Monday, July 23, 2012

Swimming like a stone

I have always loved water. The moment I see a waterfall or a stream, it is off with the clothes (Well! Not all of them!) and into the water in a jiffy for me. This idiosyncrasy of mine has lead to fellow-trekkers calling me anything from a Water-rat (on the few occasions when I had shed weight) to a Hippopotamus. Eventually, they settled for a buffalo, since that accommodating animal comes in all sizes and shapes like detergent packs. All these comments were like – er – water of a duck’s back for me and made no impression on my penchant for sullying the water with my presence.
As I said, I love water. Water, unfortunately, did not seem to reciprocate the feeling. Or, maybe, it loved me so much that it could not bear to part with me. Whatever may be the motive, at the slightest opportunity I would be sinking like a stone. This it is that has destroyed all my belief in the educational system. I was told about something called buoyancy at school – it never seemed to work for me.
It is not that I did not try to learn swimming. I did go once to the swimming pool in Neyveli. My friends left me holding the edge and kicking at the water at the 3M end and went off to disport themselves in the deeper end of the pool. Having duly kicked at the water for a quarter of an hour and ‘swum’ around in the 3M end for a few minutes, I knew I had mastered swimming. It was time to try out the 6M portion.
An instant after entering the deeper portion, I knew my belief in my swimming prowess was grossly misplaced. My swimming abilities seemed to work more in the vertical direction than the horizontal. In one of my brief visits to the atmosphere I managed to see the edge of the pool a couple of feet away. Thrashing around in the water like an animal caught in the trap seemed to get me no closer to that haven. Around the time when I had decided that I would be making my home permanently in the water concrete scraped my scalp and I made a desperate clutch at it.
“You do not seem to have learnt anything about swimming”, jeered a friend!
I was indignant. “I know swimming! It is only that when I start moving my hands and feet, I keep going down”
“Ah! So that is what you call ‘swimming’! We normal mortals call it ‘drowning’!”
That probably accounts for the fact that I never ever went for a second swimming lesson. The jeers and catcalls of that day echoed in my mind every time I saw a swimming pool.
I may have developed a phobia for swimming pools but that did not expand to encompass water in all forms. Getting into the water has always been my chief pleasure on treks – particularly the sweaty South Indian treks where the cool flow of water on the body is an indescribable pleasure after a tiring and hot trek.
The rapids on the way up to Sathuragiri are a great pleasure to see as well as to dip in. I was trekking with Vinod in the area and both of us being water-babies we were into the water almost as soon as we sighted the rapids. Vinod, unlike me, swam like a fish and he had taken off into the deep end of a pool of water.
I was at the other end feeling my way gingerly towards the mini-waterfall that was so enticing that I could not resist trying to stand under it. One moment I was in firm ground and the next I was in over my head and spun around by the current. I knew I was probably inches from safe ground but when the water spat me up, I could not see which way it was. The second time up allowed me even lesser time to orient myself before I was back in the loving arms of the water.
It seemed sort of silly to be dying because you were ashamed to call for help. So, the third time round I called, “Vinod!” and I was back under the water. The fourth time all I could manage was, ‘Vi..glug..glug!” and I was back inside.
The fifth time only my eyes were out of the water and I caught a glimpse of Vinod hunting – for me, as it seemed – at his end of the pool! Huh! It is probably a telling comment on me but, instead of having my entire life passing before my eyes, I could only remember the tale of the man who lost a jewel in the forest and hunted for it under the streetlights of his town because the forest would be too dark to search in and, so, he preferred searching for it where there was light! It seemed like Vinod was trying to save me from his end of the pool because it was inconvenient to actually come over to the end where I was drowning.
Vinod did come over and pull me out to safety eventually. I learnt that his rudraksh-mala had fallen in and he was hunting for it. God must have some sort of soft corner for me as he is reputed to have for all fools. Had it taken Vinod a couple more minutes to find his belonging, he would probably have come out triumphantly saying, “Eureka” to me as I peacefully floated by with all my cares drowned in a couple of lungsful of water! Or, worse still, he would have had to save me by giving me the kiss of life. To be kissed by Vinod! Ewww! I would rather be dead! (And, quite possibly, so would he!)
With water’s persistent attempts at translating me to a Higher Reality, you would assume that I stay safely at a distance from any water that is not safely trapped in a bottle. Not so! I still take the same pleasure in jumping into the water at the least provocation. Not for nothing do my friends and relatives doubt my sanity!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Gates of Hell

WriteUp Cafe - Together we Write

Abdul was running for his life. Little Hussain, who was feather-light when he had started out, seemed to get heavier as he ran. Behind him was a village in flames consumed by the unreasoning hatred fanned by communal tensions. Hussain’s father and mother lay hacked to death back there.
Despite the fear riding his shoulders, he felt a spark of happiness. Nobody knew that he had been to the village or that he was carrying Hussain away. Hussain’s uncle Shahid would only think that his nephew had perished in the flames. Rehman was still staying near his home and had offered Rs.5000/= for a child to be sent to Mumbai with him as a household help. Allah seemed to be favoring him with a golden opportunity.
There could be no truth in the rumors that Rehman maimed the children he took away and set them to begging on the streets, could there? The thought that the innocent hands, which clutched his neck so trustingly, would be cut off made him shudder. The picture of the sparkling eyes of the child he had dandled on his knee being blinded made him blanch.
He shook himself to rid his mind of these vivid pictures. None of that would happen. Even if it did, the thought of the money and all that it could mean to him hardened his heart. He ran on though there was no sign of any mob chasing him.
* * * * * *
It is fun sitting on Abdul Chacha’s shoulders. It is like flying. Chacha is running so fast. I am holding him tight. I am not afraid. I am a brave boy.
Kishan Chacha scared me badly in the morning. He came with other men and shouted from outside the house. He was banging on the door. Ammi and Abbu were afraid. I was so afraid that I hid under the bed. Why was Kishan Chacha so angry with Abbu? Only yesterday they were playing cards together.
There was a loud noise. Then lots of men were shouting in the house. I curled up and closed my ears. Still the noise was there.
Then Ammi gave a loud scream. There was more noise and then it was silent. I was still afraid and stayed under the bed. Abbu and Ammi did not call me out.
After some time, I crept outside. Ammi was sleeping on the floor with gulaal all over her. Abbu also had gulaal on him and was sitting near the door. No one told me today was Holi. All my friends play Holi and I play with them. We do not have Holi at home.
Then Abdul Chacha came. Abbu was talking to him. He told me to go with him to Shahid Chacha’s place.
Why did Abbu not take me there? Why was Ammi sleeping in the afternoon? She never does. I feel like crying now. I must not cry. I am a brave boy.
* * * * * *
The little boy on his shoulders gave a pitiful little sob. Then stifled noises of weeping came to his ears. His heart melted for a moment. Memories of his little son came to his mind. If Ayesha and Hamid had to have enough to eat then there was no choice. He hardened his heart again.
Fate did play scurvy tricks on him. He had come over to Hussain’s house for help. The eerie silence in the village had already given him some premonition of disaster. His premonitions were proved true when he found Hussain’s mother hacked to death and Hussain’s father bleeding from a dozen cuts and on the verge of dying.
One single runaway couple – of different religions – had set both Hindus and Muslims at each other’s throats. The violence that engulfed the village had cost his friend and his wife their lives at the hands of people whom they had always considered their friends. The little boy, who crept hesitantly from the bedroom, had now become his responsibility to safeguard and carry to his uncle’s place.
He had been lucky that the scene of the conflict had shifted elsewhere and he could safely make his escape. He, however, had still not got the money that he came to get. Now, of course, he had his chance in the form of this little boy and Rehman back at his village.
* * * * * *
Why is there no one in the fields? I wanted to wave at them. My friends are also not there to see me riding on top of Abdul Chacha’s shoulders. Even Ammi and Abbu did not wave to me when I left home.
I feel like crying again. Was Ammi sick? Why was Abbu sitting like that? And why did he not come out to wave to me? Abdul Chacha told me they would come later to Shahid Chacha’s house.
Abbu and Ammi normally make me walk. Abdul Chacha is good. He is carrying me all the way. Every time he comes, he plays with me. His house is far away so I can’t go there. Abbu says it will be trouble for him if I go.
Shahid Chacha is also very good. I can play with my cousins and Chachi would give me nice sweets. I want to reach there soon.
* * * * * *
The boy had become silent again. Abdul was now walking. Some people were walking towards the distantly burning village, drawn by curiosity. He ducked his face down in order not to be recognized even though he was well outside the village limits now. By nightfall he should be back home. Maybe it would be best to go to Rehman and sell the boy before he reached home. He did not know how his wife would react to his selling Hussain. Women were too tender-hearted.
The half-starved look of his wife and the hungry look on the faces of his children turned his heart over. Whatever his wife may say, he was not an evil man. What could he do with his harvest failing him two years in succession and the baniya threatening to take over his land? Working on other people’s farms when the opportunity arose only kept his family just about alive. If he lost his land too they would all have to starve.
When things had become so bad that he was actually considering giving his son to Rehman, what was a man to do? How could he hand over his son to someone who would maim him and set him to begging on the streets? Surely his wife would understand that he was doing the best thing possible for all of them.
A pang of misery shot through him. So he did believe all those rumors about Rehman. So he was condemning this trusting child to a maimed life of beggary. What else could he do? If he gave this child to his uncle and went back home penniless, he could not pay the interest on the loan that was due this month. His land would be lost and his family reduced to starvation.
He swept aside his momentary weakness. Life was harsh and if this child was to be sacrificed for the good of his family, then it had to be. After all, had it not been for him, the child would probably be dead by now.
He started walking faster towards his village as though afraid that given more time he would change his mind again. In his haste he tripped over a stone and fell. Without a free hand to break the fall he banged his head so badly against the ground that he was momentarily unconscious.
* * * * * *
Abdul Chacha fell down. I too fell but it did not pain badly. Chacha did not get up. I was scared. I started crying.
Abdul Chacha started groaning. Poor Chacha! It must be paining him so much. Ammi used to pat me where it pained and the pain went away. I started patting Abdul Chacha’s head.
Chacha slowly raised his head. He was crying. I wiped his tears away.
* * * * * *
He regained consciousness and raised his head. The ache in his head was so piercing that tears of pain sprang in his eyes. Little Hussain started wiping his eyes.
“Bad Ground! Why did you hurt Abdul Chacha”, said the child and hit the ground with his little fist.
“Chacha! The ground is saying sorry! Now please do not cry!”
In the little hands that were wiping his tears off again, Abdul saw the hands of his son Hamid. When Hamid had taken a fall, he had done exactly as Hussain was now doing in order to console him. In the way of children, Hamid had taken to consoling him the same way whenever he saw him in distress.
The innocence of the child’s concern for him and his actions to console him moved him. If he could not think of selling Hamid to Rehman, how could he think of selling Hussain? This, too, was a child he had cared for since his birth; a child he had played with; a child whose every little step he had rejoiced in and a child who was as affectionate with him as was his own son.
What, then, of his family and their future? Life ahead seemed filled with despair without the money that he could get from Rehman. He could sell Hussain and keep the baniya off for the next couple of months, at least. By then something would turn up. If he did not take up the opportunity now, however, he would lose his land within the fortnight.
Hussain was prattling away innocently. He thought of all the innocence and joy drained away and replaced by maiming and misery. He shuddered. Buying two month’s grace at the cost of condemning this child to a living hell seemed like the act of Satan. He thought of his Hamid being maimed, set to begging and living a life of hunger and unfeeling callousness. It shamed him that he had even considered the idea of selling any child into that sort of slavery, leave alone the child of his friend.
 Uncontrollable tears gushed down his face washing away all thoughts of selling off this innocent child. Hussain’s face puckered in distress at the sight of his tears and his little hands were busy wiping them off.
“Please do not cry, Chacha!”
Abdul swept up the child in his arms. How could he have ever thought of selling this little one, betraying his innocent trust as well as the trust of his friend? It seemed to him that the child had dragged him back from the very gates of hell with his little hands. His life ahead may be one of misery but, at least, he would live it as a decent human being.
He lifted Hussain to his shoulders and directed his steps towards Shahid’s house. Whatever would happen to his family would happen. It would all be as Allah wished.
This post is part of the contest A picture can say a thousand words.. on

Monday, July 16, 2012

Espionage and Management

(This is one of my hostel wall magazine write-ups when I (dis)graced the portals of IIM-Bangalore with my presence in 1986-88.)
This is not a tale of guns and gore, of karate and ninjutsu or of cabbages and kings. This is simply a conversation between a spy and his control (for the uninitiated, a control is a person who sends the spy out to do or die – mostly die, if you go by the best-selling espionage novels) at Headquarters.
The spy – codenamed Pepsi – meets his control – codename Coke – in his office.
Pepsi:- Say, what is all this rot! Never had such stupid codenames before! Every time someone calls me Pepsi I feel like a bloody vending machine.
Coke:- The powers-that-be have decided. Besides, these companies are paying hefty sums from their advertising budgets to use these as code-names. It seems that repeated contact with a product name creates what they call Top-of-mind-awareness! You end up feeling like buying it. Strangely, I am practically drowning in Cocacola since I was saddled with this codename.
Pepsi:- Same here! I have Pepsi coming out of my nostrils! What is worse, every time I ask for a Pepsi, I feel guilty of divulging my code name.
Coke:- Here is the report from our consultants. They describe what a non-descript man is supposed to wear. Please adhere to this dress code in future.
(Pepsi reads the report with a fury slowly building up in him till he flings the report on the desk)
Pepsi:- What is that crap? Dressed in this psychedelic apparel with a straw hat and rope sandals, I will be about as non-descript as a rogue elephant. Not only that! I shall probably freeze to death.
Coke:- You think you have problems! How about our lady spooks? They are required to wear a string bikini in order to remain nondescript.
Pepsi:- My God! Where did this guy do his market research? Honolulu, Hawaii, Miami or Mars?
Coke:- Wherever he did it, it has passed the chi-square test. So you better wear it, unless you want to be TWEPped (Terminated With Extreme Prejudice – euphemism for killed…something like collateral damage)
(Pepsi is visibly shaken. A choice between gunned down by the opposition in a straw hat or killed by his own side in a conservative suit is presented to him. He inclines towards the latter option. Only the fact that they may bury him dressed in that straw hat, in order to comply with departmental regulations, prevents him from rebelling)
Coke:- (in order to lighten the atmosphere) Have you heard of this businessman who took out a three column ad in all leading dailies offering his services as a mail-drop for spooks? He just could not understand why good publicity was bad for the spook business!
(The frown on Pepsi’s face remains intact. Coke shrugs and becomes businesslike)
Coke:- In future, when identification is required, you will hold a cake of Dove soap in your left hand. For identification phrases, you will say “What is good for the baby is good for the mother” and the reply should be “Johnson and Johnson”. Got it?
Pepsi:- (outrage unzipping his lips) Don’t tell me! Every time I meet someone, I buy Dove – sales of about twenty cakes a month. And the identification phrase is supposed to boost J&J’s sales!
Coke:- (approvingly) Right! I knew there was the makings of a businessman somewhere in you. Now, give me the report on ‘Operation Competition’.
Pepsi:- Here you are! I hope it is not too confidential for me to know why I risked my life to get this file?
Coke:- Not at all! A client wanted to get the formula for Colgate’s latest toothpaste. Now that you have carried out that task, we have the next assignment – Operation Perfect Competition.
Pepsi:- And what is that?
Coke:- Colgate wants you to get this report back!
Pepsi:- What is this place – the CIA or some backwoods detective agency?
Coke:- Pepsi! You know that the federal appropriations are pitifully low thanks to a malfunctioning economy. All Americans are supposed to earn their way and that applies to the CIA as well. This is the American way!
Pepsi:- (convinced) Oh! All right! All right!
Coke:- I have an appointment at safe house 16. We are recruiting Harvard management graduates to market our services. Goodbye!
Coke empties three cans of Cocacola after Pepsi leaves. Pepsi drowns his sorrows in Pepsi and wonders about where to buy beachwear in the depths of Washington winter. A bikini-clad girl, shivering miserably, and clutching a cake of Dove in her left hand passes by. A whole train of KGB, GRU, Mossad and assorted agents embedded in a crowd of rubberneckers follows her to the tune of wolf-whistles. Pepsi groans and totters away.
Disclaimer: In these non-humorous times it is necessary to mention that the above is intended as a spoof and specifically disclaims any idea of being a realistic account of the activities of any extant organisations mentioned in the post!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Cooking Woes

One of the dubious pleasures of bachelor life is that you can cook for yourself, especially if you have a stomach that does not take kindly to restaurant food. You do live in interesting times, as the Chinese are reputed to curse, when you enter the kitchen.
When I first went to Delhi, South Indian restaurants were not all that prevalent especially in Mayur Vihar Phase-I, which was considered the back of beyond in the nineties (Jamuna-paar, they used to say in contemptuous tones). Ergo, I forced my lazy bones to get into cooking mode.
Eggs, they say, are easy to cook. Anyone, apparently, can boil an egg. So, armed with a loaf of bread and a dozen eggs I sallied into the kitchen sanguine about putting together an edible breakfast. (I know! I know! Nothing particularly South Indian about boiled eggs, except the cook! This was just for starters!). Having happily boiled a pan of water and put in a couple of eggs, I took them out and knocked on the shell with a spoon. Like Caesar’s heart’s blood flowing out when Brutus’ dagger pierced him, all the contents came rushing out to see who it was that knocked so un-gently outside. Hmm! There was more to boiling eggs than I thought!
My next attempt turned out better since I waited till nearly all the water boiled away. I happily started peeling the shell off. When I was nearly done, the egg popped out of my hand and started bouncing and rolling all over the kitchen with me in hot pursuit. Having made an audacious diving catch within inches of the drain, I came up with the egg in my hands. The egg had such a contemptuous yellow leer on its face that I was infuriated enough to fling it at the wall.
Cooking Tip 1: It really does not pay to get angry at your food-stuff – especially if you do not have anyone to clean up after you!
Rice is one of the easier things to cook in South Indian cuisine. What with curds and pickles readily available from the market, curd rice was on the cards for me. Having taken a detailed tutorial about water proportions and all that sort of intricate details, I set forth to cook myself lunch on a Sunday. Having settled the pressure cooker cozily over the flame, I relaxed in my sofa reading a book. Bliss! The cooker was reputed to let you know about the status of readiness with a wolf-whistle.
I really did not know whether that sustained hissing noise from the kitchen was the whistle that my mother had coached me to listen for. It somehow did not tally with the sort of hooting that went on in her kitchen. I went into the kitchen only to see this beautiful white fountain spewing off the top of the cooker and my lunch spread all over the kitchen – ceiling, walls and floor! (I do know that that odd-shaped dingus is supposed to crown the cooker – if you truly wanted to keep the rice in! I can forget things, can’t I?). What with cleaning up the mess and all, it was dinner-time before I slunk out of the house to the local restaurant.
Cooking Tip 2: It does not pay to take it too easy even with the ‘easy’ dishes!
As time goes by one does learn a few tricks. For example, I have learnt that milk boils over in that single instant when you take your eyes off it. Maggi waits for you to lose patience and go over to switch on the TV and then cooks to a crisp. After years of experience, I have learnt to stay with one hand on the burner knob and both eyes on the boiling pan with all my nerves keyed up in that absolute pitch of concentration that would be the envy of an Olympic 100m sprinter waiting for the starter's gun to go off. Despite that, my success rate is only about 50%. Olympic sprinters would have lynched any starter who kept them on tenterhooks for that long but…..well, read the first cooking tip!
Another thing that built up in this period was a total aversion to non-Indian cuisine as well as any up-market restaurant. What with salt and pepper shakers and an array of sauces, it seemed to me that they charged you a fortune merely to give you the pleasure of cooking your own food at your dining table. Since cooking had ceased to be any sort of pleasure to me, I preferred being served up a dish, complete with taste, even if you did not even have the outlet of yelling at someone for the inedible food that you perforce had to swallow.
It may surprise you to learn that I raised my sights as high as the making of upma. I am nothing if not optimistic and there I was in front of a boiling bowl of oil with a platter full of vegetables poised over it. The platter broke and fell into the kadai. The kadai teetered on the burner, positioned itself with what seemed to be deliberate intent and started sliding in the direction of what is euphemistically called my privates. Out went my hands and pushed the bowl back on the burner – else, I may not have been alive to tell the tale (How often do I have to tell you? It is NOT a pity!)
Cooking Tip 3: It is better to get out of the way of boiling oil. Take it from me, your hands are not made of asbestos.
Whatever else I learnt from cooking, I have realized how it happened that women do the cooking normally. Being the braver sex, they must have shooed the less courageous menfolk away - to amuse themselves with childish pursuits like fighting off the odd saber-toothed tiger and hunting the mastodon - while they took on the hazardous undertaking of cooking.
My mother always used to say that if a cook produces a dish that tastes the same way time after time you ought to consider her a good cook – even if you did not like the dish. By those standards, I am the best cook in the world. My food tastes invariably inedible!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Guest post for Alka Narula

When I joined Indiblogger about four months back, I had been blogging extremely desultorily for a year and a half. I hardly ever read any other blog and the whole exercise was one of maintaining a sort of personal record of my treks for my own reference, which others were welcome to see or avoid as the mood took them.

Reading other blogs on Indiblogger has been both a great pleasure and a pain. Reading good to great posts is wonderful as anyone who reads for pleasure can readily understand. The problem, however, was that, whenever I attempted to write humour, I realized I was ruing the fact that I could never attain the style of a Purba, Debajyoti, Cybernag or many such others who could make you laugh out aloud about the most mundane of things while you despaired of wringing a reluctant smile from your readers. When I started describing treks and travels, I became aware that I got nowhere close to the evocative prose of Bhavana nor can I describe people in the way Umashankar describes them, which makes them come alive to the reader.

When I started attempting fiction, I found that I could not approach the zany creativity of the misnamed 'The Fool' nor the detailing of moods achieved by young Kirti. I have not even come close to detailing the stand-out features of all the bloggers that I have read. I could probably write a book about the bloggers whose various capabilities I am only capable of envying and I am aware that the sampling of blogs that I have read is a minuscule proportion of what is available.

Poetry is the one form of writing that I do not even delude myself into attempting. Nor, indeed, do I have the ability to enjoy it. There are some extremely good poets in blogosphere and if I have mentioned none of them it is only because of my incapability to appreciate their output. I am, probably, missing out on a whole world of wonderful art from the minds of Saru, Leo, Alka, Amit and other such poets.

I am sure these bloggers will forgive me for saying that I come out of their blogs with my ego badly bruised. My own posts read so insipid, so pedestrian after reading theirs that I wonder about why I continue writing at all. Of course, most of them have been offering complimentary comments on my own posts but it seems to me to be more out of kindness than anything else. Yet, I continue writing because I love doing it and because I cannot entirely lose the illusion that I am capable of it.

When the-NRI accepts a couple of posts from me and when veteran bloggers like Pramod Lohia accept my guest posts, it gives me a boost. Now, one of the most popular poets - Alka Narula - has been kind enough to accept a guest post from me! Not for her poetry blog, obviously! Kindness can only extend so far! When something like this happens it makes me feel that maybe I am doing something right in blogosphere, after all.

This is one of my 'serious' posts.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Two minutes

This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 29; the 29th 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 topic for this month is 'TWO MINUTES'.

Tell me, is there anyone who makes those Maggi noodles in two minutes? It takes me all of five minutes to merely hunt the scissors to cut open the packet. What with hunting for the pan after that, boiling the water and all, it is half-an-hour before I am done. I find that women (at least in the ads) not only manage all this in two minutes but have also dumped a truckload of cut vegetables into the dish. Super-human is what I call that feat.
My friends and relatives, however, have another explanation. They consider me sub-human. I had always vehemently opposed this insinuation but my Maggi exploits made me consider the possibility that they were probably right. Thank God for that court case where Maggi admitted that ‘two minutes’ were only meant euphemistically and did not mean that the cooking could actually be done in two minutes. I may still be considered sub-human – after all, who else can manage to burn a dish of noodles six times out of ten? – but not because of my inability to cook noodles in two minutes.
The other place where two minutes loom large in anyone’s lives is in interviews. People, who cannot understand their spouses after a lifetime, think that they can judge a potential employee in two minutes. I know because I have been an interviewer in my time. I would say it is, maybe, a shade easier when you are testing knowledge rather than potential. After all, if you ask a candidate, “Who rules India, currently?” and he answers, “Manmohan Singh”, you can reject him out of hand for his lack of knowledge since everyone knows that it is Sonia Gandhi who rules India.
Comes to testing potential, as in the case of selecting students for a prestigious university, two minutes is not really a whole lot of time. I still recollect one of my interviews where I was asked, “Quickly tell me three things common between caroms and management.” I said, “Objectives, planning and coordination.” You could probably cite the same three as common attributes for going down to the local tea-shop with a friend. Objective: Drink a cup of tea. Planning: Strategizing an argument to convince the tea-shop owner into letting you have the tea despite the humungous bill you have run up with him and cannot pay. Coordination: If the tea-shop owner gets after you with blood in his eye, you need to run away without tripping over each other. (Psst! You run left! I run right!)
If two minutes is all you will take to judge the potential of a person, the only attribute you can test, as is readily evident, is glibness. In fact, that is about all that an interviewer ends up testing in an interview. Accounts for the fact that you get people with the ability to talk their way out of any situation but are incapable of shifting a piece of dirt even one inch north-northwest of where it used to be without calling for a tender!
My worst experience with two minutes was with a plumber. He came to my house, looked knowingly at my water-closet which was busily regurgitating everything it had swallowed, and said, “I’ll be back in two minutes!” It is a month gone now and I am still waiting!
I think this happens because we are a fiercely independent nation. We resent the idea that anyone should dictate to us about how many seconds we should attribute to the minute. Just because someone has the quaint notion that each minute should contain sixty seconds does not mean that he has the right to impose those ideas on everyone else. Do we live in a democracy or is it a dictatorship?
We may promise to deliver something in two minutes (or any number of minutes as the mood takes us) but we reserve the right to allocate as many seconds as we please to each minute – on a case-by-case basis! To think that each minute should only consist of sixty seconds is the limitation of a plodding mind and we are infinitely creative people who can think out-of-the-box!
This piece, too, was written in two minutes – of the inelastic variety!

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.