Monthly Archives: November 2009

Dreams, and subsequent events

Three nights ago

The plane banked steeply over the cliff, as the pilot worked hard to maintain a semblance of control over the machine. It nosed down, slid sideways, slipped into an imaginary slipstream and maintained its steady loss of altitude.

I asked the pilot, “Are we going down?”

The pilot replied, “Not if I can help it.”

From my co-pilot’s chair, I tried to help steer the plane, but it seemed more and more like a losing battle. We were much below the cliff now, where green trees and wild shrubs grew in lush abandon, sunlight giving a sparkling glow to the vegetation.

The plane shook as we hit a treetop and the jagged rocks and undergrowth were now visible from the cockpit. And then the engines died synchronously, leaving a hush filled solely by the howling of the wind. I looked across and the pilot had passed out. The glowing screen showed our height to be 490 metres.

I tried to estimate how much longer we had to hit the ground. It was a simple equation – distance and acceleration due to gravity were my servants. But I seemed to have hit a mental block and the numbers just couldn’t be processed. Frustrated, I tried again from the start. But no, it was too late.

I woke up, in a cold sweat.

Two nights ago

The girl woke up as the not-so-bright sun shined through the not-so-thick curtains of the not-so-large bedroom facing east. She groped around and recovered the other half of her bedsheet. Her boyfriend had left for office already. It was a Thursday and he had a report to finish.

She walked down the hall with the newspaper in her hand to check the breakfast left for her in the dining table, by the maid. Two Aloo Parathas, gradually going cold. She put them in the microwave, poured a glass of orange juice, plonked herself down in front of the TV and tuned into ‘Discovery Travel and Living’. Then she remembered that she had to wash her face.

Back in the bedroom, she rummaged through the cupboard and found her boyfriend’s facewash. ‘Garnier For Men’, it said. “Drat!”, she cursed, “Why did I forget to bring mine!” After debating for a minute, she decided to use the facewash anyway. It won’t hurt if she used a masculine facewash for a day!

After thoroughly dousing her face with a generous amount from the tube and then rinsing it off, she returned to the blaring TV. The show featured a lithe, young woman in Morocco, dancing with the natives. She settled down to watch.

Phut, went the electricity. She cursed the power-starved city and muttered a few words about the style of development. She did not get up though, but sat in the couch waiting for the power to return, for it was a lazy morning after all. Her reflection, holding the glass of orange juice, was visible in the blank TV screen. She sat up with a start. Her reflection…

She ran to the bathroom and stared at the mirror. And screamed as loud as she could, in shock and disgust. Faintly but clearly, her entire face was dotted by a black fuzz – a stubble.

I woke again, with a start.

Last night

The curly-haired boy in the orange t-shirt pushed a flyer into my hands as I entered the office complex.

The pub in the ground floor must be having a promotional drive, I thought. About time – they had been running an empty show for a while.

While in the office, I decided to hit the pub after work. I was feeling a little under the hill and further, it was a good deal, since I drank a lot more than what was worth 300 bucks usually.

The pub was reasonably crowded as I stepped inside at around 7 PM. “The unlimited beer offer”, I told the bartender, and was soon served my first pint. As I sat nursing the cold Corona, I thought of the sign-board again. Wasn’t there a star against the offers? Cursing, I wondered what exactly the fine print had said. I couldn’t remember.

3 pints down, and I’ve had enough. My mood had failed to improve and it was raining outside. I got up to pay my bill but the bartender stopped me.

“You cannot leave, Sir”, he said.

“Why?” I asked.

“Didn’t you read the fine print?” he countered. And handed me the offer notice.

The bartender smiled and handed me the 4th pint. I looked around in panic, searching for an escape route. In vain, as the door was shut and my way to the door was littered with several muscular worthies, all barmen of some kind or the other. Strangely, the other customers had all gone as well – or had they bloated and burst?

I sighed in resignation and drank my 4th. And the 5th and the 6th. On the 7th, I could distinctly feel my belly growing, and by the 9th it had started rumbling faintly. As the bartender, still smiling, passed me the 11th pint, I knew that the breaking point was near. When the first drop of the 12th hit my stomach, I heard the ominous sound. Another drop, there was a distinct ‘pop’ and the bartender was deluged in a flood of beer and what not.

I woke up as usual, a fever rampant in my system.

Today

I had to summon all my remaining strength to get up from bed today morning. The last three nights had been terrible, the nightmares seemed to have sapped half my strength. The idea of going to office was utterly preposterous, and I decided to stay in bed the whole day.

By afternoon, my fever had increased substantially and I started shivering. I dragged myself over to the bathroom, to hunt for a paracetamol in the medicine cabinet. Futile, as all it contained was a bottle of antiseptic, some bandages and a tube of facewash. The brand was ‘Garnier for Men’. I extracted the tube from the cabinet and looked up at the mirror. My face stared back at me, the chin covered by a 3-day stubble.

“Really?” I asked myself, “But that doesn’t make any sense.” Nevertheless, I shaved. For good measure, I tossed the facewash outside the window to the construction site next door.

What next, I wondered. Tentatively, I took a sheet of paper and a pencil, and started writing.

Bah, a paltry ’10’ had flummoxed me? The solution seemed so simple in retrospect, yet surreal, and I stepped out of the house, wrapped in thick clothes to curb my shivering. The pub was open, and I ordered a pint of Corona. I felt the warmth running down my throat and relief, albeit temporary, flooded my system. I had a second pint for luck and a final one for the road. I paid up and smiled at the bartender. He wasn’t smiling – maybe it wasn’t a good business day.

Now, Tonight

I ask the pilot, “Are we going down?”

The pilot replies, “Not if I can help it.”

Nevertheless, our descent continues unabated and I notice the greenery around us and the rocky ground beneath us. The engines spurt and die and I glance at the display ahead of me. 490, it glows and I try to remember. The pilot is unconscious. I rack my brains, I know I have it stored away somewhere. As a lone bird drifts by the cockpit window, I remember.

TEN, I shout. Its TEN. TEN is the solution. I sense closure, I turn to my right. The pilot jerks awake. She grabs the joystick and pulls up. First one engine and then the other whine back to life and the plane lifts off, a few feet from the ground.

We rise higher and find our bearings to move up to safer altitudes. The pilot looks across at me and smiles. She smells of aftershave and beer.

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The Great and most Post-Modern city of Thirontharam

As I was shampooing my right eye during the bath this morning, it crossed my mind that the posts here are too long (Yes, I think of this blog even when in the bathroom. The obsession!). Hence, I’m posting a much smaller one today on the Great and Most Post-Modern City of Thirontharam, where malls are LOLed at, pubs are puked at, but Madammas are as common as Madrasis (Yes, S.Indians are allowed to call themselves Madrasis). Aforementioned right eye started watering just about then, and all thoughts of the blog vanished in a red mist of tears.

Oh, for the non-Mallus, a Madamma is what we call a foreign woman in Malayalam. The word is a cunning portmanteau of ‘Madame’ and ‘Amma’, which was coined by M.A.Saju Lal, owner and proprietor of “M.A.Saju Massages, since 1960”, a very popular massage parlour in the Kovalam beach. According to this Lal, the honorific ‘Amma’ lures the foreign dames into a false sense of security, which prompts them to pay roughly 10,000 bucks for a full body massage. A foolproof business model which operates on the principle, ‘Have the cake and eat it too and get paid for it’. Kuttappan had a longer take on Thirontharam city incidentally, but it did not feature Madammas and is hence below par, as my friend GoaCHaW would testify.

M.A.Saju with a prospective client

The enthusiasm and desire to make the Great and Most Post-Modern City of Thirontharam the numero uno city in the world has led the powers-that-be in the land to take desperate measures. The celebrity MP from the district and the Chief Minister of the state have resorted to innovative methods to deliver a few Volvo buses, which would take the city up another level of awesomeness, and leave London, New York and Paris biting the dust.

As the MP tweeted recently,
“Climax was delivery of 7 low-floor Volvo a/c buses for Tvm at big event in stadium w Chief Minister. After speeches tried to go for a ride”

His passion to ride the CM even after the climax is laudable. The future is bright for the G.a.m.P-M City of Thirontharam.

The Life and Times of Appukuttan Nair

On a fateful night in the abnormally long winter of the year 1985, Appukuttan Nair was born, heralded by thunder from the heavens and the screeching of a dozen hyenas.

His mother had had a childhood crush called Appu, who had plucked tasty raw mangoes for her from the highest branches of the tree by the schoolyard, and to whom she had promised remembrance through her son’s name. His (Appukuttan’s, not Appu’s) father was affectionately called Kuttan by his (Appukuttan’s father’s, not Appukuttan’s) mother when he was a little boy, and the devoted man wanted his (tread carefully here – Appukuttan’s father’s, not Appukuttan’s nor Appu’s) child to have the same name. Thus, after a heated discussion spanning twelve nights and twelve days and several broken plates, the couple decided on the name Appukuttan. Little did they know of The Curse then.

Appukuttan was very proud of his name during his formative years. He was roll number 2 in the class, which brought him several benefits. When the class teacher of class 5-B, in a fit of irritation at the gang of naughty kids at the back, asked the students to sit according to their roll numbers, Appukuttan ended up being preceded by Aparna and followed by Asha and Asin. The rest of the year was spent in a happy haze of pen-fighting and playing ‘Flames’ with the 3 girls in the first bench. Appu was one happy Kuttan.

And The Curse was still quite dormant.

Summers went by and Appukuttan turned out like any true-blue Mallu should – he grew tall, grew a paunch and grew a gruesome moustache. His loving parents and the understanding society bestowed upon him tremendous freedom and opportunity to choose his field of education, a choice between Engineering and Medicine. After having chosen Engineering due to his fear of blood, and having chosen an engineering college in Cochin due to the male : female ratio of 1 : 1 in that blessed institution, Appukuttan shifted base from his small town to the city of Mosquitoes, Manholes and the Marine Drive.

On his first day in the college, he was ruthlessly ragged by the senior boys due to his moustache. They had him pull at the magnificent specimen with as much force as he could muster, to prove that it wasn’t a fake. By then, an enterprising senior had pasted a white label marked ‘Veerappan’, on the backside of his white shirt. But the worst was to follow. The emotionally repressed senior girls caught hold of him, and mocked his name in so cruel a manner that Appukuttan had to bite back tears with much effort. He couldn’t believe how twisted these girls were, but he had started to believe in The Curse, from that very instant. He also missed the sweet, smiling Asin, always ready for a Name-Place-Animal-Thing game and constantly giggling over his many unfunny jokes.

Appu was mercifully asked to return to his seat when the seniors pried a prettier pie to prey on, out of her hidey-hole. But gone were the days of Aparna, Asha and Asin. His new neighbours were Jijo, Lijo and Bijo. As Appu sat wondering how the combined length of their names was less than the length of his, (stop counting you nerds, I exaggerated!), the seniors had caught hold of Jijo. While a shaking Jijo confessed that his mom Jincy and dad Joseph had literally carved his name out of their two names, Appukuttan thought of The Curse again. Lijo’s mommy and daddy turned out to be Linda and Joseph (no, a different one), while Bijo’s turned out to be Beeranikka and Josephine (Ha, a clever inter-religious twist!)

Assignment deadlines flew by, special supplementary exams crawled by, and Appukuttan trudged his way through college. When he found ‘A.Nair’ listed in the merit list for admission to a prestigious post-graduate institution, his joy knew no bounds – Even though his close relatives expressed surprise and shock that he was going all the way to Lucknow to study a 2-year course which awarded a post-graduate diploma and not even an MBA. “Why son, didn’t you get admission in Kerala for anything? Why go all the way to North India for just a diploma?” was the query which rang through Appu’s family circles those days, but he kept his focus on the 3 letters I, another I and an M which preceded the diploma.

Within a week of his new life in Lucknow, Appukuttan’s name had been pronounced in 42 different ways, ranging from the absurd to the lovable. The smiling Surd next seat called him Attacuppa Nair, blissfully unaware of his mistake. The weirdly accented professor called him Atacama Nair, the lady in the accounts department called him Atopical Nair and the obnoxious fatso in the class called him Abe Kutte Nair. He thought of his mom, and of his dad, and of The Curse he bore.

A curse is eternal, and the cursed is doomed eternal, but Love conquers all. And so it was, in the Summer of ’09, when the birds were singing and life was surging, that Appukuttan Nair met the lady of his dreams (as in, his soulmate). It happened after he took up his first job with an American company in Texas, and she was a fellow fresh graduate with a diploma of her own.
Her mane was so fragrant,
Her name was elegant,
Her man was so gallant.
Eventually Vyjayanti Agrahara Ramanujam fell for Appukuttan’s charms and the two became lovers, never to be separated.

If the Ahujas and the Aroras in India couldn’t pronounce his name, what chance did Appukuttan have with the Texans! So as they always do, they abbreviated and called him Aku Nair. Perfectly acceptable, and even a bit cute, thought Appukuttan. Until he heard what they called his soulmate, his sweet Vyjayanti, in a raucous office gathering, one Friday evening. Vy…..Ag…..Ra. Yes, fate had played a cruel joke on him again. Appukuttan knew that moment, with Vyjayanti crying on his shoulders and the big, burly Texans going blue in the face biting back their mirth, that The Curse had no escape from.

He lifted her face, gazed into those deep, dark, overflowing pools, and whispered, “No child of mine shall be cursed with a name. Nameless shall she be, until she chooses her name.”

12 Hours

6:30 AM – Wakes up when the son puts on a filmy song at full throttle on the radio downstairs.

6:35 AM – Extracts self from the wife.

6:38 AM – Climbs down the stairs, almost trips over the cat. A well-aimed kick sends it flying to the closed terrace door, from where it bounces back to the floor. Cat departs with tail held high after sending a seething look in my general direction.

6:39 AM – Music still blaring from the radio.

6:40 AM – Approaches son from behind. Takes him by the shirt and hauls him off to his room. Returns to the radio, unplugs it and smashes it down on the dining table. Music stops, I sigh.

6:43 AM – In son’s room. Abuses him with the choicest words for listening to vulgar Bollywood songs. He sulks, pretending to peruse his textbook. His mobile rings. The ringtone is that Punjabi song from Love Aaj Kal.

6:45 AM – Uncontrollable rage. Takes the mobile phone, throws it down with as much force as I could muster. It does not break, it is a brick Nokia. Stamps on it repeatedly until the circuitry is smashed and the phone looks like a slaughtered lamb with its guts spilling out.

6:48 AM – Feeling better. Kid is nowhere to be seen. Must have run off to his Aai.

7:52 AM – Dresses in crisp white. In a very jolly mood as I leave the house. Can make it to the station for the 8:25 train to Matunga.

8:06 AM – A silver Skoda Superb rushes past me and its left rear wheel lands squarely in the puddle ahead, filled with rainwater from yesterday’s downpour. My kurta gets drenched completely. The car has a UP license plate. Acts quickly and decisively. Picking up a sharp stone from the gutter, takes aim at the rear window of the speeding car. Throws.

8:07 AM – Thankful for the early hour as the road is deserted. No one is around to see the bleeding little slumboy, crying by the roadside. Must work on my aim.

8:21 AM – Reaches the station just in time. The sign says that my train is in platform 2.

8:24 AM – Rushes onto platform 2. Can see the train approaching the platform. The loudspeaker is blaring the same information in 3 languages……Three?

8:27 AM – The big stick I’ve picked up from a languid porter comes in quite handy while ransacking the announcements office. The woman and the man inside had run outside when they saw me coming in with the stick. Not before I kicked the man’s butt on his way out though. After doing a thorough job with the CD playing the recorded announcements, the Station Manager makes his entrance. I threaten him. The man’s an idiot – he attempts to call the police. I dial the emergency number from my phone and explain the situation to Bhau. Gives the phone to the Station Manager. After listening for a minute, his face distinctly pales. I smirk.

8:53 AM – What if I missed the earlier train? Feels positively ecstatic. I’m waiting in the platform for the next train. There are no announcements.

9:47 AM – Reaches party office. Enthusiastic discussion going on between several of the boys. Amoldada seems to have the best story until I relate my morning adventures (with suitable embellishments) to the crowd. They are all staring at me in awe as I complete. Amol seems ready to erupt. Snigger.

11:15 AM – We all reach the assembly.

12:13 PM – The carefully planned operation is carried out to perfection. That should teach these buggers to be careful about linguistic matters in the future. And high media visibility as well. Ha!

2:18 PM – Everyone has gathered for lunch in the vegetarian restaurant nearby. Someone switches on the TV – the media seems to be falling over each other, trying to report what happened at the assembly today. We guffaw uncontrollably. Someone suggests smashing the TV when the Hindi anchor comes on-screen. Seems like a jolly good plan.

2:20 PM – All thoughts of smashing forgotten as they air our video! I can be seen, among all that crowd! I’m on TV!

4:33 PM – Back in the car, heading home. 4 people suspended for the shenanigans today. Bah, more publicity!

6:17 PM – Home. Tired after the eventful day. But very happy that our cause has advanced quite a bit over the day.

6:29 PM – Sets the alarm for 11:30 at night. The boys will come to pick me up for a night job. Some Bollywood movie posters crowding out ‘our’ area near an Eastern suburb. Should be a fun night out.

Alice! Alice!

I have about 6 posts in my blog’s dashboard, all in various stages of completion. This single fact gives me hope that binario1 is here to stay and grow old gracefully with a head full of posts, some black, some grey and some a sunburnt brown. Unlike my previous blogren.

And everytime I open this page, intending to complete one of those 6 posts so that I could publish them, yet another random urge to write something else overpowers me, and I end up blogging something totally different. Like this time.

Its about time in fact, that I wrote a travel entry.

I’ve travelled quite a bit. To 18 countries in Europe and Asia, and to about 110 cities (Thank You, ‘Cities I’ve travelled to’ application in Facebook, for inducing me to do this count one jobless afternoon!). Not that these fairly decent numbers take away my wanderlust by the tiniest bit, No Sir! I want Brazil! Africa! Turkey! New Zealand! I want to drift off to sleep in a Caribbean beach, I want to cry out lost in a Peruvian forest, I want to peek through a train-window at the Carpathian mountains!

I havent had a single interview in my life in which I’ve not talked of my urge to travel. Nor of football, but that’s another matter altogether.

I was never a beer-lover. Until I got to Germany, that is. We, the lucky few who went to Europe on exchange last fall, were fortunate to have a lot of fun events overlapping with the semester. And arguably the best of them was Oktoberfest!, the unbridled Bavarian beer bash of drinking, music and merely embracing a relaxed way of life for 2 whole weeks.

Oktoberfest is held every year in Munich to commemorate the marriage of crown prince Ludwig and princess Therese. The festivities (the drinking) are centered on 14 large tents, laid out in a huge field called Theresenwiese (Yes, names after the princess). Bavarians dress in traditional costumes, men in funny Lederhosen and women in pretty Dirndls.

We arrived at Theresienwiese on October 2, in the 2nd week of the fest. I was particularly keen on reaching early, after having read sob stories online on how tourists came all the way to the field, only to get no space to sit inside the tents, as they were completely filled out. I had done my research, and knew the exact tent where I wanted to be in (Schottenhamel – the one with all the young people and in which celebrities frequently dropped in, according to my resource website. If any did towards the evening, I had no clue of it in my drunken haze). If I remember right, we reached by about 7 in the morning, and yet had to stand in a winding queue full of foppishly grinning Germans, who had converged in Munich from all parts of the country. Most of them were already tipsy, having ‘practiced’ a bit of drinking early on, to ‘prepare’ their stomach for the litres of beer to follow, as the guy ahead of me in the line informed me matter-of-factly.

The line grew and grew and yet they weren’t allowing anyone to enter the tent. Some friendly shouting was going on, followed by some very Indian pushing, with everyone laughing uncontrollably as they were pushed into the person ahead in the line. Aye, we are still talking about the methodical Germans. Its crazy how the right amount of alcohol can loosen you up.

An elderly giant of a Bavarian with a fancy hat grunted something out loud and the tent doors opened, followed by raucous shouting as reveler after reveler rushed into their home for the next twelve hours or so. My friends and I found seats in a table with a German group, who were students in Munich, and belonged to other, smaller towns of Bavaria.

Coolest Tent Ever!

My Tent

About time I mentioned that Germans are the friendliest and the most helpful natives we had met in Europe. Most, if not all, of the exchange students looked forward to their German trips, not just because of the awesome rail transport, but also due to the natives’ charm and clear attempts to make life comfortable for tourists. Why? I often asked myself.. One predominant reason could be their fluency in English, as opposed to most other residents of Europe. They feel more confident when communicating with tourists in English, while most of the rudeness associated with the French, Italians and Spaniards can be attributed to their natural discomfort with their proficiency in English.

Back in the tent, as soon as everyone’s first litre of the finest German brew was sipped down to satisfactory burps, the singing and the dancing began with much gusto. Every single song being sung was German, most of them turning out to be traditional Bavarian folk songs. They all had such catchy tunes that you just had to sing along, even though you had no clue where a word ended and where the next began. The Germans in our table had plenty of fun trying to teach us the lyrics, and finally we did put up a reasonably impressive (well at least to a tipsy me) display of ‘Viva Colonia‘. I was wearing some idiot’s idiotic pair of blue party glasses by now, and thinking how smart I looked.

Me and the borrowed blue glasses

Dork

2 litres down and lo and behold! Weren’t those English words that I could hear, even though a profanity seemed to be predominant in the mix?! The blessed band had decided to sing a song in the Queen’s language, and finally, I could sing along with no qualms regarding the lyrics. Alice! Alice! Who the f*** is Alice! (As can be noted, I’m as yet undecided as to the uncensored/starred nature of this blog). To this day, Alice remains my favourite party song, as it somehow wrapped in the folds of its lyrics, the entirety of the fun and frolic we had that day in a tent in Munich, with some German students and plenty of flowing ale. Here’s to you, Alice!

As everyone in my table banged down their mugs after the 3rd litre, the inevitable sentiments started to set in. One of the Germans suddenly seemed conscious of what we visiting Indians thought of their ways and manners, as could be observed from the Oktoberfest.

Him to me – “Hey man, you know that we dont wear clothes like these every day, dont you?

Me to him – “Hic!”

Him – “We dress like you guys too, man. Please don’t think that we always act like fools!”

Me – “Of coursh not! I love the Germansh! I love your caaarrssshh!”

Him – “We go to office in normal clothes, you know. Even the girls. They are wearing these dirndls just for the fest..”

Me – “BMW!! Benz! Oh god, Audi! You guys make amazing caarssh!”

Him – “Really, you Indians are so good at Maths. But we are really as normal as you on other days. I had an internship as a manager in a factory last month! I went dressed in a suit and a tie, you know..”

Me – “I’m shoo gonna shpend my first yearsh’¬†shalary on a BMW, man.. (Thereby showing my amazing Mathematical proficiency or my as yet uncharted ambitions. Whichever.)

Him – “It was the BMW factory in Munich..”

Me – “Wooot! You worked in the BMW factory??”

And then we exchanged high-fives and called for the 4th litre.

It was sundown when we emerged from the tent, floating on an indescribable high and secretly pleased that we had matched the Germans, litre for litre. In a classic IIMA exchange moment, some 25 batchmates converged in the square outside Theresenwiesen, all suitably inebriated and madly in love with life (In those days, you couldn’t drop a pin in a major European city without hitting a Wimwian scratching his head in the middle of a street, perusing a Lonely Planet). The rest of the evening was spent exploring the city, posing in funny hats and singing German songs out loud, with beautifully concocted lyrics. A day well lived at the festival of beer!