The Ringside View

My attempts at writing have always been stacked up in old diaries and scraps of yellowing paper.Time,neglect and phylum insecta however, always ensured that the gibberish i scrawled, never would see the prying gaze of an alien eye.Years later, i still scribble once in a while - this time in word documents stored in some obscure folder somewhere in the innards of my C drive.I am unearthing some of them and opening them up for the interested.To get what i call - The Ringside view.

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Location: Bangalore, Karnataka, India

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Two random happenings

Two random happenings on a quiet bank holiday weekend.

Random happening 1:

I walked in, Saturday morning into the hair saloon at the end of the road. The only POA on my agenda for the next 72 hours was this haircut thing.

“Hello. You awrite mate’, the long haired, hair band clad ‘my regular’ barber asked.

“I am awrite. And you?”

“Yeah. Getting along mate”. I noticed that the other bloke with a Mohican cut who I once heard explaining how the world would be a better and light hearted place if all great men went Mohican was not around. ‘George Bush’, he said and cracked up. “And how about Prince Charles”. More laughter. Anyways, he had called in sick or something and Mr. Headband was the only man on duty.

“So what can I do for you mate?”, he asked folded arms.

“Last time you let the number 3 run through”, I said sounding technical. “How about making that a 2 this time. You think I can spike it with a 2”.

“Yeah”, he pondered. “So short and fluffy on the front eh?”

“Yeah”, I agreed, having exhausted all my hair styling jargon.

Sometime in between when the number 2 was lawn mowing though my hair, a police car whizzed past with blaring sirens and all.

Mr. Headband scoffs. “Escort the bastards have got. You reckon they gonna win that chase. Back where I come from they have a BMW or Mercedes for cops like that. Here they got a fuckin Escort”.

“So where are you from mate”, I asked side angled and agreeing totally. “Back at my place, they still chase the crooks on foot”, I did not tell him.

“Sicily”, he says.

“Sicily?”, I blurt excitedly.

“Yeah, Sicily”. I don’t know why but I am excited. My hair dresser is from Sicily. That by the way was random happening one. His last name I hear is Corleone. Really. I swear.

Random happening 2:

I was walking back home this afternoon, sun simmering down like it had scores to settle and I see white sleeveless top, blue jeans, Prada glasses wearing hot blonde lady coming from the opposite side. I look up casually and she smiles. Ok, some good looking ladies do smile arbidly. I smile back.
‘Holla’, she says. Wait a minute. Not too many good looking ladies greet strangers on the road arbidly.

‘Something something Espaniol?’, she asks.

‘Sorry no. English’, I stutter.

“Oh!” she grimaces. Something more in Spanish. I deciphered from her actions as ‘ I thought you were Spanish”. Lady smiles and walks off.

“Oh!” I grimace. Why the fuck am I not Spanish?


Random question: What if I was Spanish?

Random answer to above question: I could have shown her the way to Sainsbury.


Clicking the celebrity

Leicester Square was bustling with people. Revelers, travelers, Londoners. Sunshine streamed down like a happy downpour. It was that kind of a day. When even strangers would smile at you like you were long lost friends; when you could walk into any restaurant and blindly pick anything on the menu, and it would still turn out to be fantabulous. ‘Haagen Daz or Ben & Jerry?’, SS asked me after random-selection-from-the-menu-turned-fantabulous lunch. One of each seemed like a good option but I had a random vision of words like calories, healthy diet and fat free and I narrowed down on Ben & Jerry. What was the clincher, you ask? – easier to pronounce (oh by the way the dietary aspect, only means – ‘No two, only one’)

I realize I have this slight problem with ice cream places; where you stand in a long queue, all the while mentally weighing the exotic options available and suddenly you are bang at the counter – ‘What would you like Sir’. Black out. True humble self takes over – ‘Double scoop – Vanilla’. Freak.

But I am working on not getting overwhelmed with such predictable surprises in life. So I exercised restraint and managed to order something not Vanilla (I think it was double scoop Strawberry. Anyways never mind) while SS delved deep into her double rich chocolate ice cream with chocolate chips and more chocolate or something as exotic to that effect. ‘Was that on the menu?’, I asked doubtfully. ‘Hmmm’, came the reply. Some people have all the luck.


We watched the seven ‘o’ clock show at the Lyceum. And after Simba was crowned king and Sir John’s ‘Circle of Life’ was rendered and the Korean next to us had stopped clicking pictures (the London Zoo was closed that day and there are no lions at the Seoul Zoo I hear. So the bloke decided to come and watch Lion King!!!), we were walking back to the tube station when the glimmer of lights struck us. It was at the theatre playing ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’. Red carpet rolled out and cameras flashing in blinding continuity. And somewhere in the middle of that tumultuous hullah-bullah, a curly haired tuxedo clad smart man was signing autographs with a ‘everyone will get one’ smile. ‘Take photo’, I nudged SS. Mobile out of holster, we clicked some random pictures of the red carpet cacophony and the autograph signing celebrity. Always wanted to be a page 3 journalist. Take random pictures and write random footnotes of random people. What fun. We stepped aside and watched a short Chingi man emerge out of the huddle, buoyantly armed with a digital SLR that in the armory world is probably a Kalashnikov. He could not stop smiling appreciatively as he flipped through the prized photographic moments on his LCD screen. ‘We may not know who the curly haired man is’, I told SS. ‘But he knows and he values it’. The man by now had stepped out of his euphoric alpha state and seeing us looking at him appreciatively approached us gingerly. He then pointed to the huddle out of which he had just emerged and asked – ‘Who it is?’


Sunday, August 12, 2007

A tale of two picnics.

I am pretty convinced that there is an asocial side in me tucked away deep somewhere in my innards. A Mr.Hyde hidden somewhere in my Mr.Jeckyl self (I can’t figure out which of these RL Stevenson characters were good and which one bad, but it’s just a metaphor people, so don’t bother reading too much into it). And this ‘indifferent’, ‘cynical’, ‘where am I’, ‘what are these people doing’ side of me clinically resurfaces every time I go on one of these big social gatherings of the picnic type. On diagnosis, I have a feeling it happened all the way from school. But my memory is vague so I am not drawing any conclusions from these could have been symptoms.

Now picnics, in general are of two types. You have ‘the 15-20 people in a Swaraj Mazda going to some waterfall 100 km away’ type of picnic from the college days. ‘We got caterers from Malleswaram but they wouldn’t make chicken da. So we’ve got curd rice, veg pulao and lotsa beer’. Beaming smile from organizer at the very mention of the golden brew. Scheduled departure at 7 a.m but three women have not turned up yet. 8 o clock we get going, the women had valid reasons supposedly. Something to the effect of ‘we thought it was 8’. Roads bumpy, traffic (which we should have avoided) horrid. By 9, a game of Antakshari and the Mr. Hyde in me has taken over. I am asked to join and I check speedometer readings to evaluate if it’s safe to jump into Bangalore-Mysore Road at 50 kmph. Serpentine highways transform into muddy village roads and in the mid afternoon heat you’re at a stream and an anti climax of a waterfall. I am well and truly Mr.Hyde now. Aloof. Grumpy. Irritable. But the thing is, nobody spots it because in between all this, the booze has happened, and if I’ve become strange the junta have become stranger. Sundown and the return trip. Muddy roads now metamorphosing back into black tarmac as I myself transform back into usual self. End of picnic. Hand shakes, hugs. ‘It was fun no?’ ‘Oh ya.’

The other kind of picnic is the ‘100-200 people in big tourist buses going to nearby resort’ kinda corporate event. These ones actually and contrary to popular belief are bearable and unfold generally like this. You enter big 51 seater Volvo with loads of trepidation. So many children on it people, that you bloody damn think it’s a school trip. You walk past familiar faces on your way to the last seat. Many more married people than last year. Some bastards have hit jackpot with super hot wives. “Hey how are you’, you ask one of the jackpot winners who happens to sit on the same pod near the vending machine. ‘Fine, fine. Back meh seat hai’, he replies, as though in a big hurry to keep you moving. ‘Hellooo, how are you’, you continue, to the boss’ little one. Kid shows faces. You smile; look at boss and say ‘He’s smart isn’t he’. Boss does a ‘Ya, he’s my son’, kinda nod. I was joking you fool.

Resort is big and proceedings begin with a few autistic games. I suddenly feel him rising within me. But the expanse is vast, the crowd too big and escape unnoticeable. In a while it’s every man his own and only lunch can bring them back together like sweetmeat to a swarm of flies. The food is super good. Three chicken dishes and all. Sun down. Prizes for kids, two for manager’s kids and organizers. Smiles. Clap, clap. Everyone jump back into bus and travel back to square one. End of story. Bearable nah?


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

One kick for glory

It eventually rang. I soaked in the shrillness like it were strains of some heavenly music. The history class post lunch was the greatest soporific known to man. We endured; played Chinese checkers; stared out of the window at squirrels scurrying around in gay abandon. The Cholas had built a hundred bloody temples and we needed to cram the height of the gopurams and how they freakin differed from the ones built by the Vijayanagar kings. For what joy, I knew not.

We waited for Ms. Hamalinta to dust the chalk powder off her hand and walk out in grandeur. Bags quickly mounted on shoulders and the randomness soon transformed into a chaotic height ordered double line. Like an unruly army heading for war, we headed for that last hour of school - PT. Hopefully, he’ll just throw the football in our direction and see us disappear in to the dust and grime of the large brown ground.

I looked at my shoes to see if they had been blanco’d. They had. The forgetful were doing a desperate scrawling of chalk on their brown, supposed to be white keds. It often ever helped. As he walked past Arun, I could hear the thud. It hadn’t worked for him again. He walked past me and I stood there motionless; breathless. The cane in his hand glistened and thanks to clean white keds it did not come down upon me that day. The not so lucky sniffed and sobbed. All for a little Blanco. Or for the lack of it.

He signaled to one of the boys who promptly ran into the sports room and resurfaced with three worn out footballs. He picked the first ball, letting it roll a full minute on his fore finger. ‘2B’, he eventually shouted as he kicked the ball skyward. The whole of class B ran roaring towards that object, the mere kicking of which was an act of sporting accomplishment. Another ball. Another kick. ‘2C’ went the cry. Another fifty odd boys disappeared into the far corner of the ground. There was no climax left. We chased the last disappearing ball like madmen at war. And for the next one hour we proved a living breathing example to Darwin’s survival of the fittest theory. Fifty boys of all shapes and sizes, chased, kicked, held and ran with the ball. It was American football, rugby, handball, football all rolled into one. Fifteen minutes of tireless running later, at one magical moment I had the ball rolling towards me in like in a dream. But in that momentary flash of showering glory little did I notice Iman Haider charging from behind me. I touched the ball. Or would like to believe I did. And then Iman swooped down on it like Chengiz Khan and galloped away into the distance ball in hand. I chased, with what seemed like a hundred others in tow, like life itself depended on it.

The bell rang a final time. Another day had come to an end. And for all the dust and grime, it was another ‘I din’t kick the football’ day. Sigh.

[Inspired by a chat conversation I had with a friend earlier today]

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