Thursday, June 28

of paper boats and potholes


Nostalgia and homesickness have an interesting effect on the past, in that it tends to become rather rosier than it actually was.

It rained here a few days ago. Nothing special in itself of course but it did get me thinking about the monsoon in India and the fact that this is the first one that I'm missing in 14 years. Having lived in both Bombay and Pune, I've pretty much seen everything that the season has to offer, right from the collective sigh that always goes out when the first showers hit town to the collective swearing that took place the day the heavens decided Bombay needed a long overdue bath... the day referred to as 'Terrible Tuesday'.

For the average Punekar, Simla Office ( the local met station) is an undeniably lovely bit of architecture but as far as announcing the imminent rains are concerned, it is practically redundant. Round about the end of April and never later than the 2nd week of May, the city fathers sheepishly come out of their stupor & in their collective wisdom reach a consensus on 2 crucial matters; firstly, the lower echelons of the PMC passing themselves off as labourers have had enough of a rest and secondly, the roads of the city look a little too even. Common sense has been declared persona non grata in the corridors of the Central Building a long time ago ofcourse, so you might as well give up that ghost.

Result - 2 weeks later, the duck and frog populations of Pune suddenly realize that they have hit the jackpot as far as ponds are concerned; varying in size, shape and depth, numerous new ones have sprung up on those supposedly tarred surfaces shamelessly attempting to pass themselves off as roads. On cue the heavens open up and well... at least the trees look nice. This is all very well for the flora & fauna but what of the Punekar ? He blasphemes... volubly & venomously with a level of sarcasm that is purely Pune; rather like Bakarwadi (if you don't know, don't ask). He then decides that stoicism has its plus points and proceeds to invest in a spinal support belt. Why the belt ? Well... if you've never ridden a bike in Pune in the monsoons, then let me put it this way - make sure your insurance policy hasn't expired.

Its not all bad mind you. I remember cycling home from school with friends one afternoon once when it began to rain heavily. This was back when you could cut through from NCL to Baner Phata using a route which was unbelievably winding, wind-swept and beautifully serene. You can't use that route any more..... can't see groups of Loyolite kids cycling either..... and they say Pune has progressed.

We guys just looked at each other, nodded in agreement and proceeded to cycle merrily on with our raincoats packed carefully in our bags. Then there was this time Gaurav and I developed the munchies and decided that it made complete sense to go to Senapati Bapat road from Aundh to buy the best bread patties in Pune. You couldn't see more than 5 feet ahead because of the sheer volume of water and I was on my beloved Kinetic which is notoriously unsteady in these conditions. About an hour after we left on this little jaunt, we were comfortably ensconced in our respective sofas with piping hot and spicy patties to one side and to the other, a couple of Drambuies that had long ago passed the level of 'tot'. It can't get any better than that, trust you me.

Need I add the expected ones about endless cups of hot chai and samosas \ bhajiya \ butta which are the only companions to staring out of the windows at the grey skies and glittering diamond droplets pattering off every imaginable point ??

And can we ever even begin to contemplate the relief the long-suffering farmer feels when that first drop hits the fields parched and cracked in the summer heat ?

Water-borne diseases, floods, power-cuts... these exist too. Nostalgia isn't going to sweep these harsh realities under the carpet. But hey, its a package deal so we can take it or leave it. And, thankfully enough, we do take it. Every year... June to September.

Images... they sustain us when the real deal is either no more or too far away. All I need to do is close my eyes and I'm instantly transported back...the smell of wet earth, grey skies, endless tiny streams meandering away & me on my bike and on those roads.

To nowhere and everywhere.

Just like those paper boats.


"Rimjhim gire Saawan..." - Manzil (1979)

Friday, June 22

haiku maybe ?

instantly mortified the mind, timeless

winter's truth is dread self-defeating

now the expected sunrise, stressed out symbolism

Wednesday, June 13

Part 2 - Multitudes of manic metaphors & maxims


"You live and learn. At any rate, you live" - Douglas Adams


Naveen and I are sitting outside the Kaul Genetics building when he casually mentions that there's a job opening for a student assistant at one of the departments at UAB. On-campus work opportunities are so notoriously rare that had this been the age of mythology, you could safely expect to see Hercules adding this one to his list.

To put it mildly, competition here was fierce.

Okay... time to make a confession. From the outset, I had the funny feeling that this job was mine. The facts speak for themselves - I was the only chap who could work the exact days and hours required, the work did not require any clerical experience nor expertise and well... I had a feeling.

Life... all it ever does is wait for an opportunity to deliver a kick to your unmentionables. Its success rate is remarkable too. I applied for it (the job, not the kick) and got it. "Drinks all around."

The fates threw the kick in for free. That's them, generous to a fault.

The person who interviewed me needed my SSN for the paper work. I'd applied for the ssn just a few days before and let them know that I'd have it within 2 weeks. No problems there, right ?
"The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't" - Douglas Adams
Imagine a train smoothly chugging along on its journey... now, imagine said train suffering an unfortunate derailment. Got that little image in your head ? Good... because the only difference between the events in this story and the unfortunate train was that my job managed (in a way only the word 'perverse' covers adequately) to derail even before it got out of the station. So there.

I was celebrating my new-found job (ha!!) at home when I got the call... no ssn, no job. Nothing to be done about it either from what I was told, because the previously friendly interviewer had decided that she had bagged the part of the Sphinx in the drama of Life, meaning that no amount of diplomacy, negotiation or downright pleading could get her to consider my case.

"Everything is gratuitous, this garden, this city, and myself. When you suddenly realize it, it makes you feel sick and everything begins to drift... that's nausea" - Sartre

What the hell did he know ? This was definitely not gratuitous and I was still nauseous. They started interviewing for the position again. I waited... and by some miracle (and it was a miracle, make no mistake), the ssn that was supposed to come in 21 days, came in 5. I rushed to the office and let the personage have the ssn... "joy to the world..." right ??

Logic dictated that the job was now mine. Apparently, logic had packed its bags and taken off on vacation at this juncture because, for some reason ("Ours is not to reason why...") they continued to interview for the position.

"Drinks just for me... and while you're at it, make that a double... neat." Need I elucidate ?

Four days later, I get a call telling me, regretfully (on cue - hooting and hysterical guffaws) that they had found someone else to fill the position. Thank you very much.

The next day, I am awoken from a stiff hangover by the telephone ringing. The job was mine. Again. No explanations given and none asked for.

At the time, I was very happy about working, for a variety of reasons that I've mentioned in previous posts. 6 months to the day since I started work, I'm not so sure about the happiness part any more.

If you're wondering what this 'job' entails - think of me as a glorified office-boy.

There's the kick... aaaannnnd score !! Right on the unmentionables.

"Reality continues to ruin my life" - Bill Watterson

Thursday, June 7

Part 1 - "Sometimes I wanna take to the road and plunder" - B. Dylan

"Arrey, you have an on-campus job na ? Where ? "
Deathly silence.

"Haan, so how much funding is your department giving you ?"
Deathly silence. A single droplet of sweat, starting at the brow, begins its journey toward terra firma .

"Man, there were so many positions open at the campus job fair last week. Did you go ?"

Deathly silence. The droplet had been feeling decidedly lonely but not any more. In fact, the droplet privately feels its getting a little crowded. And the terra is no longer all that firma. Of all the bamboos, the one called 'panic' is now firmly lodged, well... further elucidation unnecessary, methinks.

"So, yaar... where is your money coming from ? Did you get a scholarship or something from the university ?"

Deathly silence. Can't move any limbs. Possible onset of catatonic schizophrenia.

So ladies, gentlemen, kind readers, voyuers, bored souls etc. - I needed a job. Technically, I needed money... but being law-abiding for the most part, let's say that I needed a job. Just one leetle problem - I couldn't find one. You can add the popular phrases such as 'for love or money', 'neither hide nor hair', 'as far as the eye could see', 'my kingdom for...' umm... wait, maybe not that one. But astute as you lot are (I hope, anyway) you get the point.

"It wasn't my fault Guv... 'onest"

I'd shown up at the university on the last day possible, which left me with next to no time to find a source of funding. This is a tricky situation to be in for the average Indian student, especially considering the exchange rate and the fact that bartering in beans a la Jack (you know... the beanstalk chap...haan...) was not an option. The next few months had me getting a bit wild-eyed and yes, even slightly stressed (ha ha, I slay myself...). In this feral state, thankfully enough, my sense of hearing became acute. So, when opportunity tried to tiptoe past my door, I heard it, threw open the door, got a death grip on it and dragged it in... kicking, screaming and protesting ineffectually as it was.

A student tutor job, where I was to help out university athletes in Psychology and Anthropology. To cut a long story short, I got the job and was able to apply for a SSN (see previous blog for reference). Then, my employer drops the bomb - there was no work that semester. No work, no pay. No pay & I'm back in the dungeons... without passing 'Go' and all that.

Holy Crap Batman !!

Up next: Part 2 - "It Ain't Me, Babe..."