Saturday, July 7, 2012

My furry friends.

I was having this conversation with a friend earlier today about how I want a pet giraffe. Animals and me have an underwhelming connection. 

I remember the first one that I got close to was Johhny the dog. Incidentally, he wasn't ours. He was my neighbour's dog. A stray, but very docile. For a long time I used to be terrified of him, but one day when he sneaked into our garden, dad fed him biscuits. Then I did too, and we became friends. Everyday after school when my auto dropped me off he would be waiting near the gate for me to let him in. My school auto ran on a partial mix of kerosene so when I got back home I would be stinking of sweat, motor oil, kerosene and lord knows what other substance fueled the auto. But he was the only one who dint seem to mind. 

One fine day the neighbours (not very friendly ones) dint let him out, I still dont know why. Johnny jumped the compound and got in. Nobody believed me though. They thought I freed him. After a couple of days they put him in their car and drove away. Johnny never came back after that.

A couple of years later during school lunch break, me and some of my classmates went exploring in the wilderness. Yes there was a sort of wilderness in our school grounds, proper forest sort, with bamboo and teakwook trees. In one trench we found a dead dog and some of her just born puppies. Immediately I fell in love with a particular black one. It was an epic week, every break 5 of us running to that spot with food to feed the litter. One day I took one pup home, concealed in my lunch basket.

Mom had a fit. 

At that time, I dint understand the fact that a purely vegetarian family of 3, living in a first floor house, with all of us absent in the house for most of the day was not an ideal place for a dog. Dad gave an option. Either I had to stay in the house, or the dog. I, being the selfish ass that I am, chose me. So I saw as the puppy was given away to a friend of dad who had a farm. 

(If you said ee-aah-ee-aah-oh in your head, here is a highest of Fives for you)

The next year, my school played host to a flock of strange white birds. Me and my friend Harsha spent that year during breaks trying to chase and capture one of them. We called it, very intelligently, the kakaokakkkak-KAkk birds. 

In 9th standard, my friend Abhijith got me a fighter fish. Unlike other fishes, this one required no maintainence at all. I remember emptying a Bournvita Jar (yes, kids.. bornvita used to come in Glass jars then) and put him in it. His primary diet was mosquitoes. My dad named him Solle-Kyatha. (My kannada friends will get it)

Abhijith said that the fighter was expected to live for about 3 to 4 weeks. Kyatha survived for 2 and a half years. I remember when we shifted to our present house, I sat in the truck with his pearl-pet mansion in my lap.

I dint mention that after Johnny, I was terrified of dogs again. The constant reports of how some strays mauled some kids did not help. It was until when I was reading The Alchemist, I think. Paulo Coehlo makes a very interesting point about animal's intelligence and how they assess you. It's in the eye contact, he says.

After that, I used to feed some strays near my house. one dog got a little friendly and set up territory near my house. I used to sit out on the cement in the evening, and she used to come sit with me. I used to talk to her and she seemed to understand.

One night I came home late (perfectly sober) and she barked at me and chased me till the end of my road. ME, who fed her and gave her company. Now cat lovers will be smirking, and the dog camp will come up with the theory that she was somehow protecting my house. I take no stand. 

After then I haven't had any pets. Just some animals that I'm friends with here and there. There is a nice ginger cat at Lemon Tree who I named venktesha, and his black friend ChintamaNi. 

That brings me back to how I was telling my friend I'm going to have a pet Giraffe and how I'm going to name him Jeff. You know, to accompany the more Imaginary MuraLi The Silly Crocodile.

She suggested I write a Note about it, so here it is. This one is for you, you know who you are ;)

Stationery troubles

I lost my pen in office today. Probably borrowed by a colleague or rolled behind the CPU and the forest of wires that I suspect is actually the portal to a secret universe.
I have lost pens before, that sent me crashing back through memory lane, to when I was in 3rd standard or so. I had the reputation of losing a lot of pencils in school. I swear, I have no idea how I managed. I had a nice pencil box. It was green, with two layers i still remember. But everyday by the time I got home, I remember never having my pencils.

I remember one particular time when my dad, tired of the constant irresponsiblity refused to buy me new pencils. He said I wouldnt be going bak to school tomorrow and suggested I work at the cycle shop and earn money the hard way. (Yes, we had cycle shops back then, hand operated pumps, 50ps per tyre)
I remember losing it completely and I remember my aged neighbour consoled me, and secretly gave me an old pencil that used to belong to her daughter. She had kept it for memory's sake. She made me promise that I would take good care of it and show my parents how responsible I was.

I lost it the next day.

The next year, If i remember correctly, brought a new miracle to my life. The blessed new Micro-Tip pencil. I remember I was the first one in my class to start using it. My otherwise atrocious handwriting suddenly seemed a lot more bearable when I sarted writing with it. The catch was that I was NEVER allowed to take it to school with me. My teachers were all praise for my marked improvement, and one of them suggested I use that pencil to answer an upcoming unit test.

My mother was really hesitant to let me take the pencil to school, but again, i promised I wouldn't lose it no matter what. They finally relented and I was full of joy. I remember I dint put it in my pencil case, but in the shirt pocket. Come on, I was grown up, and I carry my pencil like a grown up would.

While walking down to the assembly that morning I had the irresistable urge to look over the first floor guard rail to see how many people would admire my pencil today.

Let's just say I dint write the test very well.

Fifth standard, and we were allowed to use Pens. HERO Fountain pens were all the rage, and I'm sure every one of you has gone to class one fine morning, opened the pencil box (now with pens) opened your pens and found it leaked. I always used my necktie to wipe it off. Quite a few times, the tie has transferred the ink to my white shirt.

In sixth standard, the world changed again with the arrival of the "Gel" pen. Coming to school with ADD Gel was equivalent to driving a Ferrari to school. Dot pens were for sissies. Needless to say, I pleaded and pleaded and got an ADD Gel.

I never lost the pen, but the bitch ran out of ink in 4 days.

Things have worked out better for me after those years, I managed not to piss off my parents anymore with my stationery troubles. Though I will admit i have never been able to keep a scale and eraser with me for more than a week. I always used a protractor or set squares or anything with a straight edge to make up for it. Admit it, you've done it too.

I still think of what happened to all my pencils and other stuff and I hope whoever found it made good use of it and will in the future build a lightsaber or something. Or rot in hell, you know. Either.

A hair raising experience..

Well, i've just finished college. Yes finished for good. Mysore University has churned out yet another (temporarily) unemployed graduate. This means that I get to be home a lot more. That also means I get to watch TV!

For people who do not know me very well, I don't really like TV very much. I never bothered for a very long time. Until dad went and procured a huge-ass flat screen Bravia.

Our comically dysfunctional family means that we all eat at different times, and that means I get to eat alone often.

In these dreadful times, I turn to the TV for solace. To help me sail through solitary meals. The DTH system means that I can group my favorite channels in a clump. So I've set Discovery, NGC, Fox Traveler, Discovery Science and Discovery Turbo in one series. This usually gives me the half hour fix of things that I'm really interested in.

But every average half hour that I sit down to watch TV also includes the almost 15 minutes of commercials. They wreck my brain.

Seriously, ten minutes into these commercials and any non earth inhabitor (i dint want to say aliens) can be convinced that all of life's problems include being too dark, having bad hair and incredibly, more hair related problems.

Earlier, it was only women who would scream and faint on-screen if they ever so much as had a pimple. Now we have to endure John Abraham in a spandex running outdoors and teaching you how to be fair.

Then there is the supposed tennis pro, Anu, who refused to wear "tennis dress" in a match BECAUSE HER FRICKIN SKIN TONE DID NOT MATCH HER FACE. Hang on a minute, lets deconstruct this. So common knowledge says that the parts of the body always covered tend to be slightly fairer. But aha, this woman's face, being ravaged by creams for so many years manages to turn whiter than them places where the sun dont shine. Oh and the solution propounded is not to just stop bleaching her face. Surprise, there is a new "revolutionary" product that combines everything of everything that makes her shed her inhibitions to wear "tennis dress". I will dare vaseline body lotion my eternal servitude if they get Multiple grand slam winner Venus or Serena Williams to promote this same tennis wala package.

Super mutant Hair that is used to pull an ambulance out of a ditch? Why do they think that we all think our scalps are a war zone that need "repairing"?

A sunscreen combined with whitening lotion? WTF is whitening anyway. WHY on earth would you want to look like you've just seen a Ghost?

The absolute last straw - sometime ago during breakfast I saw an ad for a deo. Not the supposed attracting and spontaneous sex-inducing types.(that's not true, btw, i've tried) No no, this one is far more pointless. This one whitens your armpits apparently.

I dont want to live on this planet anymore.

Hall of Fame..

Located about seven kilometres out of Leh on the Kargil-Leh highway is the nondescript “hall of fame”. Well, you might think that it’s a place where they glorified the famous people of this region and garlanded statues of them, politicians and the like. I thought it was like that too as I got on my boss’s Royal Enfield headed out to this place.
The first sign that I was wrong was that it is located between a transit camp of the 127 KAR rifles regiment of the Indian army and the airforce base of Leh. Also flanking the entrance are two Howitzer cannons, in army livery. The ticket issue clerk was in full army fatigues.

It’s a war memorial.

The entrance is unassuming but one visit to this little building and it will change your life forever. A nominal charge of ten bucks per person gets you in and you see a plaster of paris terrain recreation of the entire trans Himalayan ranges- the lower, zanskar and everything else up to karakoram and then you begin to appreciate the forces of the tectonic plates when they collided and resulted in this crazy landscape. The nubra, zanskar and Indus rivers hop along as rapids and provide life to this otherwise desert surroundings.

I thought this bit of information was out-of-place in a war memorial, but I was wrong yet again. The sheer magnitude of everything- altitude, tempertures, approach roads and borders are what separates this battlefield from anywhere else in the world.

I entered the room dedicated to operation Vijay. Commonly known to us as the Kargil conflict, this room provides all the details of the exercise. The dates, the timings, the regiments involved and the manner in which it was carried out. Essentially, they mention the folks that they were fighting against as just “the enemy” and the “illegal occupiers”.

Some of you might recall the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan, where the US soldiers capture beach heads in Normandy, France. Now imagine a much smaller army unit capturing a much higher post in temperatures 30 degrees below freezing and up against much better and accurate artillery fire.

Yes, the Indian army kicked a lot of ass and the stories of those soldiers who were awarded gallantry awards (some posthumously) are displayed in this hall, under the head “lest we forget…” forget? Not in a million years!

We find the stories of ordinary 24 to 27 year old men from all around the country irrespective of state or caste who fought alongside each other to secure the borders. If these stories don’t make you feel worthless, then you’re the most pompous ass to ever breathe god’s good air.

After a while of going through those accounts and imagining the conditions you’re trying very hard not to cry openly but the slogans and the atmosphere they create there gives you a very formidable challenge. Suddenly you glance at a slogan board that reads –

“Quartered in snow, Silent to remain. When the bugle calls, They shall rise and march again…”

But perhaps what is most likely to get that lump in the throat unbearable is this exhibit, which I will reproduce here. Please do be patient and try and understand the feelings of this 22 year old –

Capt VijayantThapar, 22, died trying to evict Pakistani intruders from a ridge in Kargil on 28 June, 1999. This is the letter he wrote to his parents days before he made the ultimate scrifice:
(in a beautiful jointed writing on a blue inland letter)

Dear Papa Mama Budhi and Gummy,

  1. By the time you get this letter I’ll be observing you all from the sky enjoying the hospitality of Apsaris.
  2. I have no regrets, in fact, even if I become human again I’ll join the army and fight for my nation.
  3. If you can, please come and see where the Indian army fought for your tomorrow.
  4. As far as the unit is concerned, the new chaps should be told about this sacrifice. I hope my photo will be kept in the ‘A’ company mandir with Karni Mata.
  5. Whatever again can be done should be done.
  6. Contribute some money to orphanage and keep on giving 50/- Rs to Ruksana per month and meet Yogi Baba.
  7. Best of luck to Birdie, never forget the sacrifice of these men. Papa you should feel proud. Mama so should you, meet (name deleted) I loved her. Mama ji forgive me for everything wrong I did.
Ok then, its time for me to join my clan of the Dirty dozen, my assault party has 12 chaps.
Best of luck to you all,
Live life King size.

Father’s message:
The brave way you left this world at the age of 22 is a measure of how you lived your short life and what you valued. In meeting the stark challenges of capturing Knoll against all odds, during the battle of Three Pimples with heroic coolness and single minded devotion to duty, you have achieved immortal honour. In death, you hve epitomized the spirit of national pride- an honor which makes every sacrifice worthwhile. Your actions will forever inspire generations of Indians to come. You have left us with pride for being the parents of a worthy son and a lifetime of pain for having lost a child we love.
Col. V.N. Thapar.

With great difficulty, I managed to wipe my eyes and walked out behind to the little park that has the memorial stone and the Indian tricolor flying proudly over the names of those martyred for the country’s cause. The writing on the foot of the memorial –

                                                      ALMIGHTY LORD, IN THY GRACIOUS KEEPING,
                                                                LEAVE WE OUR SOLDIERS SLEEPING

Please take some time off and reflect on the amazing feats carried out everyday by these silent sentinels of the borders. I’m a changed person, are you?

"In loving memory of those that who set out to serve the nation and did not return... Ladakh, 1947".

Of journeys and destinations...

The road is a person. She has many different personalities. She starts out from Manali being very gentle and embracing, very inviting yet promising nothing. She defends her territory and tests the traveler physically and mentally. She must have been particularly cross the day I tried to go over, she put 6 tonnes of rock and gravel between me and my path.

It was probably a good thing because I woke up to the best view ever. Looking at the snow capped mountain ranges through the foggy window first thing in the morning was quite an experience. Human resilience soon prevailed and I was on my way again. Throughout the day she rewarded me with fantastic views of the pass, a stream accompanying the road all the time. Later on during the day , she began to take away my air.

Altitude sickness can affect anyone, and it affects different people differently. How differently did it affect me? Well let me tell you, being sick on a night when the temperature is just touching minus 9 degrees with just a canvas tent and a few rugs to keep the cold out on a day that you haven't eaten much, other than an omelet and few chocolate bars is not the most pleasant experience in the world.

Next morning arrived and suddenly she was as cruel as ever snowing at us and forcing us to slow the descent from the second highest pass on the way. I barely managed to survive Tanglang La and was ever so grateful when the plains were back.

The final hundred kilometers into Leh is the best stretch, where she is a playful dainty lass, partly tamed by the BRO. Signs on the highway read like “be slow on my curves” and “not so fast darling” probably issued by an officer who shares a love-hate relationship with this highway. They toil day in and day out to keep her tantrums at bay and not to put people at risk. She has taken many lives over the years, a sad way to go. The border security force, the Trishul regiment also has a major presence on this stretch. One of their signboards read “when you get home, tell them of us. For their tomorrow we gave our today”. Indeed I will tell anyone who cares, they are doing the most selfless daring and outstanding service and we simply can’t thank them enough.

Finally after testing you and pushing your boundaries to the limit, she gives up her treasure. Leh is one of the last few places on Earth where you can have a relaxing time. Where the air is unpolluted and where attitudes are that of a welcoming open culture. The landscape of this place cannot be described in words and has only to be experienced. I will go so far as to say it is unlike anything else in the world.

These three days I spent on the road has left me rattled and shaken. The time I spent in Pang was the first time I ever wondered if I would make it through the night. But then I find that little memories of the people closest to me all over the world and their daily battles and the way they face it always picked me up and the faith always remained.

They say it’s more about the journey than the destination, but I’ve always felt that the destination must justify the perils and knocking of the journey. That night I wondered to myself if it was worth putting me through this torture, and if it was worth being like this on the very first time that I left home for work. Once I reached here I realized that the journey has changed me. I appreciate better the value of human life and how helpless we are in the face of mommy nature’s will. I have begun to infinitely respect the armed forces and the other people who strive to make this place a better destination. I thank a million times silently the complete stranger who listened to my feelings and gave me some medications to ease the pain. I miss the pampering only-son treatment I got back home, but I have also learnt to establish well in a new place and get to know the attitudes of the people.

I traveled almost 4000 km in getting here. I experienced the terrible nonsense of an attitude from the information counter at Indira Gandhi International Airport and also the legendary Ladakhi hospitality from Ammo and Dawa my adopted parents here in Leh. It has been a very taxing journey and the landscapes have been as different and varied as one can comprehend.

Yet as I sit here on the banks of the river that gives this glorious country its name, I feel a single tear leave my left eye and I cant help but think, my India…India Incredible...


Women's day Ranting :)

I never got the point of “days”. It’s the 8th of March and somehow is also designated International Women’s Day. I used to think why is it that only on that particular day we all get gung ho about whatever it is that we are supposed to be celebrating and then forget it till the next time the “day” came around. You might remember I wrote about it on valentine’s day. That particular note got most people excited about the stuffed lizard thingy, but then there was this one thought by a friend which in turn got me thinking -  and I quote –

well what you say is true,you don't feel more love for someone on certain days, but ever so often we forget to telll the people who make our lives special that we love them(barring a few exceptions of course!) and lets face it, those are words any sane person would love to hear(i know i loved it when i read your note!!=)). Valentines day just gives us the opportunity to do so…”

Think about it, I kept looking at the letter of it, and not in its Spirit.

So this morning, when I realised its “Women’s” day, I took some time out, and thought about all of the women who matter to me. Just thinking of them made my day. Linguist, Biotechnologists, Architects, Engineers, Lawyers, Dentists, Managers, Teachers, Writers, Artists all come to my mind, and how I KNOW they carry responsibilities with the aplomb and grace that only they could have .

Loving mothers, caring sisters and awesome friends you all are, and I realised, blessed am I to have you all in my life.
This one’s for you, for all the special women in my world, who in turn make my world special, by being there. :)

Cheers, and keep the faith.

P.s: today also happens to be this wonderful girl Lavanya Snigdha’s Birthday, so have a good one, dei! :D

Love and other...

Valentine’s day, hmm. A tough time for some, happy times for some more. Love it or hate it, there’s no escaping it. You just get drawn into the whole thing, and I cant think of any other “day’s” that generate so much Buzz.

From the last couple of years, in Karnataka atleast there was this Pramod dude who wrecked some people’s happiness by being a miserable girl-beating waste of blood and organs. Previous year, they threatened that any guy and girl roaming on the street would be immediately married off. Hell, I don’t know about the others but I ended up laughing my ass off. The things that people do for publicity, I tell you. Anyway, he got dealt with by flower power. No, not hippies but some crazy women decided to send him pink undies. You cant exactly call it Pwnage, it doesn’t match up somehow, but I would sure loved to have seen the man’s face when he started receiving them bloomers.

And so this year, none of the Tamasha. Or nothing that I have heard of as I write this. Who knows, he might have lulled the folks into a false sense of security before jumping out of the cabinet and screaming boo!

One thing is for sure though, if them goons turn up at a pub in Bangalore or some place, the bouncers and the MEN in the pub (yeah that’s right, not the ones in Mangalore) will knock their bloody blockers off.

It’s a crazy day, in a way. One to express our love and all. Also this expression comes at a price. Most mobile networks charge one rupee per sms on this day. So its sort of a chivalrous thing, you text people even if it isn’t free. Total brownie points material right there!

What is the point of it all, is something that somehow escapes me from all these years. What so it’s a day and so you suddenly show your love for someone or something? And tomorrow its NOT, and so you can dial it down a few notches?

And then these gift stores put up huge cards and those godawful bears. Ah, the bears. Grizzly bears are some of the most ruthless hunters, quickest, with an amazing sense of smell, are extremely territorial, can be thrice your height and WILL, I repeat WILL obliterate you in 2 seconds. Yet, a stuffed grizzly will get AWWWed and in most cases (including mine ;) )you will also get :-* ed. On the other hand, the common house lizard is harmless, eats flies and generally minds its own business. But oh boy, try giving someone a stuffed Lizard. I can sense a lot of o.O and 0_o looks.

But then I’m not saying Valentine’s day is bad in any way and I do not have anything against people wishing me happy valentine’s day. Infact its really nice, but its just that, like I was telling my friend in the morning I love everyone I love equally on all days, if not more. Just makes more sense that way.

So this one is for all those in my life who make it special, I love you J
So long, and keep the faith.