Friday, June 29, 2007

The Good,The Bad And The Ugly

It is about six o clock in the morning.The sky is still dark as it ought to be on a rainy day.My clothes are wet from walking in the drizzle.Yet that does not stop me from grabbing the window seat.MY next seat neighbour is gnarling owing my blatant refusal to down the window shutters.The chill wind searing at my face is the only thing that helps me keep awake on this journey through ennui in the mornings,as i get to college.

About five stations from my home,a very old man staggers into the train.He looks like a lost fragment from a very ancient past.HE struggles to balance his frame on his two legs and the umbrella-cum-walking stick.The gyrations of the train add to his discomfort.I get up and help him to my seat.I ask him where he is headed to,and wondering what such an old man is doing at this hour in a mumbai local train alone.He tells me he has to get down at kurla.I ask him if he is alone,for which i receive an answer in the affirmative.Me next passenger,who by now is awake,croons,"Chacha,you should not travel at this hour alone.The train is going to get very crowded in the next station.How do you think you are going to get down?" Though the question was very rude,it was poignant.I wondered what the old man was thinking when he got in.

The train is chugging at a steady pace theough locales which have begun to stir.A steady queue of people 'sitting on the tracks' is visible.The crowd inside has quadrupled in the last few stations.The ocassional squabbles have begun.The old man meanwhile is asleep.I look at him.He looks to be about eighty,at least on the better part of seventy.He is dressed in a white kurta as wrinkled as his face.His knee-length dhoti is dirty.He rests his hand on his long umbrella,the old kind.I wonder who he is.Maybe he has escaped the insults and travails of his house.Or he could be a destitute.Or maybe he isjust a newly arrived migrant.Suddenly he startles to consciousness.He looks around,and is slightly terrified of the airless vaccuum that he is caught in.He looks at me and asks if kurla is past.I negate him.After a few minutes of sitting on the fence he asks me where i am getting off.

I am caught in a fix.The old man just told me if it was possible for me to help him get down at kurla.I was already late for my class.Not that i had ever made it in time.BUt going out of my way to help an unknown septuagenerarian through the merciless mumbai crowd would be a herculean task.What if he gets injured while i try to push him through that crowd.I don't want to get into trouble.I decided it was best to slip away while the oldie was asleep.Look,I ain't very proud of this thing,but i have certin limitations.

So VDVHr arrives,and i push my way through the crowd.I land on the platform.In those few seconds,of my feet touching solid ground and the train settin into motion again;My heart went through turbulence.I was still conteplating on what i should do.THen in a flash,i decided.I got in.Pushed my way through the crowd.I don't know how i did it,but i reached the compartment.The seat was empty.Then i saw a glimpse of the dhoti standing out like a pigeon in the middle of a pack of wolves.I pushed and shoved my way through to it.

The old man is right there.He is supported on his legs by a young boy my age.I guess,he must have been in the compartment at that time.I might not have noticed him.He looks at me and smiles.The old man says,"Looks like you forgot me".I apologise sheepishly.The station comes and we help him get down.We ask him if he would find his way from here.He says yes.I trust him,I have no other choice.

Back in my lecture i think about my actions.I am not a very noble guy.In fact,if i could be classified as noble the world would be ruled by the devil.Yet I do know that what i did was despicable.Though i am a member of a NSS group,i did something that was thoroughly disgraceful.Abandon a helpless soul in his most distressed time.The boy who helped him,wasn't asked.He could've gone on without a feel of guilt in his heart.Yet he stepped up to do the job.Why?Because everyday we have a chance to do something .Make something happen.create a difference.I ran away from that chance.He didn't

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Black Board

It has been there for decades now.Ask the prof.He knows that.It is older than him.But its is seniority denied.A mute spectator of years and years of boring academia.If you thought that sitting for 48 minutes in an economics lecture was boring,imagine doing that for four long decades.Every single inch of its body is covered in chalk dust.Its framed edges are cracked.With some sides even sporting painfully etched hearts.But not a word it utters,not a sigh occassionally, or a grumble in between.It watches patiently as it has been doin for years.

My poor prof keeps droning on about micro and macro (economics),while we wander off into our sylvan world of daydreams.HE does not care.But it does.For it keeps on looking at each one of us sternly with disapproval.It knows of everything that has been taught,and of everything yet to be taught.It knows of poetry,Keats and Frost lie absorbed in it.Mathematics.Thousands of sums ahve been scrawled on its smooth black surface,only to be rubbed off and written on again.It has not missed a single lecture since it was hung in place.

History,it excels in.Every love story inside the class has taken place in front of its invisible eyes.Every clandestine meetings it knows of.It knows about the unspoken crush,and about the spoken ones that have been crushed.It knows of flings that lasted till the spring and of longer ones that endured winter.Secret meetings in an empty classroom are not possible as long a it is witness to them.But it is the most trusted secret keeper.It wont speak a word,or break anybody's heart.

It is omniscient.It knows who throws airplane onto the prof's back while he scrawls on the board.It also knows who copied from the front bencher during the examination.It has eyes that keep prying.The examiner can miss the culprit,but the culprit is not missed.But its benevolent heart won't allow it to disclose that information to the examiner.That would destroy a career.

Itis like that vast accumulation of knowledge that lies just behind you,but you never notice it.It is like that black pearl covered in chalk dust.Invisible to ordinary eyes,except those that ask earnestly.If keats was a college going student,his next ode would have included it.Alas,for the boorish human mind,it has no worth.Why you ask? Whenever my prof asks me an unanswerable question,he rebukes me with " Your mind is as empty as that blackboard".How i wish he was true.Except that the blackboard is so full that it can't reveal.Just like me.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The gentleman's game

"So,We are seven in all!"

"No,six.I ain't playing."

The moment I uttered these nonsensicallytrue lines,every eye in the sorrounding turned to me.each one of them as menacing as the next in line.The cap stepped ahead.

The Scene : A game of cricket
The Place: My friend's colony compound
The purpose:whatever you might like

"Listen up H.We need men right now.And you are one of those that i expect to stand and put your hands up.",poor fellow sounded desperate.

"But I am not good at cricket." Yes.Unfortunately,that is true.

"I don't care.It is enough that you know to play.You are in" and then there were seven.

Honestly,I didn't know what was there to be so emotional about.It is just a goddamn game.But no,people here take everything else other than life seriously.So,we marched to the ground.Seven totally uninspiring and incompetent fools.Against a team,who wouldmilk us for 250 Rupees' if we lost....(which i guess is obvious).The captain was my friend,and i had hardly expected such boisterous reception when i landed at his house.I was immediately dissapointed to know that the joy was more out of finding his 7th player than on seeing a long-lost friend.

The captain of our rival team walks...nay,swaggers to the centre of the pitch.He is a pretty good player.I can deduce as much when a 6ft 2 guy with the perfect built walks near you.We are ready for the toss.The coin goes up,we call tail.And we win....the toss.

So jock looks at my freind(though i doubt i should call him that after all this) and asks

"New guy?Where did ya catch him?" right!from the Byculla zoo.Why?Do i look familiar.

"Oh!He is an old friend.Pretty good with the bat." What?????Wha the...who in.....why did.....AAArghhh!

My cap turns to me and throws his gloves to me."You open"

"But .....I am really not good at this."

" That is ok.We got backup." how reassuring,thanx a mile cap.

So i walk out to the field.The guy at the other end is as nervous as i am.I loosen up myself.check out the field settings.Take'my guard' and ask for divine intervention.

I would have posted the entire details of the match,but i guess the story of my batting is a summary of it all.We didn't have much fielding to do....OOpps!Did i give away the climax.

The first ball.A beauty.Pitches on good length.Has a late swing to outside offstump.I do the perfectly precise demo of 'how to leave such balls'

The second delivery.Pitches in line.On full.I dig deep and manage to keep it away from my stumps.

The third.It gets interesting from now on.Pitches short.Rises to my shoulder length on the offside.I rise up on my toes.Flash my blade at it.Sehwag style...the good lord bless him.The ball flies over third the boundary.Rejoiced and jubilated,i look around.My runner is walking towards me like a zombie.My cap is staring open mouthed at me.The rest are happy.

The bowler is now furious.He runs into his work with renewed vigour.The fourth ball,is almost similar.The ball pitches in 'my zone'.I go for a straight drive.The ball just delays itself.It moves after i am fully into the shot.The next moment,a searing pain rises to my head from my ...eeehhhhmmmm area.I just can't breathe.

Now,I am furious.I get up.Take a deep breath,and ready for the next one.The ball is a 'lollipop'.
I just push it towards fine leg and scamper a single.

My partner lasts the next ball.I regain strike for the next over.

New bowler.Surprise...this is the cap himself.He looks menacing.He looks determined to take my wicket.He marks his runup

The first delivery.Pitches short and keeps rising.It is a BOUNCER!!!I duck,as best as i can.The ball ducks with me.Trick one.shit!I turn away.The ball smacks me on the side of my skull.I suffer a brain hammehorrage(Forgive the spelling).Bowler,comes right next to me.Apologises as if it were compulsory.walks happily back to his crease.

I get up.For a moment,I think i've lost my eyesight.But then,The keeper hands me my specs.I put them on.Wiggle my head and get on.Every anthem from "The Eye Of The Tiger" to "We Will Rock You" starts playing in my head.No pain,no pain.that is all i say to myself.

By now i've faced six deliveries.An over.This is the longest time i've stayed on crease...alive.The blood in me gushes.

The next ball.A widish good length .I cut it through the covers.It races,so do i.We get a two for it.By now,my teammates have regained confidence in me.I have too.They are cheering me.

I am now swaggering at the bowler.He is calm.The next ball is abeauty.It pitches almost perfectl in his'zone' near offstump.I am drawn to it.It moves,not out but in.Right through my gates.I try to adopt some defense,but can only swing the bat at it in a visibly awkward manner.My middle stump...The stump goes flying to the keeper.It is vindication for him.My short lived heroics come to an end.

The rest is history.My entire team scored 29 runs of 8 overs.6 of which belonged to me.We were releived off the field in 4 overs.Need i add more.Yes,of course i do.

I do not like to brag about myself.But the antics of mine that day,convnced me that i can play cricket.That stupid,awfully boring and impossible game that my dad criticises me for not being able to play.Oh!!just one problem,he won't beleive me if i told the truth.So should I .....maybe add a bit more masala........?don't worry,he loves stories.