Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Test of Temptations - Ramba, Menaka, Urvashi and Yana !

I had written (if I may add, very proudly) about how I quit smoking elsewhere in the blog (you should read that before you read this one)… Again during this travel, I passed by that gas station and I “one number kumbidu pottaen” to that monument.

I was also talking about it to someone this travel. The funny thing was the there is a huge (well, small anyway) untold story about what followed immediately after that event… In the earlier blog, it was like the nostalgia – I had given the good details and left out the ugly ones !

Here is the account of the other side of the story – the sultry temptress that came in all forms including a fat friend of mine, (who would take umbrage in calling him fat, but anyways, he isn’t reading this blog – so I can even get away by calling him intelligent), Mr.Purported-Devarajan and host of others that came in stunning sequence out of the Mumbai airport’s concrete-work. All sent by the creator for one sole reason – go forth and screw up this guy’s penance of denying himself the pleasure of smoking !

So here is the untold story that has been told/read never before in the public forum; now open to the whole wide-world audience of nine regular readers (ok, sue me, I’m reporting higher numbers in this blog’s TRP rating)…

As I walked out of the gas station as “proud quitter”, I needed to travel from Fort Collins to another small city in the US – Roseville – its near Sacramento and more importantly (to none who reads this blog), had a site where our company operates. Me, with a great amount of confidence and faith in my own ability to stick to my decision of quitting, checked myself into the hotel and into a “smoking room”. I knew, like all my romances, this is going to be short lived. I check in, and then the sun sets on the American empire – so I go walking in search of food places to eat- I find a Denny’s, but it is very conveniently situated adjacent to the gas station. So I walk across the Gas station and… and walk straight into Denny’s, had some food and turn my head away from the gas station and walk out. Ramba has been denied.

Cool, I thought to myself and when I returned back to Ft.Collins, I proudly checked myself into a “non-smoking” room. I was quite sure that I had kicked the habit, although it was only 3 days into abstinence, not really believing that this abstinence is going to be any different from every other resolutions that occurred on 1st of every January… The only material difference was, this wasn’t winter, but Fall, if that makes a lot of sense to the nine of you !!

Like jet-lag, sometimes the absence of nicotine in the blood-stream can hit you much later; atleast, so I theorize ! After all the phoren work, I return back to our country. Those days, there were no direct flights to Bangalore, but one has to come through one of the other cities and in the middle of the night with a 5-6 hour wait. So I wait in the airport. Second theory: Once you quit smoking, the other thing you want to avoid is to wait aimlessly (the first one you want to avoid is the fat friends that smoke). So, since I waited aimlessly, I saw the sultrier Menaka dance in front of my eyes; so those roved. Found Mr.Devarajan smoking; and I built a story in my own mind – I would go tap him on the back and say hello Deva – he could be even Thiyagarajan or Govindarajan or some other Rajan – but I decided he would be Devarajan. Ofcourse, he would be some other (what are the chances that he really could be Devarajan ?); he would naturally, look at me puzzled but its an opportunity to strike up a conversation – what you up to, are you also waiting for the Bangalore flight blah, blah and finally let go, “can I bum a fag ?” (yep, for all the smoker fag does mean just that) and lo behold, I’d have my smoke. I made my move; unfortunately, he also made his move – he walked away… Shoot, I sat back down. I thought, was it a message from the providence… As I wrestled bumming when he returned, it was 4.30AM and the PA called for the check-ins and Deva had moved with extreme speed… Menaka faded into black !

Ok, got through the 2nd celestial dancer, by the quirk of bad-timing of the PA system. The ultimate test was waiting to happen… As I checked in and was wandering around – guess who turns up – the fat smart guy who I begun to smoke with in college. Great!! And he offers me a fag – I’ve to hold my ground, I proudly tell him, I quit (without telling it has been only 3 days). He respects that, and doesn’t offer me any more. Are we done? No – the ultimate Urvasi is lurking around the corner – ignoring Prabhu Deva, she isn’t taking it easy! Another guy turns up from the same college – but this is the weird twist – he was not a smoker in the college, but had started after he had gotten a job in a remote and culturally strange-to-him town – the ennui had gotten to him and he had started smoking! So he says, hey G, you used to be smoker, here’s one!! Ok, Oorvasi, I’m on the penance thing – although it was very tempting watching her do the Helen dance (or Yana Gupta of these days, which is more sexier, I’m told – I wouldn’t know, anyways) and although I slyly open one eye to catch a part of it, I shut it out ! I say a firm NO… Oorvasi has been ignored too…

…and have stayed unscathed since! Although Koshy’s still offers temptations, but I think now I’m through all these dances, even if its Yana (doing Baboojeee... :)); maybe it’s the middle age catching up… We are still talking about “Quit-smoking”, by the way !!

Oh, it is perfectly possible; all of the above could be wild delusions of a nicotine-denied brain!!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Land of the Brave!

Nana was living in fear – not fear of death or fear of something major; there was a stretch of train travel in the (infamous) Mumbai suburban train that he loathed – he loathed himself for being afraid. Nana (alias Narayan Iyer s/o Shri. Sivasankaran Iyer, the late priest at the Guruvayoor temple) had been a sheltered son of a very orthodox family down south. He had finished his B.Sc. and after trying for work in and around his native town without much success he landed in the big bad world of Mumbai in search of job – that was in January, nearly 6 months ago. He got one, as a technician in one of the Pharma factories at the suburbs, that paid for his living in a one-room shanty with shared toilet and bath room – more importantly, it helped him to save some money and send it back home to his widowed mother and younger sister.

Nana was scared about Mumbai – he had heard stories about how cold the city could be and how mirthless it is – where people go about doing what they do without bothering about someone’s plight. Coming from a villagish-town it was a huge culture shock for Nana. However, around after the 3rd month he had learned to cope with Mumbai. It certainly did not win him over, but he found ways to co-exist with it – it was symbiotic, he thought remembering his 12th standard biology – he needed Mumbai for the survival of his family and Mumbai needed people like him to remain aloof, cold and ruthless. He was insignificant; but by end of first month it had stopped bothering him to an extent and he knew he was becoming one among them. Even in the local train that took him to and from his job, he found people doing their own thing or on the opposite end of the spectrum sticking to the same group. He tried smiling at someone who seemed regular but couldn’t strike up a conversation due to his limited knowledge of Hindi. He then decided it was better to shut-up and not let people know that he was an outsider without the knowledge of Hindi or Marathi.

But then disaster struck. Someone seemed to take attention of him – in a way that Nana did not foresee or ever want. There was this tough looking man wearing a pyjama-kurta and his two cronies who seemed to find Nana’s nervous quietness funny. Initially, indirectly and then directly – they had started bullying him in one way or the other; more so after they found he was an outsider. Nana tried to switch compartments and avoid them. It worked for a week, but then they found him; the same about missing the train – did work for a while, but then it always came back to the same thing. Once they found him waiting for the train to go, got down and told him in no uncertain terms that he needs to take the train that they are in…

Since then, Nana lived in fear. He talked to someone at work, but didn’t help. He thought of changing his residence so that he doesn’t have to take that suburban train, but just couldn’t afford a place anywhere in the city. He was ashamed of his cowardice and lack of courage to stand up to those bullies; He also hoped that someone would come in his aid and help him out. But none did – its Mumbai and more importantly, it was not a movie.

Today he was returning from work – the July weather, matched his mood – seemed morose and threatened the evening with rain. He did not see the goons yet. He chose a place to sit that had his back turned towards the door with a hope that he would escape notice. The train had stopped in Borivli – out of the corner of his eye he saw the main-goon with his usual smirk and unlit beedi climb on to the train. Nana’s heart sank…

Nana further shrunk in his seat and waited for the inevitable tap on the head and the wicked grin. He didn’t get any – maybe the train was crowded enough for the goon to wade his way back to him, maybe goon had a change of heart, Nana hoped. As Nana waited, he felt a blow to his body, much more than what he had expected – he was stunned for a moment; then he lost his consciousness. When he regained it, he was completely disoriented, there was thick smoke and the compartment was in ruins. They were body lying all around; he heard screaming all around and people scrambling out. He quickly understood that a bomb had gone off and ripped through the compartment; along with the crowd and in the chaos he rushed out. Now outside, Nana’s instinct told him to run for safety, since there were screams that there could be more bombs inside. He found himself unhurt, by God’s grace and he thanked God (“Guruvayoorappa”) quickly and started to walk away – he wanted to be as much far away as possible when the next bomb went off.

For some reason, he turned back one more time – he saw the goon down on the floor, very much bleeding, very much conscious and very much in pain, with a piece of twisted metal over him. For the first time, in the Nana saw there was no bravado in Goon’s eyes, but a pleading and panic. Nana hesitated for a minute, flash of thought around God’s ways ran through his mind; “God’s ways”, it struck him – he climbed back in. He quickly inspected the goon’s condition – he seemed ok – there has been big injury to his arm and it was ripped away, but his legs seemed in good condition; and there was bleeding from the stomach, with a big ugly open wound. Nana told the goon to lie still (not sure if he was heard), tried to wrench the twisted metal away – he couldn’t and muttered aloud about being a vegetarian! He, also assessed that he cannot carry the weight of the goon; he decided to drag the goon under the metal to the door-way by his legs. He told the goon what he was going to do in broken Hindi; At the door-way, he let the goon’s legs dangled out, he pulled the goon to sit-up tilted him on his back and carried him out 20 meters away and dropped him on the ground, as yet another tiny blast went off inside.

Nana looked down at the goon. There was gratitude in those eyes; Not sure if those eyes saw fear in Nana’s eyes. Not today, as Nana turned to see if there was someone else he could help with…