supposedly unearthed affection for buildings after a lull of 15 years. Only this time his is the hand that destroys, or so we think.

My Workplace & my cubicle

When I say I sit in my cubicle all day long, I am lying. For there are other things that I do while I am at office – for 12 hours a day, six days a week. So much so I even see the sun light. I guess, I cannot complain that my employers are torturing or exploiting me.

My boss is a good man. Atleast his science is good. For he knows that man needs Vitamin D to survive, so whenever possible he takes me down for coffee. Though there is no direct sunlight, I do manage to get a few beams on myself. It helps that we have coffee sitting next to the window.

While at work, I am allowed to walk around. Well, atleast when I am asked (or ordered?) to come to the cabin for a nice dressing down. How much I wish the dressing down happens in the sun, atleast, I could get a tan.

I am also allowed to make calls, and get in touch with other beings in this World – people who are sane, and do not live in a virtual world of page views and slideshows. This is a big bonus, for it breaks the monotony of dealing with coal pieces who pretend to be well-cut diamonds from the fields of Northern Cape, South Africa.

I am also allowed to have visitors. I am very happy with the time alloted for me to attend to each visitor – three minutes. The first minute to find where he is seated in our crowded reception, the second to exchange pleasantries, and the third to show him the exit.

That I am the most sportive of all the duds in my office is exemplified by the fact that I take care of the sports website of my company. The 12 hours that I spend in my cubicle, I am changing something or the other. And when I am not changing something, I am adding something, that I would eventually end up changing. Confused? Welcome to the club.

To make my life (half of it, that is) interesting, I am allowed to paste/pin/spread/disperse colorful collages, artifacts, photos etc in and around my cubicle. These man-made objects remind me of…the color outside of office, yet help me stay glued to my seat…by promising me the good life that lay ahead once my hard work is over at 9 p.m.

When I am sitting in my cubicle, my computer is my only true pal. It does everything that I command, except for when it runs out of memory and does not recognise my orders. And it is my comp that helps me access mails where I get jokes that only nerds with their legs stuck in termite hills, will laugh at.

I am glad, I do not spend more than half of my life in front of computers.

By the way, are termites white colored, soft-bodied and ant-like insects?

Gimme Red!

It was Christmas Eve, and I was looking for some wine. I needed (more than wanted) to gift a bottle of alcoholic wine to one of my friend.

Of late, I have got a liking for wine, for various reasons. One, it forms a nice costly gift, and two…after gifting it, I can casually remark at the dining table that it was a new brand, and hadn’t tasted it yet. And the host would invariably place it in front of me at the dining table. That is, unless the host also happens to be like me – a domesticated criminal.

Anyways, here I was looking for a bottle of wine as a Christmas gift.

My first stop were the liqour stores manned by Ms Jayalalitha’s men. For the uninitiated, Tamil Nadu Govt has taken over liqour distribution. The surprisingly polite salesman told me that the wine consignment was yet to reach them. Checking with several other shops revealed the same. Ironically, all these shops are called `Wine shops.`

I turned towards fresh hunting grounds – fancy shops that sell imported edible items. The one that came first to mind – not mine, but ThomasKutty’s – was a shop in the first floor of Spencers Plaza.

Spencers is not my kind of a place. Too expensive and too happening for a country bumpkin like me. But still, I went there. Finding a place to park my bike ate up 20 minutes. Finding the shop ate up another 20 minutes. But as lady lucky preffered, there was no wine for sale.

There is something I hate about Plazas. All the women look alike – they wear a tight fitting trouser/bottom, and a contrasting top. On their left shoulder all carry a black/brown handbag, and in their right hand they display a fancy mobile. They all reek of perfume.

Pray, Chennai gets rid of its water problem…else these girls will always have an excuse for using strong perfumes. In fact, the scent is so strong one wonders if it is supposed to attract or repell the testosterone laced.

Anyways, coming back to why I am writing this…my next stop was an Anglo-Indian friend’s house. On enquiry, I was told they make what they ding….oops sorry, drink. And they take a lot of wine during the Christmas season. Sometimes, it is also a nice money-making venture. Unfortunately, this friend had decided to Play Grinch, and had left for Bangalore.

Christmas was nearing…I even remember seeing three wise men asking for directions. With no other option left, I thought some home made, non-alcoholic wine should do and ended up at a Bakery. And those buggers, the bakers that they are, baked a big story on why I should buy a gift pack worth Rs 200, which was supposed to have 200ml of the sought after red liquid. I refused to oblige, and was on the road again.

Within minutes of giving up the hunt, I was in her house. There was no wine, but she said my lips were intoxicating enough. The rest, as they say, is biology!

Trip or tripped?

If only I had held my head firm on my shoulders, I would not have been a part of this fiasco. But now, like a tree laden with mangoes during the summer, my chin is touching my chest in shame, for I was party to this beach-side party at Hotel Shelters, some 16 kilometers before Mahabalipuram.

It was a Saturday morning and I was in office, when Vishnu Ram said, they were planning a trip to either Mahabalipuram or Pondicherry. He wanted to know if I would be able to join in. And join I did.

How much I wish, he had stuck to his word and indeed made a trip to either of these places. But that was not to be and in the end I was poorer by Rs 1,340 and had also sliced one year off my life.

At the fag end of the trip did I realise these guys stay with their families and hence need a place away from home for puking out recently-eaten chicken tikkas with a sprinkling of vodka or whiskey or rum. Does the liquor type matter? Does the brand matter?

Anyways, I decided to go. And our pushpak-vimanam was Dinesh’s 14 year-old car. Due credit to the lady for bringing us back safely. I still don’t believe that we touched 100kms/hr!!

My partners in crime were Vodka Vishnu, Silly Satiesh, Volatile Vamsi, Driver Dinesh and Sunni Siva.

The Adayar Foodworld was raided first for snacks and liqour. The refined drinkers that we were, we wanted only Vodka..and the nine shops we stopped at – till we reached Mahabalipuram – could not quench our thirst, for Vodka was simply not available.

I should mention about this T.L.C. (see Top Left Corner of your keyboard), that we had when trying to take a U-turn near a FoodWorld on ECR. Driver Dinesh mis-calculated the speed of an oncoming car while taking the turn and and almost got Vamsi and Sateish killed and Vishnu and I crippled for life.

After going around Mahabalipuram (actually round and round), we were on the way back. We reached the Shelters, and I must tell you, it has been some time since, I have been addressed as “Sir.” I liked it. In the process, I got poorer by Rs 20, for I tipped two guys just 10 mins after entering the Beach resort.

We got drinking on the beach…an experince I thought was worth a lot…atleast till the time Satiesh decided to calculate the expenses and tell us what was due.

I will take many incidents from this get-together, to my grave. Not because they were memorable…but they are just too shameful to reveal. Like for example, Vinshu puking blood and Siva Prasad presenting his theory that it was because the cells on Vinshu’s oesophagus were disintegrating due to too much liqour.

Everything said and done, I have learnt my lesson. When a bunch of amateur drinkers decide to go places…better stay at home, gulp a few sips of Vodka and watch some porn. Chances are, they might be taking you for a ride!

Unwashed…….unabashed

Had it not been for the rain yesterday, I would have gone unwashed…unabashed. Luckily, just as I was leaving for my office, heavens opened up and gave me a shower that I desperately needed.

I would not blame Chennai for me not taking bath. Neither would I blame its iron-fisted ruler Miss (?!) J Jayalalitha. If you still think she is not iron-fisted, check out with The Hindu Editor N Ram. He knows.

I could give you reasons upon reasons for not taking bath –

1) The water did not come
2) My water-motor failed to start-up
3) There was no electricity, hence no water in the tank
4) I have a bandage around my stomach…and it should not get wet
5) I mis-placed my towel
6) There is no soap in the house…and I don’t use Surf.
7) I kicked the bucket and it leaks

But none of them are true. I did not take bath because ….ok…will save it for last.

Anyways, did I hear you say “Eeeks!”

Come on, do animals brush their teeth or do they take bath? Don`t they converse with their fellow beings? Don`t they flirt? Don`t they eventually end up having sex? And is not man an animal?

You might argue that a man needs to be clean and tidy. What about women? I have never known a lady who has taken bath twice in a week`s time. Atleast the strength of the perfumes they use make me believe so.

Moreover, I have have never known a lady that goes to the wash after sex. Come on…its dirty man. It was the 1970s when sex was dirty and the air clean. Today, the air might have become dirty…but sex has not gotten any cleaner.

I have always known man is supposed to help her reach her climax…but in my case…thanks to the dirty women I slept with, it was always an anti-climax.

Now-a-days, I have changed a bit..I stopped expecting these ladies to go to the wash after sex. Frankly, they have all left me and gone…probably to somebody who is not as clean-minded.

And as of now, my sex life is like Bridge. Don`t they say, in Bridge, if you dont have a good partner…you better have a good hand.

As for me not taking bath that day….do you still want to know?

Who am I?

Today, I am a journalist. Atleast thats is what I would want to think. But it was not always destined to happen.

As a kid, I watchedUdaan. I was told it was a TV serial on Kiran Bedi. I immediately wanted to become an IPS officer. From being a Chor , in the Chor-Police game that i played with the neighbouring kids, I moved on (or was it graduation?) to become Police.

But that was only till, AK Hangal mesmerised me as the Hospital Head in the TV Serial Jeevan Rekha. He was the manager, and had many young doctors under him who saved numerous lives. This appealed to me, and I immediately decided to throw away the Khakis and take the Doctor’s coat as my own.

But I was only in Grade X when, Shah Rukh Khan came in as that effervescent Fauji. He mouled my thoughts to match his. Now, I started using the the dialouge, “I say, chaps,” coz thought that was how the Army Officers spoke. Then a thought struk me, how about being a doctor in the Army. I would be doing justice to both AK Hungal and Shah Rukh Khan.

Just when I had decided, that Armed Force Medical College, Pune was going to be the place for my study, in came Shekar Suman.

Just into my XI watched Reporter – Shekar Suman’s popular TV Serial on investigative journalism. It was awe inspiring but it moved me just enough to forget me becoming an Army Doctor.

Now, I wanted to become a reporter.