Once Upon a Thursday..

Mr. Siva Rao lives somewhere in Jayanagar with his one wife and two sons, the eldest of who is yet to appear for his PUC examinations after his two failed attempts. Known to people as Mr. Siva Rao, although his birth certificate identifies him as Vijayawada Sitaramanjaneyula Rajasekhara Yarlagadda Venkata Samba Siva Rao, he is one man who could over react for even the tiniest murmur of thunder in the sky. Known for his shrill audible voice and chalk white lungi that he keeps folding up his waist, Mr. Siva Rao threatens kids, dogs and bikers alike around his locality. He travels to office everyday on his new CBZ, thank heavens he wears pants then.

It was a beautiful Thursday morning. I was still lazing in bed when I heard Mr. Siva Rao yelling on top of his voice. I could also hear the soft spoken voice of Mrs. Rao coming out through their kitchen window. “How am I supposed to cook? I have been telling you to get the cylinder before this one gets over? Don’t tell me I did not warn you?” I could vaguely imagine Mrs. Rao, a short beautiful woman in her mid 40s, pointing her stubby fingers at the now worthless piece of metal. Mr. Rao then proceeded to say something in his native tongue, which fortunately I didn’t understand, but he sounded angry. Then abruptly there was silence. I wondered whether a peace treaty had been signed or Mrs. Rao was now no more. I sat upright in my bed, stretching myself. I looked out of my window again to see signs of any movement. Their kitchen window was locked; I assumed there wouldn’t be any more verbal ranting so I slipped out of bed to begin my day.

I went through the morning routine methodically to prevent any wastage of water or electricity which the caretaker of our PG house constantly reminds us of. I ironed my clothes, wore my shoes and stepped out wearing a smile that could give Mona Lisa a run for money.

I first thought it was funny to see 4 men on a bike next to the signal where I usually wait for the bus to arrive, but then I realized, it was the same scene everywhere! Cars were carrying 7-8 people, bikes were loaded with 3-4 people and buses were overflowing! I rubbed my eyes to swallow what I could see. There was less traffic on the road though, even at this peak hour. I was nonchalant and assumed it to be just casual traffic police maneuvers. I skipped 6 buses due to the sudden increase in commuters. The doors would not close, I couldn’t see the driver and the windows were all covered with bums of different sizes. Weird I thought. Looked like as if half of China had invaded India, although, I dint see any Mongoloids amongst the crowd. I was running out of time and knew I would get late for my Annual Performance Review meeting with my Manager. I prayed in silent tears.

Somebody on a bike with a pillion rider stopped in front of me. I was happy to see that there were only two people on the bike. The rider pulled off his helmet and then I recognized Mr. Siva Rao. The pillion rider identified himself as Mr. Shetty, Engineer at another Software company down on Outer Ring Road. Mr. Siva Rao spoke hesitantly with his usual deep accented Tamil accent, “So you waiting for bus? No bus. No bus. Mr. Shetty here waiting for bus since 8.00 AM in the morning. All crowded. You come, I drop you to office. On way to Marathalli right. Sit sit.” I couldn’t refuse but I couldn’t stop myself from asking, “Eh.. Mr. Rao… won’t the police fine us for riding three on a bike?” Mr. Siva Rao smiled showing his misshapen canines. “Police no say anything. People taking lifts and using buses to reach office. Less traffic faster to reach office less petrol you see.” I could see the end of the tunnel from where all insanity of the public was coming from. I shrugged, squeezed between Mr. Siva Rao and Mr. Shetty and closed my eyes for the rest of the journey.

Mr. Siva Rao dropped me at the closest signal to my office and scampered on with Mr. Shetty although in the distance I could see him wait and pick up another hapless stranded soul on the Ring Road. I brushed off the creases on my shirt and crossed the road. Several people were on foot today. I saw my colleague Ritesh** entering the gates as I walked up to him. “No bike today huh?” He responded with a cold shrug and stared stone faced to the building entrance. “A walk a day keeps the doctor away!” I shook my head; I had heard wittier words than those from him.

My day at the office was normal, with just a few bumps here and there. Lunch was something I was looking forward to. Precisely at 2:00, I locked my workstation and proceeded down towards the cafeteria. Several employees were standing at the entrance talking in hushed tones. I saw several of my friends in the lot too. I walked up to them. “Wassup people? Why is everybody out here?” Raees** whisked me out of the crowd and pointed steadfast at a small notice that had been put up at the counter. I carefully read and re-read the posting. I now knew why people appeared scared and why Raees and the others were tensed as if their exam results were to be declared that afternoon.

I walked down towards the lonely mess that is visited by a handful of people down the road outside the campus wondering aloud; “70 bucks for that food?? That’s more then a 50 percent hike in prices. God what else?”

I had never been to a mess before, but what I had heard from the others, the food was good and cheap and this place was hardly visited by anybody. I reached the place following crudely drawn directions given to me by another of my colleague, Guru**. I couldn’t recognize the place though because it had been described by people as a deserted waste of space. There were atleast 30 people in there and several standing in a queue outside!! I saw a familiar face in the queue, I didn’t know his name but he was from the same floor that I worked on. I waved to him and casually walked up to where he was standing. Assuming it was unbeknownst to the others, I slowly moved my feet, inch by inch in to the queue. As soon as my feet were inside I proceeded to shift the rest of my body in to the line, discussing mundane topics like the elections, Harry Potter and Carmen Electra with my new found friend to throw him and the others off the track. But alas I forgot there were several seasoned players in this game already in the queue. I soon found myself whisked at the end of the line by several pairs of black strong hands that looked and smelt of tar.

I returned to my lab an hour and half later having had the tastiest food that I had eaten in months. I then proceeded to complete my work. Precisely at 6:00, I fired off the mails that I had kept pending for the past few days. Forwarded some nasty office jokes to my friends, locked the workstation and walked down the stairs to begin my journey back to my room.

My afternoon had passed off peacefully and the morning just seemed so far away. As I walked out of the gate, reality slapped me so hard, my eyes watered. There was less traffic no doubt. But the scenario had not improved a tad. There were people on bikes, cars were loaded. I saw several engineers (by the looks of them and the laptop bags they carried) on the top of three trucks, smiling and waving out to people as if they were campaigning for elections!! I vaguely remembered Swades. I flicked out my new Sony Ericcson Z555i with Gesture Control 2 MP camera phone and randomly clicked some pictures. Down the 8th picture, my phone started ringing. Some unknown number, I hoped it wasn’t some bank wanting to give me a personal loan or credit card or something. The excited voice on the other end was familiar. “Look behind, look behind, behind the red truck, between the bus and the truck… look look…” I turned around to see Mr. Siva Rao flailing his hands as if he had just seen Sachin Tendulkar. I walked up to him and smiled. He looked small without his helmet on. Unbelievably he was alone. I did not question him but clambered on to the bike to get home.

I slept peacefully that night dreaming about me discovering an oil well in the background of my PG house, becoming rich overnight and marrying Katrina Kaif. The first thing I did with the money in my dreams was to buy a bicycle. Thanking God they didn’t run on petrol.

** Names changed to protect privacy.

Just Another Morning

The following post is an old entry from my 2008 diary. Life was so painful back then.

Note: All people, places and incidents mentioned and described are factual. Any resemblance to any person living and reading this is deliberate.

Time & Date: 11:30 AM 05th May 2008
Venue: HSR Layout, Bangalore.

I yawn in my bed, my roommate sprawled on his bed at four arms length. I pick up my cell phone and look at the time, darn time doesn’t run when I want it to. The dim screen of my broken cell phone rudely gestures 8:00. I pull the blanket over myself and try to sleep. My legs protrude out; as if I were 8 feet tall. I curl up my legs and try to sleep again. The fan stops making any noise all of a sudden reminding me that it’s 8:00. I pray in vain, in silent tears that there would be a miracle and the fan would make its familiar 40 dB of whirring, but alas, it’s never happened before. I turn around in my bed, being careful not to fall down. The width of my bed restricts me from performing any other act on it other then perhaps rigidly sleeping out the night. My roommate grumbles in his sleep, “Put on the fan, you ******”. I perform a Kumbhakaran act, with snores to prove I’m fast asleep for the next 30 years… He rolls over and almost falls off. Realizing what just happened, he stands up straight, fully awake – wide eyed, makes sure I dint see him in his gymnastic act and goes back to the comfort of the hard wooded no pillow bed.

Living in the basement of a posh HSR villa doesn’t revoke your destiny to something more meaningful. I get up tired of scrutinizing the ceiling for flaking paint and cobwebs. My morning has just begun. My hopes of having a hot water bath diminish rapidly, I lazily pick my soap, towel and clothes and walk towards the bathroom making sure to carefully navigate around my roommate’s computer kept on the floor. The bathroom happens to be on the outside of the room, and it’s difficult navigating your way amidst broken furniture, two cars and three bikes parked outside. I reach the bathroom safely, without any nails piercing my feet for the umpteenth time, mission accomplished. I smile at my skills and resourcefulness of having reached the bathroom using the broken sofa and the metal drum. The smile fades as soon as I open the broken bathroom door. Half a million mosquitoes swarm out in haste perhaps realizing a human presence breaking their deep slumber or due to the creaking noise of the hanging hinges of the door. I step into the dark, relying on my memory of the bathroom’s structure since the only exhaust window is boarded up to prevent lizards from coming in. I hang my clothes and towel on the door handle and grope around the walls towards the tap. I successfully reach the tap without running my hands and feet over any slimy creatures. Nice day today. I turn on the tap and smile knowingly. After 3 buckets of muddy water down the drain, does the water tank on top promise me some liquid that I was familiar with in Goa. Pure water without the Magnesium or Cobalt (asphalt included perhaps…) or even a gram of maybe Thorium, has become a far fetched reality for us. I look at the ceiling, even though it’s not visible in the dark, asking God “Why me??” He never answers. I silently fill the lone mug with water to the brim, hoping against hope that I don’t find another dead frog in it, and with all the courage needed to talk to my girlfriend’s father, I pour the freezing water over my shriveled body.

I quickly dry up, dusting my towel before I use it and proceed to bring in the Tiffin that supposedly carries our breakfast every morning. My roommate, with his afternoon shift another 4 hours away, sleeps idly on the rock hard pillow-less bed. Before getting my plate and spoons out, I make sure that the dreaded hasn’t happened with the non-descript breakfast yet. My hopes crash without making any noise. I grudgingly pick out the dead flies out of the ‘sambhar’, and throw them out of sight. I pray for their dead souls. They looked like a happy family to me. I write a yellow post-it slip with the familiar “Biologically Unsafe to Consume” statement and stick it on the metal container, lest my roommate in desperation attempts to devour its contents.

I slowly open the cupboard but the hinges give way and the resulting resounding thud of the door banging the floor pierces the noisy locality. My roommate jerks out of bed, rubs his eyes, looks at the cupboard door in my hand with stunned silence, and peacefully remarks “Oh… that? That came out yesterday evening. Keep it aside and don’t open the other.” I nod my head with disgraced silence and carefully rest the door next to the cupboard’s rusted sides. I then proceed to get my ironed clothes out and thank God for providing us electricity between 8.00 PM to 8.00 AM.

I open the only tiny window in the hope that sunlight will somehow flood the room. I then search for my shoes under the wooden pillow-less bed and then go on to search for my socks amidst the pile of newspapers, the computer, a cardboard box, three suitcases and two large duffel bags. I finally find them rolled up near the cardboard box that originally contained the CPU, but now acts as a storage bin for unwashed clothes. I check the time and shudder at the sight of the digits on the screen. I make my way out, remembering not to lock the door, although I don’t see how I would manage it without any knob, latch or keyholes in place.

I then begin my 45 minute journey, by bus, to office where life is, thank heavens, a billion times better!!

The Aftermath.

This incident happened somewhere in February 2008.

I was woken by the shrill ringing of my dad’s alarm clock. I jumped up in bed and rummaged around to silence the annoying ring still wondering why the alarm was ringing in my room. I finally managed to find it tucked under the bed covers in the most inaccessible corner of the bed. Silencing it I rubbed my eyes looking at the time that it displayed. 4:00!! Never in my 12 years of schooling, 2 years of high school and 4 years of Engineering did I ever wake up at 4:00.. This was absurd. I shook the damn clock, picked up my mobile phone and checked the time again. It showed 4:04 AM, but the 4 additional minutes towards another lazy morning didn’t warm my spirits. I chucked the clock on the table in some far reclusive corner under a pile of programming books and slumped back in the warmth of my bed, sinking in its soft clutches stretching my legs as far as they would go in the depth of my bed covers. I had just pulled the pillow over my head when the door knocked. I ignored the first 3 knocks but then they came harder. 6 knocks in line, loud and resonating, probably produced with hands the size of dustbin lids. Wondering if there could be a mountain troll standing out ready to nail me at this unearthly hour, I reluctantly pulled myself up, heaved my drowsy legs on to the floor and swayed towards the door muttering under my breath. The energy required to walk across my room to the door was devastatingly colossal. The knocks sounded again, louder this time. I prayed it wasn’t my youngest brother playing another of his out of the box tricks on me. If it was, I would drown him in the tub. I turned the knob and yanked the door a bit.

My father pushed the door open and half walked, half ran in. Jubilant and with twinkling eyes, as though he had won an argument with my mom, he put on the lights and starting rambling something incoherent to my drowsy ears. “Are u even listening!!??”, he was almost towering over me. “Haan dad, what happened, its 4:00 in the morning…. (yawn..) for heaven’s sake can we like talk at 10:00 or something… (yaaaaawwwwwn…)”.

“My son this is not the time to sleep, this is the time to exercise, to keep yourself fit, to work out, to play…” I looked at him, “What are you saying dad?? Exercise?? Play?? I come to Goa so that I can escape the monotonous and hectic life of Bangalore and sleep peacefully, and you wake me up at 4:00 in the morning, no prior warnings, nothing, and half expect me to exercise?? What’s got into you?” I wasn’t rude, but was satisfied that I had put my point across firmly. I thought that this argument would silence him. “Son, my dear son you do not understand. You are naive. Your company is manipulating you. You don’t have to worry about Internet and Web Security, there are loads of people out there who can take care of that. I understand it sounds all cool to be called a Hacker, but son you do not see the long term consequences that your job might offer you.” I looked at him mouth open, with an absurd expression. He had found 4:00 AM as a convenient time to express his opinion about my career?? I slumped on the chair nearest to me and looked at him. He took it as a cue to continue. “There are bigger things out there. What all do you expect to do with your salary, that does not even suffice your needs back there. Times are changing son, and it’s in the books that you have to flow with time.” I still couldn’t see where he was going. I didn’t protest this time, but looked at him awe struck allowing my pupils to dilate and stare beyond him. “So dad, what do you want me to do? Tell me quickly so that I can find some of my lost sleep.” I didn’t want to look at my bed. My skin crawled with nostalgic memories of the soft feel of my bed, pillow, the sheets and my pyjamas… “I have a gift for you” he suddenly announced. I wondered what it could be. Was silently hoping it would be Raymond Chen’s The Old New Thing or Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows in hardcover. “Go, freshen up first, we have a long morning ahead.” It was less of a request and more of an order. I reluctantly obeyed.

The hands obscenely gestured 4:35 on my wrist watch by the time I was ready. I took a last loving longing look at my soft bed, the pillows, the sheets and my inside out pajamas, locked my room and walked down to the living room. Both my brothers had already donned tracks, tees and sports shoes and were smiling triumphantly. The whole house had gone mad, I presumed, I looked appealingly towards my brothers, who just smiled stupidly. I missed my mother. Wished I could teleport to Mumbai, to my cousins, and sleep there, in her lap. That Jumper guy was fabulous. I was shaken out of my psionic stupor when my dad called out to me and placed a long heavy object concealed inside a thick plastic covering, in my hands. I looked down at it. With my brothers gasping and ooohh-ing in the background, I pulled the object from the depths of the cover just like Hrithik Roshan pulling out his sword out of the scabbard in Jodha Akbar. There I was holding a gleaming willow bat!! I ricocheted under the shock and irony of the whole situation. My dad wanted us to play cricket at this unearthly hour. What next?? I stood there, emotions of mutiny rising from every inch of my body. My youngest brother let out a war whoop similar to the one George of the Jungle lets out occasionally in well, George of the Jungle. “Dad, for all my forsaken years that I have lived, I haven’t played cricket. I haven’t even been on a pitch. For God’s sake I haven’t even lifted a bat before!!!” My father calmly replied, “Of course you have lifted a bat before. Don’t you remember when Santosh’s dog had chased you?? I could vaguely recollect that incident that had happened 3 years ago. But I had used the bat defensively, that to on to the dog for heaven’s sake. And I remember missing the animal by miles. “Dad I couldn’t hit a Labrador with this” I said lifting the bat “do you expect me to hit a ball?? That too when it’s thrown at me at 60 odd mph!!!” I swear I could hear my brothers making fun of me. My father was nevertheless adamant. And pushed us out. I had never seen my brothers happier then this. I walked in silence holding the bat over my shoulders like a mace. It was almost dawn now. The place where I live is beautified by the silence it envisages occasionally to be broken by the chirping of birds or kids playing Ring a Ring o’ Roses…

I opened the gate to my house, with my brothers tearing off in short sprints across the lawn to the common ground that we shared with 24 other houses in the locality. I was surprised to see the ground crowded with people. Kids of all ages and sizes. I saw several familiar faces. There were even mothers feeding sandwiches (or something similar) to their wards while they wielded bats. India is gone crazy I thought. I stood there watching everybody, the tantrums that some were throwing on becoming out. I was even surprised to see Nikita standing beautiful as ever, a pretty girl I vied for when I was in college.

Somebody tapped on to my shoulders from behind. I turned around to see another cricket enthusiast in complete field attire. He put forth his glove wrapped right hand. Out of instinct and base sanity I shook his hand and helloed him back. At this he removed his heavy, constricting looking helmet. I faltered where I stood. There stood Imran, a renowned bully and my brother’s old pal. Having strict parents were no consolation to him. I remember how the entire locality would stand in their balconies at precisely 9:45 on the Saturday that our results were declared when in school just to see his reddened report card fly out of his balcony and land on the road below. Then came the usual hollow “Aai ga, no dad I’m sorry… agli baar aise nahi hoga… sorry dad sorry… aaaaaaaaahhhh.” The tortures by his parents were constant reminders to us. He was bad, no, bad would be a mild word, disastrous would better define it, at studies. He was already 17 and was still to appear his 10th Standard Exams in March. My friends said he was caned every night before going to bed just because he didn’t study and played a lot… Those stories would send shivers down my spine and God knows where else. But today he appeared vibrant and fresh. I searched for words to console his condition and to put some sense into his big fat head. Before I could speak, he asked me “Bhai for how many days are you going to be here??” I was defensive on that. I thought what were his ulterior motives involved. I wasn’t related to him or his dealings in any sort of way. The truth would be harmless I assumed. “Another 2 days probably” I replied. “How come you are out playing today? I thought your parents forced you to study and stuff.” I tried to look as innocent as possible, but with my drowsy eyes and lopsided body it wasn’t easy. He smiled at the question and delightedly replied “I don’t know what got into my father yesterday. He went and bought me a full cricket kit and asked me to play as much as I want. Wants to make a Dhoni out of me. Told me I could grow my hair as long as I wanted.” I wanted to laugh at him, but considered my situation; I too was in the same boat. He donned back his helmet and gestured me to come along.

My brother, it so happens, is pretty well known in the local fraternity. Kids kind of rally around him. I wasn’t surprised though with him being good friends with Imran. I walked to the end of the pitch and sat down on the grass boundary behind the wicket while my brother gave orders to 12 or so other kids. I had just started to visualize myself in my bed back at home when suddenly two pairs of arms lifted me off the ground and somebody pushed a helmet onto my head. Gloves were thrust into my hands, I looked around for help and noticed around ten boys, several of them my age standing looking at me. I imagined myself with a helmet and gloves on, must have looked funny because most of the boys snickered at me. Nikita too let out a gasp at seeing me on the ground probably realizing I wasn’t meant to be there. My brother came forth and pushed my new bat into my shivering hands and directed me towards the wicket. I faltered. God was this The End. Could it all be happening?? Give me a hundred application modules to write in Visual Basic, I’ll do it. Ask me what the full name of Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore is, I’ll tell you. Order me to check some Russian Banking website for SQL Injection and Cross-Site Scripting, I’ll gladly do it, Ask me to parse Nessus XML files using C# and .NET and create Database Insert statements, I’ll really really do it… but don’t let me go on the pitch… please God… please…

I walked with all my courage, I’ll be honest I didn’t have any, to the pitch. A sudden silence had fallen over the place. I turned to look at Nikita, she was standing with her hands folded looking upwards expecting Gabriel to intervene. I faked a smile at her, even though she wasn’t looking at me. Her beautiful eyes were closed, I assumed she was praying or she did not have the heart to see me hit by a projectile moving over 60 mph. I turned around to see who was going to bowl me over. I wished I hadn’t seen him. It was a boy over 6 feet tall, heavily built and almost bald. Those dudes from Resident Evil looked milder. I gulped the last ounce of strength I had. Time seemed to slow down. Voices went all hoarse and electrified. A droplet of sweat from my forehead appeared to defy gravity and fall the length to the ground in what seemed like eternity. The bowler rushed up with all his speed, even in slow-mo he was faster then usual. It was then I realized I hadn’t worn my guard!! I panicked and dropped my bat and raising my right hand signaling the bowler to stop and with the left covering my possessions. Too late. The ball came at the speed of light and whhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaammmmm…

I woke up with a scream… I felt around my bed and body sweating profusely. My room mate woke up with my cry and put on the lights wondering whether I had seen Jigsaw or Lord Voldemort himself. I returned to my senses. One scary nightmare that was. Damn the IPL, damn the cricketers, damn the auction and damn 20Twenty. I’m happy doing what I do. My room mate wore a concerned expression. I looked at him and smiled and giving no explanation told him to sleep. Poor chap he hasn’t slept the whole of last week. His parents want him to come down to Goa for the annual State Cricket Selections threatening him with dire consequences if he refuses. I identified my nightmare with his reality. Hope he and his family survives his appraisal in one piece. Then I turned around and went back to warmth of my soft bed, the sheets, the pillow and my pajamas.

My first post!!

#inlcude
#include

int main()
{
clrscr();
printf(“My first post!!”);
getch();
return 0;
}

Well I finally jumped the bandwagon… Was wondering how long I would be able to escape the blob.. oh.. ah.. typo there.. the blog effect. Its 2:42 AM here in Bangalore, the 17th of June 2009 (oh is it already huh??), nice time to begin blogging.. Its weird though that when I powered on my laptop an hour ago, I had never thought I would be writing.. Such is Life..


I stare at my laptop screen with shrivelled eyes, my pupils constricting under the strain of my day’s work.. I go on.. Come on! Its my first post I say.. Need to write something meaningful so that my kids (when I have them and when they are able to blog) can proudly show their friends what their super-dad had written this fateful night..

I thought there were other things in life people cared about..

Feeling too sleepy, should retire before my fingers start typing gibberish.. I cant bear that on my blog.. atleast not on my first post..

Good night..