Category Archives: Hyderabad

Rajiv_Gandhi_International_Airport

Tripping in airports

The last week was spent traveling, and as I navigated through cities with my blue oversized Wildcraft rucksack, I reveled in the joy of tripping in airports.

As a writer and comedian, traveling to other cities has become a constant attempt to come up with observations. Some of them are rather mundane (did you know that vada pavs across the country are exactly the same? I mean, there are no variations at all, it’s exactly the same).

But some observations were genuinely interesting. For example, I noticed that you could gauge how much the women of a city trusted their city, by looking at their Tinder profiles. In Hyderabad, I find women usually build walls around themselves on their Tinder profile (Not interested in hook-ups. Swipe right if you want to go traveling together).  In Mumbai, I found women quite open about their likes and dislikes, their choices and needs. In Bhubaneswar, easily the most conservative among the three cities, I found women on Tinder putting up absurd excuses for meeting (Swipe Right if you want to take part in Ekamra Walks on Sunday morning 9 AM!!). 

But keeping forced observations aside, most of my time was spent tripping

It has been a custom for the last few years. On the day of the journey, I panic, stuff stuff in my rucksack, and make sure I’m sufficiently toked before getting to the airport. It helps that the Hyderabad airport is forty kilometres away, and give me a very ‘Swades’ feeling. Of staring into the distance and pondering over the many myriad meanings of life. I plug in my earphones, fire up a clichéd playlist of travel songs, and stare philosophically into the sky.

I took my first flight about seven years ago. And in spite of having to travel around as a comic, I am blown away by the experience every single time. I love the hustle and bustle, the feeling of success everytime the guard with the machine gun checks my ID and lets me in.

I grew up on train nostalgia, but train journeys are simply not the same anymore. They are noisy, dirty, chaotic, and I have a constant fear that a terrorist is going to blow up the railway station. So I trip on airports these days.

So I trip in airports these days.

*

I understand that the primary job of an airport people by airplanes. But if there was a second reason, it seems like they were built to let people trip. Long white corridors, abstract paintings on the walls, music playing through speakers, sights and sounds, smells and flavours.

I find children and old people to be the only ones who still revel in the joy of an airport. The children are fiddling with things, getting yanked by their parents, pointing and wanting stuff. The older ones are curiously judging everything, asking their guardians for tips on navigating the gigantic technological glacier they’ve been trying to ride. Everybody that’s not a child or old, is simply jaded. Music is playing in their ears, but their eyes are glazed. The frequent travelers have no time to wonder, no need to marvel.

I wander through the outlets, buying nothing, and judging everything. ‘Achha. 11,000 ka shirt. Wah! Tera baap khareedega, saale!’ I wander through the food counters, looking at the menus, their prices and imagining I’m in the future where a plate of idli costs 350 bucks. I wonder if these shops would then be shooting other stoned passengers like me into the future.

There is a mild panic before the Security Check. I don’t know why, but it’s always there. I have had nightmares of being stopped by the security guards because a friend stuffed some weed for me in my rucksack. The police stop me, and I run, and then they shoot me down.

None of this happens, and I feel victorious after my boarding pass has been stamped. You remember the satisfaction in school when there was an investigation going on for a crime, but you knew you had nothing to do with it, and were being unusually cocky about your confidence? Something like that.

*

But more than anything else, it is the thrill of being in the sky that gets to me. I once did acid on a flight and I felt like I had died and God had approved of my membership into the gated community called heaven. No matter how many times I fly, I make it a point to look out of the window and gasp at the enormity of it all.

Of being able to sit and write out a blog in the sky.

As I sit down to type out this blog, we have taken off and when I look to my right (and past the man who looks at me and my shabby hair with suspicion), I see clouds of white in skies of blue. Bright blessed days and dark sacred nights.

The announcements have come on, I need to close my tray. I return the Cello Gripper ball pen to the air hostess, close my note book and slip my tablet and keyboard into my bag. In the time that it took me to write this blog, I, Veda Vyasa, have travelled from my Karmabhoomi to my Matrubhoomi.

*

And that is why I trip in airports.

And that is why I trip on airports.

Jio Filmfare South Awards

Writing for the Filmfare Awards

Alright, let me clarify.

I wrote the script for Filmfare Awards South 2017. Not the one where Shah Rukh Khan makes fun of the rest of the industry. Nope.

This is the Filmfare South Awards, where all the four industries are brought together – a gigantic jaagran where 58 awards are given in one night. In the span of the one show, you could watch Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham thrice, complete with the Mera Naam Mukesh Hai campaign and the Vicco Vajradanti advertisements.

The Filmfare South Awards are also different because stars south of the Vindhyas are very touchy about themselves. Take for example the Telugu film industry, where the biggest stars are not followed because of their acting skills, but their CASTE (I know! It’s fuck-all). There are reports every year of fans of one actor clashing with fans of another actor. Just last year, there was a report where a fan of Pavan Kalyan was fatally stabbed by a fan of Junior NTR for a fight during …hold your breath… an organ donation drive!

Half of my jokes got self-censored when I read up on this.

*

The brief from Filmfare was simple. The Awards had been a bland affair so far, and this year they were looking to make it lively and fun, which is why they wanted someone from a stand-up background to script it.

I went through last year’s script and found that it had been hosted by the same couple for the last five years. The script for last year was so interesting, I went to sleep and dreamt of having cervical cancer! So clearly, I had my work cut out.

The hosts for this year’s awards were Vijay Devarakonda, a rank outsider who shot to stardom with Pellichoopulu (coincidentally the only Telugu film I’ve reviewed), and Allu Sirish – younger brother of Allu Arjun, whose films can be found dubbed on Zee Cinema as Main Hoon Lucky the Racer, Veerta the Power, Bunny the Hero, and Natraj the Pencil. 

Surprisingly, the two hosts agreed to make fun of themselves. I was confident that Vijay would be fine with the jokes since we both studied in the same school, and he had also agreed to come for one of the stand up shows I directed, completely around offence humour.

But when Allu Sirish agreed to the jokes, which were mostly about nepotism and the lack of talent among star-kids, I thanked my stars and quickly went on to draft the rest of the script.

The show in itself is a nightmare to write for, as there are about 58 awards in all the four South languages (No, C++ is not a South Indian language, fuck off!). I am not really connected to the movies intellectually or emotionally, and it helped me have an outsider’s point of view to the proceedings. I was told not to make fun of senior actors or popular stars, which meant I could only write jokes about the hosts, which didn’t seem too bad after reading the news about fans stabbing each other!

Finally, we had a reasonably funny script, two hosts who were willing to take a joke on themselves, a video that would be played at the live event, and a couple of gags that would make people wake up from their slumber and hopefully laugh.

*

Since I am not too attached intellectually or emotionally to films and their stars, I didn’t have too much work to do backstage. Apart from announcing the beginning of the show, and making sure I didn’t screw up the words ‘Please rise for the National Anthem’ in English and Telugu, I had no real work to do.

The format of the show is rather treacherous, and after a point me and Sai Santhosh (my writing buddy) nearly zoned out. It was just a haze of one actor after the other getting up on stage and thanking the Almighty, their director, their parents, their children, their neighbours, the weather, the North Pole.

That was until I noticed Rahman!

If you’ve read my blog, you’d know I am not a fan of Rahman, I am a devotee. I realised this might be the closest I’ll ever get to the man, and the moment I noticed his chair empty, I ran to the washrooms, just in case he wanted to sa re ga ma pee.

Unfortunately, Rahman was nowhere to be seen. What I got instead was a Malayalam singer looking around with his Filmfare award. Our eyes met awkwardly and I congratulated him on the award. He immediately handed me his award to hold while he went to pee!

*

It was 1 AM by the time the show ended, and the two of us went back home.

It had been a fun week, hanging out with all these famous stars like I was one among them. But one cannot fight one’s true destiny. It was time to return to writing articles on the 10 Benefits of Mosquito Repellents.

One day, I'll be there for Best Story. Till then, for writing silly jokes for the hosts, I guess.

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Why I had to shut down my Start Up Company

2015.

Narendra Damodardas Modi had swept to power, his popularity at its highest peak. Modi was blazing across the world, encouraging investors, businessmen and conglomerates to ‘Make in India’.

Freshly admitted into the MPhil course at the University of Hyderabad, my department sent me on a trip to Gujarat for the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, where I rubbed shoulders (and elbows and toes) with some of the biggest Indian business heads who chose not to live in India. Perhaps it was the exposure to their business heads that sowed the seed in my own head.

Or perhaps there was always a silent entrepreneur in me. I had never seen anyone run a business from close quarters, and all my transactions with friends were limited to drugs. But sometimes, you just know.

On that winter day in 2015, I basked in the confidence that there existed an entrepreneur in me. Silent, but strong.

*

Part 1 – The Idea

Every great business idea attacks the roots of a common problem, and we were no different. The University of Hyderabad offers its students a range of benefits – from taxpayer internet connection to taxpayer coconut chutney. However, the dining hall – appropriately called ‘mess’ – leaves a lot to be desired.

They serve breakfast till 9, which is when classes begin in the departments. Students have to rush for breakfast, and by 8.15 the line resembles a queue for National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. Long winding lines for soggy bondas and liberal dosas that chose to transcend barriers of taste and feel. Food stalls on campus were all far away, and didn’t open till 11 AM. This was where me and my friend come into the picture.

Our plan was simple. We would deliver breakfast to rooms, on a daily, weekly and monthly subscription basis. There existed a number of vendors just outside the back gate, and since both me and my partner had access, we could provide fresh, hot, healthy breakfast to students for as cheap as 30 bucks.

We discussed the idea with a few friends, and got their approval. We printed posters and pasted them across the campus. Pamphlets were slipped under every door, WhatsApp and word of mouth publicity was also used to spread the word.

A few MBA friends spoke to me on the value of ‘scaling up’ and ‘claiming the verticals’. We discussed angel investors, mergers and 2nd round of funding’. Publicity material involving Jackie Shroff (with arguably regressive ideas) were circulated among friends and well-wishers.

Breakfast in Bed

In a week’s time, Breakfast in Bed was raring to go!

 

Part 2 – The Team

At this juncture, it is appropriate that I introduce you to my partner – Rahul – you must have heard the name. Rahul was a part time MPhil student, full time rockstar. He had Jimi Hendrix curly hair, wore yellow John Lennon shades at night, and lived life on his own terms. Rescuer of stray kittens, roller of pristine joints, and a daily challenger to Yama when he rode his bike.

We had met a few years earlier and connected over a common love for the holy herb, psychotropic substances, and all matters transcendental. It was his idea – and it must have been the conviction in his tone, or the dexterity in the joint – I agreed.

As a lurker of the subconscious terrain, it is important to note that a number of ideas strike you on a daily basis, but some stay longer and knock on the insides of your brain. In a few days, I saw the light of his argument. He was Steve, and I was Wozniak. He was Duckworth, and I was Lewis. I had no culinary experience, and my know-how was limited to the fact that I know how to eat; but I’d been a lifelong eater of dosas and vadas. I couldn’t make a good vada, but I could tell a good one from an excellent one. Roger Ebert never made a movie, but his contribution to cinema is far greater than most who did.

 

Part 3 – The Idea in action

And so we set off on this adventure of a venture, our only capital being confidence and the wishes of our friends. The plan was to have a vendor right outside the gate, take orders from customers, and deliver hot, fresh food within 25 minutes.  

Me and Rahul would share the load – alternating between taking orders and delivering them. Every half an hour, one of us would collect the orders (at a shop five minutes away), and deliver them to satisfied customers.

There was something inspiring about the process. For someone who lacks even an iota of discipline, this seemed like a cause worth waking up to. We would be up by 6, and wait for calls. They came slowly at first, and then in waves. One of us would roll a quick joint, while the other took three quick puffs and plunged into action.

Our customers – both friends and strangers – were glad to see us. We provided relief from the corrupted food in the mess, and they greeted us with sunshine smiles. ‘Don’t have change? No problem, bro! Give it tomorrow!’.

Hesitant teenagers who opened the door surreptitiously because their girlfriends lay inside thanked us for the few hours they got. Some customers invited us in –

‘Smoke one? Sure, bro!’

‘But I’ll have to leave early, huh? Have orders waiting…’

I understood what Nobel scientists meant when they said that their work wasn’t work at all. The smiles of customers, or the coy smiles of the girl in the pyjamas, who was surprised that a delivery boy spoke English like the Queen’s plumber.

I was a changed person. I’d wake up at 6 and ask my lady to leave as the orders would start pouring in. At night, I’d receive anonymous messages saying, ‘Hey, what’s for breakfast tomorrow? :-)’. I’d quickly put the phone on silent and go to sleep, for it would be a long day tomorrow.

Life was good, and there was a reason to wake up every morning.

 

Part 4 – The Bubble Bursts

2015 witnessed a number of economic crises, primary among them the Chinese stock market turbulence. Shanghai share index plummeted 8.49% of its value, and the billions lost in international stock markets were dubbed Black Monday and Black Tuesday by international media. The economy of Greece was also going through its bleakest phase, defaulting on a loan repayment of an International Monetary Fund loan.

All of this of course, had no impact on us. We picked up masala dosas and bondas from a small shop and delivered it to hungry students who smoked chhota Gold Flake. Our downfall was brought about by internal factors, rather than external agents.

It was in this process that I learnt the first hard lesson in doing business. It cannot be run when there are two partners, and they’re both sleeping partners. Since both of us were stoners, the morning proceedings began by rolling a joint. Since we’d partied the previous night, sleep was hard to fight off. The results had begun to show.

Orders were getting confused for each other. A horrified vegetarian professor complained about two bright yellow Egg Dosas that had shown up hungover on her table. When I messaged ‘Hey, tomorrow we have special Pongal for breakfast’ to my angel investor, I got no response. A customer complained that his dosa had some mud on it, a clear indication that it had touched the ground at least once. Rahul’s brother, who had graciously helped us with deliveries, refused to deliver in the Ladies Hostel, as his girlfriend had gotten suspicious of him getting breakfast for other girls.

Friends who’d supported us with weekly subscriptions, asked us to hang on for a bit. We mixed business and pleasure into a heady cocktail and took gigantic shots. We would sometimes gobble up a dosa with our friends, and stay back to smoke one, only to realise there were 17 missed calls on the phone!
Part 5 – How the High and mighty fall!

Breakfast in Bed, born from a million myriad mirrored dreams, began to unravel in front of our eyes. We were like Nokia, struggling to cope with a changing world. Meanwhile, evil capitalist money was being pumped in through organisations like Foodpanda and Swiggy. Our socialist-welfare model of cheap food and friendship (and one banana free!) couldn’t cope.

Like Ambassador and Gold Spot, we slowly faded out. Swiggy and Foodpanda had swanky bikes, uniformed-delivery agents with packaged food. Breakfast in Bed had two dope-heads with a bike, delivering food wrapped in yesterday’s newspaper.

And here is the second lesson I learnt from the experience – Accountancy. Rahul was a student of the liberal arts, and couldn’t be bothered with the debit-credit of things. But I was a Commerce graduate, with Honours in Accountancy.

In a month, our cash flow resembled the Hussain Sagar lake, our fund-flow the Musi river. The only incentive to deliver an order was that we could pocket the money, so thoroughly had we blurred the lines between revenues and pocket money! The orders began to dry up – the only orders were from friends who wanted Rahul to roll them their morning joints.

 

Part 6 – The Beginning?

With heavy hearts and light heads, we shut down Breakfast in Bed. It wasn’t ceremonial or momentous, rather like a cancer slowly playing out its destiny. We continued to get stray calls for a few weeks after, but the enterprise was more or less wound up.

Rahul was handling the vendors and suppliers, while I was battling the monsters within me. In a few days, I told the lady she didn’t need to leave early, and I couldn’t gauge if there was happiness or sadness on her face.

May be the business didn’t go all that well. But so was the case with Steve, Walt, and Spielberg. Rahul brought a kitten to the room, but like our customers, it left our room and returned to the Mess.

Maybe it was for the better! May be I wasn’t ready to handle the inevitable onslaught of Venture Capitalists and Mergers & Acquisitions that would follow. Maybe it was an indication that my Pixar awaits me in the future. May be there’s an idea lurking in the dark, waiting for me to stroll into the forest again.

*

Meanwhile, I hear the students of the University are struggling to buy cigarettes…

MMTS Hyderabad - Heartranjan.com

The Weirdest MMTS trip of my life

I have been fascinated by trains and railway stations since my childhood.

My earliest imagination of trains was of large Rakshashas, billowing smoke from their mouths, carrying people on their back, crushing those in front of them. Since I studied in a hostel, much of my childhood was spent in travelling to and from home in trains.

I would fantasise about being a train engine driver, driving from place to place. When we were going back to my school, I’d imagine an elaborate drama where the train runs over a meditating Rishi on the tracks, who’d open his eyes and curse the train to never reach its destination.

Now that I live near a railway station and the MMTS is my primary mode of transportation, I keep taking pictures, observing people, noticing their quirks. The trains are where I do most of my writing – the humdrum, the honking, and the crowds provide a perfect platform for my mind to take flight. I take pictures, capture sounds, and mind-map my ideas for future writings.

*

I have written about Hyderabad’s MMTS system earlier (Read the blog here).

It’s a fascinating network that runs on the basis of goodwill and good moods. The trains follow no particular timings, there is nobody to check tickets, and it’s a system that is running by God’s will. I have had many a fascinating trip on the MMTS trains, but none as weird as the one yesterday.

Before I begin, allow me to provide a disclaimer.

Every single word below is true. I have no way to prove it to you, and you have no way to cross-check, but allow me to say it nonetheless. I have always wondered how such things happen around me. A friend of mine chides me about this, wondering how such things always happen when I’m around. I have given it some thought.

Perhaps it is because I am obsessed with stories. I’m constantly on the prowl for interesting stories, funny incidents, and curious happenings. I walk up to people and begin conversations; I pick people’s brains about anything that intrigues me. Perhaps that’s the reason.

Or perhaps it’s because I’m a stoner. A stoner is constantly collecting material to narrate to his/her friends. As a stoner, life is a constant swing between premise and punch line, a marathon of funny and interesting incidents that could be narrated to friends the next time we get high together.

And yet, I wasn’t stoned yesterday. I’ve given up Pot, but more about that in another post.

Yesterday, I was as clear in the head as Sachin Tendulkar on the first day of a Lord’s Test. And yet, I hereby declare that every single word below is true to the best of my knowledge.

Place: Hyderabad

Date: 14th July, 2016

*

I was to travel from Begumpet to Sitafalmandi, a distance of 15 minutes, with five intermediary stations along the way. The journey usually takes ten minutes, and I lay down on one of the platform benches with my book – Satyajit Ray’s Adventures of Feluda.

This particular story revolved around a theft in an old haveli, and the afternoon heat and my comfortable position slowly lulled me into a soft slumber. I woke up when a friend called, and realised my train was arriving in a minute. I rushed to buy myself a ticket, and hopped on to the train after inquiring if the train went to my destination (you can never be too sure with an MMTS train!). It was, and I hopped on to the train.

It was a typical evening on a local train. 4 PM is a time when corporate slaves haven’t been unleashed from their cages yet, so the commuters are mostly college students, or hawkers, or people travelling with bags to a suburb on the outskirts.

There was no space to sit, so I leaned against a seat and opened my book. Standing right next to me was a young chap in formal attire, a laptop bag slung across his shoulders. On his right wrist, the following words were tattooed – Roll, Camera, Action!

I began doing what I always do. Perhaps he was an aspiring director. Perhaps like me, he has lots of stories that never saw the light of day. He was immersed in his phone, and I looked away and dived back into my book.

Feluda was taking his time in catching the culprit, giving away unwanted clues to throw me off the tracks, leaving both me and Topshe rather frustrated. In a few minutes, my favourite hawker in the world stepped in.

He has five minutes to sell his wares, and an active clientele who have nothing to do but to listen to him. He puts up an elaborate show that would put the folks on Home Shop 18 to shame. This man sells unique products on the train, a new product every week. Sometimes it is a juicer, on other days a tiny weighing scale.  Today, it was a gold plated chain that a Delhi company had kindly agreed to sell for 20 rupees only.

My favourite hawker in the world is back!

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The train reached Secunderabad, and I managed to get a seat for myself. I got back into the book, and Feluda was now quizzing the suspects. Which was when I heard a voice from the platform – ‘Excuse me?’.

I looked out of the window and a man who’d been travelling with me was looking at my book. ‘I noticed that’s a Satyajit Ray book, which one is it?’ I showed him the cover and he nodded. ‘Are you a filmmaker?’ he asked me.

‘No, but I’m an aspiring writer’. ‘Oh! I am a filmmaker, can you give me your number? I’m travelling to Vizag right now, but I’ll be back in a few days’. I hurriedly noted down his number, he rushed away to catch a train to Vizag, and I got back into my book.

The train took its own sweet time at Secunderabad, choosing to bask in the sun for ten minutes. Since I had nowhere to rush to, I got back into my book. Feluda was now thinking about the crime. Topshe was as confused as I was, and I was gleefully getting into my favourite part of a crime – the unraveling of the mystery – when loose threads are tied up and the culprit is rounded up.

I looked up from my book and found an old man sitting by the door about ten metres away from me. He must have been about 65, there was a walking stick next to him, as he sat on the floor, his legs huddled up against his body. His beard was red – not orange – but blazing red. His chin protruded out, making him look like an older Muslim Suppandi. Next to him, a woman lay unconscious.

It is a common sight to find men and women drunk on MMTS trains. Most of them get on a train and lie down by the door, letting the train take them to their destination. The old man had a lost look on his face, looking up, and then down, and then from this side to the other. It was then that I noticed his hand.

Hidden behind his legs, his left hand had slipped into the woman’s blouse, and he was giving her breasts quick, frantic squeezes. On and on he went, changing his hands every now and then. I closed my book and stood up; three people rushed to take my seat.

I walked up to the man, and he quickly slipped his hand out of the unconscious woman’s blouse.

‘What are you doing?’ I asked him.

He turned to the woman, a look of pity and disgust on his face. ‘She got drunk and passed out’, he said. The woman continued to lie unconscious – she was in her late 30s, slightly stout – probably a hawker who had too many glasses of Gudumba – the locally brewed alcohol in Telugu speaking areas.

‘Yes, but what are YOU doing?’ I asked him. He looked into my eyes, and knew in a second I wasn’t fucking around with him.

‘What am I doing? I’m sitting here’.

‘Jhoot mat bol, buddhe. I saw your hand inside her blouse, you horny old fuck’, I said, putting forth my best Hyderabadi accent. The old man looked out of the door, but by now, a crowd had begun to gather.

The two of us were surrounded by a crowd of about ten people, most of them college students getting back to their homes. A few of them had seen him too, but had chosen to keep quiet about it. The crowd was getting bigger now, and the man stood up shakily on his walking stick.

The crowd parted to make way for him, as he spent the next few minutes walking from one end of the compartment to the other. Like nothing had ever happened, like he was an old man taking a morning walk.

The college kids spent the rest of the journey heckling the old man. And hell has no fury as a heckling Hyderabadi.

Kya re, buddhe. Nehru zoo ka bandar jaisa dikra tu, aisa kaamaan karta? one of them said. Arey dekh re, buddha khada ho gaya, lekin buddhe ka khada nahi hua’. On and on they went, till he walked up to the other door and stood by it.

My station arrived, and I got down. The train stopped for about 30 seconds, and chugged away.

I noticed the old man had gotten down from the other door. He hobbled away on his walking stick, the woman continued to lie unconscious by the door, the train slowly pulled out of the station.

***

PC: https://pixabay.com/static/uploads/photo/2014/09/13/05/11/sleepy-443606_960_720.jpg

The Ideal Life 2.0

I remember a teacher in school asking us what we wanted to be when we grew up.

It wasn’t serious, or meant to inspire; we were too old for that – 12th standard. It was a free period and the teacher was doing whatever she could to stop us from stabbing each other. When it was my turn, I stood up and said, ‘Ma’am, I want to be a House-husband’.

You know, the kind of thing you do to sound funny in class so that the pretty girl acknowledges your existence. And yet, after all these years, I suspect there was a pinch of truth in the statement.

I hate jobs. I hate the timings, the commuting, the rushing in the morning, the sleepiness in the afternoon. I hate having to describe every minute detail to a person who’s not necessarily smarter or wiser, just senior in age. I hate wearing boring shades of clothes that are forced to look formal; a tuck here, a nip there. I hate having to deal with morons on the road, more so since my motorcycle is actually the ghost of an old grumpy horse that has possessed a seemingly harmless vehicle. I have been done so many shitty jobs since my teen years that a few years ago, I put my foot down.

Perhaps a few of us aren’t meant for the race, you know. If the entire world became successful and drove in snazzy cars, who’s to write disgruntled blogs about them? It’s been more than two years now, and I haven’t done a single job. How do I make do?

I write. Not books, as I had foolishly ventured out to do a few years ago. But articles, and some blogs. Some content for Social Media, a little Copywriting here, a little market analysis there. When there are stand-up shows, or calligraphy workshops, I make a little extra money. I had set out to write books, but I couldn’t. And yet, like Konkona Sen Sharma in Luck By Chance, I’m happy doing whatever writing I do. I wear clean clothes once a week and go to the Advertising Agency I deal with, and have bath in the evenings and attend Open Mics or Comedy shows. I’m not saying all this to ask for some donations (though those are more than welcome, please ask for my Bank details by writing to Hriday @ writetohriday@gmail.com). The thing is, my hatred for jobs has grown manifold.

It has reached a stage where I feel claustrophobic when I enter a corporate office. I feel like punching the clean-shaven faces and smashing the perfectly aligned glass cabinets. I don’t, because I’m mostly there for a Corporate Show and those guys have something I don’t – PAISA. But the hatred, the absolute unadulterated disgust still boils like froth in my heart.

I have to take a few deep breaths, remind myself of my unwashed clothes, and silently make it out of the place without harming man, woman or machine.

 

*

 

The last month or so has been quite the revelation.

After dealing with the hustle-bustle of the city, and the trippy, Yo! Let’s-Change-the-World naivety of University Idealism, I have found my peace in a tiny hamlet far away from Cyberabad and its Cyber-bullshit.

‘Sitaphalmandi’ literally means a market for Sitaphal (wrongly misconstrued as Sita’s fruits, which, well, let’s not get there). The area is closer to Charminar than Cyber Towers, and the difference is starkly visible.

Temples and mosques jostle for space on the roads; and for frequency in the airwaves early morning. Surrounded by three universities, the place is a hub for foreign students, not from the Americas or Europe, but from Libya, Iran and Nigeria. The older houses belong to families whose children have chosen to settle in the snazzier part of the city. There is a local train station right next to my house, with a strange maroon train marked ‘Maula Ali’ permanently parked on the Narrow Gauge tracks.

This is how I spend my days.

I wake up to the sound of trains rushing in with sleepy drivers and passengers in a mild hurry. I prepare breakfast for Her (not every single day, but pretty regularly), and then drop her off at the station as she leaves for Cyber-land.

The walk back to my place is joyous and cheerful, as I walk with a spring hydraulic mono-shock absorber in my step. The day is all mine, and I finish the basic requirements first – food, a joint, and masturbation (I know, I’m not proud of it!). After that, I have the day all to myself.

I play my Cajon to some of the greatest voices in rock and roll history. I whip myself up a salad, or cook an omelet (my only culinary skill). I clean the house, do the dishes, and if the load gets too much, I pull the curtains and plunge into a glorious afternoon nap.

It’s evening by the time I wake up, and the sun is smiling gently. The school in front of my window has shut down for the day, and different cricket leagues are competing with each other for the ground, while shooing away goats. I feed the turtles, have a bath, and sit down to finish the writing scheduled for the day. I then pick Her up from the station, before leaving for a show/Open Mic, if I happen to have one that day.

There are a few exceptions here and there, but this is more or less my schedule on weekdays.

This is great. In a way, this is all I had imagined for myself years ago. This is exactly how I’d wanted to live my life.

BUT…

 

*

…the human mind knows no end to desire.

It has been said by Buddha (I think), that when man achieves one desire, another quickly takes its place. Now, who am I to refute the wisdom of The Buddha?

And it’s true. I should have been satisfied, should have thanked the heavens and one of the many gods who claim to control the collective destinies of the world. But god can kiss my ass. I have brand new desires now.

It might sound hypocritical, and completely loony, but it is what my heart feels.

 

*

 

I want a job.

Not a serious job, or a high-paying one either. A regular government job in a regular government department. Nothing essential, like Power or Water Supply. I want a job in a department that could be immediately dispensed with in case of an alien attack. Like the Archaeological Survey of India, or the Department of Culture. A job where nothing really hinges on my shoulders, and yet I’m a cog in the wheel churning on and on.

I want a job with lots of Optional Holidays, the ones marked in orange on official government calendars. An office that has no corruption, not because the people are honest and sincere, but because nobody gives a flying fuck. A job that deposits a fixed amount of money in my bank, one where I could come back home for lunch and sleep for two hours, before rushing back at 4 PM over a cup of chai.

I want a job where there is no need to think. One where I have to make some entries on an old register, with those dual-coloured pens on each side. A job with dusty yellow walls and paan-stains on the sides of the older walls (preferably away from my personal desk). I want a government job where even the peon is called ‘Ram Babu’. A job that gives me Railway tickets for free every year, and access to Govt. Circuit Houses in every tourist destination in the country.

Life, then, would truly be magical. But till then, we make do with what we have. I wonder what Buddha would have said about IT jobs and flexible work hour options.

***

Hyderabad MMTS

An Ode to MMTS

It was around the mid 90s that Hyderabad began to experience its first big Boom. Chandrababu Naidu, a relative unknown in the league was at the helm, and was determined to make Hyderabad a glitzy, glammy Super-Cyber-Hyperabad.

Like pimples on a teenager’s fresh face, strange buildings and erections rose from the land. Flyovers shot up into the sky, a tower called Cyber Towers sprang up, soon to act as Mothership for other hitech, jazzmatazz offices who were helping American companies clean up their desks. Government services were digitised, and Bill Clinton was invited to inaugurate the transformation.

Among the many dreams within Chandrababu Naidu’s dream was a quick, economic rail network to connect the older city with the newer, shiny cousin. To connect Sudama to Krishna. And thus was born the MMTS. Multi-Modal Transport System. Intended to connect the two sides of the city, the engineers hadn’t expected the steroid-induced growth that Hyderabad would experience in the coming decade. Which has resulted in the MMTS being sidelined by the urban, yuppy, corporate crowd. The MMTS does not ply to Banjara Hills, Cyberabad or Jubilee Hills – these temples of the New Gods. It is for more commonplace places, like Malakpet, Huppuguda, and Sitafalmandi, where I currently reside.

While the MMTS was inaugurated with much fanfare in the presence of Chandrababu Naidu, it was the other Chief Guest of the event that should have instilled some doubts in the minds of Hyderabadis. The fact that LK Advani inaugurated the MMTS should have been a premonition for things to come. For if Naidu saw the MMTS today, he’d give up politics and retire to Manali.

In their own unique way, the MMTS has become representative of Hyderabad and its laid-back nature. As I live right next to the MMTS station, I have begun to feel a connection with the enterprise. From the first train that begins at 4.45, to the last one that chugs home tiredly at 2355, the MMTS has become the trains of my little Apur Sansaar. And as I interact with the enterprise on a daily basis, I have begun to appreciate just how Hyderabadi the MMTS really is.

*

For one, timings are merely notional on the MMTS. If the timing mentioned is 10.20, it is just a ballpark figure so that you are dressed and ready on the platform. The train of course, will amble in about ten minutes later, just in time for the man with four gunny sacks to stuff them through the running doors.

Unlike in airports and Metro stations, where the entire world seems like a large, rushing crowd, the MMTS is barely ever in a hurry. The trains even have the feel of medieval caravans. There are hawkers, magicians, and little kids doing tricks with a tiny hoop for some change. For you see, unlike in Chandrababu Naidu’s dreams, the MMTS isn’t really used by the Movers and Shakers of the city. It is used instead by the hustlers and the jostlers. Those who have no where to rush to. The kind who can wait for the next train if they miss this one. Unlike the metro trains of Mumbai, there are no films shot in Hyderabad’s locals. There are no dark, intriguing, sinister stories; just a bunch of people going from one place to another.

The engine drivers are speaking on the phone and screaming at people as the train leaves the station. People are laughing and chatting and arguing in the trains as they hold the rod for support, the entire compartment a sea of Paragon chappals and sweaty armpits. People avoiding the gaze of the cops in First Class even though they have a ticket.

Om. Aham Single Fuck Not Givami Swaha.

A post shared by Hriday Ranjan (@heartranjan) on

Back in childhood, I used to think of this as a dream job. Sell books, and sit and read all day.

A post shared by Hriday Ranjan (@heartranjan) on

 

There is an overpowering sense of brotherhood and camaraderie. On a few occasions, I found a few men get into an argument with the guys who hang near the doors. But on most other days, I see the guys at the doors stretch their hands out to pull newcomers into the compartment. Because you see, these aren’t the hard-boiled urchins that you see in Mumbai. These are Hyderabadi urchins – kindhearted, sarcastic, and with a sweet tooth.

 

Ah, Technology! The things you make us do.

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The concept of privacy doesn’t exist here, those are for 1st AC trains and Business Class passengers. Here, people peep into each other’s phone. As I’m drafting out this text, the guy next to me is peeping in for a good view. I turn to him and he smiles back like a twin lost in the Mahakumbh.

 

When Hyderabad announced that it was going to add itself to the list of cities equipped with a glitzy inter-city Metro service, I was a little circumspect. I was scared that the shiny Metro would make the humble MMTS even more irrelevant than it is today. But my fears were allayed by the fact that it’s Hyderabad we are talking about here. The ministers didn’t sign on the required papers, their secretaries sat in their rooms sipping on scotch, the engineers were clueless, and the workers packed up and went home. Resulting in L&T pulling out of the project citing the state’s inefficiencies. Petitions were filed against the bulldozing of house and property, and manholes on the road grew up to become monsterholes.

And just like that, the Metro project got postponed to 2019. Three years from now, which in Hyderabad terms means a decade. A few more years for MMTS to do what it can to remain irrelevant. To meander about aimlessly unbound by cut-throat timings and maddening frenzy. To amble from one place to another like a contended buffalo, grazing in fields that she particularly likes.

To flash a shiny electric rod at the world. To prove that it is possible to be a poet among robots.

Of Summer and Its Addictions

Isn’t it amazing how every year, when summer comes on, people will point it out to you? They’ll hold their collar and shake it vigorously and say, ‘Yaar, it’s so hot, na?’

Like they’re just back from a 12 year vacation to Pluto and realised how hot it is in India in summers. It is summer, guys. It will be hot. Get over it.

 

I got over it long ago. Years ago, in my childhood, Bhubaneswar was notorious for ‘Sunstrokes’. It was the first time I had come across the word – sunstroke. I imagined that the sun would smile down warmly on a person, there would be a blinding flash of light, and the man would drop dead right there. Later, I learnt it is a heartbreakingly painful process. The person would first dehydrate, and then die as every drop of water in his body dried up, minute by painful minute.

But all of this wouldn’t affect me one bit. For I had just learnt how to ride a bicycle.

There are very few joys in the world compared to learning to ride a bicycle for the first time.

There is a sense of freedom, of joy, your bicycle being your horse, and of the world being your playground. There are no limits to your enthusiasm, your imagination, and the heat of the summer is but another obstacle – to be trampled upon and left behind.

And since I had just learnt the fine art of riding a cycle, I didn’t want to step inside the house. And so I was given a simple solution – Tie a wet cloth around your head if you want to step out.

The intention was to keep my head cool, wet and dehydrated. But what really happened was a combination of many things:

a)    Children and elders alike sniggered when I crossed them, a wet towel wrapped around my head.

b)    The cloth began to smell damp and funny after a point.

c)     The dampness around my head would result in me feeling dizzy after half an hour, and I would return to the house.

 

Again, this was a time when there was no internet, no cable television (since I was being honed to become a good citizen of the country), no cricket happening.

And all through the summer, I felt a strange thirst.For liquids. An insatiable need for liquid to run down my parched throat.

My hunt led me on to the roads in the afternoons. And the options in front of me were not very vast. And yet, I didn’t shy away from trying them all out.

 

Firstly, there was Sugarcane Juice.

Back then, it was just two rupees, and it wasn’t very difficult to flick two rupees lying around the house and run out to the shop. It was cool, sweet, and affordable.

But then, it had its problems too. You can’t have more than two glasses of it. If you did, you’d have a sticky, sweet feeling. Like your lips have been chapped together by a weak adhesive gum.

And then there were the health issues involved with sugarcane juice. Friends telling you that they’d seen a man keeping his sugarcane in a ditch to make it fresh and juicy. And another friend telling you that his cousin had died of food poisoning from sugarcane juice. Also, after two glasses, your body craved some water, or some salt, or chillies.

And so, I struck sugarcane juice out of my list.

 

Then came the Tender Coconut.

It is cool, and healthy. No one had any horrific tales to narrate about tender coconuts. They were just tender nuts that had a sweet juice inside of them. Problem is, I wasn’t the only one who had realised this truth. And this resulted in the price of tender coconuts rising not so tenderly.

It was five rupees when I was a child. And then in a few years, it was ten rupees. And then, it was fifteen rupees, and then twenty, twenty-five, and thirty. And me with my money nicked off from home, would never be able to catch up in that race.

 

Golas, I have never been fond of.

Firstly, I had only seen it in films and TVs. Of people sucking on golas and chuskis and having fun. In Orissa, we never really had golas for a long time. And when they finally arrived, what a massive colourful disappointment they turned out to be!

It was the same chapped feeling between my lips that I felt after having one. Also, it took about 20 minutes to finish one. Any quicker, and your jaws felt like a yeti had smooched you and run its tongue inside your mouth.

Golas didn’t do it for me.

 

Cool drinks, I was never fond of. Of course, I got enamored by ads and wanted to have a wonderful, bubbly, soft drink in the middle of summer – just like they showed me in those ads.

But every soft drink in the world is the same for me. I enjoy the first two sips and the rest of it seems like a punishment.

Ice creams never worked for me in any which way. Whether it was the Chocobar, or the cups, or the Cassatas, or the expensive ones. None of them did anything for me. All I felt at the end of the ice cream was sticky hands, a sticky mouth, and a sweet aftertaste in my mouth that wouldn’t go even if I ate a live chicken.

 

Which left me with the only other option. Buttermilk.

Buttermilk is one of those things in life you cannot have any complaint against. It could be made thick or thin, spicy or sweet. It is healthy, inexpensive, and easy to prepare.

Needless to say, I was addicted.

But then, I realised that the dynamics of buttermilk-making had a larger role to play. It wasn’t as simple as taking buttermilk, adding spices, chillies, coriander leaves, some ginger, some black salt, and mixing them all together.

I realised that different places have different ways of preparing buttermilk. At home, they’re always overdoing it. They make it thicker than it should be, just to pander to some idea of ‘healthy, wholesome home food’, killing the end result in the process. And like mother’s hamburgers, mothers’ buttermilk is never the real thing.

Others would add too much salt, too less chillies, or not black salt at all. Temples would keep it satwik, adding no ginger at all. There were ‘jalachhatras’ – free water/buttermilk pots that were kept in the open, as a form of social service. These guys made the buttermilk too thin, in an obvious attempt to save money while saving lives.

When I was posted at the KIIT International School in Bhubaneswar, there was a stall that gave out free water and buttermilk. Even if it was light, it was delicious. And I shamelessly hung out there, having 5-6 glasses a day.

And yet, it wasn’t perfect for me. It was a little light, and come summer, I would begin my hunting for the perfect buttermilk.

Everywhere I went, I looked for the perfect buttermilk.

And everytime, I was disappointed. Vijaya, the state-run milk company in Andhra Pradesh wasn’t very good. It was too thick, as if the state was doing its bit to prove the purity of their cows and their milk.

Omfed, the state-run milk federation in Orissa skimmed over the chilly and ginger, making for a drink that seemed hollow in its taste. And I went from this place to that, looking for the perfect buttermilk every summer.

And then, a few weeks ago, I found it.

Jersey milk.

It’s a private company that has its operations in Andhra Pradesh. Like all other milk companies, its logo has a smiling cow as its logo.

It cost 6 rupees, and when I slit the packet open, I realised that my hunt for the perfect buttermilk was over.

Inside, stirred up in the perfect way humanly possible, was buttermilk, salt, chilly, coriander leaves, and black salt. It was so perfect that I didn’t even have to shake well before use.

And that is how I spend my summers these days. Hunting for Jersey Buttermilk in every shop, store, or mall that I come across.

And summer is hot, and sticky and sweaty and all of that.

But what do I care? I am addicted, and my fix costs me 6 rupees.

Baigan ki Biodiversity !!

Dear Participants of the Conference of Parties (CoP) in Hyderabad,

You wouldn’t know this, but about a month before you guys landed here, the government was working its ass off trying to impress you. The roads were cleaned up, beggars were driven away so that you don’t think we are a poor nation, and small shops that sell paan and cigarettes (for loose, unlike in your countries) were sent packing.

But don’t fall for all that. That’s not the real Hyderabad.

I am assuming you guys were put up at Novotel in Hitec City. Do something.

Take an auto-rickshaw. Begin by slashing in half whatever price he quotes. Then ask him to take you to the parallel road next to the Hitec City Road – from Kondapur to Mehdipatnam. That’s the real Hyderabad.

You’ll find the city is not just another metropolitan city with white and grey shades. Its got a lot of colour – the yellow of the autos, the green from the mosques, the brown from the roads, and a myriad of other colours that make up Hyderabad.

Since you guys are interested in Biodiversity, you should watch the roads carefully. You’ll find lots of cows on the road, the cliché of Indian roads that films love to show. But in fact, look down for a bit, and you’ll see they are bulls. You see, cows are considered sacred in India, but bulls have no special place. So they are left on the roads to fend for themselves and die.

You won’t find many birds in the city, even sparrows have more or less vanished. There will be, of course, lots of crows. And stray dogs too. It is estimated that there are about 12 lakh stray dogs in the city, and they feed off open garbage bins and the generally weak sewage and waste disposal system. But instead of having more dust bins, the government every now and then kills many of these strays. Come on, surely it’s not our fault that those dirty little things aren’t as evolved as we are?

You’ll also find an amazing number of rocks and hills along the roads. But these are mere remnants.

Hyderabad has rock formations that date back to 2,500 million years ago. However, all the swanky malls and roads that you see today were built after destroying most of these rocks. The same seems to be happening with trees in the city. The more the buildings in the area, the lesser the trees.

And lakes! Hyderabad once had about 3000 lakes. Can you believe that? 3000 lakes in a single city. Today, there are about 150 of them, and they face a serious threat too. Illegal buildings, encroachments, flouting of rules by real estate developers, have all led to this problem. You see, we all want ‘Lake View Apartments’, and that makes areas near lakes prime property.

Of course, the government must have shown you the seemingly beautiful Husain Sagar with Buddha standing serenely in the middle. But don’t be surprised if in a few years you find Buddha covering his nose! The Hussain Sagar is a mucky, dirty lake. Till a few years ago, all the shit, sewage and waste went into the lake. Plus, we have this festival called Ganesh Chaturthi, where we create huge idols of Ganesha and dump them into the lake. Only someone with the calmness of Buddha can take all the dirt and stench.

As you move into the older parts of the city, you will find that the cars and the office buildings and swanky malls belonged to a different Hyderabad. This is the invisible half, the one that doesn’t show in brochures or websites describing the city. Here, the roads are dirtier, and the people are poorer. But of course, you wouldn’t know that. The ‘Hyderabad Darshini’ bus takes a detour so that you don’t have to go through the trauma of seeing the real city.

As evening sets in, you will find people lining in front of liquor stores, and the city starting to smell heavenly. Have some biriyani or shawarma (Remember in the final scene of Avengers, when Iron Man says he wants to eat some shawarma? That’s the one!).

When you return to your room, you will feel dusty and tired. But rest assured, you have seen the real Hyderabad.

Don’t go by the bullshit the government gives you guys. That’s not the real Hyderabad, that’s Hyperabad. Hyderabad is in the Old City, in the smell of food and scent of ittar. In crowds in front of booze shops at ten in the morning, and in Irani cafes sipping chai. That’s the real Hyderabad.

Yours Truly,

A frustrated smoker looking for cigarettes in Hitec City.

Trying to ‘Remember Shakti’

‘Remember Shakti’ was performing in Hyderabad, and I was lucky to get a ticket.

The gig was a reunion of the ‘Shakti’ band, which disbanded in the 70s, and now consists of John McLaughlin (ranked 49 in the Rolling Stones’ Greatest Guitarists of All Time), Zakir Hussain (tabla), V. Selvaganesh (Ghatam, Kanjira, Mridangam), Mandolin Srinivas, and Shankar Mahadevan.

The concert was to be at the Chowmahalla Palace, the majestic palace built by the Nizam that has been converted into a tourist attraction. Beautiful music, in a beautiful location. Just perfect, right?

WRONG!!

You have to consider the many ways in which Indians would fuck up a perfectly good concert. So, for music lovers (or at least the ones who sat where I was sitting), it was a battle you had to win. Against all these elements constantly trying to challenge the band.

The concert surprisingly began bang at 8.30. While the artists were ready on the stage, some IAS officer who was supposed to light the lamp and begin the proceedings, took his own sweet time, lighting all the wicks on the lamp.

The seating system was the usual. The ‘Silver’ tickets at the back, the ‘Gold’ category was in the front, separated by a barricade. In front of the ‘Gold’ category, was the ‘Asshole’ category, which meant politicians, and their stooges who could waltz in and out of the concert whenever they wanted.

After the first number, Zakir Hussain took the mike and announced, “A concert is about creating a rapport with the audience. It’s like driving a car, with the wiper constantly on the windshield, which makes it difficult for you to drive. So the people in the front please stop walking around.” This was met with cheers from the back rows – serious people who had come early and were sitting on their chairs, craning their necks to watch the artists.

To add to the mahaul at the Chowmahalla, the organisers had come up with the idea of having food stalls. Which meant a constant ruckus of people asking for Pepsi, coffee, pop corn, and mirchi bajjis. Not unlike going to watch an Akshay Kumar film.

If you managed to overlook the noise and immerse yourself into the music, there were the children. Now, why do parents bring in children to movies and music concerts? Children, considered to be incarnations of God, hate silence.

The tranquility of the concert was interrupted when an imp next to us decided to test his vocal chords and went, “Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah, WAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH”

Zakir Hussain promptly got down from the stage, ruffled his hair, smiled and said, “Wah Taj! bolo”.

Ok, I made that up. Everybody just turned and cursed the kid in their minds, and smiled benevolently at him, and his dad took him away. Things remained calm for a while, but Hyderabad was planning its next attack.

A loud boom caused everyone to look up, and there it was. Crackers going off in the sky – bright and loud like Rakhi in the Sky. At one point, even Zakir Hussain looked up to see what the commotion was about.

The crackers eventually fizzled out, only to give way to some classic Indian shadi songs, being played at full blast. Getting married in India gives you the right to fuck with everyone’s peace of mind, and these guys were going at it with a vengeance.

At one point, Shankar Mahadevan stopped and said, “Sur thoda alag hai unka.”

To which Zakir adds, “Ek ticket mein do do concerts ho gaye.”

But the marriage songs faded into oblivion as the Jugalbandis reached a crescendo. First between the guitar and mandolin, and then between the two percussionists. And Shankar Mahadevan’s silken voice seemed to caress every note, helping it on its way.

Since I had the ‘Silver’ tickets, and my father is not a politician, I had to contend with staring at the two screens that was were installed on both sides of the stage. But the cameraman…..!

The cameraman clearly harboured ambitions of working with Mani Ratnam. So instead of zooming in the middle of a terrific solo, he would zoom out to a panoramic shot of the palace. The last piece of the concert was the jugalbandi between Hussain and Selvaganesh and this is where the cameraman’s true genius showed.

By the time he would pan left to Hussain, his part would be over. The cameraman would then slowly pan to the right with BBC like precision, only to realise Selvaganesh’s part was over too. At one point, he thought ‘Fuck it’ and zoomed in on Shankar Mahadevan, sitting right in the middle!

****************************************************

At one point, I thought about how it would be if this concert was being held a hundred years ago, with the Nizam sitting in the first row in his own palace. He would probably jail everyone who disturbed his concert.

And here we were, contending with democracy and all the bullshit that free will brings with it. I might sound like a grumpy old man, but in spite of the the popcorn, the kids, the crackers, the marriage songs, and the ambitious cameraman, the music was worth it.

Bye, cycle. My cycle..

I was in the third standard, and selections for the Annual Sports and Cultural Meet were going on. There were rumours that there were going to be brand new cycles for a cycle drill. The bikes were BSA Mongoose, sleek and quick. Practice meant riding the cycle for hours a day. It was great fun. Not for me, of course.

I was in a stupid drill called ‘Horse and Stars’, because I didn’t know how to cycle. This innovative drill involved running around in formations with a stick-horse in between my legs, and huge, golden stars pasted on each of my palms. It was humiliating to say the least.

I finally learnt to ride a bicycle pretty late – around my 5th standard. It was a maroon BSA Ladybird that belonged to my sister. Though the cycle must have weighed a total of 15 kilos, it was everything for me. I first learnt to ride it ‘half-pedal’, and then ‘full-pedal’, and then while sitting on the seat. I still remember the feeling when I was convinced I could ride it. The ecstatic feeling of balancing on your own wheels.

Soon, it became a mad obsession. I would do the rounds of the colony, on my BSA Ladybird, in an imaginary world of my own. Sometimes I was Agniputra Abhay with the magical bike, other times I was a hero being chased by goons, and on some romantic evenings, I’d imagine I was carrying a senior from school on the carriage behind – I would ride slowly then. My first accident with a cycle happened soon after.

It was in the afternoon, and I was on the road near a chaurasta. I was imagining that it was the last ball of a cricket match, and Ajay Jadeja and Robin Singh are in the crease, and they have to steal a quick single. So lost was I in the imaginary match, that I failed to see the vehicles in front of me. Not one, but two of them. So I ended up bending the rims of both the wheels, one by a scooter, and another by a bike.

Now, Ladybirds are no Royal Enfields. They are just Domestic Dandies. Both the rims having bent in the nail-biting finish to the match, I had to part-drag, part-carry the cycle back home. I was welcomed with the choicest abuses, and Ladybird was caged in the house. That was probably the last time I rode that cycle.I had never had a bicycle since.

Now the thing is that the University of Hyderabad’s campus is one fucking huge campus. When I first joined it, I made decisions to jog to the college in the mornings, and jog back after classes. All good, except that the distance is seven bloody kilometers. Aptly titled J&K hostels, they are in the other end of the campus. If you do not have a bike, you have to have a bicycle. Or make sad faces and wait for lifts, hoping someone will drop you somewhere on the way.

Keeping these factors in mind, I decided to buy a bicycle. I went to this shop, suspiciously named ‘Peddlars’ Point’, and asked him for bicycles. He showed me a few. From the Postman wala Atlas to the modern snazzy ones. I finally boiled down on one. It was a cool silver Hercules Ultima DX 6 gear bicycle. I remember riding back to the room, with the same feeling of ecstacy that came with the ladybird. On the way back, I remember re-committing myself towards a fitter life, and that this was a beginning for new things to come.

They say, you can take the horse to the river, but you can’t make it drink water. Similarly, you can buy yourself a bicycle, but you cannot stop being a lazy bastard. So I would wake up, realise there were 15 minutes left for class, and rush to Vamshi’s room below, and go on his scooter.

I did use the cycle once in a while, like the time when KSS came over one evening. There was a film screening at the auditorium and we planned to go there. We had also planned to have some rum, and passed out with flying colours. Also, the film was ‘Poison’, and so there were, the two of us. Drunk and horny, and riding on a bicycle to the auditorium.

You would have seen gruesome bike accidents on AXN or youtube, ours was the lamest accident ever. Just two drunk guys, riding, and toppling over. While we got up, and dusted and laughed about it, my cycle was hardly amused. The handlebar turned upside down, the bell stopped ringing, and random loose screws resulted in me making a chhang-chhang sound wherever I went.

There is something about us human beings, imperfections make our hearts grow fonder. I repaired my cycle, and started spending more time with it. I took it to college, to the Sports Complex, and for other chores. One day, I left it near the small gate, properly locked, about thirty feet from the security post. The next morning, my cycle was missing.

I was sad that I had not used it enough. That I had not been a good owner to the cycle, and that I had expected even an iota of alertness and brains in the security guards. I looked for it for days, in secret couple hangouts, dumpyards, and obscure parking spots, but I never found it.

As a final desperate gesture, I put up the following poster at different spots around the university.

I got some appreciation, some criticism, and an SMS telling me that the University was not my father’s, to use the f word. But I didn’t get my cycle.

So, dear cycle. If you haven’t been dismantled and sold in parts at the Chor Bazaar in Dhoolpet already, I hope you are good.

I hope your new owner is treating you well. And I hope you are spicing up his life too, with the little surprises you used to spring on me.

Like making a quick turn in front of a hot chick, and suddenly realising the brake is not working. Or pedalling vigorously uphill, only to have the chain snap.

Hope you’re giving him the real pleasure of riding a cycle.