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?)