Sunday, March 14, 2010

For Us

Disclaimer: All the characters in the story are fictional and bear no resemblance to anybody living or dead. In an attempt to challenge the writer within I might have created characters but the feelings and the emotion exuded are true to my conscience and are as I would have reacted to such a situation.


I stared at him for the nth time. The color had gone out of his face and his eyes looked tired and deprived of sleep for years. Was it the mirror or him - there was no way to know. The door slowly opened. It was magical. I cant believe I still get tongue-tied everytime I see her - first time in the college lawns she walked down those steps and winked at me, first tme she told me she loved me too, everytime I try and argue with her. When I first told my mom I wanted to marry her, she asked me angrily - What was I thinking. I held her hand and said - "I always did. Today I am not." I dont know if I wish today I had. I just wanted things to be the same - as they were. She passed me an envelope and I didn't have to look inside. I looked at her "Cant we still talk and work things out?" She raised an eyebrow that said it all. I once jokingly told her in college that everytime she did that she was cute and I would give whatever she wanted. This is what she wanted and I couldn't say no. For 3 years I had been taking decisions for us and today she wanted to - for us. "Its not college anymore and this is real. The choices we make have to be the best for us. For us." She looked at me and winked. "Please don't do that. I said I'll think about it." "Its not that. Your towel is slipping."

The Journey:

It was raining cats and dogs and I reached out for my jacket from inside the ambassador. I bid goodbye to the factory manager and got inside the car. There was a huge crowd outside the factory that had gathered and they all folded their hands as my car passed them. I looked questioningly at my driver. He laughed and said "Those are for you, sir. Its not often that a public sector bank officer visits this area. You represent whatever small development work that happens here." I smiled and reached for something that pricked my jacket from the inside. It was the envelope that my wife had given to me this morning. I was still undecided. It was a tough call to take. The car screeched to a halt at the toll gate. The toll booth officer represented a typical Hindi movie policeman - flashlight in his hands, a revolver that could have rested on the paunch than the pouch and a paan in his mouth. Who and where to? After the routine process of checking the car he let us pass with a warning. Dont stop anywhere. The place is risky. Drive right away. 120kms to Baroda.

I looked at the envelope in my hand and closed my eyes. It was a fine evening and the greenery in the lawns was hard not to notice. There was a lake near enough for us to gaze and far enough for us to feel lazy. My head was buried in her lap and she was quite busy with her book. I shook my head a little and she said "No. Not now. Have got my interview in some time." I raised my head - "No. Not that. I received a call from Mr. Javalekar. He wants me to join the bank. I wanted to make sure you are ok with it." She placed the book aside and raised her one eyebrow and winked. I closed my eyes and said - "You are so cute. Thanks." "Now wish me luck". "Finish your interview. We are leaving for Lonavla early tomorrow morning. And here is your goodluck". The kiss lasted 2 mins but seemed like forever. The car braked hard that I almost fell in front. "Sorry sir, The front tyre seems to have flattened. Will need about 15 minutes time. Please sit inside."

I looked out and it was still drizzling. I emptied my pockets of all the visiting cards and wallet that I had inside the car and stepped outside. A cool breeze of moist air welcomed me. I went to an isolated bench by the roadside and sat down. Did I let her down in anyway? Was I not able to give her the life she wanted? Maybe she deserved someone better. "Hi!" I heard a voice and looked up. " My name is Farhan Hussain. I work for Tide Technologies Pvt Limited, here in Ankleswar. Can I get a lift in your car till Baroda?" I looked at him questioningly. I got reminded of the policeman "Well... I dont know if there is space" He smiled and said. " I am sure your car
has space enough to accomodate one more person, but you are not sure whether it should be a Farhan, isnt it?" It was way too blunt and true to be thrown at me. I immediately went defensive. "What? No! I was just unsure if my company would be ok with it. " "I dont think any MNC bank has issued travel advisories against Muslims. I am really sorry. I desperately want a ride." It was tough to refuse after that. "Well you will have to wait till the car tyres are changed
and there is a broken bridge near Bharuch as well. Damn the rains!" "I know. This is a tough route. But if you are going to Baroda, I can lead you from the inside of Ankleswar and Bharuch. Its a little circutous downstream of Narmada but the roads are better. You give me a ride and Inshaah Allah I will show you where to go." Hearing that last sentance gave me creeps but I wasnt sure I had anything to live safely for either. How am I going to tell my mom? It was a
stupid fight. I had never meant to say she can go her own way if she chooses to. I did have a couple of days to respond to the notice though as per my wife.

"So what is it working like in an MNC bank? They pay you good?" I dont know from where he got the idea that I worked in an MNC bank, but I didnt want to deny it. For long I have been thinking what would it be like working for an MNC. Let me live the moment. Well! They pay good but equally there is a lot of pressure to perform as well." "Engineer and MBA from premier institute right?" I smirked. Yes. "Atleast the MNC banks are far better than the public sector
banks where people can bribe their way through the system." I just smiled and let it pass.

"Trust me! Money, love and water always find their way through the system. Have you ever been in love? Its a wonderful feeling." I was wondering if at all there was a mute button on this man. "I am getting married next month to my sweetheart and I cant tell you how happy I am. She is from my village. Fell in love with her the moment I saw her. She loves me as well. She says she will do anything for me. Stand by me for everything." "Really...and you believe that. Imagine tomorrow you are fired from your job or you arent earning enough to suit her lifestyle. Do you really think the "purity" of your love would still score over "practiality." He kept staring at me and I suddenly found it very awkward. "I am not saying she will. I am saying be practical thats all. Life is not a bed of roses."

There was an awkward silence for about 10 minutes before which he started - " I think I should have told you something before I invited all the comments from you. I am the son of a tailor in my village and she is the daughter of the manager of a factory near my village. I fell in love with her before I knew her background. The people in the village are dead against the factory because it exits all its effluents into the Narmada whose holy waters we use for irrigation. I had represented a lot of times to them saying water will make its way through the stream and will affect our living. But they are insistent and they are going to build another boiler which they have sold it to the villagers as an effluent treatment plant. I am working in this software company just to fund the struggle against that factory." My eyelids popped out. "What did you say was the name of the factory manager?" "Mr. Shah". I silently collected the visiting cards that I had dropped on the seat and put them inside. "Anyways, my point is she knows all this and still she loves me. She likes me because of who I am and not what I do. Someday I would also want to work in a bank like you and I will give all this rebellion up as well one day - when she thinks its
enough. Its hard to win an argument with her. Love does find its way through the streams.And even assuming she does want me to change jobs after we are married - I will because I knew she speaks for us." For us - Thats exactly what she said. Thats what she always says.

It was a long hilly trek and it was 7 in the morning. I had woken her up just so that we could have some time together. Just the two of us. She was not too keen with the idea but she never said No to me and loved my surprises. I carried a box with me which she didnt ask what it contained. She was excited. I told her I had a surprise for her in Lonavla. She had gotten the job and I was settled as well. She was tired and the hike was steep. I offered to carry her. I dont know why I did that, but I didnt want her to faint when I did actually take her up there. It was a sort of anti-climax. It took us 2 hours to get on top and I dropped the box that I had brought along. I just had a couple of minutes to go before the sun spoiled it all but I did make it. We were in heaven,
amongst the clouds. There were twin mountains visible and it was her. I took her hand and asked her to marry me. She was overwhelmed and hugged me tightly and the sun came out. I put my thumbs up and said to him Thanks for waiting! She asked me "What was in that box by the way" I sighed and said "Never mind". She raised her eyebrow winked and said "This one is For us." Thats the best kiss we ever had and today when I think of it I feel what have I done to lose it all.

The car came to a screeching halt again. "This is where I get down. Thanks for the ride." I smiled and said "Don't thank me for the ride. Thank me for what I am going to do." There was a questioning expression on his face as I left him. On the ride home I fished with the envelope and opened it. I shall accept whatever is inside and move on I promised myself. I was pleasantly surprised on opening it. Inside was an offer letter from an MNC bank and not a notice as I had imagined to be. For us had meant a way forward for both of us and not us individually. A drop of tear fell down my cheek as I realised I had never ever lived a For us moment. I only relished her saying it. I had promised I would accept whatever was inside and this was going to be it. I made a call and told my boss I would be resigning the next day and something I owed Farhan - rejecting the loan proposal of the factory.

That evening a bottle of wine and roses greeted my wife along with something she hadn't seen in sometime - a smile on my face. I told her "Sorry I had dropped this box when I carried you to that hilltop in Lonavla. Picked it up on the way." She gave me the biggest grin I had seen in a long time and told her I had accepted the envelope. Her smile disappeared and suddenly the eyebrow went up and she winked - "For me?" " No - For us!"

Written by,

P.S. Eventually the loan was sanctioned after I quit but I was not complaining. Everyday I wake up to a raised eyebrow and a wink. Farhan was right - Money, love and water do find their way through the stream.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Stalker

Note: I apologize for my prolonged absence in this sphere. I have 5 scripts which are in the draft stage and guess what!! I stumble into this. As always the standard disclaimer shall follow:

Disclaimer: All the characters in the story are fictional and bear no resemblance to anybody living or dead. In an attempt to challenge the writer within I might have created characters but the feelings and the emotion exuded are true to my conscience and are as I would have reacted to such a situation.

Stalk: To follow or observe (a person) persistently, especially out of obsession or derangement.

This is my 7th trip to Mumbai in as many months and the schedule remains pretty much the same. Bunk the Friday. Take the 11:45 AM train. Yet! This is the third time I have had to catch the train while it was on the move. Its surprising how much I have gotten used to the "gas chambers". To give you a background, "the gas chamber" is my grandfather's unique way of waking me up. Unlike other elders he does not shake you up or shriek loudly into your ears or in short does not make a la-ghost appearance in your romantic dreams. He walks into your room, switches the A/C and the fans off; closes all the doors and windows and a very familiar smell of sweat ruins your otherwise rose filled gardens of romance. And thus the gas chamber name that chokes you awake. But surprisingly I have gotten so much used to it or maybe my dreams are clogged of dark-room client visits that I don't make out the difference.

Anyways I get up at 10:30 and realize I have an appointment to keep. So, 30th January 2009, 11:45 AM and I am still outside Central Station quarreling with the Autowaala. I throw a 100 at him and dash inside. The train is already half way down the platform and instead of Kajol its a pantry-car dood throwing up a hand to pull me in. After emptying a one litre water bottle, I slowly take the ticket out of my bag to check my reservation. S5, 72. 72? Does it really exist. Oh! Why not? Just the one near the loo. What luck! The consolation though was there was a foyer like space between the loo and my berth. How I wished that would absorb the smell as much as the wait-listed passengers haunting your berths?

Apparently as my luck would have it, my obsession of traveling light was taken by mom too seriously. She made my bag real light. No change of jeans, a hand-kerchief sized towel and to top it all no blanket. That was her way of saying "You are old enough to pack,!" At least she threw in a couple of books. Actually - amazing books. The best non-fiction and fiction books I have ever read would be on this journey( Liar's Poker - Michael Lewis and A thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini). Both of them deserve a special blog mention. So lets reserve them for later. As I laid back all the items in the bag, I took temporary shelter in the opposite seat. A shrill voice shrieked " Ye humaara seat hai!" I was taken aback for a moment. It was a middle-aged woman who had come as a family of four which included two F 21s and the sacrilege I committed was I was seated beside one. I politely replied " I'll shift as soon as I am done with my packing. " Surprisingly the fourth sat between me and one of the F21s. I was amused and hurt at the same time. I was wearing formal shoes, a clean and normal black jeans, a decent tee with a respectable face. But that wasn't only why I was hurt. I knew they were F 21s only from the reservation list. Otherwise I would have mistaken them for married ladies in their late 30s who had cooked their faces in frying pans instead of food. Pardon the harsh thoughts, thats how mad I was.

I quickly stood up and started placing my bag in the upper berth that I heard another Excuse me. I am tired of this. Cant a man stand anywhere he wants! I looked behind and what I saw made my face go blank and my eyelids shut so slowly making sure I had captured it in my mind. An angel with beautiful eyes and just the right-shaped nose with a pretty smile on her face. From my height, the next thing I saw was how deep her cleavage ran. But the shutters shut too quickly as soon as they realized they were being watched by the very same eyes. It took another Excuse me for the Qutab Minar to sway across and let the angel pass. This is going to be my day, I thought as I sat down with my book. Hours passed and during one of my occasional breaks I saw the angel cross again. This time I saw her walk from a distance and my eyes just wouldn't leave her eyes. Nothing turns on a guy more than deep, expressive eyes. Well!! Almost nothing, to be true. I just closed the shutters and the gardens of roses reappeared. Not long, a smell more nauseating than sweat were right in front of me. Seat 72 was my grandfather's way of saying, you escaped my gas chamber, here is my revenge. I switched positions and sat on the other side.

About half-hour later I saw the angel again passing by me. This time the shutters didn't close so fast but were puzzled and quizzed her waistline. For a person who frequents the pantry, she has an awesome waistline. This obsession wasn't received too well by her eyes and they gave a disgusting look. Embarrassed, I went back to my book. That was so aweful! Why do I make it look so obvious? It was late and the number of passengers eying me to shut down the lights seemed to be increasing. I switched off the lights and went to sleep. It was colder than I thought it would be and I tried to wriggle a lot in the child-berth they had provided me that I almost fell off. The foyer was filled with people sleeping on the floor that it took an effort to go past them to the doors. I opened the door and a cool breeze freshened my senses. I was just about to close the door that something made me turn back and I saw someone passing by it to the next compartment. It must be her! It must be her! I quickly closed the door, bolted it and looked she was gone. The eternal debate began! Should I? Shouldn't I? I looked at the watch and it showed 3AM. It was a split second decision and I had made up my mind.

Its so dark. Where could she have gone? And how far is the pantry-car from this compartment. I kept walking till the pantry car showed up and not her. I shouldn't have. That was so dumb but I wasn't getting any sleep either. So I walked past gloomily. Hi! I turned back and there she was. The dim foyer light was enough for me to take a glance at her shining face. Hi! I am Antra.

Me: Hi!
Antra: Were you following me or something?
Me: No.. I was actually going to the pantry
Antra: At 3 in the morning. Really?
Me(blushing): Well!!!
Antra(smiling): I know. No blanket. No sleep. Right?
Me(questioningly): Yeah! But...
Antra: You are shivering and you are carrying a light bag. So I figured out.
Me: Have you been observing me?
Antra(sarcastically): Yeah! Sure!! Humor yourself! So which MBA college did you pass out from?
Me: MBA? How? Ok! For how long have you been stalking me?
Antra: You were reading Liar's Poker. So I took a guess. Fresh pass out?
Me(amazed): You are good
Antra: Well! I observed your bags and books while your eyes were running all over me.
Me(taken aback, embarrassed): What! No, they were not. Thats..Thats so blunt. Why would you think so?
Antra: Because, I saw so.
Me: It was just a casual glance. I swear. It didn't mean anything. Actually...
( I told her what happened with the two F 21s earlier this morning)
Antra: Oh...ok. That's bad!
Me: I know! I mean I have been mistaken for a geek in the past, but not a ruffian. Come on!! So?
Antra: So?
Me: Now do you believe?
Antra(smiling): Would you let it go. You are making way too big a deal. Its normal for guys to ogle at gals as long as its short and is not followed by any comments.
Me: Hmm.. So gals look at guys too? (stealing a glance from the corner of the eye)
Antra: Well...only the good looking ones. (Smiles mischievously). We usually stalk the other geeks to make fun of them.
Me: I am not a geek. I said I was mistaken for one.
Antra: Why do you get so worked up? Geeks are supposed to be good too.
Me: Yeah. In like academics. I am poor in that too. For God's sake ask my friends.
(Hearty laugh)
Antra: I have to leave. I am feeling sleepy
Me:(please don't) Suddenly discovered you had a blanket!!
Antra: (turns around) Lucky me! My mom doesn't pack mine. I do it myself. (Leaves)
Me(takes a moment for it to strike): How did she know?

Should I? Shouldn't I? Crash it. Its a half-a-day journey tomorrow. I'll run into her.

That was the last I saw of her. The next afternoon after searching the whole train thrice, I came back to my seat. Was it all just a dream? Was I imagining stuff? There was only one way to find out. The TTR was at my seat checking tickets. I quietly took the list when he was chatting with a fellow-mate from his native place and checked all the names for an Antra. No..No...No...No...No...No...No Antra Thats it. How can it all just be a dream? I gloomily sank into the seat while a shrill voice pricked my ear - "Yeh humaara seat hai" OH MY GOD!!! This was too much. I had to give it back. "Ye railways ka seat hai" and I picked up my bags and got down. If only!! If only!!


Its 8: 30 PM. My sister said my return ticket was confirmed. How come it is not listed. I called her up and verified once again. Yes it was confirmed. She advised me to get into the train and ask the TTR. I did and the TTR gave me the lists and asked me to check. No..No...No...No...No...No...Thats it. No my name. I told the TTR and he said "Son, that's the reserved list you are looking at. For the RAC passengers who got confirmed after the chart has been prepared there is a separate post script with those names. Check there." Thats' it. That's where I didn't check. And that's why she didn't have a berth to sleep that night. She was in the RAC list. Damn! How did I not see that? Its not just a list. Its a confirmation that I had my first female stalker.

Written by,

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Where does a win-win leave the employee?

This is an incident as narrated to me by one of my friends in the treasury department of a reputed bank. I shall not name him and the bank because being a banker myself I should not be seen as a person who cries foul about other banks. This is to highlight the macro-issue of work culture we are all subjected to these days.

The trading house is an insulated department from the "real bank" not just geographically but in all respects. While we get a confirmation from the client, get an acceptance letter signed and setup the limit; the treasury department first books a deal, gets the acceptance signed and gives a confirmation on the deal.

There are two kinds of clients: one who blindly trust the dealer's advise; the other trusts his/her own instinct and forces the dealer to close his position. My friend met a third kind.

Friend: Sir, this is the wrong time to close your position. Just wait for a couple of days, the dust will settle down and then we can make an informed decision.

Client: I don't want to lose any money. My WC requirements are tight and I cant afford any slip-ups.

Friend: Sir, you have to trust my judgment. This is really not the right time. I assure you there will not be any slip ups. Your position is secure. Don't touch it now.

Client: I don't know. My gut says now is the time. Anyways, you are the expert. I trust you.

Friend: Thank you sir!! You won't regret it.

Client hangs up. Calls dealer 2 in the same bank.

Client: I want to close my position now.

Dealer2: Sir, I don't handle your account. I am not authorized to.

Client: He is not available. Should I wait for him to come and see my money going down the drain?

The dealer 2 is an new employee. He has been taught by his boss to put the customer first. He starts sweating.

Dealer2: Sir, we are out here to help you. I just hope he is in the loop. I shall close the deal for you and send you the confirmation.

Client: Yes, please do.

Dealer2 closes the deal. The next day there is a sharp dip and the client realizes he has lost 40 lakhs. At the same time he gets the acceptance letter that needs to be signed. Now the client starts to sweat. He sits on that letter and doesn't respond to it.

After 2 days:

Boss in bank: Sir, we have not received your payment as yet.

Client: What payment? Who had asked you to close the position? Why was it done without my permission?

Boss in bank: Sir, there has to be an explanation. I am sure Dealer 1(Friend) did it with your permission.

Client: I had specifically discussed this and we agreed not to close the position. Please assign me another set of dealers. This is not done. I don't want to see Dealer 1's face again.

Client slams the phone

Boss: Did the client ask you to keep the position open.

Friend: (totally unaware) Yes sir. He did.

Boss fires my friend left and right and gives hoards of gyaan about customer trust and ethics. He is not given a chance to speak. At last he is ordered to visit the client and apologize to him personally.

Now!! This was a situation even the client had not seen coming. He just thought the dealers would change. My friend arrives at the client's place. The client is embarrassed. He starts sweating

Client: I am really very sorry. I should never have put your job on the line. It was all my fault.

Friend: (just back from the gyaan of customer first) No problem sir. I would have probably done the same thing if I were in your shoes. I am here to propose to you another deal that would cut your losses(40 lakhs) by 1/4th.

Client: I trust you this time. Please do so, and once more I am really very sorry.

My friend goes back, works out a deal and goes to his boss.

Friend: Boss, I have done some damage control. I have found a quote for the client that would reduce his loss to 5 lakhs.

Boss: Hmm... Quote higher. That is not a favorable quote.

Friend: But sir, this quote would limit his loss.

Boss: Do as I say and the client reduces his loss to 8 lakhs and we make 3L on the transaction. You are an MBA, you should know how to make a transaction win-win. Our side of the win is equally important.

Friend closes the transaction. Boss shoots him a mail of appreciation marking all national heads. As a reply to that mail my friend tenders his resignation.

I offered to look for opportunities for him in my bank. But he had become so skeptical about sales and numbers that he took up a job in a firm which releases reports. His salary is the same but the satisfaction level different. How different is something I leave to his judgment.

Critiques to this post might argue - not all clients are like that, not all bosses are like that. That is a lame explanation. I put myself in his shoes. My clients represent the market to me. My boss represents the organization to me. People react to situations based on the inputs from a perceivable environment( read: immediate boss and his clients)

On the face of it, client is happy he limited his loss to 8 lakhs. Customer satisfaction achieved. The boss pocketed 3 lakhs and achieved his target. Since he represents the organization, organizational motive of higher revenue achieved. Win-win? Yes.

But where does the win-win leave an employee?

Barat Ramkumar

Note: Introspect and you will realise that it applies to you as well. Blame the self-imposed targets and definitions of success that we wear as a blanket to hide from hard-hitting realities. Throwing the ethical mantle on the other person's back has become the order of the day. Its unfair, I argue. I get a reply 'So is life. Move on'

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Prisoners of our Past

As much as we would like to call ourselves pragmatists, somewhere down inside we are all, what I call, prisoners of our own past. Everybody has a past, significance of which is each's own. But nobody can deny its influence on a person's future course of actions. The mind is but a child. Anything you push to forget, it throws back as memories. The standard Disclaimer follows:

Disclaimer: All the characters in the story are fictional and bear no resemblance to anybody living or dead. In an attempt to challenge the writer within I might have created characters but the feelings and the emotion exuded are true to my conscience and are as I would have reacted to such a situation.

Secretary: Oh! Hello Doctor! Good Morning. You are a little early for your appointment.
Doctor: Well, the pleasure of your company, I must say.
Secretary: I must say am flattered but a little busy too. Please have a seat. I'll inform him.
Doctor: Take your time sweetheart. I'll be waiting.
Secretary: Weird! I'd rather prefer your son address me like that.


Secretary: Sir! The Doctor has come. Should I buzz him in?
Me: Can you ask him to wait? I am expecting a couple of friends. I'll come out after that. Just keep him alive until then.
Secretary: I hope I am. Smiles and starts to go out
Me: (blushing) Hey!!Wait..Hmm.. Wh...What.... What does your appointment book read this Friday night?
Secretary: (smiles)I have to say. You really are bad at this. Mine says Free. I don't know what yours does?
Me: Oh...ok...Please do check if it gives me the permission to ask you out.

Bolts the door and leaves. After a while...

Me: That's the Memorandum of Association of the Company. What are you looking for in that?
X: I am just searching for the page that says you can be fired for dating your secretary.
Me: Hey!! Don't get judgmental. I have an extra ticket to the concert this Friday and I asked her.
Y: Yeah! Since when do concerts happen in restaurants and the fact it happens to be a candle-lit restaurant is just a coincidence. The 'concert' doesn't even have drums. Its mild guitar. Dood..Whats with you?
Me: Don't get started on that. I was like that a couple of years ago. I just have grown to appreciate finer things in life. That's all.
X: Finer meaning more transparent shirts(feeling the shirt)
Me: Hey! Get your hands off! This is fashion.
X: Since when? The ancient Indians used to wear this.
Me: Enough of it. Guys, that's not why I asked you to come. I need some advise. Help me out here. How do I tell her?
Y: I am sorry. When did we go from Its just a concert - to - candlelight dinner - and now to - wanting to tell her
X: Meri baat maan! Kuch mat bol use. Things are good as they are. They always want some company to go out. When you confess they say - Oh No! You are my best friend. Please remain the same.
Y: Well they probably wouldn't if you strike at the right moment. You keep avoiding her thinking she has a boyfriend and I cant do this to my best friend and one day suddenly reality strikes and you blurt out. You have always been a loser. Oh! Am sorry! A "self-righteous" loser. Does that make you better?
X: Oh! Yeah!! You wanna talk loser. How about not telling a girl how you feel because you were professionally insecure. Were you streaking cross country half naked in poverty that you couldn't share your life with some one else. What do we call that? A "chivalrous" loser. Don't get me started.
Me (yelling out loud): Will you guys just stop it? That isn't why you are here. I need some advise guys. I am not here to judge who the bigger loser is.

A loud thud on the table with the fist. The secretary hears the sound and rushes in.

Secretary: Is there a problem?
Me: Nopes! Just a little stressed out. Can you get three glasses of black coffee?
Secretary: Three glasses? But there is...
Me: Tell him I'll be with him in just some time.
Secretary: Sure! (smiles) Your appointment book says we can sneak in a couple of hours for dinner.
Me: (trying to smile painfully) It does?
Secretary: A couple of calls and I made sure it does


Doctor: So! How does it look?
Secretary: Bad. He just ordered three glasses of black tea just for himself and I heard him yelling. He must have just got off the phone.
Doctor: Hmm..Three glasses... Is there a mike in that room that you can hear from here?
Secretary: (Stops her work and looks at him) Do you think we run a criminal investigation sort of something here.
Doctor: Well! My son has got two tickets to this great restaurant by the sea-side that has mild guitar playing. Romantic I must say! I can recommend your name.
Secretary: Well! I would still stick to no because we don't have such a facility and as far as your offer goes, I already have plans. Guess what! The same place you are talking about.
Doctor: My son is going to be so disappointed
Secretary: (winks)I bet he wouldn't be.


Me: Did you see how upbeat she was. Guys, am telling you she is totally into me.
X: It all begins that way. Don't fall for it.
Me: (looks at Y): So?
Y: I don't know. I never have. When I went out with her, it all seemed to be good. But I just couldn't push myself to tell her. I was always afraid as to how she would react. Basically I choked. Just look into her eyes and say it.
X: Well...yeah that's one thing I couldn't. I chose the worst way of proposing and did it after 3-4 months of weird behavior. See...the reason am dissuading you is...that day its not the love that I lost. I know I will end up loving someone else. But I lost my best friend and it hasn't been the same et all.
Y: Stop blaming yourself. Look am sorry it didn't work out between the two of you. But you got to move on. And it ain't your fault you didn't know she had broken up. As I see it you have far more to gain than you lose. If she doesn't understand she never was your best friend.
Me:Am so very confused. Why can't things just happen as they do in movies? (Head down on the table)

The door opens and the doc enters. X and Y move to a corner of the room

Doctor: May I come in?
Me: Oh.. Hello Doc. Come on in.
Doctor: I have repeatedly asked you to call me dad.
Me: Yeah! Doc!! Just a little stressed.
Doctor: (flashes a torch down my eyes) still see them?
Me:(looks at the corner of the room where X and Y are standing)I guess yes. They are memories that I shall take to my grave. Will they ever go?
Doctor: Its a question you have to ask yourself. Don't you want them to go? Every person has a past. Your obsession with it has created characters out of them. Don't let that spoil what you have today.
Me: I don't know what you mean.
Doctor: I saw her outside with a glow in her eyes. She is in love with you. Don't let her go this time. If you don't want to be called a loser, don't do the right thing. Make, what you think is, the mistake and you won't regret it.
Me: Thanks Dad! Thanks a lot!!
Dad: Good luck son!!

Created and Written by,

Author's note: Inspiration - Ron Howard's 'A Beautiful Mind'

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Damn the critics, rock on!!!

Not everyone lives his dream, but keeping it alive completes your life - Rock On

At the outset, I wanna clarify that this is not a review of the movie, but should it be considered so, I still cant believe I beat Atlee to it.

Jokes apart, it was a tough weekend. The Bangalore trip was hectic and drained me, though the rum turned on my reserves. One of the paradoxes of living in your hometown is the loneliness factor. You have a defined set of friends whose tastes you already know and you really dont feel like moving out to make new friends. Its been quite some time since I went out with a girl. I pondered a while and took my phone. "Rock On chalna hai?" "Kyon, koi laundiya nahi mili kya" " Abe! Chod na, chalna hai ki nahi bol...Dimaag mat kha". One of the problems of inviting Ramesh to a movie is his vocal criticism of a movie half way through that can put you off. The alternative - try and impress the legal department babe and talk her into the movie. I chose the easier path.

So...the movie... Am not gonna bore you with what the plot is and whos acting was better... thats what all the critics are for. I am just here to damn the critics. Somewhere through this bug of writing reviews and critiquing we have lost sensitivity. I dont expect a film to be logically perfect or a complete surprise package. I expect a film to either entertain me or make me sensitive. So what if its a rehash of old masalas.

Lets take the points of criticism one-by-one
1. There was no humor in the film. It was all too serious - Am sorry! Were you expecting Laurel and Hardy
2. It was immature and unrealistic - Yeah, the last I heard all the college bands got to produce their own albums
3. It was way too subtle - I didnt mind it. In an era where Indian films are characterized by adjectives like dramatic and loud, I appreciate a difference however extreme.
4. The plot is predictable - So? A film is supposed to be about moments - moments that make you smile, cry and say - yeah thats me. I dont mind knowing where the film is heading as long as I want to go in that direction along with the film.

I still vaguely remember wanting to be a TV News reporter when I was a kid. I always used to watch the news channels over and over again. After watching it I used to go to the mirror and say - Till next time its goodbye and goodnight from all of us. I used to write a lot of letters to the editor and post it. The next day I would wake up and turn to the editorial only to hang my head down. But soon it became a regular feature. I slowly started seeing the penultimate and last pages of the magazine section.

Back to the point - Not everybody has a great dream nor does everybody live his dream. But even today, sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and try repeating a few lines or write about issues I feel deeply about. Just because I didnt make a career out of it does not mean I ditch something I like doing. I like to keep it alive because thats who I am. It may not be my identity to others. But it is to me. I owe it to myself. That is something that completes me.

Go watch Rock on with an open mind and you will relate yourself to it.


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Love Story 2030: The One where no one proposes

Note: Apologies to the rest of the cast who are not introduced as yet. I am taking some more time to define the existing characters and the relationships before moving ahead. The title and the phrase OH MY GOD!! are borrowed from the popular TV show FRIENDS.

Characters: Ashok Pujar(M), Puma Chandrashekhar(F), Padmanabhan Swaminathan(M), Nita Nemji Maru(F), Praveen Bhatnagar(M), Shalini(F)

Outside Infinity Mall, Lokhandwala

Paddy: I don't understand. Whats in a last name? Why wouldn't you tell me your last name?
Shalini: I just don't use my last name. So interested? Go to the acads section and look up.
Paddy: Ok..lemme guess. Independent gal wants to chuck her father's name and make a name of her own.
Shalini: Nah...intelligent gal...tryin to make a guy understand it isn't a big deal
Paddy: Hmm....confused guy wants to know who he is going out with
Shalini: Patient gal....still sticks to NO
Paddy: Poor an attempt to make up a conversation...slips out You are adorable
Shalini: Impressed gal, to make the guy feel better acts flattered, looks down and makes drawings with her toes on the ground
Paddy: Hahaha.good are truly wonderful company
Shalini: Hey..listen. I really had a great evening. Thanks for coming out with me and making me feel better.
Paddy: No problem. Thats what friends are for and if it really means that much to you I wanna say I would love to come out with you again.
(Both just stare at each other for a while)

Suddenly a sound comes....Padddyyyyyyy!!!!

Oh!! Man.!! Not today.

Paddy: Hey Nita...What are you doing here?
Nita: What are you doing here outside? I thought you were supposed to be inside, having dinner at Red Box.
Paddy: As a matter of fact we are heading inside.
Nita: We?
Paddy:Oops..agar mai kahoon ki mai isko leke aaya hoon to band baja degi. I actually "accidentally" met Shalini here at Infinity mall and we decided to have dinner.
Nita: But Puma is waiting for you inside.
(Praveen Saale! I told you to tell her Red Box, Bandra. Now poor Ashok would be waiting at Bandra.)
Shalini: Why would Puma wait for Paddy(pinching Paddy's back)
Paddy: Argghhhhh! Haan..why would she?
Nita:(looking at Paddy) I know you are gonna propose to Puma.
Shalini: WHAT?
Paddy: WHAT?
Nita: I overheard your conversation with Ashok.
Shalini(gives a long stare and then says slowly): Well..then you shouldn't keep her waiting. Carry on (and walks away)
Nita: Whats the matter with her?
Paddy: WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU? You have got it all wrong. You go inside and give company to Puma. I'll talk to her. I'll come and explain

Paddy chasing Shalini

Paddy: Hey! Cmon. You know she is crazy. Kuch bhi bolti hai. I wasn't gonna propose to Puma. This is all a big mistake.
Shalini: Well..then who was?
Paddy(mumbles): Praveen you screwed things up..Hey Bhagwan! Kaunsi musibat mei fas gaya mai. Praveen. Haat laga to mar gaya tu.
Shalini: Praveen what?
Paddy: Nothing. Just loud thinking.
Shalini: Praveen was going to propose to Puma?
Paddy: (in order to make a joke) I bet Nita wouldn't love to hear that
Shalini: Oh My God! Praveen and Nita. So Puma is just a cover up?
Paddy: No..Nono...

The phone starts to ring and its Ashok. Ab mar gaya Paddy.

Paddy(to Shalini): Listen! Ashok is on call. Just tell him am not available. Ask him to come immediately to Red Box, Andheri. Immediately. I'll go have a fag and come
Shalini: Ok...
Picks up the phone
Ashok: Saale! Maa^%^.
Shalini: Well!! Am not too flattered hearing that. Though not the words, I'll pass on the intent to him.
Ashok: Hey Shalini! Can you tell him he is an asshole as well? I'd really appreciate that
Shalini: Sure. He asked me to tell you there is a change in plan. Come to Red Box, Andheri. Immediately!!
Ashok:sighs...Ok..I guess I dont have a choice. Who else is up?
Shalini: Puma, Nita and Praveen and Praveen is going to propose to Nita. Isn't that exciting? Come fast.
Ashok: WHAT!! This is unbelievable! Puma is there??
Shalini: Thats what the WHAT was for. If you didn't hear me PRAVEEN AND NITA AND THE BIG NIGHT.
Ashok: Praveen told you and didn't tell me? Stay put. I am coming right there to kick some ass.

On the other side

Paddy: Ek kaam tujhse tik se nahi hota. Kya bola tha maine. Puma ko Red Box, Bandra bhej.
Praveen: Abe Chu^%&. Agar Nita ko pata chala ki maine Puma ko bulaya hai to woh meri ga^&* na maar legi. Isliye...
Paddy: Isliye.???
Praveen: Isliye maine Nita ko bola ki Paddy Puma ko Red Box bulana chahta hai.
Paddy: WHAT? I don't believe this. To tere karan ye sab kuch natak hua
Praveen: Aur kya karta be? Tune hi to bulaya tha.
Paddy:Abe maine Ashok ke liye kiya tha. Ab tu idhar aa, sab kuch resolve kar.
Praveen: Haan am on my way. Nita called me up and told me ki koi Puma ko propose karne wala hai. Jaldi aa jao.
Paddy: Haila!! Us ladki ka mooh band hi nahi rehta.
Praveen: So you knew about it? Ashok told you and didn't tell me? Stay put. I am coming right there to kick some ass

Outside Red Box

Shalini: Nita, there is something you must know.
Nita: Whatever it is tell me later. After the Paddy-Puma thing.
Shalini: Thats the thing. Its not Paddy. Its Praveen.
Nita: (mumbles)What! But Praveen told me....
Shalini: It wasnt Paddy that you heard inside the room. It was Praveen. And the gal is not Puma. It is you. I just thought I'll tell you in advance so that you know..
Nita: (surprised) Well... I never thought...I dont know...Praveen....I didnt know it was coming... (thinking) Like hell I didn't know....I totally love him....Thank God its finally tonight that he is going to ask...

Half hour Later. Inside Red Box.

Everybody is staring at each other and thinking to themselves.

Nita: I hope its as romantic as I thought it would be. Oh! My God ! Am so excited and nervous.
Shalini: What a night! It would have been a disaster if it were Paddy and Puma. Why would it be a disaster and why am I so concerned? So what if it were the both of them? No it cant be. Oh. God! Please let me not think about it.
Puma: Paddy and me!! Why Nita? Why did you have to tell me? How do I say NO to Paddy and still not lose him as a friend? What the hell is Ashok doing? Does he know? Oh God! Please tell me what I should do
Ashok: I CANNOT believe Praveen told Paddy and not me. I am his best friend and he switched loyalties. God forbid, he is in for some major ass-kicking.
Praveen: Saala! Haraami. Hamesha mujhse kehta tha mai hi uska acha dost hoon. Bataya bhi nahi aur Paddy ko bataya. Bhagwan kasam, uski aaj mai gaa$% maarta hoon.
Paddy: OH MY GOD! This cannot be happening to me. Paanch logon se ek hi raaat mei pitne waala hoon.

Puma:Why is Ashok quiet? This isnt done. Am gonna tell him how I feel. And stop this before it turns embarrassing.
Nita: I dont think this way he is ever gonna ask me. I will say yes to him.

Talking starts:

Puma: Ashok! Can I talk to you outside for a sec?
Ashok: Sure
Paddy: No..Nono...
Shalini: Why is Puma going outside with Ashok bothering him? This isn't right. Let them go. Sit down and have your food.
Paddy: Yeah. But Ashok.Usse pehle can I talk to you outside for a sec?
Ashok: She asked me first. So I'll talk to you later.

Both Ashok and Puma walk outside

Paddy: This isnt happening. OH MY GOD!!!
Nita: Praveen!! Can I talk to you outside for a sec?
Paddy(turns to Shalini and whispers): You did not, did you?
Shalini lowers her head.
Paddy: Nononono...nonono.... No....No... This is not what all of us came for. If its gonna be private speaking I think I should let you gals speak and take a moment with Praveen outside.
Shalini: What are you? A moderator for all discussions?
Praveen: Chod na. Kya load le raha hai

Both Praveen and Nita take a walk outside

Shalini: So that leaves the two of us. What do you want to have?
Paddy(not paying attention, watching outside through the glass door): Whatever you want. Just go ahead.
Shalini: Would you stop staring outside? Thats so insensitive.
Paddy: What? Insensitive..I....I...was just looking...

Everybody has a quite smile and come inside.

At the table, all silence.

Paddy(embarrassing break of the silence): Hey, Hey! Guess what!! The food has come. Aren't we all so excited?
Nita: I'll just goto the washroom and come. You gals wanna come?
Paddy: Hey! Hey!! No more talking alone. I wanna come too.

Everybody stares at Paddy, look of disgust.

Praveen(smiling): Dude, its the ladies washroom. We all want to as well. But lets not make that obvious. You gals carry on.

In the ladies washroom

Nita: Praveen proposed to me and I said Yes.
Shalini: Thats great. Congratulations!!
Puma: Ashok proposed to me and I said Yes.
Nita: WHAT?
Shalini: WHAT?
Nita: But what about Paddy? I hope he isn't upset.
Shalini: Oh! He will not be. He better not be. He will just be happy for the two of them.
Puma: I asked Ashok to tell Paddy. Its his responsibility.
Nita: This is so great. This is awesome.

Back in the table

Paddy: So what the fuck happened outside?
Ashok: Well. Puma kinda said some arbit things I couldn't understand. She said she really likes me and I said Yes. So that means....
Praveen: Hey. Mera bhi...Nita came and told me I have nothing to be afraid of and she likes me as well. So I said thats great and said Yes.
Ashok: I still CANNOT believe you didn't tell me you were gonna propose.
Praveen: I CANNOT believe you didn't tell me you were gonna propose.
Ashok: But I didn't. She did.
Praveen: Same with me. So who was gonna propose?
Ashok(to Paddy): Do you mind telling us whats happening?
Paddy: OH MY GOD!!! I CANNOT believe whatever is happening is actually happening.
Ashok: So?
Paddy: Well...I didnt.
Paveen: What I didnt?

Praveen's room: 4 hours earlier

Ashok: Abe kahan jaa raha hai? Andar aa na.
Praveen: Ye assignment prof ko submit karke aata hoon.

Inside the room

Paddy: Aao ji romeo saab.
Ashok: Chod na yaar. Dimaag satak raha hai. I wanna take Puma out to this great restaurant at Bandra called Red Box. Pooch ne me dikkat ho rahi hai.
Paddy: Whats so great in asking a gal out? Propose karna hi mushkil hai.
Ashok: Kya? Tu?
Paddy: Haan. Yaar, I think its time I told Shalini how I felt.
Ashok: Acha aise karte hain tu meri waali ko Red Box bula. Mai tujhe sikhata hoon kaise bolna chahiye.
Paddy: Done. Aaj Puma Red Box, Bandra mei tujhe milegi. Pakka.
Ashok: Great!! Just go tell her I love you.
Paddy(looks at Ashok clumsily): Wow! Thats great help
Ashok: Kya! Bas bol dene ka. Nahi to second best sms kar de.
Paddy: Hell NO!
Ashok: Kyon?
Paddy: Pata nahi. Something inside tells me sms is just a mess.
Ashok: What does that something inside you tell will work?
Paddy: That it will not work. (smiles)
Ashok: Dekh!! Take her to Red Box, Andheri. That romantic setting will take care of the rest. Thats what I would do if it were Puma.
Paddy(laughs): So you think I should go ahead and propose to Puma?
Ashok(laughs): You bet.

Outside the room, Nita overhears the last two lines.


Written and Directed by,

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Love Story 2030 - Part 1

The seed of this post was sown about a year ago in Mansi's room. 429 had become our hangout den after 623. The usual characters: Mansi, Maru, Atlee and batty. We were pulling each others' legs when one of us mentioned how our children would be. Though it didn’t last more than 2-3 mins, it struck me that it would surely make for a good read. So how do you make a story out of that? How about making them study in NITIE together?? Hmm...something more. They don’t know that their parents were the 623 gang. Hmm...Interesting...70s bollywood effect. But kinda lacks punch.Fine....they fall in love with each other. Yeah that’s right. It’s Love Story 2030. Fasten your seatbelts.

Characters - These are just for Part 1, the other character will be introduced in Part 2
Ashok Pujar(M), Puma Chandrashekhar(F), Padmanabhan Swaminathan(M), Nita Nemji Maru(F), Praveen Bhatnagar(M)

Situation - Eco Project

Place - Room Number: 429

All of them look at each other as to who should start the discussion.

Ashok(whispers): Yaar ek baat bata tera naam Padmanabhan se Paddy kaise ban gaya?

Paddy: Yaar meri mom pakka south indian hai. Isliye Padmanabhan naam rakh diya. Mere papa ne bohot protest kiya ki future mei ise problems honge. Par kisi ne suna hi nahi. Padmanabhan kisi bhagwan ka naam hoga. Isliye mera naam mere papa ne hi a.k.a Paddy rakh diya aur ghar mei jo bhi dost aate hain unko bhi bol diya ki iska naam Paddy hai. To mai Padmanabhan se Paddy ban gaya.

Ashok: To seedha bolna tha ghar mei bulate hain. Itna gyaan kyon sunata hai tu.

Praveen (Jumps on to the bed where both of us are sitting): Abe kis ladki ke baare mei baat kar rahe ho? I'll also join.

Paddy (embarrassed that the other two girls are left alone): Kuch nahi. Let’s start the discussion. So lets all introduce us.

Introduction over and now everyone again stares at one another as to now what.

Ashok(Trying to break the ice): We should have more of our meetings outside lets say at dinners or coffee days. Kaam bhi ho jayega. Ek break bhi milega.

Praveen: Kuch kiya hi nahi. Kisse break lena hai. Abe paisa nahi kharch karna. Idhar hi karte hain.

Puma: Actually we should go out. It’s at least better than staying at this place. It looks like they have not repaired this room since the 90s.

Ashok (winks at Puma): Haan. She is right. Our mood will be better outside as well. We will be able to work better.

Nita: Arre...jaldi decide karo naaa.....mujhe tayyar hone ke liye half hour lagega.

Paddy (smiling): Nothing doing. First we split the work. Nita and Praveen - You research on the internet and get the material. Give the material to me and Puma. We will work on the document and then we pass it on to Ashok. guys keep discussing. I'll have a fag and come.

Inside the room - Nita and Praveen get to discussing and Ashok is upto his usual stuff.

Ashok: So are you new to Bombay?

Puma: Yup. My mom and Dad are from Hyderabad.

Ashok: Its interesting cos your Hindi sounds more Mumbaish.

Puma: I actually studied in Pune and stayed at my relatives' place. Kal mujhe unse milne Pune jaana hai. Par bolne se dar lagta hai. This Paddy seems to be very strict.

Ashok: No. Not really. He is a kind a show-off. Dikhata hai waise. Waise koi load nahi hai. Mai Praveen ko janta hoon. Woh internet mei kaam ki cheez kam dekhta hai

On the other side

Nita: Kam karne kab baithna hai?

Praveen: Arre kaam ko rehne do. Tujhe lagta hai Ashok aur Puma kaam ke baare mei baat kar rahe hain. Waise hi timepass karte hain, coffe peete hain. movie dekte hain. I have got some old videos and songs that my dad passed onto me.

Nita: Oh...Is that so? I would like to see those movies. Actually my parents lived in a village and there was no computer in the house. My dad wouldn’t allow me to touch his laptop. I overheard him telling my mom that I might see the TP folder on his laptop. He has been preserving that for over 20 years. Wonder what’s in that.

Praveen: Koi load nahi hai. You can come to my room.

Nita: Sure.

Paddy enters the room.

Ashok: Abe itna time kyon laga

Paddy: Abe woh Dean Anil Pundir ka phone aa gaya. Uski beti ki shaadi mei media arrange karwana hai. Mai kya ghanta hoon. Ye saala insti kabhi nahi sudhrega.

Nita and Puma leave the room and the three of us get to talking.

Praveen: Abe chodd na. Load kya le raha hai. Ashok ki tarah rehna chahiye. Tere jaate hi lag gaya Puma ke saat.

Ashok: Kuch bhi ho mai tere jaise Ambuja nahi maar raha tha ladki ke saamne.

Paddy: Ye saala Ambuja kya hota hai.

Ashok: Abe kuch nahi. Mere papa ke ek dost the Andy naam se. Woh hamesha PJ marte rehte the. Usko hi Ambuja bolte hain.

Paddy: Andy se yaad aata hai. Mere papa ke ek dost the jo apne kisse Andy ke naam se sunaate the. Kahin woh tere papa to nahin.

Ashok: Oye. Baap pe mat jaa.

Paddy: Chal..chodd.. (Winks at Ashok) Acha suna Nita ka koi boyfriend hai. (Both look at Praveen)

Ashok: Haan suna thoda dicey hai unka relationship.

Praveen: Ghanta saalon. Aur koi topic nahi hai. Waise bhi Puma koi kam babe nahi hai and she is single as well (winks at me)

Paddy: Haan yaar. Mazaa ayega uske saat kaam karne mei. Isliye maine usko apne team mei le liya doc banane mei.

Ashok: doc ke baare mei...Humne decide kiya hai ki mai aur Puma doc banyenge. Aur tu presentation banade.

Paddy: Mereko Ch@#$# samajh ke rakha hai. Mai kyon na uske saat karoon.

Ashok: Kyonki kal woh Pune jaa rahi hai

Praveen: To tu doc bana. Woh dono presentation banaenge.

Ashok: Nahi yaar. Kal mujhe bhi kaam hai. Mujhe use chodne station jaana hai.

Praven and Paddy break into laughter.

Paddy: To ye Ashok Travels suru kar raha hai. Kya rate hai be.

Ashok (blushing): Abe chod na..

Paddy: Abe tum dono pair mei kaam karoge to mai kya.......... you dont want me to complete the sentence...

Ashok: Mujhe pata hai tu bhadkega. Isliye maine Shalini ko bol diya ek aur vacancy hai humaare group mei. Woh kal se join karegi humei. Tu uske saat kaam kar.

Paddy: Ye kaun hai. Naam aajtak suna nahi. Saala aajkal MBA mei 800 log padte hain aur 12 batches hain. Kaunse batch mei kaun hai samajh mei nahi aata.

Ashok: Mere batch ki hai.

Paddy: Acha poora naam to bata.

Ashok: Khud dekh le.

Ye Shalini kaun hai. Kiski beti hai. Stay tuned to this space.

Written and Created by

The batty