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Simran’s phone rings. Without bothering to see who it is, she answers, “Yes, Ma”.
Her mom without wasting time in inanities says, “What are you doing tomorrow evening?”
“Not again.Not here.” she sighs rolling her eyes.
Simran is on a month-long official trip to London. She had looked it as a respite from the relentless trials her mom made her undergo. Her mom was known to be an adept matchmaker. She escaped the claws of her mom’s expertise till she hit her 30’s. Then her mom summoned up all her past experience. First, on convincing her that it was time she settled down in matrimonial bliss. The message reached her subtly at first which she overlooked deliberately. Then some her friends were taken into confidence by her mom for this purpose. When that failed, her mom resorted to threatening calls and blackmails. Who said violence is the last refuge of only the incompetent. Simran surrendered. As competent as her mother was, overnight she and her expansive network went on an overdrive. Every day began with bombardment of prospective candidates. Weekend or no weekend, her free time was swallowed up. But somehow nothing worked out.
But her mom is certainly not the one who gives up so easily.She is in no mood to listen. “I have mailed you the details. Got to go…” She hangs up.
Had she been in Pluto or Mars, her mother would have conjured up profiles. Perhaps of aliens.To think of it, the slimy green creatures would be been less slimier than some she had been subjected to endure. She put them into five categories. First: the highbrow, the crème da la crème from Ivy League institutions whose brows twitch at the sight of unsightly beings – those who don’t belong to the similar background. The jholla-carrying activist types from the other end of spectrum also belong to this group. They disdain those who don’t share their views especially on social or environmental causes. Second: the middlebrow, the men from non-descript colleges but who have moved up the corporate ladder swiftly. They tend to camouflage their deep-down insecurity by boasting about their work, holiday trips abroad and swanky cars. Third: the lowbrow, who every 10 minutes excuse themselves to spit out the tobacco or have a smoke. And also in it are the perpetually hair-flicking, protein shake-carrying men with gym-trained bodies in age inappropriate outfits. When they fiddle with their phones, you know they are admiring their own images on the front camera. Fourth: the unibrow, the mushy species straight out of Yash Chopra films looking for soul mates swearing by love for seven lives.Fifth: the furrowedbrow – the forever worry kinds with apocalypse, catastrophe, calamity etc. astheir favorite words in the dictionary. And Simran’s quest for that perfect one continues.
She heads to office for a meeting. In her spare time, she checks the mail from her mother. Sandeep’sbio seems interesting. She decides to give it a go and sends a mail to him asking him to meet at an Indian restaurant near her office. To which, she gets a quick response saying a yes.
The next morning the phone rings. “Yes, Ma.”
“Meeting him today? Take care and don’t jump to conclusions about his personality or judge him before introspecting. Got to go…”
Simran thinks of taking a little extra care of her appearance while picking a dress from her wardrobe. But later drops the idea. No pretentions, she resolves. She was quite attractive and always been happy in her body which was slightly on the plumper side.
The day goes busyas usual. And at the end of the day, she goes to meet him.There were not many people in the eatery and she tries to find a suitable table for two. She is a bit early and assumes Sandeep wouldn’t have arrived. Just then she notices him approaching her. It was not difficult recognizing him. Fit and good-looking just as he did in the photograph. He is particular about time, I already like him, she thinks to herself.
“Sandeep? I hope I didn’t keep you waiting. “
“Not at all. In fact I was early,” he says as he pulls the chair for her.
And gets a 10/10 on manners, she thinks.
After a few exchanges on the day and work, she finds herself dropping her formal tone. “I am famished. Should we order?”
She orders a beer and kababs. “And you?”
“I don’t drink. Just plain water for me. “He continues. “And I am on a fast. “
Simran stares at him with a gaped mouth.
He quickly gauges her reaction and explains,” No religious reasons. I do these intermittent fasting for detoxification. As it is I strictly follow a gluten-free diet. And I doubt the menu has any to offer.”
“A ..what diet…?” she fumbles.
“As in found in wheat, many grains and so on…” He stops again after looking at her.” Never mind”
Simran visualizes her day which begins with ghee laden alooparathas with a dollop of pickle in the morning. She normally picks up a burger for lunch and her day invariably ends with butter chicken. Those friends who winced at her dietary choices got discarded rather unconsciously. Her intimate friends have similar appetite and preferences.
“No 1: mismatch point. And already trying to make me feel inferior”, she thinks to herself and says squinting her eyes,” any past illnesses or allergies which led you to it”.
“No, a conscious decision to prevent those. Moreover, maintaining a healthy lifestyle has been my priority.”
Fitness and she share an oxymoronic relationship. A change of topic is what she desires at this point but to her own surprise ends up saying,” But you are quite fit.”
“ Yes, an hour of yoga and weight training for physical fitness and couple of minutes of meditation. ““No2: mismatch point. Humble-bragger? Eh? Already indicating at my weight issue,” she thinks warily of her occasional strolls in the park and says,” I don’t have that luxury of time. You see.”
The discussion shifts to hobbies. Adventure sports were his and she had none to speak about. And the talk gears towards their childhood and academics. The number of mismatches seems to be increasing exponentially.
She can’t take it any further and excuses herself to the washroom where she calls her mom. “From where on the earth do you unearth such specimens? Selfish, narcissistic, oh-so pretending to be this uber-sexual…The conversation is going nowhere…not a single point where we meet…I am leaving, mom.”
“Wait. Calm down. I told you earlier don’t be hasty. If I am not mistaken, he also loves to read…from what I remember from his profile,” her mom says.
“Ok! One last attempt…” she says and hangs up.
She goes back, finding him seated at ease and thinks,” perhaps meditating on the tall glass of water in front.”
“So you’re also fond of books…so what have you been reading lately… fiction or non-fiction”, she asks drily expecting him to answer,” I read only motivational books on self-development.”
“Sapiens”, he replied.
Now she is wide-eyed with interest. That was precisely what she was reading at the moment. Quite unwillingly in her mind, she nevertheless gives a ‘no 1: match point’.
“Am actually rereading it savoring each page of it”, he says.
“Exactly the same here.”
The discussion on books leads them to talk about their world views. They agree on many things, disagree on many. They go on talking for hours.
As they leave, it’s dark outside. Simran misses a step and twists her ankle.
“Give me a hand. Don’t worry. I will drop you home.”
He supports her to the door as they reach her place. “So we meet again?”
“What are doing this Friday?” she says.
“Perhaps the sixth category: the perfectbrow”, she mulls.
Little Vidoo panicked when he heard the loud hiss of the air-lock chamber that announced the arrival of his father. His father was home early; he had to hurry. He snatched the air-packet strapped to his hazmat suit and stuffed it into the brand-new hideout inside his cupboard. He grabbed the near-empty air-packet lying on the shelf and stuck it on the square of his suit.
He settled on the rusty cot and pretended to sleep. He heard the clutter of the rolling food tin on the floor and his father swearing. Father was in the room. He kept his eyes closed and suck in long gasps, repeating the same act that he had been pulling off for the last two days. Though his sickness was feigned, he felt a shiver run through his fragile body. Maybe it was the guilt.
He stole a glance at his father who was examining the near-empty air-packet strapped to him. Ugh, the air-packets! It renewed his resolve to get the heck out of this leased life which required air-packets, radiation masks and suits to survive.
“We might as well be living in Space,” his father often said to him – One major malfunction of any of the gear and the result would be a gruesome death. What he left unsaid was how much he wanted to take Vidoo to the New Earth but Vidoo knew it anyway because – well, he often overheard father talking to his friends. That is how he also knew that a seat in the spaceship was the only currency that counted these days.
By some means his father had been able to manage the extra air-packets for three nights in a row and Vidoo suspected that it involved borrowing at steep rates.
Vidoo felt a gentle pressure on his chest as his father fitted the fresh air-packet onto him. Another peek. Father’s face was lined with worry as he stared at the removed air-packet in his hand.
When times were better, Vidoo had been able to contribute to the expenses of their little family. He used to get odd maintenance jobs in big households – dismantling things, re-fitting spare parts, fixing stuff. He no longer had these jobs as most of the elite either had made it to the New Earth already or were in the next travel list.
The idea of a plan that could get their names added to the coveted list had come from Karina and at first, he felt that there was something wrong with the plan. But he couldn’t place his finger on the flaw and eventually decided to go with it. Setting up a hideout had been easy since he had the basic tools needed. After he was finished with the work, the cupboard in his room just looked like it had expanded a few inches on the sides.
His father’s stifled sob jerked him to the present. He pulled himself to a sitting position and the cot creaked its complaint. His father turned away. Vidoo lunged to his left and slid his small hand into his father’s.
Father turned to him again with a forced smile. “You are awake! Are you feeling better, Vidoo?”
Vidoo shrugged, wishing to throw off the eerie feeling that there was something wrong with the plan. “I am okay, papa. Did you check the posters on the city square?”, he asked the same question that he had been asking the previous two nights.
“Yes, I did because you asked.”
“Do you remember the Thakirs? You used to work some jobs at their place. A girl is missing in their family. It is a shame because they were scheduled to leave in the next big launch. Whoever helps find the girl gets a seat in the spaceship, ” his father said, twisting the empty air-packet in his hand. “Maybe we should look for the girl, huh?”
Vidoo felt breathless now. He went to the corner of the room and opened the cupboard; his hands shook as he unscrewed the bolts and removed the board. Out came a girl strapped with air-packets that were supposed to have been empty. “Papa, we have the girl. This is Karina Thakir.”
Father’s eyes widened first in surprise and then in comprehension. He didn’t hide his tears this time and the thin watery smile was a welcome addition. There was no flaw after all, thought Vidoo.
But the smile slid away leaving no trace that it ever appeared. “What you did was wrong,“ father said. He looked at Karina, “I hope your father is a good man.”
Thakir embraced his daughter and thanked them, tears in his eyes. But father just smiled and suggested that they talked in private.
As the door closed, Karina beamed at Vidoo and gave him a hug, restricted by all the layers of hazmat suits. She broke off and said, “Maybe we shouldn’t act too friendly.”
Vidoo nodded but suspected that his father was going to be honest anyways. He rushed to the closed door and put his ear to it.
It was father’s voice. “You are a good man to stand by your words in spite of – the conspiracy.”
“They are just kids. Compassionate kids. A sign that the world still has love and friendship.”
There was a pause.
“The seat is either yours or your son’s.”
Vidoo wanted to scream ‘No’ but his voice stuck in his throat.
“It will be my son. Be good to him.” Tears pricked Vidoo’s eyes and he made to get away from the door but still heard his father’s voice, somehow simultaneously mellow and loud, say, “My son has done me a huge favour. I hope he becomes a father one day so he can understand.”
I will never forget,
The moment when your heart beat,
And mine kept beating.
The moment when I realized that,
A part of me is growing within me.
The moment when you showered me with your innocent smile,
And my heart melted.
The moment when you held my finger with your little hand,
And made me realize what trust is.
My heart sank.
I will never believe that,
I will not be able to shed tears of joy ever again.
My heart will never melt once again,
I will never realize what trust is.
My heart sank.
But, I will never forget the moment,
When your heart stopped and mine kept beating.
When your heart stopped and mine, still kept beating.
Sparkling white on the roadside
May lit a face wide
When see the road side flower
May even gaze for an hour?
The name of flower holds no color.
Nor hold fragrance
But has its own essence.
Fluttering in the breeze it aims to find
Someone would hold in mind.
Of the white beauty, add charm to the city
Blossoming out with natures will
Alongthe foot hills
It raises its heel
While the traveler smile on way uphill.
With this desire it wears white attire.
To rejuvenate the eyes of the restless observer
Lift him higher and fulfill his desire
My love has found expression in countless forms, countless flames of candle…
My dreams have grown as a flower in shade of your hand,
Through the veins of my hopes your blood runs.
In the darkest room of my heart,
You have emerged as a pole-star piercing the dark.
My spirit has danced to the tunes of your smile,
Crystals of love have rained from the sky of your heart quenching my unending thirst.
My love has grown and re-grown shaping your universe,
You are the butterfly, which spreads its wings colouring my life.
In the colours of rainbow, I have drawn and redrawn your face in pages of my heart,
In the garden of your heart, I have grown as a rose spreading the fragrance of love.
You have breathed life in my heart,
Ageless time can never make us apart,
My love for you is forever, my beloved!
If death is the end of life
as many believe,
then which is the door
leading to the divine ?
If fire is a burning hell
on the beautiful earth,
then who is the cooking mother
ever waiting to feed us ?
If wine is Satan’s urine
filled in the longnecks,
then who is the healing gentleman
called Dr Destresser ?
If tear is the prophet of pain only
as written in the poetry tomes,
then what wets our eyes
upon hearing a sudden sweet news ?
If history is a damned ditch
filled with fossils and follies,
then where is the ground
our roots take food from ?
If war is the holocaust
we hate day and night,
then what is the ultimate source of
freedom and peace ?
If farewell is the saddest thing
we have to say at a door,
then what becomes the sweet joy
on arrival at another ?
If life is painted
with the only colour of sorrow,
then what is a rainbow meant for
in the glistening sky ?
My grandmother is probably going to die
I am about to lose history already less known
They tell me she doesn’t recognize faces
But I want to ask about the touch
We once went to an astrologer
He traced his fingers across her palm
Told her she would die before her husband
I remember looking up at her face
She paused, before smiling satisfied
She later told me that her mother used to say, ‘Parvati, only few wives are lucky to die before their husbands, and they are sure to go to heaven’
My grandfather’s voice was shaky on the phone last night
Visible tremors of the probability of losing out one of a fifty-year-old team of two
Money can’t save her, nor can love
And the irony is that we have a lot of both
I chose a wrong day to talk about death
Today is Diwali – the festival of lights
She had too many friends
I am asked more often than I want to answer, ‘How is Parvati?’
I hand out bits of paper with her number on them to all of them
I know the routine and I feel heavy
They all call up each other once a month
More to check who is still alive, and less to talk about life.
Out of all the things I am afraid of
I fear I may reach late
Or maybe I am afraid of reaching too early
Watching death lurking in every corner of the room
Seeing my childhood stories crumble with her inability to speak
Gibberish is all I hear and all she could speak.
Yesterday was a good day for yesterday I poured my heart out to Adin. It was evening when I left home to meet Adin. I thought of my dead grandfather and how happy he would have been for me! He would have probably kissed my forehead and wished me all the luck in the world. If only, he would take some time out of his busy schedule and come pay me a visit. When we are alive, we have time. But when we are dead we have none.
Seated on a bench, overlooking the Dal Lake, Adin looked beautiful. A glint appeared in her eye. A good sign. Behind us: scores of tourists, probably honeymoon couples from across the mountains, clicking silly photos, dressed in traditional, obsolete Kashmiri attires. Long earrings, dangling from their ears-dragging their ears down by their sheer weight. Heads covered with tedious scarves, reminiscent of an unholy past. Scarves that can transform cute girls into ugly dolls. These gullible tourists with an IQ of a lamp post (her words exact). She cracked jokes at their expense and laughed at her own jokes. The wrinkles that formed beneath her eyes when she laughed betrayed her humaneness. Everything else about her was angelic.
As she talked and laughed and talked, I wanted to make love to her. She told me about this two-storied house in her neighborhood with six rooms that housed six families. All six of them brothers- living with their respective families. I imagined myself living in one of those kitchen/bedrooms, eating egg sandwiches and making love to her-TV turned to full volume to drown our moans. Pure eternal bliss. The sun was on its way down and light fading fast. Hues of scarlet across the ripples of water painted a perfect picture. Precisely the time I was waiting for! I turned towards her- my heart pounding against my chest. The voice of muezzin calling the faithful to prayers interrupted me. Come to Nimaaz…Come to Nimaaz. She adjusted her dupatta. I bit my tongue. A holy silence descended down upon us. Guilt and reverence.
‘I love you,’ I said as soon as the muezzin finished his call. She stared back with hollow, blank eyes. As if I was speaking a different language.
‘What do you mean? You love me or you are in love with me?’
‘What is the difference?’
She leant forward, placing her chin in her right hand and took her time to answer. The pause felt like an eternity.
‘You can love a friend but you can only be in love with a lover,’ she answered.
‘If that is the case… I am in love with you’
Her face turned blank. I could hear my heart pumping blood. Bellyache. Drops of sweat running down my cold cheek.
Woe to her! Woe to her! May she never find true love. I looked for a sign, in her eyes, on her face. None!
‘You are a good guy- a nice guy, but don’t get me wrong…you are ordinary. I don’t want to waste my life with mediocrity. If only you would have been more talented, more gifted…’
‘Wait,’ I interrupted her and raced to a shop that sold souls located up a dark cobbled alley. My feet tap danced without any rhythm, turning heads as I bumped into people.
Huffing and puffing, I asked the shopkeeper about a talented soul. ‘Well that’s our bestselling category,’ he told me and came back with four talented souls. A footballer, a painter, a writer and a fourth soul that I don’t remember. It was a singer or maybe an actor. My choice was easy. I chose a writer. He quoted a price. I didn’t haggle. As soon as I put on the soul, I could feel plots gushing through my veins. I pictured myself churning masterpieces after masterpieces and if luck managed to stay on my side, maybe a few might even become bestsellers.
Once back on the bench, I saw her buried inside her phone-her face illuminated by the light. I asked her: Would you like a talented writer to be your lover?
She took her time to reply. Eerie Silence. My palms started to sweat. Finally, she spoke: Writers are eccentric. I don’t think I can handle a writer. Fame can turn normal people into asses.
I couldn’t think straight. A buzzing sound originated in my head.
She continued: Moreover, I don’t want people making fun of you. They would be quick to pigeonhole us: “the beauty and the beast.” You know how insensitive people can be!
Fuck the people, I said on the inside. On the outside, I took a deep, deep breath, looked over my shoulder and took out a Marlboro. I peeked right and I peeked left and with no familiar face nearby, I lit one.
A warm surge of energy shot through my spine. I saw her lips tremble and her eyes quiver as she waited for my reply. I swear I could have kissed her, right there and then.
Not one to lose hope, I asked her to wait for me and darted across to the shop that sold souls.
‘I want a good-looking soul,’ I told him.
A smirk crossed his face. He showed me a few souls and I chose one of them, albeit arbitrarily. I put it on and looked into the mirror. The face that stared back at me was indeed better looking. Strong jawline, chiseled cheekbones, blue eyes, silky hair. Happy with my choice, I raced back and found her perched on her seat. Without a word, I sat next to her. The seat was still warm.
‘You nearly gave me a heart attack,’ she said and then she went silent. Her eyes glued to my face; her jaw dropped.
‘How do I look?’
A swarm of butterflies flapped inside my stomach; my arms outstretched, waiting to pull her in my arms. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
‘I liked you better before,’ she replied in one breath. ‘Now that you are a good-looking guy, girls will swoon over you. I am pretty sure that soon, you will find a girl, better looking than me, dump me for her, only to dump her for the next bimbo’
Her words stung me. I pictured her as a snake; her tongue transformed into a fang. All I wanted was for her to love me. Love me like I loved her. And all she did was crib and complain and come up with silly excuses. So, I decided to stand up, stand up for myself, for my love, our love, our future.
How the fuck can you predict the future? I asked her.
‘I don’t know but I can sense it and women are great at sensing these things,’ she replied staring at the vast expanse of water in front of her. The moon was out, gleaming over the lake, as if taunting me for my follies. I wanted to claw at something like cats do when they come back from the wild or better, burn her hair. Instead I said: You are not making any sense.
And with that, she burst into tears. Thankfully, all the happy people had long gone; otherwise it would have been embarrassing. I tried to calm her down but the more I tried, the more she slipped out of control. I looked here and there, for help that never came. I tried apologizing and, somehow, that infuriated her further.
I fumbled through my pockets for a handkerchief but instead retrieved one laden with phlegm. Then, and I sense the hand of something unnatural in it, I remembered something that I read in one of those girly magazines: Women love chocolates. So, I gave her a box of chocolates (a gift I had bought for her to solemnize our love). And lo and behold, she stopped crying.
‘You know what I like in a man?’ she said between mouthfuls of chocolate. ‘Sensitivity, good nature, confidence, intelligence, and of course…sophistication’
And like a dog, I lapped it all up- nodded in agreement and made a mental note of these qualities. Could one soul have so many qualities? Was it even possible? I had my doubts. I recalled a line I read somewhere on Facebook: Winners never Quit and Quitters never win. What can I say? This desperate, gullible heart of mine was grasping at straws. So, I decided to give it another shot. I raced back to the shop that sold souls. It was closing time and the shop had an eerie feeling to it. As if it had a life of its own; as if it had worn itself out from all the ramblings it had witnessed during the day. The shopkeeper, out of pity or out of good nature decided to entertain my request. It is almost impossible, he said as both of us dug our heads into the shop like miners, in search of Californian gold. The narrow alley outside had emptied and all that was left was a pack of dogs, eyeing us from distance, waiting for us to leave so they could rule the darkness. Finally, the shopkeeper found a soul that ticked almost all the boxes. He charged me twice the price.
Adin was still as a corpse when I returned. The only thing that breathed apart from her was the long street lamp under which a pack of mosquitoes buzzed around.
‘How do you find me now?’ I said, out of breath, putting myself out in front of her like those whores that put themselves out for desperate horny men. And like those insensitive pricks, she rejected me again.
‘Why don’t you get it? You are a dear friend to me and I don’t want to ruin our friendship’
My mouth went dry and my blood froze. I could not believe her. Everything in front of me was enveloped by darkness. Her face opened to me as it was. The face of Medusa. Around me, I only saw darkness, pitch black darkness, complete absence of light.
She tugged at my sleeve and said something. I pushed her away. I put my hands inside the pockets of my overcoat and walked away.
‘Please, don’t leave. I’m sorry…’
Her voice fizzled out behind me. She became a distant dream.
Finally, I am free. Free from the invisible shackles that I had so willfully put on. I can write again. I can masturbate again without any guilt. I can do whatever I want. Not a care in the world.
Yesterday was indeed a good day!
Every city, although it may seem metaphorical, has an exclusive memory to itself, a memory through which it sustains its life. And that memory comes from the cultural intelligence of the humans that inhabit it. That is the reason why any civilization is not about the remains of buildings and their architectures, but about the humans and their intelligence that created those civilizations. This is exactly why – although we appreciate the glory of past civilizations and their progressiveness (for example, that of the people in and the civilization of Indus-Valley) – we cannot go back and live in those times. Nor can we emulate the ideas or the intelligence with which those civilizations flourished, into the present times. Simply because, such people and the resources that they originally used are no longer available. Things of the past are invalid because they have been rendered obsolete through the complex evolution of time. For instance, we have to coalesce with the Nietzschean hypothesis that ‘God is dead’ and that it is ‘we’ who killed God.
Hyderabad, as it was rightly known ‘Bhagya Nagaram’ (city of prosperity) is dying with each passing day. People here and their leaders are ceasing to be the custodians of its memory. It is not just about the increasing rate of pollution and its impact on the city’s climate. This city is doomed. It is ‘drugged’ to say so in light of the recent scandal involving school children who have fallen prey to nasty drugs such as LSD. It is no surprise to me. In 2014, when I was speaking to a prospective student who was applying for graduate studies in America, he divulged to me that he abused LSD and that is quite common in Bangalore. A few days later, this student who received an opportunity to pursue MS from a reputed US University went on a bike trip to Munnar in Kerala, where on the way, he dashed into an old Muslim woman killing her instantly. The family of the deceased forgave this young man because they considered he had a promising future and because a road accident is a criminal offence that could paralyze his chances of studying abroad, whereas the deceased is but an old woman! I am sure this enterprising young man is on high and blue on every weekend in between his corporate servitude in America. I am not even interested in knowing what he is doing at present because we already know that he is ‘promising’.
My friend had recently returned from America because of Trumpophobia or whatever personal reasons or professional aspirations therein. After a week or so, she asked me if I knew where one can obtain weed in the city. She acquired this potting habit in America. When I argued with her over the abuse of drugs and that she does not need drugs to transcend the depression of modern existentialism, she merely brushed it off saying, “everyone does it, I do not think it is a peculiarity”. In an unpublished movie review which I did not disclose to its beholder, I wrote, “he is a regular drunkard and smoker of cigarettes, which he thinks is a fashion to rejuvenate the artistic mettle of a writer. He drinks to be able to write. I think that is a popular misconception that is destroying even gifted artists.” But to bring into question the classic debate of great poets, scientists, and other geniuses, who knowingly or unknowingly took drugs and paraphernalia, will go beyond the purview of this article and hence the understanding and misunderstanding of, interpretation, and or misinterpretation by mundane readers. What I mean is that the predisposition to write poetry or pursue some work of genius is in itself a predecessor to taking any form of addictive substances. Coleridge was a poet even before he wrote “Kubla Khan”. Proust was prescribed opium as a medication to relieve his asthma. In this discourse, I would take the stand that the obsession with art or the subject of pursuit is in itself a greater drug than any other. The modern day addiction that we find in cities like Hyderabad is more of a conformism to be addictive than a choice. It is, rather, an obligation or a duty that the millennial generation has asserted on itself. It is not a youthful hedonism, however.
Corporatism is a curse which Hyderabad cannot excuse itself from. The gradual doom of the city is scripted on the foreheads of employees in every inch of corporate spaces that systematically destroy traces of their intelligence and humanity with certainty and callousness. It is okay, if there is an unbiased and unapologetic corporate system in place. However, the corporate bosses and their HR managers rule over the creative capacities of their personnel with corrupted, self-serving, self-drumming, and bureaucratic evils that only second their counterparts in America. The pseudo-culture and relatively less intelligence of the people here is a direct result of corporatism and it’s larger, and far more dangerous twin, consumerism. As the great Italian poet, Pier Paulo Pasolini reiterated again and again, “I think that consumerism manipulates and violates bodies neither more nor less than Fascism”.
Although, technically, consumerism does not fully pertain to food and eating habits, it is good to begin understanding it with food. Consumerism creates products and services which we do not need. Therefore, an artificial demand is created for those products and services because a capitalist investment has already been made to produce them. Here, it is important to understand that the production of these ignores the existence of demand in and forcibly introduces them into the supply chain. There is increasing rate of obesity in Bangalore because of the excessive availability of tasty food in the restaurants and because the corporate employees there have virtually no time for cooking. The classic rule of corporatism as the indomitable avatar of the capitalist is to create imbalance and problems in the society and in turn work towards curing such imbalance and resolving such problems through charity. This charity is done for its own self-serving needs such as to relieve the burden of taxes. Its other aim, interestingly, is to exercise control on this entire system of organized victimization.
All of the school children who were caught using LSD belonged to families of high profile bureaucrats or parents holding high paying jobs in corporate companies. The schools they go to are some of the most prestigious institutions in the city. The corporate parents were found to rise from a lower economic condition to an affluent one and it is heartening to know that their children became vulnerable to drug abuse. The plausible reasons are many. Bad parenting, academic pressure in schools, contagious pampering with which these children were brought up, easy availability of money and gadgets, and so on and so forth might be some of the reasons. It is heartening to know that these children do not realize the efforts their parents expedite to meet ends. Plus, the children do not have sufficient play spaces in the city to engage themselves. Even if play spaces are available, they are simply not interested in playing games because of the electronic gadgets that they have access to.
The present Hyderabad, as we see and live in it today, is the result of the violent cultural and social repressive forces created by the present Telugu cinema industry which has long migrated from Madras state after the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. At least till the 1970s, the golden era of Telugu cinema flourished and after that except for very few movies that came out now and then, the Telugu cinema gradually lost its luster to its pathetic condition in the present times. The great revolutionary poet Sri Sri expressed displeasure in one of his interviews, “Cinema is the art form of the 20th century. When I entered the cinema field, it looked as though a writer could influence the film production. (This actually happened in Tamil Nadu). But it proved an illusion in Andhra.”
On the contrary, the uncontrollable commercialization of cinema in Andhra, with its epicenter in Hyderabad, has led to creation of several forces that are affecting the city of prosperity. Out of the Telugu cinema came prostitution and politics forming a vicious cycle that cannot be disturbed once set into course. These two forces, politics and prostitution are balancing each other. A political power, which is currently dormant, provided cover for the entire prostitution ring in the city. That is the reason why the sincere and more-than-life efforts of Sunitha Krishnan, the founder of Prajwala Organization, have always faced political intimidation in disguise of local goons and other political forces in disguise. However, Smt. Krishnan’s efforts are highly commendable. Again, here the same cinema industry itself issues honors on people who make a difference or contribute to social change. In other words, it is similar to creating an illness and inventing a temporary reprieve for it such that the illness itself is not entirely cured – so much like allopathic bacteria-static drugs that do not kill the bacteria but merely prevent it from reproducing further.
Now, it is no surprise that the drugs instance is invariably connected to its roots in the cinema industry. Had it been an Andhra Government in power and not a Telangana government (which is the case now), the drug scandal and its association with big names in the Telugu cinema would not have surfaced at all and instead, would have been neatly and entirely veiled and unreported. While the police and law enforcing authorities did a great job to create countermeasures, these are but temporary. Because it is indispensable to remove the causes and roots of these multi-dimensional problems. The long term solution, therefore, is to tame the idle minds of children by engaging them in productive activities which also provide reprieve for their agitating minds. The challenge for every parent is how they deal with his/her child’s adolescence. Not everything in the child’s life lies in its genetic code inherited from its parents. Therefore, to say that the child’s future is encrypted or inscribed in its genetic code is not entirely correct. No. Epi-genetics explains exactly how the environment that the child develops into influences its intelligence and life choices as a result. This is exactly the reason why Hiranyakashyap’s genetic code did not apply to Prahallada. However, for me, both the father and son are equally legendary in their own respects.
First of all, it is crucial to withdraw access to electronic gadgets for children unless if highly indispensable. Cultivating the habit of reading is one solution. The generations prior to 90s grew with books and letters and the stories that their grandparents narrated. Parents and teachers should impart to their children the taste that lies in reading. Reading is the only remedy for physical and mental ailments, no other medicine are necessary. It gives children intellectual independence to pursue their aspirations in their formative years and confidence to realize them in their prime. The dreams and aspirations that children conceive help them cultivate a sense of purpose and a responsibility that their lives are not limited to temporal pleasures the consequences of which are harmful.
Experiences in Speaking Telugu and Writing ‘Ramkoti’ – [Sankupurana – Memoirs of an Engineer] – M.S.Menon, New DelhiSeptember 11th, 2017
Kalluru was a bigger village than Gopalapuram in those days and could boast of having a number of state government offices apart from medical and educational facilities. Before the formation of Andhra Pradesh, it was part of Nizam’s territory and therefore the local travellers bungalow (TB) was being maintained as per the then existing manuals, providing for cooks, khalasis, gardeners and a host of other workers for its upkeep. Such a liberal provision ensured not only well-furnished rooms, but also neatly laid out gardens with every such bungalow.
I left Gopalapuram early in the morning hoping to reach Kalluru by lunch time. Being a touring officer, the organisation had approved the provision of a cook cum helper for helping me out during tours. Hence in the jeep, I used to carry a ration box and a folding cot with mosquito net apart from my suitcase containing dress, toiletry and office papers.
The ration box had separate partitions for keeping cooking stove and kerosene oil, grocery items like rice, pulses etc. Such back up was essential during tours to interior project sites since in the villages enroute, there were no eating places or even rest houses. Like the officers of the Survey of India Department, field officers of WADA also were oriented to work under such situations.
The metalled road to Eluru was in a shambles after the rains. According to local PWD engineers there was no hope of getting the repairs done till next February as the budget allocation was expected only by then. Since the budgeted amount had to be spent before 31st March, the quality of the rush work would naturally be below par and hence the condition of the road would continue to be the same as before.
The highway from Eluru to Kalluru was a well maintained one fully tarred and hence I could reach Kalluru by 12.30 noon. The TB had a conference room, attached with a dining hall, rooms with attached baths, a kitchen and a store room. An annexe building in the same compound had provided accommodation for junior staff.
Ramaiah , Technical Officer attached to the regional office at Vijayawada who was coordinating the activities told me that other colleagues from Eluru and Tiruvuru were expected shortly. He had Kept the rooms ready for us, room no. 1 for the Chief, Subbaiah, room no.2 for Officer from Tiruvuru, room no.3 for the officer from Eluru and room no. 4 for me, being the junior most officer.
During lunch, Subbaiah introduced me to the other colleagues, Partha Rao in charge of Tiruvuru office and Prasad Sastry in charge of Eluru office. He also introduced me to the four Technical Officers, Keshava Rao, Ramaiah, Venkayya and Dharma Rao attached to the regional office. He was of the view that we should meet at 3.30 pm and decide on the programme of work for the Unit.
After lunch, we three, Partha , Prasad and myself sat in the hall to get more acquainted about ourselves. Partha Rao, an officer in his thirties, appeared as a pleasant and jovial officer. He was stocky built and of medium height, had a remarkable physique but not over weight and had a square jaw and sparkling eyes. He had earlier worked in Kerala and hence had a working knowledge of Malayalam. Earlier he was posted in the Project Appraisal Unit at the headquarters. When he was offered a posting in Andhra Pradesh, he was quite happy to join the place since Delhi was a crowded city and his wife, a native of Warangal, could not adjust with the life style of Delhi.
“Here I do not have to rush to catch a transport to reach the office in time. I could just walk down to the office.” Partha told me. “Further being a field assignment, I have a challenging task.”
Prasad had only a few months experience in the organisation, that too in the main office. He was a fresher to the field organisation, just like me. As soon as he was asked his willingness to be posted to Vijayawada Region, he jumped at the opportunity to be in the field and that too in his native district. He appeared fully enthusiastic about his new assignment. Prasad said. “I too wanted such an assignment instead of sitting at the head quarters and doing odd jobs, I was finding it difficult to adjust with that life soon after my appointment when we were all aspiring to build civil engineering structures instead of whiling away time reading routine reports and commenting on them. I got married when I got admission in the engineering college as was the custom in our place,” he added while talking about his marital status. “But the marriage got consummated only after my getting the job!”
When we all reassembled at the scheduled time for the meeting, tea was ready. Subbaiah initiated the discussions giving a brief of the work entrusted to the Unit and what he expected of us in the field season.
“Our Gopalapuram office should be able to complete the dam site investigations at Polavaram and prepare the report within this year so that that office could be shifted to Venkatapuram to start the dam site investigations there”, he said.” The Eluru and Tiruvuru Offices would continue with the investigations for the upper and lower link canals proposed for connecting the Godavari with the Krishna River. You may draw up the further work plans accordingly to-day so that we could discuss the issues involved”
I was happy to hear that my office would be shifted out of Gopalapuram village by year end since I felt that any other place would be better than this small village. Venkatapuram was the Taluk headquarters and hence the facilities there should be better, I thought. But later events proved that I was thoroughly mistaken.
According to the plan I prepared, the field work could be completed before June and thereafter, the detailed report could be prepared. If any data needed verification on the ground or any gaps were to be filled by field surveys, the needed action could be taken from our office itself since we would be having 3 months of field season from October to December before we shifted to Venkatapuram. Partha’s suggestions based on his past field experience helped me to draw up the plan by the third day of our stay at Kalluru.
The time available for the Eluru and Tiruvuru offices to complete the works were another 2 years, as they were entrusted with the investigations for the link canals each of about 150 kms. in length. Hence they were also busy during these days to draw up their further work plans in consultation with Subbaiah. As per our programme, we were to finalise these plans the next day before we dispersed,
In the evening , when we 3 were having a stroll in the garden, Partha asked me as to how, I was able to spend the time after office hours and on holidays at Gopalapuram.
“During my days in Delhi, I did not have any difficulty as I had many colleagues and friends in a similar position and Delhi had many places of entertainment, but your case is different.”
“True, initially I had some difficulty to adjust with the place”, I told him. “But after a doctor, Prakash Rao, a bachelor, joined the newly opened government dispensary, I had some company to go to the local cinema theatre to watch Telugu films mainly based on Ramayana or Mahabharata and at times on social issues.”
“But you do not know the local language then to enjoy such movies”, Partha expressed his doubts.
“The doctor used to brief me on the story and during the show explained to me any dialogue which I could not understand. Thus I could pick up the language to some extent and it helped me to deal with the locals.”
“Limited knowledge of the language can put you in trouble sometimes.” Partha cautioned me. “The locals have their slangs and if you do not follow that, you could be misunderstood as happened to me while working in Kerala”.
“True, it did land me in a very peculiar situation”, I said. ”My washer-man (dhobi) who used to come to collect clothes on weekends, always was curious to know why my people have not come to stay with me. He might have probed my cook about it, but not getting a proper reply, he must have decided to ask me directly. One day, while collecting the few clothes for washing, he asked me in Telugu about the details of my family and when he would be lucky to see my ‘Amma’. I explained to him that being the mother of seven children, she could not afford to come and stay with me at least for a couple of years. He stood shocked for some time, murmured a few words and walked out of the house in a huff. I could not understand the reason for his change in mood.”
Next day, when Dr. Prakash Rao came to my house, he was laughing continuously. He had come to know from the local villagers about the contents of my conversation with the dhobi.
“I did not expect that you had deserted your wife and 7 children to come and stay here”, the doctor told me narrating what he heard from the local people. “According to the dhobi, you are not a man of virtue but a villain only interested in producing children and leaving the girls at the first available opportunity while looking for new pastures.”
“My god! I never told him any such thing.” I said. “He just asked me about my family and when my mother would come to stay with me. I then told him that mother would not be able to come here and I have to make my own arrangements.”
”I immediately knew that your half baked knowledge of Telugu had landed you in a mess.” The doctor told me.”Amma in local parlance means wife and when he came to know that at this young age you had fathered 7 children, it really shocked him. And when you said that your wife would not come here and you have to make local arrangements, he really got annoyed and felt bad about your intentions”.
“Now the locals must be thinking that I am really a bad man”, I said. “How to correct them? Otherwise I would not be able to survive here”.
“Nothing to worry”, the doctor consoled me.”Knowing you and your family background, I had already explained to the dhobi and others that the misunderstanding occurred due to your lack of knowledge of Telugu. Even they had a hearty laugh at your expense. Hence please remember that in future till you master the language, while dealing with the locals, ask your khalasi to explain to them rather than your venturing to clarify doubts.”
I looked at Partha to know his reactions to my experience. He just smiled.
“Though I had a good working knowledge of Malayalam, I also had gone through such embarrassing situations and hence my advice,” he said enjoying the episode.
Prasad did not have any such language problem during his comparatively short stay while at Delhi because he had a good working knowledge of Hindi. But he was unhappy with his assignments there. I was under the impression that the work in the Planning Unit at the head quarters would be more interesting than all other jobs since this would expose those involved with planning of water resources a great opportunity to know about the work at a national level. So I was curious to know why Prasad opted for a field posting.
“Being a fresh recruit, seniors were not interested in entrusting me with the work of any responsibility or of works of urgent nature.” Prasad said.”So they asked me to study some reports and make briefs on them. I felt it more like a repetition of our life in college when professors used to ask us to go to library to locate references whenever they were in no mood to take classes.
“Getting bored of the work, I asked my colleague, Mahesh, a veteran in the section, to advise me as to how to meaningfully use the time available”.
Prasad then gave us a gist of his conversation with Mahesh as below.
“You are from Andhra and you must be knowing all about the famous Bhadrachalam Sree Rama temple there”, Mahesh asked me.
‘“Yes, I know that it is an important pilgrimage centre. But what has it got to do with our work here?” I wanted to know from him.
‘“Well, you then must be knowing all too well that if you write the holy name of ‘Sree Ram’ one crore times and deposit the work there in the temple, you would be able to get any boon you wish from the Lord.” The old man said smiling. “Since you have enough time here after doing the job entrusted to you by your boss, why not then start writing ‘Ramkoti (Ram one crore times) like me?”
‘“For writing ‘Ramkoti’, I need a life time,” I told Mahesh. “Those in service would not be able to do that. It can be done only by retired people or those who have lots of spare time and interest in doing it. How come you are able to do that in this office? Who told you about its efficacy?”
‘“I was exposed to this holy work when I was posted in a major R&D organisation.” Mahesh replied. “When I joined that office as a fresh recruit, I had gone there with lots of hope of doing some good work, like you now. But the seniors imbibed in me a work culture that doing no work is the best way to get time-bound promotions without any hassle. In that set up, none asks for progress reports nor a target date for completing a research project. After all, research takes a lot of time to fructify, the old timers used to insist. They had always that excuse for doing nothing.
‘“It was in this organisation one of the frustrated officer explained to me the benefits of writing ‘Ramkoti to achieve bliss not only in this life but also in the next”. Mahesh continued.” As I too got frustrated within a couple of years there, I also got initiated into this spiritual exercise and blessed by Him, I landed in this organisation, another heaven. I do not think I would be able to complete another ‘Ramkoti’ here as I have only a few years to go, but I would certainly attempt it to get salvation.” Mahesh squeezed my palms to ensure that I was following him.
‘“Look to write a single word ‘Sree Ram’ takes a maximum of 7 seconds, ie. in a minute, one can easily write 8 such words or in an hour a maximum of 500 words.” Mahesh explained.” Our working hours being from 9.30 A.M. to 5.30 P.M. with a lunch break of 30 minutes, normally extended to one hour and 2 tea breaks of 15 minutes each extending to 30minutes, our effective working hours per day work out to 6 hours and we work for six days a week from Monday to Saturday.
‘“In a year of 365 days, we are allowed to take 30 days of earned leave, 12 days of casual leave, 16 government holidays, 2 restricted holidays and also have 52 Sundays and 3-4 days of unscheduled holidays due to deaths of VIPs, elections etc. Hence we are left with 250 working days-ie. 1500 working hours per year. Are you able to follow me?”
“So far I am able to understand you” I said.
‘“Out of these 1500 hours, since some time has to be kept for attending to personal work such as bill payments, local purchases and other demands from home, we have say about 1000 hours per year to do this spiritual duty of writing ‘Ramkoti’. Hence in 20 years time you would be able to complete this exercise. Then you could go on pilgrimage to Bhadrachalam temple to submit the book of ‘Ramkoti’ at the feet of the Lord and get His blessings.”
‘”But this would need many reams of papers,” I raised a genuine doubt. “It is a costly investment.”
‘“Do not worry about the costs”. Mahesh pacified me. “I have worked out that also. In a single sheet, using both sides, one can write 500 such words and hence, you would need only 4 such sheets per day, which the department can easily afford to give you for such a noble purpose. Hence you can do the work without bothering about the costs involved.”
Both myself and Partha enjoyed the episode narrated by Prasad.
“We are enjoying your discussions with Mahesh. Please continue”, I told my colleague.
“The nature of working at the headquarters in those few months gave me the feeling that ultimately I might also turn out to be a follower of Mahesh if I continued there” Prasad said reminiscing those days of boredom and inaction. “I then decided I should get out and join the field assignments as and when opportunities came. Hence I gave an application to the administration to consider my posting to a field assignment early. Mahesh had told me that there were no takers for field jobs and if requested, I would get it early and here I am.”
As planned, we completed the year’s work schedule and discussed and got it approved by Subbaiah on the last day of our stay at Kalluru. We also decided that we all would meet at the same place every 3 months to review the progress.