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the setting -the quintessential mumbai local train..
self was on a saturday late evening 7ish churchgate local..this coach was three-fourths full with majority of the family crowd rocking back n forth their seats with a resigned air, when all of a sudden a strapping young man gets up just before s’cruz station arrives and starts extolling the virtues of his wonderful wallets.
Wow! (and the cerebellum gives an appreciate nod here) surely that’s the mumbai spirit well-exemplified –fighting it out on a saturday evening to earn your honest bread..but wait! something’s wrong –seriously wrong –no one’s paying him any attention –chap has a more-than-decent carrying voice but he’s not even getting a cursory glance from the audience!
the one-liners seem quite monotonous, dry n ‘filmy’ (for lack of a better word) –‘saalon saal chalne waale’..”badiyaa quality, maatr bees rupaye”…
no energy…no passion…worse the salesman doesn’t seem to believe in his own goods…just hasn’t put his soul into it…and it shows big-time!
after another 3-4 minutes of his listless monologue, S’cruz station greets us boisterously..and our hero promptly gets off, fast disappearing among the platform crowd.
just when i think the only eventful aspect of this journey has come to a boring close, two gaudily dressed eunuchs hop on-board and begin enacting their script “aay raju, chikne, baabu–kuch dena” !
sigh! some things will just not change —why oh why do people shamelessly debase their dignity?
but before the cerebellum can further traverse on this line of thought, a flurry of activities has it distracted:
the coach suddenly wakes up out of its stupor..clutch of phones magically appear in some hands (never mind, there is no network!)..some get engrossed in a deep conversation with their neighbors..others just close their eyes n go into a deep contemplative state ..anything, just anything to not catch the eye of the newly arrived occupants in the coach! it’s almost as if the whole coach has come magically alive and in a flash put on the “do-not-disturb” sign on its forehead!
but the eunuchs know better..keep ear-to-ear grins plastered on their faces and patiently yet swiftly they make it a point to contact every single person in the coach..tapping them on head (bestowing their unasked blessings!)…younger folks get a playful pat on the cheek..seat-to-seat, they coax the audience to reach out for their wallets and part with some loose change! they meet with varying degrees of success, outright disgust in some cases, but they just keep moving on!
what a stark contrast !
one was selling without a soul, while these two were begging with pride!
who do you think leaves an impression on the audience (needless to add, their pockets!) ???
Oh come on ! not again…nothing’s happened…I’m perfectly all right thank you!
Why this constant attention on every single action/gesture of mine? And all hell breaks loose when I do something new…they shriek like banshees, bring the house down, get everyone to see me and then they again do the banshee-thingy!
Phew! I tell you being a 3-month old human baby is just not cool!
For starters, everyone’s trying to get a smile out of me –why?
Can I not just be?
I really don’t wanna see you making faces, rolling your eyes, crunching your nose, pulling your ears and other weird contortions of your body –all to just stretch my mouth n flash a momentary toothless grin! That you make proper monkeys of yourself is one thing, but then pulling my cheeks –that’s the limit you know!
And then why can’t you big folks with big brains decide on one single common unanimous name for yours truly?
Come to think of it, “Pranav” isn’t that bad, but where do u even get titles like “Pannu” “Sona” “Makhanu” “Gunda” “Puttha” “Babu” “Toothless” ???
Hmmm…so what is it that I do like to do?
Well, Got a good story for the day? Bring it on…
What’s that? Ofcourse I understand! Every single word. Even though you guys speak in 4 (or was it 5 at last count?) different lingos, I got a razor-sharp memory —sure, it helps i had a head-start when I was inside mom’s belly and she kept yapping all day long! And here’s my BIG secret — I CAN TALK ! i only choose not to speak, ‘cos its fun to watch you guys decode my balderdash n gobbledygook whole day long, while I lie down n compose my next nonsensical masterpiece!!!
Anyways coming back to the storytelling sessions, I luv watching your emotions, (your genuine ones that is!) your expressive face when you so animatedly describe the characters in your story –add some expansive gestures with your hands, a few dance steps to bring in some zing to the plot and yup, that’s a home-run scored for me!
And Mom just hold me tight – I can stare into your eyes for hours –I simply love the “who will blink first” contests, ‘cos I always win!
Dad, I can’t wait for you to get home every night and tell me how did your whole day go –I see the world through your eyes (hey, I have got your eyes after all!) and its just so reassuring that there is a whole new world out there (away from this madhouse!) with zillions of adventures awaiting my heroic entry in the days to come!
hey, that’s mom – “Momma, i just finished my diary entry –wanna have a look?” (in gobbledygook ofcourse!)
“WHAT HAPPENED BABOOOOO” ???
SIGH! I GIVE UP !!!
Happy Diwali they say..
and i’m inclined to vigorously nod the cerebellum more often than not,
‘Course! “Happy Diwali” i echo – when & where else do i get a free license to gorge on tonnes of drowned-in ghee (most certainly Not sugar-free) sweets? and when do you get to rebuke the l’il nagging ‘morally healthy’ voice inside – ‘take a hike’ or a plain ‘buzz off’ -you yell back and actually float in that supremely blissful burpful state along with near & not-so-near, dear & not-so-dear ones !!!
And which other occasion provides a visual spectacle so grand and wondrous, its like life itself expressing its abundance of colours & sparkles, each burst competing with previous one, you can savour each moment and drop it off almost immediately ‘cos the next one is gonna come up very quickly and capture all of your attention so effortlessly – its eerie – the spell-binding procession that allows every member of its troupe to get its few seconds of (quite literally) airtime !!!
But (and here the good ‘ol cerebellum frowns its pronounced dissent) what of the auditory atrocities inflicted unfailingly on these very occasions ? the devastating ‘bombs’ & chain-crackers that seem to drag out the reluctant (& very much ‘introvert’) ear-drum from its comfortable well-nestled roost to the harsh cacopohony outside and proceed to pound it mercilessly !!!
think about it – there’s nothing so incapacitating as a high-decibel celebration – no quiet, so no reading, no watching tv, no calling up friends, no talking to anybody (‘cos then you end up with a sore throat from shouting over the din to get heard in first place) ….just gotta let all that noise simply wash past you, sport a happyless grin n keep chirping “Happy Diwali” !!!!
“its the cracked ones who let the light in” (spotted on the bumper of a psychiatrist’s car!)
Date: Somewhere in the middle of March ; Time : Half-past Midnight; Venue : My Bedroom ; Occasion : Eve of the much-awaited duel with my arch-enemy…the CorporateFinance exam paper!!!
Yours truly was busy pacing up n down..hastily gulping down Cashflows, Miller-Modigliani hypothesis and other brain-hemorrhaging, gut-wrenching stuff….And then – it happened! Stopped everything and called out for my ‘man friday’ – the trusted digicam!
Just a few moments back i happened to pause at the window and spotted a section of the adjoining building wall thoroughly lit up with a classic sepia tone…and some really strange-looking characters ‘living’ on this wall !!!
Now however bad the provocation(and the-eve-of-a-finance-paper ranks right up there at the top of the charts), the Hegdes don’t lose their head and strive to maintain a dignified stance! But i almost lost it then!
Closer inspection revealed these ‘characters’ were some kinda paste they apply onto building cracks ’round the year and the strong flashlight of a leftover terrace-party was completely focussed on this wall thereby highlighting the forgotten masterpiece!
And ’twas all the more intriguing ‘cos i had somehow never managed to notice this canvas during the daytime (and obviously too dark at night)..
the sheer creative license employed by the workman in doing up a mundane job….the free strokes, the curious expressions…mystical stories etched on a plain simple wall….no, an artist would be a fitting tribute here! the “Cracked Artist”..yup, thats what he is..
Come to think of it, how many times do we bother to fill up the ‘cracks’ with even a fraction of our attention! who cares..who’s even looking..you say? well, for starters its one’s own zest for life, a healthy measure of self-belief, and definitely a sprinkling of “crack”ness that keeps you bullishly going at every dreary,insignificant moment..when no one’s looking…
And then once-in-a-blue-moon, there’s this sepia-toned light that comes literally out of nowhere, from the most unexpected of quarters, at the oddest of times and brings out the ‘Cracked Artist’ that is you, to the recognition of a blissfuly dark world!
PS : If you’re still out there er..’reading’ these lines (whoa! u really must be one of those cracked ones to last this long) and more importantly,still clenching your fists..well, study for a corporate finance exam paper and then we’ll talk !!!
of caring words that pierce like many-edged shards
of friendly advice that cages you down
of mollifying entreaties that seek reconciliation
of worldly wisdom that closes all doors and throws open the one solitary window to the well-paved path,
And thats how you’ll see a fine road !!!
Sure its suffocating,
sure its a dull dreary existence
sure you’re being someone else,
but you know what?
’tis best for you!
so follow the path
just follow the path,
And thats how you’ll understand a fine road !!!
Not the odd lumps of concrete,cement or tar
Not the sackfuls of jingling coins
Certainly not the toiling sweat of labour
oh no, its trodding the well-trodden path,
streamrolling over that questioning spirit,
trampling that soft-spoken inner voice,
trouncing that flicker of consciousness,
And thats how you’ll make a fine road..
……..a jolly good fine road!
It was a nippy December morning… and it found me, unlike other mornings, in the very heart of Kaziranga wildlife park – a safari ride onboard an open jeep! Came out a much wiser and thoroughly exhausted chap..hey, i had just fought off about a hundred tigers in the space of what, three eternal hours !!!
Hang on, i have jumped the gun here…the seeds for this fantastic adventure were actually sown before that…lets go back a few hours in time – the previous night the Park Ranger animatedly described a tiger attack when he was atop an elephant and how lucky he was to recount his daring tale with us, considering the mahout on that occasion actually lost one of his arms! A vivid description like that and the incorrigible storyteller in me was wide awake!
Ok, so back to business…the next morning,we were about eight of us on that vehicle, self manning the left-rear flank…and then came a challenging assignment – the leader announced we have to undertake a maunam (complete silence) during the entire trip….just observe Nature silently and see what you can learn from Her wild side !!! Now ordinarily i wouldn’t classify Rohit Hegde in the chatterbox category…left to themselves the Hegdes generally keep to themselves and love observing Nature but this enforced silence did seem..well, unnatural !
Ever tried being alone with yourself ? just you and your mind? oh yeah, add an overactive imagination with a ‘natural’ storyteller to the party…and what d’you get?
well, to begin with – nothing really – i actually enjoyed the solitude..relished the fact that i did not have to make polite conversation with anybody!
but as time dragged on, the monotonous droning of the engine did get boring and i felt my eyelids drooping….and then She attacked – (an idle mind seized the opportunity to come up with an enterprising script at lightning speed and the er..horrifying drama unfolded) – literally out of nowhere, she swiftly covers the distance between us…the ground thundering beneath her huge paws…with an almighty leap she launches herself at the vehicle…
the scene slows down – its my entry now, you see…
in one fluid motion, i take out my jacket and thrust it on her bared fangs….a voice at the back of my head – “WHAT? you paid a fortune for that jacket, you know”….But we Hegdes genuinely believe in the greater good and heroically i brush off that selfish notion….
i valiantly struggle…our tug-of-war now increasing her frustration and finally she backs off defeated yet grinning maliciously with the shredded remains of my brand-new jacket between her jaws….
A shrill “oh look” cry jolts me back to reality and the next thing, this girl is excitedly searching my face,
“Did you see that? that elephant over there?”
“No (dont you realize i was just saving all our lives from that monster out there) didn’t see..er..busy changing camera settings”
thankfully she leaves it at that and relapses into silence …self quite relieved and trying to piece together that last encounter…glad to have my jacket quite snugly abaft my shoulders!
“Take out the trash, there is never nothing going on” – i remember these lines from ‘The Peaceful Warrior” and vow to stop daydreaming….Pay Attention, i tell myself!
i manage to actually stop thinking for a few minutes and get duly rewarded- a lovely pair of leaves just shed from a remorseless tree, slowly winding their way ever so gracefully towards the forest floor….hmm…so thats what it feels like…this is what they call poetry in motion? must be… for no physics, no science can describe the utterly reckless yet dignified flight of those two leaves…its their final journey but they want to make every moment count!
Savouring this moment for some time, i then look around eagerly for more action……Nothing…….Nothing……there is Nothing going on..
And then She attacked…huge paws…bared fangs..