Thursday, December 28, 2006

In the Last 5 Days I've Learned...

-that road trips with the girlfriend's family can be fun, even if it's at the expense of a trip to the hills where you would've done nothing except smoke hashish, eat and pass out.

-that it is possible for five adults, one new-born and a mannerless dog to fit into one SUV.

-that NH-1 is also the famous GT Road.

-that I can no longer do poo poo in public loos because I'm just too snooty.

-that the Aloo Parathas at Zhil Mil Dhaba in Karnal are to die for.

-that P's elder sister is a compulsive shopper and desperately needs therapy.

-that I'm a compulsive shopper, and I don't need therapy because...

-that Nabha has not changed much since I was last here in October of 2000 for a basketball tournament.

-that even though my girlfriend's father is not in the armed forces, he lives in a housing complex where there are 30 security personnel stationed to protect 9 families.

-that my girlfriend's family has, in its own special half-Tamilian-half-Malayalee way, come to terms with my half-Bihari-half-Punjabi presence in her life.

-that P and I are not likely to have convincing answers when our children ask us about their ancestry (Tam-Mal-Punj-Bih?).

-that even if you're not South Indian, appam & chicken stew makes for a great snack.

-that a weighing machine in Nabha claims I am 103 Kgs.

-that cuddling up in one quilt watching movies all day is a perfect way of spending quality time with people you don't know too well.

-that you can actually not feel like smoking for 5 days at a stretch.

-that banana chips make me vomit.

-that if I don't get my glass of coke first thing in the morning, I'm capable of being quite cranky.

-that my girlfriend is better at badminton than I ever was/will be.

-that my girlfriend may be better at Badminton, but I can beat the living daylights out of her in Pool and Table Tennis (P, right back at ya).

-that it's not a wise idea to go to Amritsar on a rainy day.

-that Jallianwallah Bagh and Golden Temple are within 50 metres of each other.

-that no one will believe you when you tell them that the Golden Temple is actually made of gilded copper and not gold.

-that Amritsari Kulcha isn't as great as its made out to be.

-that you will smile when you see a board which says Lovely Proffesional University, but not as widely as you will when you see Balle Balle Farms.

-that stoned or not, a visit to the Dollar Store is an expensive proposition.

-that it's also possible to fit six adults, the new-born, the mannerless dog and five days of shopping into the same SUV.

-that if I waste more than an hour at the factory outlets and dollar store at Ambala, I will get very late and miss my 7:30 pm dental appointment.

-that whenever I'm going to be late, I will end up telling my mother it's because of the traffic.

-that even when you're 23, your mother can get very angry with your silly excuses.

-that even after five years with P, watching her sleep makes me fall in love with her all over again.

-that if you take a 3 weeks of leave at the end of the year, you can come back to town after a week and not have to go to work the next day.

-that its a good thing my cellphone wasn't working.

-that the moment you enter Delhi, everyone will lose all road sense, including your driver.

-that when I reach home, my mother will act all angry and upset because she knows I lied to her about the traffic.

-that my dog loves me dearly, despite the delay and the the lies.

-that the moment I take that giant bar of Toblerone out of my luggage and wave it in front of Mom, she will wrap her arms around me and give me the warmest hug ever, making me believe that I've just returned from the battlefront.

-that your dog doesn't really give a fuck about you once you've handed over the Toblerone to your mother.

-that no matter how good a trip is, it's great to be back.

Friday, December 15, 2006

On Taking Long, Long Walks...

And with that hope, I walked.

Awkwardly, as I do when my jeans tuck themselves under the sole of my floaters.

Aimlessly, like that helpless old tramp who doesn't beg, but makes you feel all guilty about being rich and having people around you.

Somewhere along the way I stopped and lit another cigarette. A young couple in the vicinity were involved in animated conversation but the moment they noticed me, they looked at each other and shared a moment of silence. As I exhaled the smoke from the corner of my mouth, I looked in their direction and smiled. They pretended to not notice and immediately started talking again. Maybe its the messy hair, I thought to myself as I walked on.

The corridors of Connaught Place were relatively empty for a Saturday, and the chill of a Delhi December evening made me re-think my decision of leaving the jacket in the car.

Another 25 odd metres on a little boy came up to me and demanded that I give him 10 rupees in exchange for the two big, red, heart-shaped balloons he was carrying. He had a running nose, and was wearing nothing but a torn T-shirt. He looked surprisingly content, in a silly, homeless sort of way. I pointed in the direction of the couple I had just crossed. I assured the boy they would buy the balloons if he insisted enough. He gave me a big grin and ran towards them.

I continued walking, one hand warmly tucked into the pocket, and the other wishing it wasn't holding the cigarette. As I passed United Coffee House the thought of hot, hot coffee and scrambled eggs on toast threw my salivary glands into a frenzy. I urged myself to focus and started walking faster.

The decision was silly, because Blues was 2 minutes away and I still had 30 minutes to kill before she would be free from her office dinner.

I skipped the turn left and walked straight ahead, hoping that by the time I went around the block, it would be 10:30 pm.

Half way there I stubbed my cigarette and took out the packet of Classic Milds from my pocket to light the next one. It was empty!

Now leaving my jacket in the car so that I could enjoy the chill is one kind of stupid. But leaving your wallet in that jacket, only to be stranded 2 kms away from your car without cigarettes and money is a stupid of an entirely different kind.

In that moment of stupidity, I looked around, out of helplessness I think. There was an ATM nearby and I spotted a potential saviour. He was dressed in a sky blue shirt and navy blue pants. He looked approachable and without even giving it a second thought I called out to him and asked, "Bhaiya Ji, beedi peete ho?"

He flashed a wide grin and exaggageratingly shook his head from left to right and said "Nahi ji!"

I smiled and said, "Achha, koi baat nahi."

I think the disappointment on my face was way to obvious because he then said,"Bhaiyya sigrit-vaala agle block mein mil jaayega aapko."

To which I sheepishly replied, "Yaar paise nahi hai varna mein khareed leta."

Embarrased, I started walking ahead, but stopped as an immediate afterthought to add, "Vo kya hai na ki wallet gaadi mein reh gaya."

I don't know why I felt the need to justify myself. I guess I didn't want to feel poor and cheap in front of a security guard.

As I turned away, he called out to me, "Saaheb, ruko!" He was still smiling when I yelled, "Kya hua?"

He came right up to me and after catching his breath, he took out a two rupee coin and held out his hand.

Now I really didn't know what to do. At this point, the voices in my head took control of me.

Voice in my head: That's 10 beedis or one Chhoti Gold Flake! Go for it!

The other voice: Are you really going to deprive this poor old guard two full rupees?

Voice in my head: Of course you are. It's not like he has an andhi behen and apahij maa for God's sake!

The other voice: Fine! But you must return it! Youmustyoumustyoumust!

Guard: Arre lo na bhaiyya. Aage paan vaala hai, beedi mil jaayegi.

Me (in a hindi movie sort of way, all misty eyed): Par tumhare 2 rupaye mein kaise le sakta hoon?

Guard (getting irritated): Rakho. Hume vaapas ATM jaana hai. Duty chhod kar aaye hein!

I took the coin from his palm.

Me (trying to sound all mother-tongue-ish): Shukriya. Yeh ehsaan raha aapka mujh par. Mein aapko thodi der mein aake lauta doonga.

On hearing that, he cracked up into an obnoxious, deliberate laughter and in his own not-so-subtle-way let me know 2 bucks wasn't a big deal. Not for him, not for anyone in this country.

I smiled another I-won't-forget-this-gesture smile and made my way to the paan-vaala. 10 beedis it was to be. I lit the first 501 Pataka and took a long drag. The smell of the beedi smoke catapulted me into memories from the one year I spent at the school hostel (my school campus is on the outskirts of CP and therefore the connection).

---Two 13-year-olds jumping out of the hostel window at 11:00 pm to go eat Anda-Bread, drink Pepsi at the dhaba in Shankar Market. Making conversation with auto-drivers and construction workers, smoking beedis with them, playing pakdan-pakdai, then streetlight cricket, bullying them into letting us batting forever, reaching the hostel at 2:30 am, finding no way to get back into the hostel because the guard has locked the window from inside. With nowhere to go, landing up at ISBT, spending the night trying to sleep in the corridors with the homeless, shivering in the cold, seeking refuge in a blanket given to them by a bus conductor, finishing all their money on tea and buiscuts, taking a lift and reaching the school campus at 6 am, just in time for basketball practice!---

My thoughts evaporated when I cited Blues, I called P and told her I'd reached. By the time she came out, I had lit another beedi. When she came out, she gave me a big hug and kiss. The bouncer and the captain from the club stared away at me, wondering why on earth someone who looked and dressed the way I did was smoking a beedi. I whispered into P's ear that I wanted to offer the bouncer a beedi just for kicks. She broke into a hysterical laughter, put her arm around mine and said, "Chal, I'm the one who's drunk, not you! And just why are you smoking that stuff baby?"

"Long story", I replied.

As we stepped into the parking lot just outside, P asked me where the car was to which I flashed my best smile and replied, "I hope you're in the mood for a long, romantic walk."

She jumped in delight almost losing her balance in drunken frenzy, and in an attempt to salvage lost pride, broke out into a dance, singing Aaj Ki Raat from the movie DON. I gave her a hug and we started walking.
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Somewhere along the way she asked me why I had parked the car at the other end of CP. Was it really an attempt to be all romantic and huggy in the chill?

I blushed and asked her if she had 2 bucks to spare, and if she was in the mood to help me change the car tyre.

She looked at me in the eye, a little confused with the randomness of the answer but smiled anyway and said, "Of course sweety, you know how I LOVE to change car tyres at CP in the middle of the night."

"Just the answer I was hoping for!", I exclaimed and kissed her on the forehead as we walked on.
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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Who's your Daddy?


"The closest way of feeling close to someone you want to know is giving them a reason to laugh."
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I have this constant need to be entertained.

Humour is the front runner. Anything for a laugh. I mean it, anything.

Some time ago, when I was surfing the relatively darker channels of the web desperately seeking a laugh, I stumbled upon a random-comic-super-hero. You heard me, a random-comic-super-hero. His name is SUPERFLY and he boldly goes where no fly has gone before.

Go say Hi to him. You'll figure out the post title once you get there.

Website: www.joecartoon.com/pages/superfly

Sunday, October 29, 2006

On ''Then and Now'' Kind of Moments...

"The trouble with our times is that the future is not what it used to be."

Paul Valery
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25th October 2006, 11:54 pm -

I have just reached home after a two day vacation (well, if 2 days of getting wasted in Jaipur qualify as a one!).

The drive back has been exhausting, because the Octavia is a painful car to drive if you're not used to it. To add to the that, blinding headlights and noisy co-passengers leaving no stones unturned in an effort to mess with your concentration levels. All this and more at 140 kilometres an hour.

On my way home, I dropped Abhishek at Gurgaon and picked up the girlfriend from somewhere in CP.

I open the front door of the apartment with my key and the girlfriend and I enter as noiselessly as possible. The mother is sleeping. The brother is listening to music in his room.

I enter my room and almost collapse onto the sofa. The girlfriend finds herself the next most comfortable spot in the room (the bed), and starts fiddling with her new toy, a video iPod.

The room is sparkling clean. The mother knew I was coming, so she removed all traces of encroachment carelessly left behind by the brother. She knows how much I hate anyone inhabiting my room while I'm away.

The cleanliness and symmetry make me happy.

11:58 pm - I take my cellphone out of the pocket and look at the screen. Still two minutes to go, and I'm already waiting for the phone calls to pour in. Who all will stay awake just to call me? Who will get through to me first? Will there be someone on call waiting constantly, wonder how that feels?

I have no answers. One minute left.

What do you do when the clock strikes 12:oo midnight, marking the beginning of the day you were born? Are you sleeping? Or are you hanging on to your phone just like me?

The girlfriend insists that I help her in connecting the iPod to the computer. She is in no mood to share my anxiety. I tell her to wait.

I get up from the sofa and walk to the dressing table. I take off my watch and empty the contents of my pockets. The change scatters on the dressing table. The few hundred rupee notes find their way into the drawer. Just as I'm closing the drawer, I notice a white slip of paper in between the notes. I pull it out and look at it.

It's exactly like a credit card cover, except that it says:

Tanmay Sahay
Room Number 1421
ITC Rajputana Shereton
Date Of Arrival: 24th October, 2006
Time: 10:15 am

I know why it is there in pocket and I know exactly what I need to do next. I forget that my birthday has just begun.
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26th October 2006, 12:04 am -

I'm sitting cross legged on the floor in front of an open suitcase. The suitcase is beige, but it looks almost brown owing to the layers of dust that have settled on it since the last time I pulled it out of the loft.

I'm searching for diary. It's blue in colour and the cover reads Raghubir Singh Junior Modern School Annual Diary (1993).

A quick survey of the contents reveals no sign of anything vaguely similar. I shuffle the contents carelessly and look again. Some things fall out. My attention is diverted to them.

A badge that says House Captain (Class 5), a party invitation on an LP from Supriya (Class 9), the receipt of my first ever pair of Reebok shoes (Class 8). Just as I'm about to go down the memory lane, the phone rings.

Hello!

H-a-p-p-y B-i-r-t-h-d-a-y t-o y-o-u! Da da dee da dum dum!

Thanks you so much Yesha!

The conversation goes on for a minute and then good byes are said.

Suddenly the girlfriend realises it is time.

Big Hug-Bigger Kiss-Lots of smiles-I'm glad she's there, right by my side.

The Happy Birthday-Thanks-Have a great year-You too-Ok Bye routine continues for about 10 minutes or so. All this while I'm desperate. Not to answer the person on call waiting or to attend to the 10 odd sms', but to go back to the suitcase.

Frustration.

Luck. The phone runs out of battery and I don't have my charger.

No moral dilemma.

Peace at last. Cigarette lit. Now where's that Diary???

I notice the girlfriend reading something. She notices me noticing her. She looks up and has the w-i-d-e-s-t possible grin on her face. That's when I realise she's holding the diary!

I ask her to give it to me. She thinks it's time we played beg.

NOT.

One minute and two wrestling moves later, I have the diary in my hand. The girlfriend is pinned to the bed and is trying everything possible to escape my clutches.

I make her promise that she'll behave. She does so, she has no choice.

I open the diary and start flipping through the pages. I find the excerpt I'm looking for:

Monday, 10th May, 1993 -

Hi Diary. How are you? I came back from Jaipur today. I had a lot of fun there. I stayed at Rajputana Hotel and it was FIVE STAR. I saw Hawa Mehel and Amir Fort. We went everywhere in the school bus only. I bought a pen for Ma and Vasu.

When I went for dinner, I was first in wishing Naina ma'am good evening and she made everyone clap for me.

At night we were very scared because some told us there is a ghost in the next room. I stayed with my best friend Abhishek, Parichay Mehra, and Ashish Tandon in one room. We saw cable at night and played chess. I won two games but lost two also.

Our room number was 1421. Abhishek said the hotel had 2000 rooms but I know he was lying.

Ma is calling me, I'm going now.

Bye.
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Have you ever had a 'then and now' moment in your life? I've had a few to be honest, but this one tops them all.

In the May of 1993, my school had organised an overnight trip to Jaipur. It was a trip of firsts. I was in class 5. The diary entry you just read about that trip pretty much sums up all I remember of it.

So there I sat in front of the suitcase, thirteen years and 6 trips later, amazed at the significance of insignificant detail.

I called out to the girlfriend.

"Come here!"

"No, you help me with the iPod first!"

"Arre come here na! Please!"

She came and sat next to me.

"Can I read he diary after that or will you wrestle me again?", she asked.

"You can read the damn diary and ransack the suitcase sweety, but listen to me na! I was right about the room!"

"You're serious???", she said, with a look of disbelief.

I showed her the diary entry. She read it and looked up at me.

"So strange huh?", I said.

"Yaaa, totally!", she replied.

"Ok now the suitcase is all yours. I need to make a call."

She smiled in delight and immediately went to work on the suitcase.

I picked up my cellphone and called Abhishek. He didn't answer. I guessed that he must be exhausted from the trip too.

I gave up after one try, knowing well that I would speak to him the next day.

I lay down on the bed and fell asleep reading the diary. At some point in time the girlfriend switched the lights off and snuggled into the bed with me.
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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Two to Tango

Year: 'yir
  • The period of about 365 1/4 solar days required for one revolution of the earth around the sun.
  • The time required for the apparent sun to return to an arbitrary fixed or moving reference point in the sky.
  • The time in which a planet completes a revolution about the sun.

Source: Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

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5th October 2004, Tuesday, 12:00 noon:

"Welcome to Daksh ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to IBM Daksh!"

The words echoed in my head for a while.

A short announcement followed, informing us about the events to follow. By 7:00 pm, the time the joining formalities were over, I had written down my particulars over twenty times and signed around 30 delarations of various kinds. I was exhausted.

The only settling factor was that everyone who had joined with me in that room was in the same boat. If I remember correctly there were 9 of us. I was the youngest, and one of two freshers.

I didn't utter a word throughout the day. I was nervous, unsure of what to say, not wanting to put my foot in my mouth. I remember this lady (also a new joinee), Aditi Malhotra, attempted to strike a polite conversation with me. I think the couple of replies I did manage were monosyllabic and without a hint of enthusiasm. She gave up almost immediately. Little did she know that this lost soul would come around to haunt her, and maybe even make her cry one day.

When all the formalities were over, we were informed that we could leave. As I walked out of the building and started walking towards my car, I felt disappointed to the point of being unsettled.

Thought: That's it? That was my first day at work? Isn't the first day supposed to be memorable? Aren't you finally supposed to feel in control of your life, untangled at last? Why is this happening? Maybe I'm not ready for this. Maybe I should go home and get back to travelling.

My thoughts were interrupted by a loud "Bye!" I waved back at Shweta, the DU History teacher turned housewife turned Voice and Accent Trainer at IBM Daksh, who had also joined the same day.

As I settled into the the driver's seat of my car, I finally felt in control. I welcomed the feeling, considering it had eluded me throughout the day. After I turned on the ignition, I pressed hard on the accelerator. I think I did it just because I could. Then with the push of a button, I had U2 calm my nerves. Well, almost.

"Is it getting better? Do you feel the same?

Will it make it easier on you now, if you got someone to blame?"

The traffic was heavy. My head, in comparison, was still heavier with the thoughts from the day. And now, these lyrics. I should have changed the song then and there, switch to happy music. Something like I'm like a bird or whatever.

Did I disappoint you? Or leave a bad taste in your mouth?

You act like you never had love... *Click*

I switched off the music system.

It took me almost two hours to reach home. Sitting in the car that day, crawling home at a snail's pace, I did something I hadn't done in a long time. I thought about where my life was heading.

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5th October 2006, Thursday, 5:00 pm:

Two years, three managers, four office spaces and a different department later, I can safely say that I'm one of the familiar faces around. It's a comforting feeling. A walk through the corridors, or lunch at the cafeteria involves making polite conversation with almost everyone. I think they think of me as the nice guy who's been around.

Aditi Malhotra, well... Adi (she insists I call her that), sits in the adjacent room. I think she and I moved out of training around the same time. I moved into quality and she moved into Research and Development. We're the only two left in the training division from the bunch that joined that day. The only difference being that Aditi was promoted to the post of an assistant manager in April.

I receive an email from the HR department congratulating Adi and me for achieving this 'milestone.' The mail is copied to every one in my business unit. Within a minute, I 'm in the process of deleting the clutter from my inbox and frantically replying to congratulations messages from people I don't know of, haven't met or ever said hello to.

I get this email from Karishma Bajaj. It says 'Congratulations Fossils.'

The phrase stays in my mind for a while and I continue staring at the colourful screen. Flowers, satin ribbons, twinkling light and designer font make for stylish viewing. I remain unmoved, wondering when the nostalgia will kick in.

Viren (close friend and colleague) backslaps me rather violently, ordering me to join him for a smoke downstairs. I look at my watch, 5:10 pm; time for the hot chick from Tower-A of the building to come down on her smoke break. We don't want to miss out on the limited viewing pleasure we have at our disposal. So I lock my desktop and we hurry downstairs.

After two cigarettes and a little disappointment (the chick never showed up), Viren suggests we go back upstairs and get back to work. While we are in the lift lobby, I ask him to carry on and tell him I'll be up shortly. He asks me if everything is alright (I hate perceptive people). I say Yes! and he gives me the look of How did you know I was going to ask you that??? He doesn't protest, and takes the next elevator.

I walk out of the lobby, into the open. I go straight to 'Costa Coffee' and buy a cold coffee. Once out of there, I light a cigarette and go park myself at the far end of the building. The area is dimly lit, but provides a fantastic view of the commotion around. It's also an area where you can find class four taking their beedi breaks. And every now and then you can spot a couple, desperate for some alone time.

Today, strangely, there is nobody.

As you may have guessed, the nostalgia had kicked in the elevator lobby.

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6th October 2006, Friday, 3:51 pm:

Yesterday evening, as I sat there with my cigarette and cold coffee, I reflected on the two years gone by. It was more an act of recollection than actual pondering over the events.

Here is what I could remember:

My first day at work. In retrospect, that day does hold a lot of significance. It may not have been eventful but memorable it was, simply because I will never forget it.

Rohit Chopra. Inspirational boss and fantastic manager, now reduced to a detail in my phonebook. Even now, when I wear floaters to work, I think of how he used to pull me up and urge me to wear formals. I'll never forget that smile of his, a smile of general well being and of unconditional acceptance.

Mimansa. Colleague, dear friend, angel. She taught me how to dress, where to party and in many ways, how to live. She doesn't work here anymore but I try and meet her as often as possible, even if all she has to offer is a reality check.

Viren. Best friend, fellow negro, golfer, dancer, and in many ways, a philosopher. He taught me how to appreciate video games and vampires at an artistic level. Currently, he's teaching me how to play golf. Every now and then he also tries to teach me how to dance, much to his and my frustration beacause I'm still pathetic at it. He also taught me that it's never too late to make a best friend.

Chinese and Thai Cafe, Gurgaon. Nights of endless alcohol, useless conversation, dancing in the parking lot to Alan Parson, and more. Half my income is in the club's bank account.

Sugandha. Trainer, gambler, wanderer, friend, guide, snob, philosopher, critic... the list is endless. 'Sugi' is my inspiration in many ways, and I think she knows it.

Leon, Maxwel and Siddharth. A comic, an achiever and an alpha male. A day at office is incomplete without Leon's useless (and fantastic) jokes, Maxwel's favours and Sid's almost dictatorial pieces of advice.

IBM. I love being here. In some trying times, I've often wondered why. Maybe because of the space and comfort I've been given, or maybe because it's my only means to a socially acceptable identity.

U2's One. Club, Disco, Parking lot, Dance Bar no bar. Whenever this song plays, you will find Tanmay, Leon, Viren, Mimansa, Sugandha, and whoever else is there locked in a group hug, singing loudly and out of tune. There is something about this song. I wonder now, as to why I turned it off in the car on my first day at work.

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There were a lot more flashes of people and places, of accomplishments, disappointments, embarrasments and more. But the cold coffee was long over and my last cigarette had just died on me, almost burning my fingers.

When I came back to reality, I found myself sitting cross-legged on the grass. I got up immediately and dusted the dirt off my trousers. As I walked to the elevator lobby, I thought of how much these last two years meant to me.

I am more complete as a person today than I ever remember being, good or bad notwithstanding. A subject matter expert in training, a reasonably good colleague, an amature golfer and writer, a socialite. When my trainees meet me, they never forget to flash their widest grins and try to convince me about how often they think of me. I think I must've made a difference, however miniscule, in improving their life. My colleagues always tell me that I'm great with meeting deadlines. And Viren never forgets to talk about my flair for golf when we're in mixed company. As for the writing, I'll let you decide.

I think all this makes for an interesting profile for a 22 year old.

I feel it could do with a little improvement though, I still can't dance.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

My Ode to a Hard Fought Greatness

***
Belgium, sometime in 1991:
I was scared. I was also on top of the world.
It was my moment of truth. A chance to escape mediocrity and to attain greatness.
I had dreamt of this moment since that hot summer afternoon of 1984. But this wasn't just my dream. It was the dream of my entire family.

"Do dreamer's rise to the occassion?", I asked myself. My palms were getting more and more sweaty as everyone cleared the area.

"Go on Michael... give it your best shot!", my new boss said to me.

I acknowledged his encouragement with half a smile, and realised there was more at stake than my moment of truth.

To add to it all, I had lied. And they knew it! What surprised me was that they were still giving me this chance. They must have seen something in me, or had they exhausted all other options? I guess the world will never know.

I closed my eyes and said a quick prayer.

Once I was out of the pit lane, I raced.
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Michael Schumacher made his Formula One debut with the Jordan-Ford team at the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix as a replacement driver for the imprisoned Bertrand Gachot (incarcerated for spraying tear gas in a London taxi-driver's face).
Schumacher was signed by Eddie Jordan after he was greatly impressed at a Silverstone test the previous week, and Schumacher assured Jordan that he had vast experience at the challenging Spa circuit, despite the fact that he had only been around the track once—and on a borrowed bicycle!
Schumacher impressed the paddock by qualifying seventh in his first competition in an F1 vehicle, matching the team's season-best grid position, and out-qualifying his seasoned team mate, Andrea de Cesaris, an 11-year veteran. He retired on the first lap of the race with clutch problems.
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August 2005:
After completing my training routine, I sat down with Corrina, Gina and Mick. It was a much needed day off. My team and I were struggling at work.
To add to that, this new guy at work, called Fernando, was giving me a run for my money. No one in the last five years had been able to challenge my abilities and now this kid of 24 was nursing dreams of taking my place.
I was talking to Corrina about how we should send the children to a private residential school in Monaco when my cell phone rang.
The ISD code indicated the call was from the United States. I was a little puzzled because I didn't know too many people from there.
The guy on the line told me his name was Steve Jobs, and that he was the CEO of Pixar Animations.
I chuckled and asked him the most obvious question of all,"Why the hell are you calling me up???"
I could almost hear him smiling when he said,"You're going to love my offer Michael!"
I met him the following week and he convinced me to do something I had never even thought of.
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In 2005, Michael Schumacher delivered a vocal performance in Disney-Pixar's animated feature film "Cars".
His character in the film, a trademark Rosso Corsa Ferrari F430 who comes to Luigi's Casa della Tires (which makes Luigi himself and his friend Guido faint from joy), was named after him.
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The first time I became the best in the world was 1994, three long years after my chance debut. I was with Benetton that year.
The season was a tough one, with massive ups and downs. The weekend at
Imola (Italy), in particular, was very tough on me. I was exposed to many vulnerabilities.
The last race of the season was to become a keenly contested and controversial finale to the rollercoaster season.
I clearly remember crashing out of the race, taking Damon (my closest competitor) out with me. Ironically, it was Damon's crashing out that ensured my driver's championship victory that year.
Everyone accused me of foul play. But I knew I had erred
, nothing more and nothing less.
The detail that took a little while to sink in was that I was the best in the world!
Little did I know it was the first of the seven, maybe eight times that were to follow.
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Schumacher won his first World Championship in 1994 while driving for Benetton, in an extremely controversial season marred by allegations of cheating and the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger at the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola.

Schumacher started the season strongly, winning six of the first seven races. The raw speed of the Benetton was a surprise to the other teams, who levelled allegations of cheating. They claimed Benetton had found a way to violate the FIA-imposed ban on electronic aids, including Traction Control and Launch Control. On investigation, the FIA discovered illegal software on their car (and the cars of several rival teams), but could not prove that it had been used.

After Senna's death, Damon Hill inherited the responsibility of fighting for the championship. Hill struggled to keep pace with the Benetton in his Williams-Renault, but due to several mid-season controversial disqualifications and bans for Schumacher, he began to close the gap in the standings.
In the British Grand Prix, Schumacher was penalized for overtaking on the formation lap. He then ignored the penalty and the subsequent black flag during the race, for which he was disqualified and later given a two-race ban.
Things took a turn for the worse at Spa, where Schumacher was disqualified after winning the race, after his car was found to have illegal wear on its skidblock.
Leading by a single point going into the final race in Australia, Schumacher clinched the title after colliding with Hill in a highly controversial incident, taking both drivers out.
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10th September 2006:
We won at Monza. We had to, otherwise my story would have been different.
Among the many things I announced to the world that Sunday afternoon, here is an excerpt that captures its essence:
"...Sorry, it may have taken longer than some of you wanted but you have to find the right moment and we feel this is the right moment.
To make it short, this is going to be my last Monza race. At the end of this year I have decided together with the team that I’m going to retire from racing.

It has been an exceptional, really exceptional time what motorsport in more than 30 years has given to me. I really loved every single moment of the good and the bad ones. Those moments make life so special.

In particular I should thank my family starting with obviously my Dad, my passed-away Mum and obviously my wife and my kids who at all times supported what I was doing.
And without their support, without their strengths to survive in this business and this sport, and to perform, I think it would have been impossible.
I can’t be thankful enough to my family, but as well to all my mates at the Benetton time and obviously especially at the Ferrari days when I have made so many friends.
I have so many great guys in that team and it has been a really tough decision to decide to not work together at this level with all my friends and engineers and everybody..."
I wanted to cry, but I held my nerve. I knew the world was watching.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
While Schumacher was still on the podium after his win at the 2006 Italian Grand Prix, Ferrari issued a press release stating that he would retire from racing at the end of the 2006 season. Schumacher personally confirmed his retirement in a very emotional statement during the post-race press conference.
The press release also stated that Schumacher would continue working for Ferrari in some capacity after his official retirement as a racing driver, and full details of this will be made clear by the end of 2006.
The team also announced that Kimi Räikkönen will replace him at Scuderia Ferrari.
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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

One evening at work, parallel universes and the pantry guy...

"One is tempted to define man as a rational animal who always loses his temper when he is called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason."

Oscar Wilde ( The Critic as Artist, Part 2, 1891 )
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On an uneventful day at work, just when I'm about to pack my laptop and leave, my universe conspires against me... My boss, colleagues, friends and family are reminded of the fact that I'm at their disposal...

This is a series of unfortunate events that happened between 7:30 and 7:40 pm on that Wednesday evening... Disturbing my usual lack of occupation at work, and sending my thoughts spiralling into the inconsequential...

Boss: Tanmay is the calibration report out? (Err... No!) Make sure you send it by the end of the day.

I step out of the room, cursing my luck. I should have compiled it by now!

Unoccupied Colleague (wandering in the corridors): Dude, let's go for a smoke? That chick from Tower-A must be downstairs right now!

I wonder why he ALWAYS want to smoke??? I say no thanks and continue walking through the corridor towards the washroom. I enter the loo and run into a super focused fellow team mate.

Super focused fellow team mate: Hey man, could you please conduct five more assessments? Enter the data into the sheet I'm sending you.

Suddenly going to the loo is off my list of convenient hideouts at work. I say,"Sorry buddy, need to get home early today. Family scene."

I leave the washroom thinking I better finish that report and get the hell out of here before someone else corners me.

On my way back to my room, my cell rings.

Phone Call (Drunk Friend): Tanmay! Where are you??? (Err... Work!) Get your ass to TC right now! Ice is begging to be broken!

I want to scream Yes! Yes! Y-e-s-s-s-s! just like those women in the porn movies. Instead, I politely take a raincheck, knowing well that I had better meet my girlfriend today or she'll kill me or dump me or something. I walk on with this scary thought lingering in my mind.

Master Trainer (In the corridor): Tanny please come to my session. There's a teachback I want you to sit through.

I repeat the family excuse. After all worklessness and girlfriends come first.

I walk on.

Random Ex-Trainee (Outside my room) : Hey Tanmay! Long time... what's happening? Listen... I wanted to clarify something, is now a good time?

Oh God! Why? W-H-Y? Why Now???

My patience is running out and I snap at him. "Tomorrow! I'm busy right now!"

I enter my room. I realise while opening the door that my fist is clenched. A very sweet fellow colleague is standing facing me, as if the forces had informed her of my time of entry.

Very Sweet Fellow Colleague: Aur ji Tanmay ji... ki haal chaal? I just came to work. How are you? How's your girlfriend?

I smile and reply that me, my girlfriend and the entire cosmos is doing just fine. Inside of me I feel like taking a razor sharp knife and waving it in everybody's eye, especially those who can afford to make useless polite conversation in this time of crisis!

My phone rings, again. Mom.

Mom: Tanu please be home by nine today, you know Masi's leaving for London tomorrow and she wants to see you and your brother before she goes. And pay the landline bill on your way back please, it's overdue.

(Thought: Err... sorry Ma, not today! I'd much rather meet my girlfriend!)

I tell her I'm working late and stuck in office till midnight. She sighs in disappointment and hangs up without saying bye.

As I make myself comfortable at my workstation, the schedule incharge get's up and decides to waste some more of my precious time.

Schedule Incharge (My Team): Tanmay make sure you're in by twelve noon tomorrow, we've got lot's of assessments lined up.

(Thought: Yeah right! F*&^$%$(&**%%#$#@... I'm taking leave tomorrow... Naa na na naa na)

I give him a thumb's up sign which he doesn't really acknowledge. The sarcasm on my face might have something to do with it.

"She" walks in... (The one who's thoughts occupy most of my work hours...)

Hot colleague who thinks I'm worth it: Hey... dinner???

(Thought: Can we just have sex on friday night instead? I'm caught up in a mindless, brain numbing activity... the one they pay me for... so that I can buy you alcohol and get you drunk enough to sleep with me.)

Girlfriend calling. I disconnect the phone, almost panicking. I regain my composure and entertain the thought once again before answering the hot colleague.

The words that come out of my mouth: "No, I'm buried in work. Maybe tomorrow gorgeous! Sorry!"

She leaves, looking disappointed. My attention moves to the vibrating Nokia 6600 that my left hand is holding.

Girlfriend calling again. GIRLFRIEND CALLING!

I answer, sounding apologetic, readying myself for the humiliation and insults.

Girlfriend: How dare you cut my call! Who were you with?

(Thought: Err, those who we don't speak about!)

I say I was talking to my boss. My boss looks up at me in disbelief. I wink at him and carry on talking. I tell her I'll be half an hour late. She hangs up on me, cursing.
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A disappointed mother, an angry girlfriend, two colleagues plotting how they would politley decline when I would approach them for my work and a boss who was waiting only for me to send him the data I should've sent an hour ago. Add to that my drunk friend, whose place I could've been at had I planned my appointments better!

I was fucked. One way or another.

I decided to calm my nerves, so I did the next best thing to having sex... I called up the pantry and ordered some food... Maggi to be precise.

I restarted my laptop. For some inexplicable reason, I created a playlist with songs from bands like "Cradle of Filth" and "Cannible Corpse."

Once the music was blaring in my headphones, I started compiling the data. The schedule guy, the sweet colleague and my boss all went out of the room.

I was alone. I took the opprtunity to voice my thoughts... saying "Bhenchod...", stretching it as much as possible.

I resumed my work.

In between typing a formula in the excel sheet, shaking my head hysterically to "Six feet under" and cursing my luck, I heard a noise. It must've been loud considering the volume in the headphones had been set to maximum.

I turned my head, only to find the remnants of another disaster. The two plates of maggi I had ordered had found their way to the floor.

I felt my heart sink.

Such was the magnitude of disappointment, that I almost didn't notice the pantry guy. I noticed him only when he made an attempt to get up from the floor. Man, he really should have chosen a better day to screw up!

Anyway, I motioned for him to get out and get housekeeping to take care of the mess he had blessed me with. I don't think he heard me, because he just stood there smiling helplessly for close to 20 seconds or so.

I turned to him in a swift motion indicative of aggression. He asked me if he should get two more plates. Now I lost it. I shouted at him, and told him he could feed as much maggi to the floor as he wanted, but I wasn't going to have any of it!

The smile vanished from his face. He left the room in a hurry, not paying any attention to the maggi on his clothes and hands. He was limping.

I continued to work. A couple of housekeeping guys came in and cleaned up the mess.

I had about ten minutes of work left when I got up from my work station to stretch my back. I was about to get back to my chair when I heard a knock on the door. I looked through the glass door to find the pantry guy standing right outside, with a half-smile on his face. I motioned for him to come in. He disappeared for around 20 seconds and came in. He was holding two plates of maggi. The half-smile had now become a shy grin.

Before I could say a word, he had carefully placed the maggi on my workstation. Then he turned to me, his smile became even wider (something I thought wasn't possible given the small mouth), and he held out his hand.

I shook his hand and he said "Sorry Sir, my fault!" (In English)

I smiled at last, trying to fathom why I was touched by his gesture.

His next words were in a language he was more comfortable with,"Sir hume maloom hai aap naraaz ho mujhse. Aapka kaam itna tension vaala hota hai, upar se meine maggi gira diya. Sorry."

"Arre nahi yaar, aise mat bol... tu to sharminda kar raha hai!", I said, cutting him short.

I looked at him in the eye and for some reason I had a rush of emotion. Then there were random thoughts. I think I wanted to burst out crying. I wanted to tell him that he was important too. I wanted to tell him that I respected him more than I would ever respect myself. I wanted to tell him that the server is greater than the servee. I wanted to give him a hug and tell him one day it would all be ok (Something like a Jaadu Ki Jhappi). I wanted to tell him that I'd teach him how to read and write, and then maybe he could get a job, a real job I mean.

Instead I asked,"So where are you from?"

"Bihar Sir, Madhubani."

"Arre, phir to hum bhai hein, mein Bhagalpur se hoon!", I replied, feeling a sudden ease after having found something in common with him.

The shy grin emerged.

"Aur, dilli mein kaise? Kahaan tak padhe ho?", I asked.

"Sir, M.A. kiya hai Sanskrit mein. Dilli aaya hoon taaki bachhe achhe school mein padhe. Vo jagah safe nahin hai na, isliye..."

(Thought: M.A. in Sanskrit??? This guy is more educated than I am!!! Fuck!!!)

"Arre waah, yaar tu to mujhse zyaada padha likha hai...", I said, backslapping him, appealing to him to be at ease with my presence.

He continued to smile at me, standing almost motionless, staring at me. I was wondering what to say next when a realisation hit me. In the middle of being preoccupied and emotionally upturned, I had forgotten to pay him.
I gestured for him to move aside and went to my work station. I picked up the wallet, which was lying next to my laptop.

"Kitna ho gaya? 4 Maggi ka 60 Rupees na?", I asked him, in an attempt to confirm. Also indicating that I was willing to pay for all the damages as well.

"Aap 30 rupees de do mujhe Sir. Jo gir gaya tha uske paise aap kyon doge. Vo hum dekh lenge", came a swift reply.

I was a little puzzled and I guess it showed on my face. He gave me a reassuring smile as I handed him the thirty rupees. He took the money, and left the room after saying thanks. As he was leaving the room I called out to him, "Bhaiya... Pakka na?", feeling sudden guilt about him having to pay 30 bucks out of his meagre pay.

"Are Sir, don't worry! Apni setting hai...", he said with a laugh and closed the door behind him.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I finished my report. I checked my watch, 8:55 pm. I had to meet my girlfriend in five minutes, and there was no way I was going to make in time even after having rescheduled. Surprisingly, I wasn't angry, irritated, worked up... nothing! I guess I had resigned to my fate.

I called her up and told her that I would make it by 9:30 pm. She said she didn't want to see me ever again. I laughed, in helplessness and amusement, and she hung up on me for a second time that day.

I sat there staring into space. It was then that my thoughts spiralled into the inconsequential.

The first wave of thought was about the strange and predictable ways of the world (geography notwithstanding). How certain fundamental aspects of existence would never change. How there would always be the rich and the poor, the good and the bad, the alpha and the omega. Always.

The second wave of thought was mostly in what ifs and how could I have... I thought about my state of oblivion, and how most of my mental comfort had its roots in the ignorance that stemmed from it.

I thought about those who I care about, love, respect, work with, want to be with. And how their expectations of me had wrecked my nerves a little while ago.

I thought about how each person is a universe, including the pantry guy. There was so much to know and so much to learn about anyone at any given time in this world that it could overwhelm the google server a couple of times over. I was so intent on admiring the light being emitted from the stars in my universe that I overlooked the fact that it was me they were blinding.

My mind started giving up on me. I yawned. I wanted to go home, now. I packed my laptop, picked up my wallet and keys and headed straight out of office into the elevator lobby. I waited for about five minutes and finally got into an empty elevator.

On it's way down, the elevator stopped on the 4th floor. It was the pantry guy again, smiling as usual. I immediately rejected the thought that it was an omen.

There was an awkward silence in the six by six confines. We had exhausted all possible conversation in my bay before. I pretended to stare at the screen which indicates the floor and temperature. When the elevator gates opened, I stepped out. There was a rush right outside, a lot of people got in even though the lift was going to the basement first. I negotiated my way through the restless crowd.

As I walked on, the elevator gates closed, physically reinforcing the gap between our universes.
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Friday, August 25, 2006

A Love Story: The Final Chapter

"Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie."

William Shakespeare
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I'm shocked!

"How do you know me?", I ask her.

"You were at that party... weren't you? The one at Khaitan House?"

"Y-yes... I was! Were you there too?", I ask.

"Ya, but I wish I hadn't gone..." She took another drag from the cigarette.

"Me too...", I say. I regret saying the words almost immediately after they come out.

We don't speak for the next two minutes. I'm a little uncomfortable with the silence so I look up at the sky, pretending to be in deep thought. The only thoughts that come to me are the ones I need to run most from.

"Walk me to my car? It's just round the corner", she instructs.

"How far?", I ask uncertainly. The thought of walking the street at 4:00 am with a woman I don't know is a little unnerving.

"It's ok, you don't have to", she says.

"No no... I mean if it's far I can drop you in my car. Why do you want to walk?"

"I feel like walking, do you mind? It's not more than a kilometer"

"Ok, let me lock my car." I run to my car, pull up the windows and lock it. I run back across the road, almost panting.

We walk.

"There it is...", she says, grabbing my hand.

I'm relieved.

She holds on to my hand till the time we reach the car. I don't sense any intention behind her doing so.

She leaves my hand to take out the car keys from her pocket. She unlocks her car and settles in to the drivers seat. She rolls down her window and says "Need a lift?"

"Yes. Of course." I smile and get into the car.

She drops me.

I get into my car and roll down my window.

"I hope you'll be ok?", I shout, hoping my voice reaches her despite the noise from the engines.
"Yes... I think I will." She smiles reassuringly. This time the smile is genuine.

I smile back. "Maybe I'll see you sometime, if fate permits..."

She doesn't reply.

Instead, she says "It was awefully brave of you... very few people can do what you did at the party tonight. I wish I could've done the same..."

Before I can reply, she drives off.

That's when I realise.

Ridhima! I tell myself. I should've guessed!
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The moment Radha realised it was Varun, the smile escaped her face. For a brief moment, both of them stood transfixed.

"H-hi... Varun", said Radha, trying to force the smile back on her face.

"Hi Radha! How've you been? Long time...", said Varun, almost confidently.

"Oh... I-I've been good... you tell me..."

If Radha had any short coming, it was her fear of confrontation. Earlier, on the phone, she had told Varun very categorically, and curtly, that she didn't want to see him. Now here, standing before him, she was at a complete loss for words.

She wanted to say so much. About disappointment and hatred, about being let down and left behind.

In this time of poetic silence, the cruel rhyme of anticipation, most people in the vicinity found themselves a convenient excuse to clear the area. Radha and Varun were alone at last, much to His relief and Her worry .

While they stood there staring at each other, the last six years of their lives flashed in front of them.

How they had met, the artist and his muse. The coffees, the movies, the concerts, the parties, the cocaine...
How they had loved. Passionately, aggressively, hungrily, sometimes hurriedly...
How they had lived. In each other's houses, hearts, lives, dreams...
And of course, how it had all fallen apart seven months ago in the September of 2005, the month Varun had left for Paris.

He had left her behind, hanging on to a promise. In the last seven months the promise had been broken, again, and again, and again. And each time he broke his promise, a piece of Radha's heart had broken along with it.

"A million little pieces is what you've left me with Varun! When I think of you I feel nothing but malice!", Radha shouted. This was sometime in January, the last time they had spoken before tonight.

"I think you better move on Radha, this is not likely to work out.", Varun had said in response to Radha's outburst. Varun's tragic flaw was his inability to handle accusation. He too was an escapist, but of a different kind.

But today, 19th of March 2006, was going to be different. Atleast that's what Varun hoped, considering he'd come back to Delhi for good, just so that he could fall in love with her all over again. A chance which had outraged his parents, and many of his artist friends.

Varun spoke first, "Let's take a walk. Please. That's all I ask for."

He held out his hand, just like he used to. A tear surfaced on Radha's left cheek. She put her hand in his, and they walked. They walked for five minutes, hand in hand. Neither said a word.

Varun, as always, broke the silence.
"So I hear you've found yourself a boyfriend Radha."

"You're the one who asked me to move on."

"I know."

"Then why are you asking me?"

"Just... so what's he like, this R-a-h-u-l?", he asked teasingly.

"Oh, he's nice... he's sensitive, and he takes good care of me..."

"Nice?", Varun said, cutting her short. "I thought you hated nice!", he said in the same teasing tone.

"What are you smirking for, I know the chick you've been fucking since you got back. She's such a bimbette, it's not even funny. Isn't she here? Aren't you going to introduce me?"

"Hmmm, do I sense bitterness and hatred in your voice?", he almost laughed.

"So where is she???"

"Probably drunk, and making a fool of herself. After speaking to you I kind of told her to mind her own business. I've always hated women who can't handle alcohol." Varun sighed.
"Anyway! Back to you and me!"

"Oh come on Varun...", Radha said defensively. "My fascination with the artistic, the eccentric, and you ended that day, when you told me to move on."

"Really...?, he said, looking at her straight in the eye.

There was a moment of silence, and then one of what Radha thought was madness on her part.

They kissed.

Radha pulled away and said, "I-I can't... you don't understand..."

"Shhhhh...", Varun said, placing his index finger on her trembling lips. "I'm here now..."

"B-but Rahul..."

"I'm never going back Radha... never! I mean I'm here for good!"

There was silence again.

"You promise?", Radha asked, even though she knew every word he had just said was true. She knew him better than she knew herself.

They kissed again.

For the next hour or so, they spoke... kissing, hugging, touching at every opportunity.

"Wanna dance?", she whispered.

"Yes", he replied. "But right here."

They embraced, feeling each other's body, and fell into a slow, intense waltz. There is something about dancing without music that only lovers know.

They must have danced for about 30 seconds when they heard clapping. When Varun and Radha looked around, they saw friends and acquaintances cheering them on. They knew their's was not any love story, they were not just anybody.

From the corner of her eye, in the distance, Radha saw Rahul. There were tears in her eyes but he was smiling and clapping, just like everyone else. She went up to him and stood there, half guilty and half pleading.

"I knew", Rahul said. "I had always known.", still managing to smile a little. "I-I want you to be happy..."

"Thank You", she said, holding his wrist with both her hands. Then again, this time almost whispering, "Thank You!"

She ran back to Varun and embraced him.

While Radha was running towards him, Varun gave a thumb's up sign to Rahul, expressing gratitude.

Rahul replied with a same gesture and a smile.

Varun thought of his bimbette. He looked around, but he couldn't spot her anywhere. His attention went back to Radha, and he didn't think of anyone, or anything for the rest of the night.

"Poor Ridhima... she must be heartbroken!", Rahul heard someone say in the background.

--------------------------------THE END----------------------------------

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Love Story: Chapter Two

"All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reason, passion, and desire."

Artistotle
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She is sitting cross legged on the edge of the pavement. Looking down, fingers carelessly holding a cigarette. There's a can of coke or pepsi or whatever next to her. There is also a packet of cigarettes. I can tell she's absorbed in deep thought because the cigarette hasn't been ashed in a while. Or has she fallen off to sleep like that?

I think I've been staring at her for hours when she suddenly looks up. We make eye contact for one brief moment and she looks away. I can tell she has cried. I can also tell that she is more beautiful than most women I've seen in my life. The streetlight is giving her away to a total stranger.

I continue staring. She's not looking at me now, deliberately I think. The thought of reaching out, maybe rescuing her crosses my mind. I contemplate getting out of the car and going to speak to her. I feel a certain eagerness inside of me. Maybe I want to fall in love with her.

Whooosh!

I'm startled!

What happened???

Another car zips past me, this one is slower than the earlier one. The signal has changed to green.

I feel the need to make a split second decision. Rescue or escape? Confront or evade?

What the fuck am I thinking???

I'm drunk, very drunk. She's sitting there, almost motionless, on the side of the road at four in the morning. What if she's a prostitute? What if she's crazy? What is she's dying? What if she screams for help if I as much as go near her? If something goes wrong, no one will believe anything I have to say.

Sense prevails, but not for long. I zip off before the light turns red again, but for some reason take a U-Turn from the very next cut and turn right back. I stop my car just after the crossing, now on the other side of the road.

I light a cigarette, take a long drag and exhale. Trembling, with fear and anticipation, I get out of the car. I wait a moment befor I cross the road. I come within six feet of her and then I stop, waiting for her to notice my presence, or maybe because I suddenly find myself searching for the right words to say in a situation like this.

She looks up at me, her body tenses up.

"C-c-can I help you?" I say, clearing my throat.

"Yes", she says, almost confidently. Then she looks away again.

"Can I drop you somewhere?", I ask.

"Do you have a light?", she replies.

"Y-yes I do, in the car. B-but you can use my cigarette to light yours."

She picks up the packet of Malboro Reds and takes out the last, upturned cigarette.

"My lucky cigarette...", she smiles half-heartedly and holds out her hand, motioning for me to light it for her. I dutifully do so and hand it back to her, trying very hard not to look at the cleavage.

I ask her again,"Ma'am can I drop you anywhere?"

She evades my question again and asks me if I want a sip of beer. Before I reply she hands me the green coloured can. Hesitantly, I take a sip from the Heineken can. I can taste the bitterness that comes with warm beer. I say thanks and give it back to her.

She takes a long, long drag from her cigarette and exhales the smoke through her nose. She asks me to sit down. I adjust my jeans and settle down next to her.

I'm not prepared for what she is going to say next.

"I know you very well...", she says.
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Radha went to her brother's room, her final destination before any night of partying. She opened his drawer and took out two thousand rupee notes. She also left a note saying thanks.


Ever since her brother had landed that job with Goldman Sachs, her financial status had improved drastically. No more negotiating with Mom, no more pleading with daddy. All she had to do was open a drawer and leave a note!

Radha went back to her room one last time to pick up her cell phone and car keys. Carelessly, she put the pink motorola V3i into her back pocket without glancing at the screen. She really should have, but then again, she didn't know the future.

As she walked out of the front door of her apartment, she yelled "Bye!" to her parents who were watching some movie on the TV in the living room. They yelled back, but didn't turn their eyes away from the screen. The maid came and closed the door behind her.

Once in the car, a Baleno, Radha lit a cigarette. She heaved a huge sigh of relief after the first drag. She never smoked at home for fear of her parents finding out. If she got really desperate, she would go into her brother's loo and smoke with the exhaust on. With the cigarette lit and music turned on, she zipped off in the direction her destination. Once she reached the entrance of Chhatarpur Farms, she called up Sameera to confirm the directions once more. She cut the phone call and pressed the forward button of her system remote to change the track.

That's when her cellfone rang. A fourth, and perhaps last attempt from someone desperate to get in touch with her.

She looked at her phone screen. Recognizing the number, she smiled and opened the flap and answered in her characteristic style... "Hey handsome!"

"Hey! Where the f*** have you been???", answered Rahul, sounding near hysterical.

"I'm right here sweety, what's up? What's the matter?"

"No! Nothing! Was worried, that's all! Been trying to reach for almost one hour!"

"Awwe, how sweet!", she blushed.

"Achha I'm at the party right now but there's a slight crisis. I have to go and pick up Samarth from GK. His car's got a flat. I'll be back in forty five."

"No, wait for me! I'll be there in a jiffy, just wait five minutes. I wanna see you befor you go!"

"Ok, get here fast! Missing you!"

"Missing you too sweety, will be there ASAP! Mwah!"

She closed the flap of her phone and put the Baleno into first gear.

Her cellfone rang, again. This time it was Varun. She thought of not picking it up, but then answered anyway.

"Ya", she answered, almost curtly.

"I thought you'd be here by now, party princess!"

"I'll be there in five, but why do you want to know?"

"No... Just... Thought it would be nice to see you after so long... I was thinking maybe we could ummm..."

"I don't think I want to see you Varun.", she said cutting him short.

"Ok, have it your way...", replied Varun and hung up on her.

Radha reached Khaitan House, where the party was. After handing the keys to the valet incharge, she stepped in through the black iron gates. Rahul was standing there with someone she didn't know. He ran to her and hugged her, planting two long kisses on either cheek. She blushed. He then introduced his friend Karan to her. Radha and Karan exchanged pleasantries before the boys took her leave to go pick up Samarth.

She continued to walk from the gate to the house, a long one if it's a sprawling 4 acre Chhatarpur Farmhouse. She was caught up in hugs and kisses with the people she knew when some one tapped her on the shoulder. The tap was a little assertive, just enough to draw her attention away from the crowd.

It was Varun.

(To Be Continued)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A Love Story: Chapter One

"What is meant to be will always find a way."

Trisha Yearwood
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It's 4:00 am. I'm driving home in my car. I can't remember how much I've had to drink. I know it's a lot because I have my seatbelt on. I always wear my seatbelt when I think I'm too drunk to drive safe, a habit I picked after passing out at the wheel a few times only narrowly escaping potential disaster.

I know I need to force myself to stay awake, so I turn up the music to its maximum and try shaking my head to the beat. I hope there are no police check-posts on the way because they'll probably smell the whiskey from a mile away. I'm also cursing myself for not having carried the house keys. I'll have to wake my mother up if I want to let myself in, and I'm sure she'll make a snide remark about the smell of alcohol on my breath.

I notice there is a crossing approaching. I'm suprised that the lights are functioning at this unearthly hour. Not wanting to take a chance in my current chemical condition, I dutifully stop and wait for the light to turn green. I'm almost proud of myself for doing so. The evening that has gone by is flashing in front of my eyes. Suddenly, I realise "Soul Meets Body" is playing on the music system. "Brilliant!" I exclaim, and start to sing along... it'll help me keep my mind off what happened at the party. I also adjust the shaking of my head to this new found beat. The air-conditioning has me near frozen so I switch it off and roll down the front windows of the car.

That's when I notice her.
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It was 8:30 pm. Radha stepped out of the shower and looked at her naked self in the mirror. Impressed, as always with what she saw, she gave herself a quick, naughty wink and grabbed her towel. She wiped herself dry and with a practiced ease applied three different types of lotions, leaving no part of her body unattended. Next, she wrapped the towel round herself and stepped out of the bathroom. She scanned her room, making sure no one was there. Then she hurried to the door and locked it. Next, she turned on the music and flung her towel on the bed.

If you saw Radha, you wouldn't believe that she took less than ten minutes to dress up. She's the sort of woman who would compel you to look at her, simply by way of her existence. She had the rare ability to make even the suavest of men uncomfortable and even the most ravishing women helplessly jealous. The difference between Radha and the rest of the world was her confidence and comfort with self.

Today was no different. Swiftly and efficiently the items of clothing appeared on her dusky body. The carefully faded blue jeans waste 26" and the black top with a plunging v-shaped neckline. The top was designed in such a way that each time she bent, you would get a fleeting glimpse of her lacy purple bra. Radha, knowingly, made no effort to cover her chest with her hand when she bent, a part of her enjoyed this sudden attention, from men and women alike, and of course she cracked up when she used to notice the evasive actions that followed when she looked up.

Her sandals were a point of discussion in the local social circles. Most of them were black, beige, chocolate brown, and a few were silver. All of them had one thing in common, a four inch heel and a characteristic, dull silver star right next to the ankle on the outside. Her jeans were just short enough to reveal the star.
No one knew how she managed to dance so well wearing such high heels. And no one knew where she shopped for them. What really got to the women was that Radha wouldn't tell. She used the convenient excuse that her father used to buy them from somewhere in Europe, Latvia? Lithuania? Luxembourg? No one remembered. Or maybe each time someone asked, Radha named a different country.

Once dressed, Radha ran to her cupboard mirror which was full length. She stood for two full minutes, much longer than usual, carefully examining herself. Her hair fell carefully on her shoulders, the wavy black locks blending with the black of her top. She adjusted her top to make sure there was enough skin between the end of the top and the beginning of the jeans. This way those who saw her from the front got a view of her naval ring and those who looked at her from the back were able to examine the tattoo on her lower back.
Then suddenly, for reasons known only to her, she broke into a dance. A casual, almost careless shaking of hips. She turned her body around but her eyes remained fixed on herself in the mirror, making sure every inch of her was just the way she wanted it to be, including the intensely inviting ass. Once she was convinced, the naughty wink followed.

She quickly turned off the music, went out of her room and into her parents'. There she spotted her favourite perfume on the dressing table, Turquoise by Ralph Lauren, and applied as much as she could without nauseating herself. She didn't normally use much perfume but today was going to be a long night, and hopefully a special one, so she had decided to go that extra mile.

In the throws of olfactory passion, Radha didn't realise that her cellfone had been ringing in her room. The ringtone "Rubina's Blue Sky Happiness" by Joe Satriani echoed in her room, begging to be heard. The phone screen read: 3 missed calls.

Radha was unaware of the fact that his was one phone call she should have attended.

(To be Continued...)