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Diwali Crackers ranked according to awesomeness (and Risk Levels)

I have been writing about Diwali over the last one week, and as expected, the discussions have all descended into a Hindu vs Muslim argument.

Honestly, I’m a little tired of putting forth my opinions and being labelled. There’s already been so much said on the subject, and the reader will mostly only take the opinion based on the ideology that they belong to, so it’s like singing a Qawwali to a cow.

While I’m an atheist and strongly detest anything to do with religion and religious rituals, I cannot deny that I’ve had my share of fun on Diwali. I cannot deny that Diwali is more than bursting crackers or creating an India-shaped hole in the Ozone layer. It is about families getting together. About joy, happiness, and explaining technology to family members.

Also, no matter what I say about crackers, I can’t change the fact that I’ve burst thousands of crackers in my lifetime. I realise that just because I’ve grown up and slanted towards a particular line of thought, I cannot expect kids of today not to burst crackers. That would be very uncle-y of me, and not something I’d do.

What I’d like to do, on the other hand, is to list out all Diwali crackers on the basis of awesomeness (and the risk involved).

So here it is. The definitive list of Diwali crackers, ranked on the basis of awesomeness.

  1. SNAKE BOMB:

This name is a misnomer. It is not really a bomb; and no prizes for guessing – it isn’t really a snake either.

The snake bomb (also called snake pellet/Evil Hajmola/Kill Grandmother Tablet) is a small, black button-like object that is placed on the floor. Light it with a matchstick, and nothing happens – only a thick, black line of soot comes out of the tablet, leaving a permanent scar on the floor, and in your heart. I always felt this was the Lifebuoy of crackers – that after all the crackers were made, this was coughed up with whatever gun-powder remained in Sivakasi. It has now been banned by the government, which came as a surprise to nobody.

RISK LEVEL: Zilch. Except that your grandparents might feel they gave birth to a degenerate.

 

  1. MAALA:

If the Indian government wishes to track black money, they needn’t run after Swiss Bank accounts. They need to place taxmen in colonies and track down the man who’s bursting the longest maala on Diwali.

The most annoying Diwali cracker in the history of Diwali crackers. If the Maala existed in the time of Ramayan, Lakshmana would have shot arrows straight through the hearts of the monkey army for lighting up maalas.

The Maala (which comes in varieties of 10,000 wala, 1 lakh wala and 10 lakh wala) is a ‘fuck-you’ cracker that serves no purpose but to display the wealth of its owner. The most annoying bit about the Maala (also called the ladi) is the fact that while it goes on for over 9 minutes like a thumri, all you can do is sit and wait.

RISK LEVEL: Make sure grandparents have had dinner, play Raina Beeti Jaaye on Sony Mix, and the begin lighting the Maala.

 

9. FOUNTAIN/FLOWERPOT/KUMPI

The flowerpot (also called an ‘Anaar’ by people who studied at Rishi Valley School) is symbolic of Diwali and is often the first cracker to get out of the way. It is easy, fun to watch, and like a human orgasm, is fantastic for a few seconds.

However, the reason for its low ranking is the fact that the Flowerpot scores very low on the Money : Chaos theory. You can’t direct it at neighbours, or use it to spook the guy next to you lighting up an Atom Bomb. The riskiest thing you can do with this is to hold it in your hand while lighting up, something Jackie Shroff did as an infant. In fact, Jackie Shroff came out of the hospital ward holding a lit up fireworker in his left hand (he’s right-handed). But more on that later, for Diwali is an occasion to celebrate other heroes.

Another reason for its particularly low ranking is the fact that it has become rather expensive these days.

RISK LEVEL: Breeze. Like watching Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham on Star Gold on a Wednesday afternoon.

 

8. CHAKRI

The Chakri is based on a simple concept – that if you wrap barood in thin strips of paper and tie them around in a circle, it will rotate and spew sparkling lights across. It has a fairly long wick and can be lit by people of all ages. The only problem I have with the Chakri (and hence, the low ranking) is the fact that it needs a lot of prep time.

Chakris need to be properly sunned in the afternoon, failing which they go through the scientific phenomenon known as ‘phusss ho gaya’.

RISK LEVEL: Just wear a pair of Paragon chappals.

 

7. BIJLI:

The Bijli Bomb (bit of a stretch to call it a bomb, honestly) is a value for money, efficient cracker that does its job. You can light it up before, after, or during Diwali – the Bijli is the French Fries of Diwali crackers.

When many Bijlis come together, they create the annoying maala, but as individual sticks, they are quite palatable. Proving that in the world of crackers, the adage holds true – ‘United we Terrorise, Divided we chill’.

The Bijli bomb can be enjoyed be oneself. Light a candle, light the wick of the Bijli, throw it away from you. Relight the candle.

RISK LEVEL: Mild surprise when grandmother is praying in front of the Tulasi plant, but no physical damage.

 

6. SPARKLER:

Non-exciting and completely vegetarian, the Sparkler is the only real surprise in this list. However, it has earned its place on the basis of solid facts. The sparkler is pretty much the first real cracker that anybody in their lives ever held. It is also the only cracker that every single member of the family could hold, loop around in the air for a few times, and then safely throw away to the side.

The sparkler is also used when matchsticks are too mundane to light up other dangerous bombs, and on the basis of efficiency and their ubiquitous nature, the Sparkler ranks high in the list.

RISK LEVEL: Very low. In fact, grandparents will smile, and give you their blessings. And some pocket money as well, if they aren’t my grandparents.

 

5. CHOCOLATE BOMB:

No fuss, does what it’s supposed to do, comes cheap, and looks like it was made from Minnie Mouse’s old underpants – what’s not to like about the classic Chocolate Bomb?

The Chocolate Bomb used to cost a rupee in my childhood and I’m glad to announce that it only costs about 10 rupees now (5 if you buy on Diwali evening). In fact, if Bajaj Motors released a Diwali cracker, it would be the chocolat bomb. Cheap, efficient, won’t last too long.

RISK LEVEL: It has a very small wick, and requires precision while lighting. Grandparents could throw their walking stick at you.

 

4. ROCKET

The perennial favourite, the ‘Rocket’ was such a legendary cracker that Chacha Chaudhry named his dog after this delightful essential household item.

Comes in attractive packaging, with tantalising pictures of Katrina K and Kareena KK. The rocket also scores highly due to its flexible usage. It can be lit up in various modes – fitting the complete range of sadomasochism – from the Arun Govil technique of filling a cool drink bottle with sand, to the ISIS approved method of holding it in your hand and pointing it to the neighbour’s window.

RISK LEVEL: ‘Stick it with the pointy end’, Jon Snow said, as he smiled at Arya.

 

3. ONION BOMB:

I don’t know if this bomb is still available and legal, but it was one of my favourites while growing up. The Onion Bomb had no wick to light, and burst on impact when you threw it with force against a wall, floor, or ceiling.

Shaped like an onion and looked like a garlic, I used it extensively as an imaginary cricket ball. I would draw wickets on the wall, take a run up and bowl fast (being careful not to pitch the ball short). On the other end, I would imagine Pakistani batsmen buckling under pressure (What can I say! Disturbed childhood). I also used it as grenades to fling at imaginary villains, as shown in the film Zalzala.

RISK LEVEL: Do not buy too many at one time and put them in the same bag. Do not put the bag on the floor with force once you’ve reached home. Do not put them in your pockets, as you might slip and fall. Do not ask your grandparents to cook you anything that involves onion or garlic.

 

2. GUN AND BULLETS:

Okay, I take back my words. The Gun and Bullets are the ACTUAL surprise on the list, but kindly give me a minute to explain my choice, M’lord.

While Diwali might be a festival that raises many questions on the socio-political spectrum today, this wasn’t always the case. Back then, Diwali only came on the news when people suffered third degree burns. And even then, I didn’t spend a lot of time fussing over bombs and creating imaginary lists in order of awesomeness.

There were two other boys in our lane and the three of us ensured we got decent guns in our pockets. We collected coins and pooled in the brown cardboard boxes that had rolls of red, barood-filled bindis in them. And then we set out.

An abandoned truck had been lying by the side of a road for a few years, and if you climbed from the back, you could open its doors and sit inside. The back was empty, and the great vessel that once carried sand and cement and chips was now a fortress. I spent many an afternoon hopping on to the truck, killing enemies while ducking Bullets, and holding dear friends as they died in my arms from bullet wounds…only to rush home to drink a glass of Bournvita and return as a new hero!! For, tell me O Partha, how can you remove the concept of Punarjanam from a festival?

RISK LEVEL: Barely any. Keep away from the dressing table and cousins attempting Medical/CA courses to avoid minor scares.

 

1. HYDROGEN BOMB:

The elder brother of the Atom Bomb, the Hydrogen Bomb is a large ball of destruction that is rolled up in green woollen threads and a shiny sticker to hold the wick in.

If the Atom Bomb is the gateway to the Dark Side, the Hydrogen Bomb is where things get real. Not every wizard who bought guns from Ollivander’s shop will step over into the dark green, Slytherin world of the Hydrogen Bomb. But the ones that do, will heed the call of the Death Eaters, and purchase boxes full of these potent crackers.

In Game of Thrones, Ser Beric Dondarrion lights up the Lightbringer sword and comes back to life, but it kills a bit of him every single time. As we know, everything originated in India, and George RR Martin was inspired for this idea from the great Vishwa RR Mitra, an Indian Maharishi. Much like the Lightbringer sword, the Hydrogen Bomb startles everybody, but particularly rearranges the insides of the person who lit it up. Other conspiracy theories say that it was invented by Tyler Durden on a particularly gloomy Wednesday afternoon.

The Hydrogen Bomb is all the more relevant in the times we live in. As we speak, Kim Jon Un and Donald Trump are threatening each other with Hydrogen Bombs of larger sizes, as Death Eaters around the world cheer with glee. It might be the last Diwali out there folks, enjoy it while it lasts!

RISK LEVEL: Grandparents could strike out your name from the family’s inheritance.

***

So that is it.

That is ALL I know about Diwali crackers. I literally no nothing else on the subject. If I ever make it to KBC and Mr. B asks me ‘Haiiiinnnn…. Hriday ji, agla sawaal… Kaun sa Bharatiya neta ne ‘Lakshmi Bomb’ ko naam diya?’; I’d have to quit the game, for there is nothing more I know about crackers.

Some 10 years ago, I started this blog as a teenager, unaware that it would mean anything, unaware that it would open doors, that thousands of strangers would connect to it. But it has survived 10 years.

If this blog survives another 30 odd years, and some kid is reading it and looks back on our times, let them not think that Diwali was only a festival that brought on controversies, debates and confrontations on the news and Internet. Let them know that Diwali was a festival when people shared sweets, met their loved ones, got high, smiled, and laughed.

I am nobody to preach to you. Burst crackers if you have to. Don’t burst them if you don’t.

Stay safe! Happy Diwali. 🙂 🙂

*****

Featured Image Courtesy: www.hindugodwallpaper.com

The Amazing Shaktimaan

It was a lazy evening. The sun was setting, and we were sitting on the rocks, and two of my friends were debating on who was the greatest superhero – Superman or Batman?

I just sat back and smiled at their ignorance. These fellows were lightyears away from the truth. The greatest Superhero of all time was not some Marvel of the West. DC ki AC ki taisi.

The greatest superhero was right here. Homegrown, and our very own.


Now wait, all you snobs who read this and sniggered, just you wait. In the next ten minutes, I am going to wipe that smirk off your face.

Here are some of the reasons why Shaktimaan can beat any of the others with his left hand (he is right handed):

Powers: What differentiates a Superhero from a hero? Quite simply the superpowers they have.

The conventional superheroes have a limited set of powers that they exercise when they get an opportunity. Most of these powers are related to strength, speed, agility, or a special weapon. And here is where Shaktimaan beats the others hollow.

HE HAS GOT INFINITE POWERS.

Being a wise man, Gandalf never shows his backside to Shaktimaan.

Every episode of Shaktimaan revealed a new power. He could fly, burn metal with his gaze, crush rocks with his bare hands, among many other awesome things. Now, suppose Superman is flying to Canada to save someone. You construct a huge wall in middle. What does the Man of Steel do? Turn around and risk flying over the Bermuda Triangle. What does Shaktimaan do? He just appears there!

AWESOMENESS TEST #1: DIFFUSE A NUCLEAR MISSILE

How Iron Man does it: Check for speed, velocity, trajectory, impact, and target.

How Shaktimaan does it: Bicycle kick

You see, in the 21st century, you cannot fall back on your limited set of powers. You have to innovate and use your mind to work out of problems. And Shaktimaan? Unlimited powers, mofos! Eat that!!

Shaktimaan propogates Indian culture:

As your parents, elders, neighbours, their elders, politicians, TV shows, films, and anyone else will tell you, what makes us the greatest nation in the world in spite of our poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, and corruption, is our culture.

Now, Shaktimaan upholds Indian culture. He never does vulgar stuff (like that Superman fellow flying around in his inners) or He-Man (whose costume and bob-cut blond hair make you wonder – “Is He Man?”)

Shaktimaan was born out of the rays that came out of the foreheads of seven rishis, and hence Indian culture is inherently there inside him. He regularly chants Gayatri mantra, Om, and other such prayers on the show.

Shaktimaan does not have sidekicks and lady loves:

Even though Superman has been around for more than 50 years, the charms of a woman still make him go weak in the knees. Spiderman fellow toh is a big pansy fuck, peeping into a girl’s window in the night. Which superhero does that, man?

A superhero’s life may be awesome, but the one curse they share is that they cannot marry, start a family, and go shopping – maximum they get to kiss the girl in the end of the film, that’s all. Even though they know this, all the superheroes cannot resist the charms of a woman.

Shaktimaan? Hah! He has resisted Geeta’s charms for more than a decade now. He doesn’t indulge in love-shove bullshit (also it’s not Indian culture, ya).

Another thing superheroes suffer is sidekicks. Now tell me, if you are a superhero, why do you need a sidekick? Why not create an army then? Losers! No wonder Batman’s sidekick is called Dick! Shaktimaan is enough by himself, ok? He doesn’t need these daisydicks sidekicks and other distractions.

Shaktimaan has a paunch:

In India, everyone has a paunch. We are a country of extremes when it comes to body shapes – an Indian will either be stick thin, or have a paunch. Shaktimaan, who understands market dynamics (plus the whole rishi forehead – centre of knowledge thing), has a paunch, and has no qualms showing it off.

Shaktimaan packing a paunch

In this way, he gives hope to millions of Indians to aspire to become better, super versions of themselves. And what is this need to have abs and all, man? If you are a superhero, you anyway have superpowers. Why do you need to wake up in the morning and do pushups and crunches? Dumb fellows!

Shaktimaan is concerned about the future of the country:

Shaktimaan has a humane side. After every episode, he advices children on different subjects – like switching off fans and lights before leaving the room. His sole purpose of existence is not just victory of good over evil. He is not avenging his father’s death. He is concerned in creating good citizens for the country.

Also, in the 21st century, one cannot go about breaking bridges and buildings. One needs to think about the environment, sustainable superheroism, and limited resources. This is where Shaktimaan scores over others by a large distance.

Sl. No. Superman Spiderman Batman Ironman Shaktimaan
Can fly Yes No No Yes Yes
X- Ray vision Yes No No Yes Yes
Concerned about Society Yes No No No Yes
Free from female distraction No No No No Yes
Can you walk around in his costume? No No Yes No Yes
Can deal with nuclear attacks Yes No No Yes Yes
Loves kids Yes Yes No NA Yes
Emit Fire, Water, and use other elements? No No No No Yes

Yeah, fuckers! Who is laughing now?

Unfortunately, for all his awesomeness, Shaktimaan was given a raw deal. If it was aired on BBC, we would have had aliens sitting in a dharna demanding him for themselves. Unfortunately, he was on Doordarshan.

And the world forgot about him – the Messiah of the Good, the hero with a heart, fists of steel, and at the same time a khata-peeta khaandan ka ladka.

You were not meant for this age. Your time did not respect you. On behalf of the world, the era, and all the homo sapiens of the earth, all I can say is:

How to Sound Intellectual Even if You don’t know Shit

Tired of being considered shallow and immature in front of your intellectual friends? Embarassed when they are discussing something called the ‘epicentre of power’ and you think they are talking about Shaktimaan? Had enough of coughing, going to the toilet, and changing the topic uncomfortably when something serious is being discussed?

Well, you need worry no more.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we present you with the ultimate guide to the social ladder. Remember, good looking guys will one day grow old and farty, but Salman Rushdie still has a killer girlfriend. Need I say more to stress on the importance of seeming intelligent and knowledgable?

Given below are handy tips that you can use to seem intelligent and mature. Care must be taken to avoid overuse, as it might backfire badly, and you might end up looking like a clown. So exercise restraint, and carefully adopt the given specifications one at a time. There’s lot of time (Rushdie is 64, no hurry, man!).

                                                                     GETTING THE RIGHT LOOK

You cannot sound intellectual if you don’t look intellectual. There are a few useful tips that can transform you instantly from ‘N Sync fan to practising Communist.

Get Thick Rimmed Glasses: Thick rimmed glasses might seem odd to look at on your face in the beginning. In fact, you will look like the geeky loser in a 90s Bollywood college romance. But a thick rimmed glass goes a long way in establishing that you are an intellectual. Care must be taken to get one without any bling. If Armani is written on it, it is a lost cause.

Act Like You Don’t Care About Your Attire: Intellectuals do not have time to bother about things like fashion, clothes and accessories. So make sure you carefully master the art of dressing carelessly. Tear off a bit of the new kurta, spill some ink on the sleeve, and dip your fingers in a bowl of paint for about 15 minutes before you leave the room.

Don’t Shave: What’s common to the people below?

Isn’t it weird? They all have a beard!

Apart from being the most intelligent men of their times, who changed the fortunes of the world with their wisdom, they all also had beards. So even if it doesn’t suit you, grow a beard. Avoid temptation to trim it with an electronic trimmer. A little care and discretion would give you the perfect ‘non-shaving, kurta wearing’ intellectual. Throw in a jhola on your shoulders if you want some change.

SPEAKING LIKE AN INTELLECTUAL

Now comes the tough part – sounding and conversing like an intellectual. This requires diligence and practice, but you can master the art eventually by following the following tips:

Say ‘Depends’: Whenever you are asked a question, and you don’t know what to say, just shrug and say, “Well, that depends on a lot of factors…”

Saying ‘Depends’ shows that you are willing to consider a lot of aspects. However, you should be careful not to list out what those factors are. Intellectual people do not disclose their intellect till they are pressurised to. So just say ‘Depends’ and look away.

  1. Use a lot of ‘ist’: Almost every word can be made into an ‘ist’. For eg: “Hey, that’s such a statist remark!” or “How can you be a realist when this is such a racist environment?” Every ‘ism’ can be made into an ‘ist’. Also, if someone apologises, he is an apologist, if he works on a machine, call him a machinist, if he believes in fate, he is a fatalist, and if he roams about naked, he is a naturist.

3. Use the PESC Formula: If you are running out of new angles to give to a discussion, follow the simple PESC formula. The PESC formula says that any discussion can be analysed by talking about the Political, Economic, Social, and Cultural impact on the people. And this works better if you fuse two terms – socio-cultural, politico-economical, socio-economic, and eco-cultural.

These phrases make you sound even more intelligent than you aren’t. So, if you have been sitting around warming the bench, shrug your shoulders and say, “Depends. On a lot of socio-cultural and politico-economical realisms that the world faces.” Bingo!

4. Quote Marx: Most intellectuals are leftist. They swear by Marx. In such a crowd, if you say, “Hey, have you checked out the latest iPhone app for Angry Birds?’, you will have to suffer through social leprosy. So make sure you have equipped yourself with a good number of Marx quotes, which you can get off the net. Be careful to drop them at the opportune moment.

However, you should be careful to quote Karl Marx, and not Groucho Marx, as it can have the opposite effect on your socio-intellectual standing (notice the fusing of two words??

5. Smile: You remember those Idea ads with Abhishek Bachhan? Remember those moments of pure awesomeness when Abhishek Bachan is looking at the person in front of him, and dishes out a smirk and says “Get Idea”? That’s the smile I am talking about.

The Idea 3G ‘I’m awesome and you know it’ smile

When you don’t know how to counter the stance of the person in front of you, just smile. It drives them mad. While the other person is frantically explaining his stance, just look at him, smile, and shake your head from one side to the other. This shows that you know what the person is going to say and are smiling at his ignorance. Some other smiles that you could use are the following smiles.

The Kevin Spacey ‘I don’t give a fuck’ smile
The Morpheus ‘Do you know what the Matrix is?’ smile
The SRK ‘I look like a moron, but I’m cute’ smile

6. The Intellectual Emergency Exit: If nothing else works out, use the Fire Escape. Wait for the person to make a point. Pause. Take a deep breath, and say, “Well, if that’s the way you are looking at things, there isn’t any point in talking, is there?” Then stand up, dust your hands, and walk off.

Don’t turn back, for the people are still staring at you with their mouths open, aghast at your biting intellect. Find another group, and use the same techniques all over again.

Remember, intellectuals don’t do different shit. They do the same shit differently.

The CAT Race

When I was doing jobs during my graduation, I would regularly be confronted with a question, “When are you going to start doing a serious job?”

Now, what on earth is a serious job? So for three years, I was a construction labourer doing stand up comedy on top of buildings?? Fuck that!

So anyway, I was doing my B.Com, and had no clue what I wanted to b.com. The natural progression of a B.Com student is to do an MBA – no two ways about it. This was in the time when new records were broken by placement cells every year, and the word recession was used in history books to talk of the Great Depression of the 1930s. I plunged in.

There was IMS and there was TIME. I chose TIME, though I don’t remember why. There was an entrance test which would be the basis of a scholarship. I won a 25% scholarship and I duly took admission. And thus began my MBA trip.

Every student, at some point, has gone through an MBA trip. There are some telltale signs of being an MBA aspirant.

  1. If there are more than three guys sitting together,the discussion will revolve around colleges.
  2. An MBA aspirant can rattle off details like fees, course structure, average placement packages with the snap of a finger.
  3. Being an MBA aspirant screws up the things you did earlier for the fun of it. If you liked reading, you’d be listing out must-read books for an impressive interview. If you like watching movies, you’ll be looking for classics. If you like singing in the bathroom, you’ll start judging yourself to see if you qualify to put ‘singing’ as your ‘interests’ in your CV. If you had the habit of reading the newspaper, you’ll now be making mental notes and trying to remember the colour of Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s turban.
  4. MBA aspirants will ruin a normal chai session and make it a board room group discussion. While normally any opposition would be met with ‘Chup kar, chutiye’, if you are an MBA aspirant, you can’t do that. You have to show passive aggression. So you disagree by saying, “I understand where you’re coming from, but you’ve got excreta in your cerebellum.”

Nobody, however, raises the most important issue. CHICKS.

Most guys won’t admit it, but the numero uno deciding factor is chicks. The query will be innocently disguised with questions like “How’s the crowd there?” But deep within, every MBA aspirant is hoping for Vivid Entertainment style action in the two years.

So I joined the herd as well. I would attend classes, and discuss politics, and shake my head when something was being spoken, and nod when I had no clue what was being spoken about.

I would talk to people, and talk about reading ‘MBA books’. MBA books are books that somehow make you a better manager. And ‘The Fountainhead’ tops the list. Now, I was on my own ‘Fountainhead’ trip. I had read the book. Reading ‘The Fountainhead’ for the first time is a little like losing your virginity. I wanted to do what I was best at. I began wondering if I was just going about the motions. I become disillusioned with what I was doing, and told my boss I wanted something to challenge myself. He patiently heard me out and fired me the next day.

I failed to see how the book would make me a better manager, but since everyone was orgasming over the book, I joined in.

I’d attend the classes every alternate evening. I did fairly well in the English classes, and my GK was decent. I didn’t understand much in the Personality Development sessions. I mean, it’s a goddamned MBA course, how on earth are you going to develop my personality by asking me questions? But I attended them, as they made my issues seem professional and serious. The Group Discussions I totally loved. You got to meet different people, and take any side you wanted in the argument, depending on how much you disliked the others in the group.

And then, there was Quantitative Aptitude. Changing the name doesn’t change the game – it was still Mathematics. And I have had a tumultuous relationship with it for a few decades now.

Amidst cubes, square roots, Fobonacci numbers, and derivations, I seemed like a guy who had just dropped in from a nearby cave. Quite naturally, I didn’t attend more than three classes.

This went on for more than a year. I got a huge stack of reading material, and felt really good. I didn’t give even a single Mock CAT, to avoid being mocked at. But in the back of my head, I had confidence in my abilities.

It all began with the dream.

I dreamt that I was sitting in a class. The walls were of red brick, and there were hot chicks all around me, discussing issues, nodding, and driving me crazy. It was quite inspiring.

It was around the time when a friend told me about this technique called ‘Creative Visualising’. You have to imagine something with full concentration – see the minute details, see everything about the place/situation you want to be in, and your brain automatically works towards it on a subconscious stage. This was easy. I had been creatively visualising Raveena Tandon for years now.

So I’d imagine my college, the grades, the classes, the smiles after a terrific placement package. I rattled off figures, dismissed colleges with the snap of a finger, and lived a happy life.

The day came closer, and I was hardly tensed. I gave the exam my best shot and left it at that.

The results were declared, and many of my friends did well. They encouraged me to go check out my score, but I delayed it on purpose, wanting to be surprised.

I finally relented and went to an internet café. I logged in, and checked the score. My jaw dropped.

I had scored 18 percentile.

I don’t know anyone who has gotten a lesser score in CAT. Sarthak came over, and I was too numb to talk. I stepped out, went to a paan shop, and smoked three cigarettes one after the other. I felt giddy, and asked him to drop me off at home.

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

I am glad I didn’t do well in the exam. I would have gotten an average score, joined an average college, and been an average student. I wouldn’t enjoy it, and no amount of placement packages would make me feel like I was.

I am now studying Mass Comm, and I genuinely like it. I am still lazy with assignments and stuff, but it’s something I know I can do.

And what’s more, the walls of my classroom  have red bricks!

R.I.P. Orkut

A few months back, some friends were doing a Vox Populi, and the question was ‘Which is better – Orkut or Facebook?’

My answer was Orkut, without any doubt.

For most of us, surfing the web meant google or porn or sending cute e-cards to friends. Orkut brought a meaning to our virtual lives. We all had a name, an identity, and a Salman Khan DP. Orkut began the trend of being cool on the internet.

I am also partial to Orkut for the way it revived the cyber cafes in Orissa. After the desi-baba days of the early 2000s, cyber cafes in Orissa were losing business. You see, for half a decade, the cyber cafes were the melting pots of Oriya people of all kinds. College goers, couples, middle aged office goers, the local electrician, school children, and every few months, the friendly cops next door. It was a virtual Madhushala and they all flocked for their daily fix.

And the cyber cafes acknowledged their diverse clientele by breaking technological barriers. There was a cafe called ClassicNet. This guy was the Walmart among Cyber Cafes, simply due to the innovations he had brought about in the domain of one-handed surfing. So if you were sitting in ClassicNet, you would hear a voice going,

“Bhaiyya, isko kaise chalana hai?”

“Kuchh nahi, bas ‘Enter’ button dabao”

You see, the guy would add all the porn clips to the playlist in Windows Media Player, and keep them ready. All you had to do was pay him, enter your cabin, sit on the stool, and press ‘Enter’. Customer is king, you see. And even kings have their needs.

But the internet cafes were losing out to home internet connections, till Orkut struck us like a lightning. Cyber cafes were again full of people, college goers who were adding the latest Altaf Raja blockbuster to their profiles in the hope of getting that elusive girl in college. Though Orkut today looks like Hiroshima on 6th August 1945, it began it all.

Who can forget the excitement of seeing who visited your profile, and then disabling ‘profile visitors’ so you could check out girls’ profiles? And the profile pages that had the ‘Professional’, ‘Social’, and ‘Personal’ columns. The ‘Personal’ section, that had interesting questions like ‘Turn Ons’, and ‘Looking For’ – where guys would expect to see ‘Wild Sex with strangers’ on girls profiles.

Before Orkut, web surfing was a personal affair. With Orkut, it became a common thing where people could talk about. Having a cool ‘About me’ was a must. Something like, “I yam wat I yam. Its mah lyf. Skrw da wrld”.

And talking about each others Orkut profiles was the in-thing in college discussions. So one day, I meet this guy and he says,

“Dude, I saw your testis. They are awesome”.

I was like, “What the fuck? How did YOU see them?”

“Testimonials, dude. They are awesome!”

And the communities that everyone joined just for the heck of it. Joining a community was more so that you could show it off on your profile. There were communities for everything, there is even an ‘We love Antara Mali’ community. So you joined any damn community, the last activity in which would have been before you even started shaving.

And the ratings that your friends gave you. “You are 70% sexy, 50 % cool, 20% smart”. And the ‘scraps’ that you could send to your friends,

Everything was going well, before Orkut started to act smart. They introduced Privacy Settings. This killed half the joy of being on Orkut in the first place. I mean, who would want to browse a girl’s profiles if all her photos were blocked and she was ‘Looking for: friends’??

Gradually, Orkut began to ape Facebook for everything. There was more emphasis on users safety, which doesn’t make sense. We are a nation which zooms at 90 kph on rainy roads without a helmet. Whoever thought of users’ safety? Gradually, every feature on Orkut began to look like Facebook, including a ‘What’s on your mind?’ button. But Orkut was about mindless voyeurism. There was nothing on our minds when we surfed Orkut.

There were changes made every week to the layout and features, and the early Facebook users began to look down upon Orkut users. So if you were in college talking about the latest way to get colourful scraps to your profile, the FB user would give you a disgruntled expression, saying, “I am not on Orkut. I am now on Facebook.”

But Facebook is no comparision to Orkut. In Orkut, you could ogle at anyone for as long as you wanted. If you did the same on Facebook, you would get a

“You are my top stalker. Creep.” written on your wall the next day.

On Facebook, you cannot make ‘fraandship’ with anyone, as some people have even blocked the ‘Add as friend’ option. It’s more personal, more sauve, and as a result, sucks.

But Orkut was something else.

 The coolest Mahabharat character

Sunday afternoons as children meant Doordarshan. I studied in a boarding school where we were not shown TV, so when I went home for holidays, I didn’t spare anyone, not even the news readers who looked like the Anganwadi didi next door. Rangoli, Superhit Muqabla and Chitrahaar were other shows, but one that had the attention of every member in the house was Mahabharat.

The Mahabharat is a great story in itself. Its got all the heroes, sub-plots and villians that make for an epic. In our school, the Mahabharat was shown on Sundays, to the boys admitted in the sick ward, and when there was no other movie to show. And there were the Amar Chitra Katha Comics too. It was but natural that we had our favourite characters in the story. And it was also natural that there are innumerable discussions on this topic to decide who’s the coolest of the lot. Here are my options:

Ekalavya:

Ekalavya’s could have been the greatest rags to riches story. Tribal boy watches Guru Drona teach the Pandavas and Kauravas from behind the bushes. He makes a statue of Guru and starts practising the art himself. He soon becomes a dhansu archer himself.

One day, Ekalavya is doing something, and a dog barks. Ekalavya is pissed off and shoots 14 arrows straight into the mouth of the dog. Dog goes yelping and Drona finds it was E who did it.

Drona: “You, boy. Who is your Guru?”

Ekalavya: “You are my Guru.”

Drona: “Yeah, whatever. Now give me my fees. Your right thumb.”

Ekalavya, who is seen to be an impulsive person as seen from the dog incident, cuts off his thumb and gives it to Guru.

BIG, FAT, MISTAKE: If I were in his place, I would have shown Guru another finger and rushed to the side which offered me the highest price. I wonder what Ekalavya did after that incident. If E hadn’t gotten so swept by emotions, he could have been the coolest. Close, but not quite there.

Arjun:

I do not have too much respect for Yudhishtir. Think of it, you are gambling and you lose a lot of money. You can just get up and say, “Dude, I don’t want to play anymore.” Or excuse yourself and rush to the wash room and not come back. But no, male ego. Royal Male Ego. The man puts his wife at stake.

Not cool, bro. And that too when he had no role in getting married to Droupadi in the first place. Poor Arjun, you hit fish’s eye and win the competition and the wife, and then have to share her with your brothers. To add insult to injury, each brother stays with the wife for two years, and your turn is after Bheem. Just plain bad luck. And then, your elder brother puts her at stake at a gambling game? What about women’s rights, guys?

But anyway, Arjun is another candidate who could have been the coolest person, but he loses out. Arjun was among the most talented archers of the time. He was the son of Indra and won Droupadi on his own. But what works against Arjun is that he had constant help. When your charioteer and chief strategist is a dude who could woo 1,86, 000 + women, and was God, you clearly have an upper hand. Not to mention the Brihannala incident. To dress up as a woman and sing and dance for a year? Naaah.

Bheeshma:

Bheeshma is another author backed role in the epic. Like all the great characters, he has a great origin myth. He is the son of Ganga and Shantanu. Very early in life, he swore that he shall never, ever get married. Bheeshma then goes on to kick serious ass in the story, being the Pitamah of the entire clan. He goes to a Swayamvar, wins the brides (all three of them – Amba, Ambika and Ambalika), and brings them home for his brother. Very cool.

Bheeshm was a master of war, and quite invincible. He, however, met with death. Bheeshm also scores on the cool quotient because after ten years, Bheeshm would come back dressed in a tight dark red suit and kick superhero ass on Doordarshan as ‘Shaktimaan’. Bheeshm was invincible in the battlefield, and was only defeated when he refused to shoot at Shikhandi, who was the aforementioned Amba, in her previous birth. Bheeshma would not raise his weapons on a woman, and so, Arjuna, from behind Shikhandi’s shoulder, shot Bheeshma.

Abhimanyu:

Abhimanyu was another hero of the Mahabharata. He was the son of Arjuna and Subhadra, Krishna’s sister. Abhimanyu was bestowed with maturity beyond his age (Proof is the fact that he was married and had a son at the time of his death, 16).

When Abhimanyu was in his mother’s womb, Arjuna was explaining to Subhadra about the Chakravyu. The Chakravyuh was a complex military formation in which the army made seven concentric circles so that the enemy could not target one particular opponent, as all the circles were constantly moving. While Abhimanyu was still in the womb, he listened to and understood from inside the womb how to break into the chakravyuh. However, before he could listen to the part about how he was to come out of it, his mother fell asleep and he could not listen to the latter half.

When the Mahabharata war was going, the Pandavas were in a sticky spot on the 13th day. Arjuna was kept busy by some enemies, and the Chakravyuh was advancing towards the Pandavas. Abhimanyu volunteered to fight the chakravyuh. However, the other Pandavas were to follow him and help him get out of it. The Pandavas were defeated by Jayadratha, and could not follow Abhimanyu.

Abhimanyu fights off Drona, Kripacharya, Bheeshma, Duryodhana, and many other stalwarts. Unfortunately, when he was battling with Lakshmana, the son of Dushasan, the two of them fall down. Before Abhimanyu could get up, Lakshmana takes a club and smashes his head with it. Abhimanyu died on the spot, a hero, a martyr, and not even an adult.

Shishupal:

Shishupal makes it to the list on the basis of sheer guts. This guy was the son of Vasuki’s sister, and hence Krishna’s cousin. Apparently, this Shishupal fellow was a chronic pain in the ass for everyone around him. Krishna, as the reason for his birth was to get rid of all evil, had made up his mind to kill him. But knowing her son’s track record, Shishupal’s mother asks Krishna to promise that she would forgive him a hundred sins.

Shishupal grows up and on the day of his wedding, Krishna crashes into the wedding and kidnaps Shishupal’s bride to be, Rukmini and leaves. Shishupal is infuriated, and remember, Krishna has promised to pardon hundred of his sins. Think about it. If you were given a chance to commit a hundred sins, what would you do? I would visit a few banks, and then go to some Hollywood studios. But no, our guy Shishupal is the kind of guy about whom it is said, “He has guts in his butts and dum in his bum.” What does he do?

He walks straight into Krishna’s court, and starts abusing him. Krishna being the king, does not react. He keeps his calm and says nothing. Mentally, he is going, “97, 98, 99…100, “ And then, he gets up, and raises the finger.

Not the middle finger, come on, he is god. He raises his index finger, out comes the Sudarshan Chakra, and Shishupal gets beheaded on the spot. Shishupal is among the colourful villanous characters who tried to take on Gods in their own game, and realised its of no use.

Karna:

Without doubt, the coolest character of them all has to be Karna. Lke Achilees, Harman Baweja, and other tragic heroes, Karna’s is the story of a hero who met with doom. My admiration for Karna rose partly due to Pankaj Dheer’s fantastic portrayal of him in the Mahabharat. The Amar Chitra Katha comic of the same name only added to the legend.

There is a story in the Mahabharat, when Arjuna complains about the fact that Krishna keeps praising Karna for his charity, but Arjuna can match up to him. Krishna smiles and gives them both a test. He creates two mountains of gold and asks both Arjuna and Karna to distribute the mountains of gold, and whoever does it quicker is the winner. Arjuna quickly calls all the people of his kingdom, young and old, male and female, and starts distributing the gold to them all. Karna, meanwhile, sees a man walking on the road, calls him and tell him, “Take all this gold. It’s yours.”

Even Karna’s death is tragic. His wheel is stuck in the mud, and when Karna bends down to repair it, Arjuna shoots him. A clear case of hitting below the belt.

The lowest point for Karna is probably when Jackie Shroff wore his kavacha and kundala in the film Naksha, but for the remaining part, Karna is the coolest character in the Mahabharat.


That first crush…

I got in touch with a friend of mine, Mrutyunjay Praharaj after 14 years. We exchanged numbers and were talking about the old times.

“Do you remember any of the guys?” I asked him.
“Not very clearly, I can just recollect your face vaguely”
“You don’t remember anyone?”
“Yeah. There was one girl, Disha Dixit. She was very thin and had nice eyes. She was from Bhopal and had a brother in our class. She was good at studies and the monitor of our class”

Great! I dint know whether to compliment him on his memory or curse him for not remembering the rest of us.

But he had a point. Disha Dixit was a major feature of my childhood as well….

********

I had joined the new school. I was in Class 1. She was in my section. She always sat in the first bench. She was attentive and never blinked an eyelid when the teacher was explaining something.

She was a ‘good’ girl – the teacher’s pet. She was thin. But her eyes made her look powerful. Her eyes could drill into you when she looked at you. Her hair was just a little curly. She had long eyelashes and brown eyes that I never had the courage to look into. She had misaligned teeth. But when she smiled, everyone else’s seemed imperfect. And her laughter. She had a slightly boyish laughter. It was Mozart to my ears!

There was nothing that Disha Dixit couldn’t do. She was a very good student. Academics, speeches, drama, dance, you name it. The only flaw was that her singing wasn’t exactly melodious, but such trivial things could be ignored. She was a slow eater. Which was perfectly fine for me. We didn’t get to talk to girls after the 2nd standard, so the only time I got to see her was during lunch and dinner. She’d eat in slow motion. Pick up a morsel of rice and look at it as if she was inspecting every grain for bacteria. And then put it in her mouth. And chew. And chew. And chew.

She wasn’t the prettiest girl in the class. There was Suman, who was very cute. But Disha was by far the most attractive. I couldn’t take my eyes off her. The only problem? She was Varun’s sister. Varun was my best friend. When the two of them would be talking, I would butt in with the lamest excuse.

“Hey, Varun. Wanna play?”
I knew he wouldn’t, but that was just so she would look at me. As a kid, you do stupid things without knowing exactly why you do them. Like, if the teacher asked me to stack some notebooks in the cupboard, I would first search through all the books till I found hers, and then after lovingly caressing it, would put it on top of the pile!

The teachers generally arranged our seating in such a way that a guy and a girl would be seated on the same bench. Each time, I’d pray that she sat next to me. But that never happened. So all I could do was admire from a distance. She was hot property in the class, only a few guys spoke to her, and I was never among them. Everyday I used to make up my mind to start talking to her the next day but that day never came.

She was the monitor of the class, and she meant business. Whenever any of us misbehaved, we were made to wear frocks for the entire day. And since she was Varun’s sister, it was pretty convenient. The teacher would say, “Disha, go bring a frock of yours”. And she would run up to the dormitories and come back with a bright, colourful frock. MP was made to wear frocks on a regular basis. I still remember them. They were always in hues of bright yellow, orange or red. Though the idea seems revolting now,
I used to wish I got to wear them. Wearing her frock would be worth all the thrashing that came before the frock-wearing ceremony. But I never got the chance. I was always made to wear the frocks of other girls I cared two hoots about!

From my description, you must be under the impression that she was a sweet, cute girl. She was not. Another punishment that was meted out on us was this. If a guy misbehaved, Nishant Reddy (the strongest guy) would hold his hands behind his back. And Ms. Disha Dixit would be asked to slap the guy. Now, normally you’d expect a person to slap the guy lightly.

But not Disha. How could she be like others? She had to be extraordinary.

She would raise her hand; take it a few feet, and…… WHACK!!!!!!!!!!!!! Right across the face. For someone so frail, I wondered where all the energy came from. She would keep slapping the guy till she was asked to stop. It was all done with clinical precision. She’d be sitting on her bench, the teacher would call her, she’d alter the colour of the cheeks of the poor guy, and then quietly go back to her desk and continue writing!

But this did not change my feelings for her. They were my friends, but they deserved it, I thought. During the games periods, she would be having running races with some of the guys. I would be playing stupid game like Ramayan and watching her, strengthening my resolve to talk to her. I was never able to talk to her freely. Maybe a ‘Thank You’ or a ‘sorry’ once in a while. But the fact that I’d see her everyday made the entire grind of the morning prayers and ayah bath worth it.

Yes, Disha Dixit was something else!

BEGGING IN KORAPUT



It started off as a crazy idea. We were walking, a little bored, and Guru suggested that I go begging. “Let’s see if you can pull this off.”

We were a little drunk on some tribal liquor (a refreshing white drink called ‘taadi’ that looks like buttermilk and tastes like heaven). May be it was the liquor. I agreed.

The next thing I see, Guru is off to the string of shops that sell stuff for the devotees. So he was serious after all. I was still a little high and so dint know how to react. Maybe if I wasn’t high, I would never have agreed in the first place. But saying a no now would mean chickening out and I dint want that. I was game for it.

I think you guys deserve some background info. We were in Koraput, one of the most remote and backwards districts of Orissa. We were in this place called Gupteswar. It is a holy place for Hindus and one of the thousand places where you can find a temple of Shiva. This place is a little into the tribal area. It was a strange place and there was no telephone network coverage. If I got caught and the locals did not think it was funny, my folks wouldn’t even know if I was dead. Did I really want to do this??


Guru did the shopping. He bought a copper plate. A pretty basic one – the normal begging bowl that you’d see with a beggar. Well, not exactly a bowl – I’d say something like a plate (come to think of it, have you ever seen a beggar with a bowl? They always have those flat aluminium plates).

But anyway I was getting ready into character. I put on a pair of cheap sunglasses that were bought there. I pulled my collar up and rolled up my pant a little bit. I was wearing slippers anyway and thanks to Bata’s wide range of models, mine could pass of as that of someone who wasn’t exactly Prince Charles. Guru found me a Y shaped stick that could double up as a walking stick. It looked like a catapult that Sabu might use. To add the finishing touch, Guru bought a miniature copper snake put it in my plate. (It was a Shiva temple – target audience!!) I was ready to go.

Or was I? I mean, agreeing to something because you are drunk is one thing. But actually begging on the streets?

The shrine is called Gupteswar and it is situated in caves on top of a mountain. There were steps leading to the shrine and people had to climb up and down the stairs to see the Lord’s you-know-what. I looked around, and found what I was looking for. There were two rows of beggars at the bottom of the steps. They were the typical beggars. Bright red/ orange clothes, beards and a dreamy “I don’t give a fuck” expression in their eyes. I was half nervous, and half anxious to see how this would turn out. I asked him whether I could sit next to him. He looked at me, up and down. He probably thought I was some fancy sort of beggar, or a college yuppie who had run out of money to buy the drugs that he was addicted to. I think it was latter, but he shifted and let me sit next to him. There was another beggar to my left who looked a little trippy. There were about 6 more guys in total and all of them were staring at me. There was no backing out now. I had to do something.

I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and started thinking of a Bhajan that I could sing….not one of them came to my mind.

Now, I studied in a spiritual institution. We were taught about 200 bhajans and in our hostel you could listen to the bhajans on the PA system even when you were in the loo. And I could not come up with a single bhajan!

Finally, thanks to Danny Boyle, I got one. I closed my eyes, tried to fake a painful Oh-I’m-so-miserable look on my face and started singing…

Darshan do ghanshyam nath more akhiyan pyaasi re…

That did the trick. Some of my compatriots thought I was actually a beggar and the rest thought I was plain crazy so they relaxed and went back to i-don’t-give-a-fuck land. After about a minute, this young boy was coming down the stairs and mumbling some prayer, threw some grains of rice in my plate. I was starting to enjoy this. Gradually, I grew in confidence and started shouting out some other bhajans loudly. My neighbours weren’t pleased with me. The guy on my right wasn’t probably used to this much noise and was starting to give me dirty looks. After a while, he politely asked me to leave. But I was just starting to get a hang of things and acted like I hadn’t listened to him. He got aggressive and asked me to fuck out of the place. He chose the choicest abuses in Telugu, and I dished out a few myself, the few I had learnt during my stay in Andhra. Within 5 minutes, they drove me out of the place.

I had no option now but to hit the roads. Guru, Sat and Nilu had come with me but they were on the road acting like normal tourists. If I started talking to them, people would smell something fishy and then I might have had to sleep with the fishes so I did not want to take the risk. I continued walking on the road and singing songs.

The crowds on the road were a little less spiritual and so I thought it might be OK if I sang film songs. I mean, I knew only 1 para of Darshan do ghanshyam and the rest of the bhajans were so boring, if I was a horse I would go to sleep while standing.

I thought of the most common song I’d expect a beggar to sing. Within seconds (it was like a Google search in my brain – Did you mean ‘beggar Hindi songs’ ? )

Pardesi pardesi jaana nahi…mujhe chhodke…mujhe chhodke


Now, for some strange reason, this song by Nadeem-Shravan seems to strike a chord with the average Indian male. I think it is because most people might be having this fantasy of a hot foreign chick or something. But anyway the song got instant recognition and I, acceptance. Gradually, I moved on to other popular numbers and inevitably there had to be a tribute to Himesh bhai. I was quite surprised myself, I knew quite a lot of Himesh songs and they were quite easy to sing as well.

By now it was about an hour since I had started and I was beginning to get a hang of things here. My plate was getting heavier now and my singing must have sounded pretty heart-wrenching because people were actually starting to give me some money. There was this little kid. He was probably helping out his dad in the shop. He walked up to me and said “Sing a Himesh song” (I was tempted to tell him that Naam hai tera tera wasn’t exactly Bryan Adams, but I restrained myself).

Which one?

Sing one from Karzzz

Which one?

Ek haseena thi

Ek haseena thi…ek deewana tha… kya umar…kya samaa…kya zamaaNA THAA AAA AAA….


When I was done with the song and stretched out my plate he politely told me that his dad wasn’t in the shop!

Other hits of the day included Dekha hai pehli baar, saajan ki aakhon mein pyar and Tu cheez badi hai mast mast. One elderly man stopped me on the way and asked me why I was doing this. I mumbled something about someone stealing my wallet and having no money to go home. He went in to bring me some food but I sneaked out when I got the chance. There was another man who asked me to sing Hanuman Chalisa. Another asked me to sing some Oriya Jagannath bhajan. The entire session must have gone on for about 2 hours.

It was getting dark and we decided to leave. I joined Nilu, Sat and Guru in the car and we drove away. While we were on our way, I turned back to have a last look at this place. Would anyone believe me if I told them this had happened?

My plate was on my lap and I started counting my day’s earning. They were:

22 rupees and 50 paise in coins

2 brinjals

Grains of rice

2 small potatoes

1 piece of pakoda

1 cheap copper ring

Flowers

1 Chlormint

I have done some crazy stuff in my life. I have acted like I am deaf and dumb in buses, sung at a barat,slept for an entire summer in a temple, been chased by 25 dogs at 1 in the night. But this, it was something else.

PS: All the names of people, places and songs are completely true. Resemblance to any person is completely true. And yes, the person in the picture is me.

Taare Zameen Par, and on my nerves too…

My dad hailed from an unknown village in Balasore district in Orissa.He had four younger brothers and 2 sisters under him.He was a topper,went to Bhubaneswar and started living there,working,studying and dreaming.

He also started taking tuitions.My mother was one of his students (They both learnt their lessons, I think.).They fell in love,married and he went on to start his own coaching institute that he used to finance the three cars that he bought to start his own travel agency.

I do not have the brains or the resolve like my dad.But I was inspired nonetheless.I decided to give tuitions too.At that time, I was managing my graduation,MBA coaching,and a job as a Customer Care Agent.I wanted a student who was easy to teach.

My first student was Sai Kumar, a 11th standard student who wanted help with Accountancy.I almost finished his course in 2 months,and he surprisingly understood everything.

After Sai Kumar left for his boarding school,I was confident about my abilities as a teacher.Then, Litton walked into my life. On to my nerves, rather.

If ever the calamity of tutoring children befalls you,remember the golden rule.CHILDREN ARE NOT EASIER TO TEACH.I learnt it the hard way.

Litton (‘Lit-awn’) was a 5 year old.He had been living in his native place all his life till his parents realised he was too street smart for the place and sent him to stay with his uncle, who stayed below our house.

Litton was a thin,little kid.He was not tall, not fair. There was nothing abut his appearance that stood out. Except one thing. He always wore a smirk on his face. It was a cross between a sarcastic and a ‘know-it-all’ smirk.

His aunt requested me to teach him.I was supposed to teach a 4 year old for 2 hours a day, and be paid for it.Walk in the park, I thought.

His aunt had forgotten to mention that he was an incorrigibly disobedient and naughty kid. I only got to know of this aspect of his from a few friends later on.

Apparently, Litton would bunk his tuitions and pocket the money meant for his tuitions every month.He was also whacked a lot by his uncle because he would use his uncle’s perfumes before he went to school.Yes, he was a 4 year old !

Whenever we played cricket, Litton would stand there and be ready to fetch the ball if it went out of the park.I did not know that he could be naughty. I was in for a rude shock.

The day arrived when I had to start teaching him.

I did not know this, but his aunt had given him strict instructions not to have anything in our house.The first day, I offered him some biscuits.

“No.” he said without even looking at them. But I am a couch potato and keep on munching on something or the other. He always declined the offer to eat anything but I could see his resolve was now weakening. One day when I was having Brittania Jim Jam biscuits and asked him,he said in a sing song tone. “If you want to give me….”

From that day, my sister and grandmother and sister pampered him. Inspite of his abysmal academics, he was given Horlicks made by my amamma and biscuits that were hidden away from me in the kitchen.

Litton was a smart kid and knew whom to be polite and sweet with. He always greeted my granny and sister and smiled when they said anything.

“Such a sweet kid,na?” my grandmother one day said.

She had no clue.Since I was his tutor, all his attitude was reserved for me.He wasn’t great at studies and it didn’t take long for me to notice that.

Maths and English to a 4 year old. What could have been easier ?

Anything !!

Litton was fascinated with Maths.When I say fascinated, I donot mean that he was interested in the subject and wanted to learn it. Far from it.

Whenever I explained anything in Maths to him, he stared at me.He kept on staring at me as if I was singing some melodious song for him.

I tried another technique. “If you have 5 apples and I give you 2 more, how many will you have?”

He continued staring at me as if he was wondering if the apples would be ripe or not.Then, he scratched his head and said,

”Apples?”

“Yes”.

“I don;t know.”

And then he smiled. It was as if deep within, he knew that my maths sucked and yet I was teaching him.

I am more confident about my English so I thought that would have been easier to teach.

All his life was spent in his native place and he had as much an idea bout English as I had about cows.

His spellings were sacrilegiously bad.And that all-knowing smile was un-nerving.

After many attempts at spelling that would have given the Queen a definite heart failure, i asked him to read out the spellings from his book.He was to read a word in English, and then say its meaning in Oriya.

The first page had a picture of a healthy,smiling cow (quite difficult to find these days).After all, he had been tending to cows for a while and had an idea about them.

‘Read that out’, I told him.

” C-O-Oww…Cow.Cow maane gaay

Good.” I said, ignoring the c-o-oww.Read the next one.

“H-o-r-s = Horse. Horse maane ….jersey gaay ? “

MY FIRST…

I have always hated growing up. I think life is always in phases. First, you are an infant; you grow up, see new things, meet new people. It’s pretty awesome.

Then you grow even more and out of your teens. That’s it. By then you know your stuff. You know who’s good and who’s bad. You know what to do with your life, and where to get the cheapest Paav Bhaaji. Life becomes stagnant.

The only new thing left to experience is getting married and having kids.

This thought made me ponder. When was the last time something happened to me that made me go, “Hey, that has never happened to me before”? So, this month I am going to dedicate to “My first…”. It’s going to be an account of all the things that happened to me for the first time and how they happened. My first crush, my first book, my first embarrassing moment, my first kiss, my first movie, my first peg of alcohol, my first pizza, my first pair of jeans, my first cricket bat, my first speech, my first guilt…

MY FIRST EMBARRASSING MOMENT:

Let me start with my forte, embarrassing situations. Having embarrassing situations is a knack. It’s like Lycra – you either have it or you don’t. And Yours Truly? HAS IT!!

I have had countless embarrassing situations. Like accepting a prize from the Principal and my tongue cleaner falling from my trouser pocket with a loud clang. Or meeting a guy with a new crew cut and telling him, “Hey dude, nice hairstyle”, only to realise his dad had passed away a few weeks earlier. Right through my childhood, I can recall countless experiences when I have made a fool of myself in public.

But this one is my earliest memory and I thought I should share it with you….

 

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I never went to school as a kid. My dad taught me all the basics at home. It was fun. He was a very cool dad. But then I was to join a school from Class 1 and they needed that I have gotten enrolled in some school earlier. So I was admitted in a school here for 6 months, for a course called “Prep”. I still don’t know what that means.

Now that I think of it, I shouldn’t have gone to the school even for the 6 months. The incidents there scarred me forever. The school was pretty decent. Classes till 11 ‘o’ clock, then they let you play what you wanted and then I could go home standing in the front of my dad’s scooter. I always heard his voice telling me from the back of my head, “Puppu, don’t fall asleep, keep your eyes open.” But there was something about a hot afternoon, the wind blowing my hair back, and the continuous drone of the Bajaj scooter. It put me to sleep in minutes. To add to the fun, my dad always rode the scooter very slowly. I am sure even bicycles overtook us on the way, but I was never awake to find out.

I used to go to a Christian woman for tuitions. She was the one who taught me how to speak in English. The woman was very kind. I remember her urging me to read Tinkle at her home. She always fed me sweets, biscuits, and pastries when I went to her house for tuitions. Either she loved kids, or she charged an exorbitant rate for the tuitions that included the snacks.

Anyway, turns out I had joined the school during the most exciting time of the year. There were a lot of games and competitions going on. One of them was the Fancy Dress competition.

Now, if you were a family, and you had a kid, and the kid had a fancy dress competition to go to, what would you make your kid go dressed as?

There were a lot of things I’d have loved to be. Police officer, train engine driver, cricketer, or Mithun Chakroborty. My cousins tell me that as a kid, I always wanted to be Mithun Chakroborty. He was my idol. I mean, for someone as bad looking as he was, he danced with pretty girls, bashed up the baddies, and sang songs. I would have loved to dress up as Mithun and go and shout out in front of everyone, “Ayee…Maa Kasam…”

All my suggestions were turned down. And my great parents, what did they finally decide that I should be dressed as? Believe it or not – a crow!! Yes, a crow!!

I agreed, because Dad always knew what he was doing. They convinced me that I was going to be the show-stealer, so I was pretty kicked about it. Preparations began 3 days before the actual event. I was taken to the tuition ma’am. As if one wasn’t enough, I was now the subject of 3 persons’ creatitivity. Mom, Dad, and the teacher.

The day arrived. I was first made to wear the basics. A black shirt and a black pant. (If they left it at that, I could probably go as ‘The Undertaker’). Then, they attached a very suspicious thing to my arm. It was black, thick and nothing like what I’d seen all my life. It was made of cardboard and paper. Another congruent piece was attached to my left arm too. Then, I got it. My lovely parents…They gave me wings!!!

As if that wasn’t enough, next came the feather in the cap, the jewel of the crown. The beak of the crow!! Made of cardboard, it was about half a foot long and had an elastic band at the back so it could be strapped on to my face. Once she was done, my teacher moved a few paces back, inspected me and said, “Hmmm…beautiful. (I was elated. Nobody had called me that before) You are going to win”. I was over the moon. I had never won anything. Quite simply because I had never participated in anything earlier.

“Flap your wings, go on”, she urged me. I did that.

“Okay, now for your dialogue. Repeat after me,” she said. “Kkraaa, kkraaa. I am the thirsty crow.”

Kkraaa, kkraaa. I am the thirsty crow.” I repeated after her, with earnest. Oh! You should’ve seen me! I was like Shaimak Davar. Flapping my wings, cawing like a crow, mouthing my dialogues and frantically looking for the pot of water I would throw stones into. I was a man-made wonder.

Ready to kick everyone’s ass, I was rearing to go. The teacher stuffed a last sweet into my mouth and kissed me goodbye. I was already late for the show.

Now that I think of it, my dad hadn’t lost it completely. He had the sense not to take me on his scooter that day. Imagine what a sight it would have been. Man, Woman, and Crow -the other extreme of Family Planning! I was taken to school in a rickshaw that day.

I was excited and my heart was beating as fast as a crow’s. (Getting into character, see?) We finally reached the school compound. We were late. I rushed into the building. The competition had nearly begun.

Everybody had to go on to the stage in a few minutes. I looked at everybody else around me. One guy was a policeman, another a hero with a guitar, yet another was an army officer, another, a cricketer. The girls were all either princesses or fairies. They all looked smart and suave. Compared to them, I looked like a prop of a low budget play. I still remember thick, hot tears welling up in my eyes. As a child, you are more honest about your feelings. I cried because I was ashamed of my entire costume.

But Nana had accompanied me for the show. He was in the audience. He was the producer, creative supervisor, the make up artist, and the script and dialogue writer. More importantly, he was my father. I just didn’t know what to do if I backed out. So, when my turn came, I remember walking on to the stage. I don’t remember if the crowd cheered, booed, or were just plain dumbstruck by the absurdity of it all. My eyes were too filled with tears to notice anything. I looked at him, mouthed my dialogues, and left the stage in a hurry.

Now that I think of it, none of the other guys were innovative. I mean, what’s different about a policeman, or a cricketer? And I could bet my fake beak on the fact that none of the other guys’ dads had stayed up all night preparing their costume with their own hands. Maybe if I had performed properly, I would have even won the competition. But I will never know.

It was probably the first lesson that our parents know much more than we do, at any point of our life.

But on that day, I was glad the damn thing was finally over!!