Listening to Dubai

Have you ever wondered where Malavika disappeared to all of a sudden? You know, the Malavika who used to host the English show on Radio City every night. Ever wondered where she went? I have a very vivid memory of speaking to her once. It was the night before my Analog Communications exam and I was both studying and listening to her show. I should say, listening more to her than the songs. In the middle of the show, she asked a question: What was Avril Lavigne’s first song? At the time, everyone knew the answer to that question. I immediately sent an SMS saying ‘the answer is complicated. I like your show. Keep going. Thejas‘. Two minutes later, I got a call. Even before I answered it, I knew who I would be talking to.


“Hey Thejas. This is Malavika from Radio City. Guess what? Your answer is right. You have won yourself a life-size poster of Avril Lavigne”

“Oh really? Thank you”. I wasn’t really excited, but I decided to feign it.

“Ok, I am sorry. I wont be able to put you on air. But can you tell me something special about Avril Lavigne”

“Something special?”

“yes, anything”.

“ok, Her birthday is on September 27th”

“Huh? That’s awesome! You really know her birthday?”

“Yeah! I do. Because my birthday is on the same day.” I laughed.

“Oh thats great then. Nice talking to you. Someone from Radio City will call you up and let you know… blah blah”

I never went to collect the poster. After all who would want an Avril Lavigne poster? And when your mom doesn’t allow you to stick even Sachin Tendulkar posters on your wall, what really would you do with any bitchy-looking singer’s poster?

I was addicted to Malavika since the first time I heard her on radio. She had some style. And an extra-ordinary confidence. Even before she went live on radio for the first time, I knew about her- courtesy my sister who studied in the same college as Malavika. While I listened to her first show, I expected some goof-ups, some stammers. But when none of those came, I was impressed. And I knew that finally we had someone who could match Sunaina Lall.

The addiction lasted about an year I guess, and one day it was announced that it would be Malavika’s last show that evening. I made it a point to listen to that show and even sent an sms bidding her ‘bye. good luck‘. And that was the end of it. I stopped listening to Radio City after that. Radio Indigo and Radio One were the new kids on the block, playing awesome English songs all night. Radio City probably never recovered from the shock of the advent of these new channels.

Last week, I rediscovered Malavika. On a Dubai-based radio channel. At first I didn’t know it was her. I kept asking myself if I had heard the voice somewhere before. And then, it all came. It was the same girl. She still has the voice, though it has matured a bit. She still has those lines. And she hosts the morning show everyday from 7 to 10. Every morning, I listen to her first thing in office and get transported to the past- to those days in college. Things the Internet does to you!

I also discovered that Rohit Jayakaran too works at the same station. Remember him? The retro dude, the guy who hosted ‘Brunch with the Boss’ for sometime and then moved on to ‘Top 8 at 8’. He was another guy whose voice I tremendously admired. Strong and captivating. Those were the days! If you remember correctly, Radio City had an impressive line up of RJ’s which included Vaasanthi, Rohit Jayakaran, Jonzie, Sunaina Lall, Darius Sunnawala, Saggy and Malavika.

Listening to this particular radio channel has also taught me that the road which is most traffic prone in Dubai is the Emirates road and that it also rains sometimes in Dubai. Over the last week, it has been my source of Indian news as well. They do news updates every two hours and mainly concentrate on India. All the tamasha that was happening in the parliament over Liberhan was first heard by me on the Dubai radio. They also have some Copenhagen related stuff which they keep playing over and over again.

Its amazing how you can enjoy a radio station based in another country, listening to the popular songs of your country on shows hosted by men and women who you had admired once upon a time. I love the internet!

ps: I hope you didn’t come here looking for something on the Dubai debt crisis. If you did, accept my commiserations. Like you, I too lost my money because of Dubai.

When #youknowyouinlove trended

Right now, as I type this, #youknowyouinlove is trending on Twitter. As I read the tweets in the thread, it reminds me of a G-talk chat I had had with a friend a few days ago.

Here’s the chat excerpt.

(this starts somewhere in the middle of a long chat)

he: oye tell me one thing. when do you know that you are in love?

me: ah? why?

he: tell me

me: at the end of the story. :)

he: wtf. what story?

me: film story. seen jaane tu ya jaane na? wake up sid? nottinghill? even ajab prem ki gajab kahani. :)

he: f**k you. magane screw those movies. tell me from real life.

me: you ve got hold of the wrong guy.

he: ninn thale. you engineering guys are seriously useless. (he’s a medic btw)

me: :D you will know maga. you will.

he: when and how?

me: at the end of the story! :D :D

He didn’t respond for the next 5 minutes and only responded when I asked him about his experiences in the gynaecology department. Which in fact were more interesting than the subject of the above chat. Which I also cant reproduce here for obvious reasons.

And frankly, I don’t know the answer to his question. The tweets in the thread offered a lot of answers but I am sure most of them are specific to that person and cannot be generalized. Most of the movies which have a storyline similar to the ones mentioned in the chat do not tell us how the protagonists come to ‘that’ conclusion. I quite liked my line in that chat, the last line – at the end of the story. I think we will all realize that we are in love when we lose the object of our affection. I am only speculating here, based on my experiences with other objects, like for example- my favourite bat in school, whose importance I have realized only after I have lost them. Again, this is specific to me and is also probably not the right kind of check, because it doesn’t serve any purpose.

So, if there is one sufficient condition to check if a ‘feeling’ is Love, what would it be?

The Sachin I have seen

For the last two days, out of every ten things I have read, six have been about one man. I have been reading everything from the story of his life to the stories behind some of his best innings. So before you think I am indulging in blatant repeating of cliches, let me clarify that this post will be just that and nothing else!

1996. I was nearing ten. World cup was in India and by the time Sri Lanka won the final, I had pretty much learnt what cricket was all about. (here’s the link to an old post about the ’96 world cup) A few months after the World Cup, Indian team traveled to England. The fact that teams participate in tours was a little shocking to me for I had come to believe that cricket was a game played by all teams once in four years in the form of World Cups. That tour was quite popular amongst us, school kids, because a certain guy from Bangalore called Rahul Dravid was in the team. Those days, Prime sports showed even the practice matches live. So on this particular day, the day India played Yorkshire, I sat late into the night and watched India bat. Given that those days were not those of Sehwags and Gayles, it was a slow start and gradually I began losing interest. Then a few wickets fell and in came Sachin Tendulkar. If you are wondering why I am using a tour game here, it was that game in which I watched Sachin Tendulkar bat- for the first time. If I remember correctly, he wasn’t out there for long. He played a couple of glorious strokes, hit a couple of sixes and then got out. I still remember the commentator’s words when Sachin was on – “He is such a hungry batsman!” And I had just seen the genius bat for the first time.

I wasn’t really a Sachin fan then. One reason for that was that I loved watching Rahul Dravid and Azharuddin bat more than Sachin. The other reason, may be, was that every guy I met was a Sachin fan! I thought that the guy didn’t need any more fans. But one thing was true. No batsman, not even Dravid and Azhar, made me confident of India’s chances like Sachin’s presence in the middle did.

The year turned to 1997. India traveled to South Africa and I watched Alan Donald and co make every Indian batsman dance on the bouncy pitches. Then came the unforgettable Sachin-Azhar partnership. I haven’t seen that innings of Sachin listed among the ‘best Sachin’s hundreds’ lists thrown out by our media, but to me it’s right up there.

1998 came. Sharjah happened. 1999 came. Chennai happened. Bristol happened. Match fixing happened. Captaincy came and went. But the runs never stopped flowing.

2004. India’s tour of Australia. I remember how I spent close to two hours standing in front of  a TV shop in Jayanagar 4th block watching Sachin bat as he brought up his double hundred. There were moments during the innings when I resorted to criticizing him for the slowness of the innings, but looking back at it now I understand that only he could have played such a knock under the circumstances.

Going back to 1998. Remember that game in Kochi against Australia? Sachin didn’t excel with the bat but he did make the ball speak. There have been numerous other instances when he has picked up crucial wickets at times the team needed them the most. Fielding- Remember Inzamam’s catch he took in the last match of the Samsung friendship cup in Pakistan in 2004 at long-on?

The thing I respect the most in the man is, of course, the respect he commands. Never has been there a controversy involving him. Never has he uttered something that has invited criticism. Anything he says makes the cricketing world sit up and take notice. Like an article (I don’t remember whose) said recently, ‘he could have driven his Ferrari over people sleeping on the streets, he could have killed black bucks, he could have beaten up journalists and spectators’ but no. He has preferred a sedate off-field life. Other than a few bowlers, I haven’t seen anyone else having the guts to sledge him either.

The question that haunts me is when is all of this going to stop. The cinema has to end someday. And do we have a replacement? Think about the Hyderabad match against Australia. Who in the present Indian team could have played such an audacious knock in the circumstances? Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, may be! But is there any xyz in the team about whom we can say “Come on, we have xyz” as confidently as we have spoken about Sachin all these years? The lack of an answer to the question is frightening.

Truly, there wont be a replacement. And it will be foolish of us to expect a replacement. For, as Muralitharan says ‘There can be no other Sachin’. For us in India there, has not been and will never be a sportsman greater than Sachin, and I say this with all due respect to Dhyan Chand.

Filling the space

I just had a look outside the window. It’s still raining. So that means I am fixed to this chair in my cubicle for some more time. And then there’s this laptop. Since I came back from the window, I have opened sites of all Indian national dailies checking if there are any new ‘top stories’. I also went through my Facebook friend suggestions, for the third time today, and they haven’t changed at all in the last two days. Some faces in the suggestions list look prominent and inviting, but I seriously don’t know them. What’s the point in adding them to your list when Facebook algorithm ensures that you easily get to see the same face whenever you want to, right?

I also have this question paper pdf open in another window. The first ‘passage’ in the English section is about the readability of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. That should explain why I am writing this instead of solving the paper. The same paper will take all my time tonight, after I go home. There’s no escape- and that’s why I am wary of going home tonight. The toughest part of the night will be when I have to switch off the TV after The buck stops here resisting the temptation to watch MTV/Channel V, head to my room and solve the paper. The saving grace of the night will surely be the half-finished Wodehouse book which I am planning to read right after solving the paper, as a reward.

I haven’t written on my blog for a long time. I have to write the travelogue of my Himalayan expedition(!) before I start forgetting things. There are so many interesting things to write about the trip including a night we spent in a house, which we thought would be our last because we imagined our hosts to be cannibals who would eat us up after we fall asleep. It might feel silly and even we thought it was silly, but we did consider the idea. I should also write about how we just escaped from dying under the legs of a donkey and also how a bus driver played never-heard Hindi songs loudly all night in a bus which was supposedly regarded as ‘deluxe’.

Over the next few weeks, just like the last few weeks, my posts on this blog will be less frequent or could even be null. But my twitter-mania will continue, a preview of which is visible in the right column. Every tweet that I do gives me some kind of a satisfaction, a sense of achievement. I know it sounds puerile but if you think it happens to you too, let me know. That will make me feel a little better.

And by the way, last Sunday I was talking to a friend about this girl I happen to know. And when he tried to steer the conversation towards an unnecessary territory, I told him, ‘Look, we are just friends‘. And at that precise moment, I felt I was a celebrity. And the next moment, I was thinking ‘Wow, I have to tweet this‘. And then, ‘No ways, this deserves a blog post‘. And so here it is on the blog! By the way, who was the last celebrity who said that? Rani Mukherjee? Of course. Who else can it be! Nirupama Rao too, could be an answer, but isn’t her line ‘we are always friends‘? Oh yeah, we are. We don’t even know where our spaces end.

The rain has stopped and that means I have to head home and begin the grind. And oh! I also have to clean this coffee spill on my desk. It happened in the morning and its all sticky now. If you are a girl or a Monica or whatever, go ahead and say ‘Men!’.

Good night folks.

The holy bath

A friend called long distance last Sunday. Since he calls long-distance, our conversations are usually limited to less than 5 minutes and both of us stuff in as much as we can. Most of our 5 minutes this time went to the floods in Manthralaya. He was telling me how one of his relatives was affected and that he was going to visit them during Diwali.

The conversation later veered to my trip to the Himalayas.

I told him proudly, ‘Guess what I did in Haridwar? I took bath in the Ganges.

Hmmm. Did it help?‘, he asked.

Help? I think my sin-count was reset. Thats what you kept advising me in college right, to bring down my sin-count?‘, I put in, to bring in some humour.

You didn’t realize when your sin-count went to zero before? Yours has gone to zero thrice before according to my estimate.’, he said, without a sign of humour.

WTF are you talking about?‘, I asked.

Well, your sin-count went to zero thrice before, each time setting the overflow flag. This time, I hope the Ganges reset your overflow flag too.’

And with that both of us burst out laughing.

The white-skin harassment

Early last month, I was in Thanjavur as a lone traveller. One auto driver told me about the famous Thanjavur palace that is a must-visit for tourists. So after visiting the Brihadeeshwara temple, I decided to walk all the way to the palace. I had to ask for directions in my broken Tamil and in the end it turned out to be a 4 km walk through lanes dotted on both sides by Chola art showrooms. When I reached the place, I was disappointed. The place was shut down for a day because a film-shoot was happenning inside the palace. There was a huge gathering of school and college students who had turned up to catch a glimpse of the film stars and the police were having a hard time controlling the crowd.

Just when I was about to leave, I heard a collective murmer from the crowd and then I heard whistles. I looked around to see if the film stars had come out but what I saw left me dumbfounded. There were about 20-25 foreign tourists who had just come out of the palace. Apparently, the police had allowed the foreign tourists inside inspite of the film shoot, which I thought was the right thing to do. But what followed their exit from the palace still haunts me. The whistles got louder and louder. Some guys who wanted to show off their bravery got in front of the white-skinned women and whistled right at their faces. And then the comments started flying- every comment had a sexual undertone. The comments began in Tamil, and some of the ‘learned men’ in the crowd decided to translate them into English. I was standing there, rooted to the ground, shocked at the way we were treating our tourists. The policemen remained mute. Of course, how do you expect 10 policemen to control a crowd of over a hundered rowdies. The only thing they were successful in doing was preventing the crowd from touching the foreigners.The foreigners, however, seemed to be totally unmoved by the happennings. For most foreign tourists who come to India, their journey begins in New Delhi or Mumbai and ends in Chennai. The only reason I could think of, for their indifference to this rowdy attitude from the crowd. was that they could be used to it. They were probably treated similarly in Mumbai, New Delhi and other places they had visited.

Yesterday, I saw the same thing happenning in Bangalore. Brigade road is not the place where you would expect a foreign tourist to be harassed in the open as much as in places like Majestic or Kalasipalya. But Brigade road was where it happenned. And this time the perpetrator of the offence was not a rowdy-looking fellow, but someone who looked decent in T-shirt and jeans and looked as if he was a student- 11th/12th perhaps. The foreigners in this case were disturbed at what was happenning and even turned back once to stare at the man. Nothing could stop him until one shopkeeper screamed at him.

The tourism ministry has taken numerous steps to ensure that we treat our tourists with respect. Remember the Aamir Khan advertisement on TV? But why do we still do this? Lack of education could be the case. We probably don’t understand the importance of tourists and tourism. Tourism might not be the main revenue earner for states like Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, but for states like Kerala and Jammu and the North East, it is their prime lifeline. What more does the government have to do to stop this? There is a bigger question that arises out of this- If we can’t ensure that a handful of foreign tourists who visit India are not harassed, how do we ensure that our own women are not harassed on roads, buses and trains?

We have all heard Indians who have gone abroad cringe and complain about racism. But isn’t how we treat the white-skins here a case of racism too?

Just to get rid of the writer’s block

– On Saturday, after a gruelling 90 minutes at the school (my teaching partner was absent and I was left to myself to do most of the screaming) I went to Church Street. After a full 10 minutes of frantic searching for parking space, I finally found a little gap in the middle of a row of haphazardly parked bikes. I left my scooter there and went to Blossoms. I didn’t want to stay long at the place and so I went directly to the cashier and asked ‘Jinnah?‘ To which he replied, ‘Sold out sir. Come on Monday.’ That was the same thing he had told me the previous saturday too.  Next stop was Bookworm inside Shrungar Complex. Same reply. Frustrated and making up my mind to order the book online inspite of losing out on the discount, I walked back to the place where I had left my scooter. I was shocked. At the place where I had left my scooter, there was nothing. Not even the other scooters and bikes. I stood there, thinking if I had forgotten where I actually had left my scooter. But no, I remembered the pub and the girl whom I had seen sitting in its entrance, smoking. She was still there and still smoking. I noticed the security sitting there, went over to him and enquired. ‘Police van leke chala saar’, he said. ‘Oh!’, I said, simultaneously noticing the ‘No parking’ board at a distance. Well, that was my first offence with the new vehicle.

– The same evening, I got my vehicle’s RC smart card. It had been a month since I had purchased the vehicle but I had been lazy to go to the showroom and collect my RC. I brought it home and was examining it when I noticed that the vehicle’s regn num on the card didn’t match the one on my scooter. The person who had done the number plate painting had made a mistake and so, for a month, I was riding around the scooter with someone else’s number. What’s more illegal than this?

– Why does writer’s block strike? I think its because of lack of events in one’s life. If there’s something interesting always happening to you, it will show in your writings. I gave this a thought while watching the play [sic] at Rangashankara. The lady protogonist in the play in a line to one of her friends says- ‘you dont know about my life. My Life is full of events.’  I wonder if we are all the same- looking for events in our lives and getting frustrated when there are none. Lately, the kind of events happening in my life hasn’t deserved a blog post. (There always is Twitter for such inane events.) It required the Bangalore city traffic police to provide me an event to act as an inspiration for this post.

– There are a few posts in my drafts folder which have gone unpublished. Two of them were intended to be on the Jinnah controversy. One of them starts with the line ‘I have made no secret of my political inclination‘. The rest of the post had some BJP, RSS and anti-secularism bashing. Well, with so much written about Jinnah, the BJP and Advani in our papers, why would anyone want to read another lame post on the same topic? I clicked on its delete button just before I started writing this post.

– I am starved of cricket. At first I thought watching the Ashes will do. But no. There is nothing in the world like watching and supporting your country. Nothing can wake those emotions and passions in you like Indian cricket does. Talking about supporting your country, I am reminded that we now have a new team to cheer as a country. The Force India F1 team. I didn’t watch the race, which I desperately wanted to, mostly to see how Mallya reacts. I think this performance will act as a catalyst to Indians’ interest in the sport before F1 comes to India. By the way, I still prefer to call it a sport.

I haven’t got much to write about now. Until more events happen, adios.

Travelogue of the solitary traveller

This is a travelogue of my four day trip across Tamil Nadu. And the best thing about the trip was- I was alone. Read on.

(Advice: Long post. Some patience will do you good)

Tuesday, 4th Aug 09. Bangalore.

10 pm: Good byes at home. Some stern faces. Obviously not happy about me travelling alone.

10:30 pm: No BMTCs in sight. Train at 11:45 pm. Getting worried.

10:45 pm: Some private bus. I hop in.

11:15 pm: Majestic bus stop. Still have to walk 20 minutes to get into the railway station. I decide to run.

11:30 pm: Railway station. Confusion about the train. Two trains start to Chennai at appoximately the same time.

11:40 pm: Finally, my train. My seat.

11:50 pm: The train starts. Excitement or fear? Not sure.

Wednesday, 5th Aug 09. Chennai.

7:30 am: Chennai Central. I do a lot of looking around. A lot of staring at boards.

7:45 am: Out of the railway station. Some main road. ‘Which way to go?’, I ask myself. I choose West.

8:00 am: Check into some lodge. After getting into the room and locking myself in, I realize that I dont even know the name of lodge. Bad habit when you are travelling alone.

8:30 am: I am done getting ready. I get out of the hotel and begin my walk.

8:45 am: Chennai city corporation’s magnificient building. Chennai general hospital. Madras medical college.

9 am: Bridge across Adyar river.

9:15 am: The beautiful war memorial. Definitely the best war memorial I have ever seen. Clear mentions of all fronts of WW1 and WW2. Mentions of the wars of 1948, 1962, 1971. All inscribed on stone walls. I get caught by an army man for trying to photograph the memorial. He lets me go only after checking the snaps and realizing that I hadn’t clicked any.

9:30 am: Anna memorial and MGR memorial. Well maintained. Beautiful lawns.

9:40 am: Marina beach. Nothing much to do, except click photographs and watch the waves come in. Can’t help but imagine a tsunami hitting the beach.

10 am: Wander around the state’s government offices. Hungry. Thristy. No hotel in sight. ‘Where’s the museum?’

10:15 am: In an Autorickshaw. To Egmore museum. Rs.60 he says. The distance is probably less than 5 kms.

10:30 am: Inside the museum. I start with the history and archeology sections.

10:30 – 12 pm: The museum. Fantastic relics. Especially the ones from the Indus Valley civilization. Amazed at the precision and accuracy of some works, considering that they were made long before Christ was born. Spend a long time in the history and archeology sections. Then the zoology section. Decide to skip the botany section. Hunger takes over other interests.

12:30 pm: Some hotel in Egmore. Nothing available except vadas. Eat a couple.

1 pm: Headache. The heat and the humidity finally act on me. Long walk back to room via Egmore railway station.

2 pm: Room. TV. Match fixing allegations by Abdul Qadir. Rameez Raja defends team. India’s first Swine flu death in Pune. TV switched off. I take out Malgudi days and begin to read.

3: 30 pm: Check out of the lodge. Long walk to Egmore Railway station. Train to Rameswaram at 5 pm.

5 pm: The train starts. My first time in an AC coach. Don’t see any difference.

7:30 pm: Train moves along the Bay of Bengal for quite a distance. You can notice the ocean in spite of the darkness. Malgudi Days again.

8 pm: A high ranking officer of the J&K govt incharge of the Vaishnavo Devi Shrine seated next to me begins his monologue. He has lots of interesting things to say, like, for eg. Why they don’t want  to curb militancy in the state etc.

9 pm: gprs. News. Retire to bed.

Thursday, 6th August 09. Rameswaram, Madurai

5:30 am: Rameswaram railway station. Bus ride to temple.

6 am: No one wants to lend a room to a ‘single’. ‘No wife? Sorry’.

6:30 am: Some Chathra lends me a locker. The bathrooms stink and they have no locks. I use a twig and a small rope to make myself a make-shift lock. It is a lesson for me- How to take a bath in extreme conditions.

7 am: The beach. They call it the ‘first theertha’. I miss the sunrise.

7: 30 am: The temple. I buy a ticket to take bath in all theerthas. 22 in number totally.

7:40 am: The first theertha. A long queue. A person simply draws water from a well and pours it on people’s head. ‘Wait wait‘, I say just before he gets ready to put a bucket of water on me.  I dip my hand into the bucket, bring some water out in my palm and sprinkle it on my head. ‘Thank you‘, I say to him and leave. He simply stares back. ‘No more of these theerthas‘, I say to myself and get out of the queue.

8 am: Darshan. Spend some time reading the story of the temple that has been pictorially depicted on the walls.

8: 20 am: The longest temple corridor in the world. It just goes on and on.

9:30 am: Bus to Dhanushkodi. 18 kms away from Rameswaram. The road is on a small piece of land that streaks away towards Sri Lanka. Sea on both sides of the road.

10:30 am: Dhanushkodi. Indian Navy observation point. A man goes around telling travellers that he can show us Ram Sethu. People agree. Its a tempo ride. 10 kms away from Dhanushkodi.

10:45 – 11:30 am : Bumpy ride on Sand. Tempo seems to touch 60 kmph on sand. Only accelerator, no brake.

11:30 am: The point from where Rama built a bridge. No sign of the bridge though. Somewhere in the distance, there’s an island. That’s Ram Sethu he says. ‘Ok, but how did he get there from here?’ He has no answer.

12 pm: Stop over at Dhanushkodi ruins. A small town destroyed by a cyclone.

1 pm: Back to Rameswaram. Lunch.

1:30 pm: Buy a book on Rameswaram. I mark 6 spots that I can visit. Show it to an Auto Driver and ask him to show me all the places. He agrees to do it for Rs.150.

3 pm: Back to the Chathra. Nothing to do. Head to the temple. Make my way to the ‘long corridor’. And sit. Calm, silent and peaceful. No one around.

3:20 pm: A family comes walking in the corridor. An old guy from the family asks me directions to go to Rama’s foot print. I explain in a mixed language of Tamil, Kannada and English. He introduces his family to me. His grand daughter is hot. Must be around 18. She’s got a foreign accent. The grand dad tells me that she is studying in the UK. They leave after everyone’s finished smiling at me and saying ‘Hi’. Two days in the state and the first good looking girl!

4: 15 pm: Rameswaram railway station. Train to Madurai at 5:30 pm.

5:30 pm: The train starts. I share a seat with an old North Indian couple.

6 pm: The Pamban rail bridge. Awesome views.

6 – 9:30 pm: Some sleep. Some talk with the couple. At one point, after knowing that I am from Bangalore, the old guy asks- “Have you heard of this company called Microsoft?” I want to burst out laughing, but I say “Yes uncle. I have heard about it.” “My son works there“, he says.

9:30 pm: Madurai Railway station. I get out of the station and begin walking along the main road.

10 pm: Find some lodge and check into it. The room has no windows. I am shocked. How am I to survive this? I console myself- Since the lodge is still running, it means people have stayed here before and survived. I am sweating. I get rid of my clothes, jump on to the bed and go off to sleep.

Friday, 7th August 09. Madurai, Thanjavur

5:30 am: Wake up and get ready.

6 am: Meenakshi Temple. It is huge.

6:30 am: Inside the Shiva temple inside the complex. I am wondering if it is a temple or a palace. I have never seen such a beautiful temple.

7:30 am: The queue to get inside the Meenakshi temple. It is getting really long.

8 am: Darshan done. I am out of the temple. Breakfast.

9 am: Check out of the lodge and ask for directions to get to the bus stop.

9:50 am: The bus stop is somewhere outside Madurai. WTF! Bus to Thanjavur is almost ready to leave. I hop in.

10 am to 1:30 pm: It is a ride through a furnace. You can probably bake a bread in the hot wind.

1:30 pm: Thanjavur. All sign boards in the city are in Tamil. These guys are crazy. I am surprised that I am the only one using the word ‘Thanjavur’. Everyone in the city prefers to use the anglicized ‘Tanjore’. Some kind of an irony.

2:30 pm: The Brihadeeshwara temple. The temple is closed, but I am let in by the police lady after I tell her that I have come all the way from Bangalore. Bangalore commands some respect, almost everywhere.

2:45 pm: Inside the temple complex. Irrefutably the best monument I have seen in my life. I sit silently on the step of a small artistically designed building and stare at the main temple. Who could design such a thing? Why isn’t it as well known as it deserves to be? Is the Taj Mahal really the most beautiful thing in India? Just then, some one comes to me and says in Tamil- “Come with me. God is calling you.” At first I think it’s my translation that is wrong. Then after some thinking I realize that he really is saying that God is calling me. ‘Interesting’ I think and go with him. He takes me to a small temple inside the complex itself and asks me to meditate. I have no issues with it and do exactly as he says. After some time, I get up. I give the guy 5 rupees and he hands me a banana. And I leave.

3:15 pm: People start trickling in. I see one couple sitting on the steps of the temple and chatting. They are very young and obviously not married. I sit and look at them for some time. I think – If these guys get married some day and write their story, it will surely have the line ‘we used to sit everyday at the steps of the Brihadeeshawara temple and chat until sunset’. It already has the makings of a legendary love story.

3:45 pm: A boy comes to me and tells me a few ‘secrets’ of the temple.

4 pm: The temple opens. Queue for the Darshan. A huge lingam. The biggest I have ever seen.

4:30 pm: Outside the temple. Can’t find my slippers even after a long search. Start walking towards the town-center barefooted.

5 pm: Buy a pair of slippers. Book SETC tickets to Chennai for later that night. start walking towards the palace.

5:30 pm: Tanjore palace. Closed that day. Because of a film shoot. People of Tanjore are proud. Almost the entire city knows about the film shoot happening at their city.

6 pm: Nothing to do. I head back to Brihadeeshwara temple. Choose a corner in the temple and sit down. Lots of foreigners around. I see amazement in their eyes too. Good to see that. I am half worried about my new slippers which are outside.

7 pm: Leave the temple after taking one last look at it. Head to the Bus Stop.

9:30 pm: Bus starts. Destination Chennai.

Saturday. 8th August, 09. Chennai, Mahabalipuram.

7 am: Chennai. Check into a lodge. Meeting VM that day. He doesn’t want to wake up before 9. Switch on TV. Discussion on Swine Flu on Times Now. Highlights of SL vs Pak ODI. Then a Tamil movie. Finally, I call him up and wake him.

9 am: Leave the lodge. Walk into park railway station and catch a train to Tambaram. I admire Chennai local trains.

10 am: Tambaram railway station. VM arrives. For the first time in days, I have someone to talk to.

10:30 – 12 pm: On the bus to Mahabalipuram.  Our conversation doesn’t cease.

12 pm: Mahabalipuram. If you don’t want to play in the beach or you are not interested in rock carvings, you will get bored here. Both of us are quite interested in the latter. So we manage.

1 pm: The five chariots, Krishna’s butter ball, caves, rock carvings.

2 pm: The beach. The shore temple. The ancient city unearthed by the tsunami.

3 pm: Pool side lunch at some big-shot hotel. Bikini clad foreign ladies playing around in the pool. Awesome lunch, and I am not talking about the food.

4 pm: On the bus. Back to Chennai.

6 pm: Tambaram railway station. VM leaves. Train to park station.

7 pm: Back to room. Decide to watch a kannada movie on Udaya TV. Some movie called Khushi.

9 pm: Sleep. Must get up early to catch the Shatabdi.

Sunday. 9th August 09. Chennai, Bangalore

6 am: Shatabdi express. My first experience of Shatabdi. The AC is a relief, considering that I was sweating at 6 am. Awesome interiors. Mine’s a window seat. They give me Indian express and coffee. Train leaves.

10:30 am:  Reading the last page of Indian Express. Train arrives at Bangalore. I step out and notice that there is no difference between the temperature inside a first class AC coach and that in Bangalore.

11 am: Back home. During the journey from Railway station to my house, I see three times more number of good-looking girls than I did during the entire 4 day stay in TN.

In which I watch my first play

One night a few years ago, by natural coincidence, I had to put up with a few strangers at a dinner meet. I didn’t know most of them. I was walking around trying to adapt to the new people when I overheard a conversation which was going on among three women near by. One of them noticed me and asked me if I was enjoying myself. I replied in the positive, which was clearly a lie, and the three women went on with their discussion. It was about this place called Rangashankara and the three of them were discussing how many times they had been to the place. I, being an uncomfortable intruder into the conversation decided to stay on lest they thought I was behaving indecently by quietly walking away. It was only after a few minutes did I realize that the women were actually not talking about how many times they had ‘been to’ the place but how many times they had ‘performed in’ the place! This is when I jumped into the conversation and asked them for more details about the place. I was then a theatre enthusiast, having just completed a theatre workshop and also acted in my first play, in which I had received tremendous reviews. Later, I even got invited by them to watch one of their plays and also to train under one of them.

It took me seven years after that to watch my first play at Rangashankara.

I could have chosen a ‘lighter’ first play to watch, but the moment I read the plot of Copenhagen, I had decided that I was going to watch the play, no matter what. After all, having been part of a group of friends who called themselves ‘the loyal fans of Heisenberg’ in PUC, I also wanted to remind myself of those old times in MES college, where we scoured the degree college library for some material on the uncertainty principle. For most of us, uncertainty was our second love with the first being Relativity. Books on Relativity were relatively easier to find than the books on uncertainty and the exclusion principle. Bohr wasn’t someone we admired much, for which the reason could be that there were minimal mentions of Bohr in both PUC and JEE syllabi. And so, a play based on someone about whose works you wanted to voraciously read about is not something you will want to give a miss.

The play was supposed to begin at half past seven in the evening. And I was there at, guess when, exactly 5:10. No, it wasn’t because of over-enthusiasm. It was because I had nothing else to do then. I landed at the place, went through all the notice boards, called up my friends who said they weren’t coming over until 6:30, tried to sneak into the book store which was supposedly closed and then finally noticed the cafe on the right. I went over to the cafe, ordered coffee and settled on a table. I sat there and as I took stock of the surroundings, I fell in love with the place and the ambiance. In the table to my right, there was this nerdy girl hurriedly scribbling something into a paper. On the table to my left, there was a couple who were discussing a play very animatedly. Right opposite to me, there was a group of college boys and girls discussing questions for a quiz. ‘What a place!’, I thought. I took out The Three Musketeers from my bag and dived into it. I don’t know if it was the book or the place- when I decided to pause reading it was 6:10 and I had read something continuously for more than an hour! That was when Bgv arrived and we went on with our usual conversation about making life interesting, adventurous and spiritual!

Other than the ambiance, I think the best thing about the place was the people. For me, being someone who had seen only the hustle and bustle of cinema theatres and multiplexes, this was a welcome change. Everyone at the place looked ‘intelligent’. You could probably walk upto anyone and begin a conversation about anything under the sun. Even during the play, when the protagonists were talking some serious particle physics, I could see the audience revel in the discourse. It was like I had just discovered that there really were intelligent people in Bangalore.

I wont write much about the play here. Wikipedia will tell you everything about it anyways. It was a delight watching Prakash Belawadi himself on stage and the confidence he had in his dialogue delivery. It was a delight to watch Marghareta Bohr and I couldn’t help but fall in love with her. What could anyone pay to get a wife like her, a person with whom you can talk physics, waves, politics, skiing etc without inviting brickbats? It was her interpretation of Heisenberg’s actions that I loved the most- she provided an emotional touch to it all, like only a woman can do. During the ride back home, all that was in my mind was her line- “Even the ghosts would be dead“.

One thing is for sure though. Rangashankara is one place that I will continue to visit frequently from here on and I will most probably make it to the place two hours in advance every time, and of course, with a book in the bag.

The week that was

The media’s indulgence in Kalam and VIP frisking, the first dream wherein I was getting married to some beautiful stranger with whom I was deeply in love, the day after the dream with debates raging in the mind, another day at work asking myself ‘what the hell am I doing here?’, drinking three litres of water in less than six hours and getting amazed at the work my kidneys were doing, asking myself if I am making my kidneys work more than my brain, the entire day spent listening to Lionel Ritchie over and over and over, the PM’s mess-up in Egypt, my supporting stand in favour of lowering tensions between the two countries, the accusations of me being blindly pro-Singh, England’s win, the profits made in the stock market, the mid-night call, the late night dash to the other side of the city anticipating terrible news, the endless funeral rituals, telling people that Barkha Dutt and Shashi Tharoor were spamming my twitter page, the excitement before my official first class at the school, the kids’ enthusiasm, the realization that I was a good teacher material, French fries, long ride across the city, the Blossoms stop-over, long time spent pondering over what book to buy in spite of the seething headache, a walk down Church Street stealthily admiring long waxed foreign legs, coffee in Prakash café, mindless moronic philosophisizing, the last dream wherein I was witness to a gory homosexual threesome, INS Arihant and Monday blues all over again.


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