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, October 21, 2007

Where is the love?

Love happens in unsuspecting classrooms during boring Geography classes; love happens at the office coffee vending machine where the coffee itself is insipid and very short on sugar; love happens with dweller in opposite balcony even if dad of doe eyed beauty is grumpy owner of an old wooden hunting rifle. Crux of it is – love happens in the most commonplace of places in the most expected of times. And when it happens, the sense and sensibility section in the attic is shut down until further notice and the hormones are kicked into a vigorous state of overdrive. Dopey eyed Bollywood movies are suddenly making you all marshmallow mushy on the inside and you just can’t seem to step out of home (even if it is to pick up Deccan Herald from the corner store) without dabbing on cologne.

Ok fine, what we are talking about here is the kind of phenom that happens when your age has still not yet shed the trailing teen at the end of it. Point taken. Even I was digressing I realize. Because what I am actually pondering over is the next phase of Cupid strike; the one that happen to junta when in the marriageable zone. Question pondered over is, what is it that happens first in such cases – the compatibility check and then love or love and then compatibility check. Compatibility check, what you ask me. Caste, creed, sub sect, sub-sub sect, the works. The complete taxonomic drill down, that would have made even Karl Linnaeus look semi-pro.


Iyengar classmate doing masters in the States has fallen in love and is getting married you hear. Oh brilliant. The same dude who refused to even eat with us at restaurants, only because fourteenth item on the menu was Sheekh kabab. Please tell me his love interest is Mallu Syrian Christian. Or even better, tell me she’s Chinese and they apparently fell in love over a C program. ‘No, da, she’s Iyengar as well. Same sub sect and all. Even remotely in the same family tree I hear’. Holy crap. Tell me it’s framed. You can’t find love with such pin point accuracy, I say. And if he’s actually plain lucky to have found love within the clan, should he not try the super lotto?


P.S: Any resemblance to any character, living or dead is purely co-incidental and in such cases solely for inspiration only. And if the efforts at humour, despite best efforts of the author are still not appreciated, please feel free to let me know and I shall convey the abuses to Siege (who was inspirational in bringing up this topic over lunch today, as I waged a clumsy war, chopsticks in hand)


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Angels and Demons - in pint sizes

It was the summer of 1993 and we had new neighbours. Cousin was shadow fighting, when he looked out of the key hole and saw them moving in. They’ve got a cute chubby little one, he told me later that evening. And true he was. I had confirmation myself, when I was doing errands (quarter kg tur dal and one packet pappadam types) for mom a couple of days later. A smart, smiling couple and the little one, cute and chubby like cousin had described; perched up on daddy’s shoulder with a little pony tail and all. She was mumbling something to her father when I opened the door and barged out. Freeze. Mumbling stops mid sentence and she looks at me; face devoid of any emotion whatsoever. ‘Hello’, the mummy of the little one smiled. I smiled back coyly and ran away. Doing errands in those days were kinda bureaucratic you see; for every errand I ran, I’d eke out enough money for a small five star or a packet of biscuit. Small joys. But just returns for the investment of labour all the same.

A few weeks later, mom brought little Jove home. She was a sweetheart. And cousin and me took turns in carrying her around from one room to the other, showing her things as uninteresting as ‘look ma, fan’ or ‘cow standing there - see’. She sat perched up as I had seen her the first day, devoid of any emotion whatsoever. And clinically, a quarter of an hour later, she would start like an alarm snooze ‘Daddu,daddu,daddu…..’ And our vain attempts at showing her the fan one more would as expected fall face down flat. The ‘daddu’ siren would if not heeded, culminate in a slight curl of the lips and gentle welling of tears in her bead like eyes. At this threshold point in time, we’d open the door and rush out to hand the baby over with a ‘Crying uncle’ explanation.

But kids are kids. And familiarity breeds friendship. So very soon, the stoic silence transformed into a constant flurry (and at times unintelligible) of childspeak. We learnt as much as she did. ‘What bua ma today’, I would ask her. ‘Egg bua’ she would reply, hardly looking up from the magazine on which she was venting her new found interest for Euclidian geometry. Cousin would come back later and be at his wits end on realizing that it was the latest edition of India Today and the drawings graced exactly those articles which he had not read and were not surprisingly, hyper important.

But as I said, kids will be kids. And familiarity will also breed contempt. So there were days when she would come home, as devil incarnate itself. The ‘I want water; I want sugar to mix in water; I want to pour it all over the bed’ kinda days. Or the days when you have Geography exam (complete syllabus) the following day and the little one is constantly banging on your closed ‘please let me study’ door wanting to play a round of that horrid teacher-teacher. Or the days when you actually play teacher-teacher but she would not allow the student (you) to attend class lying down. Those are the days when you want to whack her with plastic ruler, but you can’t because if she cries who the fuck would take her home and pretend as though nothing really happened. You can’t take her home and say ‘She’s hungry uncle. Good night’. Disappear.


P.S: Jove and folks moved out of the apartment a few years later. But when I met her a year back or so, she was this tall pretty girl whom I would never have guessed was the same one whom I played an improvised form of cricket with many years back. And when I asked ‘How are you ma’, in childspeak, both of us were embarrassed.

So are kids fun? Are kids a menace? I can’t seem to get opinionated about it to be honest.

Inspiration for this blog: Colleague’s daughter who claps her hands excitedly on seeing me every morning, almost as though saying ‘I’m gonna have so much more fun at school than you at office’.


Sunday, October 07, 2007

Eternal travails of the vegeterian mind

If you have friends who are vegetarian, I think you should be kind to their leafy eating habits. After all, vegetarian food is healthy, animal friendly and simplistically no frills attached. However, if you happen to be traveling exotic European nations with your herbivore friends, then you might have a slight problem. Lettuce and tomato are vegetarian agreed, but how the fuck do you convince the bloke at the counter that you do not want the B of the BLT. Anyways, provided they can sort themselves out and live on Croissants and double chocolate chip muffins and let you savour the uninhibited joys of Spanish tapas or unpronounceable ‘what did I just order for’ French entrees’ its all fair and square. Let us assume not, but in case your friends are of the ‘we eat veg’ and of the complaining variety, then I am afraid you’ve got no go but to shoot them. Preferably, at point blank range. Allow me people, to give you a random sample of how life with a minimal sample set of choices can get extremely stifling. Not always for the proud vegetarian alone. But also for the others who unfortunately have to share the table.


Scene: Random restaurant somewhere in Bangalore. Table for two. Hunger levels dangerously high. Menu on the table proclaims it’s Chinese. You don’t care. The décor is all dragon like and the place is called Chopsticks. Obviously it had to be Chinese. But simple things not registering. Reason: as mentioned earlier – hunger levels dangerously high.

You run through the menu and there is instant dilation of the pupils. Chicken drumsticks. Probably with silver foil at the end. Probably, four or six pieces; sticking out of the chinaware like the radiating sun. Probably, with a chili sauce dip in the middle. What joy. “Chicken drumsticks da”, you announce more of an order and less of a suggestion. “Good choice. I like drumsticks. Preferably in sambar though”. “One vegetable spring roll, boss”. Order made. Friend looks at you like you never spoke at all. “Veg Hakka noodles or Schezwan fried rice - veg?”

You fumble for the non existent double barrel Heckler and Koch. How you wish…


Scene: Zurich, Switzerland. The last couple of days has taught you that in any Swiss city you turn left at the station and the fourth shop on the left has to be a McDonalds. Haha. It is. The first feel of falling snow on your face. You want to convince yourself that it’s a great feeling. You will probably go onto tell it was. But it’s freakin’ cold and the last thing you want to be doing is stupid things like standing in the snow. Veggie friends almost give a high five on spotting McDonalds. You are pissed that you are not trying Nordsee, where the king prawns are big and pink and stately. You settle for a chicken sandwich while the boys order something else that you don’t bother with. Dispensing euros is a new found challenge and we all feel fairly satisfied when it’s done with. I vaguely remember my good TamBram friend telling ‘dinner pramadham’.

The train to Interlaken the following day was at ten past nine. And by Swiss standards that means ten past nine. Not nine past nine or eleven past nine. Veggie boys convince me that because of Swiss train accuracy, we have no go but to pick up breakfast from you know where – fourth shop on the left - McDonalds. We make quick take away purchases and hurry into the plush airline like Interlaken bound train. Hills; vales; floating clouds all whiz past like in a fairyland. Tam Bram friend of mine, is relishing his burger.

‘How is it’, I ask.
‘Too good’ (Chomp. chomp). ‘Had the same thing yesterday. Super pa, so bought two today’.
‘What is it’, I ask.
‘Cheese burger’ (Chomp. chomp).
‘Ok. Cheese burger with what?’
‘Cheese burger with cheese’ (Laughs)
‘Agreed da, but there is a patty in there isn’t it?’
Freeze. More hills, vales and floating clouds whiz past.

Even I don’t eat beef. So we threw the second one at a bin somewhere in Interlaken. Not surprisingly, we didn’t do any more McDonalds on that trip.


Scene: East Anglia, England. It rained this morning. But it’s alright now. Sun shining brightly and all. The Radio one weather broadcaster predicting a cold stay warm kind of night ahead. How weird is this island, you wonder. Friend beams a 100 watt smile – ‘We have a team party tomorrow’. ‘Oh grand’, I reply. Wattage of the smile increases. ‘Barbeque party’. ‘Oh lovely’, I exclaim. ‘Lucky bastard’, I quip in hush undertones.

Following day I don’t meet him. Barbeque party. Obviously.

The day following day, the smile on friend’s face is surprisingly zero watt like. I need to buy one of those for my study lamp, I make mental note.
Me: “How was the party da”
Friend: “Ok”.
Me: “Food?”
Friend: “All beef and pork man. I only had Walkers chips”

Muhahahaha. Obviously, you fool. You can’t have vegetables being grilled in a barbeque party.


P.S: Friend in Chinese restaurant, Tam Bram friend and friend with zero watt smile – no offence meant. Seriously :)

P.P.S: Watch this space for more vegetarian tales. And if you don’t see any then it’s solely because I am at gunpoint and this one has not been well received.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Enemy on the wall

Cousin came running out of the room like he had seen the devil itself. ‘It’s there’, he stuttered; looking as flushed as he generally looks at times like these. I instantly pulled up my dangling legs like a recoiled spring. In the middle of the cot with none of your body parts touching floor or wall, you felt slightly better; safer. Cousin had jumped into the cot as well. It was our safety bunker; far from the dangers lurking on distant walls. The cartoon playing on TV had suddenly turned uninteresting as cousin constantly peered at the bathroom in a ‘we are not safe yet’ manner. It was unsettling. ‘That is a big bastard’, he tells me at last. ‘Must have entered through the mesh door. It’s big and mean and spotted. I was just about to pick the mug and it was there; right on the wall next to me. I was lucky. Or else…’, he stopped mid sentence. I hated it when he stopped mid sentence.

I shivered at the very thought.

Like I shivered when summer vacations came and we visited mom’s relatives in sunny Alleppey. Not that it was a bad place. Nor was it that the folks there were mean. On the contrary, the tranquil rustic charm fascinated little me; used as I was to the prison like confinement of city dwelling. Running to fetch the honey sweet mangoes that fell every now and then with a leafy thud; hurling endless pebbles into the pond with a grim resolve to get that one extra bounce; eating omlettes made from fresh duck eggs , which aunts always claimed were so difficult to get these days. It was all nice and happy; as long as it was bright and sunny and daylight. The horrors started after sundown. I tried staying out for as long as possible. But at nightfall, you had to go back home. Even the hens and the ducks were chased back into their coops. Little me was no exception. I would sit there gingerly, staring at the ceiling. There they were; crawling about in great reptilian splendor. The bloody lizards. Menacing as they looked. Lurking around for the buzzing insects to make that one false maneuver. I would close my eyes every time they lunged for their prey. For fear that they would fall. Somewhere near me, on me, god knows where.

I count once more. Twenty three; twenty four. And the mat is rolled and the bed sheets are spread. There is one behind the tube light. Twenty six. I lie down quickly and cover myself with a blanket. The light is switched off but I know they are still there. Around me. Every where. In the dark, I can still see one lurking reptilian bastard on the ceiling right overhead. Prayer. Closed eyes and a shaky hope that the bloody reptilian grip is firm and trust worthy. And somewhere in time sleep happens and then dawn and then sunlight.


‘Ok, now stop it you two’, mom scowled, eyebrows raised.

‘Please chase it out’, I plead. And when she realizes that there is no other way to get the two of us on terra firma again she takes out the WMD. But lizards are not meant to be killed it seems. So the broom is deployed to harmlessly chase them away. Cousin courageous ventures out to monitor proceedings. I wait. He would come back, smiling. ‘Chased the bastard out. Should have killed him. If it comes back again I tell you….’


‘Have you gone to the bathroom yet? It’s time to sleep.’ mom shouts out after dinner.
‘I’ve gone already’, I lie. Why get out of the bed? Why take a chance?