Monday, December 24, 2012

School Reunion

(Had to make an effort this time to access the Net. A School reunion after 33 years just had to be written while the memories are still fresh. Still left-handed and still in Chennai)

When Gautam Banerjee (do not be mislead - the school was in Neyveli not Calcutta) called me up for a reunion of my batch at Jawahar Higher Secondary School Neyveli, I jumped at the chance. Not only because I'd get to meet quite a few of my batch-mates after a third of a century but also to reassure myself that it was not I alone who had changed for the worse. True I had shot up six inches in height since school but I had put on about the same around the waist and losing some weight on top of the head - leaving the head as shiny as a reflector - could by no means be considered a compensation. In this expectation I was sorely disappointed. Gautam, as befitted the chief organizer, satisfied me most thoroughly. Sivakumar, a co-organizer, did his best too and the other organizer Babu tried his best but could only manage to look less of a skeleton than he did at school.

The other lot of guys were really horrid. None of them - bar Venkatesh - seemed to have acquired a dignified paunch. The girls too showed no compassion - most looked positively glamorous. I must single out my ire for P.Suresh, T.C.Ravi, B.S.Murali and M.S.Lakshmi - all of whom looked as though all that they needed to get back to studying class X was the school uniform. I had to console myself with the thought that they could not get in to see an "A" movie without showing age-proof and try to hide my waistline behind my plaster-cast inadequately.

That, however, was the only disappointment. The ride to Neyveli with Venkatesh and T.C. Ravi was fun. P.Suresh, who was with us initially along with his son, was rattled by too many skeletons tumbling out of his school closet with his son listening in eagerly and chose to run to safer havens. We arrived in great spirits at Neyveli to a warm welcome by Gautam, Siva and Babu. None of our teachers could make it but S.Nalini - who looked as hefty as at school only more so - made up for it by bossing us around. Luckily for us she did not try to make us kneel down or stand on the bench - creaky knees do not permit such exercises.

Thirty-three years of living cannot readily be compressed into ninety seconds of narration but managed it. From the chap who somehow became a Canadian dentist to the chap who became a planned redundancy (yours truly) we had them all in the 40-50 batch-mates present there - doctors, engineers, realtors, entrepreneurs, executives and home-makers. Having been a quiet, mousy chap with my nose perpetually buried in a book while at school, I was amazed that quite a few of them knew me though a lot of them probably thought I had gate-crashed the party and merely remained quiet because they were feeling too good to cause a ruckus. (NO! It was not my sneaky way of having my current pic on my FB profile that allowed some to pretend to remember me. Just because most of those who did not know me were non-FB users you cannot cast such wild allegations!)

Tea-time was when we started the serious business of catching up. Within no time we were flinging insults at each other like in school - insults that would have got us bashed up, in court for slander or in jail for leaking official secrets depending on the insulted person's nature and status. Here they only evoked belly laughs and the laughing was almost continuous till we had to part. As Suchitra - the Narain version - put it, adult life meant that we only infrequently opened our mouths wide - for the doctor to peer at our tonsils - so this much  full-throated laughter was actually causing the jaws to ache.

Around seven we left to park ourselves at the various rooms arranged by the organizers and reassembled at eight for dinner. Venkatesh, TC Ravi, Anand and I had a sneak preview of the school on the way and had a small chat with the current principal who first tried to shoo us off as intruders but stayed to chat and even permitted us to look around. The school is now bifurcated in two - with one half catering to the state board students and the other to CBSE students. The CBSE school that we studied in is now the state board school.

At dinner, food seemed to be the last thing on people's minds while everyone was chatting and laughing - and photographing, of course. There were a few changes in conversational styles, however. At school it had almost all been Tamil for informal conversation - now one could hear Telugu, Kannada and Hindi as well. I did not quite catch Debasis and Gautam chat in Bengali but that, too, may have happened.

The party at Gautam's house was after dinner. The conversation was in full flow as ever helped on liberally by the lubrication copiously provided by Gautam and company duly augmented by Sundar. The girls left an hour or so earlier (School reunion! Can't be calling them ladies!). We hit our room by about 2 AM but our conversation was on till 4 AM.

Next day began at 7.30 AM and we hit the meeting hall by about 9 AM. Back to fun and games with B.S.Murali crafting a game that set us reminiscing crazy escapades from our school days (Murali! I am still wondering what to do with 8 match-sticks and no match-box). We, then, went for the official view of the school, photography and running around peeking at all the classrooms and labs bemoaning the changes and excited about what had stayed the same. Kumaraguru even found some corrected test-papers and S.K.Radha proved that she still had an eye for marks!

Back for lunch and the bitter-sweet moments of parting. One needs to compliment those spouses and children who came for the meet. The children, of course, must have come to gather some concrete evidence to prove that their parent was ever a student and did not spring full-blown from the ground. They must have also had much fun seeing this bunch of fifty-year olds acting like juveniles. The spouses are probably more to be lauded for their patience.

A last hurrah was celebrated at Suchitra Naidu's behest at Cuddalore and Venkatesh, Ravi and I wended our way back to Chennai with loads of memories. For all those batch-mates who did not come - you do not know what you missed and photographs are no substitute.

Disclaimer: Photo copied from Sundar's FB post

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Straighten up or die

They know I made a promise to attempt every contest this year and seem bent on defeating me. They know I have a fractured bone in my right hand. They also know I am away from my trusty desktop and reduced to sneaking desultory pathetic looks at a networked world passing me by from an itinerant cousin's laptop. So they bring in a contest at the last moment and, to make things doubly sure, they ensure that it is about hair again knowing full well that I diligently search for signs of it on my scalp with a magnifying glass in vain. Sneaky I call it! Can I let their nefarious designs succeed?

The world is always on the lookout for complicated solutions. As far as I know most people's hair needs to acquire a certain stature before it gets a good look at the world and decides to curl up in a fetal position. The simplest solution, therefore, is to cut your hair very close to your scalp. (About 1 mm should do) Presto - straight hair. (No! This is not my own sneaky way of getting everyone to look like me! You just cannot because I am unique!)

Human beings are irrational and, therefore, I do not expect them to adopt the commonsense solution outlined above. Thankfully there is another workable option. If you do not have Havells switches at home all you have to do is tell your busybody son to wait till the hair straightens before he knocks off the electric appliance while you are doing the St.Vitus' dance with your husband and maid to the tune of "Shock Lagaa". (If you do not have straight hair, you might as well be dead. What is a little thing like the risk of electrocution?) If you are unlucky enough to have installed Havells and are unwilling to change to a more useful brand, you will be reduced to ringing doorbells till you find one that will do the trick for you. Meanwhile, your habit of ringing the doorbell and saying, "Shit! You too have Havells!" is unlikely to endear you to your neighbors.

As an aside, I am actually surprised by this straight hair business. In my youth, the most frightful face a woman exhibited (Other than her normal one, I dare not say for fear of  losing all my readers) was with her hair in curlers. Now it seems to be all straight hair!

Now comes the killer option. If the above does not work run an excursion train to come and take a look at me. Frightful sights are supposed to make your hair stand on end. If you also want me to sing (Scary movies always depend on banshee screams to enhance the effect) that will cost you extra. Results not guaranteed - after all your hair may well be used to worse sights in the mirror. (When I say 'your' I do not actually mean you, you know - it is someone else among all the others who come here)

Now, if none of these work and you still have hair left after trying all these out, you could even try Sunsilk!

If you liked this you may like to check out the index of other posts of this genre or read a selection of similar posts.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Out of town again

The tech-challenged blogger inevitably has to go into hibernation once he is out of sight of his trusty desk-top. Lap-tops, notebooks, tabs and smart phones might as well be Tolkien's rings of power insofar as his ability to use them is concerned. I shall be off for my month of Carnatic music in Chennai and, thus, will neither be blogging (Was that gust a combined sigh of relief from my readers?) nor, sad to say, be reading all my favorite bloggers till January.

I did think that a fractured right hand would prevent me from further posts till mid-January. I had under-estimated my addiction to blogging as well as my own obsession with writing 150 posts by this calendar year. Yes! This is my 150th post.

In the long gone days of my youth my father - after searching me with a microscope for any signs of academic excellence in vain - sent me off to learn type-writing so that I could, at least, eke out a living as a typist. That is why I am still able to type posts even with only my left hand in operation. ("Sigh! What a pity!" is the universal cry, I know!).

Rejoice now for a month of deliverance is at hand. For those of you who are addicted to my writing and consider the day wasted if you do not run your eyes over my blog, I leave behind the indexes of my various genres of my writing. For the majority (All, you say? I refuse to believe that!) to whom one piece is a fatal overdose, give thanks that December will be a season of festivity for you.

Till we meet again in January (Ah! That is not necessarily a binding promise let me hasten to add!), I bid Au Revoir.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Direct Cash Transfers (Concluded)

(I am not often drawn into writing about matters of government policy or, indeed, into lapsing into the esoterica of my working days. Having worked for a long while in the area of fertilizer subsidies and having been considered something of an expert on those policies, I am somewhat obsessed about this area – even unto typing this with my left hand!)
What I find difficult to understand is this insistence on directly transferring cash. You need all beneficiaries to have a specific bank account; you need a monitoring system for ensuring that they do use the subsidy for the intended purposes and you need a mechanism for penalizing such defaults and for reversing such penalties.
How would the monitoring mechanism work? Does the dealer maintain a physical record of transactions which is periodically audited? Or do these records get entered into a database by some authority and defaults identified by filters set in the system? Or does the dealer directly enter into such a database? Or would you give the beneficiaries a card that can be swiped at the dealer’s place to obviate deliberate and accidental errors by the dealer in capturing data related to transactions by the beneficiaries?
The best way that I can see is to issue smart cards to the beneficiaries instead. The dealer sells at market prices and, upon swiping the card, the subsidy amount is deducted from the bill payable by the customer. The total subsidy payable is then credited to the dealer periodically. Much the way credit card payments function.
Since subsidy is paid only upon purchase, the entire rigmarole of monitoring for defaults and all that is avoided. Banking transactions are significantly reduced since transferring cash to only the dealers instead of all beneficiaries should cut down on the transactions significantly. Data capture is more authentic and fine-tuning the system easier.
Further, in the specific case of fertilizer subsidies, one can even see a portion of farm credit being passed on through giving additional credit through the smart cards. Defaults on credits given through smart cards can be reduced because loan defaults could be tagged to inactivating the card and, thus, interest rates can be reduced because default risk would be significantly lower. Lastly, drought relief and the like could be passed on either by way of reducing/waiving payback of credit or by extending additional credit to the target group.
The issues related to usage of smart cards could be infrastructure and education in the use. Neither of these can be considered as insurmountable and, if GOI has the will, it could provide the choice to the beneficiaries of opting between cash transfer and smart cards where possible for a beginning.
If it is only the instant attraction of handing over cash – the political dividend – that drives the policy, nothing further can be said!

Go here for the other part

Direct Cash Transfers

(I am not often drawn into writing about matters of government policy or, indeed, into lapsing into the esoterica of my working days. Having worked for a long while in the area of fertilizer subsidies and having been considered something of an expert on those policies, I am somewhat obsessed about this area – even unto typing this with my left hand!)
The GOI sees direct cash transfer of subsidies as means to avoid leakages of subsidy en route to the beneficiary. In the current system – with specific reference to the PDS, LPG, Kerosene and fertilizers – the material is subsidized at the manufacturer level and material is sold at subsidized prices to the customer. This, in effect, means that the people in the distribution chain can sell the material at a premium to those who are not intended as beneficiaries of the subsidies and reduce/deny supplies to the intended beneficiaries.
When the subsidy amount is directly transferred to the beneficiaries and the material is to be sold at market prices to all comers, there is little point in diverting supplies to non-beneficiaries – unless there is a significant difference between the MRPs at these outlets vis-à-vis the market prices. Thus it would appear that there is validity in the GOI claim that subsidy leakages would be significantly reduced.
The system also seeks to ensure that the subsidy does not get diverted to other uses. To ensure that, the GOI seeks to monitor whether a beneficiary has indeed purchased the intended material and, if not, to deny the subsidy to him going forth. This measure would have been deemed necessary in order to avoid, say, usage of LPG subsidy for the purchase of intoxicants etc.
The problems in the system would be related to (a) Identification of beneficiaries and possible corruption at the stage of adding your name to the beneficiaries list (b) Identification of defaulters – those who fail to use the subsidy as intended – removal of their names, re-addition and attendant possibility of misuse of the powers by concerned officials (c) Addition of unintended people as beneficiaries (d) Errors and rectification in the cash transfers and attendant issues of corruption. (e) Treatment of itinerant work-force.
Two strong future possibilities exist, however, and it cannot be denied that the GOI could well be considering them. The first relates to reducing the number of beneficiaries. At the moment quite a few goods are sold at subsidized prices regardless of the income of the recipient. Going forth, it may be sought to restrict subsidy to only people below a cut-off income level. This move may, in itself, not be objectionable. After all, it is difficult to argue that a family which goes on an annual foreign jaunt, say, would be significantly impoverished by paying an additional Rs.10000 per annum for LPG. The prescription of the cut-off will, however, need debating if and when the GOI does come out with it.
The second is a more serious possibility. Hitherto, the subsidized price of the goods has been fixed – varied only by Government diktat – and, thus, any increases in the market price increased the subsidy bill. Now, it is likely that the quantum of subsidy shall be fixed – and varied only by Government diktat – and thus any increase in market price will be to the cost of the customer. Unless the Government links the subsidy amount to an appropriate inflationary index or is swift to increase the amount by diktat, there is a definite possibility of increased burden on the consumer.
Overall the system does have its advantages. It may be best for opponents to address themselves to procedures that redress the perceived flaws – behind closed doors at least – while maintaining their rhetorical opposition.

Go here for the other part

Friday, November 30, 2012

My story Idea - Harper-Collins contest

This is how you can make two posts out of one idea! First you write a post outlining a story idea to Harper-Collins, then you post a link to the story idea in their page! Hooray! Anything that adds to the post-count on this blog is very welcome!

I actually do not understand why votes for the story idea should be a major decider for the acceptance of the idea. Votes on social media generally denote the popularity of the person and not of the content. And the popularity of the person does not automatically translate to better sales of content produced by him/her. Since, however, H-C has opted for this modus operandi I am trying to plug my idea for all it is worth - even with the left hand. So please click on this link and 'Like' it there.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Out of action

Now I will know how difficult it can be to live with only one usable hand. And when it is the left - which is not my normal hand - things can get very interesting indeed. Manipulating the mouse with the left hand was already a lesson. Your instincts about what is a right click and what is a left click fail you when you change hands.

Why this sudden venturing into these mystical realms? Simply because I have this unnatural capability to fall anywhere while doing nothing much. Today I tripped on the pavement, tried to break an electric pole and broke a bone in my right wrist - the radius - instead. Yippee! I have now had my first fracture and can proudly sport my arm in a sling! The shame of having lived 49 years without ever having had plaster of paris applied on me is now wiped out.

Never knew that the process involved a couple of nurses playing tug-of-war with your hand while the doctor did some esoteric operations on your hand and mummified it. At the end of it all, what I have is a hand that is temporarily hard enough to break bones - or so says the doc. Beware! Do not anger me in person for the next couple of months or I will make the doctor happy by sending more business his way.

The unfortunate part of all this is that my blog activities shall all be in limbo for the nonce. Typing each word, editing the typos and all is too boring - took me an hour to get this far. Further, for a man used to sleeping on his side, I expect a lot of sleepless nights and that is not going to be conducive to being the carefree self that you all know and love (I know! Allow me my self-delusions!)

Hoping to get back in action soon!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Until death do us part : My entry for the Get Published contest

When first we experience what we think of as love it is by and large a feeling. The only thought, if anything, that crosses our mind is “How wonderful life would be for me if (s)he is my spouse”. This romantic love is more an experience of feeling happy with even the daydreams of spending time with the loved one, one of taking pleasure in stealing surreptitious glances and secret smiles – not to mention the clichéd murmuring of sweet nothings in each other’s ears. A love that stays put at this stage if it turns to marriage is more likely to be heart-break for one if not for both.
When love matures, consideration for the other gains more importance. Now, in addition to thinking about how happy your love will make you, you also start taking pleasure in making your significant other happy. When love starts making you think in terms of actively taking pleasure in making the other happy – and not just as a means to an end – it is mature love.
Yet! There is a sort of love that is not given to the ordinary people to feel. When all the giving can only be a one-way street, due to external circumstances, and when the life that you end up leading is one of unremitting drudgery and deprivation, it takes a different order of love to transmute such a life into one of happiness because you are living with your love.
I came to know of such a woman in the recent past. A woman, whose husband was crippled within a year of an arranged marriage and whose parents urged her to divorce him and closed their doors on her because she would not. She not only stayed with him, nursing him and helping him try to earn a living but also disdained any description of her life as one of sacrifice.
That is the only real life story that makes me want to write about it. I do not know any of the characters personally and, thus, were I to write it the characters in my story may end up bearing no resemblance to the real life characters.

This is my entry for the HarperCollins–IndiBlogger Get Published contest, which is run with inputs from Yashodhara Lal andHarperCollins India.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Shopper! Stop!

Here we go again! Once again there comes a contest that I really have no reason to compete in but for that unfortunate promise that I made to myself about competing in every contest this year. If I only knew who it was that let Indiblogger know about that promise thereby ensuring that they brought in contest after contest that I cannot readily compete in, I would probably have become a murderer by now!
Paranoid fantasy, did you say? Just check out the list of contests that have been announced. You have a ‘Love Marriage or Arranged Marriage’ contest – just the topic that a 49 year old bachelor has always yearned to write about. Then, you kick in with a recipe contest – what I always dream of writing after having converted my kitchen into a disaster area for the day. And, now, comes the chance to play designer!
I have always had a thing against designers. They seem to be a particularly lazy lot given to taking the easy way out. I mean what is so difficult about designing clothing that makes a John Abraham or an Arjun Rampal look good? Those guys probably look good in the buff anyway and it would take concerted creative effort by a designer to make them look ugly. Now if any designer had designed clothing for me that would make girls drool all over me that would be worth lauding. Where is the designer who takes on such a challenge? Lazy set of sods, as I said! (By the way, will someone let me know why saliva is welcome when drooled on you and detestable when spat? Just asking!)
Without a designer, I would probably do better. My friends do not agree, however. I am not color-blind but my friends delight in saying that it cannot be proved by the clothes I wear. I mean, come on, what is unattractive about electric green trousers and a flame-red shirt? The shirt is even decorated with bright blue forget-me-nots and everyone likes flowers, don’t they? I am sure that my friends are only indulging in their usual pastime of pulling my leg – but who knows whether they are actually reflecting popular taste or not?
Enough maundering! Time to get ahead with the task at hand. Ensemble? Hmmm! Do I go in for the usual three piece suit that was the height of sophisticated dressing of my generation? One problem there, however! I have always felt that it was a pity that the man who first invented the tie was not strangled at birth. Due to this lamentable oversight by his parents, he survived to invent that abomination thereby causing millions of men to strangle themselves with it every day.
About the only sort of ensemble that I can really take an interest in would be something to wear on a trek – considering that it is the only activity for which I feel the need to dress up for specifically. Everywhere else I can manage with the same ensemble that I use for treks.
Let us go from tip to toe on this. The first thing is a cap. Not, as the evil-minded would say, because it hides the fact that I am almost completely bald. On a trek, it does become necessary to save the head from the scorching sun particularly when there is a regrettable lack of insulation for it on top. So, here is the first item on the ensemble.
Next the sunglasses for the eyes! My eyes are magnetic eyes, all right! The problem is that they seem to be of the wrong polarity – instead of attracting they seem to have very strong repulsive powers. That, however, is not why I need them covered. Trekking involves walking in the sun, more often than not, and it is better to shade the eyes instead of getting a headache by squinting all the way.
Why are T-shirts with pockets so rare? If only these people had the experience of trying to pull out a hanky from the pockets of the tracks on a trek and have the mobile taking the shortcut down the mountainside, they would know how useful a pocket can be on the T-shirt. Anyway, this is my selection of a T-shirt – could not get rid of the man in it!
Never underestimate the importance of undergarments. Particularly on treks in the Himalayas where you probably will live in the same pair for days on end – unless you actually like undressing and re-dressing when it is freezing cold. Fail in your choice and you will find what rashes in the wrong places can do to you when you have to keep walking in them.
Ah! The over-garments over the under-garments! Must be obvious by now! Tracks, of course! Since I do not believe in different garments for different occasions I prefer tracks that can fool you into thinking that they are formal wear – unless you choose to concentrate on them. If you do, you are welcome to your discoveries!
Actually, you can get away with any choice for the rest. But comes to socks, you better have them cotton and fresh. Worse than rashes in unmentionable places are blisters on the feet. Unless, of course, you have mastered the art of walking on your hands!
Shoes are as important as socks in avoiding blisters. The grip on the soles is also of relevance unless you actually like slipping off rocks and descending faster than it is comfortable to contemplate. The best trekking shoes come with Vibram soles and Goretex inners – but, then, since my life is not worth as much as such shoes are I make do with the normal running shoes.

Now that completes the ensemble. What the well-dressed trekker is wearing this festive season in the Himalayas! Now, if only my friends will agree with my tastes!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Losing arguments

One seldom loses arguments with other men. When we were boys together, if you thought you were about to lose an argument you started a bout of fisticuffs to clinch the argument and, even if you lose, you only lost a fight not the argument. Once you grew up to be men and fisticuffs started acquiring legal consequences, arguments became yelling matches and both participants (if there were only two) departed the scene with the firm conviction that their calm reasoning had won the argument for them.
With women, however, it is an altogether different story. My first realization of this difference happened when I got into an argument with my sister. After the customary opening exchanges of the more-or-less courteous variety, the argument rose to the intellectual heights of vituperation. I used all the imagination at my command to shower the choicest of abuses at her only to have her return “You only!” to me. (Now this pithy phrase meant “All that you say are applicable only to you and not to me” and why it is not a part of regular English is still a mystery to me!)
Needless to say, I was infuriated that my own able discourse had been turned so deftly against me and I soared into heights of abuse that I had hitherto not touched - only to find the same “You only” reflecting all of that back at me. After that point, the argument soared to the rarefied intellectual plane of an exchange of You-onlys between the two of us. Since my sister said the last ‘You only’, I have to admit that I was bested in that argument.
Let me not give you the impression that I had had very infrequent arguments with women. I am only touching upon the highlights here rather than engaging in a long litany of my woes while so arguing.
The next highlight was during the wedding of one of my cousins. One male cousin landed in Bangalore from Chennai and, while disembarking, he left behind a suitcase in the taxi which disappeared with commendable speed. The same day, we went to pick up another cousin and, as luck would have it, one of his bags stayed back in the auto-rickshaw, which also vanished with alacrity. The women were all over us. “It was only today morning when Shyam lost his suitcase. Did that not teach you to be more careful?”
Came the night and three of the women came along in an auto and – you knew it – they lost a suitcase to the auto as well. Now was our chance. Before we could even get started, the women said, “Even Shyam and you lost your luggage! So what is the big deal now?” What should have been a cautionary tale to us turns into a precedent to them! Do you really think we won that argument after that start?
The one time I really thought I had the argument won – and history made – I found out how nimble women’s brains could be. When my antagonist came to the conclusion that she was on a losing wicket on that issue, I suddenly found that the argument had shifted to a discussion of my shortcomings in an episode in the previous week. By the time that argument was done, I was left with a very strong impression that I had spent all my life waking up every day in the morning with the single ambition of making her life miserable and tossing and turning in bed bemoaning every day when I had passed up such an opportunity. Needless to say, she won that argument in a canter leaving me crawling like a worm in her dust.
I have heard of this myth that all the reasoned arguments of men are dissolved to nonexistence in a flood of tears. I have no personal experience of it. Whether it is because it is only a myth or whether it is because – as my friends say – women consider me small fry and disdain to use the most powerful weapons in their armory, I do not know!
The one thing life has taught me was that the best way to cut short an argument with a woman is to admit you are in the wrong. This, I thought, was a sure-fire recipe for success – till the day when the woman I was arguing with ended up haranguing me till I was forced to admit that I was not in the wrong after all!
Women will always be unfathomable to me!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Nokia Apptasting meet

There is a difference between an event organized for companies or for the general public and an event organized for bloggers. A significant difference which, when ignored, makes a mess of the intention of the organizers. Unfortunately, the Nokia Apptasting meet was organized without any cognizance of that difference and, thus, turned out to be a disappointment for bloggers like me.

The audience for a meet organized for a company knows each other and probably is only too happy to ignore the others around and concentrate on the stage. In an event organized for the public the audience may not know each other and could not care less if they never got to know each other. Thus, in either case, it is all right for the event to be organized with the entire period of the event being devoted to what is going on stage.

The same, however, cannot be held true of an event organized for bloggers. Bloggers know each other only through their blogs and get to spend little if any time in the company of each other. Thus, they are interested in spending more time with the bloggers they know, in meeting new bloggers and in introducing their blogs to new bloggers. Any event that fails to understand this essential need of bloggers is bound to be less than a success.

The very fact that any such event is called a 'Bloggers Meet' means to the bloggers that they will get to meet each other. If the idea were only to get the bloggers to meet Nokia Apps - wine, food, prizes and T-shirts notwithstanding - one would have found a very sparse attendance of bloggers. Any sponsor needs to understand that most bloggers will not spare the time and the trouble to come over to a meet merely because they are being wined and dined - most of them probably get enough occasions to be wined and dined in the course of their regular routine. The single most important attraction for bloggers to attend a blogger's meet is to meet other bloggers - and any interest of the sponsors can only be served if it is worked around satisfying that need.

The Nokia APPtasting meet failed totally to take into account this need. There was not a single minute of time allowed to the bloggers to interact with each other, other than by ignoring what the organizers were doing on stage. In the event, polite people though we normally are, most of us ended up ignoring what was going on stage totally. Considering that the dinner time was the only time available for interactions and considering that the meet ran late into the night, it was not possible to actually get to know new people at all  - other than those at your table - since people were in a hurry to get home.

Further, what was considered as an audience interactive part of the program was also less than captivating because the same ignorance was evident in the construct of the program. Since every blogger knows only a few other bloggers, having contests with a handful of participants is unlikely to have the audience on the edge of their seats praying for any one of them to win. When you are indifferent to the success or failure of any given participant, you are unlikely to be too interested in the proceedings. The Surf people showed better judgment when they made four teams - since when a participant from each of the teams was contesting, the rest of them were all agog about who was going to win.

If you do not satisfy your audience you do not convey your message. Which is why advertisements are interspersed between other programs that is of interest to the audience. This event, unfortunately, seemed to be based on the idea that you could rivet the audience with a continuous stream of advertisements. Needless to say, the audience was less than amused.

The sponsors need to ask themselves whether they are interested in hogging all the air time or giving out their message in a fourth of the time but to a far more receptive audience.

P.S: Forgot to mention the one bright spot! The dinner was excellent.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Bankster – A Review

The first time I review a book for a Book review program, it happens to be one - 'The Bankster' by Ravi Subramanian - by an alumnus of my own alma mater – IIM-Bangalore! Not surprisingly, the author has set his book in an environment that he is familiar with – the Banking industry.
The back cover of the book gives the impression of an international thriller. To me, however, the book is more in the mould of a whodunit, although it is a whodunit that uncovers a conspiracy instead of individual acts of crime. A thriller gives you the impression of a persistent tension through the book with the hero lurching from danger to danger as he uncovers and foils a conspiracy. A whodunit, on the other hand, is an investigative process that leads to the conspiracy being uncovered and danger, if at all, is largely suffered by other people than the main protagonist. Add to this the fact that the main protagonist – as indicated in the blurb – does not even make an appearance till half the book is done, one can understand my point about the book being more a whodunit than a thriller.
As a whodunit, the book works very well indeed. It is an eminently readable book and the banking information that is required to move the story along is painlessly imparted to the reader. The story moves from Angola to Kerala to Mumbai to Vienna in seamless fashion. The incidents and narration are crafted well enough to keep the reader glued to the book.  The basic plot is interesting enough and has a sufficient sprinkling of real life incidents to give the reader a feeling that this is the sort of thing that could be happening in his world. That sense of reality makes it all the more possible for the reader to relate to the book.
The basic story is about a series of deaths of employees of a bank coupled to a set of suspect banking transactions. The initial deaths seem to be either accidents or suicides. What gives the reader a sense of something wrong and of a conspiracy is the prologue about an illicit diamond deal in Angola. A budding protest against a nuclear plant in Kerala appears to be out of context but is brilliantly linked at the end.
There are a few glitches, however. The author has given space to characters that actually play no part in the story. When characters are named and their thought processes explored at the beginning of a book one expects to see them play a part in the story. Also, with the necessarily large cast of characters that the author needed for the story, it would have been better to dispense with detailing of unnecessary characters.
I, unfortunately, am an English purist. The fact that Hindi words are used in dialogues and Indian English is used when characters speak is understandable – though it may have been better to italicize the Hindi words and limit them to merely giving the flavor rather than over-using them. The author, however, has a strong flavor of Indian English in his narration as well. Usage like ‘ the lobby itself’ is an outcome of literal translation of phrases from Indian languages and in general use in India. To the purist, however, such usage jars and, probably, the author may face difficulty in finding a non-Indian audience.
There are a few editorial glitches as well. The ACP of page 156 becomes a DGP at the end of page 158, for example. Not a major flaw but in a professionally produced book even this should not have been there.
These are, however, minor blemishes in an otherwise eminently readable book. I would recommend that readers approach this book as a whodunit rather than as a thriller.

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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Even Angels will fall

Bath done, toweling done, combing hair an irrelevancy for long! Time to use the deodorant – the new one that I had lovingly bought! I took out the new can, caressed it and sprayed a bit of it under my arms.
There was a whooshing noise – far louder than the can ought to have made – a thump, a mini-explosion and an angel landed in a shower of broken tiles, bricks and plaster.
“Aaaah!” I yelled looking up at the angel-shaped hole in the ceiling. “Look what you have done. Now, who is going to repair that?”
She eyed me with inchoate desire. “Do you have no romance in your soul?”
“Romance? You mean the thing that the child with wings and a bow keeps sowing?” A sudden thought struck me. “Is he around too? Now what has he broken?”
"He only breaks hearts!"
"That's all right, then"
“Look at me”, she said. I looked. She had a languorous look on her beautiful face. When she slowly and lasciviously licked her lips with the tip of her tongue, I gave in.
“Oh! All Right! If that is what you want!”
I stepped towards her and a piece of glass pricked my foot.
“Jeez! Don’t tell me you broke through that Solar heater too?” I whined.
“Come to me!” she pleaded yearningly.
I took a couple of steps towards her and a drip of water hit the nape of my neck.
“My God! You have ruined all the piping. Do you know how difficult it is to get a plumber? What am I going to do with my water supply all gone?”
She stamped her foot in frustration. Apparently things were not quite going the way she had anticipated though I really could not make out what she did expect my reaction to be.
“Can’t you take your mind of all these silly matters and pay attention to me?”
“Listen lady! It may seem silly to you – you probably don’t even have to pee – but let me tell you things can get pretty messy if my toilets do not flush!”
Even Angels can look ugly in a rage. Yet there was still desire smoldering in her eyes. I was surprised. Hitherto, girls had always found me appealing only from a distance going by the fact that they always hastened to put as much distance as possible from me the moment I hove to on the horizon. Here was this angel chasing me as though I was the epitome of her erotic dreams.
“Say, listen? How come you picked on me?”
She looked at the deodorant can in my hands meaningfully.
“Ah! So that is it! Why didn’t you say so before? Here! Take it and go. And, please, use it at a safe distance from my house. One hole in the ceiling is enough!”
She gave a snort of disgust, snatched the can from my hands and whooshed away. Did she say, “More pleasure can be had from the can than from you” as she left? I could not be sure.
I sat in my bed amidst the ruins and buried my face in my hands. That sure was the most expensive can of deodorant that I had ever bought!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Illusions about Blogging

There is the real world and there is the world as we see it. The wider the variation between the two the more lost to sanity is the concerned person. Everyone is less than completely sane, as far as I know, but if I am typical of a blogger then bloggers are less sane than the rest of the world.
The idea that I am typical of any group of people is risible to most people who know me. In fact, all I have to do is to call myself typical of a group of people to make that group rise up in wrath and commit mayhem on my body. “We may be mad but, boy, as mad as you? Yetch!!” is the war cry!
So, take this piece to mean only my illusions about blogging. Mine may be a miserable life but I still love it and would not want it cut short in its prime…errr…a shade past its prime, if you insist!
I have already talked of the fact that one of my illusions is already gone. I expected the brilliance of my writing genius to shine like a sun and draw readers like moths to a fire. Now I have come to realize that, even if the Internet is transparent, the boundaries of a blog are opaque to the light of my genius and, thus, one needs to go out and invite people into your blog first. Bloggers and Blog readers are, by and large, a shy lot and disdain walking into someone’s blog uninvited!
It is nevertheless a fact that other illusions still persist. I am still under the illusion that one who comes to my blog stays there because he is enthralled and not because he only wants me to return the favor. Like Yudhishtir is supposed to have said in the Yakshaprashnam, “The biggest wonder of the world is that even though men see others dying around them every day, they comport themselves as though they are immortal”, one could say of Bloggers, ‘Even though they see people visit blogs merely because they expect visits in return, they think that their own blogs are visited to be read and enjoyed”. To be fair to my readers I must say that all of them come to read and enjoy my writing. If you think it is an illusion, so be it, I do not want to know of it!
To let you know how far gone I am in this illusion, I even think that they would like to read more of me if only it were more conveniently presented. I have backed that illusion with action (and, if only you knew how much I hated work, you would realize how strong my illusion is). I have ended up indexing my blog and the tabs that you see on top of my blog page will take you to the list of pieces I have written under various categories – and each item on those lists will take you to the concerned piece when clicked upon!
And, I do not want to know how distant the world I see is from the real world!

Sunday, November 4, 2012


This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 33; the thirty-third edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. The theme for the month is 'Celebrations'
Celebrations! Now what does one celebrate? Either an achievement or a festival – which is, by and large, a celebration of the achievements of a mythological character.
I have always been keen on celebrating my achievements. The problem is that you cannot celebrate all by yourself. The moment I call upon someone else to join the celebrations he keeps raising nitpicking objections. I mean, come on, can you not just join the festivities without asking stupid questions about whether I had achieved anything worth celebrating? Hang it all, if I think it is worth celebrating the fact that I woke up a full five minutes before my normal time, what is your problem?
With such unjust people around me this entire idea of celebrating my achievements had to be put in cold storage. I never seemed able to satisfy them with my achievements – they pooh-pooh eating 24 idlis at one sitting; sneer at sleeping the clock round and wax sarcastic about going a month without brushing my teeth. Such a bunch of hard-to-please people I had never expected. What they seemed to consider achievements were so far beyond my capabilities that I could not even dream of them credibly. I mean think of me topping the JEE or coming first in the CBSE – even in my school? Does not your mind boggle? Mine boggled so much that I felt dizzy for days.
Festive celebrations, on the other hand, were wonderful. Diwali, in particular, holds a special place in my heart. After all, other than my school uniform, the only fresh pair of clothing I ever got was for Diwali. It normally came in very handy because the previous pair was just about to disintegrate into its component threads. My mother normally used to ask me whether my skin was made of razor blades (Come to think of it, do you think I missed out on a convincing achievement to celebrate?) It was probably the fact that fresh clothing swam into my ken so rarely that they seemed far more magnificent than they really were. I really cannot get that rush of pleasure when I walk out to buy yet another T-shirt!
The other wonderful thing about Diwali was that my mom usually had the clear intent of making four types of sweets and the customary mixture. The month before Diwali was filled with arguments about what those four would be. After the menu was frozen, my mom would swing into the act making all of them. I really do not know if kids of today can work up the same enthusiasm about arguing for what sweets to buy from the local sweet shop. Most probably they settle for ‘Celebrations’ from the chocolate platter and let it go at that!
Now that I am a bachelor and live alone, festivals get celebrated by me only when someone who is celebrating it calls me in as a guest – and, to be fair to my cousins, they call me in invariably. The one time I decided to make the savories and celebrate a festival – Pongal, as it turned out – I do not remember enjoying it much. It needs a special type of character to rejoice in mopping up the kitchen all day and scraping what looked like a charcoal mine off the bottom of the pressure cooker and I, as I have often said, am not that special a character.
Now if I choose to celebrate by myself I go for ‘Celebrations’ too! Thank God, the need to do so has not arisen often!
The fellow Blog-a-Tonics who took part in this Blog-a-Ton and links to their respective posts can be checked here. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. Introduced By: The Fool, Participation Count: 07

Friday, November 2, 2012

This ‘Green’ thing

I must admit that I really do not understand this Green thing. It may seem like one small item in the vast sea of my ignorance and I would have been content to live without knowing about it but for the fact that it keeps intruding in my daily life.
Time was when I used to go to the mall pick up what I wanted and when I checked out they used to silently pack it in plastic bags and send me on my way. Now, all of a sudden, they ask me if I want carry bags and charge me for it. Seek the reasons and they claim that they have gone Green. Can anyone tell me why packing each type of vegetable and fruit in separate plastic bags is more green than getting carry-bags to take them home? Or why paying a couple of bucks for the carry bag makes their usage Greener than taking them away for free? Is it that they seriously think that someone paying a couple of thousand bucks for his purchases will balk at paying a couple of bucks for the carry-bag and, thus, bring along his own bag?
If there was any serious intent to go green, they would put in place a system where they weigh vegetables and fruits without needing them packed in plastic – and would sell jute bags at the counter instead of plastic carry-bags. But, then, since when has any business failed to use any and every interest of Society to add to its own revenues? Like that mobile manufacturer who wanted you to dump your old mobiles in their showrooms for free  in order to, what else, go Green when your local shop was willing to pay a hundred bucks in order to be able to scavenge the phone for parts.
Why do we feel that we are being Green when we eschew plastic bags while we can, without qualm, dump a six month old serviceable mobile for the latest model with a few more features which we will seldom, if ever, use? Do we think mobiles are made of bio-degradable substances and no energy goes into making them? And, of course, when we gorge on packed potato chips and aerated drinks the only problem is with people who talk of empty calories – the plastic in which the one is packed and the other is bottled just cannot to be talked of in the same breath as plastic carry-bags!
The previous generation, of course, were totally uncaring about the environment! We can feel superior about how Green we are while taking the elevator down to the ground floor, driving our SUV a couple of kilometers to the gym in order to exercise on the stepper and the treadmill while those non-environmentally minded folks go walking. How little they cared about the environment when they bought those marbles and wooden tops for their children while we raise our own on plastic toys to video games.
Looks to me like all that Green means is to follow what you think is the fashion of today. As long as it does not affect my day-to-day life and comforts I shall be Green. Not much different from the past and shall not be too different in the future. The only thing that has been added is a ‘Holier than thou’ attitude!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Office Busyness

‘Urgent!’ said the paper the came to my desk at 6 PM just as I was packing up to leave. At last! It was early days in my working career and, hitherto, I had not had that feeling of importance that comes to a person who has to urgently do something for his office. Maybe it was not that special glow that one gets when one has saved a child from a burning house but it came close to it.
I sat till 8 PM working out the prices to be charged for the products that a new customer had sought from us, left the paper on my boss’ table and left home feeling like a knight would probably feel after vanquishing a dragon. Unlike the knight, however, it is not given to lowly junior managers to know what the result their efforts had had but that knowledge did little to diminish the feeling of accomplishment I felt that day.
Little did I know that over the next one year I would have a lot of such wonderful occasions. I was working for a boss who was very generous when it came to distributing that special feeling of importance among all his subordinates. If he had a note to dictate to his typist after office hours, he ensured that his entire staff sat late with him and enjoyed the pleasure of feeling the satisfaction of doing urgent work. What is more, he also had this generous habit of calling you to discuss mundane matters just as you are about to leave so that you had ample opportunity to feel that glow. Suffice to say that within six months that special feeling had become so ordinary that I no longer felt like looking down my nose at people who were too unimportant to be kept late in office. How true is it that ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’.
The same boss was also the person who rid me of the unnatural respect for the words, ‘The boss is in an important meeting’. I was once in his room and he was in an expansive mood that day talking of how he cracked CA in his long gone youth. His PA pinged him about some phone call from one of the manufacturing units and he snapped into the phone, ‘Don’t you know I am in an important meeting? Ask him to call half-an-hour later!’ So, now I know all about important meetings!
So, a year into my working life and with all my illusions about urgent papers and important meetings totally gone, I received a reasonably massive file with the same superscription “Urgent’. I opened that file lackadaisically and quickly browsed through it. When I reached the last page my eyes opened wide in surprise. It was the same paper about costing of products that I had sat late for the first time and put up! All that had happened with that paper was that it had traveled up and down my office, seen more people there than I had and returned to me for review. That must have been one patient customer if he was still waiting for the prices of those products!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Dark Pursuit: The Lost Shinmahs - Review

(It is a tough ask for someone who normally does not do book reviews to do one for a book self-published on Amazon by an author who is a friend. But for the fact that the book is in my favorite genre – Fantasy – I would probably have declined. The link on Amazon relating to the book and the blog-link of the author are
Fantasy-writing, in general, has normally relied upon or borrowed heavily from existing myth and legend. In the west a vast number of books have been written re-interpreting the Arthurian legends. Celtic myth has supplied authors with material to spin their fantasies as, indeed, has the Graeco-Roman myth. In India, fantasy has made a nascent beginning and, again, it has its roots in Indian myth or legend.
In a mature market like the west fantasy that spins tales with no readily discernible symbols from existing and well-known myth has also found space and appreciation. In India, such is yet to take place. The author of this book has spun a fantasy about a world that may have some mention of the Atlantis equivalent for India – Lemuria – but the fantasy elements have no instant recognition factor because they spring mostly from his inventive mind. This, probably, is why this book has failed to find a publisher and needed to be self-published.
The tale is about Adoy, who is unaware that his parents are people with uncommon mental powers – the Shinmah – and he, himself, has the same powers. With the dark warlord of Yashin – Khomer – out to hunt out and destroy all the Lost Shinmah, he makes a perilous journey to Liguanea where he is to get his mind trained. Book-I of this epic fantasy series tells the tale of his travel to Liguanea and the perils he faces in Liguanea in the course of his training and ends with a confrontation with Khomer.
The book is a fast and pacy read. The author has managed to maintain the tempo of the story throughout the book and the language is better than quite a few published books from India that I have read. The inventiveness of the author in creating his world and the plotting of events right up to the climax of this book is worthy of appreciation.
There were two issues for me, however, with the book. The first is that the characters are, by and large, monochrome. In other words, the good are good and the bad are bad. A person can be good but too proud and ready to take insult or unwilling to change or any of the myriad shades of human obstinacy that can make even the good have friction with each other. My second issue arises from the first. With such frictions, one can expect strands of the story playing out within the ranks of the good other than the primary strand of opposition to the main antagonist. The author has targeted Young Adults, it would appear, and has decided to make characters less complex. In my opinion, the tale would have been elevated to a different level had he fleshed out his characters.
Nevertheless, the story holds the reader’s attention for its sheer inventiveness, pace of the narrative and plotting of the events. All in all if you want a light and pacy ride into the realms of fantasy this could be the book for you.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Sophisticated Behavior

The more I see of what we see of sophisticated behavior, the more convinced I am that it is all about telling the world how much time you have to spend on the trivialities of life. We, Indians, have been utterly remiss in adding our own elements to the world-view of sophisticated behavior and it is about time we started to redress this imbalance.
This piece is a guest post for the-NRI and you can read the rest of the post if you follow this link.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Those lovely blue eyes - Part IV

Click Here for Part-I
I had never understood why I felt such rage and desire for vengeance. Violet had callously used me for her purposes without caring for me and I, after knowing about my condition, had no particular desire to live. So, why should Vince evoke so much rage in me? Every time I had tried to think about it I had felt an unreasoning panic and despair. It was no different now.
Billy should be coming any time now. Abruptly, my entire plan for escape and vengeance against Vince seemed foolish. Even if I managed to make my way to Billy’s cell – which was the logical place for the tunnel to start – why should Billy not just knock me out and escape? Even if he did take me along what made me think that I could evade recapture and prove able to kill Vince? Billy was a dead man walking anyway. I felt melancholy and had almost decided to do nothing when a glimmer of an idea sparked in my mind.
Billy walked in.
“Whaddya want, Scholar?”
“Listen, Billy! You know what I can do to your escape plans.”
His hands clenched and he glared at me impotently.
“I need you to kill a man, Billy!”
“Don’t ask me that, man! I never done no murder”
“Your choice, Billy! I am a dead man tomorrow and I have only you to rely upon. Either you swear to me on your mother’s soul that you will kill him or I shall squeal the moment you go out that door”
There was a look of pleading in his eyes and his mouth opened and closed soundlessly.
“Billy! This guy always has at least twenty-five grand in his safe. You could beat the combination out of him easy. You will need the money for your mom. So, why don’t you just promise me? He just has two bully boys with him. You and your friends could handle them all”
After much hesitation, Billy agreed and swore as I had wanted. I gave him the directions to Vince’s apartment and he left.
* * *
It was a restless night for me. I knew that, even if I had been mistaken in Billy’s superstition about promises to a dying man and his love for his mother, he would go after the money. Vince was bound to threaten him with his uncle and even Billy’s pea-brain would realize that killing Vince was his only way to keep the mob off his back. I found myself in the surprising position of desperately wanting Billy to escape.
Sirens hooting and people running here and there in the morning heralded the success of the escape. My execution, however, could not be postponed. A harried Warden came to my cell to seek my last wishes and was surprised when I asked him to be able to watch TV.
Billy may not succeed, may not succeed today or may not succeed in time for me to get the news. I was still on tenterhooks wishing to see whether my plans had succeeded. While waiting nervously for the news I wanted, my mind wandered over to my days with Violet.
She had been much the same as she used to be before she met me when we first started sleeping together. Over the weeks, she had started taking pains to make her face – not the garish come-hither make-up she used for street-walking but the softer make-up that a girl adopts for her man. She could never really be clean – but her attempts to stop being slovenly and sudden tears when she failed were so endearing. As a cook, she was a disaster but she would never stop making dishes for me. The memory of the look of bright expectation on her face which turned to crumpled disappointment suddenly moved me now and I felt the prickling of tears in my eyes.
Abruptly, my mind was dragged to the news. “Is this the start of another gangland war? Mafia Don Galliano’s nephew was found sodomized, brutally tortured and battered to death with two other people..” The excited voice of the TV anchor receded to background murmur to me as a tremendous wave of satisfaction roared through my entire soul. Vince was dead and Billy’s goose was cooked. Whether the AIDS or the police or the mob got him was immaterial. I had succeeded beyond all dreams.
All the anger and hate in my being were wiped clean – and left me face to face with my guilt and shame. All that anger at Violet and fury at Vince was only a camouflage for my own guilt. Guilt that my accusation of callously passing on AIDS had lead to her confrontation with Vince and her death! Guilt that I had not been with her to protect her! And guilt that I may have been the one to give her AIDS and not the other way round! Had I not been a drug addict and given to indiscriminate use of needles? How was I sure that I did not pass on the HIV to Violet?
I realized that I had been in love with Violet all along and she had loved me more than I deserved. A love so sublime that, in the face of a sentence of death, her only thought had been about putting me in danger and not fear for herself! And I? I loved her with all the love that was there in me but all the love that I could lavish could not even rise to offer comfort to her in her time of need. It shamed me to see myself so clearly.
I grieved for Violet for the first time. All that I had to show for my life was Violet’s love for me. Somehow, at that time, it seemed enough to justify my life.
The warden came in with his cohorts to escort me to the execution chamber.
I was strapped to the seat. I closed my eyes.
Maybe there is a life hereafter
There was a needle prick.
Maybe I shall meet her again
There was fire in my veins.
Maybe I shall look into those lovely blue eyes. And wipe out the hurt.

The genesis of this story is the broad plot outline given for Indifictionworkshop by Sandeep Nair. The story is also carried here.

Those Lovely blue eyes - Part III

Click Here for Part-I

The clatter of a plate interrupted my reverie. I looked up to see the guard of yesterday’s conversation outside the cell.
“I need to talk to you”
“I got no time for scumbags”
“You got some for this one, pig! I need to talk about tonight and Billy. Come to my cell after you are done”
 “Awright” he mumbled fearfully and walked on.
It was an hour before he sidled into my cell wringing his hands and face white with apprehension.
“Whaddya want with me, Scholar?”
“I want to meet Billy ASAP”
“More than my job is worth, Scholar! I got a wife and kids”, he whined.
“You don’t want your son in jail for abetting an escape, do you?” I was merciless. “Billy is on cleaning duty, right? Get him here with his mop and pail to clean up”
“I’ll try my best, Scholar”
“Try doesn’t cut it. Get him”
He slunk out like a whipped dog.
For the first time in prison I felt like I had some power and it felt good. I was savoring the idea of telling off Billy and watching his impotent rage when I told him that I was about to squeal on his escape plans. It was not enough for me to merely destroy his hopes – I wanted to see him squirm!
A sudden thought crossed my mind. Had I not got my revenge on Billy already? After all I was HIV positive and he had sodomized me! In the very act that birthed my desire for revenge, my revenge would also have been accomplished. It was very likely that he was infected too.
Why not join his escape plan and get out? That man outside, who I had considered safe from me, was no longer safe if I could get out. He, more than Billy, was a target for vengeance and only the fact that I had assumed him out of my reach had kept him off my mind.
I laughed bitterly and almost hysterically. It was ironic that the man who humiliated me was now going to be the reason why I could gain vengeance on that devil on earth – Vince Galliano!
* * *
It was impossible to think of Vince without remembering Violet. The Pimp and the Whore! Violet took me in on one snowy night upon seeing me shivering on the footpath outside her tenement. Hard-bitten though she normally was, she had these sudden queer impulses and, on that cold day, I was glad of being the recipient of her impulsive kindness.
What it was about me that made her keep me around I will never know. It is a fact that within a week, we were lovers and within the month everyone, including Vince knew me to be her boyfriend. Vince was indifferent to the whole matter as long as it did not interfere with business.
I must have had about six months with Violet when my entire world came crashing down again. She had never tired of telling me how much she loved me. In the initial days, I had slept with her more for comfort and in gratitude but slowly I had come to love her as well. She was brassy, foul-mouthed, slovenly and amoral but there was this peculiar vulnerability about her that made me want to protect her. Above all, she had those lovely blue eyes which still reflected an innocence that was totally at odds with her coarse, ravaged and world-weary face.
At long last I thought I had found someone who cared for me without a thought for the use she could make of me. My complacency was abruptly shattered when I came back one day to see her sobbing into her hands.
“What’s the matter, honey?” I asked her.
“I am sorry, baby, I am so sorry”, she said embracing me and burying her face in my chest.
“What’s it?” I said irritably.
“I..I..I got AIDS”, she said. “I’ll never forgive my sorry ass if I have given it to you”
I thrust her away abruptly. Unreasoning anger and fear overwhelmed my mind.
“What the f***?:” I yelled. “You mean all the while you have been telling me how much you love me, you did not bother to check yourself up before sleeping with me? Even though you know what you do for a living?”
“I didn’t think….”
“You did not care, you mean, as long as you got what you wanted”
I started to go out of the house. As I was opening the door, she asked, “Where you going, Bruce?”
“To check if I got AIDS too.” A gust of fury blew through my mind. “If I have got it, I swear I will come back and kill you” I yelled and stormed down the stairs.
For three days after it was confirmed that I was indeed HIV positive I drowned my sorrows in various dives. At least, bleary-eyed and stinking of whiskey and vomit I made my way to Violet’s pad for want of a place to call home.
Vince’s bully boys were outside the tenement as was his car. I waved at them and started up the stairs to the third floor. Just as I was climbing up the last flight of stairs, I could hear Vince’s voice through the thin plywood that served as the door.
“Since when d’ya think of them as men. They are just tricks, you c***, so you better get your ass out on the street. So, what if ya have AIDS?”
Violet’s voice was a soft murmur following which was the sound of a slap. By the time I reached the door, there was a sharp bump as if something had fallen and the Vince’s voice rose to a thin falsetto.
“I’ll teach you to raise a hand at me, b****”
I fumbled for the key when a shrill scream split the silence of the night. In near panic and rage I groped with the key for the keyhole when another inhuman scream of pain drilled through my brain. By the time I had the door opened, there was a third scream which abruptly died down into a gurgle.
Vince came rushing out and I side-stepped him as he rushed past me and clattered down the stairs. I rushed in to find Violet lying down with a pleading look in her eyes that died as the light in them died. There was a horrid slash across her face, one more across her left breast and her throat was slit. Blood had spattered all over the room. The sickly-sweet smell of it abruptly caught my throat and I gagged, rushed to the bathroom and was sick.
A cold, murderous rage spawned in my brain and with an animal shriek I jumped up and ran to the door to destroy that devil of a pimp…and ran into the arms of the police.
There were witnesses enough to my threat to kill Violet; to the shrieks and to Vince having been on the other side of town in a poker game. Of course, even the rats in the tenement know enough not to hear anything to the detriment of the local Mafia Don’s nephew.
If ever there was someone I wanted to hurt and kill, it was Vince. He was safe, however, from the impotent rage of a jail-bird.
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The genesis of this story is the broad plot outline given for Indifictionworkshop by Sandeep Nair. The story is also carried here.