Heaven is a place I’ve lived before…

My son goes around posing as an authority on the happenings of our lives much before he was born.

“I know that, you don’t have to tell me.”

“You did this because of that.”

“I saw you doing that!”

…and so on.

On being told of the absurdity of it all, he tells us: Where do you think I was before I came here? I was in heaven with God. I could watch all of you whenever I wanted.

An example: Once when we were driving along Old Madras Road, a car trailer passed by. My son told my father-in-law, “Your car also came in such a trailer.” My father-in-law started laughing and parted with the crucial bit of information that the car he was sitting in was bought before he was born. So how did he know? My son folded his hands and gave a knowing glare.

“One day when I was playing in heaven, God called me and told me, “See that Hyundai trailer going down there? That’s carrying your grandfather’s silver-coloured Accent.” Touche!

I decided to end this game. So I caught hold of him once and asked him, “Describe this heaven of yours!”

“Ah it’s a primitive place in the heart of nature full of babies and gods….”

“Gods, I ask, “not God!”

“Well do you think even God can handle thousands of babies together?”

(Point)

“One god is assigned to 15 babies and…”

“Sound a bit like a school full of teachers to me,” I interrupted.

“No, the gods just watch over us, we spend all our time doing… nothing! We have a clear view of Earth and all the people who live there. We can watch every person when and how we want.”

“And what do you do there?”

“We don’t have to do anything at all and at the same time we can do everything we please. Every thing! Now doesn’t that sound like heaven?”

“OK, OK, then how do you come down to Earth?”

“Well we get to choose our parents. We look down and tell our god: Hey I want that woman to be my mother and that man to be my father and that’s how you two got together!”

(Kids always eventually get their way with their parents. But before birth too…???)

“So I don’t decide who I get to marry and the match isn’t even originally selected by god either. You matched us up?”

“Yes,” he replies smugly.

So there’s God’s Will. Then there’s Wife’s Will. And now there’s Son’s Will. I guess for a poor ole man like me, there really is no such thing as Free Will.

***

Another example: “Why are you so naughty and hyperactive, can’t you calm down and relax a bit.”

“I can’t,” he says…

(And I know another Heaven Story is coming)

“When god was throwing Naughtiness Dust on us…”

“What,” I ask, “is that?”

“Well the gods want us to be naughty. It’s a positive trait. We become naughty thanks to Naughtiness Dust which they keep throwing on us. Well, I went and raided the whole stock and that’s why I am the way I am.”

My wife looks shocked and asks, “What did god do when he found out?”

“He still doesn’t know,” sniggers my son.

My wife continues, “But won’t he get angry when he finds out?”

My son slaps his forehead and says wearily, “God is not like a teacher or a parent. He never gets angry at us. His job is only to guide, encourage and help us. He never gets angry. How many times do I have to tell you that?”

***

My son has a habit of shooting rapid fire questions in the night when me and my wife are about to fall asleep.

“What happens when you put a ton of ice in a pool of lava?”

“What if there’s a Black Hole outside our window right now? Can I check?”

“What if tomorrow doesn’t come when we get up tomorrow?”

“What if our whole life is actually a dream? What happens when we get up?”

“Can we go to Disneyland for our next vacation?”

“Can you buy me another Transformers action figure on your way back from work? I won’t ask for another toy for 10 years!”

They keep coming like an incessant waterfall.

Once he broached the topic of death.

“What happens after death? Where do we go? Why do some people go early? Why don’t you check the Internet for that? You check the Internet for everything anyway…”

I got really bugged and asked him, “OK, you’re the wise guy. You came from heaven. You once asked that god be requisitioned to start an email service between heaven and earth. You knew god. You tell me how we go back there after death.”

“But why would you want to go to heaven,” asks my son calmly.

“Don’t we all go to heaven when we die?” I ask exasperated.

“No!” he says firmly.

“Why?” I ask “sleepily.”

“You come from heaven to earth. So why would you want to go back to a place from where you came?”

(My reserve patience runs out at this stage)

OK, you tell me quick: What happens after death?

My son thinks for a second and says, “The soul splits into many pieces and every piece goes to a different world, a different universe and a different existence.”

That’s too deep for me. I can’t take it any more. I have to go to sleep.

Good Night!

© Sunil Rajguru

Overheard 1…

First official: Who’s next?
Second official: Some professor of Anna University in Chennai called Abdul on his way to New York.
First official: OK, check him thoroughly.

***

First voice: Main kal ek reality show pe ja raha hu, thoda kadki hain bhai!
Second voice: To ja na, aish kar.
First voice: Nahin yaar, programme main sach bolna padta hain. Ho sakta hain ki tumhare khilaaf kuch bol du.
Second voice: Jo bolna hain bol, itne saalo ke baad kya pharak padta hain? Waise bhi maine newspapers aur news channels wagere dekhna padna kab ka chod diya hain.
First voice: Cool

After a few days…
First voice: Yaar maine bola ki mujhe lagta tha ki tu meri aur madad kar sakta tha.
Second voice: Yaar maine poori koshish ki tumhe mere saath rakhne ki, shayad aur koshish karni thi.
First voice: Chal chod, kal pakka mil rahe hain na?
Second voice: Ha yaar, see you then.

After a few more days…
Sachin-Kambli friendship on the rocks!
Kambli blasts Sachin in reality show!!
Ye dosti… toot gayi!!!
How will Sachin react when he finally comes to know of the great betrayal???
………………………

***

Day 1
Guilty?
Nahin! No!
….
Day 12
Guilty?
Nahin!
….
Day 73
Guilty?
Nahin!
….
Day 143
Guilty?
Nahin!

Day 229
Guilty?
Nahin!
Day 230
Guilty?
Ha bhai hain! Main guilty hu! Kya karloge? Bahut ho gaya! Bas ye sawal band karo.

***

International concall
First head of state: Yes!
Second head of state: No!
First head of state: Yes!
Second head of state: No!
First head of state: Yes!
Second head of state: No!
First head of state: Yes!
Second head of state: No!
First head of state: Yes!
Second head of state: No!
First head of state: Yes!
Second head of state: No!
Senior official: Enough children! (Addressing the first) You’ll get your nuclear reactors (Addressing the second) You’ll get your millions.
First head of state: But I’m in a weak coalition government, anything could happen.
Senior official: I read the papers you know, I know you’ve a virtual 5-year-fixed term.
Second head of state: But I’m facing a coup.
Senior official: If you don’t comply, then we’ll organize one.
Interpreter: Kuch to Sharm karo
Senior official: Ah yes! Sharm el-Sheikh…
Interpreter: …is also called the The City of Peace Madam!
Senior official: Then it’s settled!
First head of state: Yes Madam!
Second head of state: Yes Madam!
Interpreter: Yes Madam!

***

© Sunil Rajguru

Why Kalam’s frisking concerns us all…

It could be you or me at a security check tomorrow. If this is how an ex-President is treated, what of us mere mortals? That’s how it concerns me apart from the fact that a fine human being was harassed. America might be arrogant and inconsiderate at many security checks, but at least they stand up for every American in every part of the world, unlike us, who couldn’t be bothered. Whether Kalam protested or not is irrelevant.

What if they tried it with ex-President Bill Clinton in India? His team would have probably pushed the officials aside and Bill would have stormed ahead. Get real. Is Kalam a suspected terrorist or smuggler? What a ludicrous idea!!! Then what were they checking for when they asked him to remove his shoes???

What is a check for? To prevent arms from going on board or to prevent smuggled goods going on a plane or to prevent a crime. Remember some years back Azim Premji was also subjected to a through check in the US. And he’s a billionaire and head of a top company.

I think the thorough check on Abdul Kalam is a slander on the entire nation…

6 Indian usages of English I can’t understand…

When my father was posted in Deolali Camp, an officer told me, “There’s the right way, there’s the wrong way… then there’s the Army way!” Likewise, when it comes to English usage, “There’s the British way, there’s the American way… then there’s the Indian way!”

Here are 6 usages of English that are unique to India…

Lifer for life sentence: A life sentence is shortened to life. A person serving a life sentence is called a lifer. It’s as simple as that. Once when I was on a night shift in the Hindustan Times newspaper, the PTI news agency copy was headlined “Man gets lifer” instead of “Man gets life”. When I pointed out the mistake to my shift head, I was curtly told, “Who knows more, you or PTI?” So the mistake went in the front page. Slowly all the papers started carrying it and today it’s an honourable Indianism.
Note: No army can withstand the strength of a mistake whose time has come

Kindly do the needful: What does that mean? How exactly “needful”? Needful for whom? What if: What is actually needed is that your request be ignored. (What if: What is exactly needed is that you need a kick in the pants for making such a stupid request in the first place?). “Needful supplies”, “needful money”, …are hardly used, you just “do” the needful in India.

Sunil “at the rate of” email.com: The @ symbol has two meanings. The first is “at the rate of”, which is used in accounting in the form of “10 apples @ Rs 10 = Rs 100”. The second is simply “at”. sunil@email.com means sunil “at” email.com. Yet, people still continue to use “at the rate of” in their email IDs. Think over it, you sound like a commodity with a price on your head.

Shoppee: In the olden days it was called shoppe, but pronounced as shop, so it understandably got shortened to shop. I think Indians think it was pronounced as shop-eeee, so shoppekeepers write it as Shoppee.

German Shepherd and Alsatian are different: A German Shepherd is a type of dog. During World War I, it was renamed Alsatian Wolf Dog in England due to anti-German sentiment. In time, “Wolf Dog” was dropped and the usage spread to the Commonwealth (of which we are a part). So they are basically synonyms (something like the British versus American usage). However in India, I’m told by dog owners, “No this is not a German Shepherd, but an Alsatian.” (Or the other way round) In various versions, one is supposed to be blacker than the other or larger than the other or…

Two into two is four: How many times does two go into two? Once, right? Then how in heaven’s name is “two into two four”?

Then there’s the good ole good name (got from shubh naam) and creations like airdash and prepone. In my school, to bunk a class was to “dishu” it, whatever that meant. “I dishued class today” “Why did you dishu?” Nobody knows how that originated. Even the teachers used it! Another teacher used to ask us to open the windows to let the climate in. The same guy called the physics department his residence. So I guess every school, college and neighbourhood in India must have dozens of such gems tucked away.

Which brings me to the “The Indian English Snowflake Rule”…

Just as no two snowflakes are alike, no two Indians have the same English.

© Sunil Rajguru

How to play the Indo-Pak endgame…

Players: India, Pakistan

Non-playing captain: America

Step 1: Pakistan militants attack civilian target in India.

Step 2: India points a finger at Pakistan.

Step 3: Pakistan absolutely denies the attack.

Step 4: America threatens Pakistan.

Step 5: Pakistan starts to make the right noises.

Step 6: India smiles.

Step 7: Pakistan backtracks. India frowns.

Step 8: America armtwists Pakistan.

Step 9: Pakistan accepts blame.

Step 10: India celebrates. America pats its own back.

Step 11: America gives millions and millions and millions of dollars of aid to Pakistan as a reward.

Step 12: PLEASE GO BACK to Step No. 1… Thank You!

Also known as “The Circle of Life” in the subcontinent.

© Sunil Rajguru

How to play cricket with a hockey stick and some old socks

Take a few old socks. Roll the first one into a ball. Take another and wrap it onto it carefully so that the shape is maintained. When it reaches the correct size, stitch the final socks neatly so that you are left with a very strong and sturdy ball…

But I am getting a bit ahead of myself. Why would you want to convert old socks into a ball anyway? Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. There was no shortage of necessities and no shortage of inventions at Sainik School Satara, for the hundreds of boys away from home. One was the necessity to play cricket. Footballs, football grounds and football sessions were abundant. After football, basketball and hockey ruled. Swimming and horse riding were regular affairs too. The only problem was cricket. There were simply not enough balls, not enough bats and definitely not enough sessions in our packed hostel routine.

But we wanted to play cricket. So one genius had a brainwave. What was the one thing that every hosteller had? A hockey stick! What was there no shortage of? Old socks! And what could we find in every study room? Chairs. So the game of hockret (hockey+cricket) was invented (most people pronounced it as hockrate, but I think I’ll stick to hockret). (I think the game could also be called sockret. In that case, the inventor would be Sockretis)

The game is played thus: The back of a chair serves as a wicket. The freely available hockey stick replaces the rare cricket bat. And our good old hockret ball (as mentioned in the introduction to this article) replaces the cricket ball. All the other rules are more or less the same. Now there are many advantages of the hockret ball. What happens when it hits a window? Voila! It magically bounces off! What happens when it hits someone? It pains for maybe not more than 30 seconds. What happens when the ball gets lost? No need to buy a new one. You just pool in your stock of old socks and sit together and stitch up a new one. Luckily, enough of us could handle a needle and a thread to make sure that hockret balls were never in short supply. They were better, cheaper and safer than even tennis balls. So we could set up a game of hockret anywhere: On the road, in a small alley, in a ground or even on the boxing ring.

Hockret also came with its own set of innovations. One of them was to counter the contentious LBW rule. Nobody ever wanted to be an umpire and if anyone ever became one, he was just short of having his head knocked off by a dissenting hockeystickman. What were we to do? Even TV replays and Hawkeye together have eluded consensus among commentators, so what hope was there for us always fighting mere boys? Someone came out with the bright idea of the Rule of Three. “Let the ball hit the leg two times and all is forgiven. The third time it will be out.” It doesn’t matter if the ball would have hit the stumps or not. Three chances is all a batsman got. Not only was this proposal accepted, it was a roaring success. It also gave you the freedom to kick the ball out of harm’s way if the hockret ball was heading towards the stumps.

Hockret allowed you the freedom to chuck. That way, it was more like baseball, since the hockey stick is also pretty thin, like a baseball bat. It let someone like me, who was a failure at playing the “propah” game of cricket, a chance to finally get a few wickets and hit a few boundaries. I still can feel  the grip of a hockey stick and the pleasure of clobbering a soft ball.

Over time, we found that NCC stockings also led to tougher and heavier balls and the dynamics were also different. (Just like Kookaburra versus Dukes balls!) If the ball fell in water, it became all the more unpredictable. Not only was it heavier, it would hit really hard if it came on to you and splash water all around. So hockret’s only disadvantage was that we couldn’t play it when it rained. Mud made it totally unplayable and that’s something that couldn’t be simply wiped off like a leather ball. Football still ruled the monsoon season.

What really made things addictive, was indoor hockret. We had dormitories with 13 beds on each side, so they had pretty long corridors. People started playing in the dorms and that could be done at any time of the day and night (Of course one had to be evading authorities all the time). At times they lasted all day. I think one batsman even claimed to have made a thousand runs in a day! Brian Lara, eat your heart out. Some of us would even play this during our study holidays before the exams. I think it did lead to some of us getting fewer marks than we ought to have.

The hockret we played showed no resemblance to Test cricket or even the one-day variety. The bowler would try to get a wicket with every ball or at least stop the ball from being clobbered. The batsman would try to hit every ball for a 4 of a 6. In fact I think the current T20 is the game closest to our good ole hockret. That’s T20 cricket + baseball + hockey. No wonder it was so irresistible!

I wonder if they still play hockret at our old school or has it become extinct by now.

© Sunil Rajguru

Sainik School Satara Houses and Mess

Trying to be a bad writer and failing at that too…

Every year the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest invites writers “to compose the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels”. This year I decided to give it a shot. How bad could writing bad writing be after all? The intro to the “worst” novel has to be a sentence between 50-60 words in it. I was taught in my journalism college that the perfect newspaper sentence was between 14 and 18 words. So clearly my education wasn’t enough to cope with such a task.

I would have to invoke the spirit of Charles Dickens, that master of the long sentences. But his sentences were beautiful and something clearly from the mind of a genius. Mine would have to be ugly. I also remember one sentence in A Hundred Years of Solitude that lasted a few pages! But even that was more of a literary roller coaster pleasure ride.

Finally, in my own moment of inspiration, I wrote four really bad intros at one sitting. I emailed them and waited for the results. I didn’t win anything, not even a special mention. In the end, I guess they were simply not bad enough. Guess I’ll have to simply try again next year and see if I can sing Michael Jackson’s “I’m bad, I’m bad…” with some sort of conviction.

I am reproducing below my Not-so-prize-Winning Entries:

1.
He was born in Hiroshoma, only to die during the N-blast, re-incarnated as a cockroach to be crushed, reincarnated again as a car which crashed in the test drive, in the end it would destroy itself the moment it was created, releasing energy which was measured by scientists in the long run to measure impending doom.

2.
When he visited Obama he found it ironic as he observed the great man’s black shadow fall on a white napkin, which happened to be on a black tablecloth on a white floor in a black room (as the electricity just failed) in the White House in a grim black world, with white sunshine.

3.
The quark flew out of the proton, destroying the atom, unsettling the molecule, upsetting the chemical structure of the cell of the bacteria nested in his stomach lining and he burped loudly even though his stomach was dry and empty and an unheard of scientific phenomena just passed by, like a million others.

4.
She heard the song Mamma Mia and so watched the movie and thought of her Mamma who she visited and who just died a second before she arrived wishing she had picked up the ABBA cassette a little earlier so she could have got a last glimpse of her alive Mamma.

(For more information about the contest, check the Wikipedia Entry)

© Sunil Rajguru

5 Things I love about Delhi…

1. Bada hain to behetar hain: The King of Infrastructure

Compared to all other Indian cities, Delhi is a monster. Wide roads, fancy flyovers, huge parks, monuments, concrete jungles, multiplexes, universities, a forest ridge in the centre of the city… The list is endless. It’s a happening city full of festivals, plays, Pragati Maidan trade fairs and events. One never gets bored. The concept of NCR made it bigger and meaner. There’s the Metro to stitch everything up and cycle rickshaws if you want to cover shorter distances within a locality.
Trivia: Thanks to the 2010 Commonwealth Games, there will be underground roads, IGI Airport Terminal 3, power production upgrades, a Games Village next to the Yamuna and other expansions. Delhi received its first fast forward in the 1982 Asian Games. This is FF 2.0.

2. Cool cool winters: Dilli ki sardi humko bha gayi bhaya

Zero degrees? I’m loving it! I used to really look forwards to Delhi winters. The city looks beautiful and calm. You don’t have to worry about power cuts. Unlike the summers, you can actually counter it by blocking all the cracks in your home and covering yourself in sweaters, mufflers and jackets. There’s greater variety of vegetables and fruits while everything tastes better in the winters. A hot water bath is absolute bliss! But the best feeling is sleeping under two rajais and feeling as warm as toast. In summers, even stripping down to your birthday suit won’t help matters.
Trivia: Delhi has mainly the Himalayas to thank for its cold waves.

3. History history everywhere in every step you walk

Everyone has heard of the seven cities of Delhi. But do you know you visit them regularly? When you visit the Qutub Minar, you’re in old City No. 2 (Lal Kot). Siri Fort? City No. 3! You pass by Tughlaqabad? That’s City No. 4. Adilabad Fort: City No. 5. No. 6: Feroz Shah Kotla. Shahjahanabad could be called the 8th city, which encompasses Chandni Chowk and Lal Qila. The number of monuments like the astronomical Jantar Mantar, memorial Raj Ghat and India Gate are also huge. Old Delhi transports you to an old world charm whenever you visit it. Lutyen’s Delhi, which could be called the 9th city, offers a great contrast.
Trivia: Delhi in some form or the other has been around for more than 2500 years.

4. Markets markets everywhere and every type of shop

While malls are homogenizing most Indian cities, Delhi has a variety of markets, each with a distinct feel. There’s the upscale Khan Market and the down to earth Karol Bagh. Sarojini Nagar, Lajpat Nagar and Chandni Chowk markets have their own charms. Who can ignore the gigantic and unique circular Connaught Place with its very own claustrophobic underground Palika Bazar. But best of all is the Daryaganj Sunday book market. If you want to know what it feels like to swim in an ocean of books, then this is the place.
Trivia: For malls, one just has to go next door to Gurgaon, which boasts of 30-40 of them. Ambi Mall claims to be the largest one in India and Mall of India promises to better even that.

5. Food!!!!!!

a. Dhaba-Thela-Nirula: Sasta, sundar aur tikau

The dhabas and thelas of Delhi offer such variety and taste. Even the chai tastes better off a thela. Eating low cost is a highly tasty proposition. Despite all the multinationals, Nirula’s is still around and kicking and rocking, offering almost everything under the sun. HCF anyone?
Trivia: Nirula’s began as HotelIndia in Connaught Place in 1934.

b. Snacks ho to aise: Aloo Tikki and Sheekh Kabab

I could live on eating these every day. Have the aloo tikki just like that, in a chat or in a burger. The sheikh kabab too can be had plain or in a roll. Try eating these delicacies in any other city and you’ll get serious withdrawal symptoms.
Trivia: It is said that Turkic soldiers first grilled meat over fires with their swords, the first kababs.

…and 5 things I hate…

1. Summers that sap you of the will to live (Isn’t Hell full of blazing hot fires?)

You can counter the winters, but there is no solution to the summers. Simply no solution! It is terrible. Outside it’s hot, sweltering, sweaty, dusty and uncomfortable. At nights you have to shut the windows because of the hot air. Then there are the power cuts. You want to have so much lassi, juices, water outside, that you are sure to catch some sort of infection and that’s why summer also brings with it its sets of diseases. I also think tempers are greater in this season.
Trivia: The wind system of India brings the hot waves from Rajasthan during the summers. This is called the Loo.

2. An acute case of VVIPitis and it’s very contagious (My reach is longer than yours)

Everyone in Delhi is either a big shot, related to a big shot, thinks he’s a big shot, pretends to be a big shot or is sure that he’ll be a big shot one day. Flexing muscles, showing off, trying to put the other person down are all big put-offs.
Trivia: Delhi and Mumbai have roughly half the country’s crorepatis with Delhi the clear leader.

3. All fogged out (2020 vision? How about 0:0 vision!)

Oh God! How I used to hate Decembers and Januaries because of the fog! Flights get delayed and cancelled indefinitely. There’s a self-imposed curfew in the night. At night shifts in the Hindustan Times, I used to be the laughing stock because I used to wear a sweater, jacket, overcoat, muffler, warm hat… The reason was that I used to hang out of the car and act as navigator to the driver in the freezing cold. That would get me home in 2.5 hours instead of the usual 3.5 (in time to watch the sunrise, if there was one).
Trivia: If the visibility is upto 2kms, it is called mist and if the visibility is less than 1kms, it is called fog.

4. The city of (not so) magnificent distances (Bada hain to behetar nahin hain!)

Why is everything in Delhi so far away! If your office is one side of town and home the other, then half of your time is spent on the roads. Then there’s the maniacal drivers and road rage. If your friend circle is spread equally around the city, then you can kiss goodbye to your social life.
Trivia: Delhi is approximately both 50kms long and wide the and area is close to 1500 square kms.

5. Very poor IPR (This one’s the biggest put-off)

a. Aggression at every corner (Sab jhagadne ke liye kyun tayar rahate hain hamesha?)

That’s the very first thing that struck me when I started living in Delhi. Why is everyone ready to pick up a fight with you at all times? Whether it’s the autowallah, the bus conductors-drivers or the stranger you bump into a crowded market place? The same goes for your neighbours and colleagues. Is there something in the water that keeps everyone of the edge?
Trivia: Aristotle once said, “The inhabitants of extreme climate conditions are deficient in thought and technical skills …” Well in a way that’s true, no one stops and thinks… they just fight or argue. Aristotle also felt that those who have to cope with extreme cold are excessively aggressive.

b. Chauvinism of every kind (You name it, the city has it)

Delhi strikes me as a very male city. There is an underlying current of male chauvinism everywhere. In no city have I seen women so stared at or teased so openly or a visible hostility in the workplace towards women. Then there’s regional chauvinism too. You keep hearing the absolutely ridiculous “Oye Madrasi” and “Oye Bihari”.
Trivia: While India’s sex ratio is 944 females per 1000 males, Delhi’s is a lowly 821. That explains a lot of things. The crime rate against women is also double the national average.

© Sunil Rajguru

Bad handwriting-wallahs unite!

You have nothing to lose but your pens…

I have one very big weakness that I am ashamed of. That is my handwriting. Whether it’s signing my name, writing someone a brief note, or even noting down a phone number, I find it quite awkward to see my squiggly handwriting on a piece of paper. Recently at a parent-teacher meeting, when the principal talked of a handwriting developing a man’s soul (or something to that effect), I was squirming in my seat.

In my whole life, I have met only one person who could read my handwriting with cent per cent accuracy. For some strange reason, it was my chemistry school teacher. Being surrounded by symbols, maybe he found my handwriting another form of some vague symbol language which he could decipher. However, that man was one in a million. What about the rest? To save those poor souls of visual torture, I soon switched to writing in all capitals. Funnily I was pretty good at that. It came out very neat and uniform. I developed a good speed at writing in all caps. In fact, I completed a written test in such a fashion during a job interview well before the stipulated time. The project manager who checked my paper was totally taken aback.

I remember when I wrote my first letter at the age of 10. I was dismayed by its look and feel. Should I post it or should I not? I dumped it in the letterbox and ran. I dreaded the thought of writing letters after that. That was till I discovered a wonderful invention lying at home. It would give me the most legible and official handwriting in the world. Our trusted Olivetti typewriter. After some coaching from my father, I took a 15 paise postcard and inserted it into the typewriter. Then I started typing with my index finger at a rate of probably ten words a minute. After a couple of hours, I looked at my masterpiece. I was thrilled to bits.

From then on it was just me and my good ole typewriter. Slowly I started using one finger from each hand and that itself gave me great speed. I became a letter-writing maniac. I would sit in a closed room and type out a dozen letters in a single sitting. Before I knew it, I was writing hundreds of letters a year. Some letters even rambled on for thousands of words.

I remember the time when I used to study in hostel. I would be back to the primitive, ancient and un-co-operative pen. I used to struggle to write even a hundred words. How I wish the typewriter was allowed in the classrooms and examination halls. I would have happily lugged the device had I got the chance. (Even though it felt like a ton of bricks for a small boy) I got the same feeling when I joined the Hindustan Times, which was doing all its editing by pen and paper at that time.

As a student, I once went to buy vegetables for my mother after a helluva long time. I was shocked jab aate dal ka bhav pata chala. Or rather tamatar ka bhav pata chala. They were going at Rs 20 a kilo. The last I had bought tomatoes, they were 20 paise a kg. I decided to write a Letter to the Editor on this 100-fold inflation to the Times of India.

Now I don’t think I would have sent one if I (a) had to write it out with my ineligible handwriting or (b) had to go to the job typing shop just for a couple of lines. My typewriter saved the day and I saw my name in print! That was a great byline for me. I started bombarding various newspapers with postcards and got published with great regularity. The postcards became inlands and the inlands became A4 sheets. Finally, the letters became articles. I eventually became a journalist. When I look back, the typewriter played a huge role in me getting into the media in the first place.

I always thought that the typewriter would be one buddy that would stay with me for life. But unfaithful me changed all that and went in for a friend sleeker, faster and more innovative than its predecessor: The PC. Today the computer is so widespread and part of our “basic necessities” that it is difficult to imagine that once you would find it nowhere in your neighbourhood.

But the computer and Internet are the true socialists of the world. Whether writing emails, word documents, Facebook scraps, PPT presentations or the like, we all have the same “handwriting” in any part of the world. We are all equals in cyberspace. Now that’s true progress!

© Sunil Rajguru

Crazy roads, take me home…

There is only one rule on the roads of India. Drive to the left. Even that is a custom more honoured in the breach than the observance. That is the very first thing one has to learn while driving on the roads of India. Most of the traffic laws seem unknown to most of the motorists. The throttle and pedals are mere playthings. There’s no need to slow down your car at sharp turnings. (The people around you will be forced to screech their brakes anyway) The sole purpose of roundabouts is to add to the beauty of the city and lanes merely mean more space. If there’s no cop watching, then you didn’t break the rule in the first place.

The rules are more of “opportunity” than “road sense”. For example, you don’t overtake from the right, but from wherever you get space. A motorist in front of you might suddenly show his hand, take a 90-degree turn and cross you without even looking. If you crash into him, it’s your fault. Didn’t he signal you? It’s all part of the game. Pavements are for pedestrians, but in case of emergencies, they have to step down for bikers. Right of way? That’s another term for “My way”.

Apart from this, there are other hazards like cattle sitting casually in the middle of the road, merry pedestrians crossing hand in hand through thick traffic and unpainted speed breakers materializing out of nowhere. Of course, bad roads, potholes, non-working traffic lights and bad urban planning are part of the background anyway.

But you have to hand it to Indian motorists. They are deft at using their brakes, avoiding accidents and executing turns that defy the laws of gravity. Perhaps this is the ideal testing ground for both terrains and drivers. After driving here, one has the confidence to drive anywhere in the world.

For me it was baptism by fire as one of the first cities I witnessed crazy roads was Jodhpur, where traffic rules were at their nadir. (At least in 1981) I hardly saw any cops and the rare one’s present would only interfere in a major foul-up. While cattle can be found everywhere, here groups of cows would totally block the roads. People would simply take a diversion. Either that or it was half an hour wasted trying to make them get up. Ah! People had so much time in those days! Then, if another vehicle banged into you, noticing it was bad manners. I may be wrong, but I actually don’t remember any official zebra crossings. Even getting a driving license was the easiest thing possible, not that anyone checked anyway.

From Jodhpur to Bangalore

When I came to Bangalore, I found that the only constant was that traffic was mad. Otherwise, it’s a totally different world. Bangalore has an eccentric traffic personality. The first thing that sets it apart is one-ways. They are just everywhere! They rule the city. I take one route to office and a totally different route on my way back. I have no other way. Sometimes you’ll be stuck in a maze of one-ways. Now all that would be fine if they didn’t keep shifting like sand dunes. Some last for months. Some last for years. One even changed the evening I returned from work!

The biggest example of this is Residency Road. In the midst of all the changes an unwanted flyover came leading to traffic jams of the worst kind. The problem was rectified by making this wide and long road in the centre of the city a one-way, but not before putting a red light bang in the middle of the flyover. I haven’t heard of such a similar phenomenon in the world. I read a report a few days back that said that cops are about to find a permanent solution for Residency Road traffic. Ha ha!

Another supposedly brilliant solution that backfired was solar-powered traffic lights. They’re great when the sun shining. But when it rains all day, they shut down by evening and there’s a jam. For those uninitiated to Bangalore, the rainy season starts roughly in April and lasts till November.

One foreigner was once telling me how crazy he found Bangalore traffic. Then he asked me out of the blue, “Isn’t cow slaughter frowned upon in India?” I said a tentative yes. Then he asked, “There are so many cows on the roads, so aren’t they bound to get hit every now and then?” I said probably yes, wondering where this was leading. “So,” he popped the question, “when I go to an Indian restaurant and have beef, am I actually eating a road kill?”

Strict, strict, strict…

But compared to many cities, the Bangalore traffic cop is very strict and seems to be everywhere. He’ll keep stopping you and check for driving license, insurance, emission certificate… (There seems to be an official drive against that, but I doubt it will succeed) He’ll even keep his nose in front of your mouth to check for drunken driving in the night. The fine for not having a side mirror may exceed the price of the mirror itself. Even pillion riders should wear helmets, and that too of ISI make. There are traffic police signs and notices everywhere that say Obey Traffic Police (not Obey Traffic Rules).

One dude’s luna got slapped with multiple fines. He didn’t have any money so the police seized it. My friend found that the amount of the fines exceeded the resale value of the luna. So he decided to let them keep it. That explains the dozens of vehicles gathering dust at so many police stations. Another dude didn’t have a helmet and so he got down and started walking near a junction. The cop looked at him dragging his vehicle and still asked, “Where’s your helmet.” When he pulled a fast one and said he was taking it for repair from home, the cop checked the engine and found that it was hot. He got a fine for not wearing a helmet anyway.

My classmate jumped a red light on his humble bicycle and was chased by a cop. When the cop caught up with him, not only did he fine him for jumping the signal, but booked him for over speeding too! My father, a retired air force officer, has always been particular with his papers and following rules. But once a cop after checking all his everything scratched his head, looked around and cut a challan anyway. For what? He found the registration number a bit faded and couldn’t read it (Even though it was legible). Bang went 50 bucks and I learnt about one more traffic rule.

But there’s still one thing that stumps me: If the Bangalore traffic cops are among India’s toughest, how come Bangalore traffic sense is still among the worst in the country?

© Sunil Rajguru

June 2009 Short Takes

15,000 cops for VIP security in Delhi. Never knew VIP stood for Very Insecure Person
June 30

Mousavi: I ran for President and I lost, unfairly. Ahmadinejad: I ran and I won, fairly! Bottomline: Iran lost
June 30

monsoon comesoon
June 30

Strange attractors: Drugs and popstars
June 30

It is the duty of any government to come out with many statutes to counter changing political realities. I think Maya read that as statues.
June 29

Buddha’s 8-fold path: Fight 1. Lalgarh violence 2. Statewide Naxals 3. Mamata 4. Centre 5. Karat 6. Anti-incumbency 7. Singur fallout 8. Low party morale –> all at once
June 24

Federer’s theme song: “I want to break free…” (from Sampras) (He’s already broken free of the Nadal jinx)
June 23

For those still mourning cricket, har saal ek wish karo… 2009: ICC Champions Trophy, 2010: T20 WC, 2011: ODI WC, 2012: T20 WC…
June 23

Will Formula 1 become two?
June 23

My friend’s recession mantra: Less pay, less targets, less budget, less resources. But more pressure, more meetings, more ideas, more hard work. And Tension? Well “More” or “Less” is totally in your hands.
June 22

Will South Africa ever win a World Cup in their lives?
June 19

And reporting live from Iran is… er… Twitter! A social networking site as a window to reality? Web 3.0?
18 June

2008: Dada sacked. 2009: Buchanan sacked. 2010: SRK sacked. 2011: KKR sacked. 2012: IPL sacked (Coz by then there will be 16 teams, 3 IPLs a year and all the players will suffer a permanent nervous breakdown due to Fatigue)
18 June

Manmohan sahab ne Bharat ki Man ki baat Zara deri se batayi Pakistan ko…
17 June

Sigh! No more Royal Daredevilry in England. The Indian Knight Riders Charge has been brought down. From Superkings, we are mere Challengers for 2011.
16 June

Bravo India, you are at the Side and Bottom of cricket. From here, there is only one way and that’s up…
16 June

R.I.P. India T20 World Champs. Nice feeling while it lasted. Till 2011, when there are two World Cups. Hope we can get one atleast :)
15 June

When you watch TV, it’s joy and bliss. When anyone else watches, it’s a Royal Headache.
June 14

The more Pak terror rises, the more funds it gets, which further fuels terror, which gets more funds… And only India gets rammed. In this aspect atleast Obama=Bush. So much for change!
June 13

In India, 5 million children die of malnutrition a year. 5 million are HIV+. 3 lakh die of TB. Swine Flu deaths: Zero. And yet Swine Flu is the only disease that gets maximum airtime in the TV channels. Interesting. Very interesting.
June 13

So the media was right after all. There’s a rift between Dhoni and Sehwag. And it’s going to be a 6700km wide one soon.
June 9

Australia’s T20 status will now be referred to as the Ashes.
June 9

$1.35 million for 1 month+1 week’s play. I can see Symonds’ point of view of not wanting to play for Aus. IPL is a fab Retirement Home for Aussie Cricketers
June 5

Makes us realize how small we are. And how big this world is. 200+ air passengers can vanish without a trace along with the whole plane…
June 5

Every country gets the news channels it deserves.
June 5

If only the BCCI took off their 2020 Blinkers, then maybe they’d get some 2020 Vision.
June 5

Does anyone remember the Tiananmen men? (And to think, in Chinese, Tianenmen means “Gate of Heavenly Peace”)
June 5

I wonder why the Rain Gods of Bangalore get to work mainly in the post-lunch session.
June 4

Wisdom of the Son: You have such a nice office. It only gives. It gives you work. It gives you money.
June 2

Required for total peace in my house: 3 TVs, 3 Sat TV connections, 3 desktops, 3 laptops, 3 broadband connections, 3 soundproof headphones much better than the current Bose ones. I’m serious!
June 1

Australia is fast becoming the Down Under Civilization and if it doesn’t get its act together, its Globalization Act will go Down Under
June 1
© Sunil Rajguru