Archive for September, 2008

Let me assure you that the not-so-subtly suggestive title will slowly begin to make sense as you read on. The subject matter of this post is not particularly objectionable but may seem marginally racy to some. But what the hell! This is my page and I’ll write whatever I damn well please! So, here I go!

As someone who has lived in India for 22 years, I can, with unquestionable certainty, establish that every one of us has, at some point in time, encountered a group of eunuchs or hijras. It could be on the train, in a busy market, at bus stops, near temples, at a North Indian function – it could be anywhere, but seen them, you must have. Don’t deny it! I know it. (They are called kojjas in Telugu, which sounds more ethnically-cool. So, I will be using its abbreviation ‘KJ’ throughout this post to address them.) KJs attack you with a formidable weapon – a discordant ensemble of claps and cochlea-rupturing voices (no offence to them, but when they sing, they are sure to cause an ear-haemorrhage!) demanding money for their unearthly ‘choir performance’. They are almost always in groups waiting to ambush their prey. They catch you in the unguarded moment and come clapping and singing. They shower all sorts of blessings on you and go “Aeyi Rajaa! Chal dena. Mera Rajaa!” as the clapping persists, sometimes adding lewd gestures (read ‘threats’) to frighten you. You would be better advised to turn in the first big note your hand chances upon in your pockets as you grope. If you deny them the privilege, then be prepared to be violated, for the ‘gestures’ will no longer be just ‘gestures’, if you know what I mean! I believe, lessons are better taught with anecdotes. So, I shall take that route to elucidate.

I was traveling to Chennai from Hyderabad by the ‘Chennai Express’ which never started or reached the destination on time. In keeping with its own tradition, it was late that day too. Certain towns on its route are notorious for their exacting cabals of Super-KJs. Nellore is one such town which is supposed to pass at around 3 am, but never did. You could sleep in peace if it did. KJs aren’t nocturnal train attackers, apparently. Anyway, that day, the train arrived at Nellore at around 7 am and, as you might expect, an army of KJs boarded the train. With their inveterate clapping, singing and blessing, they combed every coach and every cabin pursing all the money they could from their helpless audience. As I heard their melodious voices from the other end of the compartment, I crammed all the 100s and 500s into my suitcase and pulled out a 10 as a token of my generosity for the promotion of the timeless art they were inevitably going to perform. I prepared myself for the ensuing concert by plugging my ears. The guy sitting on the opposite berth was unaffected by the preparations everyone around was making. He gave me a cocky look with a smirk that said ‘You silly! I can’t believe you’re afraid of them. Look at me, I’m a superhero, the invincible Shun-KJ-man’. I threw him an even cockier look clubbed with pity, that said ‘We’ll see who survives, you or Super-KJ’. And the troupe arrived, gave a memorable performance, gave themselves an applause and then it was collection time! Everyone chipped in their share of the mandatory donations. Our Shun-KJ-man’s cocky indifference irked Super-KJ and his(er) troupe.

The conversation: Super-KJ had a thick Nellore accent in Telugu.

Super-KJ: Aeyi, Saaruk Kaan, teeyi dabbulu. (Aeyi, Shahrukh Khan, out with the money!) *clap, clap*

Shun-KJ: Chillara ledamma. (I don’t have any change.) *contemptuous look*

Super-KJ: Oyabboo! Yeme, Vijaya. Vintiva? Sillara ledanta Sakti Kapooru daggara. Igo abbaya! rendu, aidu chillara teeste, muddu pedata emanukunnavo! Notelu teeyi! (What? Vijaya, you heard him? He has no change. Look Shakti Kapoor, if you show me measly change of two or five, I’ll give you a kiss. Gimme bills!) *playfully caresses Shun-KJ’s cheek*

Me (thinking): Shakti Kapoor? *trying hard to repress a guffaw* (This was the time when Shakti Kapoor made news for all the wrong reasons, hence, was known even in the south.)

Shun-KJ-man’s cockiness and superhero-ish machismo flash-evaporated at the threat of a kiss. His face suddenly wore a flushed look of morbid terror as his hands frantically groped for money. He pulled the first note in his shirt pocket and handed it over without even looking at it. I noticed that it was a 50. Super-KJ and the troupe gladly accepted their reward. In return, Super-KJ tenderly brushed his(er) palm against Shun-KJ’s cheek, gave it a caress and winked at him before they left.

I was still trying really hard to suppress my laughter that was waiting to burst. I decided to play the meanie for a bit. I noticed Super-KJ and the troupe in the next cabin engrossed in their performance routine. I patted Shun-KJ on the shoulder and said “Sir. Pilustunnaru!” (Sir. They’re calling you!) as I pointed to the troupe and guess what happened! The guy turned around and one of the Super-KJs happened to notice him. (S)He winked at him blowing him a kiss! Shun-KJ simpered and donned an I’ve-seen-enough-of-this-cruel-world-I-no-longer-have-the-will-to-live kinda look. I ran to the bathroom, laughed till my guts hurt and returned to my seat. And every time I’d look at the guy, the name ‘Shakti Kapoor’ would start ringing in my head and I would stifle another fit of laughter. This went on until I reached Chennai. The moment I got off the train, I burst into a laughter frenzy.

The following incident also occured on the same train but at a different time. Nine of us were headed to IIT-Madras to represent our college at “Saarang ’04”, their annual cultural fest. The train halted at Guntur, a major junction which arrives at around 9 pm (not too late for KJ revelries, as it turned out!). A battalion of Super-KJs had already begun their ‘Operation Clap-dance’. Three of the guys from our group were at the door of the compartment smoking, while the remaining six of us gathered into one cabin cracking raunchy jokes on each other. As the bettalion drew close, five of us prepared for the imminent third-degree torture. The sixth guy, who happens to be one of my best friends, sat there like another Shun-KJ-man. The KJ Regiment arrived, did their little gig and came to each of us showering blessings, stuffing our money into their saris. When it was my friend’s turn, he brusquely replied, “Ledu, pomma” (I don’t have anything. Just go!)

Super-KJ: Aeyi, Ritik Row-sun! Enti? Leva? Naa chiknaa, teeyi, untayi choodu. (Aeyi Hritik Roshan! What? Don’t tell me you don’t have anything. Look closely, you’ll find something, my cutie-pie!) *clap, clap*

My friend: Ekkadinunchi vastaru raa babu! (Where do these people come from man!) *indignantly, turning to the guy next to him*

In a display of annoyance, displeasure at my friends remark, one of the Super-KJ’s did something unthinkable.

(S)he said “Ekkadinuncha? Ikkadinunchi.” (From where? From here!) *Lifts up the sari upto the waist, as (s)he faces my friend*

The jolt he got from that little ‘flash’ of anatomy, seems to have snapped a few of his neural synapses. I think he still suffers from that slight loss of sanity sometimes! Poor guy! The kind of things he brought himself to see! He was obviously the butt of all the jokes for the entire trip that followed. I still pull his leg over it!

So there, people! Lessons from KJland! Next time you come across KJs, don’t disrespect them. They may not be very receptive of it. They have weapons against which even the most powerful nuke would disarm itself! Don’t try to act snooty with them, they know how to pull you down. Act wise and save your eyes (from having to watch something ghastly!). Let the ‘lewd gestures’ remain gestures!

Here’s a song that teaches you the lessons you need even more lucidly (Please excuse the obscenity in the video)! Yenjaai and learn! 😀

PS: No hate mails/comments will be tolerated. This post was inspired by this one.

Call me obdurate, hard-hearted, compassionless, but I always thought, that crying is the defense of the feeble minded. I was of the opinion that (and I may be wrong), people who break down at the slightest whiff of saddening air only do so to grab attention or in self-pity. Under no circumstances is shedding of tears an option for me to vent my grief. This gene, I believe, has been passed down to me from my mother, a very strong woman. It usually takes a lot to ruffle my lachrymal apparatus. As far as I can vividly recall, instances in my life when I came close to crumbling under the pressure of dejection are so few, that I can count them on my fingers. And instances when I actually caved are even fewer and there was always a very strong reason behind it. But there are also times when you are only consumed by a sense of gloom clubbed with compassion, but it doesn’t actually crack the pot of tears waiting to be broken. The pathos of the situation just gives you a doleful muse and leaves you pensive. You don’t shed a tear but silently ponder over situations life sometimes bares you to. Life shows you how it can cruelly play around with your emotions and remind you how helpless you can be when it does that. Believe me, I’ve been there! This is to tell you how it feels to be caught in such a spot. These were no life altering incidents and might even sound trivial to many, but they are certainly something that I will never forget. They will always linger on, in a dark corner of my otherwise empty head.

It was a cold December morning and I was up early, to study for an exam that afternoon (not something I do very often!). My mother was already up as usual, finished her early morning puja and kitchen purging and was preparing for a new day. I was in my room trying hard to pull my slothful self out of bed. When I finally did, I trudged over to the balcony to feel the morning chill. I was admiring the rising sun and the morning buzz as I shivered in the winter zephyr. I turned around to get back in when, from a distance, I heard a woman wailing. It was a long, forlorn cry that struck me hard. I looked over to see who it was and why she was crying. I noticed that she was with her maimed husband who was pushing himself on a flat trolley as she walked next to him. They were almost naked, with only a few inches of clothes to hide their shame. They were desperately wailing, sobbing and crying out for a piece of cloth. Now, such a sight is not in the least unusual, if you’re living in India. You practically grow up with beggars all around. But something about this hapless couple was very unusually rueful. And there I was, draped in a warm cuddly razaai watching these two unclad people who were in a desperate need for it. It was heart-wrenching to hear their sobs. My eyes almost welled. As I contemplated on giving them some clothes, I turned around to see my mother holding a small bundle of old and unused sarees. As her lips mumbled a silent shlokam, she gestured towards them. I was so terribly moved. I ran into my room, grabbed a bunch of unused clothes and wrapped them up in the razaai I had draped around me. I took the two bundles and ran out to give them to the helpless couple. As the woman clutched the bundles, I saw a look of heart-felt gratitude on her squalid face. She showered blessings on me as she took them. But the joy of having helped a person in need didn’t last long. Their cries haunted me. Their sorrow echoed in my head and killed my concentration as I sat through the examination that afternoon. I was so disturbed by them for some unfathomable reason, that I couldn’t sleep for the next two nights. Sometimes I still hear their voices and sense their destitution, even today. I hope they’re doing well. I really, really hope so.

While that got me thinking for about two days and occasionally afterwards, this incident had me for a week. Hailing from an orthodox family and hence being slightly religious, I used to visit the near by temple in my locality every Saturday. For a long time, I noticed this old lady who begged at the gates along with a few others. She was a regular, like I was. I would give her something every time I went to the temple and she would bless me in gratitude, like all beggars do. We wouldn’t talk or greet each other, a smile is all we shared. One saturday she didn’t show up. I thought she was probably taking a day off. She didn’t show up the next week either, or the next week or the week after that. Her continued absence bothered me. I asked one of the other regular beggars if he had seen that old lady. He nonchalantly replied – “She died about a month ago.” A sudden chill and a rude shock! I was not prepared to hear that. While I usually sang out loud like a mad man on the loose as I walked, that evening I walked the whole distance back home in mournful silence. I couldn’t eat or sleep that night. I mourned that old lady’s death for a week after that, with sleepless nights. I didn’t visit that temple for more than two months afterwards. I felt no kinship with that woman, but I still mourned her death. Strange, but true.

This was way before the previous two incidents. January 26, 2001 – a major earthquake rocks Gujarat. All major news channels did a commendable job in covering the misery of the people and increasing their TRP ratings. I wonder if news channels will ever realize their ‘social responsibility’. Anyway, a national news channel was covering a collapsed school in central Ahmedabad. The surviving children were being taken to the nearest hospital. One video showed a 12 year old girl on a stretcher, with broken limbs. She was evidently more worried about her missing father than herself as she wailed “Mera baapu! Mera baapu!“. I don’t know if she ever found her father . I don’t even know if she herself survived the injuries she suffered, although I hope she did. I was at the dinner table when I saw that depressing video and, needless to say, not a morsel went in after watching it.  Her face is still vivid in my memory and her cries still haunt me. I know, this sounds ridiculous to some, but it’s true, that’s how ridiculously emotional I can get sometimes.

December 26, 2004 – the sea breached its frontiers with land and wreaked havoc. The town of Nagapttinam, TN was the worst hit in India. Again, the new channels celebrated their ever-growing TRP ratings, with their respective coverages. But Barkha Dutt is one journalist I’ve always looked up to and admired her for her professionalism in reporting, be it the Kargil conflict, the military coup in Pakistan or the Boxing Day Tsunami. Her coverage never lacked the professional character that many reporters are sadly famished of. She covered the tsunami in the same spirit. But she’s human after all – she broke down on camera when she visited a make-shift relief center. And one cannot blame her for it – there were mothers looking for children, children pining for their parents, some looking for entire families. It could not get worse, the death toll and the number of missing kept rising by the minute. In any case, Barkha Dutt’s report on the relief-centers was gripping. After watching the report, I fervently looked for the smallest of opportunities to volunteer in the camps in the affected areas. I finally found one with Red Cross, Hyderabad. The center was looking for volunteers and I gave in my name through someone I knew. I was to board one of the special trains to Chennai in a couple of days, when suddenly, I got a call from RC. They said they already had enough volunteers and didn’t need more. I was heart-broken. I tried persuading them into letting me go, but they had already decided not to. Every time I watched the visuals of the devastation after that day, I wouldn’t be able to sleep that night. I would be overwhelmed with a sense of guilt. The thought that I didn’t do what I could, gnawed at my conscience.

These incidents did not affect my life in any manner, but still remain fresh in my memory.  They always will. These were times when life reminded me that I am human and that I am susceptible.

On a closing note, here’s a music track that is often voted ‘the saddest classical composition ever’ – Samuel Barber’s ‘Adagio for Strings’.

PS: Now try reading the post with the track playing in the background! But don’t cry, please.

Namaskaram! Namaskara! Namaskar! Vanakkam!

Bhelcome! This time, I’m back with an ‘elephantine’ bang (pun intended)! Today is the most auspicious (pron. aas-pee-sus) day according to the ‘Chaandramaana Panchaangam’ (Lunar Calendar). It is the day the three-eyed, trident wielding Lord and His divinely beautiful, emerald-hued consort blessed themselves with a son! It is the Haappee budday of one of the gods I am most fond of, also one of the most lovable ones – the remover of obstacles, the chief of the Pramadha ganas, the elephant-headed, the adorable – GANAPATI! This is, wishing Him MONEY HAAPPEE RITTUNS AAF THE DAY! YAYYY!! *pretending to feast on kudumulu, undraallu, pulihora, paayasam*

This reminds me of something that happened this morning. Rather strange, but pleasant. I was strolling through the beautiful, quaint streets of Manoviharapuri, a sleepy town nestled in the lofty mountains of Ooharajya. It is a place I often head off to when I need some time for myself. It is an idyllic place, untouched by the madness that plagues the rest of the world. Tranquil, unspoiled, picturesque – ideal setting for anyone seeking solitude. My mind wandered off as I walked. I was in peace with myself. As I ambled through the town, marveling at its rustic beauty, I ran into an old friend of mine. He recognized me instantly. At first, I couldn’t place him, but it eventually struck me. It was a very pleasant surprise. We hadn’t been in touch for a while, honestly speaking, a long while. I noticed that he hadn’t changed a bit! I knew him really well and for a long time at that. Their house was my second home. His parents are the nicest people I’ve ever known. He has an uber-cool brother too. Wonderful family!

He and I had a lot to talk about, lot to catch up with, but time was a major resource I lacked. How unfortunate. I run into a good friend of mine after an aeon and I don’t have the time for him. Indeed, how unfortunate! Anyway, this is the brief conversation we engaged in, or roughly so:

Him: Hey Karthik! Wassup man? Long time no see!

Me: O MY GOD! Is that really you. I thought I’d never get to see you again. What a pleasant surprise. I’m good. How’ve you been? (A firm hand-shake and a friendly hug)

Him: Fabulous! But you look famished, what’s wrong? Are you on a hunger strike for some lost cause or something?

Me: O come on! It’s not that bad. I’m fine, at least I don’t get laughed at for clumsily tripping over while picking up food, unlike someone here. (tongue-in-cheek)

Him: Yea yea! You only get laughed at when you can’t even pick up the food, coz it’s too heavy for you.

Me: (laughing) You haven’t changed one bit man! Your quips, your dry sense of humor – Everything’s just the same! So, how are mom and dad?

Him: They’re fine. The usual, too much work and all that. My brother’s married now.

Me: Wow!! Congratulations! Where is he? What’s he doing?

Him: He lives with my parents and works with my dad.

Me: Happily married huh? Nice! So……what brings thee hither?

Him: I’m always here dude! I also know that you come here quite often, for the peace and quiet you so crave. In fact, I tried contacting you many a time, but you never respond. Soooo ‘you’! (nodding his head)

Me: Really? I’m sorry man! When I’m here, I’m as good as dead. I’m unreachable. Besides, I’m lost most of the time and you know that.

Him: Out of my reach too? Come on man! There was a time when you and I were inseparable. The best of friends, that made the world go green with envy!

Me: I know, and I’m sorry I didn’t keep in touch. I sooo regret that now. Anyway, I’m glad I ran into you.

Him: Yea, me too. So, what are you up to these days?

Me: (I give him a complete run-down on my status quo.) How ’bout you?

Him: I’m a full-time counselor, consultant.

Me: Business consulting? I thought you headed your dad’s company.

Him: Yea, I do. But part-time. I run a counseling center, where I deal with clients with all kinds of problems, not just business. I counsel everybody – businessmen, troubled kids, engineers, organizations, everyone! I cater to everybody. And it’s all free of charge! I get a lot of generous donations, so no one faces a forced financial burden, neither the client, nor me.

Me: Really? Counseling? And free of charge too? SPLENDID!! Do you take up education, career counseling as well?

Him: Career and Education is an exclusive department. I have a 100% success record. You need help? I’m here.

Me: Wow! Good for you dude. Tum tho chha gaye. So, where are you located? May be I’ll drop by sometime. I need help with a lot of issues.

Him: I’m everywhere. The consultancy is headquartered in Maharashtra though, near Pune. I have eight major centers there. I have one major office in AP, a few in Karnataka and TN and many more across the country. I’ve even gone international. I run centers in the US, Canada, UK, Australia and elsewhere. I have franchisees in Tibet and South East Asia. I go everywhere, not just to the offices. I’ve travelled a lot. I still do and always will. Lot of work you know.

Me: I understand. It’s a lot of work indeed. And yea, I’ll come by sometime.

Him: Sure, any time dude! Here’s my card. You can avail yourself of the tele-service as well. Lines are open 24*7. There’s a toll-free line or you could also call me personally, if things require immediate attention. I can do some counseling right now, if you please. I can tell, you’re stressed out.

Me: Thanks man, this was helpful enough, knowing that there’s someone I could turn to in times of need. I’ll certainly drop by. I can’t promise you a time, but I’ll come. I’ll surely come. Thanks a ton dude! You are God, I tell you!

Him: O Please! You’re embarrassing me. You know my doors are always open to you. Walk in any time, call me any time! Any kind of help, do not hesitate to ask! Ok?

Me: Ok. I’ll call you before I come.

Him: Sure. Anytime! So, what else is new? Love life?

Me: Long story man! Don’t get me started on that now, I’m in no mood to pine and brood. I’ll tell you when you counsel me. How ’bout you?

Him: Happily married!

Me: WHAAAT!! When did that happen?

Him: Long story! Will tell you when I counsel you! (wink)

Me: Clever! And congratulations to you. Anyhow, I gotta run. My vacation’s over and I have to get back to the grind. It was really nice talking to you after so long! I’ll keep in touch and I’ll see you soon. Give my regards to your parents and your brother, of course, the missus. I hope to see them too sometime.

Him: Certainly. Take care! You remember what I told you.

Me: Yea, I will. And by the way, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Him: Thanks! You remember?

Me: Of course, I do. And I run into you on this day? I mean, what are the odds!

Him: Thanks a lot! I’ll see you soon!

Me: Bye!

By now, I’m sure you’ve guessed who my buddy is, to the point of certainty. After that pleasant rendezvous, I’ve been fishing around for a good picture of him and me. I didn’t find any, with the two of us. But, what I did find was this one picture that I made, with this very hand that He gave me! Here it is –

nritya_ganapati001

Thanks dude!! And HAPPY BIRTHDAY once again!

Here’s a little poem in Telugu, that my mom taught me as a kid. This is for you.

తొండమునేకదంతమును తోరపుబొజ్జయు వామహస్తమున్

toMDamunEkadantamunu tOrapubojjayu vaamahastamun

మెండుగమ్రోయుగజ్జెలు మెల్లనిచూపుల మందహాసమున్

menDugamrOyugajjelu mellanichoopula mandahaasamun

కొండొకగొజ్జురూపమును కోరినవిద్యలకెల్లనొజ్జవైయుండెడి

konDokagojjuroopamunu kOrinavidyalakellanojjavaiyunDeDi

పార్వతీతనయా! ఓయి గణాధిపా! నీకు మ్రొక్కెదన్

paarvateetanayaa! Oyi gaNaadhipaa! neeku mrokkedan

Word-to-word meaning: “toMDamunEkadantamunu” splits up as “toMDamunu” + “Ekadantmunu” – With a trunk and one tusk;  “tOrapubojjayu vaamahastamun” – “tOrapubojja” = a large belly, “vaamahastamun” = an assuring hand; “menDugamrOyugajjelu” – “menDuga” = a lot, in plenty, overflowing, “mrOyu” = ring, rattle, sound, “gajjelu” = ankle bells; “mellanichoopula” = squint-eyed; “mandahaasamun” = a perpetual smile; “konDokagojjuroopamunu” – “konDoka” = boy, lad, “gojju” = dwarf, “roopamu” = form, manifestation; “kOrinavidyalakellanojjavaiyunDeDi” – “kOrinavidyalaku” = for all desired knowledge, “ojja” = the foremost authority, “ai” = having become, “unDeDi” = that is, are (depending on the person of the pronoun); “paarvateetanayaa” = son of Parvati; “Oyi gaNaadhipaa” = O leader of the gaNaas; “neeku” = to you; “mrokkedan” = I salute.

Translation: Bearing a trunk and one tusk, a large belly and a reassuring hand, with overwhelming rings of ankle bells, a squint and a perpetual smile. In the form of a boy-dwarf, you are the supreme authority of all desirable knowledge, O Son of Parvati! O Leader of the gaNaas! I salute you!

O, I completely forgot! Here’s how you can contact my friend Kaanipaakam Varasiddhi Vinayaka Sastry (K. V. V. Sastry):

Need Help of any kind? Call NOW!!

Toll-Free: OM-GAM-GANAPATAYE-NAMAHA

Landline: vakratuMDa mahaakaaya sooryakOTi samaprabha, nirvighnam kurumEdEva sarvakaaryEshu sarvadaa.

Cell: Om Ekadantaaya vidmahE vakratunDaaya dheemahi, tannO dantih prachOdayaat.

Avail yourself of this service! It costs nothing, but offers a lot in return! A very nice man, Mr. K. V. V. Sastry.

I wish you all A VERY HAPPY VINAYAKA CHATURTHI!!

P. S.: Don’t forget to comment on the picture!