Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Foetal Curl!

The wake up call,
from age-old morning tweets.
Yes, the chirp choir,
not the bird-brains,
in wifi networks.
Earth's mother here, still!

But I ain't ready
to begin my day.
The soft cushions
and December chill,
keep me home, near her;
my mom; she's still in bed.

A good morning gets better,
as twenty nine years of poison
by corrupt electromagnetism,
becomes null and void,
under her grace,
as I snuggle into the foetal curl.

Her perfume from the heavens,
a mix of manna and love.
The lullaby all so familiar,
beat from the heart of gold.
Safe and sound I doze,
back to the womb, this morning.
(by my mother's side)

Friday, December 25, 2009


Whitish fluorescence,
it's divine - de lux;
the walls of this pyramid.
Yeah, right here,
near my home.
What? Out of place?

It's right here, outside my doors;
but close to our hearts.
Indeed, far from the land
where Pharaohs built 'em first
- larger than life; them all now
just mere sand dunes.

But here, my home here,
they glow and it's bright,
the steps shimmering,
an incline to the spire
of Santa Cruz, the Basilica sizzles,
this, the Fort Church.

The buzz, my home here,
it's louder than loud
- the festive karma, parties,
wine flows with every smile,
friends, family n tourists,
all welcome, the party's on; forever!

A Christmas town, my home here,
in full spirits, hearts to the brim
with love n small fermented sips,
good old Fort Cochin.
All chaired by the big man,
at the centre where it begins, a gay parade.

To him the minds drift, glances shift,
- the collage of neon
with a risen subdued star - the topping.
Stands tall this Tree of Gifts,
as babies smile, boys jump,
and girls sing a forgotten tune.

Then a little bit of fun,
long-maned boys club, drunk!
Bikes zoom down the boulevard wide,
gliding under the smiling cloud
- a sponsored silver lining
for the 'retro surfer' in us all.

Cochin, my home town, sure knows how to dress up for Christmas. A drive down Fifty Feet Road towards the beach kinda gives you the feeling that you're in an avenue in Las Vegas - all lit up on both sides with stars and a ceiling of silver 'glowing decor'. This 'boulevard with the silver lining' begins at Veli Ground, the place where the Cochin Carnival Rally starts and a couple of kilometres later ends by the beach... Right next to the harbour mouth, near Santa Cruz Basilica - the fairest of 'em all!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Lift of faith

He called out,
to his best man.
Perched high n dry on
his fleeting self-made ride;
the Iron between
a man-made beach
and a concrete bond
- his big bro, the badminton pro.

He smiled, no fear here,
the gentle lift is near.
Certain is his road to bliss
where awaits his glass of milk,
breakfast and holiday songs.
Not the prodigal type,
he did follow the bigger steps,
till the higher stop.

Racquets thrown down,

the senior senor opens
his arms for the loving hug and
a gentle pull with all the might,
a sibling in labour.
Muscles stretched but
who minds? The loner did!
He stopped, smiled and... A trickle...

(It happened this morning at the park. Two kids are going home after their morning revelry at the enclosed playground within the joggers' pathway. The younger one climbs the three-feet Iron grill but finds it too huge a hurdle. Help is at hand though; his big bro, five inch or so taller than the cute one. But he is there; there for his brother...)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fast Forward!

Lunch at a semi-spheric cave,
a floor above the bank tellers.
The furnished circle
cut in two - the table;
with a two-inch radial canyon,
letting eyes drool at the long legs,
crossed far n beyond in display.
The glow and scents draw men
away from his destined date
- the seasoned mass,
built with steroids by
'em silly genetic engineers.

The manicured orange stumps,
a rain-stained wide-screen tele show,
and graphs - strokes by a modernist,
the psycho-analytic architect,
and his bloody attempt to make tourists,
aliens and the time-starved,
hungry corporate sharks at home.
This, with the chained melodies,
form the urban watering hole.
A place to hunt, meet mates,
make mating calls,
quick love and of course,
some fast food for thought!
Is it? The fast-forwarded evolution.

(A fast food joint in Chennai)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


The fifteenth, the Ides
but in December here.
With rains and signs
of the ominous;
indeed, the old soothsayer;
true he has always been.

The man's words forged
during a wild fire within.
It's not the starved acidic gut,
but from the quilt,
woven out of thy neighbour's follies;
talked in the net, in hushed tones.

His words stopped me
for months here, till
laughter took over
from the lay-out chats,
touche, toast and the vibe,
after the afternoon swipe.

Beware of the Ides,
not just of March.
For their straight mane
is crooked enough,
to twist your tale
during the judgement days.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Lunar Circle

The bright lady in the middle,
of a static ring, concentric,
luminous, it's magical,
the half-shy moon tonight.
But bold enough her show
the truth through her smile.
Behold this lovely circle,
of music, wine and
a small band of friends.
In a roof-top huddle,
the kicks, smiles and sighs,
till morning's reality show...

Ah, the Good times; the beach, terrace; the moon and of course - Sid and our gang...

I saw his face in the mirror. The features clear enough though slightly distorted from the drops of condensed water rolling down.

He was standing on my right side, holding my shoulder and assuring me everything’s fine. But he wanted me to trust him and walk out with him. I was reluctant. “Why should I? I asked myself. “I feel safe here”, in front of the wash inside the men’s rest room of Park Sheraton Hotel, Chennai.

If I walk out, I was afraid I would pass out or worse, I may make a mess on the dance floor and thrash the party, which was, by the way, the celebration of the launch of The Times of India, Chennai edition.

It was the summer of 2008 and there I was; one too many Patiala pegs later, in a big mess, and that too in front of all the big shots of the organization I would be working for God knows how many years.

And the man holding my shoulder, trying to drag me out of my ‘toilet nest’ - Mr Siddharth Saxena; my then new boss!

Well Siddharth is a ‘strong’ man, but he would have to be stronger than ‘strong’ to make me release the grip I had on the wash basin. Being a former wrestler, I do have my strengths and in my stubborn mode it is worse. But he did coerce me out, his assurances moving me to the lobby and a sofa there. Now, I’m not sure whether it was a sofa or the floor but I was sitting and he was wiping my face with a tissue and asking me to drink a glass of water and I was constantly blabbering the ‘S’ word.

“Sorry boss,” I kept saying, to which he replied, perhaps his first so-called Gyan (read: advice) to me. “Arrey, why are you saying sorry? You drink to get drunk. Good fun man!”

One and a half years and a couple of months later, yesterday, I felt an even firmer hug across my shoulder from Sid. Oh yeah, “boss” and “Siddharth” slowly but surely transformed to “Sid” and Sid was leaving for Delhi and yesterday, the 8th of December, was his last in Chennai office and in between handshakes and parting pleasantries, he hugged me.

He hugged me with the same strength with which he rescued me when I was down for the count in a hotel toilet half way between consciousness and sleep, the kind of alcohol-induced sleepwalk that we all have experienced a couple of time at least in our lives.

Then I saw his face on the glass once again or rather through the glass this time. He had swiped out one final time from Chennai office and looked back and waved through the glass door. His face, like in the Park Sheraton mirror, was visible through the semi-opaque grated lines on the glass.

Then he disappeared down the steps. I know I would meet him again but I wanted reassurance and so I messaged him. Asking him to take care and telling him, “I’ll see you around boss”. To which he replied: “Sure, keep your chins up guys.”

Keeping our chins up!

How can we not be proud and be without keeping our chins up boss? I wanted to ask. That’s how he moulded this team.

I was the second member of his team here, the first being Hari, my Indian Express boss. And I got on board with a mental handicap. I was not that confident about my reporting skills as in Express I was a desk guy and was good with pages, very good. But in reporting, though I had good writing skills, I was kind of unsure whether I would be able to deliver.

During my job-interview, I put up my best persona, fighting the good-reporter case as Sid measured me. Knowing Sid, I’m sure he would have seen through the facade, but from his later words, I figured he had felt I was a good guy.

With the same strength, not with arms like in the Sheraton wash-room, but with words, he gave me opportunity after opportunity and in no time, I was writing with flair and the only problem I faced now is that I can’t write “small copies”. That’s how confident I became in a few months' time.

What about the rest of the team? Well, Dwaipayan, cricket writer of Chennai, shifted from his hometown Kolkata to be here and the reason was only Sid. I can bet my lost ‘Target Variable Pay’ that there was no other reason. And he is very upset Sid is leaving, but “Dwai Da will be fine, we all will be fine”, Sid had smiled during our farewell beer-lunch.

The man believed a team lunch is never complete without beer. “A proper adult lunch,” he used to say.

Sarath, Krishnakant, Pavitra, Hardy, designer Kannan, Hari, me, the team was made to believe it was the best and we became the best. We were asked not to compromise with quality or ethics and that’s what we did. Of course, arrogance came with it too, a tinge. And at times we did screw up, as Sid puts it “the shit-nesses”. But it’s all in the game and luckily no big mess-ups happened and he was the kind of guy who would watch our back. So nothing could bring us down.

We will have our chins up I guess, there is no other choice.

The day before yesterday, I was riding with Kannan after work, taking an all-so-familiar route, a little down the East Coast Road to Palavakkam and Siddharth’s home. We were having our last team party there. When I turned to the entrance of his colony, right at the beach, I said to Kannan: “Man, we’ll sure miss this place.”

Kannan’s answer was a philosophical affirmative and so began the final terrace party at Sid’s beach house.

Our Skipper brought the “best rum in the world” - Captain Morgan - as we settled down at familiar positions on the terrace. The moon was half bright or there about, the night was chilly and then Kannan pointed out something.

“Look, there is a ring around the moon.” Indeed there was. A circle, just like this circle of friends - Sid’s band of brothers with a ‘sister concern’ (Pavitra), bonded by common spirits and a common vision on how to have a good time.

Now Sid had to get his camera out for this. And as usual he got busy clicking slow-shutter snaps of us, the moon, the night and the beach. He has done this umpteen times before and I have to say, each time a different colour comes out, a different perspective of the place and its ambience.

Be it the picture of the only non-drinker in the group - James Hardy - standing near an half-empty bottle of booze or be it Sid’s friend Mr Anshuman Roy, glowing in the dark. The pictures told the story, of fun, and of the long talks which would end when the dark rum in our glasses begin to glow crimson red with the sun's rays from the east.

Yesterday night was no different. The clicks continued while I stretched myself after a couple of pegs and was listening to the rather animated talk between Siddharth, Sarath, Hardy Kannan, Krishnakant and the occasional high-pitched contribution of Pavitra. The topic varied from Chennai to movies to music and back to movies and...

Well, I dozed off only to wake up five minutes later. I sat up, took few more sips and again faded, Siddharth's take on some movie being my lullaby. I repeated this routine three more times I think before I heard Sid's voice call out.

No, not wake up Sid, but: “Wake up Leslie. We will go down and eat.”

To which, I jumped up saying: “I'm here”, as if to tell him I never slept off during his farewell party. But doze off I did and peacefully too. It is a luxury I enjoyed only at his place. I even had my own bedroom there where I used to crash after a night of gulps, music and football.

Time for the “Last Supper”, Said our host. The gang had their fill while I decided to take it easy with just occasional bites of chicken. That's when Sid asked me, “You holding with me right.” That was his way of asking whether I was good for a couple more drinks.

“Yes,” I said. And the drinks were poured, our talks given a musical backdrop by Dwai Da's high-pitched snoring. He was taking his morning nap on the floor next to the dining table you see.

Time was around six in the morning when the guys decided to call it a night or rather a day. Ah, time for the cliché... Good things never...yes, they never last!

The saturated morning air with an overwhelming scent of dew made us, for a brief period; forget the fact that this is the end of a lovely chapter in our lives.

“Get lost and let me sleep,” was Sid's answer to the question whether he will miss us.

“End of a chapter in our lives,” I told my squash-reporting partner Hardy as I walked down the gravel lane towards the main road, looking back once and there he was, clicking with his camera...

I shall not introspect as to what it meant working with Sid. We all know what we gained from it and he knows what it meant being with us. Some things are better left out of blogs.

As friends, me and Sid went for swimming lessons, almost went to the gym together, went for a cycling trip, for movies, drank and philosophized on life, went shopping to buy Diwali crackers and woke up his neighbours at three in the morning bursting them. And in between all that hard work, found enough time to make a few hundred pages.

Not bad for one and a half years, I guess!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Transfer Season

Fall winter the year before,
a happy bunch sweats out,
at a fresh, red newsroom,
and later chills out,
at silky-moon terrace discs.
It was December,
time for the hot n mild,
the loved-by-all Chennai season
when local sweaters come out;
yes, "coldest" time of the year.

With transfer tales, the open window
at distant jersey-lands,
the higher leagues where millions count
- the Euro soccer songs and goals,
filling up packaged spaces
- our work in the day,
our passion in the night;
led by the player himself,
the one with the camera.
No! No flashes,
just the changing ISOs,
and shutter speeds,
and clicks lasting minutes.
His subjects, drowned in rum and waves
- music and Quality food;
pose with effortless ease,
for pictures, stories;
yes, the team of the year.

A year down, the time;
a new transfer window.
The family's back,
he, never crest-fallen,
returns to the thick,
holding the reins
of the red-ride, his wheels;
down the capital lanes,
to his love and life.
He leaves in a day;
dreams taking a northern shift,
the captain's off,
to a light-green splash;
yes, the deal of the year.

(These lines are for a good friend, Siddharth Saxena. It was part of a poster we guys at the sports desk designed for him, our boss for one and a half years. As a boss (Sports Editor), we were his first team, and I would say, he was lucky to have the best around. But then, he was the best boss around so naturally we had to give something back to match that right?)

Friday, November 27, 2009


The harmonic shift;
from a saxophone,
the smooth calm sea;
to the sparks n flashes,
the tropical thunder shower
from a powered six-string.

The tones belong to me,
like or hate, Blues or Rock;
kiss or piss, red bud or black metal.

Yeah, it is from the dishevelled,
lonely cyclist on a mission,
through dark humid alleys.

A mad dog among the many
sane, socialising canines.
Of course, they bark - a vicious choir;
at me, the alien intruder;
the rabid one, the loner,
while I snarl at the Chord. Sorry!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

FALL 2009!

Feet stretched near the grate,
covered in a chequered kiln, she sits.
The splintered wood and soaked coal,
no source of comfort,
for her tired, numb veins.
The struggle to keep warm
her fading copa, the life brew.
Rubbing toes for friction heat,
her last dice in the game.
Fortnights just a few,
till her death celebration,
with spirits far and near.

Seems day before - a drunken bliss,
they called out her name,
the new born; the toast
of the town for a week.
Resolutions after baptism,
all forgotten in earthly haste.
Her life's spring bloom,
left deflowered, bleeding;
raped by the Market Man,
the dark days, Recession!
Tears, the cross she bore,
till her grave in December hail.

Mid-life, her lonely days;
at a far-east sweatshop.
Breaking back for cents,
wail unheard, the loud Kalashnikovs;
and louder applause as the world hailed,
the Son from the Cotton Fields,
with Peace Prize and a crown.
Alas! They all wear tuxedos,
shields from the modern slave.
She coughed into the final days,
dengue and swine-flu scars,
and an arthritic ego from another life.

Her high-school love, prom date,
the men in her life,
the flirts and the romance,
these endless flashes haunting,
an unhappy life hanging,
as the countdown begins.
For Santa Claus,
and a big bag of goodies.
For the Messiah, the season of love,
and the birth of a girl,
another virgin, another year.

(The year 2009 is coming to an end. Here, the year is pictured as an old lady, sitting numb near her fireplace, awaiting death, which we all will celebrate on December 31.
Looking back into the 365 days, her life, the predominant emotion is sadness and struggle, which started with the Recession.
Her cries and troubles were largely unheard because the world was focused, among other things, on the 'war on terrorism' and of course the celebrated ascend into office of US President Barrack Obama.
Hope remain, with her death and the birth of a new year, 'another virgin'.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Brand Canyon

Deep red canyon walls,
waist high but big enough,
to hold up the smoky screen,
opaque; keeping the Gods within
- the immortals of the newsroom.
The other world, us branded mortals.

Zeus resides south of all,
withered car but a supple back.
Ruling from his cabin mount,
packaging every grime in town.

Goddesses, queens of bloated worlds,
with castles made of brittle psyche.

One; mighty patron of the city expanse,
with huge burden up and down.
Featureless angels a li'l beyond,
dancing to a brainless tune;
with vacuumed skulls, straightened hair,
fashioned visage yet shallow hearts.

The silent monk and a lover,
his aphrodisiac - the sugar-free tea,
and half-baked tales of singers old,
seducing with no class nor taste.

Then 'em crowd, the supreme jesters;
blow-job artistes to a distant court.
King arrives with deadline calls,
burnt from those response goons.

A mortal band of sporting pals;
this side of the great divide.
Happy at the earthly boons,
least we ain't living a lie.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Volumetry Genius!

Session's on, the standing committee;
presided by the watering chief,
flamed by nation's 'turn-to' man,
with laughing nod from the lead tenor.
Lab to open past the hour of dead,
volumetric mixes in quest of cheers,
between weekend titrations,
chemists and their bedroom tales.

Studded chief turns happy master,
a bottle here - four pegs full.
No burette or measuring jar,
just bureau talks and college wisdom.
Fermented science soothe tired men,
Genuine genius in the math of life.
Bottoms up, the outsider bet,
no mystery there, just plain old booze.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Vain Reaction

It was a few minutes past midnight. The splashing rain drops in front of me got illuminated suddenly by the head-lamp of a car fast approaching from behind. It was probably a metre or so away from my cycle when I cut to the right to negotiate a puddle. But the driver slowed down to give me space; a courtesy you don’t often get from megalomaniacs – the average Chennai driver.

This car had slowed, then it overtook me and the driver looked at me: Can’t blame him for that, can I? I was a sight!

Wearing a three-fourth pants and my rain coat over my t-shirt, I was half drenched, pedalling in the steady cadence I have attained after a year of the ‘cycling to office’ routine.

Besides, seeing someone cycle at midnight in heavy rain is something people are not used to either. So I decided to forgive this driver, who happened to be the big-boss at office, my Resident Editor.

He looked and then zoomed past me, perhaps trying to figure out what I was trying to prove or gain by braving the elements, when I could take the office car and reach home safe and dry.

Same question was asked by a senior colleague of mine. “Are you crazy? The entire city is flooded and you just take your cycle and come to office. What if you fall or something?” he had quipped, in a scolding tone.

I just smiled and blabbered something about the fun of riding in the rain. In the last one year I have answered a lot of questions like these, but more importantly, I could find answers to a lot of questions from within me during my long solitary rides. I dream while I ride you see and only cycling can provide you with that opportunity.

And I have seen my share of adrenalin rushes too – all with my soul-mate here in this city, the lady in red, my cycle.

And the city is fast catching up with the idea of going green and healthy on two wheels, I was told by a friend of mine through her article in the newspaper she works.

She was featuring ‘Chain Reaxion’, the group which organises a 40-km monthly ride to Mahabalipuram, an effort to popularise cycling among the city’s young as well as the old elite. My writer friend went on to add, quoting one of the celebrity members of the group, about the impact cycling is making in their lives and the environment.

Good for them, but I just can’t digest the “good for the environment” bit!

I bet my saddle-hardened rear side that it ain’t making any difference to the toxin-infested Chennai air. Is the city getting green because a bunch of wine-sippers and arm-chair warriors pedal down East Coast Road once in a month? I beg to differ maam!

“Chain Reaxion is a great idea isn’t it,” I was talking to a cycling enthusiast, who was hunched over his expensive imported bike at the cycle shop I frequent. Actually we both were, rather childishly, hunched over our bikes, mine looking all dressed up after a service, while his was getting greased up after a wash.

We looked like a couple of kids but grown up kids I would say because, like any adult males homosapiens these days, we had exchanged our visiting cards.

“Chain Reaxion is very good but it is something for beginners. I am glad cycling is catching up in the city and events like these may help popularize it. But I am not sure how many will take up serious cycling after one 40-km ride. Cycling is not a monthly affair pal. I cycle daily and it’s a passion for me, and it keeps me fit without the rut of hitting a gym,” added the senior executive of Royal Enfield Motors, who hits the East Coast Road (ECR) every morning for an hour of pedalling.

“Sadly, my office is far off so I can’t pedal to work,” he added.

Well this guy sure seems genuine; one could fathom the passion in his eyes when he was holding the wheel of his bike, examining the spokes for signs of metal fatigue. Now, here is a guy smitten, just like me, I had told myself then.

Back to Chain Reaxion, the city’s answer to the problem posed by the thousands of smoking guns – the cars, buses and trucks!

The event, which charges 600 bucks per participant, is maybe aimed at promoting cycling but it is hardly hitting the mark when it comes to making the participants give up their motorized modes of daily transport to pedal power.

A classic example is a colleague of mine who had messaged me one Sunday evening last month saying she can’t walk properly because her legs are buckling after 30-odd kilometres of Chain Reaxion.

“My legs are buckling but it was fun cycling down ECR with friends. Only thing is that I had a fall and couldn’t complete it,” madam said before adding: “I shall do it again next time and complete it.”

“Good,” I had said at the same time criticising her for jumping onto a saddle for such a distance without any preparations. Of course her legs were sore for the next couple of days and as far as continuing cycling: Well, she has not gotten on a cycle after that. Maybe she is waiting for the next event.

So much for inspiring people to take up cycling! The organisers here are just promoting the event, the higher ideals probably getting lost in the mad chase for sponsors, publicity and of course the entry fee.

Cycling, for me, has been a liberating experience. It has brought out the kid in me, the kid I identify each time I get involved in a down-the street drag race with school boys.

The kids want to take on “the geared cycle” I’m riding while this grown-up is trying to relive those lost days.

So, will I ever need a bunch of marketing honchos to tell me when and where to pursue my passion or, pedal in this case. No!

Now, what about the environmentalists in Chain Reaxion?

A hundred cyclists embarking on a monthly odyssey which takes them down the ECR is hardly a means to make an impact on the Carbon Signature of the city. If the participants really want to make a difference then they should give up their gas guzzlers and start pedalling, be it going to office or to the movies.

Of course, it will mean no high-heels or tuxedo and probably getting no parking space at the socialite watering holes in the city. It also means walking in sweaty, and at times, with greasy hands to your office cabin. Well, it is a small sacrifice you can make for your Mother Earth, right?

It is funny though that suddenly the city is going ‘ga-ga’ over cycling. The change began a few months back and it coincided with the launch of high-end imported bikes in a city shop. It shows how glitterati obsessed Chennai is.

I remember a salesman telling me which model of bike to buy when I was window-shopping a few months back in one US-import bike showroom in the city.

“Get this one; it was brought by Kamal Hassan and Gowthami last month,” he said. A sales trick but one which will work, especially here.

“My bike cost one lakh you see and I’m riding it because I am so conscious about the environment,” I can imagine a technocrat boasting to his pals.

The same technocrat, who drives the most fuel-inefficient of cars to office six days a week and is obsessed about leaving the AC running while his wheels are parked in the sun so that he needn’t sweat when he gets back in after a ‘power-lunch’.

I see many cyclists on road everyday, riding to work – some doing it because they don’t have a choice while others opting for pedal-power. They could easily take the bus or the train, all efficient means of travel. But they choose to cycle and I would say they are the heroes making the difference to the environment, not the weekend activists.

Now, where do I stand in this dilemma of higher causes?

I cycle because I love the physical exertion, I love the freedom it provides, and above all it gives me an avenue to release the accumulated negative energy due by my sedentary lifestyle and of course the unavoidable career complications in a post-recession world. My contribution to the environment is just a happy by-product.

Damn right I am selfish here. I cycle for myself, for the kicks, not for anything else and I don’t glorify my hobby or passion.

From, out-running angry dogs, to falling head first on a road covered in knee-deep rain water from the city’s share of north eastern monsoon. From, being not allowed entry at the city’s big shopping malls to asked whether my company doesn’t pay me well; this journey-man has seen and felt it all; including saddle sores and achy joints, after that bad skid while racing down St Thomas Mount.

Yesterday, around two in the morning, I got lost inside T Nagar while purposely taking a long detour coming back home from work. Now, getting lost in a city late in the night is no fun, but I don’t mind as long as I have my partner with me, my two wheels.

Kind of make me remember the lines from an old song – ‘Stand by me’ – by Ben E King. I am sure King won’t mind me rewriting his lyrics to suit the situation here.

‘... I won’t flee, I won’t flinch,
and I won’t stop pedalling,
just as long, as you stand,
stand by me... Oh darling, darling,
stand by me, stand by me...’

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Departure lines

The north-eastern star DJ,
flew in with the setting sun.
Enter seasonal night parties,
Kochi shimmers in the spray.

Romantics we all; out in open,
drenched, quenched after play.
But tonight is for moist sighs,
the Queen's crying, not letting me go.

Not now ma lady love,
save the drops I'm still your man.
Will be back through blaze n haze,
the promise; I won't sleep around.

Down the outbound left-hand curve,
time; a Titan shows his might.
On a floating carpet in warped time,
I leave behind the best men two.

Twin rocks, their reflections internal,

wave during the slow-mo drift.
Smaller, yet smaller, and a canopy;
the platform's meaningless; empty!

The train's full, le travellers,
my heart's dull, le solitude.

(On Leaving Kochi by train from platform No 1 at Ernakulam Town Station. It was raining heavily and I was drenched when I reached the station at 9.30 in the night. The North Eastern Monsoon, the season of night rains, had arrived in Kerala two days back you see.)

Saturday, November 07, 2009

A ton of insult

Hours n days merged in gradient;
what week? A year went by!
Months eighteen of my nascent life,
silly me, how I spilt it here.

Epicures and mercenaries, my world;
thoughts seldom beyond a day.
Friends and foes all members,
work now! Cause, maybe later.

Proof hidden in a pile,
a burden to the world.
Bio-degradable paper waste,
hurt - the ego; victim - the Geo.

Congrats and a reluctant shake,
letter of honour, you're a senior.
Author, a higher-order swine;
rewards - just indeed, very much!

Insult followed in a number game,
The payment made, my sanity;
repaid with a hundred note,
Hike? A spike, the esteem bursts.

Friday, November 06, 2009

The Times Impact

It’s a surreal world, hospitals!

Surreal till life’s realities hit you in the form of a critical diagnosis, the rather elaborate bill at the end of the stay or at times, God forbid, the unavoidable of human destinies – death.

But sitting beside my mother in her hospital room this morning, weary after the twelve hour overnight journey, I was slowly getting dragged into the unreal almost dreamy atmosphere inside a hospital room.

Haven’t you felt it?

Perhaps for that you will have to stay at Medical Trust Hospital, Kochi. One of the taller buildings in my home town, it offers you glimpses of the port, the shipyard – and a sneak snapshot of the Arabian sea, from its starboard, the west side I mean.

I hope the picture is clear now: The evening sky, the last of the cargo ships setting sail and below, the after-work traffic, eager to reach their destinations while you are in a glass box, with conditioned air keeping you and your surroundings sterile.

You have room service too, in the form of beautiful and caring nurses and the most serious of doctors. It is certainly a far cry from the unceremonious reality in Chennai – the stuffy room, the late-night excesses and of course the self-imposed starvation, from love as well as food.

Surreal Indeed!

However my mom’s room is on the eastern side. Now I wish Kochi was an island so that I could see the bay from this side too. That is not the case but that doesn’t mean the view is less interesting.

In the morning, you can bask in the golden sunlight which filters through the corridor between two adjacent high-rises – the Pamba Tourist Home and a mango tree.

Don’t get me wrong guys. I know the tourist home, at five storeys, is far from a high-rise compared to the hospital building and how tall can a mango tree grow? But, being on the third floor, the tourist home and the ripe-old tree sure looked imposing.

Anyway, my mom is feeling better now. She had given us all a scare the day before yesterday when her temperature climbed to “104 in the Fahrenheit scale”. She was admitted and iced down and then the usual tests followed. I was not informed for my dad wanted “me to not to worry about it”.

“I have everything under control, not to worry,” he had said yesterday when he eventually called. My dad, of course, is a very capable man. But then I was unsettled and besides what is stopping me in Chennai from being beside my mom when she is sick? Nothing, especially of late, post-recession!

She had fever in the morning, though in the manageable realms of 100 degrees. Along with that she had some kind of boils on her face, possibly allergy. My mother is allergic to almost all known antibiotics. Her blood culture results had some abnormal count; otherwise it was sterile and free from any exotic viruses making the rounds in Kochi. Good news!

Doctor said she could probably go home day after tomorrow so I thought I will also leave town the same day. I was busy booking the ticket for my return trip when two young nurses knocked.

They wanted to change the sheets so I stepped out and what do you know –mom is already friends with them. Mama will never change I guess.

Standing outside, I could hear her say: “That’s my eldest son. He came this morning to be by my side you see. He is a journalist in...” the story went on as I slowly shut myself out of their small talk, smiling.

With such a mother, I needn’t worry about getting introduced to girls. She will manage it for me. I just need to date them and probably love them and build from there.

Minutes later they left the room and I can see my mom beaming. “Son they sure remember you from last time,” she said.

“Last time,” I asked. Now when was last time? Of course, the time I rushed from Chennai to be with my brother Leo when he had a respiratory problem. That was in May, pre-historic by modern human standards. Besides I was here only for two days. These nurses sure seem to have a good memory.

Or is it because of my good looks? I began to feel the hormone levels rising with thoughts that the nurses remembered me for my ‘masculinity’. “Great,” I said to myself.

Then reality hit me, snapping me out of the virtual Greek-God world. Of course, they remember me from the many occasions I have been here at the hospital in the last one-and-a-half years.

Yeah, you heard me right – one-and-a-half years, from the time I joined my new company. Finally I have my personal ‘Times Impact’ story to write.

The First Coming

It is 2008 AD!

The whole nation is immersed in the euphoria created by the biggest circus so far in the game of cricket – the Indian Premier League. The event marketed so big that seemingly everyone was asking: “Didn’t you see the match, where were you last night?

Now, where was I?

Well Leslie Xavier, me I mean, was just two months into the new company and was busy adapting - trying to prove he’s a capable reporter and establish beyond doubt that he’s a more-than-capable desk guy.

I may or may not have proved myself; the coming days will give me an idea. But at that point, in May 2008, I was keen on getting into the new groove – copy editor cum reporter (sports).

Then I received a call from home, that time without delay. “MOM IS ADMITTED TO THE HOSPITAL AND HER BLOOD COUNT IS DANGEROUSLY LOW,” it was the concerned voice of my brother Leo.

Indecision on my part! Should I go? I asked myself even though Sid, my good boss, had said I should leave immediately, adding: “So you will be back in a couple of days, right?”

Indecision again! This time it is because I got a phone call again that blood transfusions were done and mom is better. But the next day she required more transfusions and her blood group is B-negative. So my brother and dad were finding it difficult to find donors.

Enough! I took the overnight train.

Reaching Kochi, I went to the hospital straight from the railway station and spent the next two days with my mom, using my phone extensively to get hold of my old contacts in this small town to arrange for donors. My mom recovered and on her birthday, May 21, she got discharged.

Everything was fine, I was relieved, mom was happy to see me, but little did I know it was the start of a trend, the ‘Times Impact’ in my life.

Strike Two!

The month of August, but things became far from August for me!

By this time Leslie was not an unknown in the big family of ‘sports writers’ my company is known for. My boss had taken a break after “working without taking a single day off for six months” and was in Delhi. Being alone for the first time without our leader, we were a little jittery ourselves but we soon got the hang of it.

Well if we have got the hang of working alone, why am I so nervous, I was thinking, for I was sweating like a pig sitting inside the AC newsroom and the only logical explanation was tension. Especially since I had a light fever an hour or so back.

Sweating stopped after a little while but I was not feeling great. Next day I took a break and by evening I was having high fever and the doctor suggested blood and urine tests. Result: Urinary infection.

Now one advantage about being trained in martial arts is that you can listen to your body and understand when things are not right. I knew something was wrong. Fever kept coming, so did the sweating sessions. I decided to come home.

Sarath, my colleague booked a flight ticket for me, Krishnakanta, my former roommate, brought home the ticket and I boarded the morning flight to Kochi, one not-so-fine Wednesday.

From Kochi Airport, just like the previous occasion when I was in God’s own country, I took a taxi and reached Medical Trust Hospital where my mom was waiting for me. ‘Times Impact’ struck again and I was too much of a pragmatist to notice it.

Dr Babu looked at me and without much persuasion said: “We will keep you here a couple of days and check out what the problem is, especially with this high fever and sweating routines.”

My mom was sitting next to me while I stretched at the hospital lobby sofa, the long wait for a room to be vacated. By 3 in the afternoon the martial artist in me shouted.

“Leslie, get up, time to do something,” said the erstwhile Karate master. Well, this hidden Leslie had a reason to shout. I was losing it, I felt.

Dad was away for a meeting; Leo was in college and didn’t have his mobile with him. So I dialled for Bonny and Roy, my good friends. Besides, both of them were my students in Karate. Surely they will come running to save the fallen master.

They did, and while I was lying in the casualty after a couple of shots of anti-pyretic vials on my hips, I clutched on to Roy’s hand, perhaps for reassurance that things are alright. After a week or so Roy was joking saying he had thought I’ll die that day. Personally I was sure I wouldn’t have died but things were not rosy either.

Anyway, Emergency Room is not a great place to be, the room has too much of pain in it. My fever was not letting up but soon Leo and dad reached and I was shifted to my room, my condition worsening till they pushed in a needle into my left hand and started pumping in an icy fluid, late in the night.

It was the fifth day of my fever and as the doctor said later, his suspicion was proven right when my “condition worsened on that day”.

“It is Malaria,” he said next morning during the rounds. “Classic symptoms were all there you see. Sweating, high fever in between and on the third or fifth day the fever worsens. I had started giving you Quinine even before the blood tests confirmed Malaria,” he said smiling.

Ah ha, Quinine: The saviour of the lives of many soldiers during the Second World War. The best medicine to fight Malaria. “So the golden liquid they pumped into my veins yesterday was that eh,” I asked the doc as Leo, my care-taker for the next six days, smiled.

I reached the hospital never too soon it seemed and it took me two weeks and loads of beef and fish to recover enough to travel back to Chennai.

Lightning strikes thrice!

Life, if you can call it so, picked up as usual there after, the late-night sessions with Sid and the gang on his beach-house terrace usually the highlight of a normal day at work.

The smell of Christmas was in the air when I asked Sid whether I could go home for the Season-of-Love celebrations.

However, I asked perhaps at the wrong time. We were travelling in an auto to the cricket stadium for the final day of the Test match between India and England. A day when Sachin Tendulkar and a “defending” Yuvraj Singh made sure the hosts won the match, a historic win.

So loads of work and besides with Chennai Open tennis round the corner Sid was reluctant.

“Not now man,” he said. “Besides I am going to Delhi in the last week of the month,” he added, meaning I’ll miss the 2008 Kochi Christmas and the Britto Class of ’95 reunion, both special occasions.

I said OK, was not happy though. Perhaps my boss had unknowingly delayed the third ‘Times Impact’ strike by stopping me.

But my mom had a surgery to remove her Uterus on the first of January at Medical Trust and I couldn’t be there. I was busy making pages when she called me a day after the procedure.

“Son, they removed the bag in which you and Leo slept once,” she said. Now that was something which hit me... She didn’t say anything else but I knew she had wanted me by her side and here I was making “tomorrows waste paper” punning with words, giving headlines such as ‘Som-body’s Rocking’ intended for Somdev Devvarman’s heroics at Chennai Open tennis tournament. Devvarman had reached the final where he lost to Croat Marin Cilic.

What did I lose that day? Time will tell.

But now I wanted to be home. So, a week later, after writing ‘feature-ish’ reports and ‘report-ish’ features on squash at the Asian Junior Championships, I boarded the train for home where Medical Trust was waiting for me, this time in the form of post-surgery check-ups with mother. But at least I was being a good son.

It was the third strike in a row, rather a soft strike but man this trend was getting into my nerves. ‘Times Impact’, but why me!

A week later, the day came for me to leave home and I shed a drop of tear when I hugged my mom. It was a season of tears I guess – as even Mr. Roger Federer had cried two days back after losing the Australian Open final to the ‘un-gentlemanly’ Rafael Nadal and here I was hugging my mom and apologising for not being with her during the surgery. I promised her it will never happen again, no matter what.

Easter, election and dentistry

Back to work and then came the recession survival game. Everyone was nervous about their jobs at office. But Easter was coming up and all I wanted was to be home.

“I could do two things if I go for four days during Easter time,” I told my boss while asking for leave. “I can have Easter lunch at home and then two days later I could exercise my franchise at the Lok Sabha elections.”

“Sure,” said Sid and on Easter Sunday, I was zooming down the picturesque Palakkad highway in a taxi, my aim simply to be at home by lunch time, and I made it too. And on my mom’s insistence, I was chewing a rather hard piece of red meat when it hit me again, the ‘Times Impact’.

This time in the form of a tooth cavity, which meant one thing: It’s dentist time!

The next two days I was doing the ‘ooh-aah’ routine lying on the dentist’s chair and a day after the elections; I left home, feeling full, literally – with the cavity filling exercise.

This ‘Times Impact’ trend is turning out to be a real pain in the back side as well as the mouth!

Oh Brother!

Back to work! It was May 2009, Indian Premier League again and I was in the train too, this time rushing to, can you guess?

Yes, Kochi and Medical Trust, where my brother was admitted because of some unknown breathing problem. He was getting choked due to some fungal growth in his throat and my presence relieved my parents and Leo’s tension for sure. Their smiles told the whole story and as he recovered, I found myself wishing, the ‘Times Impact’ could stop haunting me.

Of course, I had noticed the trend. I would be blind if I don’t. Each time I come home I end up at the hospital, one way or the other. Great!

A break?

After doing the good-brother routine, I was deputed to Delhi office for a month and then I was back in Chennai and things were back to “normal”. But too much of routine can also be annoying.

It was meant to be a much-needed break from the rut at office and lucky me, for the first time, I was not anywhere near a hospital during my two weeks stay in Kochi in September this year.

But I was in a bit of turmoil too. Upset at office, unhappy with the way I was working, unhappy with the rewards, I was upset with almost everything in this world.

Almost everything! Well, I can never be upset with my family and my new bike, a bullet!

But I reckon the ‘Times Impact’ was still with me, in the form of a frustrated mind which made me extend my leave till Sid called me back. So, after two weeks, which included binges, bike rides, Karate training, a couple of motor-sport reports and two nights as a bouncer at a night joint, I went back to my world in Chennai, a little refreshed.

The Present Tense

Soon I got back to my usual self in Chennai - not looking forward to the next day, waking up from the wrong side of the bed, late-night bike rides, writing poems, poems and more poems. The last two of my habits are the most enjoyable I would say.

And my world stayed the same till it was shaken out of orbit a day back when my dad called to tell me my mom was feeling better after a day’s stay at the hospital with fever.

Come on dad dear, this ain’t done. She is my mother, how can you do that? Now get out of the room, let me stay alone with your wife for a while, I told my dad as I relieved him from his duties at the hospital this morning.

The ‘Times Impact’ continues in my life, some things never change and this is kind of like a curse, I have started to believe now: Something which I am powerless to change even as the world around me changes by the second.

The night of my first ‘Times Impact’ visit, in May 2008, I had stayed awake while my mom slept peacefully in the adjacent bed. I was watching the UEFA Champions League final between Manchester United and Chelsea in Moscow you see. Man U became the champions of Europe that day. Some things never change.

But wait, Man U just struggled to a 3-3 draw against CSKA Moscow at home in a Champions League group match this day. They scraped into the second round with this draw, but the Red Devils look hardly menacing. Champions, one-and-a-half years back they sure were, but now they are struggling.

How things turn around in this world, how things change. Even my designation at office changed yesterday, from copy editor to senior copy editor, I was told by a colleague. “An honorary promotion”, Dwai Da told me over phone, the gentle giant was pointing at the fact that our salaries remain the same despite the promotion.

Changes! But the ‘Times Impact’ remains a constant in my life till now... Yes, you heard me right: “Since the last one and a half years.”