Friday, February 22, 2008

Dharti Putra

Word of Derision - This is mostly plagiarized from a mail I wrote (and one I received). I apologize for the lack of originality.

In a time not so long ago, humans occupied the ramparts of a dilapidated fortress in the state of Gujarat. They guarded their private space with fierce gumption and allowed no one to intrude upon it. As time passed by, some humans got jazzier (by the day) about cohabiting with exotic species. Soon, certain varieties of peacocks, langurs and the like also joined the military ranks. No one minded the change of policy as it was the order of the day. However, slowly but steadily, certain numbers from the rival K9 Gang (Canine to non-jazzy people) also started taking over significant portions of the human territory. Nocturnal rendezvous in shady corners (for obvious reasons) became forbidden. Social gatherings in uncharted areas became a strict no-no. Dogs, as the intruders came to be known as, had struck fear in the hearts of the mighty warriors of the human kind. Dogs were everywhere. They slept in our rooms, ate from our plates, drank from our cups, and peed in our washrooms. The time was ripe for a revolution.

Humans marched in big numbers, protesting against the council’s inability to deal with the problem. But there was a minority faction to deal with. Concerned voices in the faction were supporting the cause of the Dogs. “No, they are not going to be chucked out of the campus. That probably amounts to cruelty against an endangered species”, said their spokesperson. It didn’t matter if they enacted obscene scenes learnt from National Geographic and guffawed at our discomfiture. Many of us were caught in a predicament (that undecided gang probably included me too). To itch or not to itch. That was the question. The benefit of doubt went to the Canine kind. They were staying. That day, huge numbers of Dogs came out and reveled through the night. They wagged their tales at their distracters. They danced. They feasted. They howled. And, then they mated :|

The era of the Jhola Krantikaris had just begun. They sniffed around for abusers of environment (the list included acrobatic lizards as well) and jhadofied them in full public view. “Beware of the JKs”, we told our junior militia. I switched off my power guzzling night lamp more often than I would have liked to. I even began snooping around in barred rooms and putting out lamps and fans. The frightened militia was even known to feed Dogs from outside the fortress. The JKs seemed pleased at this. An uneasy peace existed. But that was the lull before another storm.

I remember the story well. It all began one day when a majority of the humans could be seen wandering from wing to wing, soap in hand, wondering where they could dispose of all the muck from the day before. Some of the displeased were the dreaded JKs. They called a meeting…………

Now let's dwell on the water saving tirade for some time. It had been on the agenda for quite some time. Thus it’s paramount that one understands the background. It's only then that one realizes the ingenuity of the solution. Now, we probably have more trees, shrubs, bushes, herbs, gardens and grass than any other institute in the state of Aapnu Gujarat. Anyway, maintaining the manicured gardens takes enormous amounts of man power (and water). “We Provide Employment”, they say. Fine. But what about water? Where is that going to come from? Silence. Aha.

"What about getting rid of them? Chop down the bloody things", said another visionary. No can't do. The green looking things are all counted and accounted for. It’s very likely that there is actually a number that can be arrived at. The singularity of the situation can be better appreciated when one is told that the institute land is actually forest area that has been leased out to the administration at a fee of Re 1 per year. Hefty fine awaits anyone who as much as plucks a twig from a dead tree. Talk about inflation and the entire hullabaloo surrounding it. Baah.

Back to the meeting……….

Now sometime during the course of the heated discussions, some crazy ass environmental freak (like so many that can be found these days) suggested that we should use sewage water for watering all the lush greenery in the campus. Even the JKs themselves were a bit surprised by the novelty of the idea. Whaaaaat? Are you crazy? Heh heh...sorta. Damn. The majority, not knowing what to do because of the turds still inside them, supported the wild idea and the plan got implemented. So now every evening (mornings when I am fortunate) we have our lovely sprinklers going swish swish swish with the hagga water all over the campus. The water is treated of course. But the stench remains, at least for an hour (or maybe more). Poor and helpless militia men (read students) can often be found employing hitherto unknown acrobatic skills in evading jets of sweet smelling fluids. It is said that no nasal malfunctions have been reported till now.

But our jhola krantikaris did not stop at just that. Some wisecrack amongst them suggested that we use the same (hagga) water for our tatti washing sessions too. Voila. Potty mein to waise hi badboo aati hai. Paani se thodi aur sahi. Clap Clap Clap. What a visionary! So here I am, a normal guy gifted with a decent sense of smell, who is subjected to attacks on his nasal sensibilities every day. The lavatories don't have a flush. Just turn the knob and whoooosh, your hagga water is back to serve you in your daily ablutions, sans all the muck. Life couldn’t have been better.

The story of our Dharti Putras does not end here of course. They continue to fight for their cause. Their distracters jeer at them for being sissy. The undecided kind hang out with whomsoever they deem fit. So it might be safe to say that I am contributing my bit in saving the planet. Dew or no dew, let's just say we smell it every day, shall we?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Virgin Irony

The skies had been overcast that day and the gloom of the heavens seemed to have settled upon his mantle as well. But the night had been remarkable, if not strikingly extraordinary. He was about to find that out. The welcome chill had dissuaded him from leaving the room. A muffler was unearthed from the darkest reaches of the cupboard and secured around the scraggy neck. It reminded him of home, cold and distant. Just when he had decided to indulge in a midnight reverie, a face popped into the four walls, harried and busy. Said something about the moon looking particularly appealing. He shrugged his shoulders. It almost always did. The air began to reek of nonchalance and so the face popped out. He remained seated. There was pending work; he realized balefully, brushed the guilt still clinging to his shoulders, and set about effecting the monotonous and then the mundane.

A few shadows later, he chanced to step out of the confines. The cold stung his face and brought him to his senses, now sharp. The face had been speaking the truth. He walked to the balcony, breathing in large mouthfuls of the strange ether. Maybe it was his weird fascination with everything nocturnal. But the air smelled like someone had just cupped a handful of wet soil and blown it your way. He stood still for some time and then jabbed a message on the keypad, the technocrat that he was. Having looked up for longish time and traced out the plough in the night sky, he dawdled back to the door. The bed looked inviting, as it always did. The radical and the rational tried resisting the temptation. But we all know who won. Black Out.

The morning began late. Routine personified. The mellow sun seemed to be spelling out an amused hello. Strange. He ran the gauntlet and sat on the rusty iron bench. The trees still seemed to be reveling in the singularity of last night. Two dogs appeared to be enjoying the gentle breeze and the yellow sun. They frolicked with carefree abandon. Then suddenly realizing that he was observing them, the twosome scampered away, disgusted at this sudden breach of their private space. A cat came out of hiding and took advantage of the coincidence by scaring a few pigeons lounging in the verdant garden. Meanwhile, he tried squinting at the sky and was immediately blinded by the bluish white. A stupid head was shook in disbelief. Then a resolution was stashed away in some nondescript corner of the brain.

A shadow shuffled past him, bucket in tow. It stared at him in ill-concealed amazement and then went about drying the still dirty undergarments. One blue. One brown. One some fancy French sounding color. The shadow filed past, content and smug at having done something much more constructive than smudging ink with paper. He realized how impeccable that smugness had been. He had brought a book too, realizing the fact a bit too late. Pencil. Sharpener. Spectacles. All were handled with due care and placed on the bench, the rust symbolizing something more than just neglect. The book had been serving as the writing pad. A sheepish grin later, another shadow flitted past. Some random questions were thrown about. The shadow departs. This one content and smug too.

The rest of the day hurried past, leaving him with hardly any time to ponder over the obvious. It had been his secret pact with Routine. He would not complain about the monotony of daylight if the dark held enough adventures to sustain his imagination. He was seldom disappointed and thus kept his side of the bargain, quite innocently believing in the honesty of the other party. He was back in his room before the sun had set, expectant and somewhat excited. What would it be? Some new theory to mull over? Some novel idea to be romanticized? He waited for the scandals to pour in. A few whispers were lost in useless contemplation. Nothing new, he thought. They would make an appearance, more sooner than later. More shadows and whispers pass by, somewhat curious about the lack of activity. It is then that restlessness started to trickle in. It was obvious he did not have any stratagem for such a situation. So he charts crooked circles in the room, very clearly frustrated at the breach of treaty. He grumbles and complains, half expecting some brilliant idea to show up any time. But the food for thought is conspicuous by its absence. Exasperated by his listlessness more than anything else, he decides to call it a day.

Far away in his clandestine hideaway, Routine let out a muffled snigger. His plan had obviously succeeded. Only time would tell whether the idiot down yonder realized the same. The poor bloke had quite obviously succumbed to the charm. He had been snatching words from light as easily as he had swindled the night into loaning them out. “Comprehension would dawn soon enough”, contemplated the wily Routine. His task there was done. He set out in search of another fellow, gazing at his yellow window of light in search of some anecdotes and scandals. "What would it be this time?", he thought in a sinister fashion. "A promise rather than a pact", he chuckled quietly and disapparated with a "poof".

Monday, February 04, 2008

Concrete Observations

Routine starts with the me getting up in the nick of time, only to find later that there was a lot of time to waste. A much needed bath and a carton of milk later, four harried shadows are on their way to hallowed grounds. A fruitless mission, I realize. Some think otherwise and happen to be a bit more optimistic. A newspaper flutters in the wind. I try to catch the fleeting words. They chuckle at my helplessness. I give up in exasperation, much to their astonishment.

Reach the exalted confines of IIM Ahmedabad. The campus is amazing and the architecture awe inspiring. I am afraid to scale its entirety with my timid eyes. So I look away. Its austerity is almost intimidating, forcing you into peaceful submission. Then suddenly, when you have quietly accepted defeat, it accepts you into its folds, as one of its own. I sit down on the parapet, pleasantly smug at the unexpected frankness. The arches seem to be greeting the sun’s rays, politely bending them to suit their own whims. The rays sketch playful patterns in the aisles and frame the numerous photographs on the walls. There is not a single drop of paint in vicinity. The bricks seem fresh and smell as if they are just out of the kiln, the aroma assailing one’s nostrils like sarcasm.

We walk the corridors and somehow the space inspires us to grow, to be better than our present selves. We enter a room and it’s as if a door into the past has opened. I am reminded of the the time when light filtered through pale curtains and lit up the board game I had just spread out on the floor, pestering others to join in. Hushed voices are heard and we file out in haste, my reverie now broken. The library is a monument of words; we pay our homage to its overbearing presence and surrender in humility.

We realize the presence of some notes suspended in symphony and retrace our steps to the shor sharaba. More shadows milling around. Shadows in love. Some expressing it with passion. Some resorting to subtlety. Few professing height of fashion. Few age-old tradition. Noodle straps. Halter necks. Salwar kameez.

The Shadows mingle with the crowd and feel at home. But soon their curiosity gets the better of them. They poke their inquisitive noses into other unexplored corners. Hurried steps pass them by, wanting to catch up with the world. In juxtaposition, two pups suckle milk. Contentment personified. The Shadows think of lingering till they can melt into the darkness. So much for philosophical muses.

We ride a bus back. I find some space on the hump beside the driver. A stranger had warned me of dire consequences of utilizing the unlikely spot. However, I decide to run the risk. The windshield in front has CNG sprawled across it. A bell rings and a face gets off. A lady with a smiling face balances the numbers. I notice her love interest dropping her off at the bus depot. Hence the smiling face. Comprehension dawns. She wears a red dress. Little red riding hood, I smile in secret jest. No one offers her a seat and I guard mine with fierce selfishness. The face doesn’t wrinkle into a frown as the bell jingles on and off. Faces and shadows sway in suspended animation. The trees grow in numbers on either side of the dormant mortar. We wait.

Home beckons eventually. The shadows walk the walk back. Some disappointed more than others. I feign nonchalance. Did anyone know better?