Who’s The Bigger Threat?

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Anyone who knows me or  has followed this blog, definitely knows that I’m a connoisseur of bad Bollywood cinema. To be honest with you, I’m the kind of guy who enjoys The Dark Knight and Purani Haveli in pretty much the same vein. Naturally then, I had more than enough reasons to be excited last month . For starters, Himess Bhai was about release his second movie Karz (with extra Zs free), which was destined to deliver a truckload of laughter for ‘fans’ like me before it went straight to hell on a haath gaadi. Sadly I didn’t manage to catch that awesome movie. Himess Bhai crashed out of the theaters before I could say ‘Ooooo Huzoooor!’ But all hope was not gone, because over the last month or so, a strange little man had emerged out of nowhere and suddenly taken over all the bus-stops and TV screens at Shoppers Stop, McDonalds and even the new digital signage at the railway stations. That man of course was KRK, producer and lead actor of Desh Drohi a man who we’ve already exalted earlier this week.

7th November was to be the D-day when KRK and his motley crew of 2 item girls and 15 villains would roll into town with their drama, emotion, action, comedy and social messegwa! What made the day even more exciting was that Dasvidaniya a bonafide, well made film was to be released on the same day. The Thursday before D-day however, both movies were nowhere to be seen in the movie listings though the TV promos proudly declared Coming November 7th. As it turned out later, Bollywood had gone into a frenzy and for some reason, every Raj, Rahul and Prem wanted their movie to be launched on November 7th. As a result, our two diametrically opposite, small budget movies couldn’t afford the theaters that week and both pushed back their release dates to the coming week.

While Dasvidaniya managed to stay controversy free after that, Desh Drohi faced a different fate. A B-grade, shoe-string budget movie, that until recently few (like me) cared about (mostly for a quick laugh) was now the talk of the town with everyone from the Delhi Tribunal to the Maharashtra CM giving their opinion on it. Unfazed, the great KRK pooled in all his remaining financial resources (remember he financed his own damn movie!) and went on an all out rampage to campaign the crap out of Desh Drohi. If earlier one saw Desh Drohi posters at Bus-stops, one could now see them on the buses too. Heck my harmless KRK blog-post started receiving hits by the hundreds after some alert Manoos linked it to the Orkut community of a party which seemed very concerned by the movie.

Amidst all the hullabaloo no one really seemed to notice that Desh Drohi, if it managed to make it to the theaters, would now get a decent amount of curious spectators who’d want to see what exactly was so ‘inflammatory’ about it. If all went as planned, KRK would even make a buck or two in profits. That, however was not meant to be. After screening after special screening, the Maharashtra government finally decided to tadipaar Desh Drohi from Maharashtra for 2 whole months, a time frameafter which, let’s face it, most movies are completely erased from the juntas memory. This probably is the end of the road for Desh Drohi, but it is also the start of a discussion.

We need to ask: Was it Desh Drohi that was a threat to the decorum in Maharashtra? or was it the people who threatened that the city would burn once again if it were released? Who really deserves to be kicked out of the state, the movie or these mindless vandals who kill in the name of cultural pride? Let’s face it people, if Desh Drohi was even a tenth as influential as the government that banned it built it up to be, KRK would be a millionaire by now. Desh Drohi was at best, a B-Grade movie filled with has-beens and never-will-be’s. The only ‘negative impact’ it could have caused would be the mild-headache that one is left with after watching movies of the Himesh kind. Yet we’re made to believe that Desh Drohi is the problem here.

Sadly, the ones who have both the power to influence minds in Maharashtra and spoil the decorum are the ones the state has catered to. Today, it’s an obscure B-grade movie that has fallen at their hands. If something isn’t done soon enough, soon the state will too.

I mean seriously, does this look like a man who can convince you to come out on the streets and break stuff?

2_deshdrohi05-copy

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The Great Indian Democrazy.

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Disclaimer: The above interview was a work of fiction. Any resemblances to any politicians dead/ alive are purely co-incidental. Even if not, we don’t claim responsibility.

In November 2008, Americans voted in record numbers in a landmark election which gave America it’s first African-American President, Barack Obama. With his message of ‘Change’, the young Obama has managed to unite a divided America. Closer home though, we didn’t really have a leader to match Obama, until recently that is. Last year, a young, fiery politician, won the TV reality show Bleed India and since then has taken the politics in India by storm. I present to you ladies and gentlemen, the chairman of the SMS (Super Maniacs Sena), Mr. PK Kulkarni. Here are some excerpts from a free-wheeling JAM interview that covered everything from his views on President-elect Obama, to his plans for the forthcoming elections.

JAM: Both you and Barack Obama have risen meteorically in politics. Do you think it’s fair to say that the two of you are similar politicians?

PK: Of course of course, I totally agree that Barack and I are very much like each other. In fact, I can name so many similarities between us right now: He is the first Black President in the history of America. I am the first leader in the history of India who blackens the faces of other leaders! He supports the minorities in America, my supporters are a minority in India. He is in favour of change, my party workers will kill for loose change. Arrey, in fact, our slogans are similar too! He says ‘Yes, We Can!’, my party says “No, You Cannot!”

JAM: Your party has been at the receiving end of a lot of flak because you said that non-natives should leave Maharashtra and go back to their home states. Are you really against all immigrants?

PK: This is entirely false, I have always welcomed immigrants to the state. In fact, I’ve always maintained that people from all over India can come to Maharashtra and stay as long as they want…provided they leave the next month.

JAM: The Supreme Court has recently said that Maharashtra is becoming increasingly unsafe for Non-natives because of your party. What are your comments?

PK: Once again, these allegations are absolutely false. My party does not believe in discrimination against anyone. Yes, I admit Maharashtra is unsafe, but then it is unsafe for everyone no? Tomorrow if the Supreme Court orders that I should be arrested again, my party workers will attack everyone: native or non-native.

JAM: As a matter of fact my next question, was about your arrest. When the Police took you into custody last time, your supporters went on a rampage, destroying several PEST buses and auto rickshaws in protest. Isn’t this ‘Jungle-Raj’? (no pun intended)

PK: No no, you are unnecessarily tying up two unrelated issues. The destroying of those buses and rickshaws had nothing to do with my arrest. If you remember, my party had given an ultimatum to PEST and the Rickshaw Union to replace their old vehicles with a new fleet as a part of the MM-Mar-Diya Infrastructure Development Project which expired on that same day. As both PEST and the Rickshaw Union failed to replace their vehicles with new ones, we destroyed their old ones. So you see, we were doing a great service to the citizens!

JAM: Recently, an angry young man hijacked a PEST bus and even threatened to kill you. Is this a matter of concern for you now that the Police has lowered your security to B-Grade?

PK: (Laughs) Arrey these people are amateurs. Everyone knows that you hijack planes and destroy buses and not the other way around! As far as my security goes, my party workers are enough, I don’t need the Police. As you have seen before, they can destroy a bus (hijackers included) before you can even say, “Cha Mailaa!”

JAM: On a lighter note, rumor has it that you were asked to participate in the TV-reality show Bigg Dogg. Considering that you’ve already won a reality show, why didn’t you participate in Bigg Dogg?

PK: Let me tell you the inside story on this Bigg Dogg fellow. Three years ago, he came from another state for the Railway exams and was hired as a Railway Announcer. Back then he had no issues making announcements in Marathi, Hindi and English, but now since he has a high paying job, he makes announcements only in Hindi. I refuse to take orders from a Railway Announcer, especially if does not speak the state language! And who is he to tell me what to do and what not to do? That coward doesn’t even show his face!

JAM: Thank you so much for your time, Sir. All the best for the upcoming elections.

PK: Thank you very much…wait what did you say your name was? Paras SHARMA? Cha Mailaa, that is a North Indian surname!

JAM: Er…something wrong Sir?

PK: No no, nothing, just turn the camera off, my party workers just want to have ‘a brief talk with you’. Thank you for coming.

P.S. No Animals were harmed in the making of this interview, not even this writer. Now if you will excuse me, I need to go get my stitches removed.

– Paras Sharma. With Camera-person Satish S.

Barack Obama and The Winds of Change

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Now I’m the kind of guy who checks the ‘Apathetic’ box under ‘Political Views’ almost by reflex. The fact that the politics in India sets new lows in dirtiness and underhandedness has only strengthened this stance of mine over the years. All of that however, gradually changed over the past one year. As a democracy loving Indian, I have been gravely disturbed by the seemingly unstoppable terror attacks that have rocked our nation on numerous occassions since the 11/7 Mumbai Local train blasts. The absolute inability of the state governments and the centre to both check these attacks and bring those responsible to justice have only irritated me further. Add the emergence of divisive radicals such as Raj Thackeray to that and I’m sure most people wouldn’t blame me if I said I no longer had any faith in what has now become a mockery of a democracy.

Despite my disappointment in my very own country’s political state of affairs, I stayed awake until the early hours of the morning to watch the outcome of an election that we had absolutely no say in. It would be unfair to say that I was merely curious to see whether Obama or McCain would eventually cross the finish line and take the White House. I was in fact just as anxious and hopeful for a Barack Obama victory as any of the half-a-million people present at Grant Park, Chicago last night. The fact that this election would have a great impact on the economic conditions all over the world was obvious, but that wasn’t the reason I was concerned about these elections. The reason was Barack Hussein Obama.

This man, who today has become the first African-American President in the history of America, is certainly special. His meteoric rise in the last eight years, from the time he unsuccessfully ran for Congress to becoming the winner of the longest and the most expensive election in American history ushers in a feeling of hope in a time where hopes aren’t too high the world over. His charisma and his ability to capture the imagination of the public every time he addresses them has certainly earned my respect. The way he has beaten the odds of having neither the experience nor the conventional lineage of a US President gives hope that maybe some day the world will look beyond race and religion and consider the ability and the character of political candidates.

While Obama’s victory is a proud moment for me and possibly many other Indians, it is also a stark reminder of the fact that  there isn’t a single leader in India today who excites us quite the way Obama does. While I felt privileged to have witnessed a piece of history being made last night, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the day would ever come when I would feel even half as excited for an Indian general election.

Change may have arrived in the USA, but how long will it take before we see one here in India?

Farewell Anil Kumble – A Retirement Tribute

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In the weeks leading up to the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2008, the BCCI (as usual) made a gaffe of gigantic proportions by announcing to the blood thirsty media that ‘Senior players should inform them of their retirement plans so that the BCCI can prepare for an appropriate send-off for them.’ That careless let-up by the richest cricket board in the world nearly ruined what could have been a perfect farewell for the top senior players in the Indian team, who by all means, have earned it.

Within no time the media-hounds were in hot pursuit of everyone from Tendulkar to Kumble enquiring whether there was pressure on them from Board to hang up their boots in a hurry. While most remained mum, one man who characteristically remained reserved in situations such as these snapped back saying ‘I will retire as and when and I want to.’ That man, of course, was Anil Kumble.

In the weeks to come, Kumble’s defiant statement was overshadowed by Saurav Ganguly’s decision to retire from international cricket at the end of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy 2008, and his subsequent outburst at the outgoing selection committee. Naturally then, when the series commenced all eyes were glued on Saurav Ganguly. Every run he made was cheered, every fifty he hit was built up as a slap in the face of Dilip Vengsarkar and every passing day became a reminder of the gigantic void he would leave behind once he retired.

Around the same time, the senior-hating media, unaware of Kumble’s future plans, heavily criticized his captaincy in the first test and questioned his fitness when he pulled out of the second. The anti-Kumble media protest became the shrillest when he was selected ahead of Harbhajan Singh for the third test match in Delhi, with some caustic yesteryear figures going as far as saying that it would cost India the series.

Unaffected as usual, Kumble went ahead took to the field with his men as they pummelled the Aussies during the first two days piling on a score in excess of 600 runs.

In the Aussie reply when Kumble injured his left hand while attempting a difficult catch, more than a few snickered knowing that he would now be unable to play the final test and his chances of returning to the Test side would be bleaker still with Amit Mishra announcing himself as Kumble’s heir apparent.

As the third test headed for a tame draw on the final day with Ganguly batting on 30-odd runs at ground littered with ‘Farewell Saurav’ hoardings,Kumble surprised the world with a googly, the likes of which he fauxed batsmen all the world over the years. To the world and to the BCCI (with their ‘Retirement Scheme’), the announcement may seem absolutely out of the blue.

But anyone who knows Kumble or understands the man one bit would know that this is exactly how he wanted to go – On his own terms without the maddenning excesses of a BCCI function. Truly his timing was perfect!

When the world questioned whether Kumble would ever return once the finger injury ruled him out of the final Test at Nagpur, Kumble defied all speculation with a bowling spell that was both a testament to his ability as a player and his mental strength as a competitor. With a heavily bandaged left hand, Kumble managed to pick up 3 wickets and wrapped up the Aussie tail, much like in the Caribbean half a decade ago when he came back to bowl even after his jaw was shattered by a Mervyn Dillon bouncer.

Cricket pundits may celebrate his 6-12 in the Hero Cup or his perfect 10-76 at the very ground he announced his retirement today, as his most impressive performances, but to me the two abovementioned instances where Kumble battled both his critics and his own body will remain as the most enduring images of the man.

His retirement may not be conventional, but then again, Kumble never was a conventional player to begin with. The purists called him more of a medium pacer than a spinner but his statistics speak for himself.

Throughout his career, he soldiered on for the cause of team. Rarely was thanked for it. The test captaincy as most agree came half a decade too late but regardless of what ‘could have been’, it’s very likely that Kumble retired today as a man with no regrets.

Amit Mishra’s performance in the first test may show a sign of hope for the future, but there’s no denying the fact that there’s a long long way to go before the void that Jumbo leaves behind will be filled.
Farewell Anil Kumble – And Congratulations for a glorious career!

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For those of you on Orkut, share your tributes here

Breaking News: Khali Mahabali Ko Naye Challenges

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It was 1997. India, playing against archrivals Pakistan in the Independence Cup final, was chasing a mammoth 315 run target. Eventually the equation came down to 9 runs from 6 balls with 3 wickets. Now in the zamana of T20, 9 off 6 is child’s play even for Ashish Nehra with one arm tied behind his back. But let me remind you, this was 1997. India rarely ever made totals this big; in fact this big a total had never been chased. It looked like the same would be the case, as India needed 3 runs of 2 balls with an inexperienced left-hander on strike. Saqlain came in and bowled a short one and BAM! The rookie clubbed him to the mid-wicket fence for four! I’m sure at that point he didn’t know what it meant, but the young lad who struck those winning runs, was virtually guaranteed a spot in the Indian team for the next one year solely on the basis of that boundary. I like to refer to this peculiar Indian tendency as ‘The Kanitkar Phenomenon’.

Ten years later in 2007, the phenomenon resurfaced again. And HOW! This time it was The Great Khali! He gallantly marched into the ring and knocked The Undertaker out cold with his dhai kilo tonne ka haat. Bas since then, he’s been on the Breaking News bulletins on Aaj Tak, India TV and Star News thanks to that one tagda blow!

It really pains me to see Khali achieve such dizzying heights while other great Indian wrestlers languish on the sidelines. What’s that you say? There aren’t any other ‘Great Indian Wrestlers’? Yeah right! Prepare to be shocked baccha log. Here I present to you, The Great Khali se bhi great wrestlers in India:

1) The Great Thali: Hailing from Kathiawad, Gujarat, this behemoth savours challenges like dhokla and undhyu! Weighing in at 250 kg, he can beat the best in the business to aam ras in a matter of seconds. His signature move is the Dandiya Wrath in which spins four times before striking the opponent on the head with a stick
Achievements: The Great Thali is the Udipi Wrestling Federation (UWF) Champion for the last 3 years.

2) The Great Bengali: He is the hunk from Howrah with Bengal tiger like reflexes and a complexion as fair as a rasgulla. His motto is Torbo (To break), Lorbo (To fight), Pitbo (To beat). Thanks to his good looks he has received a lot of Bengali as well Hindi movie offers off late.
Rumours: Around April this year, Kal Tak found semi-nude pictures of The Great Bengali with scantily clad, foreign cheerleading girls on hoodibaba.com, these reports however are yet to be confirmed.

3)The Great Idli: They call him the Dakhsin Devil. This 6’10, 230 kg Malayalee monster is the second heaviest wrestler in the UWF. He gobbles up competition like the 35 idlis that he has for breakfast everyday. Despite his enormous girth, he is one of the most agile wrestlers in the business. He is known to back-flip from the mat to the top rope in a Rajnikant-esque manner.
Achievements: The Great Idli has never lost a casket match…because there isn’t a casket big and strong enough to hold him!

4)The Great Mali: Previously a gardener by profession, The Great Mali is adept at taking care of all kinds of ‘Obnoxious Little Weeds’. Not afraid to speak his mind, he calls a spade a spade. His signature is The Fertilizer where the slams his opponent face down on a pile of horse manure!
Rumors: They say that The Great Mali once killed a man by throwing a flower pot on his head!

Bleed India

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In this time of political turmoil, the need of the hour is a new leader, one who will show the way to a whole new generation of Indians. The time is now. Let us not point fingers at one another, let us not point that very finger at ourselves either (no one wants to the responsibility). Let us find the person we can collectively point fingers at and who in turn can conveniently point to others. I hope the point has been made clear through all the pointing mentioned so far.Just like that other lesser known show on TV, we went all across the country in search of the best thing to have happened to Indian politics in recent times. After a long, tedious process, the winner was selected by a very complicated procedure- a SMS poll. Here we bring to you our winner, Mr. PK Kulkarni in his first ever interview to the world right here!

Pazz: Mr.Kulkarni, it’s a pleasure having you here. Thanks for giving us your precious time. I am sure you have a very busy schedule and many media commitments. We are truly honored that you chose this ordinary reporter to conduct your first ever interview.

PK: You mean you are not a popular fellow?

Pazz: Well my blog is featured on the first page of Google if you search my name. That apart I wrote an essay for my college magazine a year and a half ago. It was half a page long!

PK: So if I say something controversial…I mean…important here…will it get publicity?

Pazz: Oh sure it will, the hits on our website will go through the roof, we may get as many as 50 hits. Also my professor told me there was space for a 3/4th page article in this year’s college magazine. You see sir, you are in very safe hands.

PK: Great to hear that. Chalo start the interview.

Pazz: Yes sir! First question. How do you feel after winning the all India politician hunt ‘Bleed India’?

PK: I cannot answer that here, I’m sorry. That question has already been reserved by Aaj Tak. Next please.

Pazz: My kindest apologies, Sir. I have a fantastic original question for you right here (shuffles through sheets). Ahh yes, Sir, what in your opinion gave you the edge over your opponents?

PK: Well you see, firstly, I have exceptional educational qualifications compared to my competitors. Yes, its true, I scored 43% in my SSC, my closest rival got 37% on his second attempt, so that was a clear advantage.

Pazz: Impressive indeed, but we have reason to believe you had political Godfathers who helped you out?

PK: Well it is true that I am the youngest son of the ex-Chief Minister’s wife’s cousin sister’s neighbour’s daughter, but I can assure you that Uncle Ji (as I respectfully call him) gave me nothing but blessings and Rs.101/- cash (taxes deducted of course! You see I am a regular tax payer also).

Pazz: Bravo Sir, great answer. Here is a question from the audience. Shall I proceed with it?

PK: Oh you have an audience, that means publicity..hmm of course…go ahead!

Pazz: Very kind of you, Sir. Mr. Varma from Dadar has just completed his graduation in Commerce and is on the look out for a job. But so far he has had no luck. He wishes to know what you will do to generate employment for the unemployed all across the country, starting with at the micro level of course, Mumbai?

PK: I will take some time to answer this question because I need to explain my theory of why there is unemployment in our city to begin with. You see, Mumbai has lots of jobs already, and new ones are being generated everyday, but something somewhere is going wrong. Our dear brothers from the other states, who are equally capable of course, many a time, take these jobs up before people like Mr. Varma can. I have a brilliant plan in place for this. India as we know is a richly diverse country, so that means there are a lot of other communities apart from the locals like Mr. Varma. My party itself on an average requires about 100 candidates to riot and protest in the streets each time we wish to beat up people from a particular state. Now multiply that by the number of communities and states in India and the figure is….well quite a big number. Now you may ask, what will these youths who have been fighting and beating up their fellow Indians from other states do after all the immigrants are driven away? I have an answer to that as well, we will give them all the jobs left vacant by the ones who moved back to their home states to these very youths.

Pazz: I can’t help but notice that your agenda sounds a lot like your rival parties’, Sir.

PK: What rubbish! My plan is original and unique. Did any of my so called rivals make a provision for a fixed percentage of seats to be reserved for our local youths in every organization?

Pazz: Yes sir ,they did. In fact all of them.

PK: Well that’s where I differ from them. They asked for a 70% reservation, I personally am quite okay with 65%.

Pazz: Brilliant sir! Absolutely revolutionary. But don’t you think it’s a little harsh if your party workers decide to beat up anyone who is not a local. I believe there is a constitutional law against it.

PK: Did I say beat up? Of course not, I didn’t say that. I meant ‘assist to the nearest airport or railway station’.

Pazz: Oh I’m sure we could edit that in. Please continue, Sir.

PK: Yes yes, as I was saying. The social fabric in our nation is in tatters today because of two very important reasons. Firstly, joint families are disintegrating. In our bid to restore the institution of joint families, we plan to send back everyone who comes to city for a job or whatever reason to their hometown. This would also fix the second main reason for social degeneration in our society, ignorance of traditional values. If everyone stays in their own states, they will automatically learn their native culture. Thus we will achieve diversity, unity can always be achieved in the next 5 year plan.

Pazz: A lot of your critics have accused you of being a supporter of moral policing and regionalism. Some even call you an enemy of democracy. What is your answer to these critics?

PK: I will firstly sue each and everyone of these so called critics as soon as I have a political post of any consequence. All I can say to these naysayers is something my teachers in school always told me, “Do your homework well.” They have conveniently ignored the fact that I have been a staunch supporter of democracy. I have exercised my right to vote on every possible occasion and actively encouraged the others to do the same as well. Indian Idol, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, Voice of India, Jhoom India, Mission Ustaad, Nach Baliye, Jhalak Dikhlaja, K for Kishore and even Bathroom Singer, I voted for the candidates on each of these shows. So you see, I am a champion for the cause of democracy.

Pazz: What will you do for the safety of women in the city? Is there any way to assure that they will not be troubled by perverts and lecherous eve teasers?

PK: Of course, I have already taken steps regarding the same. I have strictly instructed all my party workers that if I get any complaints, they will lose their jobs right there.

Pazz: Amazing, Sir. There seems to be no stone which you have left unturned. Anything revolutionary that you have in mind for the education system?

PK: Why yes! The education business is booming you see. But in my opinion there are more avenues besides MBA, MBBS and Engineering. We must look at other lucrative fields closely. I have already made suggestions to the University to introduce degree courses in numerology, astrology, K-serial script writing and award show management. The courses are expected to be implemented by next year.

Pazz: And what about the touchy issue of sex education in schools, Sir?

PK: I have approached a famous Bollywood director, whom I cannot name right now of course. But I can tell you he has made on the most expensive blue films in the history of Indian cinema. He plans to launch my nephew’s acting career in a movie based on sex education which the state will fund. Please note that this movie will be tax free from the first show itself. We are currently finalizing the cast for the same, as soon as we find the right actor to play the pivotal role of the stork, things will get rolling. Please note that Rakhi Sawant performs a very informative, cultural dance item in this movie.

Pazz: Sir I hate to cut you short, but I think we are going a little beyond 3/4th of a page. I am afraid we have to end this interview right here. But it was a great honor as I said earlier. We wish you the best for your future.

PK: Thank you very much. I pray to God as well, so that he may save you, from me!

15th August Dawning

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The postcard – it rests on a desktop,
You gaze at it intently,
Losing yourself in it’s beauty
Until you feel you are in it
That you are a part of it
You feel the sea-scented winds
As they weave through your hair
And the soft warm sands caressing your feet
You look up into the sky,
Trying to find the sun
And then it appears…
Out of nowhere,
With a sharp piercing beam
You narrow your eyes
Trying to regain your composure
When sirens start wailing in the distance
Getting louder with every passing second
The sun continues to beat you down
The sirens get louder…louder still
Till the commotion is unbearable
You hold your head in your hands
Shutting out the unwelcome intruders
And then you feel a sudden jolt

You slowly open your eyes
Blurred images are all you see at first
Then the picture clears itself
And you hear the alarm clock at your bedside
‘Damned thing!’ you scorn as you quieten it
No time to complain, you are late
By half an hour
You rush through the charade
Of dressing up, and rush out,
Not even sure if you are fully awake.
In the distance, bells go off again
Dreaming again? You wonder…
Just then you see, the red chariot
Ready to depart.
You run – not even fully warm yet.
‘This will hurt later’ you mutter
Finally you are seated inside the chariot
You heave a well deserved sigh
Of relief – and shut yourself from the world
With your earplugs

You feel a tap on your shoulder.
It is the old man beside you
For some reason he is smiling.
“Probably tipsy’ you conclude.
Who dares to be cheerful at this obscenely early hour?
‘Good morning,beta’ he says,
Louder than one normally would,
Realizing that you are consciously avoiding
The world outside, complete with him
He knows you can hear him though.
‘That’s okay, ignore me like the rest’, he says
You turn, a little embarrassed
And sheepishly utter a ‘good morning’
‘It’s my birthday today’, he says
Handing you a flower
“Happy B’day” is all you manage to say.
But you can’t help noticing
The unmistakable sadness on his face.

The conductor appears shouting
‘Change Change’ in a throaty,hoarse voice
‘Don’t we all want change,beta’
Your sage-like neighbor tells him
As he hands him a few coins
You can’t help but chuckle
At the old man’s witticism
He turns and manages half a smile
‘Birthday to hai, but I wish I could say it’s a happy one’
You think of inquiring the cause of his sadness
But choose otherwise
The man turns to a banner in the bus proclaiming
‘Unity in diversity’ and then he draws your attention
To the empty seat in the row adjoining.
A Muslim lad not more than 25 occupies the seat.
Suddenly sleep-filled eyes well up with suspicion.
The aging man turns to you again
As if to prove a point.
You shake your head in disapproval,
Your neighbor mirrors the movement

He then asks you to look ahead
At the man with the latest Nokia toy
In his hands – and then to the child
Pleading not to be thrown off the bus
“Khali 8 anna kam hai, uncle” he says.
But the conductor refuses to budge
You toss a shining rupee at the man in khaki,
And see the child smile back at you
The smile on your neighbor’s face is wider still
‘Amazing what a change, change can bring’ he says
You look at him, a little mystified
The man has a way with words most definitely
You nod affirmatively.

Just then the ride gets bumpier
‘It’s a bloody minefield’ complains Mr. Hi-tech
As his shiny Nokia crashes to the metal floor
Outside, a banner reads
“Date of Completion – December 2006”
Needless to say, your neighbor has spotted it too.

You whip out a newspaper
Flipping through the glam and glitz,
The blood and the gore, the rich and the famous
The fast and the furious, the ‘bold’ and the ‘beautiful’
And the agile and the athletic
To finally come to the comic strips
Like you always do
Who wants to deal with the everyday ‘mutch mutch’?
At least the comics are funny, you think
‘That’s the problem,beta’, the wise one spake,
Almost reading your thoughts
‘I can’t even expect people
To pay attention to me
For a few minutes,
How can I expect change?’
The conductor overhears
And defends himself
Saying he has already given the two of you
Your fair share of shiny metal
But he fails to see the point
There’s more to this than money.

The sage-like visage wrinkles with sadness
You apologize
‘It’s okay beta…
Maybe this generation doesn’t understand
Me and what I represent.
Someday I hope it will,
Before something should happen’
He replaces the sadness with an assuring smile
Pats you on the back,
Just as he did earlier,
Steps off the bus and walks away.
You watch him
As he turns into a speck.
You turn back the newspaper
And your eyes rest on the headlines

It reads “Happy Birthday India!”