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

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Missing Point

I have stopped running. For the time being. The holidays are here and it is time to indulge.

But just like when you suddenly quit something addictive, it has come with its own set of withdrawal symptoms. For starters, my day suddenly found an excess two hours. In the first week or so, I felt super active at around 8PM and didnt know what to do with my arms and legs. I have since decided to put them to the task of lying on the couch. I have never received so much complaint from them, not even while I was running.

I am also eating a lot more. If it is not on my plate, I have taken to salivating. And if it is not in my stomach, I have taken to growling like a really bad ventriloquist. Really bad because everybody around can figure out where the noise is coming from. But like a really good actor, I go on pretending like nothing is wrong. I may have a future in extreme comedy.

My sleeping patterns have redesigned themselves as well. Unlike before, I am able to sleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. But unlike before, it is also accompanied by live 70MM colorful three-dimensional visions. And also unlike before, I do get up in the middle of the night for a midnight snacking. Well, it is not really snacking, it is more like having a double-storey burger with fries on the side. The other day, I turned up at Zouk-out at 1230 after a late sumptuous dinner, and then I ate two chilli-burgers before licking my fingers clean. They shut down the shop shortly thereafter which is of course completely unrelated to the two burgers I ate there but that is besides the point. The point, as my faithful readers have repeatedly pointed out, has never failed to miss me whenever I write. Sometimes, I feel I can hear its mocking chuckle as it passes me but it could very well be my stomach and so I hurry up to the nearest cafe before it shuts itself down.

Life is not easy and I continue to strive to overcome these challenges that riddle my path to pointless greatness. Meanwhile, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you. Wish the coming year is easier on you than mine has been.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Run Beta Run # 4

Many a weeks of practice and a few injury-induced drop-outs later, I found myself running at Penang Bridge myself and seventeen thousand other strangers. I reluctantly decided against a road-trip and barely made it to the Saturday morning flight 32 minutes before the departure (my personal best). Predictably, I forgot to pack running gel, earphones, cap and socks among other non-essentials. Spent the major part of the morning in procuring the afore-mentioned. Also collected the running kit (Had forgotten the registration slip as well but my iPhone came in handy as I flashed the email confirmation on the screen). The queue to the half-marathon consisted of just me. Clearly, folks were either committed or having fun. There were not many serious amateurs (Lionel - Thanks for inspiring me into coining this term) around.

Then the realization. I WAS IN MALAYSIA. No even better. I WAS AT GEORGETOWN. One of my favorite destinations. So I did the usual. Went upto the monkey beach, took a dip, threw pebbles at a couple baby monkeys (Somebody had to straighten them up), ate at Nando's and spent the major part of the afternoon and the evening sleeping. You see, my run was to start at 3:30AM in the morning and I had little time in trying to hit an entirely different timezone.

The hotel group coach was due to leave at 2:00AM. A gastrointestinal urgency made sure that I could make it only by 2:16AM. A Hongkong dude pointedly showed his watch to me as the words escaped him. Or he thought I was incapable of understanding English. I found it insulting but apologized nonetheless. The van started moving. An overly friendly French dude engaged everybody in a conversation. I followed suit and asked around for target timings. It turned out that the HK dude was targeting a 1:20 something. I thought he looked down upon the rest of us as he said that. When I was asked, I said that I normally didnt run a half-marathon but I did clock a 3:04 when I ran the full at Richmond, Virginia a few days ago (This incidentally is my superboss's timing). He found new respect for me and exchanged running tips with me for the rest of the journey. I must have added a few minutes to his target timing.

I had my first gel about 15 minutes before the start. Started the race from the back to gain psychological advantage of overtaking (Dont I love such tactical masturbation). Soon I realized that it was more than offset by having to manoeuvre around, especially, some of the kids who were alternately sprinting or standing still. Some had decided to unzip themselves of performance anxiety on the side (I was glad I took that trip to the loo beforehand). I was feeling good and hadnt allowed anybody to overtake me so far except two Kenyan women (Their race actually started 15 minutes after ours. Who says women arent better than men?). Covered the first 10kms easily in 49 minutes despite the bridge incline (I would guess it at around 15 degrees) before having my second gel. By now, breaking the 2hour barrier looked within reach. Overtook an old uncle. Now, I had a lot of space as the better runners were far ahead and I had left all others behind. I told myself - herein lies mediocrity. Another 5kms rolled under as I did the mental math of the remaining distance and the time left.

At around the 16km mark, I started struggling. The incline was steeper, the wind against and the breathing hard to come by. I slowed down to stabilize the breathing. People were overtaking me now but I was helpless in doing anything about it. Tried to busy myself by looking around at the blackness of the ocean and the partial moon upstairs. To boost my ego, I conjured up a new record in being one of the few who have crossed this bridge on foot, by car and by plane. The old uncle had just overtaken me.

Tried to have my third gel of the morning but it wouldnt go down my throat, not without promise of serious retching after. By now, I was crawling. The 20km mark flashed by. I took my speed up a notch but was pretty much stopped in my tracks by another flyover and this one was even steeper. I must have made a miserable picture as I crossed the finishing line. I kicked myself as the clock showed 2:14.

My target time was 2:15 and I made it within that. But I could have paced myself better. Or may be not. As Vincent says in Gattaca - I guess I didnt leave anything for the way back.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Run Beta Run # 3

Given the strong and polarizing opinions (On and off the blog) on application of game-theory to manipulate the body into submission, I am laying down some hopefully funny ways of doing so. The usual disclaimers apply (I may not have tried all/ any of them; I get no pleasure, humanitarian or sadistic, if they do or don’t work for you; List was current at the time of printing; Subject to change without notice; Postage will be paid by the addressee; Parental guidance recommended; Colors may fade; Slippery when wet; Coffee is served hot; Objects in the rear view mirror appear closer than they are; Real life may suck):-

1. Run as far as possible before the body wakes up. Ideally, run towards an area where the only way back is by foot. If it’s raining, even better.

2. Body loves inertia. Trick it into believing that the inertia state is defined as rotating knees. Do this by running continuously for some time. Thereafter, allow it the pleasure of staying in inertia forever.

3. Body also loves procrastination. Define procrastination as delaying the next break.

4. Don’t carry more than the minimum change required to buy a drink to avoid the possibility of taking a cab back home.

5. Before the run, don’t do any stretches or any physical activity that is more intense than what is absolutely necessary to stay alive. This is so as to avoid giving the body any signal about the impending run. Thereafter, let it play catch up.

6. If the body is still not budging, perform some stretches to trick it into believing that the run is over. As soon as it relaxes, run away. You are allowed to chuckle to add to its confusion.

7. While running, don’t give the body any idea as to where it is or how long the remaining run is. Avoid looking at landmarks or the watch. Focus on the rolling 5-feet stretch of ground immediately ahead of you as if it were the last thing connecting you to this planet. If possible, develop amnesia.

8. Develop the ability to call upon an out-of-body experience whenever you want it. Have a well-deserved rest up above while your body toils below. Whip it away while you are at it.

9. For severe pain, do a Joey and mentally calculate the cubic root of 13 down to 7 decimal points. For unbearable pain, try to spot the largest prime number in the vicinity.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Run Beta Run # 2

I am convinced about the duality of mind and body. In fact, I have a feeling that they started off at the same place set way back in time but one has evolved much more than the other. Humor me if I ask you to imagine the body as a separate specie altogether; one which is far down below in the evolutionary chain, one that doesn’t even have a language and only responds to physical signals. In fact, as I write this, I am convinced that my body is none the wiser still for it is blissfully unaware of this manipulating conspiracy.

No. I am not smoking dope. In the past month or so, I have experienced this in action. I have cajoled, conned, and coerced my body into partial submission. Partial because I have not mastered the art yet.

As I tried to increase the running distance, my body started to harass me with varying and irritating difficulties. It was either the knee or the shin or the lungs. I have come to know of more scientific terms for these troubles in the past month than I care. Firstly, all these terms are glamorous. I mean how cool it can be to admit that I have an ITBS (Iliotibial Band Syndrome) condition or Runner’s Knee or shin-splints. Glory aside, it did get irritating that I was simply not being able to move up from the 13.2km mark.

So the first thing I did was to give up on lapping. Instead, I have since started running up and down the East Coast Park (ECP). It’s an 18km round trip. The first time I gave it a go, I easily covered the first 9kms in an hour. I stopped over for a drink from a vending machine and then my body simply refused to budge. After multiple starts-stops-starts, I somehow got back to my place in 2:40 hours. Yes. You got the math right – it took me a good 1:40 to cover the same 9kms back. I might as well have been crawling. It didn’t help that during one of my very special moments of vulnerability, I was spotted by a colleague. Damn.

Two days of soreness and self-loathing later, I tried for a second time. Everything was going smoothly till my right knee gave way. After 1:30 hours, I decided to take a cab instead.

Some more days, soreness and self-loathing later, it was now the turn of the shins to splint. Only metaphorically of course. Total running time – only 40 mins.

I seriously considered giving up running except for one side-benefit that I hadn’t bargained for – my squash game had improved by leaps and bounds. I was still losing as many games as before but at least it wasn’t because I was running out of gas. This coupled with something somebody mentioned somewhere propelled me on. Here is how the saying goes – The body gets used to what you give to it.

So, I decided to send the body some strong signals by adhering to simple rules – a) I have to run up and down the ECP and b) There will only be one stop for drinks. The game-theory and past history suggested that my body would laugh at my face at the mention of these rules. So, the only way was through demonstration. And demonstrate I did. I am now at 18km covered in about 2:05 including the break. The body has internalized the message well. It knows that the only way out of that running track is through running that distance and the faster it runs, the quicker it will be back at the couch in front of the TV. Now, there are no aching knees or splint shins. It’s almost like how one trains a wild but dumb animal through a combination of carrots and sticks. For me, sticks are working well. For the time being anyway.

Next – An 8 hour-long road trip to Penang, Malaysia and a half-marathon run at Penang Bridge. I have invented a term for it – Motorathlon.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Of an indifferent brother, harmless accidents and a romantic Bee

Thanks for all the comments. They have renewed my commitment to blogging and….running. More on running in the next post. This article is about something else. If you figure out what it is about, let me know as well.

My brother arrived on Saturday morning for the Singapore F1 weekend with nothing but a handbag or a smaller version of a travelling bag as he calls it. I think ‘tiny’ would have been the right description and even that would be stretching the limits of imagination. But really, packing was just a glimpse of his under-preparation. The full extent made itself apparent when it turned out that he was expecting me to be his tour guide for the weekend. I rightfully advised him to spend some time on the internet and figure out his itinerary by himself. He reluctantly did that while complaining an awfully lot about it.

Oh…and complain he does. In fact, that’s all he does. Either the food is not good or it is too hot or the TV menu is difficult to figure out. Apparently, the immigration authorities also warned him that they wouldn’t allow him to travel on his soiled passport next time. I wouldn’t blame them. They were probably and rightly worried about the potential spread of negativity and depression.

When his negativity is augmented by his indifference, you wonder how this gene made its way through the evolution. He is just not curious. I took him to the East Coast Park for lunch and he simply…..ate. And he did nothing else. He didn’t notice the green panorama disappearing into a shallow coastline. He didn’t notice the busied human beings showcasing an alternate life-style. Hell, he didn’t even notice the pretty girl sitting at the next table. Back home, I had to specifically point out the stylish interiors of the apartment that I live in, in an effort to extract a compliment. My car received five compliments from his couple friends in a short five minute ride while it is yet to be regarded favorably, or for that matter unfavorably, by him.

So I wisely left my brother to himself. Instead, I surrendered myself to a series of random and not so random events that unfolded. It started with a spare pass for a guided tour to the Red Bull Garage. I took a cab because of the road closures. The cabbie promptly ran into the nearest concrete divider that was also lined up with some serious iron railing. All of it happened in relatively slow motion with no other vehicle within a mile on either side. I could see the road curving but the cab wasn’t. A quick look at the driver showed that his attention was caught by something in the glove box. As I screamed bloody murder, he lazily pressed the brakes out of reflex action. The car hit the divider at about 60km/hr, came back on the road due to the equal and opposite force before swerving and finally hitting the curb from the rear side. When the dust had settled, we got out to survey the damage. The rear right door was wedged in at an acute angle and so was the case with one of the iron rails. Both of us survived without any scratches. The car was not so lucky, though. The hilarity of the situation was further accentuated when the driver asked me – How did this happen?

Luckily, Mark Webber’s car had also crashed the day before and as we walked in, the car was wide open and was being operated upon by various sleep-deprived technicians. You would have expected a lot of rocket-science to have gone into the car but it was just a hodge-podge of tubes, card-boards and similar other junk you can find in your neighborhood dump-yard. It is amazing how a bunch of engineers operating out of their garage can manually assemble a car that is at the cutting-edge of racing technology. What is even more unbelievable is the disproportionate presence of hot females in a crew which is otherwise dominated by engineers and in a sport (if you can call it that) which has a largely male following. But I wasn’t complaining. Neither was Rubens Barrichello when I ran into him.

I was entertained in the evening by Black-Eyed-Peas and Beyonce. I danced after a long time. A bee got too excited in the process, bit me, paused to reflect upon its life and then decided to die. It must have been because it realized that it would never be able to achieve anything more significant in its future life. I, on the other hand, have different ideas. I will see you around.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Run Beta Run # 1

In the past month and a half, when I didnt post any article, my hit count has more than doubled. Taking the hint, ideally, I should not be posting at all. Instead, I should just monetize my blog and make easy money. But I have been inspired otherwise in more than one way. More on that later. Meanwhile, if you are real people, please join my sparse but exclusive followers list and/or leave comments. If it is too much pressure, dont run away and at least continue to visit this space.

So, I have started running again. Not sure why as yet which is quite ironic because just recently I totally psycho-analyzed a friend who had taken up running after investing a life-time into cultivating a vain, shallow and incoherent life style consisting of largely drinking and eating, in that order (Thats a typical Malay for you anyway). He was also not sure why he had suddenly started running. Roles have reversed now. Thankfully, so far he has restricted himself to providing me with running tips only. Quite likely, he is subtly passing me the message that one should always mind one's business. Message taken and would be ignored only selectively.

The first day (or more like night), I ran for 4.4 kms or 2 rounds of a lap which was carefully measured the next week. It told me many things. First and foremost was that I am not fit at all. Second was that it is very difficult to run without music (You see my iPhone was playing the same song over and over again and I had to switch it off. Later I realized that it was a simple case of changing the setting to 'Dont loop' but that was in future). Third and the most important thing is how still your mind can be when your whole body is screaming in cacaphonic agony. Your legs are at a breaking point. Your heart is about to burst. Your hands are shaking uncontrollably. But your mind is hell-bent on trying to achieve that harmony in this chaos. It is focussed on breathing in and breathing out in a rhythmic manner that you can use to tell the time. Pretty soon, nothing matters except that next step that springs from the previous one.

The second evening, I improved upon my distance. I was at 8.8 kms or four rounds of the same lap. The first two laps were easy. It also helped that whenever I felt like giving up, I ran into small crowds and I felt compelled to show off my stamina. I actually increased my speed then. It was only by the third round that I was able to attain that stillness of the mind again. And it felt so good that I continued on for another round after that. Funnily, I couldnt sleep at all that night and the following day, I could have used clutches.

As I write this now, I have increased the distance to 13.2 kms covered in about an hour and a half. It could have been that many kms but really, I still think in terms of number of laps which stand at 6. I really think that if I had chosen a bigger lap in the beginning, I could have covered more. Looks like, I am the victim of my own underachieving myopic vision. I need to find another bigger stretch.

Now, that my breathing is pretty much on auto-pilot mode, I am also thinking of including music in the mix. Tomorrow, I will put together a playlist of angry, anti-establishment rock songs. The body is evil and it needs to be punished.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Such warmth...

I step out of the auto-rickshaw outside itself for I want to delay the inevitable. I fish for a twenty but the smallest denomination that I have is a five hundred. I go to the paan-beedi shop to meekly request for a change. I am greeted with an explosive “Arrey saab aap (Oi, its you)!!!” I don’t recognize him but I produce my widest smile to match his enthusiasm. No, he still cannot break the five hundred. But I can always pay him later. A twenty quickly makes its way to the auto-rickshaw.

I am still dreading to step in there. You see, it’s been four years since the last time I was here. It’s not like I am scared of anybody or have any ghosts waiting for me in hitherto undiscovered closets. It is just slight apprehension causing just the tiny bit of anxiety that is forcing me to avoid others’ eyes as I simultaneously glance sideways to try to recognize any familiar faces. You see, I have learnt from the encounter with paan-beedi shop owner. I want to be able to recognize them first so as to have an important head-start that would allow me to save my unapologetic face.

I walk towards the security guard to sign the register as a visitor. He is looking at me in a peculiar manner. I return the gesture along with an imperceptible nod. The imperceptible nod is my proven defense against the unknown. His face contorts itself into many folds to produce the warmest smile imaginable. Sagging unironed skin has never looked so good. Before I respond in some uncouth fashion, he says,

Kaise hai saab? (The English translation is – How are you, but translating it that way would be equal to the assassination of an entire culture spanning thousands of years)

Yes. I have been caught from the most unexpected angle. I proceed to respond in an uncouth fashion anyway. I produce a fake joyous smile and mumble something that sounds like a flushing toilet. He vigorously shakes his head in all kinds of directions and insists that he be allowed to fill in my name in the visitors’ book. For old time’s sake, he says. Am I a celebrity, I wonder.

Other guards gather around. It seems like I am going to be arrested. But they are merely enquiring about my whereabouts and how weak I seem to have become. Do I get food abroad? When am I coming back for good? I improvise.

Four goddamned years. Four fantastic years. But it seems nothing much has changed here. And a lot has too. It’s a different office. Buzzing with a carefully concocted potion of hope and intensity with careless sprinkling of warmth. India unbound but contained.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Today, the security personnel guarding the entrance of my gym told me that my name is very similar to her son's name. Except that instead of "A", he uses an "E". Apparently, he is also more "beautiful" than me. When a couple of Yeahs and Uh-Huhs from yours truly didnt live upto her expectations of a decent conversation, she dismissed me.

Idle chats. Boring as hell.

You would think that after that experience, she would be too proud to start another conversation. Ever. I thought as much. But this was only the third time the conversation had played out in the same manner. The crux has always been the similarity of the names but over time, my Yeahs and Uh-Huhs have become shorted and shorter.

She must be bored to death.

This is despite the fact that because of the recent outbreak of Swine Flu, her position has become much more powerful as nobody gets inside unless she says so. Further, she also gets to ask for visitors' IDs, phone numbers and sometimes comments on the similarity of their names with her son's.

Some jobs simply slow down everything for you.

Then again, there are worse jobs out there but when matched adequately to the individual, it is a bright spot to run into them. In KL, I used to frequent a particular shopping mall almost every other weekend. The entrance to the parking lot is granted if you press a button which would simultaneously issue you a parking ticket and raise the barrier. Its easy and hassle free. All you need to do is line up your car, roll down the window, reach out to the switch and bingo, you are inside before you know it. But like most things Malaysian, it can never be as straight forward as that. There is of couse a guy standing right next to the switch-board. Since the lane is narrow, you have to manage the complicated task of not running him over. And you have to do it despite your best intentions to the contrary. But then the guy smiles, issues the parking ticket for you and bows to an impossible angle as he passes it to you. You feel good and sufficiently important. So much so that you even let others get past you in the elevator.

And then you think that he does this for at least 500 visitors a day and you wonder what they pay him to remain so cheerful all the time.

It has to be for the love of life.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Tooth Fairy

She reminds me of the teacher I never had. You know - the one who is proper and evil, the one whose dress is meticulously neat and ironed, the one who carries herself as an aristocrat, the one who is extremely economical with words, the one who is simply too perfect and the one that you hate.

By now, you would have gotten a mental image of her. She has a small face with hollowed cheeks. Her thinning silver hair is pulled tightly back into a small knot. She wears oval glasses, although pince-nez would have fitted her better. Thin shapely eyebrows provide the backdrop for her penetrating gaze whose intensity sometimes tingles your skin. Her diction is clear as the last drop of a rain and she is the master of subtly altering the stress and the pause to convey varying levels of disappointment and cynicism without ever having to raise her voice.

You have shown immense capacity for suffering. You continue to defy the nature's laws in terms of how much punishment a human being can take. Today, let us see what is your true potential. Let us do this without anaesthesia.

Did I hear her correctly? Perhaps she is joking. Could it be that she has discovered her lighter side after all these years?

If you could just open your mouth as wide as your eyes are, we would be done in no time at all.

I realize that this is the nightmare I never had. I ask if this means that there would not be any pain?

No. There will be pain. In fact, I would ensure that there is pain so that I know when I have reached the roots.

Will it be alright if I dashed through the door right now?

Dont even think about that and you will be alright.

In comes a vacuum hose, a clamp, a rubber sheet, a rubber sheet holder, few cotton pads. Now, she is trying to violate my mouth with a motorized needle.

You know you can help me in more ways than one.

I think about acting on her whispery and graceful taunt. After a careful consideration, I change my mind and decide to gag instead.

Out comes a vacuum hose, a clamp, the rubber sheet and the holder, few damp cotton pads and the motorized needle.

What happened? Are we going to do it today?

I want to blame it on performance anxiety. I decide against and explain to her that in such a tormenting setting, I can only do one thing at a time. Something simple like breathing.

Really? You manage to do a fine job of shaking, salivating, drooling, choking and crying; all at the same time.

I look at her in disbelief and terror. She holds her admonishing stare.

A smile breaks through the tough exterior and then an uncontrollable laugh. I join in.

I wonder if she records such encounters for future playback. I hope I am one of her choicest collections.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


Sigh. Creak. Silence. Held breath. Silence. Swoosh. Passing shadows. Thumping heart. Silence. Contemplation.

It’s past the middle of the night. My eyes are open but I can’t see anything. Possibly because the quilt is drawn over my head. I have just been woken up by one or more of the several rhythmic but disturbing noises previously mentioned. I am engulfed by the serious possibility that my nightmare might have spilled out of my brains and waiting to pounce upon me as soon as I sneak a peek out of the quilt. I delay the inevitable. I test the waters first by twisting my big left toe. It yields. So far so good. I become a little more adventurous and pose a brave front by taking my arms out from under the quilt. Then I cross my legs. I am keeping up the pretense of a decent man on the quest of finding his elusive but right sleeping posture while secretly getting ready to catch the noisy intruder unawares. But just as I am about to do so, the cupboard goes...


I freeze. I am exposed. It is a reasonably awkward position. I didn’t bargain for it. The image of the curious cat with the dead mouse in his mouth flashes through my mind and is quickly replaced by the image of a bank robber trying to pick the locks even as he is surrounded by multiple police vehicles. I play a corpse by taking short silent gulps of air through my open mouth with almost imperceptible inflating of my chest and/or stomach. Several hours pass.

Every time I think I have gathered enough courage to throw the quilt off, the house offers me unexpected counsel in the form of a grunt or a sigh or a hum to do otherwise. I have reached the point where the oxygen under the quilt has been exhausted. It is a Do-or-die or Do-and-die situation. I choose the latter.

The quilt is lying on the floor. I still can’t see anything. Possibly because my eyes are tight shut. I wonder if it is still possible to feign deep sleep to whoever ghost might be watching over me. I argue that the quilt might have fallen off on its own. Besides, I debate, a lot of people do sleep-walk and the ghost in question must have seen a lot of weirdos in his lifespan. A tangential thought streaks off in my muddled mind leaving a blaze of dazed confusion. A ghost’s lifespan? What am I talking about? I shake my head and smile. My eyes are open. The room has now taken a dull, grey but welcoming form. The moment of grave danger has passed.

New House. New Noises. New Adjustments. I welcome myself in. My invisible housemate will too. Eventually.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Just left of the right shoe

I stayed in Singapore in a different era for two years but I never took the trouble to use the local subway also referred to as the MRT (Mass Rapid Transport). This was because of a traumatic experience involving failure of swiping the card and a potentially castrating coming down of the barriers, aided by congenital fear of machines (Further honed by Terminator and The Matrix trilogy). I got around by simply walking and cabbing. It helped that back then, my house was only a stone's throw away from office.

Presently, I have been back in Singers and abusing a service apartment for over three months. This apartment is further away from office and conveniently next-door to an MRT station. So, my sense of practicality overpowered my fear of machines and automatic barriers, and now I can safely say that I have mastered the use of MRTs. That is, till they turn against us and decide to take over the world.

A lethal side-effect of travelling in MRTs, apart from the hanging-elbow syndrome, is extreme boredom. First, there is the waiting, never more than a few minutes, but waiting nonetheless. Then there is the long ride with nothing outside to look at except passing shadows. Further, inside the train, everybody is busy avoiding each others' eyes as if they are afraid that their in-laws might be travelling along. Unknowingly, I also conformed to the norm. With nothing else to do, I would concentrate hard at a spot just left of my right shoe with an intensity to burn a spiritual hole right through. I would do so till my destination arrives. So, by the time, I would reach office, my mental state and demeanor would start resembling that of a zombie. I didnt realize this up until I forgot to acknowledge somebody wishing me a very good morning in the office elevator. Instead, I drew a blank out of the deep fathoms of my brains, stared at her for a few seconds, cocked my head this way and that way till the right name came tumbling out. She wasnt impressed. At least, the name that tumbled out was the right one. Or was it?

Anyhow, after that incident, I dont stare at the spot just left of my right shoe any more. Now, I have taken to observing people. I belive I have discerned a pattern consisting of a complicated mix of various variables commonly termed as age.

A large section of commuters tend to listen to music. Almost all of them belong to an age-group younger than mine. They listen to music without really enjoying it. Perhaps they do. But, they make overly apparent effort to ensure that they are not seen as enjoying the music. They would tilt their necks to one side and stare vacantly through the recycled air. Further, my painstakingly methodical observation suggests that they would do the same thing whether travelling for a minute or an hour.

Another group of people are simply in love with themselves. When they are waiting at the station, they can be spotted checking out their reflections in the plastic glass doors. When they are in the train, they check their reflections in the glass windows. Some of them make the extra effort to stand next to the glass doors so as to check themselves out holistically. Some become so engrossed in themselves that they actually twist their bodies at acute angles to get a glimpse of what it would look like from an out-of-body observation point. Some actually walk up and down to check their gait. I am fairly positive that if not for scientific limits, some would like to turn their heads at 180 degrees to get a good look at their own arse. This group, unfortunately, belongs to my age-group. I have never had a stronger urge to grow old faster and leave them behind. But observing this bunch is entertaining for sure.

Then there is another group that simply sleeps in the trains. It doesnt matter if they are standing or sitting. It doesnt matter how far they are travelling. They are never in a hurry and they are always able to catch a wink. Further, they seem to have a fairly accurate body-clock which prompts them awake just as the train arrives at their respective destinations. This group belongs to the 45+ age-group. Sometimes, its fun to watch them abuse their neighbours' shoulders but mostly, its more fun to watch the spot just left of the right shoe.

The last group consists of people who stare at their respective pet spots, lost in deep thoughts. They belong to a slightly older age group than mine. Once in a while, I catch the eyes of such fellow artists and notice a hint of a recognition flickering through their eyes. I get a feeling that they are telling me that they have been there and done that. And that sooner or later, I would revert to the spot just left of my right shoe.

I want my car!!!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Week That Was

Today, a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration … that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There's no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we're the imagination of ourselves. Here's Tom with the weather – Bill Hicks

Bill Hicks was a controversial and 'black' comedian and the above line is the funniest I have heard. Ever. And it inspired me to write down various serious news article that I hope will be aired one day.

Last week, after years of procrastination, finally a promising but discounted scientist invented a time machine. Our correspondent checked it out herself. She was in the machine for sixty minutes and when she came out, an hour had passed. The now-famous scientist is going to procrastinate for another decade before working on increasing the speed of the time machine as well as on moving backwards. Meanwhile, he will be lobbying for the Nobel.

The longest running meeting in the history has just been clocked at two years and a few days. The exact duration is unknown as the meeting wasnt really initiated to break any records and the surviving participants have forgotten when it was started or even why it was started. Besides the duration doesnt matter since there is nothing else even close in comparison. Out of the original eleven participants, three have developed nutrient deficiencies owing to regular pizza consumption, four have since died of throat cancer, while two married each other, started a family and their children have now refused to leave the conference room, calling it their home. The meeting suddenly ended because the chairperson drew a blank when asked to summarize the discussion so far. He, instead, decided to conveniently go into comma.

When a mummy, recently unearthed, was opened, a man jumped out and went straight to the local bank to encash his long term investments. He is now, officially, the richest man on the planet, not counting mummies.

Peace broke out between the members of opposite parties after more than a century of panoramic killings. The investigations are still on but cause is widely believed to be the infiltration of the video game - God of War.

Recession moves on. US unveiled a trillian dollar bill. More corporations have closed shops than were registered signifying more supply than demand. Still more are rumoured to be going under. A manufacturer came up with an innovative promotion as it offered ten dollars with each slice of free bread but its ulterior motives were seen by all and sundry. A family died of hunger as it postponed its consumption in view of the falling prices. The prices continue falling, justifying the sacrifice.

An inhuman experiment was conducted to wide acclaim as it was aired live. The purpose of the experiment was not known but the common consensus has been that the results were disappointing. A bill, however, has been passed to repeat the experiment for scientific enquiry as well as because the TRPs have been the highest ever since the panoramic war ended. Further, owing to a large number of volunteers, it will be turned into a reality show.

In cricket, India's dominance continues ably supprted by large scale racial sledging on and off the field. In protest, the entire Australian team has gone fishing led by Symonds.

Nadal beat Federer in yet another grand-slam final. A stampede claimed five lives as people struggled to watch Federer cry one more time. Nadal was unimpressed. Federer reportedly said he purposefully lost so as not to disappoint his fans and devoted his loss to the five dead people. Federer's name has now become immortalized as the only man to have lost the largest number of consecutive grand-slam finals.

And here's Tom with the weather...

Monday, February 02, 2009

What are you talking about?

This is the first response to anything that resembles bad news, juicy gossip, non-fatal shock, harmless speculation, utter incomprehension, or simple bewilderment.

This is also the first response when one is confronted with rhetorical questions or accusation of theft, rape, murder, pillage, genocide or all of them.

This is the only phrase known to mankind which when combined with appropriate facial contours can take on a million and a half different meaning.

This is the only phrase known to mankind which can lend itself to different meanings to different individuals.

This is my favorite phrase.

Though, I was talked into making this my favorite phrase.

You must be wondering, What am I talking about?

That, my friends, could be a sign of incomprehension if you haven’t followed a single word so far. It could signify bewilderment if you were lost in the unintentionally simple sentences. It could mean a humorous twist if you are still with me.

Let’s see some example of dexterous usage of this phrase to get out of life-threatening situations:

Has your girl-friend ever asked you if her dress made her look fat? You should furrow your eye-brows and say WAYTA in a phonetically trailing manner.

Has your boss ever cornered you on something you were supposed to have completed last week? Try to resemble an owl with both your eyes wide open and as circular as possible. Then utter WAYTA, with an emphasis on W.

Have you found yourself in the middle of a debate not knowing how to argue your point? Act bored and slur out WAYTA with a yawn timed right in the middle of it.

Have you found yourself at the receiving end of a joke not knowing how to retort? Repeat the previously mentioned step and instead of a yawn, add a condescending smile. Raising your left eye-brow will be a plus.

Have you been accused of smoking when the evidence was in your hands? Look scandalized and shout at the top of your lungs, WAYTA.

Have you been sufficiently embarrassed to the brink of pink on being caught ogling at/by a girl/ guy? Say WAYTA in an exasperated manner and add ‘No, really’ at the end of it with a question mark.

Have you ever been at the receiving end of a long monologue, the meaning of which was lost on you at “Hello”? Say WAYTA and politely ask the speaker to repeat him/herself. Don’t forget to apologize.

The above is guaranteed to work or you can have your phrase back.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

One tooth at a time


Breathe in. Breathe out.

In. Out. In. Out.


I stare at the overhead bulb through the plastic eyes. I strain to keep my eyes open. Because when I close them, I am filled with disturbing images.

Breathe. In and out. Again.

A tummy grumbles. Whose is it? Mine? No. My whole body is focused on breathing and staring. I couldn’t possibly summon a grumble. It must be somebody else’s. Thinking clouds my mind. I almost forget to breathe.

Breathe. In and out. Over and over.

I want to swallow. I try to swallow. I fail. I try to breathe. I can’t.

Suck – She says. Throw up – My body says. My words don’t take a sonic form. A vacuum hose is thrust in my mouth. It makes funny swooshing sucking sounds. I am distracted. A whimper escapes my mouth along with a trickle of saliva. Something is streaming down my right cheek. An involuntary tear. I forget to breathe again. I gag and choke. No. I choke and then gag. I want to die. My body convulses.

Ok. We are going to try one more time. The last time. If you don’t behave, I am afraid, you will have to eat using tubes for the rest of your life – She says

This is not a torture. I would rather be tortured. She removes five or six different items from my mouth. A rubber clamp. Cotton. A metal prob. The vacuum hose. A drilling machine. A tongue twister.

I clean my mouth. I rinse, gurgle and spit out. It looks bloody. It looked different in the morning. I rinse again. I am taking my time. The right side of my mouth is numb. So I dribble. I lie down again. I wait for the assault.

The orgy in my mouth resumes.

I breathe. In and out. Again and again. And again.