Saturday, November 17, 2012

Finding Love | Chapter-2 | Ank's predicament

The year was 03 or maybe 04 . I can’t say for sure. Can i say anything for sure?  Maybe not. On that Sunday morning all i wanted was to wake up late and eat a sumptuous breakfast of butter dosa. Amir had pledged to finance the breakfast and later during the day we had planned to cook lunch and also invited Luv for it. Amir would do the cooking and I would provide the supplies. However the call from Luv's girlfriend had unnerved us and what looked like inevitability was the change in itinerary. In an outburst of uncontrolled action I had called a dozen or so common friends just to locate Luv. In an age of missed call flashes and high call rates I had done an unthinkable act. At a time when people mostly flashed in order to get their friends call them back I had called a dozen or so people. However I did not regret it then as I was immersed in thoughts of Luv's well being.
Instead of thinking about where Luv could be or what could have possibly befallen him, Amir was talking about cell phone mannerisms and his vast knowledge of dosa types. I had to bring him back on track. He immediately announced that we have to launch a manhunt. We have to find Luv. He was like this since the time i knew him- willing to help immediately-even though the outcome most of the times were disastrous-particularly not to him but certainly for the person whom he intended to help. For instance, while I was in college I was smitten by a fellow batch mate. I did a terrible mistake of telling Amir about what i felt about her precisely and openly. At that time internet was just picking up and Amir being a student of computers introduced me to the amazing world of internet chatting and emailing. Although the girl sat just next to me in class, we barely spoke. Amir helped me create a yahoo id and hooked me up to chatting with her.  He would sit with me and tell the chatting lingo. The only connection I had with her was the internet connection. We became chat friends and she would occasionally tell me her schedule and when she would send the smiley and flower emoticons in the chat window I would be so happy that I would pay for my roommates cigarettes. Amir helped me write my first ever email and that too addressed to the girl of my dreams. It was about a project about micro-controllers which I had perceived and wanted her to be part of. When I clicked the send button, it felt like the first kiss. However things did not move any further than that and Amir would always ask me to take the relationship to the next level.
After a few days she stopped talking to me and would avoid me in college. I felt disturbed and discussed the situation with Amir. His clunky and uptight response on this issue made me even more paranoid. Only when i made him swear on his bootlegged copy of Let Us C, he divulged that feeling empathy for me he took the liberty of writing to the girl, off course using my email address. He opened his heart or shall I say my heart in his words to her. And the result was showing.
Anyways now was not the time to crib about past failures. Now was the time to find Luv. First we wanted to go to his house which was a rented accommodation as quickly as possible. We had no wheels with us. The only wheels we had seen until that time was the Wheeler book stall in railway stations. We took two daily bus passes and boarded a bus to reach Luv's house. Mid way I started feeling hungry and hence we had to get down at the Majestic station and we ate Masala Dosa. Then we boarded another bus and after one and half hours of journey reached his home. We rang the door bell. No one answered. I started feeling uneasy and so was Amir. But his uneasiness was because of a nauseating cocktail of Masala Dosa and a long bus commute. He puked his guts out. We rang again and still there was no answer.

Wiping his mouth Amir said- Maybe Luv is asleep. Let’s go to the rear window and shout.
Ok. Yeah maybe he got drunk or something last night. What if he suffered some kinda attack. Shall we call an ambulance?
Man let’s see him first and then based on his appearance decide the next step.

We went to the rear window. It was opened. It was the kitchen and offered limited view to his bed room. We tried all kinds of positions to get a glimpse of his bedroom. But there was not a trace of Luv. Suddenly we heard a voice from the first floor and we both looked up like birds looking for a hint of rain in a distant cloud in summer.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Finding Love | Chapter -1 | The search begins..

The year was 03. Amir was new to this bustling metropolis named Bangalore. He came here from a nondescript town in central India to realize the Indian IT dream and also to find true love. A few months later and a dozen walk-ins old he realized it was hard to get any of those. Standing in a never ending serpentine queue at a walkin interview in which nobody was actually walking, he reckoned that it was not just him but a million souls like him precisely looking for those two things in life. He lived with Ank on the fringes of the city and civilization. Ank worked in a renowned support center for a major international printer manufacturer and he had realized one of those dreams. He lived nearby his office in electronic city due to the low rentals and preferred finishing his majority of daily chores in office, even during weekends. However on the subject of love, Ank was still struggling and sometimes under the tutelage of old monk * he would pour his heart out about the horrendous experiences in his search for love. Both were unawares about the series of events that were about to unfold in the near future which would have them change their views about finding love.

Some days later, a typical lazy Sunday morning slumber was broken by the monotonic ring tone of Ank's mobile. Ank picked up the call and the person on the other side was Ragini. She was girlfriend/future wife of their common friend Luv Singh Chauhan who incidentally was an early Bangalore migrator. She sounded concerned .

Has Luv come to your room.
No-said Ank.
But wasn't he supposed to.

There was a dead air from Ank's side for a few seconds as he tried to reconstruct the events of previous night. Exposure to old monk can result in haziness in thought process but surely there are no hangovers. He looked at Amir and keeping his palm over the mic area of his mobile said in a muffled voice-

She is asking about Luv.

Before Amir could think about Luv, he was thinking that although mobile phones had a mute button, people were so much used to handling landline phones that they still used the palm gesture in order to mute the line. This brought a strange smile to his face much to the annoyance of Ank. They both had invited Luv to have lunch with them and it was possible he was on his way. He carried himself on a motorcycle which was credited by his friends and colleagues as the reason for his success with finding love so soon and so often. Ank unmuted the phone and said-

We had planned for a lunch. Maybe he is on his way to my place.
Ragini said-I knew about the lunch. We spoke about it last night
Ok. Let me call him.
I am trying since morning but it's out of coverage area.
Hmmm... Let me try from my phone. He might be travelling through such places which had no network coverage.

Although it did not make much sense to Amir as to why Luv would deliberately travel through such places which had no network coverage and moreover the technical feasibility to selectively travel through such places was next to zero, still he nodded in congruence to what Ank said out of his respect for Ank's degree in telecommunications engineering. Now Ank dialed Luv. He got the switched off message from the other side. There was definitely some issue. Why would Ragini get an out of coverage area message and Ank get a switched off one. The phones were not smart enough at that time to give messages based on whom you wanted to keep in touch. Ank called back Ragini and said-

His phone is switched off.
In a deeply concerned voice she said-Is it possible he left for your place and something unfortunate happened to him mid way.

By this time she was almost sobbing. Ank said-

Calm down.
I can’t calm down. Can you guys look for him? I fear something untoward has happened to him.

Untoward? OK let me think towards what can be done.

A gloom had covered their faces. In a flurry Ank and Amir dialed in all the people in Bangalore who were common friends with Luv along with them. None of them knew about his whereabouts. Out of their obligation to friendship and their empathy for a suffering woman they took a conscientious decision to find Luv no matter what it takes in terms of effort.

* Old Monk is a cheap rum.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Drone Acharya

He doesn't do penance high in the frozen landscape of the Himalayas nor does he wear scant clothing and live the life of an ascetic. He is not the cool guru (Kul Guru) of the Pandavas and Kauravas who shaped their destiny nor does he bear the stigma of unfairness to Karna and Eklavya. On the contrary he has a degree in aviation engineering from a renowned Indian technical university and weighs a little over 80 kilos and uses his i phone only to call his mom (for those of you people who are clueless- ‘i ‘ is mother in Marathi). He was in the team who developed the first predator drones. Although his real name is Sid Acharya, his colleagues call him Drone Acharya.
Some say he was part of the brain drain from India but he insists that he came to the US for making his country proud and as a natural byproduct of that noble work, earn in dollars and buy real estate in rupees back home. Moreover he valued his individual freedom and this was a land that guaranteed it. When he was headhunted, he was told that the flying machines they were building were for the sole purpose of unmanned reconnaissance. He gladly took the offer believing that his work is going to prevent wars. Later as the war on terror expanded, he got the orders to see the possibility of attaching some kind of payload for targets. By that time he was already famous as Drone Acharya among his colleagues and he took as a matter of respect to look into such possibility. When the initial trials were successful, his friends in Pentagon and White house appreciated him for the work he had done to save countless American lives. The drones were killing terrorists without having to risk the lives of fellow Americans in combat.
Later when the new President assumed office, the number of missions per year also increased. Some douche bag journalist published a report of civilian casualties in drone attacks. Droneacharya was concerned but his mentors quickly provided an antidote for this sudden rise in conscience. It was a word called collateral. It was a beautiful word that had the ability to absolve anyone of anything. Those civilians-men, women, children were collateral for the war on terror. Droneacharya and his team had no personal animosity with them and slowly the drones would be upgraded for precise attacks. These dead civilians provided vital test data that would help in precisioning of this weapon system. Sometimes he thought he owed a lot to these dead people. They died an unsuspecting and impersonal death. One moment you are doing your daily chore, the next moment you are struck by a missile without any warning. All because your next door neighbor had featured up in somebody's most wanted list.  It was like the wrath of the biblical God striking the immoral in Sodom and Gomorrah. Sometimes he would get nightmarish dreams. He would see dead people-their limbs splattered and blood spewing out of their exit wounds. Probably this was because of too much CNN.  He would then turn online to Facebook for seeking a way out of this melancholy. Once he went to a nearby Dunkin Donuts and met his old friend Ankur. He discussed about his condition and his desire to move to some other project or go back to India to his family and start some new business there. Next day when he reached office he was surprised to see a bottle of champagne and a letter from the director of his department stating that he was a valuable resource and that they cared about him. They would also increase his paycheck.
He was moved by this warm gesture and had already started feeding numbers to the currency converter software to measure his increase in wealth. However something felt amiss. This expediency of his department in understanding his expectations was unnerving. It took him few hours of grueling interdepartmental phone calls and accessing some restricted documents to unearth the information that drones were now also being used for doing civilian surveillance for homeland security. This was a being beta tested by another unit of his department. He went to the nearby window and looked up at the sky, as if he can see one flying by.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Garuda Paradox

This was his first week in Dallas. Prem Daha had come on a L1 Visa to US. He was a Bengali of Nepalese origin or the other way round. No one knew his origin with certainty and he too was never keen on divulging it. He liked himself to be known as citizen of the world instead of being associated with any particular place or culture. So much so that his friends and colleagues believed he was one of those rare creatures who could not be divided back to its origins.
In order to keep his expenditure low and create a sizeable saving for investment in real estate back home Prem Daha had brought in his own assortment of food items-lintels, rice and the five necessary spices.He planned to eat rice and lintels on weekdays and prepare some fresh vegetable during the weekends.It was the first saturday and he had to find a local vegetable store.

He walks through the broad streets. The evening wind outside has a rawness in it and so are the people.On the 66th street he sees a vegetable mart-Fresh veg. He walks briskly to the entrance.It has a revolving door. He gently presses the fibre glass with his palm-the action reminiscient of a plaintiff taking oath in the name of God in a court of law.While he is entring the revolving door there passes a man diametrically opposite to him for exit.For a brief moment their eyes make contact. The man smiles at him. He holds a carry bag containing snake gourd.Prem passes to the security section only to be stopped and frisked. Indian-asks the security guard.

The guard smiled and let him proceed. Inside there were rows and sections for different kinds of vegetables.Seemingly all farm fresh, organic and high priced. Even after ten minutes of digging into various rows and almost bringing down the tomato section, he was not able to locate the object of his desire-the snake gourd. Now he had to do what he did not want to do-ask the location from the supermarket staff. He was very aversed to asking directions from the supermarket staff in any supermarket. He felt that made him look less knowledgeable, a person who has not subsumed the details of his environment.Still he mustered the courage and approached the black lady staff standing nearest to him. He was barely able to say Mam when he lost his speech-as if some adhesive had hadrened in his vocal chords. The lady thought he had some speech impediment and brought in speaking kit for the vocally challenged. He nodded in such a way that it was difficult to say either it was a yes or a no. After a few seconds of inertia he pulled out his cell phone and said excuse me for a sec. He hurriedly keyed in his screen unlock code and called up Ank-his childhood friend and currently studying physics in a neaby college.
Hello Ank.
Hi, how are you? How is you fist weekend in US coming up?
Fine, its fine. I have in Fresh Veg and am in a problem.
No not cash. I wanted to buy snake gourd but couldnt find it. Now i have to ask the staff for direction.
So whats the problem. Last i knew you had A plus in English.
No its not about the language. My folks back in India used to say that we should not utter the word snake in the evening. Otherwise we might encounter it. And you know i dont want to schedule a meeting with those spineless creatures.
Really? And what if somebody had uttered the word snake. Is there a counter utterance. Some kinda antidote.
Yes i think there is. But i cant remember. Can you google it for me?
Offcourse i can. Give me two minutes.

Even after twenty minutes his cell phone did not ring. Prem grew restless. He could sense that security personell were watching him and it could be anytime they called homeland security. He had almost dropped the idea to buy snake gourd and started walking towards the exit, when he heard a familiar voice.It was Ank. He darted inside almost pushing the entrance security person.

I tried to google it. But could not find any references. So i called up my granny in India. She said that people living in the western part of bengal belive in this snaky thing. The antidote is to chant the name of Garuda thrice as he is the arch enemy of the snake.
Dude, that you could have told me over the phone.
Yeah, but you forgot that speaking over the phone also counts as an utterance and you have already utterd the word snake many times. So in order to avoid all this confusion i boarded the bus to speak in person.
Good.So now all we have to do is utter Garuda for all the instances when we mentioned snake.
Yeah. Including this one.
They both cacluated and uttered the word Garuda Garuda requisite number of times.The black lady staff was looking at them all the while like some audience watching a magic trick in amazement.

Both had the look of calmness in their face as we find in a person who has just finished his first crossword puzzle.

So Prem all i need to do now is ask for the snake gourd section and utter Garuda after it.
Man i have been thinking all this while and maybe you dont need to do that.
See the word snake gourd itself is a paradox as it contains both words snake and garuda.Its both-the dote and the antidote. So i think as soon as you utter sanke gourd you are already neutralising the effects of the bad one. I wont utter the word now in order to avoid counting.
Ok. I will do as you say.

They both came back to Prems appartment. Prem cooked dinner which included snake gourd. After drinking beer and watching some episodes of Parks and Recreation they decide to hit the bed.Completely drunk and half asleep they talked about the years bygone and laughed and were contended that they had managed to ward of a potential danger.

He dreams. He sees his grandmother sitting by his side on  a moonless night and telling stories about snake bites. He sees the monumental snake statues like the Easter island monuments, extant even after centuries. He finds himself wearing a lab coat and reading a dozen or so X-Ray reports of a person. Each of those reports were of  spinal cord section of human body and had the name Ank written on it and distinctly visible was the missing spinal cord.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Dont shoot strangers on a picnic

K Ray always had a passion to see the unknown and if possible to capture it in his camcorder. Sometimes that amounted to transgressing private space. On a cold December day he went to a picnic on a lake with a group of people. He had taken his cannon camcorder to do some sight shooting. But instead in no time he was shooting people that were not from his party. This was the result:

Even after that eventful experience K Ray's passion for the unknown was undeterred and analysing the whole situation, he reckoned that the only thing that could have caused that incident was the lake. Stagnant waters are resemblance of a stagnant culture. Maybe the strangers hitting him would have acted differently if it was another location-a vibrant location-resembling an open and vibrant culture. Armed with this eye opener and off course his camcorder he headed to a nearby waterfall. And this was the event that unfolded:

He felt at least his reflexes have certainly improved.