Friday, July 13, 2012

My trysts with Ms.Margaret (The Prologue)

(Presenting to you people the  first look of the soon to be published book by my dearest friend Sumanta Chanda.. The story follows the coming of age journey of himself and the experiences he learned through various phases, incidents and persons in his life. This is just a Prologue for you people to have a look of what is to come. Have a look..)

The poster created by the man himself
My trysts with Ms.Margaret
Escapades with an imaginative personality


21st December 2012, 3.30 am

The night was chilly as ice, cutting through our skin and making us shiver. My friends dropped me off at my doorstep, bidding me adieu and warning me to get up early on time the next morning.

“ Early..!! Ahh...That’s the word I hate the most. I mean c’mon. I am human. I too value my sleep. And on top of that this bloody cold. Who in their right senses would ‘want’ to get up early...” I thought out to myself.

The thing is, I can easily guarantee than nobody in this entire world, (and I speak mainly of my own ilk), would ever want to get up early, whatever the season might be. But our lives are such, filled with umpteen responsibilities and tasks that we do not have any other option, but to start our day early to carry out these tasks.

I really want to catch hold of the person who made this idiotic rule, where all our tasks, jobs and responsibilities have to be started early in the day. I mean, how dumb were they. Couldn’t they have made the rule to maybe like after 12 pm. How convenient would that have been isn’t’ it?

All these thoughts were really getting on my nerves, and before doing anything else I decided to do something about this godforsaken rule. For that, I had to talk to the supreme authority. The Prime Minister himself. Luckily, enough, I just realized, that he lived just a floor above me.

So without wasting any more of my precious time, I put on my tricoloured T-shirt, and ran towards his apartment. I pressed the bell a little hard, suddenly realizing I was a little apprehensive. After all it was 4 in the morning. What if I am kicked out, or worse arrested for disturbing the PM at this ungodly hour. But the hell with it. After all this was a question of the precious lives of the nation’s youth. Before I could add any more thoughts to my demented mind, the door opened.

A frail looking genial old man wearing a plain banyan was looking at me with groggy eyes. He gave the impression of a very ‘becahra haal ka maara’ kind of a person.  I asked him skeptically, “ Is Manmohan Singh Ji at home?? “

The man looked at me with tired eyes and finally said in an almost lyrical tone, “Puttar, is this a joke?? I am Manmohan Singh.”

I looked at him and immediately opened Photoshop in my mind’s eye. I added a blue overlarge turban on this man’s head, with an old pair of specs to adorn his eyes and an Indian suit on his body. Okay, something was amiss. Hold on..!! I went to Google Images, downloaded Sonia Gandhi’s latest picture and placed it beside him. 

Yeah...Now he was looking like our very own Manmohan Singh.

All this time, while I was into my super thoughts, the kind old Mr. Singh was patiently waiting for me to respond. He was observing me with a grandfather kind of look in his eyes.

I came back to my senses and addressed him. “Sorry Sir, I got lost in my thoughts.”

“No problem betaji. I understand that meeting a public personality can be quite unnerving for some. Now you please come inside and tell me what do you want.” He said and gestured me inside his apartment.

As I entered his simple looking house, I further asked him, “Sir, tell me one thing. I woke you up at this hour. Didn’t that bother you?”

We both sat down on his sofa before he replied. “Who would want to get up at this hour betaji. After all, even I am a normal human being. But it is my responsibility to take care of you people.”

“Exactly my point Sir,” I immediately said. “This...This...Responsibility thing has totally shredded the lives of us youngsters. This country can only run peacefully if the youngsters are fit. Am I not right? Now tell me, if our youth is not fit, how would this country run?? Have you ever given a thought towards their health needs??”

Hearing this Mr. Singh looked visibly annoyed and replied,” How do you know that our youth are not healthy? I have provided so many facilities. A health minister, so many hospitals etc. Yet, you so easily claim that I am not concerned about the youth’s health.”

I had to defend my point and so said, “Look Sir, You try and have a look at today’s youngsters at their homes. Everyone is burdened with various responsibilities. Someone with their career issues, some with money hassles and some with love issues. In all this what does the youth of today ask?? “

Before he could say anything, I answered back.

“Sleep... That beautiful sleep... You have to understand one thing Sir. This country can only run if the youth is happy and relaxed. And you are not letting us be blissful by depriving us of our sleep.”

What did I do betaji??“ he asked a little shocked before adding in a sad tone, “No matter what happens in this country you people always blame things on me.”

I didn’t have time to pity him. There were important issues to address.

“What do you mean, what have you done?? You have this wretched rule of doing everything we have to do in the early morning itself. Why?? Have you ever thought that we youngsters too have our special needs? We reach home after a hectic day, looking forward to some Facebook time; where we share all our feelings of love, happiness, anger and discussing the important issues of our country with our friends. That requires time you see. Till about 1-2 at night. And after that we look forward to some sweet dreams, but that is cut short by this stupid morning where we have to get up again. Don’t mind Sir, but you are about 70 already. You have slept a lot in your life and will keep doing so. What about us? These rules have destroyed our lives.” I lamented.

Singh ji said, “I understand your feelings betaji. But I haven’t made these rules. I have only been in power since the last eight years. It must have been made by the one before me.”

“Oh c’mon Sir, I put my hands up in frustration.” If you haven’t made them. You surely have the power to change them.”

“So what do you want me to do betaji.” He asked meekly.

“Well.” I settled down again, thinking deeply. “I want you to make a new rule. Wherein, every kid younger than 16 years of age has to sleep for a minimum of 10 hours; even if they do not like to. And similarly, every person who is above 16 has to sleep for a minimum of 12 hours; whether they like it or not. Else they would be thrown out from their jobs, and the kids would be kicked out from their school. Got my point?”

Singh ji was in deep thought for a moment then said, "What you say seems in favour of the country. But I have a question. How do we find out how much has one child slept?”

Arrey Sirji, for that then would these Chinese come in use for. We are always fighting with them. Let us take some of their talent of good use for our benefit. Ask them to develop a software which would find out on who sleeps how much. Simple. Now just call Soniaya Madam and ask her to get this thing done”

He looked at me wearily and said, "But Betaji, if these Chinese wanted they could have easily made such a software long back. After all they too love their sleep don’t they?”

“ Arrey these Chinese.. They have half their eyes closed anyways. How much more sleep would they want. So forget this and just call Soniya Madam.” I told him impatiently.

He paused for a bit and then asked me,” Just one more question betaji. Why this partiality? I mean why do the 16 year olds get 10 hours of sleep and the 16 plus get 12 hours? Shouldn’t there be equality?”

I immediately responded, "Look Sir, today these kids, they become adolescents at 16 only. They fall in love, and get involved in all the other hassles that come with being an adult, taking the whole world of depression along with it. Now the more tensed and depressed they are the more sleep they would need isn’t it? Now please Sir, let’s not waste any more time on this. Just call Soniya Ma’m will you?”

He looked a little embarrassed at this and meekly said,” You see, I don’t have any balance on my phone at the moment. Soniya Madam usually calls me up in the morning to wake me up. I am waiting for her call. When she does, I will inform her about your stupendous idea” He finished with a smile.

“Wow Sir, You are the best. Seriosuly.. You are the best PM we have. You listened to an ‘aam aadmi’ like me and are trying to help him out. Hats off to you Sir.” I almost said this in a salute to him.

Singh ji looked pleased at the comment and was about to say something when the shrill voice of his mobile’s ringtone screaming “Tum hi ho maata , pita tum hi ho” broke the silence of the morning.  His mannerisms changed immediately, becoming serious he offered me the phone, “Its Soniya Ji. I think you should talk to her first. Tell her about the idea.”

I took the phone and answered it, “Namaste Soniya ji.”

“ What the F... Have you gone nuts. What Soniya Ji!! This is Soni here you ass. Looks like you still haven’t gotten over your last night’s drink yet.”

The lady didn’t sound like Soniya ji at all, in fact she was sounding quite familiar. Someone I knew..Someone I talked to everyday.

And as I thought this, Singh Sir and his home vanished from my eyes and I found myself slumped on the sofa of my home. Feeling extremely dizzy and coming back to my senses and trying hard to remember what had happened.

Okay, so last night I had a drinks session with my friends. And well.. In the excitement of the big day I drank a glass too many of the rum. It was because of that wretched drink, that I was making such a rotten comedy film, even worse than David Dhawan’s , in my dream. The girl at the other end of the phone was not the Congress party leader but my very own lady love, Soni.

She jarred me back to my senses again, “Helooo...You there?? What the hell yaar..”

“ Oh sorry dear, I am awake now. Don’t you worry.” I hastily replied.

“Right. Then congratulation my love.. So it’s your big today. Finally here. We all have been waiting for this day for so long. Now please get ready for it. Don’t waste your time. We all will meet you soon. Ok?” she said in her usual sweet voice.

“Oh. Yeah. I had completely forgotten about it. But don’t worry. I will just get fresh and meet you guys soon.” Saying this I hung up. Her voice actually soothed me down a bit.

I kept still for a moment, trying to recollect my thoughts, the weird dream. My eyes suddenly hit the morning paper kept on the table beside the sofa. Manmohan Singh, all dressed up in his black suit and blue turban, was smiling in it from the front page. It almost felt he was looking at me.  I smiled to myself, and quietly told him. “Thank you Sirjee. Wish me luck.”

************************      (To be Continued)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Those 'really were' the days..!!

Pac-Man and Chacha Chaudhary.  One is an age-old classical video-game which has enthralled kids since decades and the other is an Indian comic character whose adventures have been gleefully lapped up by millions across our country. Now what can be common between these two diversely opposite figures, that I take their names in one sentence? The thing is, these two represent an integral part of my nostalgia, which helped in building my childhood and making it that much more memorable. Call it chance, coincidence or whatever but somehow over the last few days these two have managed to spring up right in front of me and suddenly made me take a dip into nostalgia lane. Yeah, we all do that every now and then don’t we? But this time it’s been quite intense, as I explored all the varied facets of my childhood, things which made those growing up years that much more fascinating. Where life was..Just so simple and uncomplicated.. Where you reveled in the small little gifts of life. Where I knew before going to sleep, that no matter what problems I have, Chacha Chaudhary and Sabu would save the day. Yeah, it was actually fun being stupid.

Though I can go on and write a thesis on this subject, but for mine and yours sanity, I have tried to list out some of the most important of them in order. Here you go.

Comics:  Comics was something which ensured that I never ever got bored in my childhood days. I in fact had my very own ‘library’, housing some of the best collection of comic books; something which I was immensely proud of. These were mainly Hindi comics and Chacha Chaudhary without doubt won hands down by its sheer numbers. There was something about the life and times of Chachaji and Sabu; that matchless combo of brain and brawn, that made you crave for more and more. Strangely though, more than the story line (which I agree was quite dumb sometimes) I was especially enchanted by the drawings in these books. Their house, those trees and gardens, the clear skies, the loony characters, they looked so simple and soothing that I wanted to jump in and be a part of it; always wishing how I could be there. I would always eagerly await going to the railway station, just to get a chance to grab some of the new collection they had in offering. There were more of course. Billo, Pinki, Nagraj , Tinkle, Amar Chitra Katha and what not. All of them my friends. I didn’t need anyone else then. Sadly, I sold all of them off. I grew up. And now I realize how cruel I had been. They were my greatest support system, taking care of me without me even realizing it. I badly crave for them now.

Books: My Mom, wherever she is, would know now that how wrong she was in chiding me for being forever glued to books. I didn’t realize it then, but gobbling up all those Enid Blyton and Hardy Boys novels has helped me be in the current profession I am in.

I doubt if anyone of you have heard of a book called ‘Champak’. I was crazy about them. They had these fascinating stories about animals and birds, and other simple stuff which I simply loved. On Sunday mornings, I would always tag along with my father to the ‘sabzi’ market to get hold of a copy. Holding his hands, I would peep around from that maddening crowd, at the newspaper stand; trying to see if a new edition had arrived. The simple stories having morals in the end was what made it special for me.

There is a particular incident that I want to share. In school, we had our ‘Library periods’ on Saturdays. And I would wait the whole week for that very period. In the 3rd standard, I remember a new book had arrived; ‘The Panchatantra’. Hard bound, yellow heart was immediately set on it.I discussed it with my best friend and waited patiently for Saturday to arrive. We were given the books by being called out on virtue of the first letter of our first names. And as it turned out, the one before me chose that very book. I was aghast and burst out in tears. My best friend consoled me, and the kind teacher took pity on me and asked the boy to give the book to me. I don’t remember who he was, but the feeling of taking that book home and keeping it beside my pillow that night was something I would never forget. I treasured that book like I had got a rare piece of diamond.

Speaking on which I am reminded of this strange habit I had of keeping the current book that I was reading near my pillow as I slept. Almost as if I wanted it to be there with me. I would get up at night and check on them sometimes. It was stupid, it was fun. I miss that feeling.

Cartoons: Ahh..I wish I had ample space here to describe the effect those cartoons had had on me. Not a single day would pass without me missing on these cartoon shows. Sunday mornings would mean Jungle Book, Alice in Wonderland, Tale Spin, Duck Tales and more. There are many more names which I am missing, but watching these while having my breakfast made my world then. I didn’t care about anything else. Just me and my world of cartoons. There was a time once, when I thought I can never live without them. Things have changed now, but that is more to do with the influx of nonsensical shows in the name of cartoons that have taken forte today. I will ensure that I get the DVDs of all my favourite shows from the past and show it to my children. Cartoons today are hogwash. Where has the simplicity and innocence gone??

Games:  No, in those days I hardly watched cricket, but played it thinking myself to be no less than Sachin himself. Cricket was mainly indoors and ensured lots of broken glasses and pots. However, there were many other games that charmed my existence then. Carom, Ludo, Snakes and Ladders were the obvious ones. Then there were these WWF and Cricket card games that I was obsessed with. Those of you, who are from my era, would know the effect it had on all of us and what saying ‘clash’ at the right time means. It was simply captivating.
There are of course many more but one of them is ‘Business’. Boy was it cool. Summer holidays would be entirely spent in playing it out. Taking claim of ‘Delhi’ , ‘Kolkata’ and other cities and managing your ‘accounts’ is something people who have played it would understand. Then of course there were these video-games. No PS3 or whatever. Just plain and simple Mario, Pac-Man, Contra, Tetris and the list goes on. I never had a set in those days and would envy my neighbour who had it. I would sit for hours at his place watching him and my elder brother play it out on the TV set. When I would get my turn after hours, I would never make it past one level. But I would still be happy. Just seeing those figures in action was something else. It made my day.

Mom: Yep, I know millions have similar thoughts I guess. And I shall not dwell on this subject in details. However it would be injustice to not let the most significant part of my upbringing any mention here. My day started with her and ended with her. Simple. Even while playing cricket if I would get out, she would ensure that I kept playing. Yeah, I would start crying, and she would scold all my cousins. “Shame on you, why did you get him out?? Let him play some more”. She would hand me the bat lovingly, wipe my tears and ensure that I played some more. I knew that no matter what she would be there.

I can’t help but share one incident. I was in the 2nd standard and my summer holidays had just got over. I was very emotional and just couldn’t stop thinking about my mom. This is going to sound filmy but it’s all true. I was in the bus going to school, quietly holding back my tears and sitting beside the window seat. My friends were all chattering about their experiences and asked me about mine. I quietly muttered that I enjoyed a lot but am missing my mom. They laughed and said what a sissy I was. Back in school, I was just waiting for the classes to end so that I could go back to my mom once again. I kept having flashes of her smile, her cuddling me, making Rasna for me, sitting in our small ‘mandir’ and praying together, it was difficult to concentrate. And then in our Hindi period, my teacher picked me out from the whole class to read out a poem. And as fate would have it, the title was ‘Maa’. I still don’t know how I survived it without bursting out in front of everyone.

I went back home and saw her; she greeted me with a kiss on my cheeks. I wasn’t very expressive then, but I just hugged her. I didn’t say anything, but she knew it. It was always like that. I wanted to tell her so many things then. But couldn’t. Wish I had.


I can’t say this is about it as there are several more incidents and things which made my childhood. Like the simple TV shows Nukkad, Small Wonder, Byomkesh Bakshi, Malgudi Days and some more. Then those TV ads of Frooti and ‘Mile Sur mera tumhara’. They all had their effect. I obviously can’t jot them all down. But the fact is, I miss them terribly these days. The reasons for which I can’t really explain. But I miss that part of my life where life was so much simpler. I can’t say that I had the best childhood but whatever moments of fun I had, I treasure them a lot. They are like a framed montage for me, which I look fondly back at. Where life was fun being stupid, where I didn’t care about the clothes I wore. Where I had oiled hair and a ‘nazar ka tikka’ on my forehead but still didn’t care two hoots about it. Where I had a plastic water bottle dangling from my neck and where the only tension I had was missing my cartoon shows. I have money in my wallet now, good clothes to wear and no restrictions on watching anything or going anywhere. But I crave for the simplicity and innocence of my past, wishing that I could bring it all back. Or at least had a TV where I could view all those memories once again, with each channel having a different memory.

I believe our lives are divided into phases. With each passing phase you learn something and cherish something. But time moves on and so do these phases, and no matter how hard you try to cling on to your previous phase, things change. You desperately want to bring back all the good moments and feelings but it doesn’t happen. And then you have to take that ‘moving on’ thing by your side. I already am missing some of the recent phases of my life that I loved, but then like I said, things change.

Life now, no matter how hard you try, gets complicated. The only way to move ahead is to keep trying to be positive about things, no matter what. Like I always say to myself, “Day by day, Brick by Brick.” I am certain many of you somewhere in your heart would relate to this. It’s not that I am not having fun. I have a good job, nice friends and thankfully a positive attitude. But I dearly yearn for my innocence and simplicity.

And that is perhaps the reason I wrote this today.
And that is why I have a Chacha Chaudhary comic book tucked beside my pillow these days.  I just wish that even today when I went to sleep, I knew that no matter what I am going through, Chachaji and Sabu would save the day..!!