Now being published as a novel. Click the picture to find out more:

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Shut it, please?

The other day, I was in an elevator with a lady. She was listening to dont-mess-with-me headphones – the ones which look suspiciously similar to the ones that were used to communicate with aliens in the early science fiction movies. This was before they discovered telepathy and video-conferences.

I think headphones are a wonderful invention. It allows you to carry your own personal brand of ambience around. No need to worry about anything around you. No danger of being forced to engage in inane social small talks. In fact, no need to think about the futility of inane social small talks either. In a way, you are carrying your own world around with you. It is literally wrapped around your head.

Sometimes, this world spills out of your head. It is not pleasant, especially if that world consists of Justin Bieber. It can become utterly obscene if Justin Bieber inadvertently bursts into a just-need-somebody-to-love through your mouth. The best part is that you may not even be aware that you are breaking into a hum at dangerously audible decibel levels. It can be embarrassing in much the same manner as it would be if someone were to release an incriminating tape of yours on the internet without your knowledge.

This lady in the elevator did exactly that. No, she didn’t release an incriminating tape – Not that I am aware of at least; but she started to sing Justin Bieber aloud in a manner which would put anybody to shame, including Justin Bieber. In an alternate world, Justin Bieber, actually did hear her singing and immediately decided never to sing again, thereby making for a better world. In the present world, however, I was confined in this elevator for a full minute listening to her recital. This experience now tops my list of most forgettable experiences. It required a lot of deliberation on my part to grant this the #1 status as it faced stiff competition from #2 on that very list (turning thirty). In the end, I eliminated turning-thirty from the list since I have already forgotten if that event ever happened. Already forgotten, it couldn’t possibly be ‘forgettable’. Minor but important technicality.

When my colleague reported to me a similar excess he experienced in office, I was so moved that I contemplated turning into a superhero that will rid the world of such ignorant and untalented singers. I designed a logo, made a costume out of curtains, frills and empty detergent boxes and was just thinking about inventing the usual gizmos, the utility belt and the likes, when the inspiration dawned upon me. So I decided instead to use this space to write some techniques that can help you in dealing with such atrocities in the most humane manner possible. These techniques don’t involve any binding/ gagging or pulling out of nails; not even any odd kick to the skull. Here you go:

Break into a version of a dance involving some karate chops and pulling your hair. When the culprit looks at you with admonishment in his/ her eyes, simply say – you provide the score, I do the choreography.

Tap on the shoulder and compliment the lovely voice s/he has. Also suggest lining up for Americal Idol auditions.

Proceed to give him/her a CPR. Ignore all protests. Call an ambulance. Destroy the CCTV and leave before the ambulance turns up.

Step in close to the person. Take out your ultra small foldable pair of scissors. In a swift undetectable motion, cut the cord. Abort if it is a Bluetooth.

Entangle the cord into some fixture to allow for a slow-motion tripping of the culprit. Lend a helping hand and mention what a health hazard the headphones are.

Write a fictitious report with the headline – Headphones discovered to be the prime cause of brain tumors. Carry a print with you at all times. Pretend to read it while keeping it in full visibility of the unsuspecting hummer. Ensure font size and colors are attractive and readable.

If nothing works, take this opportunity to swear at the person in vernacular. This emotional outlet will keep you sane for the next six hours. Find another culprit in the mean time to fuel your addiction.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

An Alternate History of Time

A cricket ball was hoicked out of a mildly high dimensional universe by a galactic batsman. Having descended down to an unoccupied universe, the ball hit a piranha that was floating in nothingness and fused it with consciousness. Awake, the piranha was at once furious and hungry. It proceeded to viciously shred the ball into many sub-atomic pieces. Thereafter, the piranha was never seen or heard again. It is said that it went off somewhere in search of the batsman who had hit the shot. The story could not be verified till the time this piece went to press.

If it were a tennis ball or a golf ball, I would not have been around to write this article. But, it was, in fact, a cricket ball. And someone had given it a good rub so that it was a little shinier on one side than the other. This shine had survived even down to the sub-atomic level which led to a kind of a reverse motion. The particles, instead of floating away, started to converge. It seemed they wanted to gain their form back.

The reverse motion moved past the tipping point without losing a heartbeat and soon threatened to tear through the fabric of time and space. From the other side of the fabric, the batsman (yes, the same one, they just couldn’t get him out; it helped that he owned the only bat in that universe) assumed it to be another shady tactic of the fielding side and hooked it out of that universe again to widespread awe. This is also referred to in the history books as the big bang. No, not the one with Debbie in it. That came a lot later. And hardly worth a plop, if you ask me. You may want to check out Sheila instead.

It was such a ferocious hit that the ball immediately dissolved into gazillions of particles who then shat their pants and raced away at a breakneck speed. They have not stopped since. In fact, they are running away even faster, petrified to the core. Some found comfort in numbers and clustered around to form stars. The early stars crumbled under the collective fear of the willow and so the particles formed even complex structures such as galaxies to hide within.

Over time, the memory of the big bang started to lose its intensity and some of the particles settled down in distant parts of the universe in the form of planets. A few decided to lead the revolution to form their own cricket team to tame the galactic monster batsman. After quite a few trial and errors involving fins, webbings, tentacles etc, they moved onto four legged animals. Seeing that such animals could not throw a ball if their lives depended upon it, they finally zeroed onto a two-legged creature.

By now, so much time had elapsed, that the two legged creatures weren’t sure of their place and purpose in the larger cosmos. Initially, they amused themselves with sex, religion and wars. They were then depressed for a while but after a bout of cold, they quickly discovered philosophy, rock-n-roll and drugs. Nowadays, they mostly scratch themselves, fart and make faces in no particular order.

And now, the most intelligent cluster of particles walks this earth in the form of yours truly. I mostly think deep thoughts and withdraw money from the ATM. Yesterday, my ATM asked me if I was single and I responded – No, just delusional.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Resident Dormitus

This is going to be a short post.

Let me start by apologizing to my imaginary fans for not writing for some time. You will understand my reasons by the end of this article.

Let me now tell you why I started this blog in the first place.

A while ago, I attended a talk. We were asked to write on a piece of paper a list of future accomplishments which when achieved will give us a sense of fulfillment. The items on this list were to be struck out over time as and when the respective activity was accomplished.

I wrote many things on my list. Some have been struck out since but the #1 item on the list still remained intact…..on the list. It has mocked me for as long as I can remember. This accomplishment was to become a published author.

When I embarked upon writing a novel, I realized what a lonely life an author leads. I couldn’t share my little project with anyone for fear of ridicule or for fear of what I would term as contamination of the story to the point of rendering it not-so-original.

Not sharing my project meant lack of both feedback and in-process encouragement, leading to lack of motivation. So, I started this blog for the selfish reason of keeping myself motivated.

When my novel was being rejected by agents and publishers alike, it created more doubts in my mind still. But while my novel gathered rejections, this space continued to accumulate glowing comments. So, what started as a selfish enterprise became much more than just that.

My much fancied reader, you have provided great encouragement which not only helped me in finishing the novel but also eventually in getting it published.

So, I am pleased to inform you that my novel has been accepted for publication in India. Past few days, I was busy with the same and could not attend to the demands of maintaining an active blog. But I think, my reliable ally, you will understand. As always.

Service will resume as usual shortly.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tit for Tat

He felt a bit queasy. It was like something was growing inside him; threatening to take over. His insides were knotted. One of the Big Ones had just confirmed his worst fears. The Big-un broke the news to him and then laughed, pointing at him repeatedly. He gulped and realized it to be a mistake. He asked the Big-un if he did not have water for the next whole week, wouldn’t that automatically kill it? He was answered in a typical roundabout Big-un-ish manner. It had something to do with life somehow finding a way. All in all, it didn’t bode too well for him. He brooded. He sulked. He frowned. Finally, he thought. He thought hard. He had the answer. But there was just one problem.

He tried to recall that conversation with another Big-un, the one with the whitest hair and also the one whose ears were comically sprouting hairs and who smelled funny. That conversation was the key. He could always go up to that Big-un and ask but he was tired of being laughed at. He roamed around restlessly. Another Big-un tempted him by making funny faces. He laughed heartily at that Big-un, also stuck out his tongue. He stole a cookie from the table when none was looking and ate it.

His stomach gave a satisfactory grunt. All of a sudden, he was reminded of his problem. This caused much agitation. He wondered if precious time was already being lost and whether it will be too late soon enough. Now he remembered. The whitey Big-un had told him once that the pests have to be killed as soon as they turn up or else they will breed and take over the house.

He kicked himself as to why he had to eat the water-melon seeds. He looked at one of the melons in the kitchen and compared its size with himself. The lemons lying next to it looked much smaller. He could easily see a big melon tree growing from his stomach and eventually branching out of his head. He was depressed with the prospects of having to walk with a treetop for a head for the rest of his life. He wasn’t sure whether it will come out of his head or his ears, though. He thought about it and established that it must first come out of his ears. This brought him to a shocking realization - Whitey must have eaten some seeds as well.

He was concerned for Whitey. He went up to him and warned him. Whitey laughed at him as well. He was embarrassed and told himself never to talk to a Big-un ever again. But he did tell Whitey that he was going to drink some pesticide to prevent the tree from taking over the house and that Whitey was welcome to join him.

This brought about the silence he expected. He must have impressed the Big-uns with his intelligence. It was about time that they showed him the respect that he deserved. There was a lot of shouting and yelling. Whitey was towering over the original Big-un who was cowering away. He chuckled – The Big-uns were so funny. He reckoned that if everybody was so afraid of Whitey then it might not be so bad to have some tree branches peeking out of his own ears as well.

Amid the commotion, he stole another cookie from the table and ate it. He patted his tummy and fell asleep.

PS – The term Big-un was originally coined by William Golding in the book “Lord of the Flies”.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Line

The line keeps people from getting hurt. It differentiates us from animals. It keeps the social balance in check. It saves civilizations. It is also mostly a blur, often is hardly visible and is completely missed by people under influence.

The line is also very subjective. Your line is going to be very different from some one else’s line. Chances are good that your own line shifts depending upon the time of the day, your gastronomical balance and your mood. In fact, you also draw different lines for different individuals. Some lines are porous while others are unbroken. Some are straight and some take impossible dips and turns.

Despite all this, there exists a general consensus on what the line means.

What the hell is the line?

The line is that personal, subjective and intangible self-protection mechanism beyond which the concerned other person is not welcome. If the other person continues to intrude, then, well, s/he would have crossed the line.

Herein lies the dilemma. Even though crossing the line is frowned upon universally, yet the line is crossed almost all the time.

The first part of the problem lies in differential understanding of the line due to the numerous self-conflicting properties it displays (as mentioned before). Some animals are known to do a better job of drawing the line eg. by urinating, by defecating or by prominently displaying something as intuitive as a claw-mark on some sufficiently tall tree. Somewhere during the evolution, we missed the simplicity of marking our territories at the cost of being more cultured. But we gained one crucial advantage - any of us can invoke the line irrespective of our physical or mental prowess or the stench quotient of a randomly taken urine sample for that matter. In fact, a line is largely invoked because of the lack thereof. If you were a physically imposing personality, hardly anybody would be crossing the line with you anyway. On the other hand, if you were witty, you would be the one crossing the line more often than others. Fascinating, the line is.

The second part of the problem lies in the lack of consequences of crossing the line, by and large that is. This poses another irony. For such a universally understood moral crime, a lot of guilty people still seem to get away with it. This brings me to the various similarities that the line shares with a religion. The line and religion share the dubious distinction of being universally acknowledged but rarely followed to the point (pun intended). The line lends itself to different meaning to different people not unlike any religion. The line, much like the Supernatural God, cannot be bargained with once it is invoked (Try telling a friend who is messing with you – Mate, you have crossed the line; and then see how s/he fumbles with various lame attempts to salvage the situation). The line is also and often invoked as a last resort when you find yourself in a corner. Without the line or religion, majority of the human beings may find themselves without their moral compass. In fact, looking at the similarities, the line could actually be declared a religion.

The last part of the explanation resides in the fact that it is simply too tempting to play with the line. Especially since it is someone else’s line. Playing with the line allows you to come up with your own psychological assessment of the other person even if at a high cost. It is also entertainment at somebody else’s expense. Some people play with it better than others but invariably when you play with the line, you also run the risk of finding yourself on the other side before you remember to rein yourself in.

Whichever way you look at it, there is something quite fulfilling about finding the line, flirting with it but never really crossing it. I think I am going to devote the rest of my life to this pursuit.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fist Fights

Fist fights were a favorite pastime while growing up. I perfected the art with my brothers under safe, controlled environment. Predictably, I would excel versus my younger brother but was easily thulped by the big brother. I was comfortable with this arrangement because I was able to beat up somebody at least half the time. Around this time, my brothers discovered the art of forging alliances and pretty soon I was being beaten up almost all the time. Thankfully, my elder brother was sent off somewhere far off. I told myself that justice does prevail.

This also gave me a free hand. I leveraged it to the hilt in creating my own reign of terror. It helped that I reached my teens before the terrorized. Being bigger, I got away from quite a few chores. Let’s just say that I had to relearn later how to polish my shoes.

Unfortunately, however, this golden era lasted only a couple of years. While I was in a hurry to get to my teens, my brother took his time about it but when he did get there, he suddenly outgrew me. This prompted me to briefly patronize a theory that I was an orphan left at my parents’ doorsteps just like in some of those western movies revolving around deeply troubled and conflicted heroes. I indulged in this theory largely because it filled me with a sense of grave manly self-respect, even if unfounded. However, after a lengthy but thoroughly useless investigative work and for lack of believers, I was eventually forced to discard this line of thought.

Thereafter, I managed to divert the sibling rivalry towards other pursuits where I was able to stamp my authority. Fist fights, however, continued to be the last frontier. But my brothers had outgrown the concept.

Still, I sought to be thrilled elsewhere even if without much luck. In one such case, after a swollen upper lip, bruised neck, and a stomach that remained moody for a week due to many a kick attempted at it, I decided to finally grow up.

Alas, there won’t be any fist fights. Not for me. Not any more. Only nostalgia.