Friday, December 19, 2014

Mid Life Crisis

He was happily sleeping while his mobile phone kept on ringing. Having been adequately trained over the years in snoozing alarms, sleeping through a ringing phone was a cake walk for him.  But same thing cannot be said of his wife. Grumbling she picked up the phone and answered it, half seeing who caller was.

“Hi Albert, good morning. Ramesh is still sleeping.”

“Hi Sudha , this is Stella.”  Sudha was surprised to hear Albert’s wife’s voice. Worryingly she sounded agitated.

“Yes, Stella. Is everything alright?”

“Albert had a massive heart attack this morning. We have moved him to the General Hospital. Can you pls come here?”

“Ofcourse Stella. I will be there in 30 minutes with Ramesh. Dont worry. Nothing will happen to Albert. “

“I am trying to be calm. But Joseph also did not pick up. He had slept in the hostel with his friends. They have just taken Albert to the ICU.”

“No issues at all. Do you have enough cash with you?”

“I think so. I have just brought all the cards with me as of now.”

“Dont worry . Ramesh will take care of the Finance.”

Ramesh and Albert have been business partners for over 20 years and have known each other from their school days. Ramesh was hardly a deep sleeper, always a grumpy riser from the bed in the morning.  

Grumpy Ramesh was shocked when he heard about the news.
“Albert is one of the fittest guys I have ever known. How could this happen to him! We are only 48 years old.”

Albert regularly worked out. He successfully avoided having the middle age bumps. He had a healthy life style and was always in control of his health. He looked at least 5-10 years younger than his age.
Visibly shocked Sudha and Ramesh left for the hospital immediately. They were received by a rather nervous looking Stella. Their arrival calmed down Stella a bit. Sudha started to console Stella and sat with her outside the ICU. There were several other grieving families near by. Sudha hated the aroma associated with hospitals. The only time she enjoyed this smell was when her daughter was born. In the recent times luckily neither she nor Ramesh had to stay overnight in a hospital.

  There was some frantic action in and out of the ward, with several medical staff entering the room. Ramesh tried to enquire about the progress to the fleet footed nurses and doctors without any success. After a 6 hour wait, the doctors came out with some good news. They explained for a few minutes in medical jargons that they could only understand, the gist of which meant that Albert is no more critical.  There was relief all around. After about 8 hours, Albert was in a state to see everyone.  Ramesh and Sudha finally left the hospital.

“We have to come here again tomorrow” said a concerned Ramesh to Sudha.

“Yes. I will cook something for Joseph and stella. The hospital food is not upto the mark.”

“Yes thats there. But I have booked a complete medical check up for both of us in the afternoon.”
Sudha was intrigued.  

 “It’s true that we have been trying to improve our dietary habits, but don’t you think you are over reacting to Albert’s situation?”

“Are you kidding!  Albert was the best of the lot. Look at me, my tummy. God only knows what my cholesterol level is. There must be a start. You have also been constantly gaining weight, ever since Lakshmi was born. We don’t take our health seriously.  Albert’s healthy life style must have saved him today. If we get a cardiac arrest, I am not sure if we would survive that.”

“Dont talk inauspicious things.”

“I am just being pragmatic.”

The general check up turned out to be scarier than expected. While both of them were in the overweight category, they also had Hyper tension, near high blood sugar level. Sudha had weak cartilages in her knees and Ramesh had high Cholesterol levels. They also had other minor issues. In short, their health was in a mess. Their medical report was a rude wake up call.

Within two days, it was Ramesh who reacted first. “I have got us membership in ABC fitness center. They have aerobics and power Yoga also. Its 3 kms from here. Daily morning we can cycle there. I have ordered 2 bicycles also.”

 I have been browsing the internet for some healthy diet tips. I found this GM weight loss diet plan. It’s assured 5-6 kg weight loss in a week. Its mainly fruit and veggie based. Absolutely no rice at all. Starting from tomorrow let us try that.”

Thus began their quest of finding that perfect health. The first day they woke up at 5 in the morning and cycled to the gym. 1 hour of moderate workout was exhausting but, they enjoyed every bit of it. After that started the GM diet routine.  First  day was fine. But as they entered the 3rd day, the lack of food and physical exhaustion was taking its toll on them. They were getting easily irritated and started taking out the frustration from lack of food on each other.

It was the 4th day morning. The fight the previous night was plain bad and they were not in talking terms with each other. They got dressed for the gym and left silently in the car. Ramesh was driving and there was no eye contact at all between them. He stopped at the local restaurant.

“2 plates sambar vadai and 2 ghee masala dosas pls”.

Sunday, November 2, 2014


It was that time of the year and Ramesh was sitting in his school with great anticipation. His grand mom had come to visit them and she had been really busy making sweets. Today the first batch of sweets would have been ready. He was impatient for the final bell like a ballet dancer waiting for her very first dance performance. Just as it rung, it was music to his ears and in no time was down stairs ghosting past the corridor and playground towards the cycle shed.

"Ramesh, cricket by 4 30 at the BVR grounds?" shouted his friend from a distance.

"Sorry too busy . Wont be able to make it today" retorted Ramesh as he hastily climbed down the stairs ignoring the look of surprise in his friend's face. Ramesh usually was the first person in line for playing cricket. But there are darker things at play in the background. Smelted sugar in collusion with milk, ghee, oil  and other collaborators in their multitude of forms were playing havoc in this innocent young boy's mind. He had only one motto in his life for the day and it was to get his hands on those freshly made gustatory delights. He quickly unlocked his cycle and flashed towards his home.

"Mom, I am  back" he shouted as he was about to enter his ground floor building. He dumped his cycle in the congested place below the stairs and  wanted to burst open that door like Hannuman from the fables. The aroma of freshly fried sweets was piercing his stomach through his nose.

"Ramesh kanna" called out his elderly neighbor lady.
"Hi Uma aunty, good evening" replied Ramesh without taking his eyes off the door.

"Your mom has taken your grand mom for some shopping. She wanted me to give me this key to you. She will be back in another 30 minutes."

Ramesh was stunned, and could not believe how his mom could do this to him. With great disappointment he went to get the keys.  But that disappointment soon turned into elation when he realised that he would be spending atleast 30 minutes alone in the house without his mother's supervision with only the freshly prepared sweets for company. It's like having a deepavali vacations being thrust upon a week earlier.

"Would you like to come in and wait here till your mother comes ?"

"No Aunty I will wait in my house" replied ramesh hastily and grabbed the keys off her frail hands and burst open the door just like his hero Hanuman, but with the help of the keys.  He entered the cosy little apartment and set out for the kitchen. He threw his bag on the bed and did not bother to change his clothes. His eyes were fixed on the kitchen. Every step he took made the aroma stronger and increased his appetite.

He entered the kitchen which was very clean, the hallmark of the presence of his grandmother. Usually it is never this clean and it was arguably the only trade secret she had failed to pass it on to her daughter. Ramesh quickly scanned over the entire kitchen. He knew the blue print of the kitchen by heart and where to locate the most important stuff. He scanned through the shelves for new containers. His eyes were probably betraying him, but he could not find anything new. Refrigirator was his next place to explore. The only new things he found there was his grandmother's set of fake teeth and that day's sambar. His frustration peaked. His mother was quite clever and knew exactly where to hide things.  Ramesh had been successful a few times in digging out these treasure troves.

He closed the refrigerator and hypothetically wore his sherlock holmes hat.  He scanned the room once again carefully. He was the tallest 10 year old in his class. Even the tallest of 10 year olds have a problem and their parents are atleast twice their height. "Think like a criminal and you will solve all the mysteries", he told himself the famous quote of holmes. He took a few steps backwards and looked up. Eureka!! there it was. A complete new stack of porcelain and stainless steel containers on the top most deck of the shelf. The containers happily smirking at him "take it if you can".

His mind the raced fast and looked around for something that could make up the deficit of 2 meters  required to reach the top. The stool in the living room was the obvious choice. He slowly pulled it into the kitchen. He mounted on the stool and tried reaching the top shelf without any success. Still he was off by a few feet. He had to bump up the height. The future engineer had his instincts kick in and reached out to a container that was lying on the floor for drying. He placed the container on the stool. The container had a narrow top and a broad botttom. He placed the container inverted on the stool and  slowly mounted the 2 layers of height boosters. The plan worked to perfection. He almost reached the top of deck of the shelf.

Jealous of the young boy's success fate had to intervene. The container destabilised on the stool and he feel down with a huge thud!! The sweets were so close yet he could not gorge them. As he was contemplating a second try for reaching the top, the door slowly opened. The boy quickly set the container straight, masked his pain in his ankle with a bright smile on his face and then sat on stool keeping his face sad so as to gain his mother's sympathy.

"Mom where are the sweets? " He shouted as his mother entered the kitchen.

His mom could not control her laughter. "The little detective here must have searched the entire house and forgot to check his own table."

Stunned ramesh ran to his room. Lying on the table there was a beautiful little container with a note, saying "Enjoy the sweets. Love - Mom".

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The new Milieu

He slowly opened his eyes. His head was hurting, the vision was blurred, the muscles were aching and his mind just refused to turn on. The grass bed he was lying on was an ethereal sleeping pill which he could not shrug off. He then looked around. There was a dense forest cover. Tall bamboo trees, Kinos, Rosewood and Sandalwood blocked his view of the horizon. The noisy birds and the rodents were adding to the cacophony which more or less magnified the pain in his head. He slowly turned his head around, through the small cracks between the trees to see the morning sun rising behind the silhouette that outlined the tall mountains near by.  The  sight of the mountains startled him. His survival instincts kicked in and the information slowly sunk into him. "THIS IS NOT HIS HOME". He had never seen something that was that tall. He wanted to run as far far away as possible. He, summoning all his energy, got up and started to run. He slowly gained momentum, inspite of his frail health and non-existent stamina. But "BOOM" and he fell down. He hit a iron railing which was the barricade. The pain was excruciating and involuntarily he fell down giving up to the pain. His eyes closed and he started floating into the past.

The past looked secure and beautiful. There was the warmth of his mother,protection of his father and the security of his kinsmen all around. The bright autumn afternoon after rains is always a sight to behold. He was happily cuddling on his mother's lap. His father had returned and it was the dinner time. Playing with his brother was one of his favorite pass times, the pressing problem he encountered was how could he outrun his nimble brother who was older than him. As soon as he saw his brother he leapt off his mother's lap and started running behind him like his life depended on it. This was hardly part of the evening plan, but his parents were enjoying the fun their kids were having. After letting them run around for a few minutes, his mom with an authority only parents can have, stopped them on their strides and asked them to come for dinner. The food was ready to be consumed and the brothers in no time started to quarrel about who will get the first bite.

Everything was so surreal, and the reality was like a dream, but his brother was getting the better of him in this fight also. If only he could do something about it. Then as if  some soothsayer had heard his plea and sent down a prophecy, his brother fell down like a heap. His eyes lit up when he saw this and went ahead to gorge the food available. Little did he realise what was happening around. His parents' protection radar was full on and were trying their best to protect him. His smile slowly started fadding when he saw his father fall down just like his brother in front of him. His mother   roared at him to run as fast as he could.  He started running at pace to take cover. Then he saw his mother who was running just behind him fall as well. He stopped and turned around to run towards his mother. He felt it then. Initially it was like a thorn pricking him. Then it was like a big log striking him in his head. The whole world was turning dark and was closing on him. And then it all went black.

He opened his eyes once again. His head was spinning, hurting and his legs were trembling. He was far away from home and all the people he cared about were nowhere to be in the vicinity. Where are his parents and brother? Are they together or are they also confused and alone in some place? Will he meet them? He wanted to let his brother take all the food. Alas it was too late.  He ran in all the 4 directions and everytime  he hit the railing.

Behind the railings there was a small girl standing and looking at him with her mother.

"Mama, why is he so agitated?"

Her mother looked at her and asked her to look at the board near. "Tiger cub rescued from poachers. Will be temporarily kept in the zoo. Be careful, could be ferocious."

"Poor cub, he is agitated because he is yet to realise that he is safe."

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The wish

The long and arduous trek was coming to an end. An 8 hour trek on an uncompromising trail for a bunch of amateurs is necessarily not a match made in heaven, but a challenge indeed. Ramesh and his buddies were feeling the ache in their muscles. This kind of weekend get away once a month recharged them completely. The confluence of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, along the western ghats is one of most picturesque places and is sparsely populated. A walk through the nature in the midst of the autumn skies, where the lush green face of the nature smiles through the convoluted path taken by these guys, with the incessant rains as their sole witness, is truly rewarding. With technology left high and dry behind, not by choice, but because of the lack of access for the gadget guys to weave their magic and fill the air with electromagnetic radiations. For about 4 hours they had absolutely no contact with the outside world. Ramesh and  his buddies Rahul and Imran are from Bengaluru. Its their common interest in trekking that brought them together. They have been going on atleast one trek a month for the past half year.

Slowly they were coming close to the human inhabitants, ably assisted with increasing levels of network connectivity in their mobile phones. The first village they reached was a very small one. Completely parched, they went on a hunt for a place that could serve them something to eat. After a 10 minute walk through a colony of thatched roof huts and mud roads, they found a small place that was serving hot tea and some associated edibles. The place looked no different than a hut nearby, only distinguishing feature being the board in the front telling about whats being sold there. The shop had a few customers happily munching the bhaji and having their tea. There was a girl, possibly in her early teens, standing and heating up her mini boiler to make tea. Another young boy, possibly older than the girl, was cleaning the space. As our trekkers entered the shop, they were greeted by a warm smile. Since the space was limited, only 2 could have a place to sit. Ramesh, being the only smoker in the group, let the others sit and wanted to go out for a puff. He was only person amongst three, who could speak the local language, Tamil. He ordered food for all three and slowly went outside stretching his aching limbs.

As Ramesh was smoking and checking his emails and messages in his phone, the young boy came out with Ramesh's tea.

"Anna, tea." He offered the drink to Ramesh.

"Thank you" said Ramesh stuffing his phone in his pocket and sat down on a boulder nearby with his tea and smoke.

"Anna, where are you coming from?" the young boy asked Ramesh hesitantly in the local dialect of Tamil.

"From the big town, Bengaluru"

"I have been there once. Its so huge. It must be larger than Kotagiri also. What do you do there?"

Ramesh was pleasantly surprised by the comfort level and the inquisitiveness of the boy.  He pointed to the truck near by and said "I build cars and truck. That truck is produced by my company. Rahul works with computers and Imran makes sure we have enough money to do our work." He also introduced his whole group to the boy.

With glittering eyes, he looked at Ramesh and said " Then you must be very well read. What have you studied?"

"I have completed a masters degree in Engineering. Do you go to school?"

"Yes I go to the high school in Kotagiri and I will be writing my 10th standard exam next year! I cycle 12 kms daily and nowadays I am taking my sister also", said the boy proudly pointing at the girl near the boiler also.

"Basically I have studied 8 more years than you as of now!"

Slowly they became comfortable with each other and started talking without any inhibition. The young boy was asking Ramesh all about Bangalore, his higher education and his work. Ramesh to his credit was patiently explaining and answering all his questions.

"Anna, do you have lot of money?" asked the young boy suddenly out of nowhere.

Bit surprised at such a direct question, Ramesh said, " I would like to have more, but I think I have good enough."

"Can I ask you for a help?"

Ramesh guessed what would be coming next. Usually when such conversations happen invariably people want money from him. Though he was kindhearted he usually did not approve of giving money. But he felt bad for this young boy and wanted to give him some money. So ramesh started opening his wallet.

"Ayyo Anna, I dont want your money. Can you please pray for me? Pray that one day I study a lot and become successful like you?"

People, they never cease to surprise.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I me myself

They saw me grow but not mature,
They want me to be theirs but not mine,
They want me to be perfect in their imperfect world,
But I cant leave, as they live for me.

Her wake guided me through my struggles,
In her I saw a part of me, or I thought I saw,
She drifted disgusted, when I reached out,
So I have to leave, as her path is destined to be different.

They travel along with me and relate to my trails,
They lend an occasional shoulder or an ear,
I cannot weigh them down, paining with my frails,
I travel with them keeping my distance, to lend them than to be lent.

To always lend an ear neither consoling nor encouraging,
To be there for everything,To be there without any scorn,
To motivate and pick me up when I fall and pat for the small steps of success,
It will always be I being me for myself!!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The class test

Mathematics was his favorite class of all in the 6th grade. The teacher was solving one of the most interesting problems in the chapter "playing with numbers". It was a piece of cake and he really enjoyed solving it very fast. All he required from the teacher was to show which problem to solve and by the time she completes reading the problem, he would have finished it. But today he had to skip solving the problems. With heavy heart he had his math book open on the table, but had his eyes fixed on the book that was open on his lap. His history text book. As much as the migration of Aryans from somewhere middle of Europe to an unknown hinterland sounded not only drab, but also completely incomprehensible. But the class test in the afternoon is something he cannot avoid. As he tried to remember the path followed but the Aryans, he could sense the bout of sleep that was about to hit him. He tried to keep his eyes open. He had not opened his civics books yet. The fundamental rights and duties and adult franchise was waiting patiently for him to master. This simple thought gave him a piercing headache. "I will not watch the football world cup anymore" he promised himself, blaming his father whose football fanaticism rubbed onto him also. The face of Kamala mam, his fearsome social science teacher frightened him and pushed him into going through the most boring text he had ever read in his short career as a student.

 He could not hold off his slumber anymore and involuntarily fell on the desk, with his history book sliding off his lap. "Mam, Ramesh has fainted " shouted the overly enthusiastic boy sitting next to him. His sound was good enough to jerk Ramesh off his slumber. But his mind reacted faster than his eyes and kept them closed. He remembered the girl who had fainted the other day during the morning assembly session. She had received a royal treatment from all around and was sent home to take rest. He thanked the headless chicken who shouted, silently and went on to play the role of poor little kid to perfection. He could hear all the commotion around the room. A moment of fame or rather infamy is not bad for the average kid. His young math teacher had panicked and did all she could to wake him up or rather bring him back to his senses. Ramesh was secretly enjoying all the attention he was getting. "Raju, go and fetch the peon and the PT master" she instructed one of the boys fervently. By the time the those people arrived, Ramesh was calmly lying on a desk.

He precisely knew how he should act now. In another 10 minutes, he would open his eyes slowly and be groggy for a few minutes. He would explain the teachers that he had skipped breakfast in the morning. If all goes well in another hour his parents or atleast mom would be here taking him home. It was the summer and students fainting was a common occurrence. The idea of skipping the class test was too sweet even to imagine for him. By this time, the news had percolated to the headmaster and had cut short his morning rounds to visit the 6th standard F section. The sound of his 6 feet plus stout head master had spooked him a bit, but he was quite confident of pulling off the sick child act. "I have already called his parents. His mom will be here in another 20 minutes "declared the headmaster. It was music to his ears.

The stage two of his action plan was set in motion. Like a seasoned actor getting the role of his lifetime, he showed signs of getting back his senses. There was a lot of commotion amongst the students. "We will take him  to the office room, so that you can continue with the classes" declared the headmaster. "Can you walk Ramesh?" asked the headmaster with genuine concern. On seeing Ramesh node doubtfully, he asked the peon to help him reach the office room. Much to the chagrin of the class, Ramesh left to room and math lecture was to be restarted.  The events that followed perfectly feel in line with the script of the imaginary "faking a faint to skip a class test" manual, Ramesh had in mind. In exactly 40 minutes, he was sitting in the backseat of his mother's car. It was the perfect contraption, with all the pieces exactly falling in the right place. Sitting back, he enjoyed his mother rumbling about his father being ignorant and careless about his health.

As expected he got a royal treatment at home. His mom had taken the day off and started preparing his food. By noon, he was happily munching his favorite combination of Rasam rice and Bhindi fry, watching the highlights of previous day's football match, completely oblivious to the happenings in his class. During the social science period, a very young teacher who recently joined the school walked into a class of relived students, to make the announcement that, Kamala mam was sick that day and the test had been postponed to the next day. The students could use the free period to prepare for the test!!! 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The fear

He hardly slept for a few hours. His mind was replaying the news item again and again, the disappearance of MH370. As a very frequent flyer, common logic says he must not  be frightened about a plane mishap, if only the common sense rules the world. He tried to close his eyes again, but there was something ominous lingering in his mind, a slow, quiet, but inescapable feeling of fear. "I cant be frightened by a random event like this. The probability of a car crash is higher than a plane tumbling into the ocean", he tried to comfort himself. He closed his eyes and tried to take deep breaths to calm down his nerves. As a child he was extremely fond of flying. The admiration for the birds, the freedom they had in looking at things from the top always facinated him. But only during his first flight, as a child he was scarred for life. A 10 minute journey through a turbulence gave him a nasty fear of flying. His flight was still a few hours away. Every minute passing seemed like an eternity. He simply woke up from his bed and headed straight to the bathroom. He splashed a bout of cold water in his face and let it sting him. He filled the bathtub with cold water. The hotel room itself was not on the higher end, but the bathroom was spacious and very comfortable. Putting on his favorite blues number he slipped into the bathtub.

The flight started moving through a turbulence. It was not uncommon over the south china sea, but this was quite a bad one. The seat belt sign was switched on. There was a huge commotion with the air hostesses frantically trying to set things in order and get onto their seats. In no time the turbulence got even worse. There was an announcement on the speakers for the passengers to keep calm and there was nothing to be frightened about. As the announcement was going on, the flight suddenly started loosing altitude as a rate that could even frighten the best of best on air. In about 30 seconds the flight lost over 2000 feet altitude. The passengers and the crew alike started getting tensed and almost everyone started praying one way or the other. Just when it looked like everything was getting under control, the plane suddenly started free falling. Thats when he felt the cold water getting into his lungs and got out of the bathtub with a startle. Another nightmare and now only 2 hours left for the flight. Inspite of the sleep he was very tired for obvious reasons. 

He slowly got off the tub and dried himself with a towel. He looked at his reflection on the mirror and could sense fear in his eyes. The television was still on and the news channel was now running a program about the world air-mishaps and they were talking about the Boeing 330-200 mishap that had occurred a few years earlier. Frustrated, he slammed the power button of the TV to experience a moment's peace. As the departure was getting closer, he put on his crisply ironed attire and cleaned up his hotel room. He opened his wallet to look at his son's picture. He closed his eyes and thought about how his wife would be taking him to his classes early in the morning and how he would be making her life a living hell. He wanted to see them right now, but alas they were a few thousand kilometers away from him. He had very little packing to do, as he always preferred to travel light. He looked around to make sure that everything in the room was set in order and locked it before heading to the airport. 

He was walking slowly though the crowd. He had taken the same route several times and his motion was mechanical without any need to look for signs. The people around looked calm. That was reassuring for him till he by mistake looked at the direction of the televison. The reporter was once again blaring out about the missing Malaysian airlines plane.  There were a few people very much concerned about the disappearance of the flight flocking around the television.  They were showing the possible places where flight might have ended up. He froze there momentarily, before coming back to his senses. His upright posture and coolers brilliantly masked the fear that was building in his eyes. He craved for a shot of whiskey, but all he could lay hands was a shot of espresso. Though  he would have preferred the former,  the espresso was not bad either.  He continued his walk ahead. The security check was a mere formality for him as there was no one waiting in the line he had taken. So far so good. 

He could see the gigantic Airbus 380 waiting for him, its flawless design and gargantuan size was a sight to behold. This massive bird on air is one of the biggest marvels of the modern science and technology. If only the science of medicine had made the same kind of advancement and found a cure for the wavering frightened mind.  He sighed and slowly walked towards the giant bird. He boarded the flight and settled into his seat. He closed his eyes and went through his regular formalities. He slowly went on to make an announcement, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Welcome on board ....."