Category Archives: Humor
Babies haven’t any hair:
Old men’s heads are just as bare;
From the cradle to the grave
Lies a haircut and a shave.
– Samuel Goodman Hoffenstein
Nakul and I are not too different.
We have been friends forever. And we’ve been forever obsessed with our hair.
It all started in Primary school, when the blue eyed Aarthi told both of us how much she liked our hair and how nice it smelled. Our families did not realize that there was something wrong, until Dad’s aftershave, Mom’s skin lotion, the expensive perfume that was gifted for their wedding, started disappearing mysteriously. Nakul’s mom once even complained of losing the Phenol bottle from their bathroom. It was only when my mother broke 3 combs while combing my hair, and Nakul’s mother found his head smelling like the toilet, that they realized that something was wrong. Of course some violence at home ensured that we were back to our normal self, and Aarthi went on to like the tonsured Prabhu. But then, that was the start of a lifelong obsession.
I hated taking a shower as I was scared, I would wash off my hair. My mother, a very qualified 5th Grade Science teacher, educated me that it was common for us to lose hair every day. I knew how dumb the Class 5 guys of my school were and hence did not trust her at all. Nakul told me that he would collect all the hair he lost and then ‘re-insert’ them back. I tried it too, but it was too difficult to keep the head still or risk the inserted hair falling off. I ditched the idea and decided to stop combing my hair completely.
There were two things that I absolutely hated as a kid. One was the vacation trips to Tirupathi, and monthly haircuts. I had nothing against God, trust me. Considering the daily prayers I chanted to keep my mane strong, dense and healthy, I had the utmost respect for the almighty. But I cringed at the thought of offering hair to God. I considered it as evil as sacrificing animals in the name of God. I tried fighting off the trip, but then parents are parents. Every year, for 2 months after the vacation, I would wear a new, super cool cap that an Uncle had bought me from ‘Foreign’. Nakul would vouch for me every time and make the kids feel as if I was cool, even though he knew that the most distant relative I ever had was working in a bank in Bangalore. But then, what are friends for? As if this wasn’t enough punishment once a year, every month I was duly forced into the Barber shop down the street. Sasi Anna was only just learning the ropes from his father there, and Nakul and I were his favorite ‘lab rats’. But then with the years, the three of us grew very close to each other, and in our early teens, we became very very choosy with the way we wanted our hair cut. In fact, we became sort of the in house experts as far as hair style was concerned, and Sasi Anna’s customers began seeking our suggestions. We learnt a bit of the trade too, and once, I even tried cutting my Dad’s hair. That it had serious repercussions, is another story altogether.
Also, I hated my Dad… Seriously. He was definitely the most greatest father any boy could have growing up and my most trusted friend after Nakul. But then his receding hairline kept rubbing it in, that hair loss was hereditary in my family. Every time, he would comb over those few strands of mane to cover the barren patch over his forehead, tears would roll down my eyes watching my future laugh at me. The Autumn of my crown, wasn’t exactly something I was looking forward to. I also realized later that Appa was as angry with his Dad because of the very same thing. The bald portraits of grand old men hanging in the hall was a testament that the men in my family were blessed with hair loss. And that’s when I decided to become a genetic scientist and find a permanent cure for hair loss, and save the men of this world from insanity.
Sadly the world then taught me, that having an ambition alone doesn’t really help unless you have the brains for it. Nakul was no Einstein either. Thus sitting in the last bench of our class in the Computer Science building, we pursued the 3 year Bachelor of Science course for 5 years. We were the cool dudes of our college. Our silky black, shoulder length flowing mane was the talk of the campus. Our HOD loved our hair so much that he would run his fingers through them, grab them and drag us out of the class, every day, for no reason at all. We hated him for it, but then that’s what a college kid is supposed to do. We wore tight, black t-shirts, cool shades, and were practically Rockstars.
Everything was cool until that day in the theater when, a friendly neighborhood Romeo, sitting behind Nakul tried to run his fingers through his hair, mistaking ‘him’ to be a ‘her’, only for Nakul to turn back and give him a heart attack. Not just the Romeo, the girls in the college loved us too. It kind of got a little strange, when we realized that we were beginning to be surrounded by them much more than we really liked. It reached a new low when this first year girl walked up to me and asked in full public view of the entire male population of the college for any tips to keep hair strong and shiny. As flattering as that short conversation was, it also bordered on ‘total damage’ to our Guy ego. Nakul who stood a few steps away from this incident, apparently, bunked the next 2 hours to run off to the Barber Shop. Sasi Anna told me later, that he cried as much as I did when I went there in the evening for the same reason.
After college, I began to work in a small company that didn’t pay too handsomely as some of the other ones did. The work was equally less too, so I didn’t really mind. “Less tension, less hairloss” was what I cited as a reason when somebody questioned my choice of job. That I couldn’t clear any of the interviews in the other big companies was strictly between Nakul, Dad, the old bald interviewers and Me. 🙂 Nakul fared well in this aspect though and landed a job in an MNC with a handsome pay. I was happy for him. Happy that there was someone now who could sponsor those costly hair lotions for me. Working around serious 30 somethings at work, who were just getting started with the fall season of their heads, can be a terrifying experience, you see.
And then slowly, what we had dreaded began happening. It was in no way instant, but hit us slowly like age. In fact it was exactly that – age.
Don’t get me wrong, but both of us were not exactly, what you’d call old. Creeping up on the wrong side of 20’s this was when our families tossed the dreaded ‘M’-word around. Photos were requested, and I went deep into research to find out the angle of the photo that showed the most amount of hair on my head. I honestly felt it odd that my parents screamed, when I gave them a photo of me in a helmet on my bike.
Ah Helmet… Us and that wretched thing go back a long way too. As with any normal guys, we also had the best bikes that we could emotionally blackmail our parents into buying for us, as soon as we entered college. Little did we realize, that with great power, came a stupid responsibility. Helmets… My parents wouldn’t let me touch the bike without a helmet. But there was this sinister, urban legend about the helmets that scared us out of our skins. Apparently there was this powerful curse that anyone wearing a helmet would lose hair faster than you could say ‘aiyayoo’. Just to please Mom and Dad, I would wear one till I left the gates of the apartment, after which it would proudly sit on the fuel tank. I knew it wasn’t safe to drive without a helmet, but I never crossed 45kmph in the city traffic. I was scared, the wind and pollution would blow off my hair. 🙂
But then, one fine day, it became a law to wear a helmet. Nakul and I had this thing for challenging the rules, and we were promptly stopped by this ‘abdominally unchallenged’ traffic cop near the Mount Road signal. It would have been easy if we had just nodded to the sermon administered on road safety and importance of helmets, and paid the 500 Rupees fees for it, but no… As soon as the cop took off his cap and advised us that life was more important than hair, Nakul winced his eyes, put on his shades, looked at the shining second Sun before us and said as sarcastically as humanly possible – “Oh yeah, you would know, won’t you…”. 2 hours and 2000 Rupees later, we were still not convinced that we were wrong. At least we did not land in the jail. 🙂
And as time passed, life moved on, barren patches of experience began dotting the lush thicket of youth, and we began to accept the changes. I married Lakshmi and settled down in Chennai. Nakul on the other hand moved to London with Suja. We kept in touch with each other on Facebook, and rejoiced in watching photos of each other seeing who had more hair. Gradually, a good ‘hair day’ became as simple as having enough strands on the head that day.
And after a good three years he landed in Chennai. We decided we will meet at the beach, our regular hang out. I drove in to the parking lot, helmet and all, checked the hair and marched to meet someone who had seen through the thick and thin with me. Nakul stepped out of the car looking dapper and with much more hair than I expected. We shook hands, grabbed a coffee from the nearby stall and walked towards the beach. 3 years was a long time, and there was way too much to talk. It was a delight to again be hanging out like a bunch of teenagers. Friendship was in the air.
And then, without warning, a strong gust of ‘unfriendly’ wind blew.
Few minutes later, after we fetched our ‘stuff’ from the sand that the cruel wind had knocked down, we looked sheepishly at each other. We were silent for a while and then laughed our hearts out. No, Nakul and I weren’t too different at all.
I don’t consider myself bald, I’m just taller than my hair.
– Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Hyderabadi Chicken Biriyani
Mohan sat there watching the coy Jaya listen to him. She was beautiful, smart and very intelligent. He… was no match for her. Their parents had tried to fix this alliance. He liked her. Marrying him wouldn’t have killed her either. So it was almost finalized. Everything was fine… Until…
Jaya shook her head… Mohan clutched his… His world collapsed… Yet again…
A lot of muted conversations, faked smiles, and ‘head-shakes’ later, Lakshmiammal broke the silence and uttered a very ‘HR interviewer’-ish line.
“We will get back to you later…”
That was the third time this had happened with Mohan and Lakshmi Aunty was clearly worried about her only, 30-and-showing-no-signs-of-getting-married, son…
And all Mohan had asked Jaya was “Do you know cooking?”
Lakshmi Aunty almost cried on the way back in the Car. Mohan was miffed with her. Despite having told his mother a zillion times she had looked up a girl who didn’t satisfy his preliminary requisites. She looked beautiful, was from a rich, well to do family, worked in a bank, and earned a decent salary. But it just didn’t matter anymore. Boiling water in an induction stove was perhaps the only thing that Jaya had done related to cooking. If she didn’t know cooking, how on earth, or heaven or hell, could she make him what made his world go round – Hyderabadi Chicken Biriyani. “Loosa ma nee?” was the best way he could sum it up to his mother at that instance.
Mohan and Hyderabadi Chicken Biriyani go back a long way. He and that seraphic plate of dry, oily rice with a heavy helping of spicy chicken pieces, shared such a deep bond that nobody could explain. He had grown up hating veggies like all other kids. But as he grew, the ‘veggie-hater’ kid in him refused to. While kids his age would crave for chocolates and ice creams, Mohan would crave for a ‘leg-piece’ in his Biriyani. Chicken became his favorite animal, and he showed his love by doing what he did best to them, devouring them every weekend. As Ravi Shastri once said about Sachin’s batting, Mohan was sent into this world for only one thing. To savour and devour the best tasting Hyderabadi Chicken Biriyani. He loved Chicken Biriyani so much, that his friends swore that he had onion Raitha running in his veins instead of blood.
His mother wanted to see him married off. After Mohan’s father passed away, he was the only thing that meant the world to her. She wanted to see her only child settled in life. Also making Chicken Biriyani this regularly, wasn’t too easy you see. 🙂 She had tried her best to find a suitable girl to ‘outsource’ this off. The best alliances were looked up, photos exchanged, horoscopes matched, and sifted through proposals until she discovered Meera, a very traditional South Indian girl. She had double checked if she knew how to make Biriyani and only then had called on them at their home. Mohan was excited, but 5 minutes later, he walked out disgruntled. It turned out, that she could only make vegetable Biriyani, as Meera was a vegetarian. Mohan dropped the idea of marrying her, faster than KKR dropped Ganguly in IPL4.
Aarthi was a bit different. She knew cooking and made good Chicken Biriyani. It seemed a match made in heaven. But Mohan rejected her after she wanted an undertaking from him, that she would want an equal helping of all Biriyani that she cooked, and any ‘leg-piece’ was to be equally shared between them. “The Government gives 30% only and you want 50?” he had frowned at her before walking out.
Jaya, was someone Mohan had known in school. She used to be his neighbor and they had studied together till 8th grade, where she used to bring him delicious Biriyani for lunch from home on Wednesdays. So when Lakshmi Aunty told him about her, he was assuming that she would have picked up some skills from her mother. But then, she apparently had spent a good deal of time in the US, and had no exposure to cooking at all. “How people change?” he wondered to himself as he drove back in his car that day. His mother tried to convince him that she could teach her how to cook Chicken Biriyani over the phone, as she had done to many other people. Mohan was just too distraught to listen.
This ordeal with Women had plagued Mohan’s life forever. College wasn’t too kind to him either. Oh yeah, he had his sweetheart in College. But the relationship broke down before it took off after the girl became a Vegetarian. And he had a thing for Vegetarians you see.
“No meat? What do you mean no meat?” He had argued with a friend in college. He had this theory that the world was coming to an end, thanks to Vegetarians.
“You guys are disturbing nature’s food cycle man.” he had claimed. “If the top of the food chain ignores what’s under it, there would be no more a pyramid.” He made it sound so convincing that he had Parthu, his college roomie, ‘convert’ from a ‘yuck omelette!’ guy to a ‘what no omelette?’ guy. Left to him, he would have published a paper on how vegetarianism leads to Global Warming, and have Dr.Manmohan Singh appoint an Anti-Vegetarianism Task Force in the country. He was, what his college mates called, ‘Menaka Gandhi’s Worst Nightmare’.
The Biriyani mania continued to office, and his love for the food became folklore. He became the ‘Customer of the Week/Month/Year’ at his Office Cafeteria’s Biriyani stall. On successful completion of the project, his team lead, Prabhu had promised him a double plate of Chicken Biriyani at his house and Mohan’s Uncle just had to keep his son’s wedding on that date. Mohan had to decide between a plate of Biriyani and his Cousin, and he immediately had decided on Biriyani, before his mother threatened to sever all ties with him if he didn’t make it to the wedding. And so while all his project mates were at Prabhu’s house, gorging on a delicious mountain of Biriyani, Mohan had to sit at the wedding eating Sambar rice and potato fry.
He had now rejected 3 girls, and that wasn’t a good sign. His time was running fast and his hair-line receeding faster. Now rejections do also take a toll on the groom’s prospect as well. No girl’s father wanted to have his girl be rejected by a ‘Biriyani junkie’. The proposals almost trickled down to absolute zero. Lakshmi Aunty used every wedding, reception and Social gathering to do some bride hunting for her son. When she found a girl who could cook, her horoscope did not match. Whenever the horoscope matched, the girl’s height didn’t. When the height did, the weight didn’t. It had reached a point when Lakshmi Aunty had almost resigned to the fate that she would have to cook her Bachelor-for-life son Biriyani for life, when Mala happened…
Mala was her close friend’s daughter, who had moved in to Chennai from Hyderabad recently, and that was the first thing that grabbed Lakshmi Aunty’s attention. She was very beautiful, had studied Engineering in Hyderabad and with her father’s retirement, had decided to come back and settle down in Chennai. Aunty just hoped that she had bought with her some of the spicy, culinary skills from their Telugu speaking neighbors. She made a few calls, made some checks, and one fine Sunday morning, dragged a very reluctant Mohan to Mala’s place at Porur. After the customary greetings and snacks, Mala and Mohan were left alone to strike a conversation and ‘know each other’. Lakshmi Aunty uttered a zillion silent prayers.
Now this wasn’t new to Mohan and he usually knew how the events would fan out. Like a seasoned recruiter of an IT company, he had now the expertise to size up the person in front of him. He had made it a habit of showing no remorse in the questions that he asked her. But just a fleeting look at Mala changed all that.
She was beautiful, smart and very intelligent. He… was no match for her.
He was tempted to forget this interview and say ‘Yes’ at that very instance. But then, his ‘Biriyani-eating’ counter-ego, kicked in. His previous three outings had taught him good. He decided to tone it down just a bit.
“So Mala, do you cook?” he asked gently. His fingers crossed, almost on the verge of getting dislocated.
“Cooking… you know…” Mohan motioned his hands as if mixing a big pot of steaming Biriyani…
Mala took her time, and then moved her head in all directions…
Mohan sat there fixed in anticipation, and asked “Nodding is good… But is that a yes or a no?”
“Yes!” she smiled almost immediately.
“Stage 1 cleared.” he told himself and continued “And are you a vegetarian?” he popped his next question.
“Only on Thursdays” Mala replied.
“I can live with that” a desperate Mohan consoled himself, before Mala added “But I have no problem cooking it whenever you want” she smiled.
“Oh my dear Angel” Mohan was ecstatic, this might just work. But he had one more question.
“So… What do you…” Mala interrupted Mohan before he could complete his question.
“Appa Amma say I make the best Hyderabadi Chicken Biriyani they have ever tasted. We were in Hyderabad you know. I learnt it there. Do you like Chicken Biriyani?” she asked…
And so, like Dosa and coconut Chutney, Biriyani and Raitha, Rotis and Dal, Mohan knew instantly that they were just made for each other…
“There is a God…” Mohan looked at the heavens, tears in his eyes and uttered, “Thank You.”
As Mohan walked back to that crowd that sat in the living room to express his whole-hearted approval of the match, and perhaps even check if they would serve Biriyani for lunch, Mala took out her mobile, went to Contacts Manager, renamed the contact ‘Lakshhmi Aunty’ to ‘MIL’, smiled and muttered “Thank You Aunty”. Her laptop on the table displayed 34,200 Search Results in Google for “Beginners guide to make Hyderabadi Chicken Biriyani”. 🙂
After all, all was fair in Love, War and The Great Indian Arranged Marriage.
Sourced from my post at the Tiger Trails Team-blog.
Never Too Far
Come on… Another interview? And my story? For a Short Story Contest? The friendship saga of Ajay and me? Yeah right… I get that all the time… Ha ha ha.
Gosh Aarthi… you are serious aren’t you? Well, you know what, I don’t do this a lot. I’ve had quite a few people trying to interview me and all that, but I’ve never spoken much to any of them. Especially these London ‘goras’ here. 😉 But since you told me you are from Chennai as well, from Anna Nagar and a cute looking ‘Tamil’ girl, 🙂 I think I’ll make an exception. 🙂 Go on shoot. But let me warn you, there is nothing interesting about our story, and I’m a bad story teller, and you will get bored. Ajay is better at this stuff. You should wait for him.
You are quite an adamant soul, aren’t you? Ok cool. Dinesh… Dinesh Rajendran is my name. I was born, brought up and spoilt in Chennai. 🙂 I grew up in Anna Nagar in an upper middle class locality with a huge bunch of friends. Ajay, my best buddy, is also from the same area and pretty much identical to me in most respects, if not all. And together, we were the worst nightmare. Of our family’s, school’s, and the neighbourhood’s worst nightmare. 🙂 Gosh, I sound like a history book, don’t I?
Hmmm… How long have we been friends? Oh only since the kindergarten days. From the time Ajay wet his shorts and made the whole class smell like the school toilet. Yeah yeah… if you ask him, he’ll say it was me. Trust me, it was him. They did not call him ‘number one’ Ajay for nothing you see. 😉 In the midst of all kids teasing him, and the teacher shouting at him, I was the only one who sympathised with him. I remember I told him, “Its OK, I’ve done this earlier too.” And that was the start of a beautiful friendship, under the most smelliest of circumstances. We were quite something during school too. Ever heard of school kids bunking school to watch a movie. Oh you have? In class 5? Ha ha… Well we did. To watch Rangeela. And boy, what a movie. We were A.R.Rahman fanatics, Aamir Khan fans and with Urmila dancing like that, which self respecting young man wouldn’t wanna see all that on big screen? Too bad Ajay’s mama had similar plans. He caught us in the front row salivating at Urmila’s jhatkas and matkas. Boy did we get beaten up or whatand how. To this day whenever I see Urmila dancing to ‘Tanha Tanha’ on TV, my ears start twitching with pain. I guess even my ears remember the pinching they got from Mommy dearest for bunking school. Well, Ajay tells me that his behinds exhibit the same reaction too. 😀
We were big movie buffs, and thanks to a heavy dose of Tamil movies we were nothing short of the Kollywood heroes during school days. In school, Ajay was really really fond of this sweet Keralite girl in our class called Divya. He was so in ‘loove’ with her that at times, Divya and Ajay would walk back to the bus stop from school, Ajay holding her bag in one hand and her hand in another, and talking as if nothing else mattered in the world for a teen. As for me, I promptly walked ten paces behind them, holding Ajay’s bag as well as mine, watching for other ‘friends’, who might see this, spread the word and end up embarassing Yours Truly. Now, since Divya was ‘way-out-of-our-league-really-cute’, she had quite a fan following in school. A particular class 9th boy had apparently watched a few Tamil movies himself as well, and confronted us with a few of his rowdy friends one day after school, in a scene straight out of a movie. Ajay was ready to forget the spelling of Divya when he saw these overgrown guys. But then Dinesh Rajendran knows no fear, you see. I fearlessly stood before them, unbuttoning the top 2 buttons of my shirt, dropped the bags, brought out that intimidating expression on my face, and asked them to mind their own business, punctuating it with a modest swear vocabulary that Kabilan from the ‘C’ section had taught me. Wow, you should have seen me then. Certified hero material.
And then what happened? Obviously, we were beaten black and blue, me in more darker shades than Mr. Romeo; and Ajay has not even looked at anything that rhymed with Divya after that day.
We were together from Kindergarten until our 12th, after which we headed off to different places for our Engineering. I went to Coimbatore for my Mechanical Engg course, while he zipped off to Pondichery to do his EEE. You know, I was completely jealous of this guy that he was staying at Pondichery. Twice a month, I would head off to Pondichery and get completely sloshed and mess up Ajay’s room. What’s the matter? Tell me one self respecting guy, who’s not gotten high and thrown up. And that too in a place where booze is this cheap? But trust me, Ajay wasn’t too much of a drinker. While I did most of the drinking, he did more of the ‘side-dish eating’. He knew all the brands of spirit by heart and could easily budget how much of the stuff we would need to buy and how much it would cost us. But inspite of all that, he would be the guy who’ll walk me home no matter how drunk I was, and make sure that I was safe and sound. 😀 And that was one of the reason we gelled so well.
After college, as luck may have it, both of us landed in the same IT Company on OMR in Chennai. Well, actually, I had given up on a few better paying, better positioned companies, to be with Ajay. We weren’t in the same project, and thank goodness for that. At least that way, each of us wasn’t aware of the ‘praises’ we got from our Leads and Managers. We met for tea everyday, sharp at 11 and 4, sipping on to the countless cups of the hot beverage, cursing our respective projects and everyone associated with them, and more importantly, seriously debating, if that coy, beautiful Keralite standing near the window was looking at him or me. During lunch at 1:15 it was a different location, but the topic of the discussion was nearly the same.
Hobbies? Well, Cricket is in our blood, so you know… Cricket matches on TV meant no office, no food and no one else in the family got to hold the remote. Evenings were usually spent in the T.R.C School ground. And Sundays usually meant bet matches. We are both bike freaks and driving to and from OMR to our place was something we really enjoyed. He has an awesome Yamaha that his Uncle had passed on to him, and I, a Pulsar which I made my Dad buy me. Although we loved driving on our bikes alone, during crunch times, we shared a ride to office and home. We were speed freaks and driving on OMR was the best stress buster for both of us.
Accidents? Hell yeah. We shared a whole load of accidents together. 🙂 We’ve got beaten up a lot, so we have a few scars on our bodies from that. Knuckles punctured out by the cricket ball, a few broken ribs, and Ajay had that bump on his forehead from his college cricket tournament. During school, Ajay and me, when trying ‘doubles’ in a cycle, went and hit Sasi Uncle’s parked Esteem. I bruised my knees and Ajay broke his nose, and Sasi Uncle pulled out his hair. Once during college, I had a major accident in Coimbatore, and Ajay rushed in even before my parents did. I heard from Geeta later that he almost broke the face of Ravi who was driving me when he skid on the road. Ravi was unhurt, while I shattered my knee-cap. I was banned from touching the bike for the next few months. Actually it took a lot of convincing from Ajay, for my parents to give me back the keys to my Pulsar. But then, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks you see. A few months ago, I crashed into a lorry in TNagar, with Ajay behind me. I hit my head, broke my leg, got a metal plate inserted here, and became the Iron Man. I set off all Metal detectors in a 2 meter radius. Ajay had a few bruises too. But my bike was totalled beyond recognition. I just had a few beers that day and lost control, but my parents stopped talking to me, so did Ajay’s parents, but I didn’t really care. Ajay made me promise not to go near anything with wheels after that, and I’ve never ever broken a promise that I’ve made to Ajay.
That incident brought a transition in us, and we decided to change our careers. We quit our high paying jobs, and ventured out as a small web page designing company. Ajay was good at the technical stuff, while I handled the finances and the overall business side of things. It was just the 2 of us in the beginning, and Ajay wanted me to be the CEO. 🙂 Oh yeah, CEO of a 2 man company. He was the CTO. 🙂 We suffered a lot initially, with our families shouting at us to stop this buffoonery. My mom cried, asking me to be normal and do what other normal kids do. Frankly I didn’t understand what their problem was, I don’t know what’s so wrong in doing things differently. But I guess, they eventually realized that we were in the right track. And sure enough, in a few months, we were breaking profit. We began hiring more people. My dad told me that he was happy in my success, but I was not sure why he kept silent most of the times. I saw him cry a few times, but I think that was out of happiness, than anything else. Ajay’s parents were clearly not happy with something. I asked Ajay the reason a few times, but he avoided the question every time. After a while he left home, and began staying with me. He only told me that he was doing it for me, and that his parents did not understand it at all. I left it at that.
Our company slowly grew into a decent sized organization. We called ourselves Dreamweavers. It was my idea, andAjay loved it too. And now Dreamweavers has quite a reputation in the market. We moved to London almost a month ago. Dad tagged along as well. Guess he thinks we’re still young kids who don’t know to look after ourselves. I don’t think he’s come to terms that we’re grown men now. Well, I didn’t want to hurt his feelings either so I did not say a word. I’ am loving London actually. It’s a beautiful place to work, but given a chance I’d love to go back to India soon. Ajay’s designs have got these people here really interested. I’ve got people lined up everyday wanting to talk to the prodigy. However, being the shy guy that he is, he lets me do all the talking and interviews. We are growing steadily and consistently. Not bad for a humble startup, don’t you think? Phenomenal growth,. Bbut I have a hunch you’ll be bored with all that biz talk. That’s not want you want to hear isn’t it? You want a successful ‘Friendship’ story? Ours is one.
Love life? Well, with a life like ours, you hardly find time for any of that. Ajay was quite a ladies’ man. He had this thing for Keralite girls. 🙂 Marriage was on cards for him too, but then I think he refused. I tried to talk him into it too, but he just said that he wasn’t ready. There is a certain personal space for a person that you should never invade upon, no matter how close a friend you are. And thankfully, both of us, understood that simple truth, and perhaps the reason that we have been friends so long has been that understanding. This was clearly his personal opinion, and I didn’t want to interfere with that. I’ve heard nothing about any other girl after that, and he’s kept himself too busy for all these. But mind you, we can spend countless hours ogling at the opposite gender, without the slightest of hesitations, any day. No offence. Me? Err You married? Kidding. Well, I’ve never been serious about anyone else. Except maybe Urmila? 😛
Guess, I’ve bored you enough, huh? This isn’t really a story right? It is just a few random incidents strung together. Well, Friendship isn’t a big thing, my dear – it’s a million little things, isn’t it? And whatever happens, Ajay is never too far away from me. And in my opinion, that’s all that matters in a successful friendship. Ok, tell me, what else do you want to know for your story?…
Interview Transcript – July 1, 2009
Case File : 1108231
Subject Name : Dinesh Rajendran
Diagnosis : Acute Schizophrenia
Comments : Subject claims to be the CEO of a Software Company in partnership with a ‘friend’ – ‘Ajay Kumar’. ‘Ajay Kumar’ was Subject’s best friend from school, but was killed in a motor bike accident in Chennai, India, in 2008. Subject was driving the motor bike with ‘Ajay Kumar’ on pillion and suffered serious head injuries as well. Severe sub cranial injury and guilt, may have driven Subject to this condition. Subject does not exhibit violent traits. Motor skills intact. Subject is open to interviews by familiar people.
Suggested Treatment : Increased dosage of Risperidone, Should be solitarily confined ONLY during extreme behavioral changes.
Case handled by : Dr. Aarthi Sridharan, Institute of Psychiatry, South London.
*** THE END ***
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It’s a wonderful morning in Suburbia. The Summer Sun is only just up and the stage is perfectly set up for the Weekend Edition of The Domestic Olympics. A very warm welcome to all our dear readers who have joined us from all corners of the world. We are coming to you live from a random household in Suburbia, the venue for today’s games. I am your friendly neighborhood Commentator, and this is The Domestic Olympics.
We’d love to have included a logo for the games, but our players keep adding a new ‘ring’ to the games each day. Jokes aside, this one should be one hell of a Tournament. The Domestic Olympics is one of the oldest sporting events on the face of this planet. There are many versions of these games, played everyday across the world. Our players today, in a way, symbolize all the married brave Men and Women of the planet, who fight it out each day to co-exist. Here’s our tribute to all of them.
Here’s a quick pre-game analysis of our players.
Previous games have seen Her routing the competition by relentlessly overpowering Him in the games and winning quite comfortably. Will today’s result be different? I have a gut feeling it would. So without further delay let’s start off with the Tournament. Here we go…
And we’re off. The alarm goes off sharp at 6.30 in the morning to kick off the contest. He and She are fast asleep and the annoying alarm attempts to bring them out of their dream world. This is tense… Both of them reach out to find the alarm, but fail. They prod each other to find and shut it off. But both are unmoved. The alarm continues on with its annoying cacophony. This is the real test, to see who can withstand it. Nothing happens for a while, and then… she relents and wakes up. Is this His break? She seeks out the noise maker, hits the stop switch, sees the time, and with a realization that she can have no more of her sleep anymore, wakes up. She tries to wake Him up, but he doesn’t move. She switches off the AC, draws the curtains, and turns on the light… But He sleeps… He wins the first event 1-0. 😀 He is off to a flyer.
This event involves our players to fetch the sachets of milk from the gate along with the day’s paper. A relatively easy sport compared to the rest of the games, this is usually made difficult by the sleepy, half-paralyzed state our players usually are in after the first game.
He totters out of the bed making immense effort to reach the couch in the living room. He switches on the TV, when She yells at Him from the kitchen to ‘fetch’ it. He tries to drown it out by increasing the TV volume. She makes an appearance, and pulls out her best move. Hands on hips and a mean stare directed at Him. He switches off the TV instantly. But in a swift move, He clutches his stomach, distorts his face, looks at the toilet, looks at Her, and pleads with an almost choking tone, “2 minutes?”. Nice… He deftly avoids the task, dashing into the toilet, staying there for the next half hour or so. She shakes her head, and goes on to complete the game. He wins this handsomely. 2-0 to Him. 🙂 He is on a roll.
He used to excel at this sport in his college days, and when he was a bachelor. But ever since He graduated to being a husband, his skills at this event have waned down considerably, to a point where he now lacks them in good measure. She, having lost out at the first two events, wants to win this one real bad.
She orders him into the kitchen, and asks him to help her out. Helping out, usually means, running the food processor, cutting vegetables, lighting the stove, making rotis and so on. Clearly cooking is not His forte. The jar of the food processor is loose, and the tomato pulp spills out to the kitchen wall. Oops, that’s going to come back to bite him sometime in the future. 🙂 The cut vegetables, hardly look cut at all. She shows him how one slice of his can be further cut down to four more slices. He doesn’t care, he tells her that he’d rather be watching TV than being an ‘overhead’ to her. He burns the roti to prove his point and almost scores 3-0. But She is onto him in a flash. She tells him, that it doesn’t matter if he burns the food, because he’ll have to eat it anyway. A smart move. I think that has scared him. She opens her account impressively. But He still leads 2-1. Closely fought out this one.
Trying to make amends for his loss in the last round, He starts off cleaning in style. He dusts off a little spec of dust on his 32 inch LCD TV, cleans off the remote and settles down on the couch, proclaiming a successful completion of the event. But She has other big plans. She hands him a feather duster, a Vacuum cleaner, a mop and points to all corners of the house. He is devastated. He argues that weekends are for resting. She just does not listen. After all She has a perfect record in these games. So He goes about, with a long face, dusting, vacuuming and mopping the house, under the strict supervision of a smiling Her. And there’s the equalizer. 2 all folks. This one’s going to be tight.
After the first few ferociously fought out contests, we reach a more relaxing Eating round. The burnt rotis that He had made along with some delicious gravies made by Her have been served. Having been warned that He might have to eat the rotis he would make, He managed to do a decent job in the Cooking round. Except for a few black, burnt rotis, the rest of them seem fairly edible. But what’s this? In a wonderful exhibition of sportsmanship, She takes pity on Him and declares that He wouldn’t need to eat the burnt ones after all. He is happy. So happy that he gobbles up half the food on his plate, before She has even finished serving. And soon enough, Her hands are on her hips again, and the stare is back. He is told to eat slowly. He frowns. It is against his nature, but right now that doesn’t matter. He has only 2 choices now – food or no food. And he cannot afford the latter. She takes an amazing lead 3-2.
This is His favorite sport. He was born for this.
He turns on his full HD, LCD TV, connected to his 5.1 Home Theater, and finds that the match is on. He grabs a can of his favorite drink and a big bag of chips and sits himself in front of the big screen. This is the perfect way to unwind, after going down consecutively in 3 previous games. He puts his leg up, sips his drink, and is about to say “What a life…”, when She comes in. She smiles at him (oh no, that’s a sign of impending doom) and asks him if she can watch the rerun of Indian Idol? He tries to explain that it’s a very crucial match, but She says, its her favorite singer’s turn. He tries to protest, but that sad, dejected, frowning face of her’s, makes him give up.
This is his favorite sport alright. But that doesn’t mean he can win it always. 4-2 in Her favor.
With the TV round gone down, He has nothing more to do than to go to his dear old laptop. With the live match now being a distant possibility, the live scorecard is what He will have to do good with. He checks his Facebook page where a friend has posted an interesting video. He plays it, only to be interrupted by Her. He thinks She wants to check out her farm on Facebook, and proclaims that Facebook is down. But oh no.. That was a googly there, She says the sound from the video is interfering her show on TV, and asks him to get his headphones. He quietly acknowledges. And then when she sees how beautiful the guy on Indian Idol is singing, she gets excited and yells out to him. But He is on headphones and can’t hear her.
So a frown, a stare and an angry yell later, the laptop is turned off and He has no other choice than to watch Indian Idol, with the permission to check the score for a few seconds during the Commercial breaks. 5-2, she’s winning today as well. Can He stage a comeback?
They are at a Super Market shopping for groceries. He goes straight to the snacks section and picks up a trolley full of snacks. She shakes her head, picks a couple of packs from it, nd sends him to keep the rest of them back. Ouch. That would’ve hurt. And she picks up packets of groceries from the shelf like a scientist picking up chemicals for a life saving experiment. She picks three different brands, compares prices, looks at offers, and then keeps all of them back saying they don’t really need that. Boy this is real slow. He is losing his patience and it shows up on his face. Will he lose it? Tense moment guys, anything can happen here. Wow. This is a masterstroke. She cools him off by buying him a pack of his favorite drink. He is happy and She continues with her shopping. This is going to take a while. Let’s break for commercials.
Alright we are back. This is a totally one sided match today. 6-2. And She has won it.
We are reaching the business end of the games, and we have the Movies event to go. Our players have settled into the couch and have decided to watch a movie at home. This should be exciting. He pops in a no-brainer action flick and sits back. She protests almost immediately and the DVD is got rid off. Next is a Bollywood Rom-Com suggested by Her. He agrees at the prospect of watching the ‘hawt’ actress on screen, and possibly ogle at an Item Number. The movie continues, but He is slowly getting bored of it. The actress does not have too much of a role and is mostly fully clad. Oh no. Poor Him. He protests now, and another change of DVD is on the cards. After intense debate, a horror movie is agreed upon, and is soon popped out after She gets scared in the opening scene. And finally a classic movie is played, and He has no other option but to agree. After all, She, although being his competition, is also the love of his life. 7-2 it is then.
And as the movie chugs on towards the climax, reaches the final part, there is a power cut. Now this is a new twist to the tale. What is He going to do? Will She go wild now? But wait. What’s happening there? They drag their chairs to the balcony under a splendidly silver moon. The gentle cool breeze seems to be carrying romance in the air. And He and She are sitting there embraced and enjoying every bit of the moonlit, night. All the competition of the games seems to have gone away. The cut throat screams of one-upmanship seem to have been replaced with gentle whispers of “I Love You.” She tells Him that she was sorry to make him work today, and promises to do all the work herself tomorrow. He says that He doesn’t want anything at all, than to be with her tomorrow. Wow. That’s cute. This calls for a point for each of them. The scores are now 8-3.
I’m just getting news that this renewed love between our competitors has lead to the announcement that there will be no more competition going forward. He and She, in a carefully worded announcement have declared ceasefire. They will not be competing anymore.
So would this mean that there would be no more games from tomorrow? Are we witnessing the last edition of The Domestic Olympics? Will all this excitement cease to exist henceforth? Well it looks like that. Here’s wishing our dear He and She a wonderful future ahead.
Before we go, let’s talk to our players. He, what do you have to say about your performance today?
He: “Well I started off real well. 2-0 up against her is a rollicking start. But I failed to capitalize on that momentum. But all’s well that ends well. It was a delight to lose to my sweet-heart. Full marks to Her. Love you.”
Commentator: “That was sweet. She… happy?”
She: “Oh Yes, its always been. It was, is and will always be a delight to win. I mean He is a sweetheart…”
He: “Will always be…? Darling I thought we will not be competing anymore?”
She: “Oh yeah yeah. My bad, darling… Love you. So like I was saying He is an absolute sweetheart. He almost shook me up when he took a 2-0 lead. But then winning has sort of become a habit now. 🙂 But darling, I must say the burnt rotis were truly hilarious.”
He: “Hilarious, darling?”
She: “Oh yeah. In a cute sort of a way. I was hoping, you would learn it after all these days, but…”
He: “Oh ho ho.. hold on, I did it on purpose, dear ma’m.”
She: “Agreed.. But even if you had tried, it would still have been burnt, my dear.”
He: “Oh yeah? Atleast I don’t put my hands on my hips and stare to get things done.”
She: “Of course… You’d rather hide in the toilet, isn’t it?”
He: “That’s it. Me letting you win, is going to your head?”
She: “Excuse me… Letting me win? You are crazy.”
Commentator: “Err guys…”
He: “I am? Let’s see. Tomorrow, the games continue.”
She: “Sure about it? Can you survive another humiliating defeat?”
He: “We’ll see who loses. Bring it on…”
Commentator: “Aww Come on guys… That was unsportsmanlike…. Ouch! That hurt…. Why are you guys hitting me?… Oh no not there… Time out guys…”
That’s one painful way of bringing the games to an end. The Olympic Night ‘fights’ will continue into the night, and I’ve decided not to play peacemaker. But the good news coming out of this commotion is that the games will continue tomorrow. Tomorrow is a new day, and the next games should be super fun.
We wouldn’t be meeting next time, because frankly I’ve had enough. I do hope someone with a strong voice and stronger bones, meets you in the next edition. This is your dear commentator signing off. We would like to thank our sponsors for helping us bring this to you. Hope you had as much fun reading this, as much we had presenting this to you. Good bye. God bless.
— x —
This was an excerpt from the Tiger Trails Magazine – The Sunday Roar. Click on the Cover below to enlarge. Click to read the Magazine.
“Stoppppp… Shift up, shift up, shift up. Slowly… Watch it… No slow down. Hit the brakes… No wait… that’s the accelerator…. “
A couple of years, or so ago, I would have been at the receiving end of these instructions, being barked into my ear by a driving instructor, hanging on to dear life; he pretending to teach me driving, me pretending to learn, on a bulky, bare boned, Maruthi Omni, on the pot hole filled roads of Ambattur. Who would have known, a couple of years later, A ‘road worthy‘ and ‘licensed to drive‘ Sudhakar, in his shiny red Maruti Swift, would be barking the same old instructions, to a visually excited soul, loving every minute of his time at the wheel, learning to drive with a unshakeable confidence in his instructor, something which even I never have in myself and my driving abilities. Dad, was loving it.
It was a reversal of roles in a way. A few good years down the memory lane, he was my teacher when I drove my first set of wheels. I’ve never had any vehicle to call my own. Except perhaps, the second hand BSA Champ cycle, that a family friend had ‘gifted’ me, because he was leaving to Calcutta with his family. The small, red, rusting BSA Champ. I still remember the time, when Dad held me as I steadied myself perched on the cushion of that bicycle. Which young boy can forget his first time on his bicycle, back in the time when training wheels did not exist, with his dad behind him, running to keep up with his son, providing support, as he pedalled his first few steps on his wheels, only to be zooming around in Pulsars and Karizmas of the world a few years later. You would have cried, thrown a fit, faked an injury, but Dad would have always been next to you. Supporting you and your bike, every time you lost balance. He taught me to ride a bike, I was teaching him to drive a car. Life had come full circle.
Dad was as excited as me, perhaps even more, when the Swift rode into our driveway. His son had got a car. And with his own money. He beamed with pride when he first sat with me as I took him for a spin. Beamed, yes. Perhaps trying his best to hide his nervousness with a smile, during my initial driving days. I still remember that he tried to be my navigator, GPS, proximity sensor and traffic police, all rolled into one. I remember it clearly, when I almost hit an auto which came speeding out of a curve. That was it. Two good looking ladies on an activa, standing next to my rolled down windows couldn’t help giggle, as dad shouted at me in full view of public. The auto driver didn’t need to say a word. I still think he got terrified of dad, that day. 🙂 Dad taught me his mantra that day. “In Chennai, you ain’t the King of the Road. That title is reserved to Water Tankers, MTC Buses and Autos. You are a mere subject, using the road. All you are expected to do is, drive slow and steady, and pray that nobody takes his frustration on you.” For a guy, who has been driving a two wheeler in Chennai for over a decade now, you usually take his advice with eyes closed. I did, and ever since then, I have had cycles overtake my Swift day after day. 😀
Dad has had his share of vehicles that he has proudly rode. Dad has told me that he had a cycle in his secondary school days, which he treasured till his college days. He still smiles, when he tells me the story of his first time on his cycle, and how he almost broke the behind of an innocent villager in Salem, when he ‘parked’ the vehicle between the legs of a guy having tea. He cracks me up everytime he says the story. In the 80s dad got his first set of motorised wheels, the swanky, new, blue Bajaj Chetak, which was almost like the Pulsar of the 80s. I still remember the time when I would proudly stand in front of ‘Hamara Bajaj’, pretending to ride it with a “vroooooom”, only to be jolted, everytime dad changed those stiff hand gears with a thud. 🙂 Dad prized his Chetak. I would drool at the Vespas and Kinetic Hondas of the Nineties, but I could identify from a distance when dad came home, with his trusty blue Chetak neighing away under his legs. When we moved to Chennai however, we had to leave the Chetak behind. Dad moved on to the trendy TVS Spectra, which still lies with a perfect engine but a broken body, in the corner downstairs. And off late, Dad is the proud owner of a nippy little Honda Activa, which I helped Dad get after I saw him pushing the Spectra home one night.
But all this time, Dad had never had the chance of driving a car. A dream, that his son had fulfilled only recently. You could fathom the deep desire the man had to drive a car, that perhaps only motoheads like Dad and me could understand. I had caught him a couple of times, wiping the car, after I had just washed it, making sure it was spic and span. I have seen him running to the balcony, when a neighbours car starts shrieking its Security Alarm, to check if it isn’t our Swift. I have asked him a lot of times if he wanted to drive the car, but he would always turn me down saying I needed to drive well first. I know for sure, that he was scared if he would do some damage to the car. Then one day, very recently, he signed up for driving classes with the same instructor who taught me. after a few classes of learning the fundamentals, Dad asked me this Saturday. “Dai… Will you teach me driving?” I just smiled, and grabbed my keys immediately.
Dad was nervous as we sat in the car. “Do you want to drive now dad?” I asked him, as I removed the car cover. “No da. Lets go to that T.I Cycle ground. That oughta give us some space.” said Dad, as he wiped that little puff of dust on the windshield. The T.I Cycle Ground was one huge ground, which could accomodate 8 evening cricket teams, playing in parallel. We drove there absolutely sure, that the ground would be empty. Afterall no one plays cricket in the midday Sun in Chennai, do they. Well, not everyone atleast. And as predicted, we had the whole ground to ourselves. Dad nestled into the driver seat as I introduced him to the control panel of the Swift. He knew the A, B, C’s alright, but he was nervous when he got behind the Swift. I told him it was alright, and assured him I was right next to him. Now, lot of people, I know, would have laughed their head off when I assured them that I was right next to them, but it did calm Dad’s nerves. And a few minutes later, Dad was away in the Swift, with his proud son sitting next to him. The clutch-accelerator combo was difficult for him to begin with. But after a while, he got the hang of it. A couple of false gear shifts happened, sometimes, he accelerated too fast, sometimes, the car just stopped abruptly, but slowly and surely, Dad was getting to know the beast. It was fun sitting next to him, laughing, smiling and turning the steering with him, as we negotiated the bumps, the odd rock which would have been stumps in the last match that was held here, and tiny pools of water filled with yesterday night’s rain. I got out, and tried to make a hazard course of sorts, for Dad to drive through, and he did just about fine. There were a couple of times when Dad looked at me apologetically, when we thundered over the bumps when he forgot to slow down. I did not mind it at all, and just smiled back at dad. It was like seeing an eight year old in a candy store. All excited about eating all the sweets, and yet nervous as to what Mommy would say. That day, I was trying to be the man, who held his son’s bike, as he learnt to bike. Nothing he did, would make me angry. We spent a good couple of hours there, me trying to teach everything I knew, and he, an Ex-Principal of a School, listening to me with rapt attention. After that, Dad let me take over the wheel, and drive us home. I asked if he would want to drive to home now, and he said No with an exhausted shake of his head. “Maybe next week son, maybe next week.” Its strange, the places where a Father and Son can bond. During a Cricket match, watching movie, or just debating if iPhone rocks or Blackberry, over the morning paper. Today it just happened to be my Mauti Suzuki Swift.
I love my car. I spend a good part of my salary every month paying EMI for it. I wash it, clean it every week, and spend a good deal of my time on weekends behind its wheels. I blow my lid, when someone even leans on it, and I’m sure I’ll suffocate anyone who even attempts to scratch it. But if Dad wanted, he could take it apart and scratch it till the paint falls off, and I wouldn’t say a word. Because to me, the man who taught me to ride a cycle, and his dreams of driving a car, are way too important than this contraption of polished metal, synced gears, cams, shafts and wheels, that we call a car. When your dad’s old mobile, which you had passed onto him when you ‘upgraded’ to an N-Series, has a photo of his son grinning like crazy at his car, as the only photo in it, you know he is proud of you. Dad was all smiles as we rode back home after having driven the Swift through the perfect learning ground and he had learnt to negotiate sharp curves, and simulated traffic. Dad had done perfectly fine and he knew it. He looked at my driving license, feeling the lamination, smiled at me and said – “I totally enjoyed it da. I am driving kind of fine, no?” I nodded my head, “A few more sessions, and I’ll be fighting with you for the car, Dad” I joked. He smiled, thought for a while, and then turned to me and said with a twinkle in his eyes – “You are a good teacher da. Far better than those Driving school guys. Always be patient, thats the best way to teach. Someday you’ll be a good teacher to your kids as well.” 🙂
Then… At that very instance… A mere ‘Love you, Dad‘ seemed grossly inadequate…