I shot three people today.
I’m sending their prints in the mail tomorrow.
I like to photograph my victims after they stop breathing.
I shot three people today.
I’m sending their prints in the mail tomorrow.
I like to photograph my victims after they stop breathing.
He looked nervously at the brute with the knife, who was demanding the ring from his shrivelled old finger.
“No” he said trying to be firm, but failing miserably.
The thug closed in.
He didn’t see the hand slice through the air and break the side of his neck, and the foot that followed and rendered his nose contorted beyond recognition. He slumped to the ground and fell face flat in his own blood.
The old man hobbled away, smiling.
As it periodically happens, with unfailing frequency, yet again, my life was shattered.
As anyone who has read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy knows, a towel is a very important device that a interstellar hitchhiker should have. When you meet someone and you feel that they are alert and aware, you don’t tell them “Hey you! You know, you come off as a person who looks rather alert and aware about his surroundings”. No! You go up to him say “You seem to know where your towel is!”
I was walking down the street to get some coffee the other day, when I walked right into a lamp-post. Something was not right. The world seem out of balance for some reason. I thought I would try my space travel trick to reassure myself that everything was alright. “Beam me up Sujit Kutty”, I said. Yup .. outsourcing has hit Star Fleet too.
Nothing happened. That’s when it hit me. I had lost my towel. I could not show my face. Everyone was staring at me. I had to hide my face. Alas! I had no towel to hide behind. Oh what a shameful situation to be in!
I felt naked as I ran home. My wife asked me what was wrong, but I couldn’t come clean with her. She asked me if I was okay as she saw the sweat dripping down my face onto my shirt. I took off my shirt and sat down and as I watched the beads of sweat drip onto my chest and missed my loyal red companion who would have dabbed it off in a jiffy, she asked me “Is there something you want to get off your chest?”
That was it. The emotion overcame me. I fainted.
When I woke up, I could make something blurry in front of my eyes. I got up slowly. My wife was sitting beside me.
“Rest honey”, she said, “it will be alright. Your head is burning”. So saying, she dipped a pink towel into some hot water and dabbed it on my forehead.
Pink. towel. Not my red towel. Not even red. Pink. Her. Towel. I fainted again.
When I woke up the next time, there was no one in the house. My wife had left for work. I quickly went online. I had to get back my dear red towel, the source of all my powers. Using the search function on my Galaxy phone, I searched the cosmos for my prize towel. It was nowhere to be found.
With no option left, I quickly designed a poster and put it up on the Inter-galactic Bulletin Board. There was nothing else I could do.
I got a few calls from some of my enemies who thought I had thrown in the towel, and some more weird ones who, by extension, thought I had kicked the bucket. Why were they calling me, I wonder.
But the towel remained elusive.
Desperate, defeated and devastated, I took a walk around the corner to the local watering hole – Sam Bar.
I got in and ordered my usual, a Black Russian.
The bartender told me that she wasn’t coming in today, she was having sex on the beach.
I stared at him in disbelief. “How about a grasshopper then”, I asked. He said “You know we’re a vegetarian bar”.
Finally, I called for a Bloody Mary. He took out a screwdriver, went into the back of the bar, came back with red hands and told me – it’s ready.
When I saw all the red, I remembered my towel again. Boy! Did we have some good times!
The seat next to me was taken suddenly. I swiveled around expecting to see a pretty lady, but as luck would have it, it was my old friend Bunty Joginder. Many years later, he would change his name to Bon Jovi and become famous, but none of us in the bar at that moment were aware of this irrelevant fact. He looked more miserable than I was and I found consolation from this . I asked him what was eating him.
“I’m not the man I used to be”
“What happened? You look like what my dog deposits on our lawn every morning.”
“I .. I .. I lost my towel.”
“You WHAT!!?” Someone else had lost his towel too. How could this be? Was there a serial towel stealer on the loose? If there was one, what would they call him? Towel Prowler? Wonder how they would catch him? Obviously, this guy was into towels. They’d have to bait him with a towel. Who were “they”? Would a they be even interested? Mere mortals cannot comprehend the significance of what a towel meant to a enhanced beings like us. Us .. hmm .. I’m here with someone aren’t I? Oh, there he is looking at me. I haven’t spoken anything for 5 minutes now. Hope he hasn’t realized it.
“You haven’t spoken anything for 5 minutes now.”
“I was doing a math problem in my head, but I have realized that it is hypothetically plagiarized and there indiscriminately decipherable.” I added two coughs at the end for good measure.
He squinted at me. His eyes became very narrow. I looked like he was trying to see my words through his narrow eyes hoping it would make sense to him. It didn’t work. I didn’t think it would. He gave up and ordered for a glass of water.
“I’d gone to the park and I put the towel on the bench next to me. One minute it was there and the next minute I was gone.”
“Hmm”, I said scratching my beard and thinking I should grow a beard soon, otherwise I may look very stupid scratching a non-existent beard.
“Hmm”, I continued, “who do you suspect?”
“Everyone! I feel miserable. I wish there was something I could do”
Now, every once in a while I get an amazing idea in my head. I wouldn’t call it brilliant and genius, but you could call it that. This idea would just change everything about my life and everything about everyone else’s life. My last big “flash” was when I deflated the school bus’ tires because my hair dryer wouldn’t work.
“We should write a song about it!!”
Bunty cheered up a little. “A song. Yes! That’s a great idea. People will sing the song everywhere. And then someone will hear it, find our towels and give it back”
“Er..yeah..that’s why we should do it. Great!”
And that night both of us sit together and put together this song. Of course, when Bunty Joginder moved to the US and changed his name, he changed the lyrics around a little bit (he had my blessings, of course) and released it as a song called It’s my Life.
Here’s the original lyrics of the song that we wrote that momentous night.
Flights are fun; usually for the first ten times. After that, you begin to dread all sorts of things that make you have a “safe and comfortable” journey.
I consider myself quite a seasoned flier. Unfortunately, not many airlines around share that opinion, which is quite sad really. I mostly fly with an airline which I truly believe is one of the world’s best budget carrier, and another airline, which is indeed the world’s best airline. Since I use them quite often, I usually know what seats are good to take and what seats are best avoided. I even go to the extent of locating seats by the model of the flight that is being used. A website called seatguru.com is a good place to start, but I go way beyond the standard selection choices that seatguru offers.
When it comes to my travel, I have a lot of considerations. From basic ones like, which seat can give me the most legroom, to more advanced ones like which seat is more likely to be situated away from a crying baby, or which seat would be the best compromise between the closest to the exit and the best legroom.
Inevitably, whenever I board a flight, the seat next to me is unoccupied. Before I got married, I used to hope that some hot girl would come and take the seat. After I got married, I don’t discuss it publicly anymore. I would be eagerly watching the boarding passengers, waiting for someone nice babe to come and sit next to me. Eventually it would happen, with one slight but unfortunate difference, it would be a baby, not a babe.
What usually (and I mean almost everytime) happens is that the mother sits down next to me with a baby in her lap. No sooner would the baby see me, that it would start me off with a look .. oh that look! The look would happen in three parts –
1. The size-me-upper – It would look me from top to bottom and reach the foregone verdict – easy prey
2. The sarcastic snort of sadism – The baby would then let out a low deep chuckle-like sound which translated into our language means “You are so dead buster!”
3. Then it would ram its fist into one palm to reinforce said message above. I have included it as a part of the look, because normally it would do this in front of its face. More importantly, it would do it in front of mine.
Please note, that most girls who would sit next to such a baby would normally respond to the 3-step devil glance above by saying “Awww.. Chooo sweet”. This proves the eternal aphorism that men and women speak different languages.
The flight would take off. The baby is an remarkably astute player. A veteran of the art of torture. After making clear what it is capable of, it will lie peacefully and quietly. Once the flight is airborne, it will start to unleash its waves of fury. The first battle is called the Battle of Arm Rest.
The Battle of the Arm Rest
As soon as the baby sees me comfortably settling in my seat, it will control its mother (that’s right, you actually thought it was the other way around?) to place it on her lap horizontally so that its leg would be strategically positioned for the first strategic assault. The minute I rest my elbow on the arm rest between me and the mom, the baby would pretend to sleep and let out a well-timed judo kick that would set my hand flying away from the rest. As I would look at my bruised hand in shock, the baby would purr in its sleep, an angel to behold, the wicked smile giving it all away. There is no way to win the Battle of the Arm Rest, for any counter measure that you take will ensure that you get scornful looks from your fellow passengers and a pinch on your fatigued arm by the mom. It is best to lose this battle and sit with your arms tightly wrapped around your chest. Cursing your luck is highly recommended to pass time.
Round 2 – Fight!
For the second round, the baby plays dirty. There I am waiting for the drinks cart to roll-on by. “Would you like something to drink , Sir”. “Would you happen to have some bitten lemon?” “Of course, one bitter lemon for you .. and for you, Ma’am?”, she would ask the mother.
That’s it. She made a big mistake. She did not ask the baby what it wanted. And guess who has to pay the price. Not the blissfully unaware pilot, not the grievously sinning air hostess, not the clueless mom, the price has to be paid by ME!
Once the drink is placed in front of me in the glass, I would start searching the in-flight entertainment for something nice to watch. At that moment, the baby would wake up and start giggling, chortling and waving its hands about. Everyone, even the dastardly airhostess, would stop to smile at the baby, not for a second being able to fathom the grave sequence of events it was setting in motion.
Nobody like to stop a baby from being happy. The baby knows that. It would slowly keep up the prancing on its mom’s lap, waving its hands and feet, laughing so loud and smiling so wide, that each one of its non-existent teeth would be visible. By now everyone in my row on either side is cheering the baby on.
And then out of nowhere, in a move that would have brought tears of joy to eyes of Mr. Miyagi, the baby would execute a brilliantly placed chop to the bottom of my food tray. It would do this after analyzing the center of gravity of the tray. As a spectator and soon to be deeply-involved participant, I would watch how the baby would demonstrate to me its deep understanding of the Butterfly Effect. One perfectly placed well-hidden chop under one corner of my food tray (a flutter of wings, if you will), would result in my drink being bounced off the other end of the tray and being emptied into my lap (a tsunami of sorts)
I would gasp as the bittersweet cold liquid would slowly seep into my special place. The baby will now reach the cresendo of its performance. No one would have noticed the deft and slight move. When the show is over, everyone looks at my pants and goes “Ewww!”. I get up and have every one watch me in disgust, including the pretty air hostess I had my eye on. I reach the restroom, wipe my pants and scream in a voice that only I can hear.
As I drudge back to my seat, everyone seems to have slept off, even the wicked baby. I slowly sit in my seat not wanting to wake the bundle of ploy. I sink into my seat, the lights have been turned off, the cabin is quiet. I can feel my eyelids drooping. I don’t want to resist and sleep comes over me like a gentle blanket. I begin to dream of the pretty air hostess I had seen earlier. She would come up to my seat and say
“How has your flight been so far?”
“Good flight, but with you onboard it has been a flight of pure joy”
She blushes and smiles. She pushes her hair back, comes close to me and says
I wake up with a start. The baby has launched its final attack, the assault on the ear drums. Once I had been to a ear specialist, who had checked the range of hearing my ears had with a tuning fork. The baby took over where the doctor left off. Steadily, unrelentingly, it scream would climb the decibel scale. It would start reaching octaves four times above what the most perfectly trained classical singer could manage. The sound had such a shrill ring to it, that you could hear it drilling it your ear-drum. You could feel your ear-drum going to the brain and saying “Please! I can’t stand this torture! Do something, Oh Brainy One! Save me!” The brain after careful consideration would run and jump out of the nearby window.
The assault continued unabated. The baby was going for the kill this time and I could feel its voice entering every pore in my body, entering my blood-stream. The wail consumed me from inside out. My life flashed before my eyes. When this happened, I saw all the other babies who had done this to me before. I had survived, I am a survivor. You can take away my sleep, but you can’t take my right to fly! With that I grit my teeth, and held on the arm-rest tightly. In my mind, I was transforming into the Hulk. To someone walking down the aisle, I looked like someone with a severe case of constipation. Nevertheless, I fought back. I took the sound, made it a part of the background noise, merged it with the drone of the plane’s engines. The wail faded ever so slightly. I saw a glimmer of hope. I persisted. Slowly but surely, octave by octave, the scream, though present, began to disappear. I started sweating less. The cute airhostees was beginning to materialize in my mind again. I smiled.
The baby saw this smile. It had come close to finishing me off, but missed. It had a new found look of respect for me. As a mark of this respect, it sportingly reached up pulled my hair, kicked me the ribs and went back to sleep.
Battered, worn, embarrassed, hurt, I finally shut my eyes.
The flight has landed. The mother got out in front of me, with the baby sleeping over her shoulder. Just as we disembark from the flight, the baby wakes up and demonstrates to me how it can close four of its fingers of one hand. I smile. I had a small victory of my own. When it was sleeping, the mom asked me to fill in the disembarkation form for the baby. I asked her if the baby was a boy or a girl. “Girl”, she said.
I ticked boy.
It has always troubled me. I look to eat, I love to drink. But one particular feeling always troubles me.
The feeling I get when I drink Maaza mango juice.
It started sometime after I finished my MBA. The first time it came to me it seemed pretty hazy. I was with a friend. He ordered a Coke and I ordered a Maaza juice. The bottles arrived. I put the straw in my mouth. I sucked in. The liquid rose in the straw. It touched my tongue. The next second, I was overcome with an enormously sad feeling. It was if something in the juice was triggering a repressed memory. That couldn’t be right. What could Maaza juice have to do with a sad memory? I took another sip. Surely it must be a mistake.
My mood worsened. I felt very sad, very lonely, isolated. In my head, I was running pulling out every drawer of memory that I had. I was checking the cabinets, the lofts, inside every box of memory I had to find something associated with the Maaza. But I was at complete blank.
Naturally, I blamed myself for this. I have known for a very long time that my memory has a 2 year time frame. Which means every new memory that I get comes with a “Best before 24 months” tag. I have noticed it all the time, when my friends talk about their childhood, their graduation, even stories that I’m a part of, I draw a blank. I have manage to perfect the art of laughing and nodding along at appropriate times. More to the point however, knowing that I had this manufacturing defect convinced me that it was an uphill battle to find out the source of my sorrow.
After that day, whenever an oppurtunity presented itself, I would order for the mango drink. I wanted to check if it was just Maaza, or was it just any mango drink. I tried Slice, Appy, Frooti in India and a host of drinks from Dubai where I had spent a majority of my childhood. When I drank all of them, I felt like I was enjoying a nice mango drink as I assume everyone does. But then I tried Maaza and the feeling was back again.
I have discussed this feeling with some of my friends and relatives. They’ve known me for a long time – maybe they know why Maaza makes me feel sad. Everyone drew a blank. I got some funny looks from a few of them – can’t blame them for it.
I thought and thought about it. The only time I could remember drinking a lot of mango juice was in school. For some reason when I was in school, I had decided that I liked my mango juice so much (I don’t remember if I was hooked to a brand), that I would have it every day for as long as I could. I drank a bottle of mango juice (Slice / Maaza) everyday for 3 months. Did something during that period make me feel sad? I didn’t think so. That was the ending of my school days. Everything was right with my world then. The feeling that I got when Maaza touched my lips was a feeling of sullen emptiness and defeat.
I didn’t know what to do about this. Should I ignore it forever? What option did I have? I was convinced that the secret to the feeling associated with Maaza lay deep in my childhood, and my memory did not have archives for so far back. In the book, Many Lives, Many Masters, a hypnotist uses hypnotic regression to find out facts about a subject’s past lives (hence the title). If someone could regress to their past lives through hypnosis, couldn’t someone take me back to my childhood in this life. I wrote to a leading hypnotist who simply replied that it was indeed possible that the taste was connected with something, but there was nothing that could be done to retrieve it.
The problem nagged me for 5 years. When I got married, I told my wife, D, about the story. I’m sure she thought I was a real but-job, but to her credit she managed to keep a straight face.
Then one day, D and I went to my parents’ place for a function. After the function got over, my parents, D and I settled into the sofa for a comfortable chat. The topic veered around to how I was quite adamant with my choices and I was always very difficult to convince. Here’s my dad’s next sentence to D-
“Kartik! He was always very difficult to convince. You know what, when we made him join school. He would refuse to go. The only way we could get him to go was by keeping a bottle of Maaza in his lunch-box”
As everyone around me laughed, time moved very slowly in my world. I clasped the arms of the sofa tightly till my knuckles hurt. My mind was racing back . A memory-box had been found somewhere under all the dust in the attic. The memory flooded in and covered me. I was no longer in my house. I was a small kid in front of my home, all dressed-up for school. I was crying. I could see my red plastic lunch box. I could see my water bottle. It was me going to school. I didn’t want to leave home. I didn’t want to leave my parents. I didn’t trust the world. I didn’t trust anyone outside my home. I didn’t trust the bus-driver or the kids in the bus. My parents who said they loved me were sending me away.
The food changed everyday, but everyday, the feeling of loneliness remained. Everyday, I drank my Maaza.
Have you ever felt anything like this? I have experienced a similar feeling with a few songs related to times in my life – is that something you have felt before too? Does it work with the other senses such as sound and smell as well?
5:30 pm local time UAE.
My inflight movie had just gotten over. The display in front of me said that we had another 1:15 to reach Khartoum.
I noticed the flight status display. And then it hit me.
For 28 years, 9 months and 15 days, I had spent my life in one place. The gigantic continent that we call Asia. I looked again at the screen. Our flight had just flown over Jeddah and was just over water.
I opened my window ever so slightly, so as not to disturb the passengers for whom this journey was less momentous, and had chosen to sleep.
I opened my window to view a canvas of shimmering blue that stretched far away and melted into the blue of the sky. This sea of blue was the (slightly inappropriately named) Red Sea.
The fact that I could see water confirmed that I had indeed soared away from home. Having traveled all my life, I’ve never realized that I had a place and a home. That I actually have a place where I can say I have roots with no ambiguity whatsoever. My beloved Asia was gone. Chennai, Dubai, Mumbai, Sharjah, Bhubaneshwar, Muscat .. They were all behind me.
Right now, I could see the blue power of the Red Sea defeated by a coastline, a jagged brown one.
I remembered Leo Di Caprio from the Blood Diamond.
This is Africa.
And I am here.
Yesterday, the media went full throttle about the Shoiab-Sania-Ayesha-Maha love quadrilateral. They have exposed every geometric aspect to this relationship possible over and over again. And just in case, our brain manages to quietly manufacture some new cells which still haven’t heard the story, the channels play it once again. It quickly dawns on our newborn brain cell why all the other cells around it are blowing their .. well, enough of that line of thought.
As a Chennaite, I was quite surprised when I read about poor Shoaib’s story. If only he had caught a flight to Chennai before he ran behind the hottie from Hyd. Here’s what would have happened.
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