Monday, January 30, 2006

Saturday & Sunday were reserved to put my shell-shocked room in order. Instead, I ended up exhausting the whole of these 2 days in downloading music (jazz, classical, country, new-age and even some pop) off the Net- mostly legal! The offspring was definitely worth the effort, although I couldn't help feeling a tad guilty of neglecting the upkeep of my room.
I also went off the conventional menu by switching to veg-burgers for lunch. They are inexpensive and filling.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Mantu, Anand & Mani left for Ranchi this morning.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

My blog entry 'The Celestial Trip' has been showcased in the Featured Blog Entries on Sulekha Blogs.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Disarray

Now that Santosh is away, I have the entire room to myself. And now it increasingly resembles the bachelor's typically thunderstruck living place. The floor is dingier than the streets. The bed sheet is covered in layers of stratified dust. My luggage from the previous trip still lies in an alcove. My pillow cover needs a thorough wash. The wardrobe is hopeless. The drawer is in complete disarray, important papers lying recklessly strewn across. A watch lies unwatched on the floor. My books lie scattered all across. My clothes are unwashed; those that are remain crumpled and unironed. Some clothes are dangling from the washing lines, forgotten and almost forsaken. The shelves are flooding. The buckets are empty. The CD's lie carelessly.

I feel unusually sullen.

I don't have the will to set things straight, but procrastination won't make things any better. There'll be a flurry of activity this weekend.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Celestial Trip

I arrive at the bus stop and wait. The sweeper sweeps the road with random and ferocious strokes of the broom and lets off a cloud of dust so high into the air, there's no hope of their settling down for the next hour or so. Indeed, he works like a mini storm in action.

Our bus arrives and gobbles us. I sometimes lose my window seat nowadays to the fledgling headcount. Today is one of those unlucky days. I take the last seat. Notorious for being bumpy, it's the next best thing after the window seat. A tall fellow with oversized legs has unofficially captured that part of the seat that lies just behind the aisle citing legroom as his excuse for the exclusive privilege. I've seen him cry foul whenever a person unwittingly 'took' his seat. The nagging would continue until our tall fellow was granted his place. The bus vrooms its way thru the labyrinth.

Bangalorean roads are dotted with temples with alarming regularity. Gods, like cats and street dwellers, are fiercely territorial. The gods in the East are very different from the ones in the West, the gods in the South are very different from the ones in the North. Each time our bus crosses a dingy but prominent temple, my fellow travelers join in unison to gesticulate a pranam. Not surprising, given the lengths people go to appease their favorite deities. Lighting incense stick or diya, wearing holy threads around the wrist or waist, blowing the conch shell, wearing finger rings to pluck celestial connections, ringing the bell, reciting sacred hymns, distributing prashad, offering sacrifices, organizing pujas…well, they've done it all. Each locality has its favorite deity with its own fan following. Quiz the devotees and they'll cull substantial evidence from mythological scriptures to prove why their god is better than others. Each god has a celestial history to tout, valour to exhibit, earthly visits to celebrate, wrath to be wary of and divinity to be revered.

The devotee has his preferred god. Ask him and he'll immediately ferret out a personal experience from his past to prove how his god had helped him during distress. There's a special chemistry and understanding between him and his god, he'll say; something that is not visible to others. Since the world is too corrupt, he lives a double life: one as a commoner in real life, the other as a heavenly zealot in constant pursuit of his lord. The two are mutually exclusive. The two are strangers. The two can hardly be reconciled. The god will understand that the earthly manifestation of his devotee has to make do with a macabre world, and consequently forgive his many sins. He must, for doesn't the fanatic devotee worship him with unfailing zeal? Surely a little clemency can be expected in return.

And so the myriad gods, held captive in their dingy temples under the watchful eye of the pujari, remain frozen in mud or stone, perpetually showering blessings on the devotees. The devotee, so blessed, moves on to fulfilling earthly obligations. Our bus, oblivious of the divine nexus between its occupants and the roadside gods, is duty bound to serpentine through the roads in pursuit of our office. My co-passengers continue with their pranams at each sighting of a stray god. The ephemeral darshan is so fulfilling. Our vehicle cruelly severs all the sacred ties and deposits us at our workplace.
My over half-a-dozen pairs-of-socks, used to lazing around and stinking real bad, got a prolonged bubble bath in soapy water. I soaked them at around 7 am and hoped to wash them when I came back from office. When I was finally back, the tap, as usual, was dry. So they remained in the bucket, water blissfully permeating through their fabric.

I've a hunch stinking socks are a natural mosquito repellent.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Eventfully Eventless

How long…just how long can my patience be tried waiting for my brilliance to be acknowledged by the world? I wake up each morning hoping long overdue recognition to finally come my way, but it always disappoints. Today was one of those days when my patience gave way to despondence and I didn't feel like getting up in the morning. And when I finally got bored of lying on my back and staring at the blank roof, I got up and went through the well practiced morning chores.

Continuing with where I had left off, I downloaded some more music. Our taps had run dry before the sun had peaked and washing the clothes was thus delayed by a few hours. Apart from the garments, I guess my room too needs a thorough wash. It's getting dirtier by the minute and the thought of even beginning to clean up the mess looks intimidating. I hope the auspicious moment comes on the 28th of this month. I'll have to muster enough courage for that.

My landlord went back on a promise he had made a few months back when I had newly shifted to my present place, though he is legally bound to keeping his word. Seeking legal recourse is not an option, but that shouldn't really pose a serious problem. When mainstream ideas fail us, secondary and tertiary ideas kick in. So I readily sought a contingency plan. It didn't disappoint.

Manilal and his fellow BITians are scheduled to leave for Ranchi on the 27th. Satya will be the only one to stay back, but that's because he's not from our institute. It'll be terribly boring without these guys. I get my daily dose of entertainment just looking at how well these people have settled into a life of cooperative existence. Cooking, coding in Java, cracking jokes, reading the newspaper aloud, cleaning the floor, receiving and forwarding SMSes, making frequent trips to the kirana tea stall, constantly blaring music form their computers, surfing the Net and dexterously applying for hundreds of jobs via copy-pasting, they do it all.

I called up the HSBC guys in the evening to quiz them about the status of my credit card's PIN. It was supposed to show up 2 days after my card reached me. It didn't...and I waited for a week. No luck. I phoned and asked them to send me the elusive PIN. They promised to get it delivered within a week's time. I waited a fortnight. No luck. My calling them today revealing their having screwed up yet again. They got my address right the first time. However, a week later, 15th Main had uncannily changed to 5th. I couriered a mail mentioning the correct address. This time around they rectified the problem…and inserted some new ones! 2nd floor and 17th Cross now went missing! Do these people use vanishing ink? Hope is what keeps me going.

Anyway, I burnt some newly downloaded tracks to a CD at night. They're awesome. The modern classical guitar compositions were absolutely fantastic. Even Anand couldn't help raving about them. I managed to cover a few pages of my book before drifting off to slumberland.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

An utter waste

Manilal and his friends were absconding on account of some examination. Mantu, though, was away on a different pretext. So their house, which is usually a curious beehive of activity, was unusually sedate. So I made the most of the rare opportunity by downloading loads of music, mostly Celtic. Bought 5 HP CD's in the evening.

I had thought of reading a few pages of An Area of Darkness, but lethargy got the better of me. I felt so guilty spending an entire days doing nothing fruitful. I went to sleep feeling heavy.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Afterthought & Anticipation

Ajay leaves Bangalore tonight for a short vacation. I'll miss the bus rides with him after office. Oh yes, lunch too just got boring!
Santosh left last night for his native place and the convocation. We'll meet in our institute. It'll be great fun meeting old friends! I only wish all of our batchmates could congregate there. It's a pity life wrestles us apart.

Solo Piano

David Nevue's compositions are very impressive.

Blast Off...& a nominal connection! (click here)

After two days of delays due to poor weather and a power failure, the 197-foot tall Atlas 5 unmanned rocket, built by Lockheed Martin, lifted off at 2 p.m. EST from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Thursday. The rocket is headed for Pluto.
Credit: NASA/KSC

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

My blog entry 'The Unwanted Harmonium' has been showcased in the Featured Blog Entries on Sulekha Blogs.

The Unwanted Harmonium

A mix of stupidity and over enthusiasm is the birthright of all schoolgirls. They do incredulous things that go down in family folklore as youthful extravaganza. The situation is much worse if two girls hit upon a bright idea all at once. A tragic tale ensues. I live to tell the tale of how I was tortured during those miserable years.

When you have a blank mind that can't be put to use into anything productive, strange things happen. Sangita was didi's best pal. The two were inseparable since KG and couldn't imagine staying apart during school hours. Such things happen when someone needs the espousal of the other to endorse one's imbecility. That explains their finding comfort in each other's company. So far so good.

They must have been 6th graders when they hit upon the brilliant idea of foraying their non-existent talents into singing. It hit upon us like a bolt from the blue. Mom liked the idea. Dad like the idea. Since I was more clairvoyant, I was terrified of the idea. Dad managed to find a 'good' music teacher who was suddenly praised to the skies and revered as an unheralded Parveen Sultana or Girija Devi. Sangita and didi were indeed lucky to have her appointed as their guru, it was thought.

So the two girls bought a harmonium each. I considered the cello as the only instrument that sounds worse than the harmonium. The inventors of these instruments should be tried for treason. Didi's was a 2nd hand instrument that seemed to be bear the scars of World War 2. It came in its own Pandora's box. Well ventilated from all sides, it was all set to become the Las Vegas of all the cockroaches in town. No amount of policing by my parents could dissuade them from having a party in there 24/7. You could see them scurrying each time the box was opened. No one had ever imagined an innocuous little harmonium would become a health hazard to all the residents of our locality.

A thousand instructions were flooded upon didi about the nuances of correctly playing the damned instrument. Even experiments in the chemistry lab wouldn't merit such detail. By the way, does the harmonium even qualify for a musical instrument? It's just a contraption that makes noise at different frequencies. Anyway, the tragic day soon arrived when the two friends set sail on a promising voyage to the revered world of Hindustani classical music. Starry eyed, the girls must have harbored big dreams at the outset of their yet-to be-famous singdom! My miseries were about to begin.

Part of didi's study time every evening was now dedicated to her aural experiments. I would be blissfully wrapped in my daydreams with academic books lying on the table to fool my parents; when, all of a sudden came the blood-curdling screams from didi's throat. A little investigation revealed that everything was okay and that she had only begun her music session. It took me many months to get used to this daily alarm that nearly scared me to death initially. She had this notebook that listed all the permutations and combinations of notes she was supposed to scale with fanatic zeal. And she never disappointed us. Her totally out of tune screams needed the dentures of her faithful harmonium and I saw this as a clandestine plot to make me go insane. But the occasional cockroach angrily barging out of its abode in some remote chamber within the boxy instrument, not being able to take Didi's plaintive cries or the instrument's polyphonic rants anymore, was a delight. I loved the way she would leap with a start, leaving behind her poor instrument at the mercy of the little fellow. The indignant creature, its head reeling, would abandon its home and go look for a new place to invade. Although I was terrified of cockroaches, I would be indebted to the little creature for rescuing me from my agony. I cherished those precious few moments of silence amidst human hysteria.

Saturdays were cataclysmic. I had to stay at home and this was enough to egg her on to sing from dawn to dusk. I felt miserable the whole day. The evanescent respite I got each time she took a break felt like Heaven. And since I had nothing better to do myself, I tried to dabble with the instrument as well. To everyone's surprise, I learnt to play our national anthem on it. Dad thought the scale was too high…though I thought otherwise. Then came the brainwave. Mom suggested I join singing classes or at least learn the tabla. I went a step further and showed how ludicrous the idea was by proposing she learn the tanpura while Dad could pamper himself with another instrument of his choice, as we toured the whole of India begging for alms with our musical troupe . We could soon be world famous beggars. That idea was laid to rest then and there.

I don't remember how many years I suffered thus under didi's aural assaults. Sangita had finally come to her senses and stopped taking classes. It was a unilateral decision that shook all and sundry. I guess it had finally dawned upon her that learning to sing was as impossible a task as making as ass recite Shakespeare's sonnets. Didi was more obstinate. I guess you don't realize how horrible you sound if the sound happens to emanate from within your own head. Gradually, however, sanity prevailed and her odyssey into stardom was finally aborted.

The harmonium and its container box remained in our house as a relic of youthful exuberance while the cockroaches multiplied exponentially. Pest control, as always, was futile. We felt the urge to get rid of the extraneous baggage once and for all. Dad managed to find someone who was as enthused to buy the harmonium as he himself was in selling it. Perhaps the gentleman had an equally foolhardy and obstinate daughter. I only hope she didn't have siblings.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Monday, January 16, 2006

I'm now a Featured Blogger on Sulekha.
My blog entry 'Of Pens & Pencils' has been showcased in the Featured Blog Entries on Sulekha Blogs.

Of Pens & Pencils

My handwriting has always been a disgrace. I guess it can partly be attributed to the way in which I hold the pen. While I find nothing anomalous about the grip, anyone watching me write can't help comment on the oddity. I tried many corrective strategies, but to no avail.

Like most others, I began my voyage into literacy by using the pencil. Not a problem. Sharpening, though, was resented. I simply hated the task of routinely having to sharpen them, though it was a perfect alibi to get a few moments of respite from academic books. Anyway, it was customary to sharpen the pencils the night before school, just after packing my schoolbag and inspecting the pencilbox. The sharpener was an indispensable little contraption for every school goer my age. The exercise of writing would make the lead blunt all too soon and a replacement would soon have to be found. When all backups were exhausted, I would batch them all and sharpen them. But where do you thing I would dispose the refuse? My pencilbox, of course! I hated sharpening pencils at the wastepaper basket. The convenience of sitting at my place and dirtying the pencilbox was too much to be ignored against the class alcove where a bunch of naughty pupils would be competing to sharpen their pencils.

Those were the days when we would be writing in block letters. The world was yet to discover how horrible and illegible my handwriting was poised to become in the years ahead.

I was envious of didi. She had already graduated from pencils to pens. She had a rich assortment of pens that caught my fancy as I would yearn for my turn to use them. Her habit of frequently buying pens sent alarm bells ringing through the household. When quizzed, she struck back with complains against each and every pen. One pen was too bulky while the other was too slippery, another leaked while yet another had a defective grip. But most allegations were leveled against the nibs. The excuses she came up with for buying a new pen instead of just replacing the nib were as colorful as possible. Anyway, she did stock a vast collection of nibs as well, just in case. There was indeed some truth in her allegations. Most of her pens simply refused to write. Or maybe she deliberately malfunctioned them!

Then came the blessed day when I had to junk my pencils for pens. I was so thrilled! The transition took place in the 5th or 6th grade. We had to upgrade our writing skills from using block letters to running letters. And the letters ran haywire. My handwriting literally took a turn for the worse and all the letters gradually began to tilt towards the right. So sincere was their desire to be 'right' that they were now running almost horizontally. It was all wrong. To my surprise, one of my teachers liked the artistry...and to be honest, it didn't really look all that bad on paper as long as you didn't try to read. However, the other teachers conspired against me for making them more myopic than ever and ordered me to set things 'straight'.

Their resurrection was painful , but my letters finally woke up from their self-imposed slumber and stood nearly erect. However, all this strain had stunted them. While 'A' had a bizarre calligraphic twist, 'B' looked like an '8' with a flattened left, 'M' resembled the grafted limbs of a spider while 'O' looked oblongated like a sweet potato. Their lesser cousins were no less illustrious. While 'c' and 'e' became identical twins, 'i' looked like an earthworm that barely managed to hoist itself, 't' had divorced its horizontal bar which now existed as an independent and floating entity while 'o' looked like an 'a' resting on its belly. Actually, all the letters spoke a tragic tale of minionship under the constant pressure and strain of my pen. I felt guilty.

We were allowed only fountain pens and using anything else was absolute blasphemy. We daren't be caught dead using a ball-point and this notion was constantly drummed into our heads during the initial years until we began to look down upon them as writing instruments for the less fortunate. However, filling the fountain pen was an irksome task in itself and replaced the earlier one of sharpening the pencil. Spilling ink during the transference was taken for granted and I used an overdyed piece of cloth to lessen the spills and clean the floor. These pens malfunctioned too often and at any time you could find half the class furiously jerking away at theirs. The floor was full of blue-black spots.

We were in a fix if our ink reserves ran dry in the middle of a class. We had to look for a replacement pen, and if one wasn't available-beg for ink. The pen-to-pen IEX (ink exchange) was an art we had quickly refined. The oddity of gripping the pen too close to the nib resulted in my fingers being almost perennially dyed blue! I also applied a wee too much pressure and the poor nib, not being able to take the strain for too long, would gradually begin to malfunction. I've lost count of the nibs that had to be replaced on account of this anomaly.

Blotting was yet another problem we had to face. Poor paper quality was primarily to blame, and the problem was further aggravated if the ink reserve was close to exhaustion; resulting in huge patches of ink spilling out, sinking through and staining many pages underneath. Chalks would then be culled to our rescue! Lekha, the big-mouth of our class, once had a tough day with her problem pen. She ended up carrying the rest of the day with blue teeth and bluer tongue with great aplomb. I guess it happened on account of an impromptu experiment she broke into! I'll never know for sure how the ink landed up in her mouth!

I also had a great panache for fiction, a talent I used rather heavily during the dreaded and all too frequent exams. Since I despised consulting my text-books, my fertile power of imagination and extemporaneous interpolations were my dearest allies when I read a question that looked all Greek and Latin to me. Pity the teachers who had to go through my answer scripts. Luckily, my bad handwriting must have made most of them give my far-fetched replies the miss. I'm pretty sure they didn't strain their eyes into going through my personal interpretations of the questions asked. Those who had, must have been rattled by the uncharted waters my scribbles had led them into.

The constraints against ball-points were lifted after the 10th grade and I used my new-found liberty to experiment with all sorts of writing instruments form the preposterous ball-points and felt-tips to gels and uncategorizables. But the damage to my writing skills was irrepairable and my scribes remained as illegible as ever. What's more, as time progressed my handwriting deteriorated to a point where even yours truly found it difficult to decipher his own writing! I had to recall from memory to make up for the severe illegibility. To make matters worse, even my memory was volatile!

Turning a new page, I would unfailingly and profoundly resolve to write legibly and beautifully. The first few sentences would have indeed done a calligrapher proud. Then came the gradual departure as my writing deteriorated to a point where even the most seasoned chemists would find it hard to read my words. This state was usually attained by the middle of the page. By the time I reached the end, I would resign to the fact that writing was an art never meant for my genius. But I couldn't resist making the same old resolution each time I turned to a new page...only to be met with the same fate.

The digital world finally came to my rescue and I now use the keyboard for most of my writing needs. Still, the pen cannot be junked for good...at least not yet. And no amount of castigation will ever help me hold the pen correctly.

Let's face it: it's a lost cause!

Currently Reading...

An Area of Darkness by V.S.Naipaul.
I hope to complete the book before convocation.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Bought!

Thanks to Jahnvee for the suggestion. It'll take me more than a year to complete this enormous book.

Leave Approved

I'll be leaving for my convocation on the 2nd of Feb. Will visit home after that and finally return to Bangalore on the 12th. It's gonna be very hectic.
There's a mini-bookfair at our company premises and I may be in the mood to buy. Top of the list:
  1. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
  2. Ulysses by James Joyce
  3. Glimpses of World History by Jawaharlal Nehru

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Cold Fusion Revisited

Dad would have loved this article.
Orion Nebula...my favorite!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Bathing Prelude

I loved water before schooling taught me about oxygen two-timing hydrogen. Bathing was an exercise I particularly reveled in. Needless to say, the foreplay preceding it was a customary ritual I seldom skipped.

The stripteasing began at home in full glare of all the occupants. First to be removed was the shirt. Not very entertaining for anyone. Gradually all the remaining garments would come off until it was time for the shorts to be dropped. This was the moment of great reckoning, the climax of my useless art.

Since I was very skinny, unbuttoning by shorts would make gravity greedily pull them down my bamboo-thin legs. I carefully removed one foot from the 'hole'...and kicked the shorts high into the air with the other. The joy of catching them as they descended was immeasurable! Since the 'kick' wasn't exactly masterly, there was no predicting which way my shorts would go or where they would land. This uncertainty added to the fun. The descent has a rather illustrious history owing largely to the trajectory it traversed.

Running after a dropping pair of shorts had become a recreation for me. Sometimes they would go up steeply and drop right on my head. At others, they were flung almost horizontally and I had to dive to get hold of them. Of course, I failed on many of these awe-inspiring avionics. My shorts fell in all sorts of places like behind the bed, underneath the dining table, in the kitchen, behind the refrigerator...and on the fan!

The fan deserves a special mention in my hall of fame. Each time my shorts were trapped in one of its blades, I had no option but to switch it on and let the swing loosen them and let them fall. Of course, where the shorts fell this time was anyone's guess and catching them required the practice of a maestro. That's me.

My just dislodged shorts cut through air like crazy and I ran after them with commensurate zeal. The acrobatics could have got me qualified for the Olympics. There was one risk involved though. The dislodged shorts sometimes swung out of the fan, out of the open window and finally out of our house. That's when mom would chase a semi-nude me (I had to put something on) out and order me to bring back the treasured possession immediately. I had to meekly comply. I ran down the stairs, went around our building, probed for my fallen and dirtied shorts, found them and brought them back. Didi especially loved these trips of mine. Getting rebuked by mom was a spectacle she wouldn't miss for the world.

Anyway, retiring to the bathroom brought on its own set of joys. More on that...later!

Bored

I'll try to write something interesting this weekend. The new year seems to have ushered in a creative drought for me.

BTW, I'm publishing this post via a very nifty tool for Mozilla Firefox called Performancing.

Buff Trousers & Black Shoes

How a horrible mismatch. Even a colorblind guy would pity me!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Worked on netBeans. Liked it.

In retrospect

I've seldom bothered to go through my previous posts. When I do, I discover to my horror the innumerable grammatical errors that have crept in without my knowledge. It's an embarrassment..really!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

My blog entry 'Potty Pressure' has been showcased in the Editor's Pick of the Week on Sulekha Blogs.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Downloaded Java SDK to my machine. My first program was giving me some problems...but I managed to solve it. I love working at the command prompt.
Owing to a severe time crunch, I'll not be able to make substantial posts to my blog in the immediate future. But I hope to compensate in the months ahead.
If only that overglorified bania package called SAP didn't make me feel like a clerk.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

So near...and yet so far. I'm crushed.
Another post gets showcased in the Featured Blog Entries on Sulekha Blogs.

Potty Pressure

How often do you feel pressured to seek refuge atop a potty? If you were me when I was a school going kid, it would happen at least once everyday between 6pm and 9pm. Let me explain.

I was never an outstanding student, though I was sometimes ordered by the teacher to stand outside the class. When I was at home, I would confine my rendezvous with school books within the 6-9pm bracket. That doesn't mean to say that I would utilize the full 3hrs in intellectual pursuits. It simply meant that no matter how intense the pressure to study or complete a homework, I wouldn't ever allow my studying period to spill outside this region of time.
Spending those 3hrs had become a daily ordeal…and over the years I had perfected the art of studying as negligibly as possible and still managing to expend those dreadful hours of drudgery.

When I was in junior school, accompanying Dad was the easy solution as it always happened during my study time. The outing would conveniently eat into my study time and I could always pester him to buy me something! When in senior school, using such a trick would be too silly and anyone would be able to see through my excuse. So I simply and shamelessly treated myself to a break from studying whenever Dad would go out. I used this recess to dream of girls, go to the verandah and try to recognize the constellations, flip through non-academic books, talk to didi, and the like. As soon as Dad returned, I would go back to studies and pretend to be profoundly engrossed in my books. How convenient!

But even this extended recess that happened unfailingly everyday wouldn't be enough to buffer the 3 endlessly long hours. I had devised a solution that I guess was used for most of my formative years. I would retreat to the toilet for potty business at around 8:30. This was the domain my over imaginative self would yearn for. My ingenuity came up with all sorts of inventive things to keep me mentally occupied. I would hum, whistle, calculate, fantasize, dream…and read comics in the toilet.

I had an absolutely huge assortment of comics. My abysmal memory made the rereads almost as interesting as the first read. We also had a newspaper rack pretty close to the toilet. I would slip some of my magazines between the newspapers. Each time I had to escape from the drudgery of academia, I would conveniently be accompanied by one of these comics that otherwise remained clandestinely sandwiched between the newspapers. Mounting myself over the potty, I began blissfully reading through the pictographic pages. Phantom and Superman were my favorite potty partners. Sometimes, potty business would be long over before reading business, something I would realize only after the reading was over.

Not every visit to the toilet was accompanied by a Phantom or Spiderman. My wild imagination was often enough to concoct stories on its own. It so happened that the region of wall directly below the cistern was perennially damp…and the dampness would cause colored patches of blue to be formed. I allowed myself to imagine shapes out of these spots and spin a story around them. A speeding train, a forest, two judo experts locked in combat, a growling face, birds flying in the sky, a lady carrying a pitcher, etc were all characters around whom I would conceive a non-coherent and non-compelling adventure. The storyline, though not very convincing, was a better mental dabble than memorizing the history and salient features of a non-descript temple that looked less distinguished than a municipal lavatory!

The potty expedition reached a climax when enough time was exhausted and it was time to return to civilization. Our cistern was rather cranky and had to be yanked hard to flood the potty. The yanking called for subtle twists and turns I reveled in!

I finally emerged victorious from my escapade often lugging a comic under an arm that would once again clandestinely slip between the newspapers. My entertainment zone served me faithfully during all those years of schooling. What I did in there would remain a secret from much of the world if this post wasn't published. Didi was perhaps the only exception. She knew all along the kind of things that happened during my potty sojourns. So each time I emerged from the toilet, she would retort,"Oh, so you've finally come out! I thought you had fallen asleep in there."

Addendum: The word 'Potty' has been used in a euphemistic sense. The reader should not take it at face value.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

A new year and some old baggage

Time is continuous. Then why do we chop it into seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades and centuries? I guess it's partly because we need excuses to start afresh after getting hopelessly entangled in problems of our own making. The dawning of a new year is perhaps the best alibi we have ever invented towards this end.

My last few hours of the old year were spectacularly unspectacular…which isn't exactly surprising given only the low-profile existence I can afford. Some clothes begged to be bathed in soap-water before the new year was heralded. I obliged. This lousy exercise wasn't exactly able to ebb my enthusiasm and I set about sending en-masse SMSes to my acquaintances. The messages trickled out…and the replies trickled in.

I got chatting with Badri and we concurred on how I was gradually skewing towards technology while he was towards management. Our interests were parting ways and there was a tinge of sadness in the discovery. He fondly recalled how we would talk for hours on end while studying in school. Those days are long gone.

Well, all the furious typing on the keyboard and the streaming audio made me completely forget about the passage of time until it was well past 9 pm, the undocumented deadline for dinner. Swapping snaps with Badri was partly to blame. Anyway, after excusing myself , I went out on the prowl for something to satiate my appetite which was alarmingly heightened after the realization. Too late. The only tried-and-tested restaurant was downing its shutter…and that left me in the lurch. My stomach rumbled in anger and agony.

Being too lazy to venture far, I walked to an outlet and had an egg puff. A quick-fix for my noisy stomach. A bar-cum-restaurant lying next to the shop looked inviting from the outside. Peering in revealed a stinking air, dim lights and even dimmer people. I could do well without them. I retreated, headed back home, overshot it on account of an impromptu change of heart and reached a shop specializing in eateries. Had a chocolate pastry. While paying over-the-counter, my hand gently brushed against the icing atop a cake. I hastily escaped before the damage was accounted for!

'An Equal Music' had enthralled me thought its pages and I greedily read through them in anticipation of romantic rendezvous between Michael and Julia, although I couldn't help feeling sorry for the spurned Virginia. Her straight-to-the-point conversations with the protagonist were a delight to read. So on reaching home I continued reading from where I had left on the previous installment. I put some Brahms. Surprisingly, I had begun to like the 2nd Symphony over the past few days. Kinda reminds me of how I hated Beethoven's 7th and had all of a sudden fallen in love with it during my exams in Pune. So I now tried my luck with Brahms's 3rd. It didn't sound bad either. The 3rd movement ended at around 11:30pm. The silent phase revealed some loud dance music coming from the next room. Manilal and gang were all set to have a blast of a time as the new year approached dangerously close. Wanting to revel in the moment, I stopped my Brahms, closed my book and came out to the balcony. The guys were all agog with a thousand ideas ambling over their heads on how best to celebrate the new year. No consensus was reached. Some mild drinking was underway, though, as usual, I kept myself aloof from the exercise. Downstairs, a man was already well intoxicated and wishing all passers by a happy new year!

NEW YEAR descended upon us accompanied by fireworks from all around. The sky was literally lit by little missiles piercing into the darkness. Manilal and gang went hysterical and were dancing so wildly that to the uninitiated they would have looked like a couple of madmen in a hurry to shake off their limbs! The music was blasting away at full volume, handicapping any attempt at communication. The drunk fellow from downstairs found his way up and offered us cakes. I could see how irrepressibly upbeat he was. He left, we laughed, we screamed, we crazed, we made a fool of ourselves…all to our hearts content!

After the hiatus to welcome the new year, I went back to my book. The last movement from Brahms's was waiting to be played…and played it was. I drifted away to slumber land at what must have been around 2 in the morning.

Woke up at 8:45. The sky was tightly cloaked. It was an awfully cold morning. Much to my relief, the heavenly canopy was suddenly in shreds, as if suffering from an internal strife. The sun took full advantage of the opportunity and forcefully pierced through the covering. Soon the cloak had dissipated completely and the sun shone happily on us. We celebrated the new year with a mini chicken fiesta. I continued with my book. Rohit visits me in the evening. He has been planning to formally shift to a place nearby for quite some time now.

Though it’s a new year, old problems spill into it with absolute disdain. The floor is heavily soiled, the room in an a complete mess, the wardrobe is in shambles and needs to be overhauled, my luggage still debilitates free movement in the little space that my room graciously grants me. My half-a-dozen pairs of socks stink so hard that their unison could paralyze a buffalo for life. I decide to wash them all together. It's evening time already. I go ahead with the wash…followed by taking my first bath of the year. It's too late for the day, I know, but better late than never!

It's absolutely certain by now that the credit card issuing fraternity doesn't deserve any credit for their sloppy work. The last day of the year endowed me with the much anticipated HDFC credit card. But what I wasn't prepared for was an add-on card for my mom…which came piggy-backed conveniently on my card. To hell these stupid banks! These buggers should be taxed for making our lives miserable. I'll have to return the redundant card first thing tomorrow morning. What's more, the HSBC credit card pin hasn't arrived. I've got to quiz them too. The convocation is impending. Must send a draft to my institute. The LIC premium needs to be paid. Reader's Digest subscription needs to be renewed. French classes to be joined. MyValueShop authorities to be grilled. Tax declarations to be made.

The list is long and unending. If only the old baggage didn't trail us into the new year!