Thursday, October 13, 2011

the tales of a kid's shady past

Power cuts are a really great time for family members to talk about stuff they otherwise rarely talk about. And I found that out, day before yesterday- when the power went out at 8’ O clock. (I knew the time because I had just come home from college after shuttle practice.) And as me and my mom sat outside, having a contest of “who kills more mosquitoes”. We started talking about my one year old cousin, who keeps my aunt and everyone in her house on a constant lookout ever since he started to walk. You take your eyes off him for one minute, and the little rascal is either trying to climb stairs, or running onto the NH-47. that’s when my mom started talking about how “troublesome” I was when I was 4 feet shorter and 17 years younger than today. For you to get a clearer picture, my parents had a mini barricade made out wood fixed at the entrance to the kitchen. (Just to keep me as far away from the gas stove, knives and any other deadly item I could use to harm myself or others for that matter.) The barricade was also meant for my older sister, but mom said it was more important for me. 
my mom and me
                                        Back then we were in a railway quarters, on the fifth and the top most floor. So that posed another threat, every time I got on the stairs, someone had to be there with me. And when the tenants of the ground floor of that apartment heard a little kid’s cry for help around tea time, they knew it was my bath time. Everyone in that apartment apparently knew me, Mom said I used to spend more time in my neighbor’s houses than our own. (Saved my mom the head ache of keeping me at home though) I had a little friend, a one year old girl next door. And one day when she got sick I had no one to play with, so for her to get well quick, I rubbed iodex all over her face. (For those of you, who are unaware of what an iodex is, it’s a ointment for muscle pain or joint pain, and it stings like hell.) She had to be taken to the hospital that day. (Hey I was young and stupid then!)
                                        Days like these my mom would lock me at home and sit outside for her daily social hour with the neighbors. And I would wreck havoc indoors, mostly by taking the nice forks and spoons and throwing them out of the window. But the spoons eventually end up on the sunshade and my sister would push them off there with a long stick and collect them all from the garden downstairs. And when I wasn't throwing cutlery out of the windows, I would yell at all the beggars who walk by on the road to come up, with promises of “lots of money and food”.
                       One day, it was time for lunch and mom was looking for me in each of the houses. But none of them saw me that day. Then everyone was worried and a large search party started looking for me. And a fine Saturday afternoon was ruined for about 30-40 people who were looking everywhere for a naughty little 3 year old. They even looked inside the massive water tank on the terrace. Mom was crying the whole time apparently praying to god and making promise of lighting a hundred candles at some church. Then a kid from downstairs said she saw me sitting in the ground. So the entire search party headed to the ground. And they saw me waving at them. I was sitting there staring at an ice cream vendor, who with his push cart and shady looks was having his lunch there. He said he shooed me away several times but, I followed him around with a 5 paisa in my hand. (Hoping to get an ice cream with a 5 paisa coin that went out of circulation the previous year)  And by the time she narrated this rather unpleasant story about me from my childhood, the lights came on inside and the TV came to life with a sound of a woman yelling some dialogue. And we went in, me slightly craving an ice cream.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

An alien in my own planet

"This post is written for BLOGESHWAR and Campusghanta "

                                                    Culture shock usually occurs when a person moves away from home. Well I am still in doubt as to where my “home” is. A keralite bought up in Andhra and Tamil Nadu I have found myself in a rather unpleasant situation when I had to move back to my motherland. I’m pretty sure very few people have to be in a situation where they have to adapt to their own native place. When my father died me and my mom and my annoying sister moved back to Kerala to the house my father had built in “gods own country”.  Being away from my friends was the hardest part, but I was no stranger to that. (I have studied in seven schools across two states and four districts) T he first thing that seemed crazy when I was in Kerala, was whenever I spoke all people heard was my strange accent. (the worst part was, even the accent I had was not that of one particular place- it was a mix of Tamil, English, Hindi and a little bit of unsure awkwardness whenever I opened my mouth to say something) even now after more than two years here, my friends correct me when I pronounce some words wrongly. (never politely or discreetly)
In kerala alone against the tide.
                                                      The accent is more of a pain in the wrong place because I am the class representative who has to make a lot of unnecessary announcements! The next thing that’s different here is that, I can’t wear shorts that go 3/4ths of the way outside. People will look at me like I’m some kind of crazy exhibitionist (once a guy sitting outside a shop yelled at me” go wear some dhoti, cant you see girls are around!). That’s painful because most malayalee guys wear dhotis and they fold it in half, and it’s almost as short as those short skirts. (The ones which make a girl look trampy in the Indian society, come to think of it, in any society) I can tolerate that. But when someone corrects my English like “it’s not twilight its pronounced tweeelite” or “it’s not  auto its aaaatooo” or some of the many instances, it gets on my nerves.
this is okay

and this ain't?

                                           You know in my 17 years outside Kerala, not one person has teased me for being a Keralalite and they have found it interesting that I speak Malayalam. But the first week in college my seniors and classmates made so much fun of the fact that I was from another state, that I HATED the place, everyone and everything about it. Other stuff I found absolutely crazy was how the queue outside the bar is longer and more orderly than outside a hospital or a ration shop. (Kerala consumes more alcohol in a year than any other state in India and even more than most European countries for that matter.) There are more rare luxury cars here than any other state in India. (Lots of rich people who like to show off that they are rich!) When it rains it rains with a vengeance, during the rainy season if you go out without an umbrella-even on a sunny day you would return home that evening wet and drenched. Every one has an umbrella at every time of the day. (compared to Tamil Nadu and Andhra where it would rain at most 15 days a year and an umbrella was a rare item and even then only for protection against scorching sun.)  Students in schools and colleges conduct election and strike in the name of political parties, Youth wing congress and the notorious communist SFI the two main parties. And the front pages of news papers are always filled with death, rape or some really depressing news even on the days like the day when India won the cricket world cup.

                            All this and many more stuff make me feel like an alien in my own little planet called “Kerala”. You know when people say Kerala is “God’s own country” most of you think that’s absurd, Kerala is a state not a country. But after two years here I would call Kerala a country because both the geography and the people here are unique enough to be of a separate country.  That need not be a good thing always, but there are moments here that just blow my mind away in a pleasant way. That makes all the troubles I go through seem worth while.
"alien in my own planet"

Thursday, July 14, 2011

the road to a mud bath!

Today me and my bike had to toil through the most messed up road in Kerala.(even more messed up and potholed than the NH-47) it all started when my mother heard the agriculture office in my town was giving away saplings of pepper plants. You read it right pepper plants! (The thing that attracted almost half of the European countries to try conquer India-black gold) So I drove my mom to the office, which by the way was somewhere in a very remote area, with only mud roads leading to the place. So ignoring the “always annoyingly right voice” in my head I drove on. And came to places on the road, where after a month’s relentless rains and lots of trucks passing by the road had resembled something really horrible, only photos can describe the absolute muddy mess the place was. So after I was about a kilometer in and well past the point of no return, I saw the agriculture office. I dropped my mom off at the entrance and started on the Herculanean task which was the toughest venture yet on my bike- to turn the bike around in the muddy ”road”.
see the smallest and the newest tyre track, without water in it .. thats me!
slippery slippery
                                               I knew right from the beginning, when I was sitting there on my bike, deciding whether to abandon my bike or to slit my wrist for falling for my mother’s trick and going there in the first place. A really wise guy walked by looked at the road and then looked at me with a smug smile on his face, ad said “boy you are going to have a great time here.” And he went off laughing to himself at my sorry situation. Just then as if that wasn’t a sticky enough situation, it started raining.(which it has been for the whole week, in-between intervals of 5 minutes. Am sick of rains now!) I had left the raincoat at home, because IT WAS NOT RAINING THEN. (Lesson learnt never go without an umbrella in kerala during the rainy season even if it looks like a really sunny day.) 
                                                     So I slowly started up the bike and turned, the bike moved slowly slipping in the loose mud now and then. First of all, there were two huge tire tracks of a truck (which amazingly fit through the congested road) and the front wheel of the bike fit perfectly in the first tire track and the back wheel even more perfectly in the second tire track. This effectively meant I was stuck. I tried shifting to the second gear and accelerated, all that happened was the back wheel spun splashing the muddy water all over a wall but the bike did not move an inch. Then the owner of the house whose wall was now covered in a fresh coat of mud came out and helped me, after more than 10 minutes of heaving and pushing and digging away at the tire track the bike was finally free. 
                                                I agreed to clean the Good Samaritan’s wall. It was more like, I was  emotionally blackmailed into doing it, but still I owed him that much. And at the agriculture office there were about 25 saplings and fertilizers which weighed about 15 kilos and my mom waiting to be transported back home. I told mom that If I took so much weight with me on the bike, we would get stuck somewhere in the sinkhole that was the “road” leading to the main road. So I drove out of the place and parked the bike in a safe place, hired an auto to do all the heavy carrying and the dirty work. And came back with a camera to take photos of the place, only this time I parked the bike far away and walked the rest of the way in.
now I have to wash my bike! believe it or not, for the third time today.
                                       ~~~~~~~~~ f.i.n~~~~~~~~~~

On a side and serious note, pray for all those who lost their lives in the Mumbai blast and even pray for the change of heart of the heartless cowardly murders that are worse then beasts.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cost of a pizza - my dignity

Last week I went to Cochin to attend an AIMCAT test. (A mock test of CAT) It was by no means a normal trip, for one thing the test didn’t go well I just got 60 percentile in it. (Apparently they take the minus marks seriously) I forgot all about the test once I was outside the exam centre.I remembered seeing a pizza hut on my way to the exam center. I got tired of not having a real life pizza, so even though I only had Rs.185 (exactly 185) I decided to go pay the pizza hut a visit! That turned out to be one of my many “brilliant” ideas that day. First I got onto an auto-rickshaw, which can proudly claim to be the slowest of its kind in the whole of Kerala. (Maybe even the slowest one in the world)  At one point I saw a guy riding a cycle speed past us, but the sound the auto made would suggest that a diesel engine of a train was on the road. (It also made enough smoke to match the diesel engine) 
                                                              At first I thought I was on some Indian version of TV shows like “punked” or “just for laughs”. You could get out of the auto and do some shopping, get an ice-cream and get back into the auto without the auto ever stopping. It literally went that slow.  I even noted the number of the auto for future references. (kl-07 3591) If you are ever in Cochin forget the ayurvedic spas or the port get into this auto and ask him to go around the city one time, it will take a few days but finally when the trip is over it would be all worth it.

                                             I started reading Dan brown’s deception point, and 36 pages later I finally reached pizza hut. He asked me for Rs 30, I gave him Rs 20 after a heated bargain. So the balance I have now is -Rs 165. I went upstairs and sat at a table for two and the waiter promptly bought me a menu card. So I slowly went through the different kinds of pizzas, after almost page 5 of the menu it became clear to me at that moment I can’t afford any of those delicious flat slices of spicy heaven. But then I saw an all American pan pizza which was just Rs125. Food I can afford! The pizza was at my table in 15 minutes, and I finally for to use my skill with a fork and a knife. I attacked the pizza with so much ferocity that at one point every one there became silent just to listen to the sound of my knife squeaking against the plate. The pizza got into my stomach in less than the time it took it to get to my table. (I was famished, I’m not a barbarian) Then the bill arrived (drum roll) it was Rs.172 So I weighed up my options,

  1. I could pick up my bag and run; if I was lucky the guys downstairs would not realize what happened.
  2.  I could stay there and wash the dirty dishes.
  3. The cops may catch me; I could slip them a Rs.100  note and get off.

But against my better judgment I went to the billing clerk and I whispered really silently “sister I am Rs.7 short of paying the bill.” (I am not that subtle or silent when I make my confession to the priest, and trust me there are things I say then that would disgust any self respecting priest) After repeating the sentence about 4 times the clerk finally understood, she asked me how much the bill was. She pondered for a minute, (the longest minute of the year) then without making any fuss she smiled and let me go. Then I upped my new low (how much more low can I get at that moment) and asked her if I can take the water bottle. (Thank god she said yes! Though she was smiling at me from the top even when I was outside) then the trip to the railway station involved me going to another station at first. (a stupid guy gave me a lift) But I finally managed to get to the junction after hitch-hiking with a guy on a bike, a trucker and cyclist. I managed to get to my town on the train for free because of the railway pass me and my mom have. (My dad was an officer in the railways)  A day of bad judgment ended with that! Oh and someone stole all the petrol from my bike after I parked it outside the railway station.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Yet another bird brained day!

Just when I thought I had all the bird related situations behind me, another funny thing happened to me this week. The incident happened two days ago, after I wrote my entrepreneurial development exam. (Improvement exam for the first year ,where I got only 55% though I was one of the three boys who even passed the subject. But I wanted a higher overall percentage so decided to take it.) Me and most of my friends walked out of the exam hall just half way into the exam. I would have got lesser mark than my first attempt for sure; the question paper would have been tough even for the guy who wrote our text book. And after the disastrous exam I was talking to the girl who sat behind me in the exam hall, telling her how she can tell the answer out loud when the professor is not in the class. Then a friend of mine ran to me took my helmet and then ran under a tree where a lot of people were gathered.
worth the risk...... but pic of the rescued baby!!!!!
                               I went over to investigate, and found that there were holding a plastic cup with a baby bird, (which fell off its nest) and they were trying to put it back in the nest. The helmet came into the story because the mother bird was sitting on a branch and pecking anything that comes close to the nest. That’s when one guy jokingly asked me, “suraj are you scared of birds?” I replied (mustering all my macho sense) “no, why do you want me to put the baby in the nest?” everyone said almost in a chorus “yes”. (On hind sight, it was not one of my "brightest" ideas.) So I put on the helmet and took the cup, I reached for the nest which was not too far off the ground. I almost reached the nest; I could have jumped a little bit and tilted the cup for the baby to fall in the nest. But before I could move a muscle the mother bird flew in a started clawing my hand. I dropped the cup and ran away, so did everyone gathered around. 
                                           We made so much noise that one teacher in a nearby class came out to see what happened. She saw what the problem was and asked us to take a chair form the class to reach the nest easily. She also left us with a bit a disheartening trivia – “once a human touches a baby bird, the mother bird will no longer take care of it” sounded like a gypsy’s superstition. But once the teacher was inside the guys started making snide comment about how some "brave" people ran away screaming like a girl. My pride was hurt, and it hurt badly. To make matters worse, the first year girls where laughing. So I took a friend’s bag and in a new effort we put the baby bird on the bag and offered it to the mother bird (hoping it will take the baby back, despite the gypsy teacher’s warning)
this is not the actual mother, this one made a nest in our house.... but the mother bird is of the same kind.

                             And we suddenly realized why people say we must listen to the teachers, when the mother bird started pecking the baby, trying to kill it. So I lost all hope, I tried pushing the mother bird away with a small stick. The stick broke but it wouldn’t budge. Then one really mean guy threw a stone, it missed the bird but still scared it off for a while. (But the stone did cause a dent in my friend’s bike.) (Oh and the guy who threw the stone came really prepared for the exam and he was writing well, but he heard the commotion outside and left the exam hall, without writing a twenty mark question he knew. Crazy, I know!) And in the small window I got I lifted the baby bird in my hand and put it in the nest, the nest was still wobbly so I was adjusting it when something hit my helmet. The bird was attacking me, I ran away from there, it chased me for a few seconds (seemed like hours) and finally gave up attacking the intruder. And as for the poor intruder, I was a little out of breath but okay. Finally knowing the baby bird was safe we all left in peace, my ego still intact. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A bird in the bush is worth nothing, it should stay there.

 It was just another day of my really long study holidays, and as any responsible student would do I decided to watch TV and entrenched myself on the couch. It was really a nice day to go out and get some much needed exercise, so when my neighbour called me out to play football, I ran out without even closing the door. And we played for a while then realized the bitter truth that 3 people playing football in the scorching sun could get really boring. And just when we were about to retreat back to the safety and the refreshing atmosphere of an air-conditioned room , we saw something fluttering in a tree nearby – a bat.                                                                     
                                                             It was entangled on a tree between a branch and a fallen kite's twine. It became obvious that we had a little too much sunlight for a day, when a guy suggested we catch it and eat it. So before he did something truly crazy, I decided to rescue the bat. Then the other guys came to help me, by help I mean throw stones at the bat. After lot of unsuccessful attempts it was time to bring in our secret weapon, my neighbourhood tree climber, for a 7 year old he can climb into places that I would not dare to be in my worst nightmares. After 10 minutes we were setting the bat free, much to the dismay of the crazy bat eater.
                            When I got home I had more trouble waiting for me, I had left the door open and a bird got in and was flying into all the rooms in my house. My sister was screaming and running around, completely scared of the poor terrified bird. We opened all the windows and all the doors, and this bird brained bird still could not find its way out. My sister’s screaming and yelling was certainly not helping the bird get out.I ran around each room clapping my hands to get it out of there. Finally I managed to get the bird out of the house. You would think a person would get into funny situations with birds not more than twice, especially a guy like me who hates birds. ( they poo a lot)
                                             But I had one more avian encounter left for the day. My mom went to church and left me in charge of getting the chicken inside the coup (a small wooden box with a plank covering the opening) when my mom saw the village office giving away free chicks (chick-baby chicken, not what just crossed into your mind) she thought having them will get rid of the worms in the garden, and we get eggs, so its like killing two birds with one stone. (pun intended) At first there were four of them, after 3 month two survived to actually resemble a chicken.
                                 I thought to myself how hard could that be, mom does it always. Pick up the bird and put it in; simple as that. But with me, nothing is ever simple. First of all, chicken DO NOT like to be picked up, I ran around the house trying to catch at least one of the feathery fiends. I finally caught one bird's wing  then properly caught it put it in the coup, closed the plank covering the opening. But after another 15 minutes of trying to catch the next chicken (I cornered it to one side of the compound and played some serious mind games to catch it) and when I bought that one to the coup, the plank was down and the first chicken was standing next to it, almost laughing at me. Apparently I was supposed to place a weight against the plank, which at that moment I faintly remembered my mother mentioning. But with a little assistance from my sister I finally got them both in. I think these birds were trying to get back at me for all the chicken and duck I have eaten over my lifetime. But guess what I came out on top, and though I have seriously restricted non-veg I have in my daily diet, (I only eat non-veg when a guest comes and mom makes some NV food items or when I got to some functions) I will be relishing every piece of chicken I will be eating in the future.
right now the black bird and the one in the extreme right are alive.....for now.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The stupidest quiz master!

Last month our department conducted an inter-departmental quiz competition. The selection of the questions, creation of the presentation and the different rounds and it’s rules were to be decided and prepared by me. I had help from classmates and teachers, they gave me ideas for new questions. Not that I mind the hard work, but every single work was entrusted to me. Even I wouldn’t entrust me with more than one activity at a time. I worked possibly harder than I have done in my whole life. I stayed in the department staff room all day, missing classes (not that I mind that!) typing in hundreds of questions. There were days when I would come after the first hour and walk straight into the department staff room, and only come out for lunch. The questions were ready on the day before the quiz-festa scientia; the name means festival of knowledge in Latin. (cheeky huh? My idea, I know it’s silly) the promotion for the program was tremendous, we had 50 teams register for the quiz and it wasn’t for another day.
                                     My classmate binu handled the stage arrangements, he’s Michelangelo with a blade and thermocol. He made a cut out of popeye holding a board which read fest a scientia. I think it became more famous in our college than the new canteen. More people thronged to watch it than the new canteen. Back to the topic, the quiz was created by me so out of common courtesy; I was given the quiz master position along with another girl from the first year. On the D-day the prize money was announced the five finalist teams will get assured prize money.
I  -  rs. 1001
II - rs.501
V - rs 150
Quite frankly this was jackpot for our college students, as no one has seen such a prize money in an inter-department contest since…..forever! and the prelims saw almost 40 teams show up, not bad considering we had a  private bus strike on that day. (most of the students come by private bus) The prelim questions were so tough that we had to correct by, asking all the people who corrected how many every team got wrong. The top score out of 11 questions (typo, I thought there were only 10, but typed the number 4 twice, so had 11 questions. No one figured it out though) was 5. so 5 teams were selected and announced.
                And after handing over the computer and projector to a nitwit and a troll of a first year guy Antony, who first broke the switch board and later screwed up a simple task. I started the questions pretty well (after a minor hiccup confused about the first round’s rule) but at one point the nitwit scrolled through a few slides quickly, the questions and answers were clearly exposed. So had to adapt, but not before I passed a multiple choice question to another team.(which is an organizational nightmare on my part) The rest of the competition went okay..ish. You see I didn’t remember all the answers, so when a team gave the correct answer to a question I told them it’s wrong and when the answer came out, there was a lot of yelling and complaining(I explained to them that I was not as bright as the contestants we had that day, picture your average quiz master saying that out loud. I know I really am not that bright!). And there was an answer where a Malayalam sentence was written in English. I pronounced it awfully bad. (I can be excused, because half the college already makes fun of my Malayalam. The rest have not heard me speak Malayalam) But finally the rapid fire round came and I took over the computer from the nitwit and the first year girl took over the stage. And at the end there was a clear winner. And a tiebreaker decided the second place.
                  The prizes were handed out and my day as the stupidest quiz master ever ended.