Thursday, January 31, 2008

A bit of grace...

All we are looking for is a bit of grace.

The story is the same: BCCI flexed its newly toned and pumped up on-steroids-financial muscle, CA made the usual noises about how it is in their DNA to play hard right from the days of the backyard and play fair (not the color, stupid) and the men and women across hemispheres took side depending on the color (the color of the flag - yet again, don't want another "thats vilification mate"),

In all these, what are the bets that we would ever see:
  • the Aussie cricketers give up almost-laughable, but feigned and aggrieved posturing, and do accept that they did screw-up quite a bit in the Sydney test; and for all the victimized look Mr.Symonds carry, he is as culpable as the accused is, if not more
  • the Indians in spite of all the bravado of Sreesanth or Harbhajan accept that they are still not as good as the Aussies; and those few Indians who are as good as Aussies, don't carry that silly bravado
  • the Cricket Australia stop believing in its own stories, but start hearing voices of reality
  • the BCCI have the gonads to ban Harbhajan for a match in spite of ICC's let-off due to rip-roaring-comedic "human" errors. BCCI does have access to those earlier offenses ! If you take refuge in the culture, why not show some ?
  • Finally the BCCI to have some grace and back-off; they are coming across as the gold-decked, wealth-flaunting, uneducated goonda of the 'pettai'.
On the contrary, a bet on Shoaib Aktar become a team-man may be more sensible.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Big Change !!

Momentary lapse of reason, as Pink Floyd would say.

Yes, it has got to be that. Or else, knowing how I feel now, why would I have said yes 5-6 months ago? It was an opportunity that presented itself and we took it – we here is the collective family decision. I still believe we based our decision on right priorities for the family rather than me or my own career. It is just icing on the cake that I will also be working on something different and challenging and definitely something that I can spectacularly screw up and fail miserably.

We are the cusp of change. In about 4 hours we would have left our house of 2+ years, city of several years and importantly comfort zone of a lifetime. Everything in this zone was fine and good; but we needed to get the next inflection for our topmost priority. So we are taking a chance. We will be in a new city, new country and new culture in about two days time.

Its not that we have not done this before; a couple of times and at the end of it, we were back at our comfort zone. The previous sojourns always seemed easier – just packed our bags, locked our doors and left. This time, it is elaborate – not sure why – I think with age and time, comes cob-webs that anchors firmly to the ground. It seems that there are million things that needed to be taken care of before we leave. It is also a function of our own experience and our own assessment of risking something, I guess. On the other side of the (global) village, I’m not sure what lies ahead – would our decision get vindicated? Would there be that exponential improvement that we are banking on and are expecting? Would my work, the primary vehicle for what we want to do, be that bit more challenging than what I can handle? Don’t know – the air of uncertain future is apprehensive; and the thought that we are moving from a nice and cozy comfort makes it a bit tougher and raises the apprehension higher.

In any case, the deed is done and we are committed. With a transcontinental hop across the big pond and hope, we are taking that leap of faith. I believe that umbilical chord to that faith would not snap.

Perhaps its Grateful Dead that I should be quoting – “We will get by, we will survive”…

Penny for my thoughts? Thank you – please make it a small change!!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Love story

There is nothing much to write about me. I was the normal IT person (or the abnormal or sub-normal, if you ask the other 50% of the people in Bangalore), have been doing the normal IT thing for the past decade and now, am in normal cross-roads, with a host of others crowding the space and looking for signposts. So I had taken up to writing, conjuring up a few, peddling those as stories and such. Given my new hobby, I also started reading up various magazines – predominantly the tamil ones (like Vikatan), which in anyways seems to have more movie stuff covered and starlets uncovered than real stories; but they do carry a story every week, and sometimes real good ones – including the one, I wrote, if I may add, modestly!!

One such story had peaked my interest laterally – buried in one corner of it was an analogy of Mukilan-Nila; I’ve never heard of that one before – heard of Ambikapathy-Amaravathy several times over in Tamil literature, even Laila-Majnu, but Mukilan-Nila ? Not even once. I had googled for it, and came up with nothing. Then called up the Vikatan’s office, introduced myself and got the coordinates of the author. Long story short, I was pointed to a small town in Tamil Nadu near Tirunelveli; he also said that there was very little literature around it, would send whatever he had to me; but averred for its authenticity. The intrigue around this was very tempting; I had decided to give it a shot and pursue the veracity – hopeful that it would give me a story to write and to veer off my normal cross-roads !

So here I am sitting in a passenger train between Madurai to Tenkasi, aiming to go to Tenkasi where Nila’s family were purported to have lived thereabouts. The train, in all its rustic ambience and bullock-cart speed was crawling – stopping at every station; and it wasn’t crowded either. I took out the sheaf of papers that the author had sent and looked through it once more to find any nuances – It was around the Indian independence time – Mukilan and Nila had fallen in love and it was one of unrequited due to family differences; the circumstances over their separation and demise. As I was poring through it, I didn’t notice a Geriatric (of course, of uncertain age) old man who had moved into the seat in front. He should have boarded the train at the last stop.

He stuck up a conversation; “Thambi, enna padichittu irrukeenga ?”. His dialect was strange, but I told him what I was reading...

“Aaah. That story! That was a long time ago, thambi”. I sensed my pulse quicken.

I asked him, “Periyavare, Do you know something about it?” He nodded and I looked at him and he launched into the story.


Mukilan’s and Nila’s family were close and next door in a village near Virudhunagar. Mukilan was a few months older than Nila. As they grew up together, they had fabulous time together playing around in the fields, in and around the pond and the orchards. Fate intervened; when they were 8, some differences cropped up between the families around land and use of water. It escalated from verbal, then fisticuffs and ended up in bloodshed of Nila’s uncle and jail term for Mukilan’s cousin. To avoid further bloodshed, Nila’s family moved out.

Time fades the past in the young. Mukilan had gone on to a college to do his Intermediate in Tenkasi and had seen a quiet girl and fallen for her. He did not have the courage to go up to and talk to her, since she was in a different group. However, things turned on its head in the end of the first year – Mukilan had topped his class in the first year and as is wont in that college, all the top students in various groups were to be felicitated in a function. He saw that quiet girl in the same group. When Mukilan’s name was called out he did not notice, the girl had jerked her head up and look at him intently. When the girl name was called out, she was looking directly at Mukilan and it was Mukilan’s turn to be surprised. It was Nila; soon after the function, they met and talked about the past and the present – came to know the families had still sworn vendetta. Through that year, their proximity grew and their fear grew. Particularly, Nila’s cousin, who had lost his father, was still intent on revenge when Mukilan’s cousin gets out of the jail in a few years from then. At the same time they were doing extremely well in the college and the principal had secretly wagered a bet that both of them would top their group in the state exams and they would go on to do greater things.

The time rolled on to the year, both managed to keep their love off public; principal had won half of his wager. Nila had topped her group and Mukilan had come second. Mukilan and Nila went to colleges in Tirunelveli, Mukilan aiming to go for civil services and Nila for her science. It was towards the end of the 3rd year that trouble reared her head. When Nila had gone home at Rajapalayam, her mother had announced that they have found a potential groom for her, who was working in Madras. Nila was mortified, but she did not have guts to talk to her parents – since the hatred still ran deep and her cousin was just out from jail. Mukilan and Nila had decided to elope to Madras and get married. Mukilan would go to Virudhunagar for the last time, take leave of his parents and would meet Nila at the Rajapalayam railway station and take the bus to Madurai on the day their exams ended.

Little did they know their story had leaked out and reached the ears of Nila’s parents, on that fateful day.


The old man had paused; as the darkness fell and the train was slowing down. The old man seemed rushed. He quickly said he needed to take leave as his destination had come and rushed out, when the train had stopped at Sivakasi. I was desperate – I didn’t know if I should follow him or not. It was night and there wasn’t much light and my indecision was taken care by the train, as it started. I sat back, marveled at the story the old man had just spun… At the same time I felt a need to know what had actually happened to Mukilan and Nila. I sat through rest of the journey up to Rajapalayam thinking about various combinations and permutations. It felt very strange to have known so much and not known the whole thing – it was like reading a thriller, only finding out that the last few chapters have been ripped out.

With heightened sense of curiosity and a disappointment, I got down at Rajapalayam and found my colleague’s brother waiting for me to take me to his house. I had told him the fascinating story that I had heard from the old man. He responded that he had heard about the story himself from various people with various versions, each changing based on the Goran who tells it. He said he would check around tomorrow with some to know if they can add more light to it. After dinner, I could hardly sleep and when I slept the old man was in the dreams reliving the story again.

Here I am, two days later, waiting in the Sivakasi station. It had been the most frustrating time for me. It was like chasing a mirage and false leads. Aided by my host, I had gone and met several people. Everyone had heard about it in vague terms, but nothing concrete. A lead to the descendent of Nila’s family turned out to be completely false and we got thrown out – fortunate not to have been inflicted bodily harm, since the Nila in question there was a young girl, who was just about to get married in two days time!

The whole experience was maddeningly futile; added to the misery was constant rain and power-cut. I later decided to abandon the project and take the train to Tirunelveli and go meet a relative of mine there and return to Bangalore. My host dropped me in the station. At the station, I found the train (the one I traveled into Rajapalayam) was 2 hours late, now arriving around 11PM at night. I had nothing to do – the station was deserted and I did not want to go back in pouring rain. I cursed the whole experience and sat down under a dim light with a book I had brought in – there were couple of homeless people scattered out in the station, finding their own warm and dry nooks. The book was good enough for me to not to feel the pangs of hunger immediately! It was around half-past ten, I decided to eat. As I took out my packed dinner, I found one such old person looking at it. I held out a packet of rice out to her; The old lady ambled closer to me and let the packet lie on the bench and took the other corner of the bench.

Something told me that she isn’t a common beggar for alms – I stuck up the conversation with her. She talked about the rain this season, which is something she hasn’t seen for a long time. On a hunch, I asked her if she had heard about Mukilan-Nila’s story. What the heck? Last ditch attempt is not going to hurt.

“Oh yes, those two – poor ones, thambi”… she started. She covered the same background of their early days, the days of enmity and meeting again at the college and how Nila liked the quiet and modest demeanor of Mukilan. And how she fell in love all over again for his kindness and how they were perfect for each other. And how they had decided to elope! My senses quickened, as I listened intently…


Prior to that day, Nila had diligently collected a few of her essentials elsewhere. The plan was she would go out on the pretext of meeting a friend, and join Mukilan onboard the train at the Rajapalayam station. She left around 11 AM for the late evening train.

Unknown to her, the news of their impending elopement had reached their parents. Nila’s cousin who had sworn revenge on Mukilan’s family found this to be an opportunity to get even. He and his friends set-out to intercept Mukilan midway, where as Nila’s father and his friends set-out in search of Nila – unable to locate her, they settled to wait in the station.

The revenge-party had boarded the train just ahead of Virudhunagar in one of the small stations and found Mukilan. Mukilan had no chance – it was brutal and it was quick. He was hacked and his body was thrown out of the train at Sivakasi. The story has it that they killers traveled in the same train until Rajapalayam and got down from the train with the blood-soaked sickles.

Nila who had just entered the station had seen her parent and knew things have gone awry. However, as soon as she saw her cousin and his friends getting down the train with red plastered on their shirts, she knew the worst has happened. She fainted and she was carried away and no one had since heard of her.


The old woman monologue was broken by the train which had just steamed in. I knew there was something here – I didn’t want to miss the ending and also didn’t want to miss the train. As I hauled my back-pack, I asked her what had happened to Nila later on…

As I was getting into the train, she looked at me and said, “Thambi, the legend has it that even today, Mukilan still travels on this train from Virudhunagar to get to Nila and Nila patiently waits for him at the station”…

As the visage of the old-man in the train emerged from my subconscious, I dropped the rucksack down and turned around quickly to look at her; she was already gone, an ambling silhouette framed against a distant lightning streak. A mere apparition in the darkness!

Apparition??? Realization hit me like that distant thunder!!!