Saturday, October 31, 2009

Oct 31, 1984

When the news of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's assassination began to spread, the whole country was in turmoil. Nothing of the kind had ever been witnessed before. The reactions of ordinary people to it was unpredictable. A Prime Minister, a lady, one of the most powerful women in India, killed by her own body guards while she was taking a morning walk at her residence? The fury was turned on toward the Sikhs, the Punjabis, across the country because the commandos who opened fire on her were Sikhs. Smt. Indira Gandhi was apparently being targeted for storming the Golden Temple, Amritsar, earlier that year, to curb 'Sikh terrorism' (the action was codenamed Operation BlueStar). The country was in flames.

I was nine years old, and at school when the news broke out. I retain only patches of memory from that day. I believe I understood why school was suddenly closed in the mid-morning, there was a flurry of panicked students and teachers rushing about. No one was advised about how to act in such an emergency. My sister, five years my senior, who was my 'local guardian' at school, was absent from school that day. (She said years later that she was pretending to be sick, but actually wanted to listen to the cricket commentary in All India Radio, and was caught when my Father rushed home to listen to the news!).

Somehow I found my friend Roshan, a year older than I, and we planned to set out for home. Home was a good 7-8 kms away. School buses would not ply that day, there was a curfew on, as people were taking to the streets to express their shock, grief and protest, and damaging everything in their path. We had probably started walking home, too, when we were offered a lift in a car by a girl I think we knew by sight, whose Father had arrived to take her home. They dropped us at the Junction, from where we could walk home. We walked straight to "Vaidyuti Bhavan", the KSEB office, where Roshan's Father worked (we must have discussed this in the car). To this day I do not know why we did not go to my home, where I knew my sister would be. I guess our thought was, it is imperative to inform Roshan's parents that she is safe, and that she will be at our place. We probably intended to meet him, let him know where we were, go home and play for the rest of the day. We reached right in front of KSEB, and didn't know what to do. Neither of us knew how to find her Dad - we did not know where he could be found, in the eight-storey KSEB building. We were debating in front of the office, I imagine I was telling her, "I thought you knew how to find him? What are we to do now?" or something to that effect, when lo and behold! he was right there, walking towards us. Our first question was, how did you know we were here? He said one of his colleagues had noticed us standing in front of the office in school uniform and informed him.

I do not remember the rest. Maybe we all went to my house. Maybe I went home and they went to theirs. What is important is that, 'the rest' is not important. That is why I do not remember it. He had seen us, and we were safe. Nothing else mattered.

Over the years, I have often wondered...
How did Roshan and I find each other in that chaos at school when no one was bothered about anyone else, everyone was trying to somehow reach their own homes?
We could easily have been missed by the girl in the car, and would have had to trudge all those kilometres home. We may even have lost our way. But she saw us, and offered to take us to our street.
After we made the clever decision of going to her Dad's office, and neither of us knew how to locate him, what a coincidence that someone who knew Roshan by sight, saw us both and informed her Dad?

Anything could have happened that day. But nothing did. And yet, everything did - just perfectly.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

My Blog, Visitors and Comments

When I first registered at in 2007, my intention was to post my short stories so that some of my close friends/family can read them. So the blog I used to have at that time was not made 'public', and was seen by about half a dozen people only. Ever since I chose some of the stories from the blog and published a book, it has been suffering from gross neglect, with weeds and creepers crawling all over it.

When I started this blog, I was not sure whether I wanted people to read it. I just wrote to release the clutter in my mind. My sole visitor was my friend anupsar. However, I did make the blog available to the 'public', and kept an eye on the visitor statistics. When the first visitor strayed into my domain, I was overjoyed! From that time, I used to daily check the statistics, and was happy when the count increased daily, slowly, steadily.

Every day I climb more steps. My expectations increase. Now I don't look at the visitor statistics (much). I look at the (number of) comments.
No comments? No visitors.

I like comments. Not the spammy or abusive kind, of course, but the ones that you leave if you like what you read, if you dis/agree with me. And I like lots of them. Comments inspire me to write.

So you are thinking, what if I have nothing to comment on? I have no answer. I visit blogs too, and sometimes find that I have nothing to say - for several reasons. But if you do have something to say here, please do make sure you say it.

For example. I just changed the font of the blog. From Georgia to Arial. You could tell me if you like it. Does it look good? Comments are welcome. As always.

And if you are a newcomer? It is mandatory to leave comments. I have this new monitor thing in my site that knows who/where you are and sue you for not posting a comment. And so on and so forth. (I know, I know. As if you believed it.)

So what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

In retrospective

We fell silent as we took in the sights on the banks. At some places along the journey the shore was close enough to see the women squatting by the waterside, washing clothes or dishes, looking up disinterestedly at the passing boat. The sun was bearing down upon us, and, sitting in the deck of the boat, we began to feel uncomfortably hot. Some of the women went below to escape the heat. A girl of six or seven years old was fussing with her Mother as she wanted to stay on the deck.

The frustrated Mother turned to her husband. "I can't bear this heat. I am going below. Do look after Annu."

Annu jumped with joy as her wish was granted, and stood at the railings at the back of the boat, watching the shore, her face raised against the wind. Her beautiful pink flowing dress looked quite uncomfortable in the heat to everyone else, but she seemed oblivious of the humid weather squeezing her sweat glands to work overtime. There was a hotel in the middle of the water to which our boat was aiming, which was to provide us a Malayali sadya, after which we would turn back.

The heat was beginning to make me quite sleepy. I yawned wide, stretched and considered going below as the sensible women had done. A quick movement in the corner of my eye caught my attention.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Updated thoughts on Twitter

Remember my first take on Twitter? Though much has not changed, I have started getting the swing of the thing. And yes, I have started following others and listening to them. It sure has been beneficial to me. I found a lot of good stuff about writing and other topics of my interest; many, many people share their thoughts and enlightening experiences that I hook myself to the tweets regularly for my "daily dose of wisdom." It's been interesting so far.

As the wise cbjerrisgaard had commented at that time, "Start with a small group of people you find interesting, look at who they follow, use tools like wefollow and twitter search to find the rest. Then - interact. The rest takes care of itself."

I can now understand the obsession one could have for the Tweetland chatter. There are no rules on what you tweet about, or how. Except that each message should stay in 140 characters. You broadcast anything that comes to your fingertips, and if your followers like it, they take it forward through a reply or a Re-tweet (RT). When your message is RT-ed, you will know how far it has travelled, how many people have RT-ed it. You can use Twitter to promote your product, think out loud, catch up with old friends, make new friends, get breaking news, make news, or simply spend time. The fascination that Email once held, later blogs, and then mobile text messages, is now taken over by Twitter.

Sometimes, the number of tweets at my 'Home' still overwhelms me, but if I have the time and patience to leaf through them, I find several good reads and info, enough to keep me engaged for hours on end. For instance, a few days back I read about how independent or self-published authors can put up their books for sale in the Bangalore Book Festival-'09, coming up next month (Nov 6-15, 2009, at the Palace Grounds, B'lore). A couple of months ago, when I sent an Email to the Book Fest official site, I received absolutely no response. I had almost given up on the Book Fest. So this would give me an opportunity to give my book the kind of exposure it needs - thanks to Twitter.
(Also read, Times of India article on the Book Festival.)

I was surprised to find that I do enjoy chatting with absolute strangers from different parts of the world, on topics I like. Once upon a time, the very thought would have totally put me off.

There is no place for Boredom or Idleness in the world now, when there are applications like Twitter to wallow in for hours. There only seems to be Procrastination (at least, in my case). But there are many who Tweet and Work, or Tweet at Work, or Tweet between Work, and for whom Twitter is The much-needed Energiser that drive them up the mountain.

In case you are interested, Follow me on Twitter.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Thoughts for the weekend

1. Little children can teach their parents Patience the way no one else can.

2. Life always gives us days in pairs. A bad day for every great one. Or perhaps, a great day for every bad one.

Just because you know cooking, you can't make great dishes. You need to be familiar with the knives, pots and pans as well.

The love of parents for their children is one-way traffic. It never gets reciprocated in the same amount, however one can see it manifest itself when the children have children of their own.

5. You can't please everyone. Just as everyone does not try to please you.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Wake up, Sid!

This is the movie I went to watch yesterday with my friends, after a long time. I would have enjoyed the evening even if the movie was the floppest of the year. But it wasn't. It is the kind of light-hearted fun movie with no deep, heartbreaking melodramatic scenes (thank God!).

By the way, in case you didn't know, despite what the title suggests, Wake Up, Sid! is a Hindi movie (with a spatter of Hindi dialogues and a lot of "Uh-mazing" and "Are you kidding?" stuff). Sid is Siddharth (my son's name, though I hope my son doesn't turn out to be like the Sid in the movie!) played by Ranbir Kapoor. Konkana Sen Sharma as the "New Girl in the City" is awesome - as always. What an uh-mazing actress. Quite impeccable performances by her and Anupam Kher (as Sid's Dad).

Ranbir Kapoor repeats his very own, stereotyped, spoilt-brat role (quite similar to the one in Bachhna Ae Haseeno), who has some solid sense knocked into his head by the very level-headed and pragmatic lead lady, his love for whom he discovers by the end of the movie. In Bachhna Ae Haseeno, in a taxi climax in Australia, in Wake Up Sid!, in the Monsoons in Mumbai. Ranbir is better off performing comic scenes or behaving like an idiot, and an absolute disaster when trying to be depressed or romantic.

Konkana, as Aisha Bannerjee, who has just got a job as assistant to the Editor-in-Chief of Mumbai Beat (and whose job is to clean the E-i-C's desk 'creatively'), and Sid, who just flunked his graduation exams and thus got kicked out of his home, are thrown together by circumstances. However, (yes! there is always a 'However') it seemed too far-fetched to believe that in two months, Aisha the Aspiring Writer and Sid the Amateur Photographer, get their article and photograph (respectively) published in the subsequent edition of Mumbai Beat. (Believable for the very ambitious and talented Aisha, perhaps, but not for a loser like Sid!) Whereas some of us here creep and crawl and beg and plead and pray to get our books to the bookstores! Oh, well.

My own little Sidharth (who is 'Munnu' to me) had joined us in the first half of the movie before I let him out during the intermission to his waiting Dad, surmised the whole thing in two words at the start of the film, when Sid is seen drawing the Simpsons cartoon character in a paper while pretending to concentrate in his studies: "Cartoon Network."

Update: My friend tells me that my review does not seem complete, as I have not added a recommendation to it. So here is my recommendation. Watch. With your friends. Without trying to dissect every scene. Enjoy.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

So what if Someone does not respond to my mails three times? After all, he is not a close friend, member of the family or a relative, and he is not obliged to send me a response.

The first time, when I queried, there was an explanation. It sounded true.
The second time, though it was a personal mail which invited a reply at least in the name of courtesy, I did not query.
The third time, my mail was not addressed to him alone, it was a group mail. But does one not send mails in groups to announce happy news? And how many of the others replied to it?!

So why am I so bothered? Because, when my first opinion of the Person was formed, it was so strongly based on the foundation that he does not ignore anyone, he acknowledges even the most insignificant individual, responds to the slightest single-liner mails, and so on.

When that belief crumbles day by day, it troubles me because something deep inside insists that my First Impression - in which I have always trusted with my eyes shut - seems to have been wrong. Besides, this is one of the very few individuals that I have learnt to respect and admire during my professional career, and so far there has not been one instance that destroyed that image.

times? There certainly is more than meets the eye.

The dreams that we see in the early morning, minutes before our mind snaps awake, leave us with emotions that stay with us for most part of the day. Today morning I dreamt about this person. I do not recall much. I just remember that he was there, and he ignored me.

And that pain stayed for most of the day.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Book Giveaway Winners!

I wanted to post this today morning, but you know how it is. The moment we make a plan, Somebody out there starts the machinery to wreck it all. (Then I make plans and pretend that I don't have any, just to fool that Somebody!)

To Business. Thanks to all those who participated in the Book Giveaway, it was good to read all the serious and light-hearted and thoughtful comments.

I borrow this idea of posting pictures of the draw from Patricia Storms at Book Lust.

1. The names.

2. Shaken and Stirred.

3. Winner #1! Nikki-ann

4. Winner #2! Bob

Check out Nikki-ann's blog for beautiful photographs.
Nikki-ann, I do not have your email ID, so please contact me at j(dot)papaadi(at)gmail(dot)com.

Check out Bob's blog where he writes about life in Dubai and in general.
Bob, please check your Email !

Your copy of Tales from the Garden City will be reaching you soon!

Thanks again for all those who participated, a special thanks to two of you who already had my book, and still posted comments here - I appreciate it.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Happy Diwali

The crackers had started one week ago, announcing the arrival of Diwali (Deepavali - the Row of Lights), the Festival of Lights. The three nights of this long weekend, the noise of crackers and squealing children holding patakas would fill the air.

(And of course, lots of waste to clear in the following days, the remnants of the dhamaka!)

Some of the legends of Diwali can be found at this site. Copying a couple of them here (the most popular):

Krishna Killed Narakaasur: On the day preceding Diwali, Lord Krishna killed the demon king Narakaasur and rescued 16,000 women from his captivity. The celebration of this freedom went on for two days including the Diwali day as a victory festival.

The Victory of Rama: According to the epic 'Ramayana', it was the new moon day of Kartik when Lord Ram, Ma Sita and Lakshman returned to Ayodhya after vanquishing Ravana and conquering Lanka. The citizens of Ayodhya decorated the entire city with the earthen lamps and illuminated it like never before.

Winter's on its way! For this part of the world, Diwali announces the arrival of Winter. The temperature dips significantly in the days following Diwali. So this long weekend can be used to pull out blankets and sweaters and air them for use.

Diwali goes Global: Saw this news regarding US President Barack Obama celebrating Diwali at the White House.

By the way: The Book Giveaway Contest will close tomorrow, do post your thoughts, I will announce the winner(s) on Monday!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

English - From UK to US

Contd from Bangalorisation of English 3.

There was a time when the English in use in India was completely UK-English. I remember spelling "colour", "honour" and "neighbour" in school, without any confusion or fore/after-thought. Then somewhere around 15 years ago, things began to change, when my attention was elsewhere. Then- when I looked again, everywhere there were "color", "honor" and "neighbor", spellings changed, pronunciations changed. No, not everywhere. Newspapers stayed loyal to the older version - they do, to this day. However, hoardings, displays and other miscellaneous territories were taken over by this new(US) version of English.

The problem with smooth transition to the new English was that no one realised that such a transition has happened. People thought they had been spelling words and articulating all wrong, all this time. It is a foreign language, anyway. One never knows.

When I started writing - like, serious writing - I did not pay much attention to "what English" I was using. What English, as in UK English, US English, Canadian, Australian, etc. ('Indian' English being mostly identified by the mixed-up grammar due to direct translation from the Mother-tongue and pronunciations, and rarely by the spellings.) The result was a splash of color, honour, neighbors, recognise, realize and so on. Looking back now, I guess I failed to even notice the red underline that the very helpful MS Word and other word editors provided.

Then one day I decided that I shall be following the Mother of all English, the Queen's English, otherwise known as UK English, from now on. Once this decision was reached, it was essential to know the differences between the most common two versions found in this region - UK and US.

The last three years have been an eye-opener for me in terms of my acquaintance with the language. Once I decided that I will follow UK English (primarily, - for I cannot keep away the expressions that diffuse from different parts of the world, the 'American', 'British' and 'Indian' versions, and I can hardly identify them for where they belong!), it was imperative that I know what the differences between the two were. So, my saviour Google came to my aid. (I list a few of them here, the remaining can be found in the sites I have mentioned below.)

* British English words that end in -re (e.g. centre, fibre, theatre) often end in -er in American English (center, fiber, theater).

* British English words that end in -our (e.g. colour, humour) usually end with -or in American English (color, humor).

* Verbs in British English that can be spelled with either -ize or -ise at the end (e.g. recognize/recognise) are always spelled with -ize in American English.

* Verbs in British English that end in -yse (e.g. analyse) are always spelled -yze in American English (analyze).

* In British spelling, verbs ending in a vowel plus l double the l when adding endings that begin with a vowel (e.g. travel, travelled, traveller). In American English the l is not doubled (travel, traveled, traveler).

* British English words that are spelled with the double vowels ae or oe (e.g. archaeology, manoeuvre) are just spelled with an e in American English (archeology, maneuver).

* Some nouns that end with -ence in British English (e.g. licence, defence) are spelled -ense in American English (license, defense).

* Some nouns that end with -ogue in British English (e.g. dialogue) end with -og in American English (dialog).

The above listed information has been taken from the following sites:

I do not know the Canadian or Australian versions of the language, are they similar to US or UK, or much different?
Welcome any thoughts on this!

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Well

Bai is running at the speed of light, and working with both hands and legs to send the family to their respective destinations. The pace builds up from half past seven and the fastest sprint occurs from eight to nine in the morning, culminating in each of them rushing out the doorway. Invariably the winner and the first to exit would be the master of the house with his tie half tied, breakfast half way down his throat, and shoe laces dangling. These are assumed to reach their positions by the time he reaches his office. The lady of the house would be shoving food down the throat of her son as he gets late for his school bus and untangling his shoe-laces and combing his hair. He is the second one to exit, as he gets pushed out the door unceremoniously, in the direction of his impatiently honking bus. The Memsahib begins her activities next, with a rush in and out of the bathroom to complete what she calls her shower, another quick entry-exit into the prayer room, dab of makeup along with the breaking of her fast, giving directions to Bai at the same time in a continuous buzz that gets lost here and there. There is nothing new, and Bai does not pay much attention to it.

With the exit of the Memsahib, Bai falls back onto the chair with a sigh of relief.

"Gummoning", says a tiny voice.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Week That Was

You tell me if the fault is mine. The other night I decide to order pizza from D-, the Pizza people. I call up and order a couple for our dinner. I have a few coupons from a previous order, but the jargon of discount is beyond me ("Buy one large pizza, garlic breaksticks and a coke and get 20% discount on the next medium pizza, but this discount is not valid on Xyz pizza", and so on to more complicated combinations), so I did not ask the person at the other end about it. (Especially since he efficiently got me to spend a few bucks more than I would have, but that is a story for a different day). After the order is made, I go back through the coupons and I have this feeling that one of the coupons (which said Rs.100/- off) would fit the order I made, but one could never be sure. The delivery man comes along less than half an hour later, and I show him the coupons. He says yes, this one fits this order perfectly well, but you should have spoken about it to the person who took the call - as the payment is already 'made into the system'. I tell him that's fine, you go back with this coupon and inform them that I had this wonderful coupon with me and was unaware of it. He refuses. "You could use it in the next order, Ma'm." I murmur to myself (so that he can hear), "what is the use of coupons, then?"
Talk about "Customer Delight"!

I go out for a walk and unexpectedly meet an ex-colleague. He tells me, "I saw your book, and quickly read the first 2-3 stories. Awesome! It's admirable that you put your effort into getting your book published!"
You can imagine how pleased that made me feel.
(That reminds me - the Book Giveaway contest is still on!)

When I land at Kochi in the first week of Sep, my mobile handset is switched off (equipment interfering with the navigation signals and so forth). After landing, I switch it on, (beep indicates the arrival of "Airtel welcomes you to Kerala, wish you a pleasant stay") and the clock in the mobile automatically sets to 11:15. I am surprised since the scheduled time of arrival was 11:45, have we landed 30 mins before schedule? Does not seem likely, the flying time from B'lore to Kochi is 40 mins, I don't think we have covered it in 10 mins. So I manually adjust my handset clock to 11:45, against its better judgement. Last week, I land at TVM, I go through the same procedure. Switch off - switch on, and, as Airtel-Kerala welcomes me again, my mobile clock insists that the time is 30 mins behind IST. I force it to IST, and during the while I am in Kerala, it follows the time I insisted on. As a result, my text message recipients claim that my messages arrive with a timestamp of IST+30 minutes. I travel in car and for a couple of minutes, my handset goes out of range and pops back, without my being aware of it. Suddenly, beep-beep. "Airtel welcomes you to Kerala, wish you a pleasant stay" and bingo! Clock goes 30 minutes back. I return to Bangalore, and all is fine. Clock automatically comes back to IST.
Which Timezone (country?) is Kerala (or, Airtel-Kerala) in?

I have this back pain that sometimes troubles me (not too much, but enough to remind me that I have a back). So one day I am bending over some work and when I straighten, my back groans and so do I. My son comes over, kisses me and says, "I have kissed your pain away."
The pain really feels a lot lesser, honest.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Questions of a three-year -old (contd)

1. Why does loud sound come out of our mouths? (When I asked him not to speak too loudly at night.)

2. Is it because my Father is a big man that he has to stay at office late? (When I said bigger children have to stay more time at school, as opposed to half-day for him.)

3. When I grow up and you become small, I will not give you chocolates! (When I refused him chocolates one day, about a year ago. He seems to have learnt since that his Mom won't grow smaller with time, which could be an issue, as he cannot take vengeance on her.)

4. Why are girls happy when they get flowers? (After this observation, he makes it a point to pluck flowers and give me whenever we go out for a walk!)

5. Why does Tom seem to like girl cats? (I admit I did not have a good answer to that.)

6. Is the Chairman a person who makes chairs? (He probably encountered the Chairman of his school that day.)

7. "... and the little cow said, I want to go to the Daddy cow." (During the story time with his little toy animals. Also sometimes enters Mother Bull whenever the little bull cries for her.)

(Read previous Questions of a three-year old)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Post it Notes

I had come across the Six Sentences blog during my meanderings through the Cyberland. I liked the idea and wanted to try writing something in six sentences. Here is the outcome.

Thank God for post-it notes. Had it not been for them, I would never have managed to convey my modest requirements to the world at large. Ever since I became a work-at-home Mother, my interaction with mortals has reduced considerably, so much so that on an average day, when there are no pleasantries to be exchanged with the milkman, newspaperwallah, ironwallah (pronounced "eye-rrrrun-waala" out here) or my neighbours, my utterances are limited to answering my son's occasional queries. When my husband is around, our actions and words are mainly focussed around or determined by our son, and hence the administrative and management discussions of our home are pushed farther to the rear seat. As a result, the reminders to 'Pay electricity bill', 'Grocery purchase', and queries as to 'Did you call up so-and-so today?' find themselves pasted on our walls, with the queries posted by one and the replies against each by the other. If this goes on, I wonder whether I would lose my speech-skills which I once had aplenty, and if such is the case in my home where one of us does not go out to work, what would it be where both the husband and the wife are office-goers?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Education - where is it headed?

The Indian Education System is in a frightening race against itself. And like an inward bound spiral that can find rest and solace only at infinity which it would forever strive to but never really achieve, I fear that it would self-destruct in the process. And yet, being the optimist that I am, I hope that someday light from the skies would dawn on someone (someone who can do something about it, who is not a helpless creature like me) to halt the spiral in its mid spin, take it apart and see it for what it is, and really do something to straighten it.

But by then, my son would have crossed the back-breaking hurdles of Kindergarten (at the completion of which he is expected to master the reading of three-letter English words and probably a good deal of Hindi and arithmetic), School (the syllabus of which I am terrified to even take a look at, it probably involves Calculus in first or second standard) and maybe Entrance exam coaching classes (which are inward bound spirals in themselves, with the classes starting a half hour earlier every year - this year it is 5AM. When would we stop making castles in the air about Medical/Engineering careers and start accepting other professions as respectable ones as well?).

I have never given much thought to the fact that English (and related languages) have Capital and lower case alphabets. When my son writes a tiny 'B' in his book and asks, "isn't this small B?" I have no clue how to explain what is meant by upper case and lower case. I silently thank God that Hindi and other Indian languages do not have the upper/lower case styles. But once he has mastered the concept in English, it would be probably more difficult to explain why Hindi does not have this. When I was at school, as far as I remember (oh it wasn't too long ago) we were given one language at a time. There was a gap of two or more years between the introduction of each language. (Okay, so we have to learn English, Hindi and Mother tongue. Harrowing, indeed. Which is why I thunk this profound thought when I did.)

I go dizzy every time I ask myself, is this the best way of teaching little children? As all other parents have already wondered, do we really need to fill in their little heads with all the stuff; are they ready to handle this?

The most fantastic outcome of this all is, that the little ones master it (grumbling and groaning nonetheless) beautifully at the end.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Book Giveaway! Just post a comment.

I have been attending wee too many contests across the cyberland that I am tempted to do one myself. In fact I have been thinking about this for a while now. So this is a Book Giveaway Contest, and the winner gets a copy of my book, the collection of Bangalore-based short stories Tales from the Garden City. (Click on the link to read more about the book.)

The contest is pretty simple. Just answer one question. Leave a comment here with your answer. I will choose one of the best answers from your comments - either the one I liked best or (if there are too many to choose from) I will select one by drawing lots.

So here is the Question:
Assume that a Very Reliable Someone has predicted your death in September 2010 - a year from now. What are the 5 (or more, or less!) things you would want to do if you are given only ONE MORE year to live?

So, go ahead, think about it, post as many comments as you wish - make a wishlist of the things you would do if you are warned that your life would expire a year from now - in Sep 2010.

The last date for sending in your comments is Oct 18, 2009.

Do spread the word!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

TVM diaries: Helicopters

People of TVM jokingly refer to two things as 'Helicopters'. One is mosquito and the other is auto-rickshaw.

Mosquitoes have been TVM's woe for a number of years. I cannot remember a time when we did not worry about mosquitoes. But the mosquitoes themselves were quite organised - they never struck before dusk, and they retired when darkness had fallen. In short, the time between 6.30PM and 7.30PM was allotted to them to march around sucking human blood, droning their rotors like Helicopters in the offensive, and humans sought safety between the concrete walls of their houses, windows and doors barred against the invaders. As per the unspoken agreement between Men and Mosquitoes, any one within the vicinity of the Mosquitoes during the wartime is their property to treat as they wish, and when windows and doors opened at 7.30PM, not a single Helicopter would trouble Man. If ever a young'un made the mistake of crossing the Line of Control after hours, they were shot down by a Mosquito repellant or coil. As days passed by, the Mosquitoes started evolving at a pace that would have put Charles Darwin to utter chagrin. At every visit to TVM, I began noticing that they were growing larger in size, their syringe held more stronger stuff than before, and most importantly, they were invading during cease-fire time. Nowhere else in this Universe do Mosquitoes attack mankind at 10 o'clock in the morning! And yet, such a thing is seen in TVM today. And today they truly look like Helicopters, as opposed to the tiny, almost-invisible ones of the past.

The second 'Helicopter', namely auto rickshaws, and their pilots - drivers - of TVM have also evolved, though in a much pleasanter way. Auto drivers of the past had always been difficult beings to reckon with, some were pleasing, some were difficult, some refused to take you for a ride (I mean a real ride), and some showered profanity on their customers for paying only the exact meter fare and so on. This visit, I have been pleased to note that all the four or five times I hired an auto, the drivers have been polite, even referring to me as "Madam", which is quite new to TVM, and quite content with the fare that they received. Perhaps, in this case, the change is not for them alone. I have changed too - for in the intervening years, I have encountered the incomparable Bangalore Autowallah! And once that Encounter has taken place, TVM autowallahs seem nothing in comparison.

Also read:
TVM diaries: Water Crisis
TVM diaries: At TVM airport