Monday, December 31, 2007

The obligatory New Year post where I choose to rant, yet again.

I do not know what it is, but words such as the "Festive season", "Festive cheer", "Bonanza", "Dhamaka", "Ho! Ho! Ho!", "The Christmas spirit" and the like give me a bad skin reaction. Like, I have to itch and scratch myself all over, like I have Henoch-Schonlein purpura (or something as dreadful sounding), like I have to throw things at you, ranging from truck-driver profanities to my now old mobile phone. I mean, what do you do when random people from your past you wish had forgotten you, write in inanities like "Merry Christmas! May Mother Mary and Her Immaculately Conceived child always be with you"; inanities I say, because the said person thinks Christmas is "kewl"; inanities I say, because said person conveniently chose to be oblivious to Gowri-Ganesha, Deepawali, Yugaadi; inanities I say, because said person's last name is Bhyre Gowda with family based in Honagondanahalli.
Also, will people ever stop saying, "What plans for new year's?" Since when did sitting in front of television all night watching Bollywood Star Magical Nite begin to be lame and not sound like a plan? These fancy pubs with "hip-hop music, yo maan" may eat shit.
This "Holiday Season" depresses me, I tell you. Contrived camaraderie it breeds.

Among other things, I recently saw two really ugly, really black crows making out. Just when I thought I had seen it all, the next day I chanced upon two lizards making out. Gah, what is this conspiracy to spite me, it makes me wonder. That too, by making out.

So you see, much has changed over this past year.
My idea of AARGH! has shifted from Michael Jackson to lizards making out.
I actually know what the fuck Tetralogy of Fallot is all about.
My chin has acquired a shapely scar.
My parents think buying a dog would have been a better investment.
Et cetera.

But you see, much isn't going to change over this next year. Which is what makes every Happy New Year such an abused oxymoron. I was hideous last new year, and going by the looks of it, much isn't going to change over this weekend. Here's why there is going to be nothing new about this next year. (Don't even get me started on "happy")

*Loved ones will continue to make wrong choices.

Seriously, Amma, nine Kannada serials a day is NOT healthy. Not even if one of them happens to have Anant Nag. And certainly not when one serial has a character that has had amnesia THREE times. And for the last time, you can't call someone pregnant by checking their tongue or feeling their pulse, and dear lord, Brain Transplants are NOT the answer to every loose end. They are not the answer to anything.

*Hutch will continue to be a bitch.

And insist on sending me messages of this nature. Sung to tune -

Ooh! Aah! Let the music play,
Express what you want to say,
Make your loved one happy and gay,
Dial 123815, dedicate a song to make someone's day,
What say?

Where do I even start about this one? What are they on, these people at Hutch? Not even Maarimuttu Special Country Toddy. That will knock you flat, but not make your IQ -10.

*That Thing Pink will continue to be That Thing Pink.

That Thing Karan Johar, that one. It will continue to make statements like "Film Fraternity", "In the film fraternity, I am the the Devil that wears Prada occasionally", "Pink is the new black. Film fraternity", "Film fraternity, King Khan is the greatest darling, in the film fraternity", "Film fraternity". We get it, That Thing Pink. No fraternity accepted you; no, not even one called Gamma Alpha Upsilon. (Let's not even get to the sororities.) And now, you have forced yourself into a fraternity, and CANNOT hide your glee. We Get It.
That Thing Pink will also continue to set new levels of atrocity by making another film, with That Other Thing Pink that has the mental faculty to carry off about one and a half emotions.

*The Times of India will continue to be my mother's favored grease paper.

Hugh Grant arrested for hitting lensman with a can of baked beans makes it to the year's roundup. Shakira raises temperature in Mumbai, Yuvraj-Deepika-Dhoni love affair gives television enough grist for days on end, Salman Rushdie splits with Padma Lakshmi and hooks up with Star Wars' Carrie Fisher, are some of the other things that altered the course of our lives over the past year.
Are these guys for real or what? Then of course, Bangalore Times will continue to catch us off guard every so often with its witty captions, not to mention Rohit Barker's opinion about everything from armpit hair to the Human Genome Project; from the best ways to comb your dog's hair to the implications of the latest G8 summit on third world countries.

*Chetan Bhagat will continue to write and (the horror, the horror) be read.

He will finish writing his third book, which will be about Who Gives A Fuck, and will term these three books as The Urban Indian Trilogy. Kewl dewds with streaked hair, and kewl chicks with embroidered jeans will buy original copies from Landmark, take over a week to plow through it, and later partake in intellectual conversation over their NSeries phones with other kewl peeps urging them to -
"2 reed it....itz v kewl. chtn bhgt ma favvvv ryter... :) :) :)!!!!!"
"u reed 22222222 (read, tooooooo) much buks ya...!!!
"ya ya, i m a bookie lolzzz!!!..."
"i herd sydney shelda also iz v gud ryter??????..."
"ya ya, hez ma favvv forin ryter....but ind onleee chtn bhgt. ma favvv, sply hiz l8est!!!!!!"
"ohhh vot itz abt????? :) :)"
"u no, abt peeps n all, itz v v kewl. chtn bhgt ma favvvv ryter... :) :) :)!!!!!"
"k..... :) :) :) !!!!!"
":) :) :) !!!"

They will also of course gang up and go watch the films based on his literary masterpieces, but would be visibly perturbed.
"i dint lyk movie ya..... 1 nyt @ cal centr was suchhhhh a nys buk..... films nevah do justis 2 buks :( :( :( :( !!!!!!!"
"k.... :( :( :( :( itz ok ya"
":) :) :) :)"
(Don't ask me why, but smileys have to come even here)

GAH is an appropriate term.

*Deve Gowda will continue to be a bastard.

Can you frikkin believe our misfortune? What we would give to have this lump of lard outsourced to Pakistan and have it blown up to smithereens. Poor Benazir, she was kinda cute even. And was Ivy League and Oxford educated. Lump of Lard on the other hand, went to some godforsaken lightning struck tabela on the outskirts of Holenarsipura.
As if putting us Kannadigas to inconceivable shame during his time as Prime Minister was not enough (the man actually fell asleep and rested his head on the shoulder of the Chief Justice of India, and drooled. Now, if it was on that wretched D Raja of the CPI-M, I'd give full marks to LoL, but this is the CJI, darnit), he goes ahead and behaves like an orangutan in heat on Crack. Can you believe the kind of foreign investment the state has lost ever since the bastard decided to act up and show that he was in fact menopausal? The last I heard, it was upwards of 50,000 crore rupees.
I hope, I fervently hope some Botulinum toxin makes its way into his Ragi Muddes somehow.

*Indian News Media will continue to be Ekta Kapoor's playground.

Karan Thapar. I do not like him. What is the need to clench his teeth for everything? And to talk in that argh-grates-my-nerves-in-ways-I-did-not-think-possible accent?
"Are you sure Mr. Amar Singh that your cat pooped this morning?"
"Yes, you can ask Adaraneeya Amitabh Bhai and Poojya Jaya Bhabhi that"
"Are you sure Mr. Amar Singh that your cat pooped this morning, and not last night?"
"Erm, erm"
(Yes, I put him in the spot! Look at my journalistic skills. Let me rub my hands in glee and clench my teeth a lot more. Karan Johar, are you watching? I do ham well, don't I? Come on, let's make out, you and I. Karan and Karan, namesakes on the run)
"So, it is true. There is conflicting evidence. You've been proven guilty in flagrante delicto. Come on, hand over your passport and leave the country."
"No no, my dog pooped last night, my cat pooped this morning. I am sure of this. You can ask Adaraneeya Anil Bhai and Poojya Teena Bhabhi this"
"Oh come come, Mr. Singh. You can't get away on a mere technicality; cat-dog, potayto-potaato"

Sagarika Ghose will make me want to pluck my ears out and drill holes into my cochleas. That woman CANNOT talk. Vidya Shankar Aiyar and his minions across news channels with their contrived dramatics will continue to irritate me. Sreenivasan Jain with his absence seizures will continue to be eluded by doctors than can prescribe him Valproate. Vikram Chandra will incoherently continue with The Big Fight and ruin what was once my favorite hour of the week.

Strangely enough, the only faces I can still handle are Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai and Shireen Bhan.
Barkha, despite her over the top antics and her I-have-to-stop-you-we-HAVE-to-go-into-a-break ways is the only one that can still put a talk show together as effectively. Hers were the best reports from Pakistan, and I saw all the other reports too, given how I have chosen to be the Official Mourner of Ms. Bhutto. (What, she keeps me away from books anyway).
Rajdeep, of course was the reason why I considered Journalism after Plus Two. The man is so genuinely passionate about politics that he doesn't mind spitting into the cameras when he is "caught in the moment".

And Star News? Let's not go there, before I start spitting into the monitor.

*Spunky Monkey will continue to be Spunky Monkey.

And all the people in his head will continue to stare in disbelief when they can actually hear him enunciate "Pelvic Inflammatory Disease is a disease where there is inflammation of the pelvis. It is an inflammatory disease involving the pelvis and there may be a lot of inflammation. Mainly of the pelvis."
Oh dang.

There you are. Eight things that will defy change even in 2008.
All these old things will continue into the next year too, wretch all our happiness, make us want to tear hair and do a Howard Beale (
"I'm as mad as Hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"), and make me write long rant posts such as this one.

All this notwithstanding, for people who still think reaching a new January is enough reason to feel all woohoo!, Happy New Year.
And for those of us waiting for the Revolution and not knowing what/when the fuck that is going to be, here's to another twelve months of being pissed off about everything around us.

And I can already here firecrackers around me.
Oh boy.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Rhapsody Not So Bohemian

So, I am done with college.
Exams remain; they, of course, come with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season.
But I am done with college-college.

No more "Amma, wake me up at 11:00 tomorrow, I have to go mark attendance in Pediatrics OPD, else I'm doing multiple re-postings", no sire, no more of that.
No more "Look chumps, I am not presenting another testicular swelling, I have had it with the balls; now give me breast".
No more "Erm, ma'am, I was in the OPD showing my one year old cousin, down with Chronic Wasting Disease to the Pediatrician, and had to miss the tutorial; could you please mark me present?" to the office lady, knowing with a fair amount of certainty that my cousin is neither a wapiti nor a moose, and that the kid is not called Spunky Monkey With A TV Remote In Hand.
No more "Alright, to save yourself some face, spell 'muscle' for me" by a senior consultant exasperated by the Monkey's ineptitude, despite which Monkey attempted attitude by venturing an M-U-S-S-E-L.
No more "Fuck, what WAS that paper? We had Medicine only no?"
(Okay, may be there is scope for that last one yet. Dreadfully enough. )
But, no more of the others.

And guess what? Despite my better senses hollering "What is UP with you man?", the one dominant voice in my head insists that I will miss it all.
And quite a lot.

Why, it seems like yesterday when I first came face to face with the rest of my class and wondered, "Jeez, am I going to be stuck with this cross-section of village idiots from across the country for four and a half years! This was NOT what I had thought of when I wrote the prize winning essay What I Want To Be When I Grow Up And Why, back in 6th standard. Oh hell, what of my plans to sip cognac with Genetics Professor In Tweed Jacket in his study with the Mahogany table, discussing why exactly Watson and Crick were chumps". Which was just when the student body President welcomed us with "Doctors are like candles", which was also when I thought there was hope to the place yet. Surreal similes always get me interested.

September 15, 2003. That's when it all began.

Is this the real life
Is this just fantasy?

I was in a beige T-shirt, and was among the shortest people there. Faced with a population that represented a mind-boggling array of demography, I think I shut up. More so because the room gave off an aura of expectation and apprehension so dense, that in my head it plays out even today as a climactic scene of a Hitchcock film. This, given the trouble we had undergone to finally walk the "hallowed portals"(my non-existent ass) of the "premier institution"(my non-existent ass reprisal).
In a strange set of circumstances, there was a sense of culmination to a process that hadn't even begun; there was a sense of alienation even before we could call the place our own; there were one too many complex issues to deal with and far too little gray matter to comprehend the gravity of it all, most importantly the import of the countenances of our thoroughly disgruntled but enigmatic hosts, the college seniors.
To half of us, Genesis was just a band, and a rosary was what a child with Rickets had; we'd call you mad if you said somebody walked on water and Immaculate Conception, to us, was merely a well thought out idea. (All this would change, of course.)
Dickens would be proud of the fin de siecle spectacle: it was the best of times and the worst of times.
[People who do not know me personally, please ignore the above paragraph. Mere verbiage it is; whereas the few people here who do know me personally (unfortunately; where went my anonymity clout), those were bad times no? Perfect dhobi-ghat kuttas we had become.]

Caught in a landslide

No escape from reality

First year was wonderful. The wide eyed surprised look at most things medical college persisted for a good 6 months or more. (Wow, white coats. Too muuuch). We knew we had chosen a different way of life, when on the very second day of college, we were taken into a big, bright sunny room. So? So, it smelled real strong. So? So, it smelled SO strong and bad that I knew that's what would kill me. So? So, there were dead bodies.

Thunderbolt and lightning - very very frightening

The Anatomy Dissection Hall. The first thing they make us do is a circum-ambulation (you know like a pradakshina/phera) around the dead bodies. I get that, you know like, the dead teaching us and how we should forever be grateful and all that. But it kinda creeps you out when you realize that there is a cadaver with an erection!
Which is when, it happens yet again.

Thunderbolt and lightning - very very frightening

We were all assigned cadavers. Ten people to learn off one cadaver. A scrawny Professor sitting in the center of the hall yelled, "Waat aar you wayting faar I say, cumaan expose the Pectoralis Major".
Groups of ten around their respective cadavers, at least three feet away from the table. Every pair of eyes scanned the nine other pairs, hoping for that one pair which looked ready to hack into another human being.
One of us ventured, "How about we read through the manual once?", knowing fully well that that should kill an hour at least. "Ah, but of course", the rest chorused. We took turns reading and thus began our preliminary understanding of each other. Oh, so this is what coconut oil and banana chips sound like. Hiss S'ss are lisssped. Ah, yankee twang, eh!

"Wopen Cunninghaam Manual, expose Pectoralis I say, waat you are wayting faar? Yuvar gryaandmother won't come to help okay? Dissect dissect".

Mama, life had just began
But now I've gone and thrown it all away.

But it wasn't hard. Perhaps the most fun we have had throughout college. Bonding over a corpse wouldn't be much fun, you'd think. Wrong you are. Friendships were formed, piques discovered, likes and dislikes unraveled, love blossomed, DC teams formed, DC teams fought over Deep Impact and Armageddon, copycat associations sprung up, all under the watchful eyes (err, make that presence. We had gouged the eyes out) of the man who was so sweet he didn't mind even being hacked into.

But, back home on the first day of dissection, amma made me stop at the door.

"HeNa muTTidya?"
(Did you touch dead body?)


"HeNa muTTidya, ilva?"
(You touched dead body, or not?)

"Of course Ma, I have to"

"Saaku tuss-puss English-u. Aa college-ge haakbaardittu ree. NODtiri, enneraD vaarakke Davidd-o, Josupph-o, Fernandes-o aag barthaane, udda koodl biTTkonDu, raaku-paaku andkonDu. Naav naav paDkonDbandiddu. Aa Kalaasipalya college-g hOgakk enaagitto? Bekalla shoki. Neenu, Enoo muTTkobEDa, straight bathroom-g hOgu. Taley-g snaana maaDi devrig mooru namaskaara haaku. NAMM DEVRIGE!"
(Oh, enough with your flashy English display. Ree, I told you we should NOT have put him in that college. Just you see, in two weeks, he'll be David or Joseph or Fernandes with hippy hair and a penchant for Rock-Pock music. What to do, our share of fruit from past lives. Why could he not go to that Kalaasipalyam college, like good Brahmin boys do? No no, he wants razzmatazz, of course. YOU, touch nothing, go straight to the bathroom. Take head-bath, and do namaskaara to God. OUR GOD!)

"Maa, you know I missed the Kalaasipalyam college by a whisker (okay, may be a little more than that; a twine thread, let's say). And I am very tired right now. Can we skip my cleansing issues?"

"Matte English-u! HaaLaag hOgu, aadre snaana maaD haaLaag hOgu"
(Oh that wretched English yet again! You go rot where you want, but rot after bathing)

She grew considerably calmer over the months that ensued, however. Dead bodies got to be routine with her, as they did with me. She grew communally tolerant too, I am assuming. Given how she would, without flinching, ask me, "What did you chop today, David?"
Like that wistful saying goes, "Dina saayorge aLoru yaaru?" (Who will cry for the daily-dying?)

The chopping itself was SO much fun. When we spliced the heart open, in my true Bollywood persuasion, I rattled off some twenty five Dil type songs. Wrenching the brain out was some tough carpentry. Discovering that the cadaver had no Sciatic Nerve was fun, only to rediscover it (Waat I say, thickest nerve of the baady you cut aaf, und say there ees no Scaiatic?).
Physiology and Biochemistry were a blur save an enterprising young chap egging thirty hesitant students (with yellow conical flasks in hand and rooted to their spots in the lab) to "Go discharge the sample. After all, Urine Is Like The Fountain Of Life".
Gee whiz, what is with similes and this place anyway?
(Yes, we tested our own urine samples, and mine had no sugar/ketones/bile salts/protein. Yay me!)

Second and Third years passed soon after without my consciously registering the change in the numbers on the calendar. Fests all over South India, major victories in some, "Fuck you, bastard" on stage many times over, on realizing I had potato sacks for teammates; one blind, and the other, well, a big potato sack. Academically, only two things stand out.

A. Watching post-mortems:
Do Not Attempt It. Perhaps the most macabre thing ever. I mean, they RIP guts out. Even metaphorically that sounds dreadful. And I watched eleven! of them, oblivious then to the power of proxy. Eleven painful sessions of punishing a dead individual. Farrokh Bulsara, if he had seen one, would go -

I don't want to die
I sometimes wish I'd never been born at all.

Here's the thing, I have told this to a couple dear friends, and you my readers are going to know of it too: If I die, do not let them do a post-mortem on me. Even if my death was caused by angry communal cricketers, or I looked a dangerous shade of distemper green when I died.

B. The ENT viva-voce:
I do not remember much of it, except I think it went something like -

Bismillah, we will not let you go.
Let Me Go!
We will not let you go.
Let Me Go!
We will not let you go.
Let Me Go!

Final year, in all its ugliness was reached.

And I was none the wiser. But, with an unsettling certainty that it has all come to an end. The Farewell Dinner is pretty much the last nail on the coffin.

Medicine, unlike other courses, does not have a specific Last Day Together. Internship scatters us across the breadth of the hospital, and one never gets to meet friends or "hang out" as much as before, what with grueling 36 hour shifts and having to moonlight as everything from wardboy to aide to scum of the pond to things beneath the scum of the pond. Which is probably why there is already a sense of finality to everybody's tone. Our last film together no?, one would say. Ooh, the last birthday treat, another goes. (We are not dying, I say.) But, it is inescapable.
Four and a half years of being together, and then the prospect of not being together does a little more than twist your sobriety, I assume.
Some people are already talking engagement and marriage! Suddenly, you realize the gravity of being 21+. This is what they mean by adulthood, it dawns upon you. Having to stand at a crossroads and deciding by yourself and for yourself, which road it is that you want to take.
Only, this isn't to get the tastiest Golgappa for the cheapest money.

Too late, my time has come
Sends shivers down my spine.

Talk invariably also turns to 25th year reunion and who would be doing what, and where, and when? (10:00 AM on September 15, 2028, the yearbook insists)

A would be a Pediatrician, lending Mr. Pinkwhistle and Mallory Towers to eager kids, and impressing upon them the force that is Dhoom 2 and Hrithik Roshan's pelvis.

B and C would be married, with B still trying a weary hand at the electric guitar and telling his kid why exactly Iron Maiden is the greatest thing that happened to mankind.

D would open a hospital called Exclusively Exotic Diagnoses and deal only with Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker, Kocher-Debre-Semelaigne, Lawrence-Moon-Biedl and such other diseases, and be content provider for House, Season 28.

E would be in the North-East, dealing with hypertension, coronary artery disease, diabetes; all in himself.

F would be completely bald. And precious else. (Perhaps out; who knows?)

G would be either frikkin fantastic (being the editor of the International Journal of Oncology) or running a clinic 20 x 10.

H would get married, fly to the Gulf, make children, and go into hysterical fits over unclean cutlery.

...and I?

I am easy come, easy go.

Nothing really matters,
Anyone can see.
Nothing really matters,
Nothing really matters to me.

Any way the wind blows...

P.S.: Queen who? Bohemian Rhapsody what?

P.P.S.: People who know who I am, could you please please not tell other people about who I am? I will give you 5 stars. In gold color pen, no less.

P.P.P.S.: It's been more than a month since I posted, I know. Exams were happening. Anyone missed me? Humor me, no? You did not? Dang.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

My Bangalore. My memories.

Vomit. And bucketfuls of it.
Strangely enough, the earliest memory of the city I love so dearly is inexplicably entwined with retrograde bowel movements and a tired sphincter.
I have not lived all my life in Bangalore; it's been more of an acquired taste. Until 1998, I lived in a small town not too far from Bangalore. But we trekked to old 'Lore very religiously every week, for the city was home to 3000 of our relatives and it was routine that somebody got engaged/married/(and hence) knocked up/gave birth/died/bought really orange carrot that we HAD to see/killed a baby cockroach and needed us for moral support. So, we invariably huffed and puffed our way into what was then an idyllic sleepy town, in red KSRTC buses which invariably also had a myriad of vomit streaks (which were invariably yellow in color, thus establishing itself as Kannadiga vomitus, you know red-yellow-Sirigannadam-Gelge) and reeked of a smell I couldn't quite describe earlier, but have now come to place as a cross between the smell of the room of a hosteler friend (who I believe is hydrallergic what with his steadfast refusal to get self/his clothes anywhere near water) and the Alcohol Dependent patients' room in the Psychiatry ward. Suffice to say it didn't quite work up an appetite. Or successfully destroyed one when you watched a particularly sulky child (invariably dressed in blue chaddies) showed his mummy, right on her lap, that he did eat the good vegetables. Vicious cycle it used to set up, this vomiting.
Especially during the season of the Flat Beans.

Now that's a fancy name for what is otherwise a Kannadiga obsession called Avarekaai. During this season housewives across Karnataka, an otherwise staid state, go into a MAD frenzy.
"Next door Lalitamma has already bought three kilos of avarekaai and has sent Bujji and Babu (it was a predominantly Telugu town) avarekaai uppitt and avarekaai chakli for lunch. Ree, I also want. I WANT. I want thirty kilos of the Good Stuff. I want to make huLi, saaru, payasa, uppittu, roTTi, dosa, idli, chakli, palya, kosambari, pasta, lasagna, pizza, rice, water...everything. If you don't bring tomorrow me-e-eans...", wives would threaten their husbands. It was an ego issue, see.

So, amma got into Bean Crazy mode too, and cooked a meal that redeemed the existence of species Vicia faba. But then, so had every mother aboard the bus we had taken to complete our weekly rite of passage, which is the whole point of bringing up the avarekaai anyway. So, you know, the legumes have a way of metamorphosing themselves into gases of near lethal nature once down the alimentary tract. And that's what did happen to all boys in blue chaddies in that red bus, I assume. (Not me, certainly not. Really, no. Oh god, enough with the third degree). The bus and its Boys in Blue Chaddies (BBC's) worked up a thorough sweat, what with all the combustion, and the olfactory byproduct of it all came and hit my all too unsuspecting nose in a manic flourish thus also tagging itself to my earliest memory of Bangalore.
That of me vomiting many bucketfuls of all things Avarekaai on the platform under the very questioning eyes of the Bangalore populace. (Jeez, can't a kid take a puke without you getting all judgmental?)
I think I passed out soon after due to all the dehydration, or may be amma in a fit of estrogen rush said, "The poor thing, ate too much avarekaai and couldn't handle. He likes it so much means, I must make more". (Yeah, that must be it.)

To avoid the whiff of the netherworld was perhaps why I would always insist on sitting by the window, face thrown to the wind (and sometimes vomit of the Boys in Blue Chaddies sitting in seats in front of mine), hair all aflutter and eyes fixed on a distant hill that would give me the whole to-be-Vivekananda type aura. Only, they would soon shift focus and fall on things that embarrassed amma so much that she still has nightmares about it.
Now what would they be?
As a child I had an eye for details, apparently. Medical education has successfully blinded it, paradoxically enough. Now this eye for detail, and a very loud mouth coupled with an insatiable thirst to read out loud, any and every banner on the street, used to put my parents under sufficient discomfort; enough for them to contemplate slipping a sedative in my Frooti just as we entered the city.
"Liburrty shooos, Gaardunn saareees, Windsurrr Maanurr" etc they handled with practised aplomb, beaming, as a mother of a vomit-faced BBC showered admiring glances on their Little Prodigy, barely five. But I would soon drain the color on their face when I insisted, in masterful enunciation, on expounding the attractions of a certain-

"Mullikk Disss-penn-saaree - Fawr. Awl. Seks. Prawblums"
"Appaaa, seks andre Enu?"
(Appaaa, wot is seks?)

At which point the mother of the BBC would giggle uncontrollably, all passengers would look at us in anticipation of The Answer, appa would start saying the Mantra Pushpam under his breath, amma disowning her Little Prodigy would look 180 degrees away and fix gaze on the vomit-faced BBC, and the vomit-faced BBC would continue to look, well, vomit-faced. (Yeah, some things never change)

"Appaaaa, seks andre ENU?"
("Something you would not have had even when you are 21", he should have said, but my father is a nice man)
"Heyy, all nODu, Alankar Plaza! Joker nOD alli! Aamel hogaNa? Good boy."
(Hey, look there, Alankar Plaza! Look at the Clown there! Let's go there later? Good boy.")

My father has long since perfected the art of anticlimax. Our eager audience would vouch for it too, and then would let out the disgruntled clucks.

Having successfully dodged the Dispensary bomb, the parents would regain their composure and try and wake Brother S (I make him sound Jesuit) who, being the Wise One, found solace in bus journey siestas, as we neared the KSRTC bus stop. But the composure wouldn't last until long, for they always forgot that just around the corner was Sangam theater!
Now, Sangam (which is currently a mall. Thoo) was this cinema that was famous among pimple-faced people for being The Place for "A-Certificate Inglees Phillums". And it used to, like all cinemas do, have large posters. Only they showed women bearing cleavages that bared, and men and women engaged in various erotic postures, which for some reason invoked inexplicable peals of laughter in me. I thought they were funny! Amid all the laughter, I would of course proceed to read the name of the film.
"Kisss thaa misss", which would have made Udayakumari Miss so proud she would have jumped and planted a wet one on me cheek. No, she was no pedophile. Cheh. She'd just be proud of the sing-song intonation (Kisss thaa misss - crescendo, de-crescendo) that Nursery teachers strive for.

"Sek-see Lipsss. Appa, seks-u, sek-see andre mix-u, mixie tharana?"

("Sek-see Lipsss. Appa, are seks and sek-see like mix and mixie?")

"Ayyo, muchcho baai praarabdha. Dharma sankata. Haakree ondu avan baay mElE, naalaayak tandu", Amma would tell Appa expressing sheer disgust.
("Oh, shut your face you sin-of-my-past-life. What moral dilemmas you put us through! Give this useless thing one tight rap on the mouth, ree")

Not all my memories of Bangalore are restricted to embarrassed parents and projectile vomiting. There have been some memories stored in easily accessible recesses of my brain which reek nauseatingly of charmed childhood.
Like, while once traveling in the bus, one village woman (paan-stained splendour, unwashed hair, unwashed anything et al) turned to me and said "Yarecutt maaDskabaarden swami?" (Why don't you get a haircut, dude?). About which Brother S makes fun till date.
Like, discovering that mongooses are arch-enemies of the snakes. We should know, our grandmother's house was in an area called Nagarabhavi (Snakes' Well) and mongooses were actually quite common.
Like, peeing on the terrace rain-water drain holes and coming down to look for puddles and to establish that those pipes were indeed patent.
Like, riding the cousin-brother's swanky new bicycle; giving him "chance" to ride all the uphills and taking "chance" to zip down all the dizzy downhills.
Like, playing Name-Place-Animal-Thing with assortment of cousins and convincing them that Kookaburra was a cricket bat and hence a thing, not an animal.
Like, convincing them that "Shagun, yeh shagoooon, mera jeevan ka yeh shagoon" was in fact a song while playing Antakshari. (And pulling the same on bigger stages many years later)
Like, eating Masala Dosa with SO many cousins in Upaahara Darshini in Gandhi Bazaar on Sunday mornings, or better still in Vidyaarthi Bhawan!
Like, going to the Indian Institute of Science's Chemistry Department with a PhD cousin and being freaked out by the liquid Nitrogen.
Like, going to Lal Bagh and saying, "That's all?"
Like, going to MG Road and wondering if this was what "America looked like!"
Like, going to Ranganatha Theatre for Baby's Day Out and feeling happy for a week because they gave us a free book, a pencil AND a pencilbox.
Like, when in Jayanagar, gorging on fancifully titled Dosas in Dosa Camp and topping it off with a Cold Badam Milk in Arya Bhawan.
Like, watching Hum Aapke Hain Kaun in Santosh theater and falling in love with Madhuri Dixit.
Like, watching it again and falling in love with her all over again.
Like, wailing like an uprooted Mandrake at the thought of having to go back home, to small town, to no Upaahara Darshini, to no mongooses, to no Sangam theater.

(Time out: Have to stifle a cry)
(Okay, back)

Bangalore, which is what it will always be to me - UR Anantamurthy may go eat excrement, has changed with me and has watched me change.
It has acquired taller buildings and North Indian oye-yaar-vot-ijeet dumbfucks and moon-sized potholes; and I have acquired longer hair and zit and cynicism.
It has lost its sleepy idyllic charm and its MG Road Boulevard; and I, have lost weight and, er, nothing else besides. (DAMN)
But the equation between the two of us shall remain the same, and unquestionably so. That of it tolerating me, and me it, potholes and oye-yaar notwithstanding.

I thought I would end with a pragmatic quote by the likes of a Proust or a Dickens highlighting the tale of my city. But they all cold-shoulder me currently. However this one doesn't.
(gulp. ahem)
Bryan Adams.

Here I am, this is me.
There's nowhere else on Earth I'd rather be.

Ah, poetry. Applause, applause.

My dear Bangalore, you may get your Metro (Mattro, for the vot-ijeet crowd) and the Dilli maals and malls; and try and alienate yourself from me.
But always remember, that wherever I may go or choose to live, if there's one place I will always call home, it is you.
Bangalore, Beloved town of Boiled Beans, you will always be special.
(Malik Dispensary included.)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Why I chose to be a doctor; and why I contemplate suicide/homicide/genocide at times.

Misfortunes apparently never come single. I always thought, what a corny line. Turns out, true it is.
My Laal chhadi broke down in the middle of the road on my way to college. Caused me very public embarrassment with one Luna fellow yelling, "En swaami, 1950's model-a?". Luna! Imagine degree of embarrassment. I said FUUUUUCK really loud which made one Iyengaar type auntie close the ears of her child, and scowl at me.
My really cool Pepe Jeans and Levi's bags are torn, and one of them spilled books on spit-strewn street. (Spit is no decoration; no, not even when it is red and green. No.)
My shirt today was a mild shade of pink, and had all manner of people, of all known persuasion leering at me for no reason. (No reason?)
On my way back, on foot, on really worn out Nike-s, I laid eyes on a really black crow digging its really black beak into a really dead black rat which had large and ugly incisor teeth.
And now, I have really ugly Uppittu/Upma for lunch because Amma has gone to some Devara Samaaradhane. Cousin getting married. Yeah, that's what we need. More marriages, more pregnancies, more hell for us who hate OB-G. (Stop getting married. And stop making children. If at all you have to, do it the Kunti way. Besides, whoever said you have to make children if you get married. Stupid grandmothers, and their obsession with grandchildren having sex. Sheesh.)

So, aside from establishing me as irreverent, insolent, condescending, brandwhore-ing, racist (even about animals), Upma-hating, OBG-DESPISING, grandmother-idiosyncrasy un-understanding, it also establishes that I am a wee bit pissed off.

[Vodafone continues to be a bitch. What's in a name? Those bastards insist on calling me, like every half hour. I am in half a mind to call their (non-existent) Customer Care and finally break their bubble. I don't have big breasts, I don't wear pink mini-skirts and I most certainly am not going to handcuff you and sing Tu, tu hain wahee in a phone-booth. Stop Calling Me.]

The whole point of the post is lost. Hutch rubs me that way. As also Dr.L, The Bastard.
So, why I chose to be a doctor.

First up, Dr. Spunky Monkey sounds way cool. My actual name sounds way-hay cooler. The nurses would all go "Dr. S, Dr. S, the Prime Minister's vitals are crashing. You are the only one who can save him". Then, I would be all House MD-like, and go, "Nurse Clare, push adrenaline (and like they do on those medico soaps) stat". Then she would be like "No Dr. S, he crashes, even as my tight white dress unbuttons all by itself". Then I'd be like, "It's time we used the robotic arm we procured for $6m to conduct a super surgery through a hole 3 microns wide". Nurse Clare, in Silk Smitha mode would go, "Doctorr Ess, yuu naaati". I'd go "Huyn?". She'd go, "Oh, it's something we nurses like saying; it could mean anything, it's like you saying Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker syndrome to anybody who came with so much as a common cold"

And so on and so forth would the Doctor-Nurse repartee go; emphasis being on the way Dr. S is enunciated.
(If you haven't read my Disco Shanti-Silk Smitha post, it's time you did. One of my personal favorites, that one.)
(I am so shameless, no?)

Secondly, I immediately become the center of attraction in any family function. Most notably, our fabulous weddings. It's also the same time when amma-appa's faces look like they could light the whole wedding hall, and no Happydent required, thank you.
We enter the hall. The Nadaswaram is invariably playing "Raghumvamsha Sudha". And then, disssstant relative, who wears the same raw silk Jubba for every wedding identifies us from a really long distance and goes,
"Oh-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho (crescendo and de-crescendo), barbek barbeku, kaLe banthu choultry-g eega"
(Oh-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho, come come, now comes brightness to this godawfully stuffy wedding hall)
"Ayyo, neevoLLe chennaythu", amma would beam while appa would grin an appa-grin.
(Ayyo, stop talking out of your arse, and get off our butts, is what I would say in my head)
"Enantaare, engineer-u, doctor-u?"
(What say the Engineer and Doctor?)
"Shut up, for one, and use a mouthwash, for another", I'd say. In my head, of course.
"Waat is thees, daaktar himself lookking like payshunt", he'd grin.
And there I was, thinking my unshaven, unkempt look would be called nonchalance-meets- grunge. Bah.
I'd make some polite joke to the effect that the books are really heavy, or generate random surrealism about medicine being the elixir of phantasmagoria and scoot to sip some of that excellent filter kaapi that only these bhatta-s can brew.
While our man halitotic would go on to appa-amma about, "Neev biDi, obba injiniyurru, obba daaktru, laatri hoDdri, doDDong yaavaag maduve, namm kaDe oLLe huDgi idey, dipplamo compheetralli. Wurd gotthu, eemale aalso"
(Oh you leave. One son Engineer, one Doctor, lottery only. When are you getting the first son married, we have a girl from our side, diploma in computers!! She knows Word, and e-mails also!!!)
"Sadhyakkilla, he is only 22 ree!"
(Not right now, he is merely 22 dude)

While this conversation gets repeated with about 250 other relatives, I show my teeth too often and generally behave like a bum walking in a pot induced haze. And feel immensely cool when relatives acknowledge me for being an astute clinician.
"P anna's son, Dr. S, still studying, but said EXACTLY what the doctor told us", one really nice uncle would go.
The aunties would all do a chorus "Bhesh, bhesh, bhale, bhale!"
(I prescribed Crocin, I think. But that's really besides the point)
One of the aunties would then go, "He was always a bright child. Vanajaa, remember the time he sang Mahaganapatim when he was 8? It still rings in my ears as though it was yessturday!"
(For all I know, I would probably have called the raga Naati, in place of Naata)
"Yes, yes, that one. Remember that Shilpa Shetty song, what was it called, Chhuraake dil meraa that he used to sing soo well?"
(Oh-oh, this is not going too well. Butt in, NOW)
"So, auntie how is your son? How's that Dengue of his coming along?"
"Aww, such a modest child, and so caring also! He is doing very good ma, Spunky Monkey. JUST like you told he would be"
(I had said, give lots of fluids and stuff, wait for one week or so, it might probably go)

It is this kind of adulation for no reason, that gives me the kicks. And makes me forget momentarily about my monumental disasters in exams back in college. That, and wrinkled old grandmums coming up to me, holding my hands with theirs, dotted as they are with liver spots of the many years they have spread joy and wisdom, and saying, "Your grandma, how unlucky she was; she would have been so happy to see you become the first doctor of the family", shedding a quiet tear and blessing me with all the goodwill their small bodies can muster. And I check their pulse in return!

Thirdly, they all give me money when I fall at their feet. Which is really fun. I bend over, I am paid. (Shut up, you pervert.) Strangely enough, they even consider my opinion. Nodding along vehemently to whatever I say, and making me feel like I am in the United Nations fighting for India's bid for a permanent seat in the Security Council. And they end up saying, "From one of the best medical colleges in the country after all". Which is true, according to India Today/Outlook/The Week, but SO not, according to me.

Fourthly, do you have any idea how easily doctors can admonish people? They can yell at patients if they are being total pains in the backsides. How I LOVE the prospect of yelling! And generally being the nose-in-the-air guy with the most acerbic tongue a la Dr. Parry Cox in Scrubs. Ahh, the joys of it.

Fifthly, when I was in eighth standard, brother S fell sick and had to be admitted in this hospital. I went visiting, like younger brothers do. There was this uncle of mine who drilled into my head over a week or so, this line. "This college is cool; if you have to do medicine, you HAVE to do it here". The tape played forever in my head. Besides, this place had really yo! doctors that spoke really good English (that's SUCH a huge plus for me), and had deer inside the campus! Now, that's gotta do something to a heart infested with Enid Blyton. Then I decided I'd study here and know all about the deer psychology. I haven't progressed much beyond knowing that they don't like grass. Especially when I hold it out for them to eat.
(Sheesh, did I give away way too much about myself? Cut the deer bit people. No deer, okay?)

Sixthly, did you know medical professionals need the highest IQ of any job? Yes, we are at the very top of the hierarchy. And I just wanted the world to know about it. Hence this whole elaborate exercise involving dead body cutting, digging through shit for parasites, measuring toilet dimensions, putting up with really, REALLY, REALLY nagging classmates and carrying around books that could well help Bappi Lahiri, the Big Momma, to get back to shape.
(Okay, you had the last laugh. Snap out of it already)

Then of course, to gross people out. And make certain people give up choice items on the menu. Just say, "That post-mortem we saw today, man, that was pretty gory even for a post-mortem. Totally smashed the skull no? New assistant I think, the brain matter splashed on all of us. One piece went to A's open mouth. Tasted like wet sponge, he said. Then of course was that really shoddy rectum job. Couldn't he pull the guts out properly. Parts of the intestines were dangling like chicken necks, the colon was full of crap still".
And the ice cream is yours.
(It's another matter however that on the first day at the dissection table, the macho-est beefchunks said they had to go to the toilet and did not return for hours.)

So much for why I chose to be a Doctor.

About the contemplations I talk of, suffice to say you don't have to call me in the dead of the night to confirm from me that you should not take medicines past their expiry date. What are you, Miss South Carolina? It's called Expiry for some reason no? Ex- gone, Expire- GONE, ex-pyre - Harischandra Ghat type GONE. Don't take it, and don't ask me again. Pah, I must have burst an aneurysm or two.
And auntie, it is true, I do study Gynecology. Yes, it is about women and their, er, problems. But please don't discuss your menstrual history with me. Please. Please?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Way We Are

Our family, like regular readers of this space know all too well, is fairly complicated.
Yes, dear readers, in this latest Monkey Scroll, I return to My Family.
With it I mean, like you are all rightly guessing, my extended family, about the population of Burkina Faso, my beloved country. (Now, there's a country I'd like to take over in a coup; so I could be registered forever in the annals of history of Burkina Faso as the first man in the country to type Burkina Faso on a computer, as also to be the first man to use a toothbrush)

Digression, dammit.
Just you imagine my exam papers; once I rambled on about a disease that "stings like a scorpion, drinks like a fish (WTF), eats like a wolf, burrows like a rodent and kills like a leopard", to be disturbed only by the dirty stare of the invigilator, and thus also realize I was writing about something as uncool as Pancreatitis, meh. No offence to one of my favorite bloggers, Adorable Pancreas, of course. Besides, that line is no offshoot of my magic realism infested mind (harr, harr), but one paraphrased from a Surgery textbook that insists on referring to them as "Wisdom Lines". Ah, succinct.
Digression, dammit.

Gulzar returns to Taj Westend for inspiration; David Dhawan to jokes shared by truckdrivers on the Ambala-Amritsar highway.
I, return to my family.

We are a family full of quirks. Living in one like this has its many moments. Just like today; an uncle who abhors conversions so much that he said, "Look how these Kiristan types are infiltrating. The new 2 rupee coin has a cross on it!".
But all that is part of Being Brahmin, but of course.
Today, we explore quirks and the like of our bona-fide KanBrahm family.

1. We love Dr. Rajkumar; to life, to death, and beyond.

Now this one is quite the quirk; just like amma points out every so often. We may be a Brahmin-centric family, but we are so culturally tolerant we should all get honorary Sangeet Natak Akademi awards. The argument here being, Vishnuvardhan, the Smartha-Hoysala Karnataka boy deserves all our praise, but no. We loathe the man and his hundred dogs. To us, the Eediga boy, despite his hippopotamus wife and dyslexic children (with one of them creepily resembling a chimpanzee) is The God.
Appa has watched close to everyone of his films (206), and Amma can sing entire lyrics of his songs, and we groove to "Eef yuu cum todayy". If anybody wants to take potshots at that song, I shall personally ensure your castration. Aseptic, of course.
What a sad period it was for us when he was abducted by that Jungle Boy with the porcine whiskers. Amma, I am sure, did extra ashtottarams everyday for his speedy release. And look how much God listens to her, he was out after 108 days!
Then of course, was the day we lost him, that great man whom we love despite his "Lovw mee aar hayt mee". Amma shrieked a big shriek, and I thought she saw big lizards copulating (for you know, that is double reason to. LIZARDS and SEX! The horror, the horror). But no, it was that Rajkumar had died.
If anybody wants to argue against his greatness, or that NTR, MGR, MRF whoever was superior to him, please visit us. We will keep you occupied.

2. We stay away from Telugu people, thank you.

It's not about their surnames, no. We have made our peace with Korraguntla, Errakundi, ityaadi. It's their Balakrishna-inspired wardrobe that makes us hyper-emetic. Only Govinda can pull off orange and distemper green. No one else, not even your Mahaputrudu Chiranjeevi, or Powerstar Pawan Kalyan.
Amma also opines that the Telugu sub-caste among Brahmins spell bad news. Discord they bring, apparently. So, Telugu biddas and babus, we discard.
Also, stop giving us Gongura chutney, even if you think that's the best thing to happen to food since rice. We Hate It. It takes like dogshit. (A sock in the face for every not-so-smart Alec who goes, "Have you tasted dogshit?" That will be some Gult, I imagine)
While we are at it, a note to Hyderabad. (It's NOT HyDeraBaD please. It gives me the creeps)
Stop Imitating Bangalore.
Besides, it's just humiliating to the women of the household, if a stray plumber declares an open threat, saying "Rape chestaanu".
They were just asking for tap repairs. Jesus.

3. We stay away from Tamilians, thank you.

We are okay if you are among those that follow the Sringeri Sharada Peetham, or if you can get us VIP entry into the Srirangam temple, but others, no.
Strangely enough, it's your wardrobe again. Kongaati.
And your obsession with filmstars. And your obsession with all things Tamil. And your obsession with keeping all display hoardings in Tamil. And your obsession with speaking only Tamil even when you realize I Am Not Getting It. So basically, you are an obsessive lot.
Just what is up with that sepulchral dung-a-taka-dung-a-taka music of yours? Sheesh.
Kaaveri, Lord Ram, His bridge, His monkeys, Sarah Jessica Parker's high heels. You have an issue with everything.

4. We stay away from Malayalees, thank you.

If it was wardrobe in the other two cases, it's the lack of it this time.
It's really a simple question, voiced by many women of our family: Why don't the women wear their pallu-s ever? It baffles them, it does. (This is of course based on the Malayalee women that appear on Kannada films.)
Also, can somebody please tell these Malayalees that we DON'T put coconut on Pani Puri? And that we are tired of the "there-is-a-Mal-everywhere" motif in their incredibly unfunny jokes? Yes, we get that there is a Mal tea shop on the Moon and in a nebula 25000 light years away. We Get It.
What is WITH the non-Hindu not being allowed entry into your super temples, eh? Beats me that one.
(But I love my Malayalee readers and their blogs. Tys, AP, Sreejith etc. My best friend is a Malayalee. So there)

5. We love Kannadigas.

So, yeah.

6. We don't cut cakes on birthdays.

This is something terribly special to only our family. A quirk, let's say. With a poignant tale behind it. So, don't laugh all you twits.
We don't believe in blowing candles, because that's just pointless.
The Cake then. Brother S had a big budday party with a huge cake and all. Our grandpa died only a few days later. I had this budday party in Delhi with a huge cake and all. Our grandma dies only a few days later. Another cousin had a few days before his birthday with plans to (there you go) cut a cake and all, but my paternal grandma passed away even before that could happen.
So yes. No Cutting Cake. We cut chai, though.

7. Maggi. What's that?

This one never fails to amuse my friends. I don't eat Maggi or Top Ramen or any of those things. The reason being, they look like snakes. No, you didn't just read a random surrealism. That, my dear readers, is true. Appa-Amma did some pooja-paath at a snake-shrine a zillion moons ago which forbids them from eating anything that's slender and (what else), snake-like. (This was the same pooja that Sachin Tendulkar recently did at the same venue. We had no paparazzi then, WTF.)
So, as it goes, we don't eat Maggi, Top Ramen, vermicelli and (ah, what coincidence) snake gourd.

8. B.A., B.Sc., B.Com. People do these?

I remember a cousin from up north visiting home, and saying he was doing B.A.
"WHAT?" was what we said, I remember. To his credit, the boy was doing a Mathematics honors B.A.
While in twelfth, I seriously considered studying Law. Which was also when mom decided I was capable of murder too.
"Law! Why? You want to wear black coats all your life?! White is so much more calm!" was what EVERYONE said. Wonder what they would have said if I said I wanted to do B.A. in English Literature.
I would probably be writing this one from a seedy internet cafe.
Or not.

9. Foreign returned = USA returned.

You go hike with the polar bears up in the North Pole, or do tap dance with the the penguins down South, we don't care. Unless you make that holy visit to the United Stated of America and take teertha-prasada at the Statue of Liberty, you do not qualify to be declared "Foreign Returned". Crossing the Arabian Sea is akin to crossing Madiwala Lake.
The Gulf Does Not Count.

So there. Nine snippets from Namma Family for the Nava Raatri.
Happy Festivals.


P.S.: We aren't as maniacally Kannadiga as you may be thinking. Appa watches news in English! And Amma thinks Homer Simpson is funny.

P.P.S.: This is fiction in parts. Talk about magic realism.

P.P.S.: Talking about magic realism, I am two books short of an All-Rushdie collection. Yay me!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Gheun Tag.

So, Tag it is.
After having ignored many many mails imploring me to spill out 18 wondrous factoids about myself, my illustrious life and career, I can't choose to ignore anymore. (Okay, they were forwards. Bite me.)
Also because I can't think of writing anything else. I sit before this black humming contraption and feel blanker than ever. At 21, I am drained. Stupid friends (and the film Proof) had convinced me that the decrescendo wouldn't start until 23. Oh, they'll get a piece of my mind. And extra sharp will be its edges.
Besides, nothing interesting is happening in my sad-ass life. That is of course excluding the fact that suction-evacuation (a method of abortion), according to our Obstetrics textbook, is an OUTDOOR (!) procedure (where are the proofreaders, where where?) and that pregnant women can dye their hair with impunity, without endangering the baby; a piece of information that made Rani jump in the manner of a pixie. Rani being a friend who is graying and balding. Sad times for her, these.

About the title; see, I like to believe I can pull off puns. And you need do nothing to convince me against it. (Living in my bubble is fun.).
I was thinking Tag-ore. But then, that would be just insulting the man, who in all kindness, has agreed to share his birthday with Spunky Monkey. (Yes, that is true. Wish me come May)
Then Tag-bug, Tag-bug, in an attempt to showcase my dhin-chak Bollywood side. If you are still wondering how that fits in, I was going for the "Tug-bug, Tug-bug" in Lakdee ki kaathi. Oh-kay, moving on.
Then sTag. To assert my single status, and thus attract the odd pretty fish with the red fin in the internet. But then, that would be ack desperate, and let's face it; I have a blog! That in itself, a friend agrees, is among the stages of clinical desperation.
It was then that Gheun Tag happened. What a concise phrase that one is! And how nice were those Channel [V] fillers with the Gheun Tak! You remember? Also, because it brings to fore my cross-lingual punning abilities. (I reiterate, living in my bubble IS fun)

Let's get ready to rumbaaaaallllllll.

1. Pick out a scar you have, and explain how you got it.

(What aptness in the questioning I say. Brings out your innermost secrets this Tag. Freud would have been proud of this venture.)

So, there was no one at home. I was bathing. Soap and all. Don't ask how else. Then, the bell went 'ding-dong', my favorite sound. Then, my brain started to race. Why? I was alone, and if I took any longer to open the door, they'd suspect I would be up to no good, what with the internet and the www and the unmentionable things therein.
Ayyo, ayyo, ayyo. (It is not a cliche/myth perpetuated by Mehmood and clan that the only exclamation South Indians know is "Ayyo! Ayyo! Ayyo!" It's actually quite true. Take it from me)
So, I run; wet, soapy, harried, holier-than-thou, and it was then that amma's extra-hard scrubbing of the floor, and sodium hydroxide took their combined prey. My chin. I cruised on the wet floor like a terrestrial fish and jammed against the edge of a wall. And bled. Like fucks. Which was also the time I decided against the Gladrags Manhunt thing.

If you thought the story was over, you also thought Bappi Lahiri was a man. So, no, not over yet.

One day I was walking along the hospital corridor for my Obstetrics (there, again) tutorial where a sad woman would be telling us the sad story of her sad life, read, the lecturer would be telling us the mechanism of labour in a breech presentation. (You don't want to know more, trust me). So, I was walking in front of the Ophthalmology department, (that was for you all to catch the irony bit), and fell.
And hurt myself.
On the same spot. My chin.
And bled like fucks.
My handkerchief looked like a, er, nevermind. It looked very spotted, let's say.

Had to get stitches. 4! On my face, damn it. To hide which, I have currently grown a goatee which by the way, has gotten so bristly I am considering harvesting them for a toothbrush company.
People suggested that I get a skin graft done, you know, skin off my butt on my face. I let that pass. I knew things would first begin with "Buttface!", then "Butt(ugly)face", and then wannabe Seinfelds going "Did you hear about the guy that had butt-cheeks and a butt-chin?". Gah.
And let's face it, I am no Hrithik Roshan.

So there, that was the long and tedious and tediously long story of the scar on my chin.
(I wish I was Hrithik Roshan, though)

2. What does your phone look like?

It looks like everything I don't look like. It's fat and dark and slow and nearly indestructible.
But then, it's getting what I will not - action. Its wallpaper currently is two millipedes fornicating. No, I am not into that kind of weirdness. But action is action. And it must be respected. It is a Nokia 6600, the marvel of mobile phone resilience. It Won't Break.

3. What is on the walls of your bedroom?

Currently, cobwebs. On the ceiling too, I see. And a spider doing a dangle-tango.
Also, a poster of Jimi Hendrix doing a weird pout thing. I know a grand total of six of his songs. But he hangs on the wall for purposes of coolness. There are also red stickers that read VIP Frenchie. And I can't believe I just said it. Assortment of posters, mosquito death spots, random pencil graffiti adorn my walls.
(and a small newspaper cut-out of Norah Jones.)

4. What is your current desktop picture?

It is a comic strip by Shannon Wheeler, called Too Much Coffee Man. I am sure you have heard of it. If not, you heard it now anyway.

So, yeah. Go read them. Funny funny funny they be.

5. Do you believe in gay marriage?

Look, I come from a country of donkey marriages and toad marriages. And where the biggest celebrities endorse tree marriages. Why not gay marriages then? At least by definition, they would be happy. And it is humans. That, is my first criterion for any marriage.

6. What do you want more than anything right now?

World Supremacy. Yeah.
Alternately, the Vice Chancellor's home number, so I could call his wife up and make up stories of infidelity and thus give him hell for the rest of his life. I hate my university. They are a bunch of undersexed assholes.

7. What time were you born?

I don't know if Amma is making this up to attribute every small detail of my life to a pre-designed proforma. But allegedly, I was born at 3:30 in the night. Which is why, she also vehemently insists, that I go to bed at around that time every night. She says she felt like going to the bathroom or something at about that time, and I suggested that I come out instead.
All said and done, I blame her pregnancy induced bladder issues for my poor attendance in Pediatrics, Orthopedics and Obstetrics-Gynecology.

8. Are your parents still together?

I mean, are you kidding me? To tolerate a monster child like me they need each other, very much. So, yes they are. And are, judging from the hush-hush tones I hear, conspiring to write a letter to their favorite astrologer on TV asking him when I would cut my hair (which is like Paul McCartney's during The Beatles' hippiest days) and shave that face fungus which, they say, makes me look like a Shivajinagar salesman selling them second-hand carpets.
Poor people; bad choice they made in thinking brother S would like somebody to play with. I near eat that holy child almost everyday.

9. Who was the last person that made you cry?

Sanjaya Malakar, and Ryan Seacrest every time he called him Sanzhaaya. Oh, what deadly lachrymose combination that was.
Also Michael Jackson. The man doesn't deserve all this. Come on, he can't even sniff a cry (that nose wouldn't let him), let alone the dilemma he has to face every time he has to fill in an application asking for gender, race, sexuality, nationality and planet.
And how can I forget Mr.L, whom regular readers of this blog might remember as the lascivious lecherous surgeon. The Bastard. No, he did not hit on me. But he might as well have; bloody near failed me, that midget with no balls.

10. What is your favorite perfume/cologne?

Huh? I don't know, but I think this one my cousin bought for me from the US would have to be my favorite.
It's called New York Nights, with a tagline that says Get Sexy. The fragrance ("mellow, smoldering, a bit macho") apparently lasts as long as I do, and it is "no wonder that women can't resist it". He chose wisely, my cousin. He recognized my dire need to socialize, from 8000 miles away.

11. What kind of hair/eye color do you like in the opposite sex?

(Why opposite sex?)
Anyhoo, straight. I like hair that way too.
Eyes, as long as they aren't red, I am fine. Talking of eye color, that guy Hugh Laurie, House MD, has unusually blue eyes. They are bluer than blue. They are like, BLUUUE.

12. What are you listening to?

An aircraft creating unsavory noise in the clouds, and pretty much all over Bangalore. Okay, now that moved away. So I listen to King Crimson, and their superlative 21st Century Schizoid Man.
But, lined right next is my current favorite, Disco 82!

Main ek Disco (ta ta taa)
Tu ek Disco (ta ta taa)
Main ek Disco, Tu ek Disco,
Duniya hain Disco!

13. Do you get scared of the dark?

Not particularly. But when it's dark, and the lizards are all aroused, and give each other those mating calls, is when I wish I was killed by that vicious mad dog that had chased me many years ago. Actually, the thing I most want right now, is for the entire lizard population in the world to die, and heap up on Dr.L, The Bastard.

14. Do you like Painkillers?

I like that song by Judas Priest. Songs like those obliterate the need to appreciatively nod, or let out that ironic smile, in response to the lyrics.
But yes, I strongly recommend it to others. Specially, my patients-to-be. Trust me, they'll need them.

15. Are you too shy to ask someone out?

(See, I just shut up)

16. If I could eat anything right now, what would it be?

Golgappa. The tastiest thing humankind ever invented.

17. Who was the last person that made you mad?

That thing pink, what is it called, Karan Johar. That one. And something called the Koffee Awards. Oh dear Lord of the Seven Hills. That is just about violating every one of my fundamental rights, and stretching the freedom of expression to intolerably strong shearing forces. What WAS that all about? If not for The Goddess Malaika Arora, my TV screen was in grave danger of developing a hole 29 inches wide.

18. Who was the last person that made you smile?

May be Amma. For what, I don't quite remember.
Or yeah, I smiled (like I always do) while listening to Lata in Manmohana bade jhoothe, when she takes those godawfully intricate taans in the end. That woman, to me, is all that is great music about. She turned 78 two days ago. Many many happy returns of the day to her, on behalf of everybody who cares for flawless notes.

(Why did it get all solemn in the end?)
(To relieve the solemnity, a PJ for you. Woh kya hain jo dil mein hain, mann mein hain, par dhadkan mein nahin?
Aamir Khan. HA HA HA)

I could mail you a powerpoint presentation called PJ World (what a fun world that must be to live in) if you, like me, happen to enjoy and laugh uproariously at such works of genius.

This tag, thus comes to an end.
For those that did not survive it, what's the point, you aren't reading this anyway.
For those that did, I hope you are okay. And you can write in regarding anything. We have only discussed some 16942 things in the entire post.

And I want everybody who has read this to go tag-bug, tag-bug.
I WILL keep a check on you.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

On being Kannadiga, Brahmin, Smartha; and why our family is truly going global.

So, we are on the fast track to be a True Global Family.
Yes, yes; our proud Brahmin cousin has gathered some from somewhere and has somehow managed one Amreekan chick to go wee! with him. Chick is NRI type, but hey, Amreeki prajaa at any cost.
(You, and you, shove that smirk up where no sun does shine indeed. She'll get to go to Pravasi Bharateeya Divas and take part in discussions about the magically charming experience that is being the diaspora, all the while sipping masala chai and munching garma garam pakode. Can you, CAN you, huh, HUH?)

While I anticipated the need for multiple defibrillators to go beep-beep all over the town accompanied by unequivocal screams of "Ayyo ayyo, dharmabhrashTha", I was certainly not ready for what followed.
Practised nonchalance, that's what did.
The slew of Maavas, Attes, Chikkappas, Chikkammas, Bhaavas, Attiges, Maidunas, Naadinis, Doddammas, Doddappas, Shadkas, Orgittis, (assortment of relatives, for my non-Kannadiga readers) and alphabetagammas cold shouldered the expectant piece of information. It even turned a shade green, when an atte, doing her morning tulsi-katte rounds with MSS for background music, stopped for the cameras and impatiently said, "Oh is that all, my sister in law's grand niece got married to an American. Actual one you know; white skin, golden hair, blue eyes, with names like The Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel."

It also came to pass at some family functions about how our big Doddappa's response to the news was to look up about 10 degrees, between Keshavaaya svaaha and Madhavaaya svaaha.
What a perfectly undesired anticlimax.

How did we get to be thus?
Us, the true pioneers of "Aaj se sochlo ke tere maa-baap mar gaye"-type disowning; us, the true followers of the tenet that goes, "Don't let your children get married to anybody non-Kannadiga, non-Brahmin, and non-SMARTHA".
(Who said it? Well, I am assuming someone great. But then, I digress.)
So, let's start from how it all was, and let's end at where it has, and more importantly why.

There was a time when hurried whispers would flow with the vigor of electricity through a marriage hall when, "Radha atte, did you know Subbanna chikkappa's wife's nephew is married to a Madhwa Brahmin (whisper gasp) and they are Yajurvedis (whisper ayyo) and they speak Telugu at home (whisper scream)". And thus it would circulate, from Kanjeevaram to Kanjeevaram, from Mysore silk to Mysore silk, so by the end of the day, even if nobody knew the names of the bride and groom involved in that elaborate excuse for a lunch, everybody would know of the renegade that was Subbanna chikkappa's wife's nephew.

Then of course were the legendary horoscope mismatches.

Of the girl belonging to Rakshasa gana, and our boy being of Manava gana, and how she would eat him up; of the unfortunate girl of Ashlesha nakshatram who had to be betrothed to a family without a mother-in-law, and they found none for her; or of the couple who had the perfect horoscopes (28 points. Score!) but had to not be married because there was a possibility of their child suffering a fall seven years hence. Some Shani or Kuja influence or something. Tsk tsk.

So, there it was. Perfectly normal situation, with the Ontikoppal almanac deciding which side we would go to bed to, and at what time we would sip the morning coffee; with MS Subbulakshmi reverberating every morning on the RED National Panasonic stereo, egging Rama on to get up and kick Maareecha-Subaahu's collective butt.
But, that was the calm before the storm.
The storm came to the tune of tring-tring.

"Hello?", amma said.
"Hello, S chikkamma", said cousin from the other end.
"So, how come you remembered this fat aunt; what an unexpected surprise (sic). You never call for no reason, so go on tell me whatitees?"
"Err, I am going to get married. That's what mummy wanted to tell you last time she had called, but she couldn't get around to saying it, because you started discussing the new serial on E-TV, and then the recipes for chakli, koDbaLe, and then the design patterns on your new sarees; and also because she couldn't bring herself to tell you anything"
"Oh shut up, but this is so exciting! So, is the girl fair, well-read, Kannadiga, Smartha-Brahmin, of agreeable Gothra-Nakshatra-Gana, with a software-engineer brother in the Silicon Valley?"
"Erm, no"
"Then, in the UK?"
"Erm, no. The girl is fair and well-read already, but when I fell in love with her, I forgot to ask her nakshatra and gothra"
"Oh God, go on"
"She is not Kannadiga, she is Bihari"
"She is not Brahmin"
"Her G-N-G, I don't care about, as also her brother. I couldn't care less if he was from Silicon Valley or Diagon Alley"
"Oh good lord of Tirupati, what is happening! And her brother is diagonal? What do you mean? Not straight?"
"Jesus, he's not gay"
"What is gay?"
"May be this is what a heart attack feels like."

(The next family function, needless to say, was filled with conversations about the apostasy. "Bhojpuri? What is that, something like Pani Puri?", "No ma, they are some kind of sarees no?", "Eyy, isn't that Manipuri?", "Then what is Bhojpuri?")

And thus crumbled the cookie. The first "close" cousin to have gone "astray". There have been of course pioneers before and after him, for what is the Mile sur mera tumhara-isation of our pure-bred Kannadiga Brahmin family.
There was the bride from the "lower caste".
There was the distant cousin who got married to a British woman.
There was, of course, the Madhwa Brahmin girl (Amma said, "Now THIS is sacrilege")
Much before, there was the very distant relative who got married to an Australian, had multiple children (to satisfy Australia's craving for human population), and even named one of his children a hybrid name - Joseph Narasimhaiah!

So, thus thawed this obsession with the caste, sub-caste and the sub-sub-caste. Although it does rear its ugly head on the rare occasion, for the most part, our family has ceased to be the epicenter of religio-seismological activity. Which is why the Punjabis, the Biharis, the British, the Australians all exist under the all too albatross-ian wings that is our family.
We are looking for some west Indian representation though, no not the cornrows and banjo variety, but the Marathi-Gujarati kind. Dhokla and Puranpoli would be nice additions to our multi-cuisine accustomed palate. Sarson da saag, we are hoping would be nice.
As for my own brother, he is free to take the plunge with anybody, I guess. Caste no bar. Harijan, Girijan, Mahajan. Anybody.

That leaves me.
Since I am SO into shock-and-awe, this kind of tepid reaction is SO not done. I am looking for announcements that can still make them go "Ayyo, ayyo, ayyo."

May be I should tell them I am gay.
But then, they wouldn't know what that is, and on being told what it is, they wouldn't believe it and say, "such things happen only in America", and if I insisted even then, a havan, of course. Nothing stands the wrath of the fire god, no, not even homosexuality.
So, that won't go down too well.

Or, may be I should show them a picture of Venus Williams or better still, Cher (pink-orange wig in place), and say I am actually attracted to her.

Or may be, you guys could come up with things I could tell them.

P.S.: In case of some cousins who might read this (although the possibility is remote), I love you all. You make life worth living. World peace be with you.

P.P.S.: Despite what I might tell you, my family completely over-reacted, with one even citing old Kannada film dialogues for effect. How I wish they behaved like I wanted them to. I am just too liberal ya, whattodo.


Saturday, September 1, 2007

A Short Story About Love

PumpkinPie, SweetyBootyCutiePoo to his mother, he was just Fatboy in school. Golu, HumpDump, Door No.88, on different days, among different friends.
School is school; and fat boys are fat boys. They get the taunts, the nicknames, the occasional being-pushed-into-mud, the not so occasional "Miss, Golu farted", nothing out of the ordinary.

When his classmates found that he had no intentions of rising to any gibes about his fourth chin, or the way a fold of his knickers seemed to be buried within his buttocks constantly, they simply left him alone, contenting themselves with the poem most schoolchildren knew, about fat Mr. and Mrs.88.

And this, suited him excellently.

It had been six months since he had moved schools. The last one showed him the boot citing 'Incompatibility with school rules' and in a post script the Transfer Certificate added, 'Adjustment problems; uncontrolled rage'. All because he jammed a classmate's head between the wall and the bench, when the poor boy asked for place to sit next to him.

"What sort of a school is this? Four children to a bench! And you call yourselves an International School! Which country, Rwanda?", his mother had fumed at the Principal.
"Madam, you don't understand, the other children are afraid of him", the Principal tried his most diplomatic tone.
"Afraid? Let them be. Let them cower under their seats, and turn out just like you. Look at you wuss, sweating all over like a pig before slaughter. Here, take this napkin. And do go shopping today. Who knows, you may even grab a pair", she had screamed, her face looking redder than her Banaras sari, leaving the Principal's face grayer than his jacket.

For all her bravado, the ashen faced Principal sought his revenge with that spleen filled Transfer Certificate. The conduct and attitude column seemed like, she cried, "an excerpt from Jack the Ripper's diary, and this is just a well-fed 9-year old for Christ's sake!". But then, giving up was never her thing.

The revenge however paid off. She found no school that was ready to take on her rather big, not to mention rambunctious bundle of joy.
School after school, no after no.
Three months, about twenty schools.
The peering, ever-scrutinizing gazes of the school heads, and their eventual refusal to take him in made her haughtier initially, disconcerted her five schools later, slightly unnerved her a few more schools later, and by the twentieth she was convinced there hid Satan under that Farex baby exterior.

Then started the third degree.
The beating. The morebeating.
The yelling. The toomuchyelling.
The giving little food. The giving toolittlefood. The giving no food AtAll.
The last worked. Like a charm.

So, four months and twenty three reluctant schools later, the arrogant mass of lard had been shaped into being a being of silence, of passivity, of MindingOne'sOwnBusiness; with a much drilled into credo of "Chuppee". The great story that would be recounted many a time by local mothers as The Chupping of the Thupper.

And this suited him excellently, making him realize the joys of non-alignment, of being the audience.
Reduced, and muted; ostracized and ignored.
Unashamed, accustomed to a solitude of a new kind, he began to enjoy his near-invisibility. From his position at the edge of the school and the school's life, he wrote postcards to himself, taking vicarious pleasure in the activities of those around him; quietly celebrating the rise or fall of this or that playground emperor, or the examination debacles of a particularly unappetizing classmate, or in one case, peering through evidently inefficient Venetian blinds to discover the sweaty tandem functioning of the ayah and the gamekeeper - ah, the myriad delights of the spectator; ah, the proximity a pair of opera-glasses could bring; ah, the webs of stories weaved in whispers.

But he remained silent through it all.
Amused, but quietly.
But then, how long can one keep that thing which is innately theirs suppressed? For instance, could this author ever refrain from using long clauses, and thus longer sentences?
Could the bully ever be content with solitude? Could the threat of being not fed Krunchy Krackers hold out for that long? If not bash up people, as he was wont to, was he not tempted to even attempt human contact?
This is against all acceptable 9 year old boy behaviour. The author didn't intend him to be thus. There needs to be some action taken. I can't possibly make my protagonist feel above regular human emotions. Reformed bullies have emotions too. Haven't we seen that in enough and more Hindi films?

(The author, that is I, likes drastic changes, because they are well, so drastic, and because sometimes they are needed when met with a cul de sac.
So, here is one such drastic change.)

He is bored. Yes.
He, our hero, our fatboy erstwhile-bully-now-silent-to-the-point-of-being-silly, has gotten bored of his opera-glass ways, and longs, much like the Charulata he never knew, for the comfort of human beings, for the simple joys of playing tic-tac-toe that the other kids seemed to like so much.

He is bored, he is bored, he is very very bored, and pleads with the author to deliver him from a life so young, but so scarred, in succession by a bully history, a bullier mom, and now a fully dull solitude.

(The author considers, reconsiders, and comes up with what can be the only satisfactory remedy)


Enter girl. Girls, the cause and solution to all men's problems.

Enter girl. Saturday. Hero still bored. No uniform day. Thrown his opera-glasses. Pink pinafore skirt. Sulks at the edge of the compound. Purple little purse. Catches sight of pink-purple blurb. Who is that? Twiddles thumbs. OH! That boy! OH! This girl! He seems sad. Why is she here? Wonder why he is the quiet sort, and always with those binoculars. God, the girl is always yakking, and always adjusting her hair. What's his name, I've forgotten. What's her name, I don't remember. Must be Fatty, ha ha. Must be Pinky, HA HA. May be he has seen where my hairband is. Oh god, here she comes.

"Hi", she said chirpily, extending a warm hand, wiping the hair out of her face, what with the hairband missing.
"Hello", he tried swallowing the tennis ball that seemed jammed in his throat, wiping the fat sweaty palm on his khaki knickers.

Solitude, shmolitude.
He had found his first crush.

(The protagonist is glad that the author endorses time-tested cliches. As for the author, he just likes happy endings.)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Jana Gana Mana.

If the media hyperbole over India entering her 61st year of independence has resulted in anything besides people denouncing the Emergency all over again, it has been to make me realize how much I love the National Anthem. Many people have written about the anthem, written beautifully needless to say, and I thought it would be hubris to add to the set of distinguished posts.
But, despite myself, I am.
I listen to the re-released album Jana Gana Mana and stand so stunned at the various unbelievably beautiful interpretations of the simple melody, that I brought myself to write about them. (This, when I had decided that this space would be for flippant discussion over things that don't really matter to any of us.)

Drawing artistes from across the country and her various forms of music, the album is, as was intended, an amalgamation of all things musically patriotic, or patriotically musical. Every Lata Mangeshkar is represented by a DK Pattammal; every Bhimsen Joshi, by a Balamuralikrishna.
Each showing to us, using the same swaras, the same taala, the same words and the same bhaava, all that is diverse about their chosen streams of music, yet proving to us all too conclusively that Jana Gana Mana is the great unifier. Note how each of them interprets even the smallest of murkis differently, sounding so different from each other, and still sounding so alike.

I get gooseflesh when I listen to that great doyen, part of the female trinity of Carnatic Classical music, DK Pattammal singing the ode to Dispenser of India's Destiny; or when Lata, that picture of greatness, negotiates the high note of Jaya he, when she was a ripe 70.

The tune itself is very simple; based on Bilaawal/Shankaraabharanam (wherever your affiliation lies), raagas that have been used so often in popular film songs. Yet, with this song, it evokes something so dormant in most of us.
I am not a very patriotic person, if jingoism is what is construed to be patriotism these days. I do not end a speech/performance on stage with a Jai Hind, or stick a plastic tricolour to my bike on Independence Day, or insist on standing up while the national anthem plays. I do not.
But this song, much cliched as it sounds, makes me very proud. And very happy. It makes me want to go back to school and sing it out loud with hundreds of other kids, each one holding a pitch ranging from A to Z and then some.

While being in school, singing the National Anthem, 'wasting' 52! seconds seemed like a ritual as dreary and ill-gotten as getting the school diary signed, or wearing polished shoes, or attending Moral Science classes. It had been over six years that I had last sung the National Anthem before the TV invasion of the anthem happened, and since then I must have sung/listened/hummed it enough to make up for all the lost years. May be it is the innate pride over how far we have come since 1947; since the day when a Line killed millions, fractured an entire geography, and threatened to put the subcontinent back to the days of uncertainty, despite the 'independence'. And look where we are today! If this isn't a giant leap for mankind, little else is. Agreed the country still has the corruption, the dowry, the redtape, and the works. But, if we have achieved as much as we have in as little as 60 years despite all these impediments, imagine what the Indian spirit, alive in every one of the billion, could achieve in the next 60.
We, as the citizens of the country, are in that sense, the true Dispensers of India's Destiny; and I am inclined to believe that Tagore thought of this very thing while he penned the anthem.

As Independent India turns a glorious 61, glorious visions of the future hold me in thrall. And I stand an excited spectator in my little corner and watch the spectacular symphony as it unfolds, note by note, movement by movement, over the whole of the country.

This got too pedantic, I know. So, I stop.
You, all of you, go listen to Jana Gana Mana, or better still, sing it out loud.
(It doesn't have to be Independence Day to, you know.)