Strategically Untitled

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It was just another gloomy day in Bengaluru. It could have been my mood but the weather was the usual. Cold, dusty and an occasional mini-drizzle. It’s like the rain Gods want to send showers courtesy of this being rainy season and all but there’s lack of water or something. So I was indoors, whiling away time on twitter and reading life-changing books/articles and trying to make instant soup and failing and channel surfing and staring outside the window and - wait - there’s this small railway station outside where I live and it’s only slightly bigger than a bus stop. But what’s odd about this place is that there’re people waiting there for a train all the time. Always. From 6 am to 9 pm. Now you’d think that’s not odd at all considering that it’s a railway station afterall but there’re like 2 trains that stop there daily. 2 trains!

Anyway, I digress. Although am not yet sure what I divagate from. Now I don’t know why I used ‘divagate’ instead of a simple ‘digress’ because ‘divagate’ sounds like a Congress scam involving divas, which would lead to much hue and cry from every nook and corner of the country - a few protests against the scam and the rest against why women want to be divas in the first place. Anyway, I digress.

Back to channel surfing. Television has been very disappointing recently. If not for football coverage, I would have severed all ties with the idiot box long back. So I watched a few scenes from X-Men series, Bourne series, Hangover etc for the umpteenth time on HBO, Star Movies etc which has these 10-15 movies on infinite loop. There was also some cricket being re-telecast on some sports channel and that’s when I realized that Champions League T20 is also going on. I felt sorry for cricket because even Twitter isn’t discussing this anymore. Twitter, which has Bieber fans and people discussing WWE and people working hard to trend #ProudofPM, isn’t discussing India’s favorite past-time - cricket. I used to love cricket once. Not anymore, but I decided to write something about cricket. (Updates blog title).

Yes, cricket. Although we’ve played cricket, football, volleyball, kho-kho, appachandi (colloquial name for a weird unforgiving game that involved throwing hard tennis ball at each other) etc during schooldays depending on availability of ground, rains and upcoming tournaments, cricket was the craze before high school. My earliest memories of cricket are - bettering Lara’s record and scoring 500 runs in a 2-player test match against my younger brother, trying a reverse sweep while playing cricket in the basketball court and breaking my spectacles, forever fielding at third man against my much older cousins and fielding passionately in both innings-es only to realize, as I grew up, that there was no runs behind square of the wicket on both sides and I was effectively just a ball boy. And ofcourse, the memories of inter-school tournaments in Bengaluru, which back then, was stylishly called ‘Bangalore’ and had night life beyond sunset.

In regional level inter-school cricket tournaments, our school was like Tahiti in Confederations Cup. That’s disrespectful to Tahiti. Hence I rephrase - In regional level inter-school cricket tournaments, our school was like Tahiti in a cricket world cup. I never really understood why we were invited. In one particular tournament, we had to make a team of 16 from 15 guys who wanted to play in the tournament. I remember the Sports teacher coming to our class and announcing, “There are 16 tickets booked and 15 people have signed up. If any of you want to visit Bangalore, you should take this opportunity”. Actually we had like 3 batsmen,4 bowlers, one wicket-keeper, one captain, his friends, few fielders, and people who were just visiting Bangalore. I was the captain. 

Off the field, we always had a great time. On the field, not so much. Firstly, it was very cold. Very very cold for us tropical kids. Forget gripping the ball, I had trouble flexing my fingers to open the zipper to pee. Secondly, the opponents were really good. These schools from Karnataka had no rains and played cricket throughout the year and those kids shadow practiced front foot shots before they learnt to walk properly. 

In spite of all the street cricket we played, we had no real cricketing culture. Tournaments were embarrassing. Every time a wicket goes, there was a 3 min pause because our outgoing batsman had to give the batting gear to the incoming batsman. I thought about sharing another story that’s relevant here that involves an abdominal guard but decided against it. There was also this incident when some other batch went for a tournament and the bowler stopped his run-up to look at the airplane above. Wow, he said. Umpires were like  - WTF guys!

Usually these were 30 over games and our batting strategy going into these games were to play as long as we could, if possible beyond 20 overs. Our bowling strategy was.. usually thrashed all around the park. Once one of our fielders (with whom I’ll be sharing this blog’s link) chased a straight drive and got stuck in the sight screen. That’s when we noticed the sight screen.

Our ‘cricket coach’ was Mike Tyson. He was a lab attendant in our school but his only contribution towards the functioning of the school was to bring the mike (microphone) to the stage everyday during the morning assembly. During the interval of the second match in a particular tournament, Mike Tyson was furious with us (He had missed the first match spending his time wisely in a local watering hole). Tyson said, “You guys are morons. You imbeciles have 3 guys fielding on one side (leg-side) and 6 on the other side (off-side)? Hasn’t Sreenivasan sir taught you Maths properly? Have 5 each on either side and you will win”. Stunned silence until one guy asked, “Wicket-keeper on leg or off?”

The only time Mike Tyson made sense was before the last match when he said, “You guys should bat first if you win the toss. That way we’ll have more time to roam around the city (and more time for me to drink liquor) before we go back to Kerala by tonight’s bus”. But Tyson jinxed it. We won the match - our only victory in all the regional-level matches I’ve played for school, although we didn’t qualify for the knockout stages. That victory, I remember, was against KV Vasco. As usual, return tickets were tactfully booked on the day group stage matches would end. So we went home, back to school, and told everyone that we lost only the final by 2 runs, and that too by Duckworth–Lewis method.

That’s enough content for a post then. Back to channel-surfing. Wolverine is being injected with Adamantium. Again. Yawn, Star Movies. YAWN.

Consider the fact that for 3.8 billion years, a period of time older than the Earth’s mountains and rivers and oceans, every one of your forebears on both sides has been attractive enough to find a mate, healthy enough to reproduce, and sufficiently blessed by fate and circumstances to live long enough to do so. Not one of your pertinent ancestors was squashed, devoured, drowned, starved, stranded, stuck fast, untimely wounded, or otherwise deflected from its life’s quest of delivering a tiny charge of genetic material to the right partner at the right moment in order to perpetuate the only possible sequence of hereditary combinations that could result — eventually, astoundingly, and all too briefly — in you.
Bill Bryson

Imagine having your favorite dish in a rooftop restaurant and all of a sudden you see an asteroid accelerating towards you from up above, eclipsing the whole sky at once and then (assuming Bruce Willis doesn’t spoil this by destroying the asteroid or posting comments on this blog as anonymous user ‘Walter_B’) landing on you… killing you. Imagine. Imagine the suddenness and unjustness of it all.

Story of every mosquito’s life.

It’s amazing how many blog posts start off in a tone of introspectiveness and how the first few lines are always soul-searching as to why the dabbler blog has been left unattended for so long. Quite clearly, I’m not going to indulge in any of that. Instead, the theme this time is monsoon - the ultimate soaker whose southwestern branch hits the land of soccer and soakers first. Wordplay intended.

Slouching on the couch in the verandah, listening to the patter of rain on the rooftops and expectant earth, relishing the warmness of a cup of tea in my hands, trying not to be apprehensive about the prospect of never-ending power-cuts and sleepless nights haunted by mosquito bites because that doesn’t fit in the pattern of narratives here, I pondered long and hard as to what could make this moment better. And then it stuck me, like kalla kadal when sea water creeps in on the shanties of unsuspecting fisherman during pre-monsoon showers - I should write something. Hence this chef-d’oeuvre!

My earliest fond memories of monsoon are all about playing in the rain. Right from using umbrella as a parachute to jump from a relatively big rock outside the school to even having played football with everyone holding an umbrella while playing because the class teacher had warned us that day that nobody wearing sopping uniform would be allowed in class. Growing up though, most of us realized that carrying an umbrella around doesn’t go with the badass image that we thought we had. But the ones who made monsoon season their own were the “specialist wingers” in football. Those were the guys who didn’t mind soaking their shoes in muddy puddles, some of which would even classify as swamps. Those “specialist wingers” were in great demand during team selection.

(Without being carried away by football-talk) After seasons and seasons of rains in Kerala, ironically, the worst of monsoon was experienced in Chennai, a city that receives so little rain that it seems to be unprepared for rains. Two weeks of rains there was a nightmare. Flooded roads (with boat service between a few bus-stops), no proper drainage and submerged, perilous manholes. One particular mishap that stands out in memory is when I lost my bike keys outside Indira Nagar KFC at night and had to search for it for hours in pouring rain.

Although monsoon arrived only yesterday, it has been raining for weeks now with special effects like thunder and lightning, owing mainly to the negligence on the part of Lord Indra, who is probably chilling with Apsaras and forgot to check the weather forecast. Actually it’s very difficult to segregate the pre-monsoon showers from monsoon, post-monsoon and rains in general that happen throughout the calendar year in these parts.

There’s the southwest monsoon - also known as edavapathi (middle of Edavam, the Malayalam calendar equivalent for Taurus) or kaalavarsham in Malayalam, from end of May to September characterized by warm temperature and heavy rainfall of about ~2500 cm. Then there’s the northeast monsoon - known as thulavarsham, meaning rain in Thulam (Libra), and happens in October-November afternoons and is usually accompanied by thunder and lightning. Not to forget edi mazha/eda mazha, or summer rain, which happens occasionally from January to April and is characterized by slightly bigger rain drops.

And just when you thought I know everything about rains, I have to admit here that I’m not sure about the etymology of the word ‘monsoon’. I’m sure that there was a time when we Keralites called it ‘soon-mon’ affectionately while rest of India called it Nairutya Maarut. After an unavoidable conflict in nomenclature, sense prevailed finally and just to make everyone feel better, we started calling it ‘monsoon’, I guess.

Why does the name matter anyway. The important thing is that the rains are here to quench the heat wave, answer prayers of a million farmers, provide romantic ambiance for a billion loving hearts, to be the seasonal rhythmic heartbeat of a peninsula and more importantly to fill the spirits..

..Oh damn. Power cut and no battery backup. So that’s it… au savor the rains, au revoir!

If you’re anonymous, you’re fine. If you’re stupid, you’re still above average. If you are anonymous and stupid, you’re going down.

31st August is my friend’s birthday. She’s not a netizen as such and only posts photos once in while on Facebook and appreciates the comments she gets. So I didn’t tell her how else 31st Aug is a date I remember. I started writing an anonymous blog in college in 2011 on the very same day. It was called ‘the Sanquelim Times’. Yes, there I said it. ‘Sanquelim’ being the name of this sleepy, serene town in the foothills of Western Ghats, and ‘Times’ to give it that newsletter touch.

The Sanquelim Times, also fondly (I hope) known as ST, became an instant hit in campus. ST wrote about happenings in college, issues, competitions, events, initiatives, lack of initiatives etc, always adding a humorous (trust me, I tried) side to it. There were always people who thought some of it was crap ( to be honest, some of it was) but generally, it was accepted and each post was anticipated.

Although I like to write, my laziness meant newsletters were not published very often. But the discussions that followed each post was a so much fun! There were people who thought it was me, but were not 100% sure. Amidst this lot, I had to be very circumspect.

The manhunt was on. In one particular tea-time discussion, one guy informed everyone that he knew the anonymous editor and that for now, he can only give us a clue. The clue was that the editor is a girl. I almost spilled my tea on the precious HBR case. One other time, a friend of mine confided that he strongly believed the blog was written by himself and that he has split personality disorder. I remember telling him, “What are the odds that your alternate personality is also equally funny?”. One other friend, based on his research on writing styles, was very positive about this blog being written by more than one person. My turn to feel I have split personality disorder.

Once in a FB discussion regarding who the ST editor could be, a friend of mine suggested that he’s sure the FB editor is someone who has never been a part of any event in college, is a social recluse, haven’t taken a friend to hospital when in need, won’t help an old lady cross the street, and probably kills puppies in his free time. I don’t know where that came from, but, ouch! One other friend made me read a particular blog post and observed my reaction. I tried not to be very fluent while reading because, for my friend, fluency could mean I wrote it. Duh!

Anonymity was fun. But that’s not the prime reason why the blog was started anonymously or stayed anonymous. I started writing anonymously because I didn’t think through this, or the consequences, and was just interested in writing, which is something I like to do. I stayed anonymous primarily for 2 reasons. Firstly, I wasn’t sure that people wouldn’t judge the content or laugh at it the same way if they knew the face behind this. And secondly, since I didn’t begin writing in my own name, it wasn’t a great idea to claim ownership once the blog is popular. Because if it was a flop, I wouldn’t be as enthusiastic to cry out, “It’s mine, it’s mine”!

So that said, why this confession now? I’ve been forced to. 

After a particularly awesome post (a fictitious interview with a fictitious club’s fictitious core committee member) in Aug or Sep 2012, my ST account got hacked. Me, being smart and all, had ‘times123’ as password. ‘times123’!! Not a first-time guess for sure but a rather weak password by any measure. While creating the account, I never thought a time would come when someone would rather hack an account than laugh at a harmless joke. But yeah, now the joke was on me.

Anyway, life at Sanquelim and susegad (which, btw, is the most widely used restaurant name in these areas) went on as usual. Winter was coming, but never came and since I hadn’t completed Google’s 2-step recovery process, there was no way I was getting my account back. I had the blog downloaded and it would take only 5 mins to launch it on a different URL, but I didn’t want to, especially when there are people out there who are genuinely inconvenienced and would attempt to hack it again. I moved on. A leopard was spotted in college campus couple of times in the last trimester, and through a parody account, this kept me busy for a while. Placement season and holiday season took over then and even the Leopard was never seen again.

Meanwhile the people who hacked my account weren’t sure what to do with it. Following the leopard’s parody account, they also created an ST account in FB. This, again, was fine with me. Even when I still had ST, there were always people pretending to be ST on Twitter, IPMSG, real-life etc. The comments and posts by this new ST was generally crappy and I enjoyed the fact that they had nothing sensible/funny/relevant to say. They did write to me personally from the hacked account about something related to Chelsea FC but it failed to kindle any sort of response although usually am very easily caught up in ‘fanboy mud-slinging’ when it comes to football.

Lately the guys owning ST have started spamming every inbox with lengthy spam mails, and posting random crappy things in our college FB group. They are even recruiting juniors for “writing” apparently. Since a lot of people actually think I’m writing ST, a few have come up to me and enquired about FB posts and lack of blog posts. Hence I want to clarify that I no longer have the ST blog account, my last post being about Club Inicio, and the ‘Samriddhi logo’ one before that (both, now deleted). I never created any Twitter/FB/IPMSG account and so befriend these at your own risk!

Lastly, I would like to thank all those who supported and encouraged this anonymous entity to write more, and sent mails of appreciation to ST. With that password, I think I let you down big time. And to the haters, apologies if I unintentionally offended anyone. Please don’t hack my Google account because even with trial-and-error, Google tells me it would take 45 years for you to type in all the combinations!

And to the hackers, good job!

I called you hackers, but we both know you didn’t actually hack anything. Google tells me there were more than 15 attempts before trial-and-error got you lucky. More than 15 could mean any number unless there’s a cap. I can see you sitting in your lonely room, pretending the joke was on you, complaining on phone to your mom, typing away furiously as you get your trial-and-error going every day and crying endlessly on the toilet paper you stole from your hostel washroom. I hope it was worth the effort.

But remember this. No matter where you go, No matter what you do, I’m gonna hunt you down. I’m gonna hunt you down and then I’m gonna slit your throat and then I’m gonna cut you open and then I’M GONNA EAT YOUR FUCKING HEART! YOU BETTER YOU PRAY, JOHNNY YOU BETTER FUCKING PRAY THAT THE COPS FIND YOU, BEFORE I DO! GET ON YOUR FUCKING KNEES AND PRAY! 

No. Not really :)

I wanted to take part in our B-school fest. It was about innovation.

None of the competitions sounded familiar. I knew close to nothing about innovation, the theme. Ordering food from JK instead of having from cafeteria is the closest I’ve come to innovation. I’m not particularly good with photography or editing videos. Beer game sounded an option until I found out there’s no beer in the game. I had neither the creativity nor the innovation to be conducting it and volunteering could mean a lot of running around. I still wanted to take part.

One night I was trying to figure out if the Flip National Challenge is a part of the fest. Then I got a mail asking for volunteers to lend their rooms for participants from other colleges during the fest. I signed up with a an evil grin knowing this is the easiest way to participate. Room is a place only to crash at nights anyway. So I happily gave up my keys to the organizers and crashed elsewhere for 2 days.

Apparently two SCMHRD guys stayed in my room and apparently they won an event as well. The beer game, I wonder? After they left, I got my keys back on Sunday evening. I soon found that my pillow is missing. Everything else is more or less intact, although messier. But my pillow is gone. But then it’s just a pillow. Who cares?

I do. Because they spat on our hospitality. Just to have a good return journey on the train with head rested on what I think is the best pillow in the world, they spoiled a magnificent gesture. They might not have taken it for all I know and even the organizers would like to believe all participants from respected b-schools are honest, and rightly so. Especially the ones good at HR !!

But hey guys from SCMHRD who stayed in this room, if you actually took the pillow,

You won a competition, you won our hearts, but you stole our pillow.

Take the glory, give back the pillow.

Don’t judge me. It’s not about the pillow.

Something really creepy just happened. This post is my way to try and relax.

Last December, I found that my Nokia phone doesn’t have WiFi even though it has 3G and most other features and hence decided to buy a new phone, and as any elder sibling usually does, pass my old phone to my brother. Campus being WiFi, it was not smart not to have a really smart phone. After the usual search in gsmarena.com and ignoring Blackberry boys’ invitation to join them on BBM, I decided to get the Motorola Defy, water proof and dust proof, apparently. From Ebay.

My phone arrived a week later but Blue Dart wouldn’t deliver it in the remote Goan village of Sanquelim. So I had to drive a total of 60kms to go collect my phone from Panjim. The phone impressed me and at that point of time, I never imagined how impressed I would be in the coming days.

In January, I remember the phone giving some software issues like hanging once in a while, but nothing unbearable. In the first week of February, a friend gave her birthday dinner treat in a beach shack in Aarambol. So almost a dozen of us sat there and enjoyed the cool night breeze, and mainly the marvelous seafood. Sometime later during the dinner, I realized that my phone was missing. We searched all around and gave calls from other phones, but it was nowhere to be seen. A few yards away, a stray dog was playing with something, and instinctively, I dashed towards the scene. The dog saw me coming, buried what it thought was alien bone, and ran away. As I reached there, I could hear my phone ring from underneath the sand.

I was happy that I hadn’t lost my phone that day in the beach. So I made the most of it by installing few more apps and also tweetkilling my followers to slow, painful death. The happiness was short lived. The phone started hanging very often, and the interesting thing is that, most often, a restart wouldn’t solve the issue. After switching the phone off, and on, it would still remain stuck at home screen. Repeated restarts was required to get lucky once in a while.

Sometimes the phone remained off for days at a stretch. The best part of this whole screwup was that, any caller calling my phone when it’s stuck can still hear the phone ring although I would never know it’s ringing, and when it’s back working fine, it never showed ‘missed calls’, or texts that were received in the meanwhile. To make matters worse, many friends accused me of not picking calls, and even worse, not calling back. I can imagine how “I didn’t see your missed call or text. My phone has this strange problem…. ” sounds. Can’t blame the accusers.

I was a software engineer once, and Electronics engineer according to University. Figuring out a phone with “some” help from Google shouldn’t be that tough. So I sat down on an April afternoon armed with Google, YouTube and Android forums. I sat like that for 3 days (I was interning, I could afford that), but no progress was made. Rooted the phone, tried installing Cyanogenmod and also tried flashing it on my own. I gave up and started using a friend’s extra phone. (This LG phone had problems detecting range, and issues with that phone are a material for a seperate post altogether).

Anyway, I decided to call in the professionals. I was at my hometown back then and after inquiring around, I found that there was one tech guy in the whole town who could flash a Motorola phone. As long as the work gets done, I didn’t care if there was one or a hundred. When I went to the said guy’s shop, his assistant announced that this gentleman is getting married the next Sunday and that he is on a vacation. As you might have guessed already, the assistant knew to fix anything other than the Motorola. If he could fix Froyo in a Samsung phone, I have no idea why he can’t do the same with Motorola. 

By 3rd week of June, I was back on Goa to continue pursuing my post graduation. The second day after arrival, I went to a Motorola authorized service guy in Panjim and got the phone fixed in 2 days - travelling almost 120kms in total for the cause. Since the phone was flashed and everything got reset, it worked well. I wondered why I ddin’t think of this earlier. So I was busy happily approaching everyone for their numbers. It felt good saving numbers again and assigning speed dials and all. As good as a new phone.

Then today happened. I kept the phone in my room and locked the room as I went to play football in the evening, from 6pm to 7.30pm.

What comes next might sound unbelievable, but as freaky as it sounds, it’s true.

My phone made 27 outgoing calls and received 8 calls on its own. Most of them spanned 10 seconds on an average. Calls were made randomly to numbers in the phone book, to all over India. Some of my friends who received these calls even heard someone speaking on this end, although they couldn’t understand what. I can understand really fucked up software making calls automatically, but how on earth did people hear sounds? If you thinks that’s strange, hear me out. The phone also sent a text, and drafted 5 other messages, all garbled text.

Meanwhile let me call the attendees of these calls and try to explain them it was my Android that made the calls.

Android means a mechanical and lifeless robot. Lifeless?

<to be continued, possibly…>

This post is dedicated to Dev, my friend and pillion on our ride from Sanquelim to Ribandar on Thursday, for carrying an enormous backpack on his back, and a big mattress and pillow on his head/shoulder. Even I had two bags on me and this bike on road would have been one hell of a sight for any onlooker.

Ribandar campus on the banks of river Mondovi is where we would be spending our next 2 months (summer internship) and the thought that came to my mind as we entered the gates of this old campus is - “home”.

When I thought of post graduation from Goa, I wished that it would be from a place like this, and not the ultra modern green campus in Sanquelim. Ribandar is a town in the Ilhas taluk sandwiched between the sea and a river. The campus itself has a Portuguese charm to it and was a hospital converted into a college. The hospital was built on an area which was a cemetery earlier.

After dinner from a food joint on the riverside, we took a ferry across the river. As the ferry headed towards the Chorao islands, we were lost for words as we sipped some cold beverages standing on the front end of the ferry. It was beautiful. Chorao, also known as Ilha dos Fidalgos, is also home to Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary. The island is also called Chudamani or diamond because local legends tell of the islands emerging from diamonds that were thrown away by Yashoda, the mother of Lord Krishna.

We returned after midnight, and rest of the night and early morning was spent exploring the campus. We did everything that a bunch of stupid guys in horror movies would do before getting killed one by one. I played along even though the fact that usually the black guy gets killed first scared me a little. Day being a Friday and the moon being in its fullest added to our enthusiasm. A lot of corridors lead to dead ends and sometimes I felt that there were more doors than it was required. I don’t exactly remember when we slept that night.

The next day was spent shopping and roaming around in the wonderful city of Panjim. Panjim is a fitting capital to a susegad loving state like Goa. On a normal day, it’s never overcrowded and one feels as if the vehicles don’t honk their horns in this place. Sipping coffee from the Nescafe outlet and looking across the street to the casino ships floating on the river in the evening is as close as you can get to tranquility in the middle of any capital city. After having tea and snacks from Nescafe, we returned to the campus and had some fun playing cricket in the basketball court.

Although I didn’t feel like leaving the place on a weekend, I had to return home since my cousins had come to my hometown for the Easter weekend. Dev dropped me at the station at 9.58pm and the train was scheduled to depart at 10. As I ran from the parking lot to the entrance, the parking ticket collector informed me that the train was late by 15mins. The officer at the ticket counter said the train would reach by 10.30. Then there was an announcement that the train would come by 10.45. Netravati Express eventually came just after 11pm. I have travelled in some very crowded train compartments and this one was right up there in the list. 

With a whole night to pass, the only way to spend time was to find someone to talk. Ofcourse I had my set of magazines and books to read as always and there were pdf’s am supposed to finish by this weekend on my lap, but any sort of movement would mean am disturbing the equilibrium of the whole seat and a set of passengers. To my left sat a guy who wanted to go to Andhra by this Mumbai -Trivandrum train. To my right was a lean fellow who looked like a high school student. Upon inquiry, he informed me that he was a final year student in NIT Surathkal returning from Goa after a trip.

This guy told me about the places they saw and the beaches they visited. Apparently he is also placed in Goldman Sachs and has been offered a hefty package. I asked him if he’s excited about it and he replied that he has got a 99.8 percentile in CAT, a call from all IIM’s and would probably join one if he converts. I countered this by informing him that they didn’t visit Palolem and Aarambol which are the best beaches in Goa and that their trip is a waste of time without a dip in the natural jacuzzi at Butterfly island in Palolem. I also told him that the beach is the Indian residence of Jason Bourne in the film The Bourne Supremacy. He asked me who Jason Bourne is. 

Rest of the night was spent trying to leverage my body mass to get a better share of the seat. The problem was that the other 5 occupants of the seat were doing the same. Also the hands and legs dangling from the people sitting in the luggage area on top was a distraction. The wonder kid and his friends got down at Surathkal and this opened up some space for everyone to sit properly. After sometime, I somehow got some space to even stretch myself and free my legs… just as the train screeched to a halt at the Kasaragod station. Home.

Now that I’m in the “wants to blog” part of the amateur blogger’s blogging cycle, I might as well post as many as I want to, now. The only cycle that beats this one is the “I’ve put on weight.. must join gym..*joins* / ..Not worth the effort *stops gymming*” cycle.

I’ve had a lot of food items in this short lifespan. From tulsi  leaves used as ‘touchings’  in undergrad college to that Italian dish which looks like dog’s tongue and whose name I forgot, from poha made by a street vendor in Hinjewadi to medu vada from Chennai’s own Hot Chips, from idlis  the size of dosa at Kundalahalli Gate to rabbit meat from Barbecue Nation, T-Nagar. Being a glutton, I’ve enjoyed most of these. Except maybe poha, which I consider to be poor man’s Aval Nanachathu (beaten rice flake, Kerala version). A strong supporter of the Tibetan cause, I’ve avoided Mainland China also so far. In spite of all these, what I love the most is homemade idli dipped in generously poured hot sambar.

Sambar is in a class of its own. And the best version is made at home. I’m so much in love with sambar that I’m thinking of adding “Can you cook sambar like my amma does?” to the questionnaire while seeing potential brides for an arranged marriage. This would probably be asked right after “What are your hobbies?”. Ideally, making sambar should be the answer for this question and then I wouldn’t have to ask specifically. No, am not being a male chauvinist. I’ve tried my hand at cooking before and failed miserably as my ex-roomies would testify. So I’ll be doing other important chores.

I’m not an expert in the “art of buying vegetables” wherein you pick vegetables meticulously and then weigh it, find that it’s less/more and then pick/drop individual vegetables even more meticulously. So in the vegetable market, as elders do this, I while away my time looking at.. err.. random things. The other day, amma uncharacteristically consulted me as to what vegetables have to be bought and I told her to buy the ones required to prepare sambar since the next day evening I would be heading back to college.

Sambar was hence prepared before amma left for work the next day. I was waiting for lunchtime and was whiling away time downloading random things on torrent. That’s when I got a call from peramma (amma’s elder sister) who invited me for lunch. She said she had prepared a wide range of dishes including beef fry. Yes, the very beef that my Northie friend frowned upon a few days ago in the hostel common room. “How can you Mallus even think about having beef…?”, he asked, sipping whiskey and nibbling the last bits of a KFC chicken piece, parceled from 35km away in Panaji. Beliefs and perspectives, my dear friend. Just like a veggie will not approve of that chicken piece and your Maa would not be as proud as the blenders about that whiskey.

So it was down to either having a sambar feast and inviting the wrath of my peramma or having good beef, which I haven’t had in a long long time. When I was working, a lot of time and even more meeting room real estate was used up to discuss innovation. The only real innovation I could do was to use Excel shortcuts, which I did. And a lot of people, including the boss, didn’t even think within the box to begin with. So, for the first time, out of need than to get brownie points, I improvised. Found a tiffin box, parceled the sambar, and proceeded to go have beef.. and a sumptuous lunch!

Maybe I should go back to “not blogging”, no? :P

That time of the year when you get inspired by random blogs and decide to revive your own little blog. Occasional bloggers like me would indeed know how this cycle works. It’s not really writer’s block of the amateur or anything of that sort, but it’s somewhere between laziness, lack/surplus of topics to write about and a state of detachment that keeps one away from blogging. Enough said about that!

As the header indicates, this post is about my hometown, Kasaragod. Confronted with questions about whereabouts, my cousins who are from this very town usually say that they are from Mangalore. This helps because the geographically challenged would ask further questions otherwise. The same strategy never worked for me because I know very little about Mangalore and am not very comfortable with kannada either. So I’d rather explain the geographical location and details about my hometown than be mistaken as a kannadiga. Forget knowing the language, I can’t even make out between kannada and tulu sometimes.

The place where I spent my “formative” years also has history with kannadigas and bunts (the community which speaks tulu) because Karnataka has a longstanding claim to this land, and wants this district to be merged with Karnataka. Or at least the area north of Chandragiri river, which flows through the Kasaragod town. I’ve read somewhere that there is a Samithi which has been setup to facilitate this merger. So far they have been unsuccessful and am happy. Am not sure if am politically correct, but being a Malayali, I would prefer this place to be a part of Kerala.

Yesterday evening amma dragged me to the temple. The famous Mallikkarjuna Temple that we frequented as kids, especially during festivals for ferris wheel rides and mainly for new sets of toys, was our destination. I was technically just a driver since I did not enter the temple premises. Not because I’ve turned into an atheist (although maybe I would, just a matter of time) but because it was required to remove your shirt while entering. The trade off was between trying to get my prayers heard by the almighty and the effort required to remove and put on a tee. Assuming there is an almighty, I still wasn’t sure what to pray for. Apparently religious tension broke into small scale violence later in the town because someone found it funny to drop a buffalo’s head near the temple premises. Luckily we were back home by then.

Now that’s something I hate about this place. A history of being intolerant to religious differences. Back in 1992, situation was scary during the debacle at Ayodhya. And Kasaragod is probably the only place in Kerala where prohibitory orders are enforced in the first week of December every year. Only 2 days back, there was a skirmish in another part of the town. My brother’s friends were returning after a trip to the Western ghats and were nabbed by police in the town, under the pretext of precautionary arrest. They told the police that they’re engineering college students returning from a bike trip. The police called my brother (him being a localite) for confirmation, but he thought this was an April fool prank played by his pals. So these unlucky chaps had to spend a longer time in the police station although this was sorted out later.

Just like communal tension, much hasn’t changed here in the past 20 years. That’s as long as I can remember. A few new mini-malls, a food court, some new hospitals and some taller buildings, is all that has happened. The area near the beach and railways station has largely remained unchanged. Vidyanagar, the administrative heart of the town, where I live and did my schooling, also has resisted much change. The Industrial Dept. building opposite the Govt. college ground, which provided a vantage point for Rajiv Gandhi’s speech in May 1992, has become less majestic. But that’s because I’ve grown taller maybe. From here, Mr. Gandhi embarked on his last journey to Sriperumbudur. 

The 2km stretch from school to the NH17 where we used to flaunt our shotokan karate uniforms after karate classes in school still remains the same. The shop from which we brought sip ups in bulk and the gutters on the road are still there. Coming back to karate, it didn’t last beyond the 3rd belt. We were told that the karate master had gone to China to learn advanced combat techniques. The fee for karate classes would then be used to buy more sip ups after football in the hot sun.

The mild traffic and the lack of traffic signals (only one) is a delight for a lazy driver like me, and this for me, makes up for the lack of overpriced and comfortable multiplexes. To be honest, I’ve liked most of the towns and cities I’ve been to, although I haven’t been or lived in many. When you realize that people are the same everywhere deep down, it’s easier to like the places they inhabit. For studies and work, I left my habitat many years ago and it’s unlikely that I’ll come back and settle here. Due to the constant threat of communal tension, even my parents might eventually leave the place after retirement and move southwards, to where they are originally from. In spite of all that, Kasaragod would still remain close to my heart and will always be the place I call my “home”.