Monday, 21 September 2009

Dear Mr Halwai

The Proprieter
Jagannath Sweets
31/5 Church Road


Even as you’re thinking hard about the identity of the strange, derelict fellow with a wispy beard who dropped off this letter at your esteemed sweetshop, dare I suggest you drop the idea immediately? Because the very fact that you’re reading this letter means you’re not going to see my face ever again. Don’t be mistaken. This is not a complaint, nor is it a letter of accusation. I’m simply going to apprise you of the sticky situation I found myself in, after having consumed a bowl of your famous, piping hot gulabjamuns. No pun intended here. Now I’m a big fan of gulabjamuns and consider it one of the best remedies for a certain condition, which we in the circle call “munchies”. And when beset with the said condition, it is not possible to follow social convention while having the jamuns, or anything sweet for that matter.
So there I was, stuffing my mouth with the jamuns at a rate faster than I could swallow, mouth dripping with the sugary syrup and mind completely oblivious to a million stares. Now despite the desperation on my part at wolfing down the jamuns, I realized a little later that I was not provided with tissue papers. And then, owing to the enhanced state I was in, it occurred to me that there’s never been a time at your sweetshop that I’ve received tissues with the gulabjamuns; or for that matter with any other food item that requires a ceremonial wipe of the hand.
After pondering over the situation awhile, I was forced to bring the matter to the man behind the counter. On being asked for tissues, the man simply pointed my nose to the corner of the shop where they wash the utensils, probably signaling me to wash my hands there. But to my utter horror, I saw utensils in all shapes and sizes, including those similar to the one I’d freshly had my gulabjamuns from, swimming in water the colour (and consistency) of sewerage. Such visual assault was too much for me. After gathering my bearings, and in a bid to save my olfactory senses from a similar assault, I quickly ran out. But in the process, I forgot that my fingers were still stained and sticky with the syrup from the gulabjamuns.
So far so good. All I had to do was go back to my place and wipe my hands clean. But imagine my plight, of all times, I bump into an extremely attractive acquaintance of mine from my neighbourhood at this hour.
Now not wanting to waste your time, allow me to fast forward to the situation that brought me the immeasurable agony. Little knowing that my sticky hands had gathered a lot of dirt and grime while on our way back to my room, I was horrified to find it all imprinted on her lovely white shirt while I was trying to take it off. Plus, by now I also noticed some dead flies, or what remained of them, sticking to my palms. All of this happened so suddenly and it was yet to sink in, when the damsel whose dress I’d just desecrated got up abruptly and gave me an earful about hygiene – she really shuddered to think about the sanitary plight of my privates if such was the condition of my hands. My protests, excuses and pleading fell on deaf ears, and quite validly so, for which distinguished-looking lady would entrust herself to someone who couldn’t maintain the most basic decorum of cleanliness?

Needless to say, I was left shame-faced and with an extremely disturbed psychology; not to mention deprived of some steaming hot “action”. Which is also why this letter has made its way into your hands.
Now I don’t need to stress more on the fact that your gulabjamuns and my plight do share a causal connection, as that much is more than evident. Sure, it was a chain of events that led to the disaster, but one can trace the root cause of all this trouble to a lack of tissues at your sweetshop. Therefore, I felt the need to alert you to this glaring slip-up and urge you to take appropriate steps in ensuring an abundant supply of tissues for all your valuable patrons. God forbid anyone should meet the ill-fate I’d befallen.

Yours persistently


Thursday, 10 September 2009

Y So Lonely

A harmless but nonetheless obnoxious malady has been plaguing our species for quite some time now. By species, of course, I mean man. Ah, but not man as in Homo Sapiens, because that epithet is considered too politically incorrect these days. I refer to the actual man, the chromosome Y; the stronger sex, the alpha male, the testosterone-laden stud, the impatient shopper, the beer-guzzling couch-potato, if you please.

Alas now, this malady has acquired epidemic proportions and is threatening to wipe out the very existence of man.

The initial symptoms seemed innocuous enough. We saw the signs in language at first - replace chairman with chairperson, spokesman with spokesperson, mankind with humankind. And it doesn’t quite stop there. Efforts are being made to update our vocabulary even further. So expect words like personhole, boogie-person, hitperson etc, to pop up in common parlance. So much so that David Letterman, under immense pressure from certain quarters, is contemplating changing his last name to Letterperson!

Now for the epidemic - the male gene is actually going to disappear; If not tomorrow, then about a thousand generations from now. And then recently, in a remarkably rash instance of clubbing one’s own foot, leg and thigh, some scientist casually announced to the world that he’d found a way to produce sperm artificially. Professor Karim Nayernia of the University of Newcastle, says the latest research brings the prospect of female-only conception a step closer. And it could spell the end of males because creating sperm from women would mean they would only be able to produce daughters. The chromosome Y of male sperm would still be needed to produce sons.

The research was received with welcome arms by some vested interests. The finding could very well be one of the last nails on the masculine coffin... A distant utopian dream of a world without males. These vested interests, by the way, are called feminists. The lesser important thing, however, is that the research was actually conducted in the interests of sterile men who need to sprout branches on their family trees.

But can we prematurely blame someone for the not-so-distant-future extermination of the male species? We’d ideally like to blame the bra-burning feminists (though we didn’t really mind it when they burnt the bras), the wives, the mothers, and the girlfriends who may nag us into extinction. Or should we blame the society which reserved everything for its women, or the women themselves who took over positions of power and became feminists? But as much as we’d like to blame the feminists, it wasn’t actually them. Ironic yes, but it may just be clinching evidence that God is indeed male and he is trying to take out the competition. Either that or he is a closet feminist!

Or, it could very well have been just good old science.

Look at the simple facts - each of our cells contain 23 pairs of chromosomes. Twenty two of them are matched pairs which both men and women share, but in men, the 23rd pair is made of an X and Y chromosome. The latter determines masculinity - the same genes necessary for forming testes and sperm, but above all, also necessary for less shopping, less irritability and enough patience to lose infinite arguments.

The problem, however, is that the chromosome Y is a lone ranger and does not have a matching pair. And worse still, it’s rapidly shedding genes. Around a hundred million years ago, chromosome Y carried about 140,000 genes. Now, there are only 45 left. It goes something like this - Every time a cell divides, some mistakes (mutations) creep into the paired chromosomes. But the cell can always get the correct sequence from the other chromosome. Though not on the Y chromosome. Because unlike women, instead of living with the mistakes, the Y chromosome promptly deletes them over time - to create the perfect man! And scientists believe it’s this process that is eliminating the man.

Scientists say that things seemed to be going all hunky dory till about 100 million years ago when the Y chromosome stepped up the plate and took on the added responsibility of creating males. And in this quest for perfection, it is doomed to whittle itself away slowly and await a martyr’s fate.

Although this did give birth to unarguably the best and most advanced race in the world, it also means that chromosome Y, much like Bruce Willis in Armageddon, is going to go down in the line of duty. And unless women find a way to reproduce among themselves or learn to harvest some of the last living males as batteries for reproductive purposes in a rather warped take on Matrix – it may just mean the end of sexual reproduction as well.

So, what does a world without males look like? One can imagine a whole sea of (lesbian) humanity writhing and cussing and PMS-ing at any given point of time in a month. Imagine a world without beer, or worse still, hairy-fairies guzzling beer and watching other hirsute fairies play football ( a reversal of the research that shows drinking beer can make men effeminate). Imagine a world without sex, much like Charlotte Perkins’ Herland, where women reproduce asexually. Where shaving cream and razor will be used only to shave legs and armpits. Or will they even bother with that? Where cars will always break down, accidents become du jour, and parking a physical impossibility? And best of all, there’ll be no man to be blamed for anything that goes wrong. Ah...not such a bad fate then.

Only sad thing is we won’t be around to enjoy that great all-male fantasy - en masse woman on woman action.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Thick Headed Captain

He told me his head was once bitten by a camel. Not bitten off, but bitten into. He even showed me the spot, which was actually a scar hiding under a film of gruffly hair. He said he and his siter had been taken captives by the Pakistani army, at the Rajasthan border, and imprisoned for about two months. The first few weeks, there was no food. And it would get nauseatingly hot. So hot, that the tar would melt from the road and ooze on to the sides.
He had scraped some of the tar and eaten it. Which made his stomach swell. It was so bad, he said he'd rather watch his sister die than give her some of that road pulp.
They asked him several questions, but he had no clue how they ended up in this place. He mumbled something about being sedated by a cattle trader. Then they started using the terror tactics.
His sister was brought in front of the camel, to be trampled underfoot, in front of his very own eyes. It was while trying to save her that the camel bit him.

I asked him what happened to the sister. He looked unperturbed, much like someone who's gone off the rocker and doesn't realise what he's lost, or what he's been through. He only knows events that brought him to the edge of sanity. Not a moment's worth of recollection more. And the camel bite was probably when he'd lost his sanity. From then on, he'd started regressing. His voice became that of a crackled teenager's. Or, according to some rumour, he'd had his bollocks removed out of spite just because his father didn't let him marry the girl he loved.
But even though he was regressing back to childhood, his features were increasingly getting older. He wore the expression of a 40-year-old man, even though he was only 29 at the time. With callouses on his palms, saltnpepper beard and scaly, bunion infested feet, he reminded me of a caricature uncle. Someone who amused kids to bits, and was naive enough to earn the trust of the ever suspicious parents.

He'd announce his arrival from hundreds of yards away. There was a peculiar way he held the side of his palm to his mouth and let out this carnivalesque horn. No one could produce that sound. It was louder than a truck siren, and longer than a train horn. It began from a low note, a rumble that'd climb till you could hear the vocal chords vibrating furiously with the soft flesh of the hand. That siren was another reason he was popular with the kids.
I can think of one more reason. He could eat any amount of chilli. And I’m not talking about heavily spiced food. He could eat, bite into and chew the hottest chilli in the world like it was a beanstring. And boasting about it almost always worked as an ice-breaker with the kids. He’d recount triumphant tales of when such and such person challenged him into eating a teaspoonful of red chilli powder. And he’d taken one teaspoon, polished it clean and then scooped another heap into his mouth, like it was milk powder.
And when you prodded him enough, he’d say there was no secret or trick to it. “I was born in a chilli”, he’d laugh maniacally. He’d then proceed to explain the obsession had caught on much early. From childhood, he’d started eating green chillis with a dash of salt. And soon it was just chillis. It never caused any awful reaction in his system. Ever.

He worked at a solar observatory. It was the only one in the country, he'd boast. And it was situated in the middle of a lake. So kids would go absolutely nuts about the journey to his office, which had to be undertaken in a boat. The observatory was a cylindrical building with a rotating dome at the top. The first time I entered it, the dome rotated a couple of degrees, at which point the pigeons nestling there took flight. That gave me a sudden jolt. And he laughed, wickedly. In fact, he found it so amusing that he came back and recounted the tale with sadistic pleasure to my mum.
"He was calm throughout the boat ride, you know, but you should have seen the look on his face when the telescope moved!!" he'd cry with a rasp, hoarse, maniacal laugh.

But there were certain things even his affected mind knew would be anathema to talk about. Like how I had almost died the day I went with him to his office in the lake. The disaster that had been averted just in time. Apparently, while getting off the boat, I'd calmly stepped into the water, thinking it was the dock. The water was some 30 feet deep there, and I fell with an unceremonious splash. He jumped in to save me. He was always saving people and getting into trouble. But thankfully though this time, the moor and the rope were right next to us. And he'd had the good sense to grab it right before jumping in. We never mentioned the incident to anyone.
I spent the afternoon sitting in the lawns of the observatory, warming my body and drying my clothes. I hated it. I'd been pretty desperate to check out the observatory, peer through the gigantic telescope and see the spots on the sun. Now I had to content myself with only soaking it up.

After taking a mighty swig from the jug full of chai, he asked me whether I could join him for buying some poultry. A chicken farm, he promised me would be exciting.
We cycled off to the farm. And he showed me how the hens were kept inside the coop, and their feed sprinkled through a mechanical device. I watched the hens roosting peacefully, totally oblivious to their suitors. We were looking for the one with the right amount of flesh. Not too swollen, “because it’d taste like a potato”, he’d say. And not too skinny either. There are 5 people eating it, remember?

A moderately sized chicken was chosen, but we had to go the main entrance to get the butcher guy who’d make her ready. Before that we went exploring the farm. There some dogs lying about in the sun, watching us but not quite. He looked at me with a wild grin and said he was going to give the dog a cup of coffee. I burst out laughing. The imagery was so funny: a guy offering a cup of coffee to a dog. I was still laughing when he picked up the stone and hit me in the head. It was so sudden, and so blinding, there was hardly any pain. I could see the events unfolding, and knew it was going to hurt. But like in a dream, I just couldn't move; I didn't even want to move, and I didn't feel the pain. I really didn't. It was fun, except that I don't remember what happened next.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Wannabe Man

They say a man likes to do things alone. Being alone, they say, can make you lonely. I was alone, but not lonely quite yet. I had my choicest poison for company, and enough dope to last many weeks. That stuff can drive you crazy though, especially when you're alone. It can also give you epileptic cravings for anything sweet. I skimmed through my options. I didn't want to bake a cake. Baking is for pansies. I'd rather go for a frozen dessert. Frozen stiff, and a barrel of alcohol to wash it down with. Or better still, one could add the alcohol to the dessert.
I went hunting for the ingredients. I'm desisting from using the word shop, because that's way too emasculating. But then it occurred to me, only ladies would go to such lengths to 'get' ingredients for dessert. I altered my plans a little bit. I needed to make some other thing that would be a great excuse to go foraging for dessert ingredients. So I went hunting for some meat, a rather adventurous thing at this hour, considering I had very little moolah and only a cubbyhole butcher shop to buy it from. But I like hunting for meat this way. And for today's efforts, it gives a rough edge to the whole deal.
So I asked for an under-cut piece of pork. If you're in my city you'll soon realise this is a highly coveted piece. Most of the stock gets over because crony floozies from restaurants across town will flock here to handpick the best cuts early in the morning, even before the swine has bled its last drop. Luckily for me today, though, they had a piece left.
Normally I like conversing with the butcher. About how fresh the meat is and what different kind of cuts there are. Today though, he seemed amnesiac; a puzzled face that pretended to not know what he was doing. Most of all, I heard him tell his assistant to not wear that shirt to work. This annoyed the life out of me. This butcher, with the enormous shoulders and beefy arms wielding a gigantic meat cleaver, was beginning to look like a little pansy. I like my butchers hardfaced and stone-hearted; how else would they do justice to their jobs? Tenderness in a butcher is anathema to his profession.
I grunted at him to quickly carve me some pieces of chops. I think he got the hint. In a ruthless-but-deft stroke, he hacked the chops out, much to my heart's content. I handed him the money, in exchange for the meat. I walked out. There was a fish market up ahead. I like fish, but only the ones I've caught. So I gave the market a pass. Next to the fish market were these vegetable shacks. They sell fruits out there as well. I bought some peppers to go with the steak. Also some mushrooms, beans, leeks, courgettes, cherry tomatoes and chillies. Also an  avocado for a side salad. I was on my way to buying the ingredients for the dessert, when it hit me. The smell... It was so real that I lost my bearings for a second. I'll tell you why. If you sniff carefully, hovering somewhere in this market, at a point where the fruit, vegetable, meat and fish stalls intersect, is a place that smells exactly a woman's netherland. Making a mental note of the spot, I left for home.
I marinated the pork chunks in soya sauce for half an hour. Before adding a dash of rosemary, I rubbed crushed garlic on the meat. Then proceeded to pan-sear the meat, first, and then the vegetables. They say when garlic and butter come together, a chef is born somewhere. I'd say when you add rosemary to the mix, all the sins a chef has committed in his lifetime are forgiven by heaven above. Once the meat is seared and sizzled golden on both sides, take it out and add chopped vegetables. That's it. Stir fry and it's done. 
It was awesome, to say the least. Now the excuse for a male chauvinistic dessert over, I proceeded to actually make it. Crushed some hobnob cookies to a fine crumble, and after adding a lavish portion of melted butter, set it in the dessert tray. I put it in the fridge, to make the base firm, and now focused on the condensed milk to make toffee out of. Boiled it for hours, and after layering the cookie crust (now out of the fridge) with split bananas, ran the toffee solution over it. Added whipped cream and shaved chocolate flakes on top and we're ready.
Now if you wish, you can pour the vodka on top of it. It'll taste like shit, but you can have dessert like a man.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Noble Beast+Bird+Effigy

Andrew Bird's Effigy
from the album, Noble Beast


If you come to find me affable
and build a replica for me
Would the idea to you be laughable
of a pale facsimile

so will you come and burn an effigy
It should keep the flies away
And when you long to burn this effigy
It should be of the hours that slip away

Slip away

It could be you
It could be me
working the door
drinking for free

carrying on with your conspiracies
filling the room with a sense of unease
fake conversations on a nonexistent telephone
like the words of a man who spends a little too much time alone
when one has spent a little too much time alone

So will you come and burn my effigy
it should keep the flies away
if u long to burn an effigy
it should be of a man who's lost his way
slips away

it could be you
it could be me
working the door
drinking for free

carrying on with your conspiracies
filling the room with a sense of unease
fake conversations on a non-existent telephone
like the words of a man who spends a little too much time alone
when one has spent a little too much time alone

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

For the longest time, I wasn't even aware that I had died. I was surfing the internet on the laptop when suddenly the connection went plonk. Or so I thought.
I did everything I could to fix the problem. But it just felt like the dream when you're trying to escape or call someone for help but no part of your body moves?
I wanted to unplug the cable from the modem, but couldn't move from my chair. Bizarre, isn't it? There was only one thing to do in such an emergency situation.
Wake my roomie up. She was lying dead in her bed. Not literally, but I knew waking her up would need the resourcefulnes of a stand-up comedian or a sexual pervert.
But imagine my surprise when I found myself unable to even lift a finger to rouse her from sleep.
Was I dreaming? I couldn't fix the internet line, couldn't move from my chair. Shit, I even tried opening my mouth to say something and absolutely nothing came out. Not even a sigh.
I tried listening for some vital clues to make sense of what was going on. And then I could hear it. The deafening silence. Like outer space.
I was terrified and paranoid. Imagine a plight when you can't turn to anyone for help, no matter how hard you try, and to top it all, your senses abandon you like a gold-digger wife. This could only mean I was paralysed or some crazy shit like that.
And as I found out later, that would have been still better. I would have at least kept believing that and sat there till the roomie woke up the next afternoon and took me to the emergency. Had it not been for the sudden assault on my senses.
Out of the blue, I started seeing things in the weirdest of ways. Or to put it more clearly, I started seeing things FROM the weirdest places. I looked up, and there was an enormous growth right above my eyes. It stretched on for god knows what, a mile? And below me? An eternal abyss. If I fell from the angle I was looking down, the only way of escaping would be clinging to the cluster of thick bushy hair right under my eyes. And that was really confusing. Eyebrows under my eyes?

Anyway, I somehow managed to look up beyond the stump that was right above my eyes. Something even bigger was towering above the stump, but way above. Then I recognized it. It was my face. I couldn't have mistook the scraggly beard and the unkempt hair for anything in the world. The face I'd adored every single morning in front of the mirror. And outside while shopping in the mall, or in the office window pane. I knew what I was looking at.
But there was something horribly wrong with it. Instead of eyes, it had two very ugly orbs sticking out of the sockets. Round, but so not like my eyes.
Suddenly I knew what had happened. Someone was playing jigsaw puzzle with my anatomy. And that could mean only one thing.

I was dead.