Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Conundrum

"I think true happiness can only be found in the wanton indulgence of animals." - Hobbes

Why can't i just fall in love, without anyone raising eyebrows? Why all this societal norms regarding what your grandfather thinks, what your neighbour's uncle thinks and what your distant cousin, whose name you don't even know thinks? It's ridiculous how our society functions. And even with me ranting about all these absurdness, i can more or less guarantee that i myself will bow down to all these pressures.

How easy is it to fall in love? But how difficult is it to let everyone around you understand that you are actually in love and that it is the real deal? And even if they do understand, their so-called-society or religion can't accept it. We are all a slave to our surroundings. I wish i could go far away from all this. To a place where you needn't prove anyone anything. But seems like that will remain a distant dream, so long as you are attached to somebody or something.

Everyone has a purpose, and this purpose dissuades them from doing something that is simply a matter of the heart.

I'd like to go back to a time, when we were cavemen. No religion, no countries, no states - nothing to divide us than our animalistic tendencies and urges. But that won't happen unless and until we learn to time travel or a mass memory swipe of the world arises, and begin human life all over again. I will come back and look at this blog post in the future, to find myself nodding to all these realizations even then.

The status quo needs change. But at what cost? At the cost of one being an outcast and a radical.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Nomad That Is Me - Part 5 [Final?] (The Story Of My Homes)

This shall be the last of my post on The Story Of My Homes. A lot of people think that this is the one statement i have been waiting to make. But that is not how a series finale should end. It should be happy. It should end on a positive note. So I will try to hold onto my better senses and not try to take it out on anyone, thereby making a statement in this series finale. So here goes:

I had to come to Delhi quite a few times, before I made sure that this is where I would be spending my post graduation days. First for the exam, then the interview and then for the actual settling down. And it all began in the summer of 2009. Trust me on this, Delhi in the summer is not a place you would like to be. I really didn’t like Delhi the first time I came here, basically because I had no friends here and I had to build my base from scratch out here. The first time I came to Delhi was when I had to write the entrance exam for the much sought after Mass Communication and Convergent Journalism courses at AJKMCRC in Jamia Millia Islamia. I stayed over at the International Youth Hostel in Chanakyapuri. Now that is one hell of a locality. Since it was smack in the middle of the diplomatic enclave, the streets were clean, the lawns were manicured, the roads were wide – it was like living in a foreign locale altogether. But then that wasn’t home. I stayed there once again, when I had to come down for the interview for my admission for Convergent Journalism (yes, I didn’t get through Mass Comm.) So it was decided a week later that I would be one of the lucky 20 odd people who would be part of the 2009 batch of Convergent Journalism kids at AJKMCRC. So now I was sure I would be spending the next two years of my life in Delhi. And that is when I started seeing Delhi, in reality. The first two trips were just glimpses of Delhi.

My mom always gets paranoid when sending her sons away anywhere. Even after me telling her that I would not require anyone’s help to go to Delhi or get me admitted to the institution, she called up my cousin who had come down from Dubai to accompany me till Delhi. And accompany me he did. We started off from Kochi, took an accommodation at the Pondicherry (now Puducherry) house, on the recommendation of a local politician, who was also a relative (one time, when politics does come to good use.) We went and did the formalities at the institute. And within three days had traversed wherever the Delhi metro could take us to. The first impression you have of Delhi is – it is a mega city! I mean the expanse of the city is so much, that it is difficult for a small town boy like me to actually fathom living here. It is scary. But I survived, and here I am writing the city’s story from the city itself. On the fourth day of my stay at Pondicherry house, an army jeep came for me from the 5 Signal Corp at Dhaula Kuan. My first home was to be in an army cantonment, due to a kind friend of my Uncle, Lieutenant Colonel Vinod. The Signal 5 Corp is the communication backbone of the Indian army and Lt. Cl. Vinod was an engineer there. It was a brilliant stay. There were small villa sort of things inside the gigantic gate that led us into the camp. And Mr. Vinod had a large room due to the post he had. There were trees all around the camp, small cobblestone paths that lead to different centres, canteens and houses. It was quite boring living there, since I had nothing to do out there, except read, was my clothes, have food served to you thrice a day. Mr. Vinod had personal assistants who would cater to his every need, right from polishing his shoes to serving him beer at night. It was the laziest I ever felt, while staying there. I didn’t have to do anything at all. So for almost a month I was holed up in there. But then I realized it was time to move out. The first couple of days I headed to college which was at Jamia Nagar from Dhaula Kuan, which i considered quite a distance to cover (it was barely 10 kms) (little did I know that it was not that great considering people travel hundreds of kilometers everyday to work and study in Delhi.) But then I made friends in my new classroom. I still remember, the first friend or human soul I introduced myself to in MCRC was Akanksha. Both of us had come in late, and we were frantically searching for our classrooms. But then it was in the auditorium that the inauguration was taking place in. So we headed out. And the convergent journalism part of my life began, starting that day.

After a few days, lot of us became friends, and it was Saiam, who offered to share his room with me. If it wasn’t for Saiam I would never have headed out from the Army Cantt. So one fine morning I left with all my baggage (which was quite a lot) to Batla House in the army jeep. Now to explain Batla House, you don’t need much. Just imagine a 2000 sq. foot place. Now imagine a million people in it. That is Batla House for you. Placed on the banks of the river Yamuna, Batla House is a predominantly Muslim locality and has the feeling of the rush that you get in a Purani Dilli (Old Delhi) or any old city for that matter. The first room I shared, was a very modest one, with a shared bathroom, at Nafees Road, with water to bath and make ablutions on a constant threat of being depleted by the hundreds of others living in the same building. I still don’t know how I survived there, but I had begun to live. The best thing about living in Batla House was that you could get some awesome food, straight from the chicken achari to kebabs to biriyani to rabri faluda and what not. So food was not a major problem here. But I barely stayed with Saiam for a month. I then shifted in with Neyaz, another classmate of mine, who surprisingly has been staying in Delhi for the past 10 years. He has his own place. A modest building in between a lane of like a thousands of them. His place is the only place that has does not go beyond the ground floor. The rest of the building around him have built floors after floors, making his house feel like a David among Goliaths. His place was filthy dirty the time I got there, but over time, I started shifting stuff out, made some changes here and there, the dim fluorescent bulb shone brighter and the place breathed a bit more. And it was nice and cozy, since we had always somebody over. And in between, Furquan, another friend of ours also moved in. So there, we were, three bachelors in a 'Delhi Belly'-ish set up. And that was what it was for almost around the end of December 2009. And Delhi winters – woah! I tell you this is a city of extremes.

At the same time, Furquan and me were contemplating moving out of Neyaz’s place, because we wanted to give Neyaz his privacy and we were paying like very little for the stay he offered us. So then, we teamed up with two other friends – Samir, the eccentric and Alex, the Frenchman and went in search of apartments. And it was Samir who found us one - in Sarai Jullena, which was close to New Friends Colony. And it was to the east of Batla House (the further, the better.) That three-bedroom apartment would be the starting point of my life in Delhi. We had proper rooms to ourselves, a huge kitchen, good washroom, separate toilet – it was beautiful. Furquan and me shared a room, while Samir and Alex had a room of their own. Samir took the balcony room, while we had the corner right one. We very sparingly furnished our place, with two cots and carpet, which we bought from Batla house. It was in this very apartment, where i would say i found my first home in Delhi. And it was brilliant. It was in this very apartment, from where we received a weird bird as a house warming present (that actually dissappeared mysteriously after a couple of days), relationships began, good food was cooked, parties held, wi-fi's shared, where the fan worked only in our room, and so much more. This first floor apartment will forever remain a fond memory of my time in Delhi. But alas, all good things must come to an end. Our first year of college was coming to an end, and Alexandre was heading back to Paris. We could no longer afford the apartment. Since it was the vacations we didn't need a place to stay for almost two months, but we still had our stuff. Before Alex left, he gave away whatever stuff he had with him. Me and Furquan got the sofa, the toaster and a few things here and there.

So me and Furquan started roaming the length and breadth of Jamia Nagar looking for a decent room to keep our stuff in. After almost a week's search we found a relatively nice room in a not so relatively clean locality of Batla House. It was the topmost room, alongside ample tiled terrace. The only thing that was bothersome was the water and the paan stained toilet (thankfully we didn't have to sit on them, it was the Indian-squat type.) And it was on the fourth floor. So we somehow mustered up all the muscles that were not visible at first to take up all our stuff to the penthouse (yeah, it was a penthouse) and left Delhi for our respective homes for the summer vacations.

It was only after we came back in July, that we realized that the home that we took, was not quite the ideal home. It turned filthy dirty by the time we got back. We could not also keep it clean for an entire day, coz the dust settled quite easily and quickly inside the room every time we opened the window. So it was back to house searching once again. The only plus of living in Batla House as i said earlier, is the availability of some real good non veg food (especially the ones from Munis Kada and the small dhaba sort of shops that sold kebaabs.) But we could not stay there for long. While on our quest once again, through the gullies of Sarai Jullena, we ran into our old landlord. We were kinda scared asking him for a room, because we thought we had left the last place in not such a great state, what with all the bottles in the kitchen and stuff. But somehow i mustered up the courage and asked him - "Remember us?". His reply was quite friendly - "How can i not?". But not in the sarcastic tone. So by the time we finished talking with him, our newest home was found. 

It was a single room in a newly built floor of an old building. It was picture perfect. It had large windows, nice ventilation, ample light, built in kitchenette, built in cupboard and enough for space for two people as tall as myself and Fruquan to adjust in. And it was quite cheap too. We didn't think twice. We got the room -- on the fourth floor, and this time it was worth it. The tough task of getting all our stuff from the fourth floor of one building to the fourth floor of another was the only tough task that we had. We bought ourselves a carpet to go in the centre of the room, while i bought a bed and a table. It was all nice. One of the nicest homes i've lived in. And i take this opportunity to tell you that Furquan is the best roommate that i have ever lived with. There was an unsaid dealing that both of us could get, for as long as we stayed at room no 708 in building no. 58. I used to cut the veggies, while he used to cook. I used to have the net connected to my computer, while he used the wi-fi. There was equality, there was fun, there was brotherhood, there was a looking out for one another. Room no. 708 will forever remain my favorite home in Delhi.

But once again, good things came to an end. And it came in the form of my well planned stupidity. I got myself a job in Bangalore. I said my goodbyes. I had friends over, we had a crazy last day together at room 708. I made up my mind. I was to leave Delhi. But its true that you only know what you miss, when you are no longer around them. But i had made up my mind. I decided to take a small, deserved break before heading home, and headed to Mumbai. It was from here, that i get to know that the job in Bangalore had a catch (through a phone call from the company), which i didn't like one bit. I didn't even go to Bangalore. After some soul searching (read - rummaging on the internet for like hours), i got a job in Chennai. In a newspaper's tabloid edition. But i didn't feel like the zing there. And plus, i had no clue about who's who in the Tamil celebrity list, which was an essential part of the job i was part and so I decided i had to head back. I had a lot of unfinished business in Delhi. I missed Delhi. (which could also be a metaphor for the life that I've lived for the past two years.)

So after a hiatus of around two months, i was back to Delhi, back to room no. 708, but little did i know i would have to get out of there before i could say -"Look who's back!" Turned out that Furquan had invited his old roommate to stay with him, considering the fact that i had said i was not gonna be back. I was a little late in letting him know. How late? A week. If i had told him a week earlier, i could have still stayed with him. But Furquan is a man with a heart. He allowed me to stay at his place. And it was in room 708, that i sat for almost two weeks, without a job, without hope and without a darn clue about my future. But it was also here, that i found my calling, my job and my life back once more - when i got a job with Sports Illustrated India. I tried to reason with Furquan regarding staying along with him, but then he had already promised his friend. I felt it better not to tamper with other people's promises. So a fruitful year and a half relationship with the best roommate i ever had came to an end, with me finding a new place, a new roommate (my junior from college - Ratnendra) and a new future.

Well, it was this very departure from the room that i loved so much, that prompted me to start off with this series about my homes in the first place.

The new room was more like a hotel room, and it used to be where our friend Samir used to live before he headed out for greener pasture. First thing you would notice in the new place, which to reach you had to go through a narrow gulley and then walk just two flights of stairs - there is no ventilation whatsoever! And my new roommate couldn't stand the heat. He wanted an AC. We got an AC on rent. The place was infested with cockroaches. Water would basically start to trickle after 10 in the night. I hated the new place. And after a fruitful roommate relationship, i was not able to warm upto the idea of a new roommate, because the old give-take relationship was not working out (I hope Ratnendra does not kill me, after reading this), but i am one who always likes to give it a shot. So it was a long three months that i stayed up at the non-ventilated room, while i was frantically searching around for a new place. My old roommate did fuck me up once during these three months, when he shifted to a new place, while i could have taken up his room. Unfortunately, he didn't inform me, and somebody else took the room. But he made it up to me. He informed me of the room his landlord's brother had, and that is now my home.

On 22nd of October, while all my friends were wishing me happy birthday through phone calls, facebook message, mails, e-cards and sms-es, i was getting my own place for the very first time -- on the fifth floor. I have a window in my room. Nice kitchen, nice bathroom (i always make it a point that the plumbing is good wherever i go, i don't want another paan stained toilet ever again my entire life) and to top it all i could breathe. Finally. And while i write this, i am settled down with my bed, table, sofa and fridge (courtsey Mizaj), my ever growing collection of books, magazines, my laptop, my net connection and an end to my nomadness (is that even a word?) at room no. 14. And there is a sense of feeling that i have finally found a home -- for now that is. I hope it will be long before i bore you. Peace.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Living Your Story

Last night i was speaking to my friend about my life in general. In between our conversation, she stops me and tells me, "You look like a cute and excited little owl". Well i guess she made the comment about me being an owl, because i have really big round eyes (and basically weird owl-like hair o_O), and excited because i literally do get while telling my stories (as is evident in me ranting about useless stuff on my blog.) So after listening to my spate or run offs and butt ins and what not, my friend tells me - your story pretty much seems like a very fictional non fiction. I was like stumped - 'fictional non fiction?' Now what the hell could that mean.

It turns out most of our lives is what seems to be like a pre-destined script that goes on with its decisive pauses, dramatic entrances, sad exits, crazy times, unbelievable experiences and unexpected twists and turns. If we look back at our lives, we would be amazed at how it came into being. From the moment you cried as you gasped for your first breath, to the time you gasped for breath when your dad taught you to swim, to shifting from one location to another with the promise of a new start and everything in between and after - its all very fascinating to look at it after all these years. When i look back at my life, i'm glad that i got to see all the stuff i saw, feel all i felt, understand all i understood and then still keep a lookout for more.

One of my friends lamented about life coming back to square one time and again. But i believe that is the magic of life. It gives you chances. It gives you mistakes to learn. It gives you opportunities to utilize, fail and succeed. All that matters is which script you choose on the way. There might be certain detours or roadblocks on the way, but that doesn't mean you should stop halfway through. You battle ahead, and when you look back at all those moments, you will have a ball of time telling stories, like i did today. Who knows, in the future, you might find your friend telling you, "You know what, you look like an excited cute little gerbil". Until you do, keep living, keep your script in action.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Nomad That Is Me - Part 4.5 (The Story Of My Homes)

I really want to put an end to these disastrous sequels, but if Spielberg could come back after 20 years to make a sequel to Indiana Jones, then so can I. (p.s. – The fourth sequel finally made it to the top ten list, albeit with fewer readers that is) And while at it, make something radically different like inserting a .5 between four and five. So here I am to talk of homes, that were home to me more than home itself.

During my second stint at Calicut, i made my first genuine friend, who still remains to me one of my closest buddies - Ajmal (or in short Aju.) Aju’s family considered and still considers me as one of their own. This was proven by the fact, that this year when I called to wish them for Eid, Aju’s mom very nostalgically reminded me that, every Eid I would be the first person to wish Aju at his place. I was touched. So yeah, during the time of my adjustment to the new life of Calicut, my new school mates, my new teacher, my new friends, Aju and his family really made me feel at home. I still remember, before I returned back to Calicut, the last movie I had seen in a theatre was Titanic with my family in Muscat. Its true, I had not seen a movie in the movie theatre after the 1997 blockbuster. And then in 2002, I remember Aju getting all excited calling me over to his place. We were going for a movie with his Dad. He used to be the asst. commissioner of sales tax in Calicut at that time. I still remember sitting in that red Indica, visibly excited to go for my first movie theatre experience in Calicut. The movie – I Spy. Yeah, I know it was a crappy movie to go for. But I still have the movie tickets with me, in one of my personal diaries back home. And I shall keep it.

Aju’s family was pretty much like ours – 3 brothers and his parents. In addition to that, there is his grandmother, who is like the most jovial Grandma i ever know. Once, Aju had invited me and our friends over for dinner, and it was his grandmother who was there on the front to greet us. As soon as we entered the gates, his Grandmom bellowed – “Come in, come in. Your comrades are awaiting you.” We were literally blown away. Here was an old lady speaking us to in English (you should understand that we were in Calicut, and none of our Grandmas knew English.) It turns out; she was once the headmistress of a school. Nowadays with old age, her energy is not what it used to be. But she still recognizes me, although I have to tell her who I am when I come into the house. And then there is Kadistha and her two sons, one of who is deaf and dumb. Very nice people, the whole lot. Miss all of them.
It is also from Aju’s place that I got into watching U.S. TV sitcoms, starting with Friends, Scrubs and more over the years (literally picking up on one show after the other.) I have only one person to thank for introducing me to the joy that is pop culture – Suhail Rehman. Today this very man is marrying a close friend of mine – Mizaj Mammu. But that again is another story, for another blog (and hopefully not a sequel post.) On top of that, Aju and Suhail introduced me to hardcore gaming, allowing me to watch and play (some) of the dozens of games that was popular in the 2000’s. That is how I got hooked onto one of my favourite games – Mafia. And then there were the racing games, which was pretty much the only game I could beat Aju in.
Aju’s home is the place where I would run to everytime I used to get a chance. Lunch, dinner, sleepovers, movies, celebrations – Aju’s home was, is and will always be a part of the homes I can never forget.
After Aju left for Thrissur, I got to visit his place, only when he came down for holidays and vacations. That was when I got close to my own place, I guess. And then came graduation. Along with graduation came friends, new ones, good ones. And one home that stays out during this time, and still does is – Mekha. Mekha is the name of the house I spent most of my graduation days, and is also the name of one of my closest friend, Mukta’s Mom’s name. It is basically where I grew threw my troubled phases. The amount of fights, celebrations, happiness and sadness I went through at Mekha’s is like infinite. I remember the first time I had gone over to Mekha’s. I had taken my then new bike, Passion Plus, and gone to drop off Mukta, since we had gotten out of college late. I met with her Mom, her uncle and his wife. I still remember the drawing room was dimly lit with a light bulb (its changed today, with a CFL bulb doing the job now.) But from that day on, Mekha was as much a home to me as it was to Mukta, her bro Mritul or even her parents. It was also home to my favourite Grandmom - Chandra. Sadly it was also where she breathed her last. Sad, but never forgotten she is the soul of our heart.

I also remember Mekha for the time I had there with Nawab, another of my best friend, from Afghanistan, when we used to get together to study. Mekha aunty (I never called her by that name, even today. Although I do try) used to make us dosas in the morning, and all of us would sit around the kitchen waiting for our turn. Even today, when I go back, that is one thing I don’t miss on my itinerary. Sitting on the doorstep, eating dosa with chutney and sambhar and chit-chat with Mekha aunty – priceless.

There were charts made, movies and TV shows watched, there were fights, there was watching the Oscars, the IPL, football and what not. I was also in awe of the number of plants in the courtyard, that i actually took a few of them and went and planted them at my place. they are growing just fine. So i could say i have a little bit of Mekha in Falaq. Mekha shall forever remain etched in my life as being my home away from home.

Sadly I do not have neither home’s picture. But I believe I do not need one. Its painted in my mind for eternity.

Until next time for the final piece on my nomadic life, ciao.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Blogger's Observation

I think sequels don't work. I was trying out the new interface of Blogspot (which is super awesome to say the least), and found the stats page as available on Wordpress. When i checked on which was my most read post i found that my blog post - The Nomad That Is Me - Part 1 (The Story Of My Homes), had the most hits, while the subsequent posts on the same, saw far fewer readers. It was like comparing my posts to the norms of Hollywood - the first is always good, the sequels - eh. What was more disturbing was to find out any similar post, which goes beyond 2 sequels tend to bomb badly (sadly The Nomad That Is Me - Part 4 (The Story Of My Homes) was my worst sequel ever considering it never even made it to the top ten list.) So what have we learned here?

  • Stick to originals.
  • If you plan to do sequels, don't go beyond two.
  • If you think this post will increase hits to my earlier blog posts - tough luck.
  • Don't go pop culturing yourself.

The Cellar

"There's someone out there,"
Says the child
In that dark,
Dirty, cramped place.
All’s over,
And you hear nothing.
For it’s all over.
Down in a cellar,
You remain as dust.
As if to be called,
To be cleaned up again.
I proceed forward,
Up the stairs,
We came down through.
And lifted the weight,
That shut as down.
It turns out,
Everything’s all right.
I cry out,
Even thought the voice,
Isn’t clear,
“Praise be to God,
We are in heaven!”

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Let There Be Light

(A collaboration with my good friend Aishwarya Nair. She interspersed my earlier poem, with a positivism that only she could muster. The words in italics are mine, the other hers.)

The leaves of memory seemed to make
A mournful rustling in the dark...

i wish the sun came out at night
of the darkness that frightens me
would creep away ashamed and silent

The barren branches and the boughs
stark reminders of the wind that blows...
the solitude that once was a blessing
is now a haunting...

i wish everyday was different
my melancholy would end
in the abrupt moment of time

for what solace lies in monotony
the end in sight as definite as it can be...
for once the light breaches the cloud...
and forever shall darkness secede...

i wish everyone was different
all the people i've known until
had just love in their hearts

try as you might..
the shards of time will pierce
the glorious day when disappears
into the sunset mists....

i wish the sea was calm
the troubles it cause,
the miseries and woes end it all

and the ripples fade into naught
the tide sweep away all thought
leave behind a single pearl of love
in abundance it shall be brought.....

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Nomad That Is Me - Part 4 (The Story Of My Homes)

'Al Fajer' in the 90's

After coming back to India in 2001, we stayed over at the ancestral place – Al Fajer (which translates to dawn in Arabic) for almost 2 years, before finding our own place – “Falaq” (which roughly translates to ‘daybreak’ in Arabic.) Life began for me here (or rather I had my ‘break’ right here at this humble abode.)

The green one storey building is the home I always head back to whenever I feel homesick, when I feel like visiting my loved ones, when I feel like getting the warmth of my own bed, the green godrej cupboard and table – it’s a feeling I cannot put into words. Just a few minutes away from where we used to stay earlier, ‘Falaq’ is not the average palatial houses that gulf returnees are expected to build. It’s a modest 4 bedroom home built on just around 4.5 cents of land (that’s close to around just 2000 sq. ft.) It was bought close to late 2002 (yes, we bought a house, instead of building it from scratch.) We had sparingly any furniture, household items, not even a TV. But we at least had a roof over our heads. And we were blessed in that way.
And the transformation was magical. I was in my ninth grade, when we moved into the house. And I had joined MESRRS, Pavangad, my final school in my journey of school life a year back. But it was in ninth grade that I actually hit paydirt. I got to the other side of me – the writing guy. And did I not roll or what? I started getting into competitions – essay writing, versification, extempore, Quran recitation – what not. Moreover, I participated in even Hindi competitions (although most of my current bunch of friends find my Hindi weird and very South-Indian-ish. I tell them, hellew – what do you expect? I am from South India, Kerala to be precise.) So yeah getting back to the prime of my school days, I started making some awesome friends during my time at Falaq. One of the closest has to be Ajmal, who was like an extended family to me. I used to be more at his place than mine. Mainly because he had some awesome games and really cool cousins. I remember the time when he came over to my ancestral place and was stuck there for the night due to thunderstorms. Ajmal and me remain brothers till this day. Then, there is Vaisakh - my partner in crime and vice versa, the vice versa more so. We've had between us more than with any other friend i ever had. From his TVS Victor riding days to the Pulsar 200 days. And then there are countless others, if i were to begin here, it wouldn't end. But if it weren't for all of them, i'd not be the person i am today.

'Falaq' in the 2000's (wish i had a more fuller pic)
I remember the time when it was the tenth boards, and I had all the important charts from biology, physics, chemistry and even maths adorning the two walls of my rooms (the other two had windows on them.) I used to get up every morning, and the images of cytoplasm and mathematical equations got imprinted in my head. That was the reason why I guess, I did good for my tenth boards. I remember Mom insisting on getting a showcase in the hall in front of the dining table, because we always had a showcase when we were in Muscat. And it was built. But there wasn’t much to display. I am proud to say that, today the showcase is filled with trophies, medals and more showpieces than Mom ever imagined. Each of us in our family take pride on each and every piece in that showcase today.
We slowly started improving on the insides of our home, bit by bit, time by time. We got ourselves a TV after my tenth boards. Then we made the staircase railing wooden, we put up nice clay tiles in front of the house, Mom and me planted plants, trees, shrubs, we closed the old well and dug a new one, we built a bookshelf, we put tiles on the roof and we even bought a bigger water tank (which I still do clean when I am there. It is fun, you should try cleaning your tank at times) and I also remember the time when we got down the furniture from Muscat in a huge two piece container that my Dad sent through cargo. I remember, Dad and me going till the Kochi port to get the stuff. It was a pain in the ass to get clearance from authorities, but surprisingly, all matters were cleared by the evening, and we got ourselves a mini lorry and drove all the way up to Calicut from Kochi. We had an amazing time, going through the different districts, with Dad intermittently telling me stories about when he was young and how he actually got to Muscat. It was the second best Father-Son time I’ve ever had with Dad (the best happened very recently.) We reached home by late night, got down all the stuff, and put it in. Subsequently we got two single beds, we got the sofa set and loads more. The home that was, and the home after furnishing was fuller than ever before. It actually felt warmer.
After my plus two, in 2006, I had gone to Dubai for vacations with my Uncles and their families. To tell you the truth, it was the worst vacation of my life. Nothing can be as worse as those two months in Dubai. Maybe because I had to live with people, with whom I never before lived more than a couple of days together before. Or maybe because my Grandmother was getting on my nerves. Whatever it was, it happened, and one can’t do anything about it. There was one good thing to come out of that trip. My Mom’s brothers got me a computer, or basically all the parts of the computer when I left from Dubai. And Falaq was the place I bought it all to. It was very exciting for me, because this was actually my first real modern day computer. The last computer I owned ran only Windows 3.1 and Basic. So this was a big deal for me. And the best thing was, I called upon my chums, Vivek and Vaisakh to get it all together. We actually built the PC from motherboard to the last screw on the CPU. If you think that is easy, just try assembling a PC for yourself. We did a pretty good job at that. That computer survived for more than six years, until it was replaced with a better model just last year. I was a tad disappointed at first, coz it was just an average machine. Nothing powerful or anything. But something is better than nothing, right? So I remained loyal to my PC, and loved it like anything.
The legend
College was a whole new level of experience for me. Although I followed in the footstep of my brother, I believed to set an example of mine. Whether I did or not, I do not mind. But if I am still known as Danish’s brother, that is what matters to me. And till date, they know me as Danish’s brother, although they do know my name as well. If my brother went to college, they would ask him about me. If I went to college, they would ask me about him. That is the bond me and my brother share. There all the time, for one another. Even though I was the hot headed and black sheep of the family, my brother stood by me through thick and thin. I think this home did play a good part in that. College bought along new friends, new memories, fights, laughs, victories, embarrassments, and one of the best loves of my life – the Hero Honda Passion Plus. Alas the beauty stayed with me for just around four years. But in those four years, boy did we have fun – road trips: planned and unplanned, taxi service, late night pick-ups and so many more fun memories. That was the first vehicle of ours that stood on the tiled front porch of our home. You shall forever be missed - KL 11 Y 4658.
My relegated new room at 'Falaq'
In 2009, I moved to Delhi to pursue my Masters. It was difficult saying goodbye to Mom, to Brothers, to Friends, to Passion, to Home. But it was time. I had stayed in the nest for too long. And when I was away, Mom redecorated the room I used for more than half a decade, for my brother and his bride. I was more than happy. I was ecstatic. My stuff was moved into the small room on the side, with the ever expanding library. My bed, the godrej table and the shelf left no room at all to walk around. But I liked it. More so because it was just perfect to leave my room, as I last left it, waiting for me to get back to it. I lived in more houses than one in Delhi (which should most probably be my finale in this series. For now.), but nothing could ever make up for what ‘Falaq’ meant to me. This is the home where my friends came down to. This is the home where Ismail pulled down my pants. This is the home where a reunion meant orange food fight. This is the home where we got holed up in the worst New Year’s Eve ever. This is the home from where i sneaked out umpteen number of times. This is the home where countless parties took place. This is the home where we fell sick. This is the home where we all laughed. This is the home where my brother bought his new wife to. This is the home, that shall remain etched in my mind, as my home of homes.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Nomad That Is Me - Part 3 (The Story Of My Homes)

The summer sun in Muscat is quite stupendous. As soon as you get out of the creaky Indian Airlines flight, you feel the heat hit on you like a fresh waft of plain sunny-ness. In the summer of 2000 I returned to Muscat. Dad was running his own business, albeit a small one. I remember two years back dad had a huge Volvo sedan (I think it was the 850 or 900 model.) But things change and Dad had shifted to a more modest car – the Nissan Primera. We were heading back to dear old Al-Fayha complex. The same fourth floor. The same second last door on the left. But not for long. It was just a temporary stopover for us.

Ruwi at night, the Sultan Qaboos Mosque in view (Photo courtsey: Sudheer S)
We were moved towards an apartment in the more crowded-industrialized area of Baladiyah street, close to Ruwi. It was a fresh start, and there were loads of things to do. For starters, me and dad took up charge of cleaning the whole place up from scratch. We began with the kitchen, since Mom needed it ASAP. And it was quite difficult cleaning the place up. It was filthy dirty the first time we saw it. A lot of pest faeces, darkened corners, and dusty cupboards – all washed clean and disinfected. And then there was the carpeting, starting with the drawing room. There were two bedrooms. The master bedroom had a huge bathroom (which my Mom didn’t like at all – because it is difficult to clean such a large space – she cursed that bathroom for as long as we stayed there.) I kinda liked the enormousness of the bathroom (kinda made me feel like a king.) Then there was the laying of the tiles for the corridor, that Dad got from his new wood workshop. And it was totally my masterpiece; I laid all the tiles across the 15 foot by 4 foot corridor. Still very proud of it.
The neighbourhood was not that great. There were too many metal workshops and what not out there. It was not the ideal residential place. And maybe one of the reasons that I didn’t even have any pictures of the place. After long, we resumed going to school by bus, which was again quite boring. I don’t exactly remember who used to stay next to me there (I think it was Clayton or somebody.) But there are some beautiful memories of the time when I was staying there, although outside of our home. I used to go to the Al Safoor plaza (was it?)(it was on the Bayt Al Falaj street, that’s for sure), where Nikhil used to stay. He was a big fan of basketball, and me new to the sport. But I guess I did try my best to gather what I could do about the sports and used to play it along with him out there. Then there were the carom board sessions with the masters of the flick and fingers – some of the most awesome-st carom moves I have ever seen – and they were the local factory workers and the watchmen who used to amaze me with their skills. Nikhil too was really good at it. But I really did have good times out there.
But then it was another trip that I enjoyed quite much. Jonathan and I used to head out to Qurum with his Dad in the evenings on weekends. And we used to roam about the handful of malls that dotted the Qurum commercial centre. John’s Dad used to be at the SABCO centre, while ma Dad at the Wadi Commercial Centre. Our hang out place usually used to be at the electronics store on the ground floor. The Playstation (yes the first series) had just come out, and we had a chance to play it. But it came with a catch. We had to play Who Wants To Be A Millionaire (yes the PS game), and get to at least the fifth question to play one of the any games available with them. Since John liked quizzes, he got to play that, while I got to play the games part. It was a win-win situation. The weekends were real fun, and I also remember heading to John’s place to work on our computer project for the exhibition. John’s a genius I tell you. While in our eighth grade, he bought a Bible of sorts on the software Flash, and read the entire manuscript, and made his own animation for the start of our crude quizzing game (made on Microsoft Powerpoint!) So there I was working on the computer, even though the latest I had till the end of 2001 was a Window 3.1. Whatever I know about computers, is all thanks to Jonathan Prakash Kotker. Great guy. Great time. Great memories.
Tragedy struck us toward the end of August. Dad got involved in one of the worst car crashes. If you saw the sight of the Ssangyong Musso he was travelling in, you would be amazed to know that all three travelling in it survived. Dad was the most affected. We had to take him back home for rehabilitation. He was very badly injured and there were just too many stitches all around. So back to Kerala we headed. It was a sad end to a new start.
The usual lush greenery of Kerala greeted us once again. Dad spent a lot of time with the Ayurvedic doctors, and he made good progress. And we were staying at our Grandparents place. Again. But there was an eminent move on the way. But that is for another blog post. Another day.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Nomad That Is Me - Part 2 (The Story Of My Homes)

Calicut beach (digitally altered photograph)
Kozhikkode (a.k.a Calicut) has this magical feel to it. Lush greenery as you come down the table top airport, the smell of rain in the air, the signs all around – even on buses – written in Malayalam – it is quite literally – another world in itself. And that was exactly what I thought, when I came down to live there for the first time. I had left behind some of my best friends back in Muscat, and it was horrible for me.
We stayed at our ancestral place (you could not call it ancestral per say, since the house of my grandparents (mom’s side) was built in the 1970’s.) Our family is originally from Mahe, the erstwhile French colony (a lot of the Frenchness can still be seen around, and this Mahe is on the Kerala side, not Tamil Nadu.) My Grandad moved to Calicut to start his own business – Mahe Tea Mart (wholesale and retail sales of tea, coffee and later even milk powder.) The ancestral place was huge. There were around 5 rooms and as many families to fill it up (the need for a nuclear family was not even in the heads of anyone till then, and everyone felt comfortable living with each other as a joint family, almost.) But my mom thought if we too moved into the same house, then it would get a tad overcrowded. So we decided to head out and shift into an apartment close to the ancestral home itself. Thus came my third home – Shikha Apartments.
It was just barely 50 metres away, and it was a normal sized building with around four apartments in them. We took the one on the right hand corner on the ground floor. This time around, Dad was not there (he was still in Muscat, making ends meet.) So it was just Mom, brothers and myself at the new 2 bedroom apartment. I don’t think I have too many memories of this place, but I can muster up some enjoyable moments I had outside of it.
It was while at this home that I was able to cultivate the passion of cricket in me. Every weekend I used to go to the nearby ground in Jawahar Nagar Colony, where the neighbourhood boys (most of who studied with me at the Madrassa) would get together to play some of the most engrossing games of cricket (or any other sports for that matter) I have ever played. We also used to have cross-neighbourhood, wherein we would be challenged by the chaps from the Nadakkavu junction (the neighbouring locality.) The bet used to be for a meager amount of 10 or five rupees. But there used to be a lot of tension since it was the case of upholding our pride. I used to be sent in as a pinch hitter, and I was good with that (I guess) – a couple of sixes here, a couple of fours there, and then get yourself out. And yes, I used to be on the boundary line always – good fielder you see. The Nadakkavu boys used to hit hard, and I used to be there to catch hold of any ball that came my way. 
Shikha Apartments is also the place where I got my first bike – a Hero Devil. It was awesome – since I never had a bike of my own. Ever. And it was my pride. I used to take it out to go and play. I remember my elder bro had an accident with the new cycle just weeks after buying it. And surprisingly I had remained cool about it. It was my brother after all, and it was a cycle, not his bones (but yeah, he did lose one tooth.) Oh and I remember me throwing down my brothers bag on the floor thinking that he had replaced my bag from the chair. I was a very disturbed kid, who’d have his tantrums every now and then. I must have been beaten up by every other uncle and aunt I know.
School was another thing that I didn't enjoy much. After getting the adoration and admiration of the teachers in Muscat, how could I start building my reputation from scratch? I used to go to the Hill Top Public School (yes, as the name suggests it was on a hill-top). We used to go in Amba Travels, a trusted old tempo van that used to pass through the lane in front of us. Again, not much great memories with that van, since most of ma friends used to go in another – ultra super cool van – whose driver was kick-ass. Our tempo van consisted of most of the snobby kids, so it was not that great. But then again the travel was quite beautiful. We used to take the same path everyday, through our lane, in through Kottaram road to the magnificent Azhakodi Temple road and then out through Arayadathupalam to the congested Puthiyara junction and the beautiful winding road up to the top of our school (which was incidentally surrounded by huge chimney’s of large tile and brick factories that you could (and can still) see dotted around that place.) The winding path was made up of red bricks from the very factory. I should say this – it is one of the most picturesque schools I have ever been to. Life was pretty normal. Nothing major out here.
But getting back to my home, as I said earlier – not much to talk about, not much to cherish (we didn’t even have a TV out there, but yes we had an aquarium.) I have more memories of my ancestral homes in Mahe and Calicut, during the time we used to come for vacations from Muscat than of the two years I spent here. Yes, we shifted after two years, back to where I belong, back to old friends, memories, but old home? Well for that you have to wait for the next one. So it is adieu to an almost memory-less Calicut for now.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Nomad That Is Me - Part 1 (The Story Of My Homes)

Its true when people say that this generation is not going to have a hometown to support or be passionate about or even boast about. We have become nomads. With very few people sticking to their roots, people are travelling anywhere and everywhere their jobs take them. I am no exception, but with the case of job being my reason, is only very recent.

I was born in a small yet historically relevant city in God’s Own Country (Kerala, in South India) called Calicut, a.k.a Kozhikkode (historically because that was where Vasco de Gama landed almost five centuries back.) But I didn’t stay there for long considering the fact that my father was one of those millions who had shifted base to the oil-rich Gulf in the 1970’s. (and yeah, I am the only one born in Kerala among my siblings. Both my brothers were born in Muscat, Oman.) So sooner than later, I was in the Middle East getting used to the constant air conditioning and biriyani or ghee rice on Fridays (it used to be a tradition for up until the late 1990’s in our home – Mom used to make neychor (ghee rice) with chicken curry or different biryanis on Fridays, so that the whole family sat together and ate peacefully after the men came back from the Friday Juma prayers). Oh yeah, I forgot to mention – the sweltering heat, even though nobody ventured out before it was at least 4 in the evening.

I vaguely remember where we used to live when I was really very tiny (I have to ask ma mom one of these days about it), but yeah when I was around 5 years of age, I clearly remember staying in this flat in Muttrah. It had huge halls and there were around 10 apartments within that hallway. It was fairly a huge apartment with two bedrooms and very friendly neighbours. It was the 90’s, people did talk to each other then. My mom, used to being the clean and practical one used to even get out of the way into cleaning the hallways, clearing it off the cobwebs and dust from time to time. I remember a Malayalee family, with whose children I used to play around with. When my mom left for Hajj, dad used to make us breakfast in the morning, cover it with a plate and head off to his office. Me and my brother after having our breakfast (which mainly included bananas or Upuma) used to head out to our neighbour’s place, where we played our hearts out until it was evening and our dad came back. It was a fairly nice place to stay. I remember my mom walking me down the steps towards the bus to take me to the school, which was situated towards the Corniche side of Muttrah (and yes, this very school would metamorphosize into the once prestigious Indian School Al Wadi Al Kabir).

That apartment was also the site of one of my worst personal accidents. I had burned myself real badly when I knocked over a mug of boiling hot water, which was being used as a vaporizer to clear off blocked noses. Ugh, the pain of having my skin peeled off when my dad pulled down my shorts to help take the scalding hot water away from my body was absolutely excruciating. For the next one month, I had to visit the hospital every day to have new dressing on both ma thighs. But that was just one of those many things, that you will encounter in your life. You will never know when the next incident that will scar you for life can come along.

The Al Fayha Complex as in 2009 (courtsey: Jonathan Kotker)

But after living there for almost three years we shifted base to Al Wadi Al Kabir, when the new school came up there. It was called the Al Fayha Complex and it was the company building. It still remains to me the best place I have ever stayed in my entire life. We lived through there from 1993 until 1998. We started at the second floor, and after my Uncle (Dad’s brother) brought his family down from India, we shifted our flat to the fourth floor. It was a two bedroom apartment with a sitting room, two bathrooms and a very nice kitchen. We lived a very comfortable life there, with mosques on all four sides of the building, the school was just walking distance and I made quite a lot of friends, with whom I still keep in touch.

I also remember heading off to three buildings to the left, behind the Adam and Sons Jewellery (who have been robbed quite a number of times), where my close buddy Jasper used to live. We would take out the Four Square, mom had gotten for me when she came back from India attending her sister's wedding. We'd go on out to the road, and make the pipes on the side of the wall our wickets and play gully cricket. Occasionally we were disturbed by the Omani hooligans, who didn't take a liking to us just minding our own business. But we did have a huge Asian contingency there. The Pakistani boys in our building used to get together in the evening and display some of the most awesomest gully cricket i have ever seen. I was basically blown away by their fast bowlers and big hitters. Being the small me, i was not able to be part of their teams, but time to time i too got a chance to see my wickets being shattered with a 100 km/hr ball.

Other than that our building had so many interesting people. There were the sisters (i don't remember how many they were) from Hyderabad, who used to always come out in their Hijab, which made them all the more mysteriously attractive. There were also the bachelors on the first floor, who used to work in the printing press on the ground floor. There was Jijesh uncle, one of the coolest friend's my Uncle ever had (he even got me a walkie talkie from Singapore when i asked for it, but leave it my elder brother who asked me not to accept it, since he thought our Dad won't like it.) I remember the time when me and my brother got into a fight destroying the huge balcony window (and the subsequent punishment by Dad, who beat us with his now famous cane stick.)

I also remember the time when my Uncle decided to cook for his sick wife, and literally got the pressure cooker to explode by trying to open it before it had lost out on all its pressure (the dal was all over the ceiling.) Relatives used to visit us. We had parties. This place sure did have quite a lot of memories and anecdotes to go along with it. It was a beautiful time. It was a beautiful place.

But all honeymoons get over. Sadly, my Dad hit a rough patch after his Sheikh expired and people were in danger of losing their jobs. He decided to send us back to India at least for the time being. So there, after almost 12 years in the Gulf I was heading back to the place I was born in - Calicut.

I didn't like it one bit that we had come back to our motherland. I was getting comfortable with the kind of life i lived in Muscat - quite, slow and relaxing. Its not like i hated Calicut or anything, but you know how it is when you leave your best friends in the world, and come to a place to begin a new life all over again. It was quite tough. And this was one of the main reasons, i initially didn't like the place. But things change, and it sure did for me. But that is for another blog post, when i move into our second home.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

I Got An Incomplete List To Complete Before I Say I Do

I mean how much more hilarious could life be? You have people getting married left, right and centre. What is it with people and getting married so young? Well with the kind of things happening around us, I believe that they are taking the Mayan belief that 2012 sure is the end of the world (courtesy my buddy Ashwin Gopinath - yeah we discussed this seriously idiotic topic and why people can't just go suicidal instead of getting married). But c’mon now, does that mean you get married even before you get a job, even before you can stand on your two feet, even before you’ve seen the world, before you’ve even had a hangover or two? You know what it is? It is ridiculous? Now don’t tell me that you’ve done all that even before your 23rd birthday. And no I’m not being jealous nor am I being stupid. But that’s the deal people. You got so much more to do. If it were me, this would be a list of things to do before I hang my heart out:

  1. Take a road trip to Ladakh
  2. Hike across the Himalayas
  3. Get wet in the rains of Cherapunji
  4. Be in a band (again) and play to an audience equal to that of the number of people out on the street during India’s Cricket World Cup win
  5. Gift Dad and Mom a foreign holiday for their anniversary
  6. Drive MY car around one of the two drive-in beaches in India
  7. Enjoy the littlest moments (a promotion, a raise, an award – it can be frikking anything – even your first swim with sharks) with your friends, no matter how busy any of them are
  8. Put a smile on the face of everyone who cares for you and not
  9. Get a book published (which is almost partially fulfilled ;))
  10. Grow my hair long (It’s been like this unfulfilled wish for so long! ;))

And so much more people. So much more. If I continue with this list, I don’t think i’ll be able to finish it anywhere now. It might even take me time until my bachelorhood finishes, thereby guaranteeing that I will still have so many things to do before I get hitched. As for 2012, I tell, bring it on. I can wait. As long and as peaceful as I want.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A revisit

3 years back, on a very sunny March morning, i had put up a story on this very blog. It was written after the devastation of the 2004 tsunami. It pained me to see the number of people who had lost their lives without warning, without a final goodbye and without a word to their loved ones.

The very story has now been chosen by New Asian Writing, a Bangkok based independent press to be published in their yearly Short Story Anthology.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Beginning of the End for Pixar?

It’s Pixar’s 25th anniversary and what it has offered on this momentous occasion has failed to live up to expectations. While the first movie was termed as one of Pixar’s weakest movies, this movie has easily taken over the mantle. From a predictable story line to a role reversal of characters, Cars 2 has all the making of Pixar’s halt in the production of world-class movies. From a studio that has produced blockbusters like Toy Story, Wall-E, Findin Nemo and Up, we really did expect nothing short of an impending blockbuster.

The story begins in an almost James Bond-ish setting with the arrival of a new character, Finn McMissile, immaculately voiced by Michael Caine trying to disrupt a scheming group of thugs. The animation department takes no second chances in putting good use of 3D technology in creating the huge colony of oilrigs in the middle of the ocean. After a tense ten minutes, you fall in love with the newest addition to the Cars 2 character list and wait for a striking plot and exquisite storytelling.

But that’s where it all goes wrong. We go back to Radiator Spring to meet the hero – Lightning Mcqueen (voiced by Owen Wilson)? Unfortunately this time around the hero is a side character from the first movie, Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy). McQueen is taking his time off with his girlfriend Sally (voice by Bonnie Hunt), when yet another addition to the cast, Miles Axxelrod (voiced by Eddie Izzard), a billionaire announces a world grand prix. While initially refusing to race, McQueen gets pulled into it by an egotistical Italian car, Francesco Bernoulli (voiced by John Turturro), which is again voiced in a very stereotypical Italian voice. The parallel thin story is what Pixar has been trying to very conveniently portray through its trailers. Now since the movie is out, people will be wondering if they have been duped.

Finn is on a mission to disrupt a sinister plan by some really old cars, called ‘lemons’ in the movie, accompanied by the lovely Holley Shiftwell (voiced by Emily Mortimer), when the rusty old tow truck comes into the fray accidentally. Mater’s mix up as an American spy is where all the action lies, and the audience is left yawning over a period of time, even though there are some laugh-worthy moment at times. Axxelrod’s plan to introduce alternative fuel to actually disrupt the use of the same, is another confusion to the plot.

With exotic locations making way for pure American race tracks, and a spate of thugs giving way to scheming racers, Cars 2, directed by Pixar genius, John Lasseter does serve up its technical brilliance, but only to be foiled by an average script and weak characters. If you go in looking for the speed and thrill of racing cars, don’t be disappointed to return back with the feeling that this is the beginning of the end of Pixar magic.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Same Old Feeling

When you leave

With just a bye

I know its here

And once again

I am the loser

What i did wrong

I know not

I am a fool

For, it recurrs

Like a rotten pus

I hate to die

But i bleed


And once more

I am the loser