Friday, December 11, 2009

To pull an absolute rabbit out of the hat...

After an exciting season for Liverpool, in which they won the champions league in Istanbul, they found themselves against a weak West Ham team in the FA cup finals the very next year.

Being in UK, I watched all the game in the pub the previous year. My first game was a blinder in which Steven Gerrard scored a screamer in the last minute that enabled Liverpool to qualify for the knock out phase. From there on, I watched every game Liverpool played, in the pub, and was quite thrilled to watch this particular game with all the fellow crazy Liverpool fans.

Everyone thought that Liverpool would run through West Ham quite easily. As usual, I ordered my Fosters’ and sat in the front of the giant screen. One had to enter the pub thirty minutes before the kick off to ensure a good seat. It worked fine for me as thirty minutes in the pub gets translated into two more pints of Fosters’.

The mood in the pub was electric as everyone with a pint of lager in their hands was cheering loudly. A few minutes after the kickoff, a goal came from the unlikeliest of sources; and under unlikeliest of the circumstances. Even though Liverpool center half Jamie Carragher scored a goal, the entire crowd in the stadium and in the pub were cursing him.

He scored in his own net, beating the keeper Reina quite skillfully!

“What a sucker!” on fan claimed after waiving his hand furiously.

Within the next ten minutes, Dean Ashton made a tremendous run down the left flank and unleashed a shot towards Reina. The shot, as harmless as anything could be, slipped past Reina’s hand, and went between his legs into the net. A very embarrassing moment for Reina on a cup final. The pub greeted the goal with stunning silence for a moment. No one could believe what they just witnessed. What everyone thought to be a piece-of-cake-final was turning out to be an absolute embarrassment.

“Should I leave or should I stay?” I was talking to myself. Angry fans were the most difficult to handle. They hug you when the team did well and when the team was not doing well, it could be danger.

But, Liverpool being Liverpool, everyone knew that they were capable of launching any kind of a comeback. I decided to stay on till the half time as everyone believed that the ghosts of champions league finals in Istanbul would come and haunt the hammers anytime. That ‘anytime’ occurred four minutes after the hammers’ second goal. Gerrard being Gerrard, a wonderful player of this era, made a pin point forty yard pass from the right flank to Cisse who was just on the edge of the penalty box. Cisse was brilliant enough to thread the ball before it even pitched, straight into the net. A truly magnificent goal. Wonderful presence of mind from Gerrard and a wonderful piece of execution from Cisse.

The crowd erupted. Everyone saw light at the end of the tunnel. The pub owner’s eyes lit up too as happy fans buy more lager!

As many more pints of lagers were drained into the tummies built with almost unlimited capacity, I decided to take the seat closest to the main exit of the pub. Just to play safe!

Liverpool went into the tunnel during the half time with a lot of hope. The fans were just riding on the hope as well. Every minute spent in the pub, every penny spent on the lager would give returns in the form of satisfaction-through-accomplishment only if Liverpool managed to pull out an out-of-the world performance in the second half.

“It could be another Istanbul” claimed one fan while draining this fourth lager in an hour. The fans were always as loyal and hopeful as this one. But, I was not sure whether they could pull this one off as the players were really struggling to play in the heat.

Ten minutes into the second half, as I was about to leave the pub, Steven Gerrard, the god of all saviors, scored a goal from the short range. It was a magnificent goal and suddenly, from nowhere, Liverpool was back in the game. I could barely hear what the commentators were saying as the crowd in the pub went crazy with joy – fueled by Gerrard and Fosters’.

“Another Istanbul. This should be a one way affair from now on” I thought. But, what do I know? Ten minutes later, Paul Konchesky tried to cross the ball from the left flank in a hope to find some hammer heads. Instead, he found the Liverpool net. What a day for hammers. They scored three against Liverpool, out of which one was own goal, the second was a crazy goalkeeper error and the third one was mere luck.

“Damn!” screamed one fan unable to witness what he was seeing

“These guys are fuckin’ lucky” screamed another.

"What is the point in screaming? Goals are goals. They were scored" I thought

“This should be another Istanbul” claimed the guy next to me as he drained his fifth pint.

“This guy must be crazy” I thought. Being a Liverpool fan myself, I knew they could come back, but I wasn’t sure whether the five pints he drained was taking there. If five pints were talking, then it was danger as five pints could kick my ass if Liverpool lost; as five pints never have sixth sense.

I ordered my third pint just to feel secured against the five pint guys. When I ordered my third pint, the five-pint guy ordered two more. Now I knew that I was totally out of the game. The only way out was to ensure swift escape route if in case!

At the end of ninety minutes, it was still 3-2 on West Ham’s favor. The players were almost dead of cramps due to sweltering heat. Gerrard started limping. It was a very bad sign. I stared to move near the door as I heard the stadium announcer announcing four added minutes.

The next thing I knew was Andy Gray shouting “GERRRRARRRRRDDDDDDDDD!!!!!!!!!!!

From 35 yards, Gerrard hit the ball which travelled like a tracer bullet giving no chance to the hammers’ goal keeper as the ball pierced into the bottom left corner of the net.

The roof of the pub was in serious danger of being blown away. The energy held within by all fans dissipated in perfect resonance. I could sense the vibrations from the floor but I was not sure whether the vibrations were caused by happy fans or by the three pints of lager. After ninety minutes of frustration, there was one moment to savor. The game was not won yet though, but Liverpool was level in the most emphatic fashion. Two great goals from Gerrard ensured extra time and then penalties.

During penalties, I was as close as possible to the exit as the game could swing either way. Gerrard scored his penalty kick and Reina was as brilliant as ever in saving penalties. Liverpool won the FA cup. In the process, they had developed a way to win titles. Half of the heart patients would have died across the globe before the end of this game. An absolute cliffhanger till the very last minute!

While I was heading back home, I was thinking about the captain of Liverpool football club. Whenever the team needed someone to stand up and be counted to pull an absolute rabbit out of the hat, he was always there!

What a player!

Click here to see the Gerrard screamer!

A catalyst to sleep...

“What do you need a room for?” asked the warden of my hostel. “All you are supposed to do is to study whenever you can and then sleep” he added.

In a way, he was right. The infrastructure of the room had everything required to study and to sleep. Precisely. And nothing else.

Three of us were placed in a room. The room had three study desks, three chairs, three wardrobes and three beds with cots. And that’s it. The room did not even have room for a leg of an additional chair. A small pathway was left to navigate towards the third bed and only through that we came to know the colour of the floor. The distance between my study desk and my bed was as small as four centimeters that I could jump out of my sleep to study. But the vice-versa worked tremendously well all the time!

Even though the size of the room was less than eight feet by eight feet, we had the luxury of a one and a half ton air conditioner unit and two ceiling fans. Three sides of the walls had no windows. Not even a small opening for an insect to come in. The fourth side was full of windows. When we tried to open the window, a swarm of flies would attack us. So, we always kept the windows closed with blinds firmly on.

With absolute darkness hitting the room, and with the comfort of one air conditioner and two ceiling fans giving a hill-station-like feeling, the smoothness of the comforter on the bed would always be inviting. So inviting that it was too good to resist all the time.

For anyone who had slept for twelve hours straight would feel compelled to sleep again in our room. No wonder I slept like a baby for most parts of my stay there. I had no idea what was happening to me during the initial days but I always felt like I was absolutely drunk when I resisted the cozy bed. My mind wouldn’t listen to anything I said except when I said “Now, can we go for sleep?” Eventually I’d succumb and go to sleep for hours together.

As I am one and a half times taller than the average Singaporean, the bed in my hostel was not made for people like me. My leg would always hang out of the bed. When I tried to pull it in, the head would butt out on the other side. Also, the comforter was never made for a six foot three person. Again, either my head or feet miss out. I tried various techniques such as sleeping diagonally or with a crossed leg. I even tied placing my chair at one end of my bed so that I could place my extending feet on it. Again, in the middle of the night, I’d unknowingly kick it away and would go back to normal. Also, I developed the habit of sleeping like a ‘S’ in such a way that my head would almost touch my thigh.

Everything I tried finally had a tremendous amount of pressure on my back. Whenever I woke up in the morning, I woke up with severe back pain.

The room had always been a tricky place. It could make even the most active person in the world sleep for twenty hours a day. It was a heaven for natural sleepers like me. But, the more I slept, the more troublesome it was for my back.

Finally, I decided to throw my bed a million miles away (from planet earth) and decided to sleep on the floor. Sleeping on the floor might seem ridiculous for many but hey!, my floor is more than six foot three inches long. Just enough for me to stretch my whole body. And that meant a lot to me. Especially when I hadn’t done that for three months straight.

I just couldn’t wait to sleep like the way everyone in the world sleeps. The first time I slept on the floor, I slept for fourteen hours straight. When I woke up, I was feeling strange; I was feeling strange because I was feeling very light on my back. For a change, I felt no pain.

“Is that how everyone wakes up every morning?” I wondered. Wouldn’t that be wonderful if I could experience this feeling day after day for days to come?

Now, I had the best bed in the entire hostel; no springs ; no length restrictions and when combined with the best environment that aids sleeping, no place in the world could beat this one. It just felt like heaven.

But the only feeling of guilt was due to the fact that I paid seventeen lakhs to stay in this lodge for one year!

Every drop of blood

At SP Jain, life is always on the fast track. You could find us on the wash room brushing our teeth rigorously ten minutes before the start of the first session at 9 O’clock in the morning, or you could find us running in the lobby thirty seconds before the start of the class. At the end of the session, we would take a quick lunch and get ready in time for the next two sessions of the day.

At the end of seemingly endless lectures, it was time to prepare for the next day. On any given day, or night, you could find all of us hanging out together, in the library, to complete the assignments, or prepare for the ‘surprise quiz’ or complete the pre-reading exercise. This would go on and on until sunrays hit the peak of the small hill on the Kent ridge park, near our campus. So, in short, SP Jain never sleeps!

Even though, our lives are always on the fast track day after day after day, today was special. We were still brushing in a hurry and were still running on the lobby in a hurry. But, this time, it was not to attend the classes on time. But, this time, we were up early for a noble cause. Donating blood.

Red Cross in Singapore and SP Jain jointly arranged for a blood donation camp in the campus today. Students registered with great pride and joy to donate blood. Assignments, projects, exams, surprise quizzes, and pre-reads took the back seat today as students flocked the leadership hall since early in the morning.
Overall 56 of us donated one unit of blood each by the end of the day. Every student was carrying the feeling of pride within them, when they walked out of the blood donation camp.

We are a team of students from different countries, speak different languages, follow different religions and cultures, but today all of us came forward to prove that even though we are from different culture, our blood is still the same; to prove that human life is precious than anything else.

Leadership club, which is one of many active clubs in SP Jain, played an active role throughout the day. More than ten volunteers from the club helped in screening students, recording body temperature and so on. Their work made the process swift, easy and comfortable.

At SP Jain, we always appreciate healthy life and we always believe that everyone in the world has a right to live. By donating blood, we are only helping people to exercise their own rights. We truly applaud all the students for taking their time off today and making this event a successful one.

Anyone who donated blood today didn’t know when it would be used; or who would use it; or how many lives it would save. All we know was, whatever we had done would save someone’s life sometime somewhere. When it happens, our pride and joy would be sky bound as every drop of our blood counts!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What a hit son!

“So, how do I get along with the locals here?” I asked my manager, so eager to make friends with the locals, just two days after arriving to London.

“It is quite easy if you are good at a few things” he replied with a broad smile.

“Like what?” I asked.

“Alcohol, sex and football” he said with a very straight face. The first two would very easily qualify as a big taboo in Indian society.

“Boy! I don’t have too much experience with alcohol” I told myself. Especially after looking at the shops that sell alcohol and the way they promote alcoholic beverages, I thought I could never compete with these guys in pubs.

“So, one down and two to go” I thought.

“Again, Though i have some theoretical knowledge on the subject, I have no practical experience in sex either” I thought and went deep into thought. It was strange. If a 24 year old Brit had said that, the entire nation would have given a weird expression. But, being a conservative South Indian, I knew taking up this option to get closer to the locals wouldn’t help.

“It has to be football” I decided.

“How does football help in knowing people here” I asked my manager after a minute.

“It is simple, you have to support the team they support and watch with them and I can guarantee that you will love you just for that” he said.

“What team they support?” I asked as there are various teams in London that plays in the premier league.

“Various” he said and smiled. “They even support teams from outside London” he added.

“Is there a game this week” I eagerly asked.

“Yes. Liverpool is playing Olympiakos tonight 8 PM” he said and checked the calendar to confirm.

“Go to the Gilman’s pub half an hour before kick off to ensure good seat”.

“To a pub? To watch football? It is quite strange” I thought. Being a Liverpool fan since 2001 I thought it would be great to make friends who are fans of Liverpool football club as well.

Exactly at seven thirty, I entered Gillman’s. All the windows were closed as the bartender installed a temporary giant screen in one corner of the pub. The screen was as big as Satyam cinemas in Chennai. They had a big projector and few flat screen televisions in all corners of the pub so that no one missed out on the action. When the bartender pushed the power button, the giant screen came to life with Andy Gray giving his expert comments about the game that night. Jamie Redknapp was the guest and both were going through the team sheet and were discussing the strategies both teams should adopt.

“Liverpool should win with a two goal margin to progress to the knock out stage” Andy Gray commented after looking at the league table.

Fifteen minutes to kickoff!

Fans wearing Liverpool colors and Liverpool scarf started coming in.

“Cranberry juice please” I said to the bartender and paid two pounds.

Small group of fans appeared ten minutes to kickoff and started occupying the tables in front of the giant screen. I chose to stand and watch from the last row so as to observe the fans’ reaction. Every table was filled with pint glasses of lager, mostly Foster’s. Almost everyone wanted to watch the game with alcohol. I wasn’t sure how many would stay sober at the end of the game. So, I was on full alert and stayed close to the door. The door would be my emergency exit in case of trouble. I had never seen so much of alcohol in one place before.

“My manager was so right about the locals’ preferences” I felt

Three minutes before the game started, the fans in Anfield started singing “You will never walk alone”. When the song started, people in the pub sang along with them, with their scarf held up high using both their hands

“Walk on through the wind, walk on through the rain. Though your dreams be tossed and blown, walk on… walk on… with hope in your heart... and you’ll never walk alone” they sang.

I knew the song and so sang with them. The lyrics of the song don’t just apply to the game but to real life as well. I felt so inspired after the song and started to develop a sense of belonging with the group gathered in the pub.

The first half was very bad. Olympiakos scored in the 26th minute which made entry into the knock out stage very difficult for the hosts.

At half time, I managed to empty my coke but Liverpool did not manage even a single goal. The fans started to feel irritated by the first half performance.

“We need three fucking goals in forty five fucking minutes” said a frustrated fan at the bar.

I was under tremendous fear as I was not sure how many were sober and what would they do when they were not, and especially when Liverpool lost. I was getting ready to go back home but decided to stay on for the first ten minutes of the second half. All the pint glasses which carried numerous liters of beer forty five minutes before were empty but were promptly replaced by full glasses during half time.

The second half started. In the second minute of the second half, Sinama Pongole ran in through the center to collect a brilliant pass from Gerrard from right flank. The crowd in the pub jumped up to their feet for a second. Sinama expertly volleyed the ball past the keeper for the first goal. The crowd in the stadium erupted. The crowd in the pub erupted too. Lots of jumping, shouting, swearing were evident.

“Is it the passion? Or is it just alcohol?” I wondered

I decided to stay on for some more time.

“A foster’s please” I said to the bartender. Things were getting heated up in the pub and I did not want to miss the action.

After eighty minutes into the game, it was still 1-1.

“Ten more minutes to go. And Liverpool needs two goals. Will it go down the wire?” I thought

In the eighty first minute, Neil Mellor, a rookie, curled the ball in from just outside the penalty box to the left of the keeper. No one expected him to shoot from that angle, but he gave himself a chance. The ball went past the diving keeper and hit the inside of the post and then hit the back of the net.

2-1 and one more goal required to seal the promotion!

The crowd in the pub, which was so impatient for that moment, erupted yet again. People were jumping and punching the air. The celebration lasted only for a moment as Liverpool players regrouped for the remaining vital nine minutes left in the game.

“Are we in for something today” cried the commentator.

I was standing in the middle of a group at the last row now, vociferously cheering for Liverpool.

“Come on reds!” I shouted and a group joined me in shouting.

I felt so attached to the local people there!

Five more minutes went on. Liverpool was pressing for the all crucial third goal. Olympiakos was only contempt to defend and so put all eleven in defense for the last five minutes.

Carragher pushed forward from the left flank and crossed into the penalty box in the direction of Neil Mellor. Mellor, being surrounded by three men from Olympiakos, decided to head the ball back to Gerrard, who was twenty five yards from the goal and with a lot of space.

“Shooooooot…” I cried as I sensed an opportunity to score when I saw Gerrard with such space. I knew he was too good a player to be given that much space around him.

“…lovely cushion header from Mellor… GERRAAAARRRD!!!” cried Andy Gray from the commentary box at the same time.

Gerrard hit the ball fiercely from outside of his right foot with such a pace that the keeper could not stop the ball from going inside his own net, even after an extravagant dive.

“…You beauty! What a hit son! What a hit” Andy Gray screamed on top of his voice.

The crowd in the pub, who were switched off till that point anticipating a defeat, jumped up and down with the beer in hand.

I was jumping up too. For three minutes. The people near me were hugging each other like crazy and in the process, I was hugged too. By almost all the guys and girls near me. I felt like I were one of the locals there.

At the end of those crazy three minutes, I was so excited that I did not even realize that I was covered with beer head to toe. During the wild celebrations, no one realized that they were pouring beer out of their glasses and some of them were on me!

But, I was too excited to bother about that! Already one beer from the pub felt like ten vodkas with redbull for me!

“What a hit that was” I thought after looking at the replay. I was not thinking of Gerrard. I was thinking of how people accepted me as one of them and how football helped me to achieve it. “What a hit I was” I thought and felt so proud.

After the game, while looking at the replay, I heard Andy Gray saying “… with one swing from his gifted right foot, Steven Gerrard says ‘Champions league… knock out stage… here we come’”

“Champions league… knock out stage… here I come… to the same pub and watch” I promised myself.

PS: The same season, Liverpool went on to win the Champions league… in the most emphatic way ever possible. If this game was considered thrilling to the finish, the final was a cliffhanger! As the Liverpool FC anthem reiterates, “When you have hope in your heart, YOU’LL NEVER WALK ALONE”

Click here to see Gerrard's heroics on that day!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pricing the priceless!

“Vidhya, are you OK? You look pale and sick since morning” Sowmya asked, truly concerned about her health.

“I don’t know. But I feel a bit stable now. And I am vomiting everything I ate since morning”

“Oh my god! I think you should see a doctor right now” she ordered.

“Hey, there is nothing to worry. I just got the result of my test”

“What test?”

“Pregnancy test!”

“Oh... Are you pregnant?” she asked innocently after a few seconds.

“I am” Vidhya said with a tinge of shyness in her voice.

Sowmya’s eyes widened, jaw dropped down for a moment as she hugged Vidhya tightly and said “Congratulations, that’s a great news!”

Even though Vidhya shared a wonderful news, perhaps the news of her life so far, Sowmya felt that something was not normal. She felt that Vidhya looked both happy and worried at the same time.

“Is everything ok at home dear?”

“Well… not really, but my husband is gradually coming to terms with his recent loss in business and is really working hard to find a job to support our family. I think everything should be fine in a month or so. Let’s see whether my daughter brings any luck to our family” she said and smiled. Unconvincingly.

“Hmmm… But I thought you were so not ready for a baby now”

“I am now. Trust me. Everything will be fine when I deliver my daughter”

“Do you realize that you have to quit your job sometime soon to deal with your child birth? And do you realize that you need to spend a lot for hospitals and child care?” Sowmya asked with a worried expression on her face.

“I do” said Vidhya. That was all she said and stood up from her chair to declare that the conversation with Sowmya was over.

“I am sorry dear. But I was only concerned for you”

“Thank you. I really appreciate that” were the last words from Vidhya that day.

Three months went by. Vidhya stayed healthy. The developing baby inside her was healthy. Her husband was still in huge debt. And he was still jobless.

One fine day, against all the odds, Vidhya quit her job so as to ensure that the baby stayed fine inside her womb.

“Are you crazy? What will you do for your expenses? Do you know how much it costs to see a decent doctor these days?” Sowmya said furiously ready for a big confrontation with her dearest friend.

Vidhya was silent and lost into her own world; the world in which she and her daughter only existed. Even she could not explain why she wanted a baby girl, but she always dreamt of delivering a baby girl; dreamt of feeding her ; dreamt of giving her all the care in the world; dreamt of her going to school and returning ever smiling. But, in reality she had no money. Not even to fulfill one of her many dreams.

“I don’t really understand what you are doing now” Sowmya shouted again.

The rise in decibel level inside the room brought Vidhya back to the cruel world she belonged to.

“So do I” said Vidhya and smiled. At that point, Sowmya realized that there was no point in taking the conversation any further.

“Please do let me know if you need any help, whatever it may be” Sowmya pleaded.

Days became weeks and weeks became months. Every day was a struggle. Her husband was still jobless. Somehow, they managed to keep the debtors away and managed three decent meals per day.

But, Vidhya never stopped dreaming. She tried to confirm the gender of the baby with the doctors a few times. But, the law in India prevented the doctors to pass on this vital piece of information to her. Somehow, Vidhya was absolutely sure that her dreams were real. Every one of them!

Three meals everyday were converted into numerous vomits. Even after the sixth month of pregnancy, she never stopped vomiting.

“Only baby girls make the mother feel nauseous, right?” She innocently asked her husband.

He just nodded. What does he know about pregnancy? He nodded only because he wanted to make her feel happy; he wanted to make up to her for the state they were in as the feeling of guilt was written all over him. He feared for the pain Vidhya had to go through during child birth.

And after!

The day arrived. She was lying on the bed, semi conscious and tired after the child birth. The nurse came in and congratulated Vidhya.

With great effort, she raised her head to look at the nurse who was holding the baby. Her baby. Her treasured treasure!

“Is it a baby girl?” she asked

The nurse smiled. Looking at her smile, Vidhya smiled.

“Can I see her?”

The nurse placed the tiny one on her laps. The baby opened her eyes to see her mother. For the first time. Vidhya looked at her as she experienced tears of joy for the first time in years. She couldn’t actually believe that she produced something as beautiful as this one. All the pain she had gone through to look after the baby inside her; the pain of sleepless nights; the pain of vomiting everything she ate; the pain of swelled legs that made her immobile for weeks suddenly became worthwhile. Just for this moment; the moment the baby gently closed her eyes and reopened to see her mother again. Her dreams were about to come true. Then, the baby extended her tiny arms towards her mother. In fact, she was living her dream at that point.

Vidhya cried. Was it the ‘tears of joy’?

“I have given the money to your husband. Five lakhs in cash” A man said while walking into the room.

“Also, I have paid the hospital expenses. The money I gave your husband will take care of all your debts. Do let me know when you are ready to work again. I will find a job for you” he continued.

“Thank you, we are so grateful to you” Vidhya said and continued crying.

“No. Don’t say that. We are grateful to you this entire life”

“You are always welcome to come and see your daughter anytime” he said and picked the baby from her lap.

“Do you have to take her away now?” she asked and wiped her tears. But, that was of no use. Tears reappeared within micro seconds.

“I understand your position. I don’t want to take her away right now. I will wait” he said.

A relief! She thought.

“I will wait outside for ten minutes. My wife is on the way. We will take the baby with me when she arrives” he said.

Vidhya could not believe it. Someone from somewhere was taking her priced possession from her. Forever. Yet she was unable to fight; unable to stop him. What could she do? After all, she agreed to bear the child for someone else and she had to fulfill her promise.

Five lakhs was the price set for her baby. No one knew what pricing strategy was adopted in this case. Maybe that was the amount Vidhya’s family needed to pay off the debt. In the end, the price of the baby was equal to the price of the family’s debt. Vidhya would never forgive herself for what she was doing now.

She had priced the priceless!

But, she was given ten minutes with her daughter; ten minutes to hold her in her arms; ten minutes to kiss her; ten minutes to admire her tiny folded fingers; ten minutes to care for her. In short, she had ten minutes to live her dream.

But, somewhere in the bottom of her heart, she knew that her dreams were on fire and would be burnt into ashes in mere ten minutes!

Friday, October 02, 2009

The disaster

Vidhya was getting ready for the parade in her school. She was wearing her tiny little shoes when her mother came running with some milk in a Mickey Mouse cup.

“The bus would arrive any moment. Drink fast” she said and offered the cup to Vidhya

Vidhya grabbed the cup and drained it within a few seconds.

“Mama, you know… I will be leading the parade in my school today” she said proudly, wiping her lips with her left hand.

Her mother bent down, pecked her check and said “Very nice dear, so proud of you”.

Vidhya’s mother, like any other mother, was so proud of her, especially as she was very good in academics and sports in her school, even though she was only in her third standard.

Vidhya gave the cup back to her mother, hugged her, grabbed her bag and said “Love you mom, see you” and waved her tiny hand towards her mother.

She waved Vidhya good bye, watched her go down the elevator from her flat in the fifth floor. The elevator stopped in the fourth floor, picked her best friend and class mate Sowmya and continued its journey towards ground floor.

It was 8:03 AM then!

Inside the school bus, Vidhya and Sowmya chatted about numerous issues. From the new pencil box Vidhya bought to how Sowmya managed to polish her shoes all by herself.

Back home, Vidhya’s family and Sowmya’s family were planning for a get together. As the country was celebrating its 51st Republic day, and since it was a national holiday, the two families decided to meet for lunch.

Vidhya’s parents would host the lunch and hence they were getting ready to prepare the meal.

“Don’t forget to bring Rohit with you, Rahul loves to play with him” Vidhya’s dad told Sowmya’s parents over the phone. Rahul and Rohit were Vidhya and Sowmya’s little brothers, both a little over four years old.

The school bus reached the school in nearly twenty minutes. Vidhya and Sowmya got down from the bus and were getting ready for the Republic day parade.

The school clock showed 8:23 AM!

“Request all students to assemble in the designated lines” barked the principal of the school from the stage over the microphone.

All the students were scrambling to find their designated area to start their march. Vidhya took the role of the ‘Flag bearer’ for her section and was standing in the front row with a flag in hand.

The school clock showed 8:34 AM!

The chief guest arrived at 8:40 AM and was swiftly moved towards the main stage, where he had to hoist the flag. He hoisted the flag, everyone clapped when the tri color flag opened up beautifully on top of the pole. The national anthem was then sung.

The school clock showed 8:44 AM!

When the national anthem was over, it was time for the march. Every section in the school would march one full round of the school ground while passing the chief guest, who was standing near the flag pole.

The band was getting ready. The drummer took the drum with both his hands and strapped the leather rope around his shoulder.

The school clock showed 8:46 AM!

When the drummer hit the drum for the first time, the entire stage started shaking. Another hit, and the stage was moving wildly. Everyone gathered in the line were in a state of panic. No one had a clue about what was happening around them.

The students were scurrying inside the ground in panic. Someone in the middle of the crowd was shouting “Its an earthquake, all run towards open ground in the middle”

Almost all the students were running for safety. Instinctively all of them were running towards the open ground. Vidhya was clutching Sowmya’s hand as they both ran together.

Thirty seconds passed. The entire school building was shaking violently. The stage was not moving anymore, as the stage got reduced into rubbles ten seconds earlier. Another thirty seconds passed. The school building was still shaking, but more violently then before.

Small cracks started appearing on the ground. When one of the students spotted it, panic stuck the entire mass. Some feared that everyone would be buried alive within seconds.

Another ten seconds passed. Everyone heard a thunderous noise. To everyone’s horror, they found the big school building collapse right in front of their eyes. Dust from debris engulfed the air near them.

Another twenty seconds passed. The shaking stopped. The entire city of Bhuj got reduced to rubbles as it succumbed to ninety seconds of cruelty.

When it all became silent again, the air was full of dust from the debris. Both Vidhya and Sowmya were covered with dust all over their body. The sweat due to panic made the debris stuck to their face. Both were just eight years old and both were in trauma. There was no one around to console these two kids since everyone around needed to be consoled.

It took some time for the principal to find his feet and to understand what just happened. Two minutes back, he saw a hundred smiling kids in front of him. Within two minutes, all the smiles vanished, along with the school building and assembly stage.

Gathering all his courage, the principal gathered all the kids in one place and tried to console them. He had to ensure that the kids were back with their parents.

That is, if they survived!

The principal had no idea about the damage until he took all the children in the school bus back to their respective home. There was no road back home. Every road was damaged beyond immediate redemption. The bus driver, who was already in a state of shock after the way events unfolded right in front of everyone’s eyes, was very careful and took whichever route was drivable, to get the children back home.

The way back home was horrible. The children inside the bus did not even speak a word. Only three things were prominent outside. Blood, dust and debris. The principal asked everyone not to look outside and urged them to close their eyes all the way.

Vidhya was still clutching Sowmya’s hand as both were trembling with fear. To principal’s relief, more than eighty percent of the children’s parents were alive.

Alive but homeless; a proposition anyone was ready to take that day.

At the end of the day, the principal was able to identify either a parent or a guardian for all the children but for Sowmya and Vidhya. Both were still sick with fear. They both had no idea whether their parents were still alive.

Relief workers started pouring in. As many as 185 NGOs started working on the area immediately. Both the state and the central government were swift in starting the aid services. Heavy drilling machines worked day and night so as to rescue anyone trapped inside the rubbles.

The principal took the girls to their apartment hoping to find their parents. It had five floors a day back. Now, it had none. No one could actually count the floors in the heap created by the collapse. Looking at the rubbish, the principal was certain that all the inmates of that apartment would have perished.

He felt for the poor little children, who didn’t do a thing wrong to have deserved such a punishment. He took the kids back to his relief camp. He lost his house too. Along with his family. Just like the two girls.

Two days passed. The drilling into rubbles with heavy machinery continued. Nonstop. A lot of bodies soaked in blood were recovered. A lot of body parts were recovered too. Most of them beyond recognition. The principal viewed all the bodies himself, and ensured that the kids didn’t go through another trauma.

One trauma of this magnitude was enough for their entire life!

Three days passed. The drilling stopped. The drillers declared that the possibility of finding anyone alive would be remote.

From the second day, the local municipality started cremating hundreds of unidentified bodies. No one could ever say whether any parts of the kids’ parents had gone into the fire.

All hopes were lost! Like a puff of smoke!

Before the heavy machinery was moved off-site, the diggers wanted to have one more go at the big heap. After thirty minutes of digging, they heard a slight moaning sound from deep inside.

The digger started sweating. Were they in for some miracle?

“Some one is alive” he shouted on top of his voice.

A couple of more drillers came in within a minute and all started working simultaneously.

Within thirty minutes, the diggers found a large room beneath the heap of rubbles. Excited by the prospect of finding someone alive, they all gave one last push.

An hour passed. Suddenly, they made enough opening to squeeze one person down the rubble inside the room. In exactly three seconds, he came running towards the opening

“There are three alive, but unconscious” he cried.

The rescue workers started expanding the opening they made and within an hour, they pulled out all three. Ambulance was waiting outside for medical aid.

The principal, Vidhya and Sowmya, along with half of the town, gathered near the rescue operators to find out who was alive. Anxiously. As the heap belonged to the children’s apartment.

When the three were pulled out, Sowmya started screaming. The three were her parents and her little brother Rohit.

She had found her family! It was a miracle!

Tears were rolling on Sowmya’s cheeks that she had found her family. At the same time tears were rolling on Vidhya’s cheeks as she could not.

Vidhya ran away from the other two, towards the heap.

“Rahul” she cried on top of her voice, anticipating that she would hear her brother’s voice back from the heap; anticipating that she would find him alive; anticipating that a miracle would hit her too.

“Rahul” she shouted again.

No response!

“Mama” she shouted and waited for a second.

No response!

“Papa” she shouted and then cried.

No response again!

She sat down near the heap, covered her face and cried as long as she could cry; as long as she had the energy to cry; as long as she had tears inside her. Inbetween her cries, she shouted the three names again and again.

But, there was no reply!

All her hopes started evaporating.

The principal was initially happy to find Sowmya’s parents, but was completely disheartened to see Vidhya. “What did she do to deserve this? Why did god give her slightest of hope only to disappoint her again bitterly?” he thought

Amazed by recovering three guys alive, the rescue operators decided to drill down the same heap further for one more day. The same heap where Vidhya’s family lived.

Or living still!

Will she find her parents? Will she reunite with her little brother?

God help her!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A kid in the sweet shop

A thousand butterflies were flying inside his stomach. It was a strange feeling as Vijay was eagerly waiting for this day. The day he could actually realize his dream; a dream that was haunting him since his childhood.

Winning the cup

Vijay was restlessly pacing around the boundary line, thinking about the ways to control the butterflies in his stomach. There was enormous pressure on him to win this cup for the cricket club he loved. The anxiety among a crowd of 2000 was building by the time. Everyone in the village knew Vijay as he was the first Indian to have represented this small British village in its 120 years of existence.

“Are you alright?” Vijay heard a voice from behind.

“Hey skipper, I am good” Vijay said and looked straight into the eyes of Ian Haggie, the captain of the team.

“Feeling jittery?”

“Well, no. Its much more than that. It’s a big day” said Vijay

“I know” he said and smiled

The skipper then came near Vijay, placed his arm around his shoulder and said “It is just another day son. Don’t let the anxiety get over you. Stay cool and just go out there and enjoy” and pointed his finger towards the pitch.

“We have a team meeting in five minutes. See you in the dressing room”

Vijay walked along the boundary line, tried to focus all this thoughts onto cricket. And nothing else. He saw the opponents arriving in their team bus. The opponents, Northern Social cricket club, was the strongest that season. For any club that year, Northern Social was THE team to beat.

After a few stretches and a customary pitch inspection, Vijay walked towards the dressing room.

“Look who is playing for them. Are you a cricketer?” yelled a player from Northern Social and let out a huge laugh.

“I don’t have time for this now. Got a lot to worry about” Vijay thought and never spoke a word.

Inside the dressing room, Vijay met the skipper and said “Looks like a hard wicket. Planning to bat if we win the toss?”

“That’s the plan, but there is a problem” he said, but did not say what the problem actually was.

When the last person entered the dressing room, the skipper closed the door, took this notepad, cleared his throat and smiled at the team. The smile was reassuring. Half the butterflies in Vijay’s stomach were killed, just by that smile.

“That is the mark of a skipper. He should be someone to look up to, when the team is in crisis” Vijay thought.

The skipper cleared his throat. A clear sign for all the players to listen. The smile could turn into a swear if any indiscipline was spotted anytime anywhere.

“Guys, we have been waiting for this day. The day we could beat them back and blue and take the trophy to our village.” He said and scanned the entire room. The air was absolutely silent inside. Everyone was keen and was listening to the skipper.

“Looking at our team, I don’t see any reason for us to fail. The opponents might say a few words on field. Don’t worry about them. It is only because they are scared. Scared that they will lose this game” and paused for a moment. The room was still silent.

“And you know what? They should be” and look at the entire team with the same reassuring smile.

“All I want you to do is to give your one hundred percent and go out there and enjoy the game we all love. And that’s not difficult, or is it?” he said and extended his hands with his palm open.

The entire team came forward and placed their hands on top of the skipper’s. In just a minute, the skipper united the entire team as a single unit just by giving a pep talk. At any moment, the skipper did not lose his cool, was smiling all the time and yet, got the team pepped up.

“Ok. We have a small problem now” the skipper said with a broad smile on his face.

“Chauffey did his back and won’t play today” he declared.

“Oh dear, that is a big trouble” Vijay thought as Chauffey was brilliant with the new ball and there was no one to replace him.

“Simon, you will share the new ball with Robbo” the skipper continued.

“And Vijay, I want you to fill in for the fourth bowler and so I have pushed you to number five in batting order” he said and looked at Vijay.

The slowly dying butterflies in his stomach multiplied exponentially.

“What? Am I hearing that right? This is a big game and he wants me to bowl my full quota of overs. This is insane!” Vijay thought.

“I know you are good as a supporting bowler, but its time for you to step up. And today is the day” the skipper said.

Butterflies multiplied again!

Simon came forward and stroked Vijay’s hair and said “Come on Vijay, enjoy the game today”

Ian Haggie then opened the door of the dressing room and finally said “Enjoy the game today guys”

Ian won the toss and as expected elected to bat. Vijay was due at number 5. So he chose to sit and watch the game from the dressing room chair.

Ian and Philip opened the batting. It was smooth sailing until Philip lost his stumps. Vijay started to pad up while Philip was returning to the pavilion.

“Hard luck Philli, you looked good for a fifty today” Vijay said.

The next two wickets fell with a span of four balls and all of a sudden Vijay found himself walking towards the middle of the pitch.

Butterflies reappeared.

The walk to the pitch was slow, but he felt good as Ian was still in the crease.

“We still have eight overs to go. Let yourself in. Just watch out for that in swing” he said

“Middle stump please” Vijay shouted at the umpire for the guard.

“Look at this bloke. Wants middle stump when the ball is swinging in” and let out an ugly laugh.

All sorts of comments were passed on to Vijay. A lot of words were said.

“Lets see what this guy is made of” said the first slip

“Are you a batsman?” said another

“The tail is out guys”

“I am worried this kid might get hurt here. Can you hold the bat son?”

“Shut your ears and concentrate” Vijay told himself.

Pattinson steamed in for the first delivery. As expected the ball started swinging in from outside the off and pitched on length. Instinctively, Vijay went forward and let out a cover drive, against the swing. The ball raced past extra cover and on to the boundary in a flash. No one moved.

Vijay then turned back and let out a glare towards the slips. A glare that spoke a thousand words. In the process Vijay was slowly losing his concentration. He fell for the bait.

Ian was now pleading Vijay to concentrate as a lot of work had to be done. At the end of the over, Ian met Vijay in the middle of the pitch and reiterated the need to concentrate.

“Stay till the end. That will give me a chance to go at the bowlers in the death” he said.

The chatter from behind the stumps increased. A few words were said which were insulting him personally.

After a couple of overs, the bowler joined in the action. Not with the ball, but with words. Vijay was easily negotiating the swing and as instructed by Ian, he was giving as much strike as possible to him.

In over number 17, Vijay lost his cool. Getting a bit overconfident about the way he was handling the swing, he cleared his left leg and went for a big heave over mid wicket. The ball was full, and swung late. It missed his foot by an inch and raced towards the stumps


The sound that Vijay dreaded to hear was the sound of leather hitting the timber and then the sound of huge cheers from behind.

Pattinson, being extra charged, let out an angry send off to Vijay by running close to him and punching the air close to his face. He pointed his finger towards the pavilion and shouted “Now, you fuck off!”

Vijay gave a sorry look towards the skipper. He knew that the way he got out was ugly. Nothing was going through his mind at that time. He was not shattered due to the wild celebrations; he was not shattered by the sound of leather hitting timber; he was not shattered by the words that were said to him; but he was shattered because he let his captain down.

The walk back to the pavilion was probably the longest 100 meter walk he ever walked.

Fortunately, for the team Ian stayed almost till the end, scored a magnificent fifty on a very nice track for batting. They made 157 off the stipulated twenty overs, which everyone thought was competitive.

During the break, Ian called for another team meeting.

Behind the closed doors he started “Well done so far guys. The game is in our hands now. If we don’t give our hundred percent and if we don’t concentrate, we will lose” he said and gave a fierce stare towards Vijay.

At the end of the meeting, everyone was charged. Ian came towards Vijay and said “Hope you have learnt your lesson today”

Vijay was too ashamed to even see the skipper face to face. But, when the skipper left him alone, lots of thoughts came to his mind.

From his experience in the middle, though short, Vijay knew that 157 was not enough on a brilliant batting surface. But, he also found that bowling full and straight mostly and varying the length and pace was the only way to contain the runs as the bounce was nice and true on the surface.

“I want to prove a lot today. The only chance for me is to take wickets. But, if that Pattinson ever faces me… I am going to kill him, whatever it takes” Vijay thought

Pattinson and Storey opened for the opponents. Northern Social started badly. They lost their opener Stoery to Simon in the second over. Pattinson was still there.

So far so good!

When the wicket fell, the team was charged up. Ian was trying to get the focus back. “These two guys in the crease are their best men. We need to remove them quickly”

Michael and Simon toiled for another six overs. No wickets. Batsmen were scoring freely. Pattinson scored his first six off Gary, the first change bowler.

Over number 10. Ian called Vijay, who was almost switched off at midoff, and tossed the ball towards him.

Vijay started stretching furiously, grabbed the ball and walked towards his marker.

“Right arm over” he told the umpire. Fox faced him first ball.

The first ball was a loosener; a poor delivery, short on the leg stump. Fox pulled it, but luckily for Vijay, he pulled it straight to the deep fine leg. A single.

Second delivery now to Pattinson. The guy Vijay wanted to rip off into pieces.

“The first ball was poor. Let me get my rhythm first. The revenge can wait” Vijay thought.

Will all energy, Vijay ran into the crease, bent his back and unleashed a delivery that pitched on off and straightened. Pattinson played all over it and missed. The ball missed the off stump only by inches.

Vijay let out a smile at Pattinson; a smile which was cruel than words; a smile which made the batsman feel inept.

Vijay got his confidence back. “Its show time now” he thought, though he was conscious not to overdo things.

Unable to cope the adrenaline, Vijay ran in even harder, and hit the middle of the pitch, which no one had explored till that time. As the pitch was hard, Vijay managed to get a steep lift off the pitch. Pattionson was not expecting anything on his body at all. The lift carried the ball to his face. Pattison tried to pull it and stopped at the last moment. The ball hit him on his right shoulder and then went on to hit the side of his throat.

He threw his bat down on impulse, moved away from the stumps and bent down catching his shoulder in pain.

“Are you alright?” asked Ian

“Ice pack” shouted the umpire

A few players gathered around Pattinson to check on him. Vijay was still away from the batsman, still not satisfied with the hit. After getting the treatment, the batsman was ready again, to face the heat.

Vijay walked up to the batsman and said “Now let me see what YOU are made of” and let of a cold smile.

After two more deliveries directed towards the ribs, Pattinson was jumping around for safety. One eventful over from Vijay was over, but no wickets.

Pattinson was in ease with Gary, the other bowler in the team. He played a wonderful leg glance off Gary the very next over. Vijay was in the short fine leg position. He watched the ball go past his right hand side and started chasing it. He chased it till the boundary line. It was touch and go. The ball looked like winning the race. In the last moment, Vijay unleashed a violent dive over the ball, like an Olympic swimmer, and tried to pull it in. In the process, he fell on hard clay, which shaved a lot of skin below his right knee.

But, the ball won the race.

When Vijay got up, he felt warm under his right knee.


“Are you ok son?” Ian asked at the end of the over.

“Never better, give me the ball” Vijay said

Blood was the last thing on his mind. He declined any first aid as he might not return on time for his next over.

With blood stains all over his pant, Vijay ran in even harder for his second over. This time, he bowled a bouncer first up. The ball just missed Pattinson’s face.

“Cant play cricket? Vijay asked and stared at him.

Pattinson was furious. Vijay knew from his body language that he had unsettled the batsman.

After bowling a short and fast ball, Vijay bowled a full and slow ball straight after. Expecting a fierce delivery on his face again, Pattinson braced himself in defense. After seeing a slower ball, he started reacting. He reacted a bit late and played all over the ball. And missed it by a mile.


The sound that Vijay was dying to hear; the sound of leather hitting the timber and then the sound of huge cheers from behind. Everything had changed for Vijay within an hour.

Vijay let out a wild celebration and started running wildly towards the fine leg with tears of joy, as everyone tried to catch him. Finally Michael caught hold of him and pulled him down. Everyone jumped on top of Vijay as a mark of celebration.

Pattinson, the danger man, was gone. In the most humiliating fashion.

“The game is not over guys” Ian said and smiled at the team. “Get back and stick to the basics, and enjoy the game now”

At the end of the over, Vijay received a huge cheer from the crowd gathered as he walked towards the fine leg boundary.

“One hand on the cup” he thought.

Blood was still oozing out of his right leg. But, no one bothered. Including Vijay.

Fox started picking up the momentum. He was silent under the shadow of Pattinson, but he started finding the gaps after Pattinson perished.

Vijay was given the ball again, to bowl his third over.

“You had your moments, now get back and concentrate” Vijay told himself.

The first ball to Fox was full, fast and straight. Fox missed it. Fox missed a straight one on the middle stump.

Timber! Yet again!

Vijay stretched both his arms and knelt on one knee facing the crowd towards the deep point region. The entire team came running in and hugged Vijay. Ian stroked his hair furiously as the entire team was on a rampage. The feeling of getting both the top players was unexplainable. Vijay could not believe what a bowler he turned out that day.

“Thats game, set and match” Vijay thought

“There is still work to do guys” Ian said, yet again. He never let the adrenaline calm down at any moment and yet, he remained as calm as anyone could be.

A true mark of a charismatic leader!

The rest of the batsmen came and left. Vijay bowled his five overs for twenty five runs and two wickets. The wickets of Pattinson and Fox.

When Deano caught Tipple off Simon,in the 20th over, the entire team erupted in joy.

In the end, they won quite comfortably by 39 runs.

After the customary handshakes with the umpires, the players started walking back to the pavilion.

The general custom in British cricket was that the player who created the greatest impact would lead the team back to the pavilion. Every other player would only wait near the boundary rope, waiting to be lead back.

Ian pushed Vijay from behind and said “Lead the team back!”

Vijay was unsure whatever he heard was true. He was asked to lead a successful team on a finals day. No one could ask for more.

The team gathered in two parallel lines near the boundary and everyone was clapping for Vijay. He removed his cap, as a mark of respect, raised his right hand with the ball to everyone on the ground.

At that moment, Vijay felt like a kid in the sweet shop. He was filled with a feeling that could never be explained in words. He just helped a team to win the cup for the first time in about ten years. Everyone in the village was elated for the team and for Vijay.

Inside the dressing room, Pattinson peeped in and asked “Can I buy you a drink?”

Vijay was speechless. A rival buying a drink? Why would he do that? But then, he thought cricket is a gentleman’s game after all. Or it used to be!

“A coke please. Thank you!” Vijay said.

Over the drink Pattinson apologized for his actions on the field.

“I was pumped up. All the words I said was in the heat of the moment. I am sorry” he said.

“I share the same feeling” Vijay said and smiled.

Afterall, cricket is a gentleman’s game. Everything gets settled over a drink.

After the opponents had left, an old man in his sixties approached Vijay.

“I have played for this club for more than twenty years, between 1960 and 1980, but have never won a cup” he said and lit his pipe.

“But whatever the team has achieved today is enormous. I am glad that you helped us to win it”

“The pleasure is mine sir. I fully enjoyed the season. Thanks for the opportunity to play alongside some of the best players” Vijay said.

The old man smiled and said “Well played son!”

At that moment, Vijay felt like a kid in a bigger sweet shop. Getting an appreciation from one of the oldies was never easy. They always complain about the nature of the game played in modern times.

At the end of the season, the club had a party night and announced a lot of awards such as batsman of the year, bowler of the year and player of the year. The batsman and bowler of the year were purely awarded based on the statistics for the games played in the year, but the player of the year was based on voting by current and ex-players of the club.

At the end of the party, the old man, whom Vijay met at the end of the finals day took over the mike and started making an announcement.

“This year had been wonderful for us. Second place in the league and the prestigious planet cup” he said.

“To mark the successful year, I now announce the player of the year, this year” he said and paused for a moment. Everyone in the room was keen.

“And it is Vijay, especially for this stunts on the finals day” he said and laughed aloud.

The entire team applauded for Vijay, who was in a state of shock. He received the rolling award, a cricket bat that contained the names of the players who had won the award the previous years. Vijay looked at the bat. A lot of huge names were already there. Vijay was thrilled that he was a part of that elite club of players winning the player of the year award.

“Your name will go in there son” he said and handed over the bat.

Vijay felt like a kid inside the biggest sweet shop in the world. He got everything he wanted. He got what he wanted from one of the most prominent members in the board.

“Well played son” the old man said finally.

PS: Click here fo the web reference for the game

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The art of moving

“It is time to move on” Sam thought while packing his clothes in a suitcase. He felt a big sense of relief when he negotiated his contract with his agent so that he could move on to another apartment.

Every night was a nightmare for him while he stayed in his current apartment. The location was fantastic for a single person to stay as it was very close to all shops and transportation. Whatever he wanted, right form grocery till a video rental, and it was less than one hundred meters from his apartment. Moreover, his flat was right above a local fish and chips shop, the most famous one in that locality.

“Wait a minute! Staying on top of a fish and chips shop? Won’t that attract drunken teens late night? Will the place be peaceful or safe?” Little did Sam think about all these factors when he moved in four months back and he did pay the price for it. Every night, by one AM someone would knock the door and then hide somewhere. And this would continue until 3 AM. On some nights he used to hear sound of women crying, sometimes screaming, and sometimes both, but most of the times with some abusive words. If there was any advantage of staying in that apartment, he did learn a lot of ways to abuse people.

“Yeah, that is one advantage of being abused night after night” he thought while packing

For anyone, the sequence of events which would contain packing all the items in boxes, moving and unpacking carefully would be tiresome and boring. But, Sam was more than happy to go through this heavy load for one day rather than getting abused and humiliated for two hours in the night every night. New set of teens appeared every night, but the level of abuse was always standard!

Sam asked for help. A couple of his friends, Krishna and Gudla came along. Both of his friends were inspecting the kitchen.

“How can I pack all these vessels?” asked Gudla

“Boy! You have a lot for a single person!” Krishna declared.

“Use this” Sam said and gave them a bundle of refuse sacks.

“You want me to pack your kitchen in a refuse sack?” asked Krishna with a surprise.

“Yes. I don’t have anything else now. Stop asking questions and pack” Sam said and threw the bundle of refuse sacks at him.

Seven refuse sacks were full and ready for transportation within ten minutes. By the time kitchen was packed, Sam packed his bedroom in a couple of suitcases.

“What next?” Gudla asked.

“Well, I think we are ready. It’s time to call the cab and take these things” Sam said and pointed at seven refuse sacks, two suitcases, a big sack of onions and a television.

“Onions? Why would he pack the onions? Half of them are rotten anyway” Sam thought. But, he did not ask any questions at that time as his mind was preoccupied with a lot of things.

Sam opened his phone and dialed for the cab. The cab came within five minutes. They used the time to carry all the items from his flat to the main door below and parked all the items on the street. People who went past the street were anxiously looking at the packed items. Some thought “Well, that is too much of refuse for a single person flat” after looking at seven refuse sacks neatly lined up on the street.

“Dude, today is not the trash day” said Sam’s neighbor and smiled sarcastically.

“I know. Thanks!” Sam said and looked at the far end of the street, impatiently waiting for the cab.

Every minute, the number of anxious lookers was increasing and so his comfort was decreasing exponentially.

“God! When will this taxi arrive?” he thought.

After a minute, he consoled himself by thinking about the hard times he went thorough in the previous nights. All of that would be over soon. The thought of uninterrupted sleep all night was bliss for him.

The taxi arrived. So were the troubles. The driver looked at the packages, but initially thought they were only transporting the suitcases and the television.

“Waiting for the council guys to throw these away?” He asked and pointed at the seven refuse sacks.

Sam was silent for moment. Then he said “No, actually we want to take them in your taxi”

“What? That is not possible” He said immediately.

“Why not?” Gudla asked, raising his voice.

“Listen I am not here for a confrontation” He said and pulled his sleeves up. Sam gulped. All three gulped.

“I am going back” the driver said.

“Wait. Can you take the suitcases and the television?” Sam asked.

The driver thought about it for a moment and then agreed.

“And just one sack? It only contains kitchen items” Gudla said. Sam and Krishna froze.

“Is he Crazy? This driver is up for a fight!” Sam thought and was almost ready to run away in case of a fight.

“Let me ask my boss” he said and picked up his wireless devise.

“Listen mate. There are three guys here with seven refuse sacks. It looks ugly and big and they want to take them in my cab. Only god knows what the hell is inside” he said.

Sam could not control his laughter after listening to this conversation. After a couple of minutes, the driver said that his company would not allow taking refuse sacks no matter what (the hell) was inside.

“I can take the suitcases and the television if you want” the driver said.

The three guys looked at each other and finally agreed.

“We will look at other options for transporting your kitchen” Krishna said and smiled.

When they stared loading the suitcase in the boot, they realized that two big suitcases wouldn’t fit in. All they could fit was just one suitcase. But, they did not want to send the driver back, as they troubled him for twenty minutes, for the fear of being smacked in the middle of the street. So, they just loaded one suitcase and left everything behind.

“I will go along while you watch these things” Sam said to the other two guys.

“Is that all?” the driver asked and pointed his finger towards the back of the car.

“Yes” said Sam and sat in the front seat.

When the driver started the engine, Gudla came running towards Sam and asked him to open the window.

“Can you take his along with you? Just this one”
Gudla said and tried to hand over one full pack of onions, out of which the bottom half was rotten.

Sam was caught in the middle. Between the driver and Gudla. Literally. He looked at the driver who was red with anger and then he looked at Gudla, who was trying to push the pack of onions inside.

He looked at the driver and Gudla a few times, turning 180 degrees to check whether anyone would give up. But none did.

Finally, Gudla dropped the sack on Sam’s lap through the window that led Sam in a state of horror.

“God! I can’t even run now” he thought.

Pissed off with the guys, the driver gave the accelerator a severe push and off went the cab furiously.

Both the driver and Sam did not speak until they stopped the taxi at destination. Sam was still frozen with a sack of onions.

As soon as Sam got out of the cab, he asked “Are you ok to take one more trip?”

The driver pretended like he was deaf. It took around thirty minutes for him to negotiate and move one suitcase and a pack of onions for Sam. All the way, he was not happy with the guys and the goods moved.

After all the negotiations and frustrations, after thirty minutes being spent overall, and after a sack of onions was taken for a ride, the driver looked at the meter and said “That’s one pound and fifty pence sir!”

The driver had no idea that the new flat was just one hundred meters away. That, again, pissed him off as much as he could ever be pissed off.

“Even the KFC waiter gets eight pounds an hour. What did my taxi gain?” he asked, then snatched the money and sped away.

Sam felt bad about the whole episode. Especially with the sack of onions on his lap. But, he had other things to worry about.

“Now, how do I move my kitchen?” he thought.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Nature calls…

Part 1 – The agony

After six days of heavy work on the field, Sam got a chance to party on Saturday night. He had a few beers and some pizzas until three in the morning. Due to the excessive eating and drinking, he had to break up from his sleep, due to nature’s call; a call he could not avoid or postpone, at eight in the morning, which was midnight by his standards.

When he woke up, he woke up with a very sharp pain in his abdomen. Six days of sleeplessness and excessive partying the previous night didn’t help. Sam woke up when he was half asleep. He wanted to stay half asleep because being half awake is enough to attend nature’s call and being half asleep would help him to get back to that “fully asleep” or knocked-out-cold-yet-again state soon.

He went to the bathroom door and to his horror he found that it was already occupied. “Who the hell it could be?” he thought. Then he suddenly remembered that there was a girl sharing the other bedroom in his house. Sam did not like Claire as she was a bit bitchy about everything. For a long time Claire wanted to get back on Sam for whatever he had done to her in the past.

“Hey.. Its me, Sam.. how are you?” He asked standing in front of the toilet door.

He waited for a minute and there was no reply. Then he realized that he had asked a dumb question. He waited for moment but the pressure on his abdomen was getting worse.

Sam was sure that he would be embarrassed if he asked for help but he had to, only to avoid bigger embarrassment. And he knew it. He gathered all his courage and said “Hey, it is a kind of an emergency here. Can you please come out quickly?”

“Ok, that’s fine” she said.

Sam felt a bit relieved that Claire was not playing any games on him during absolute emergency.

Five minutes went by. Staying half awake became dangerous. He had to concentrate and put in all the efforts to stay clean.

Ten minutes went by. The door was still locked. The shower was still on. Now, Sam had to hold his lower abdomen tightly to ease some pressure.

“Hey, are you not coming out? I said it is an emergency” he shouted and banged on the door twice.

The sound of water from the shower stopped. Sam felt a bit relieved.

“Of what kind?” she asked.


“I mean the emergency. Of what kind?” she asked again.

“That bitch” he thought. Sam wanted to force the door open. Or shout at her. But, that required some effort and energy. Diverting his energy on to something else would be disastrous. So, he started thinking of ways to get himself to safety.

A few options came up. Some of them are 1) Call 911 2) Call the cab and go to his friend’s house. But, were they awake, and what if the toilet there was occupied as well? And 3) Use the kitchen sink. But, that was not wise. Atleast he was sane enough to discard the third option.

So he took the phone and dialed for the taxi. Form his experience, he knew that the taxi would cost four pounds. After calling for the taxi, he went to his wardrobe and started pulling out all the coins he had. He had about a hundred twenty pence coins. He took them out and started building a building out of the twenty pence coins, by placing one on top of the other.

Now, Sam could not stand straight. He found by accident that by bending fifteen degrees, the pressure on the abdomen was minimal.

Five more minutes went by. Now, even thinking became difficult. Sam felt that it took so much amount of energy to think. He had no faith in god, but started praying. Two incidents within twelve hours was too much to take.

While coming out of the party the precious night, after gulping a few beers, he had an urge to use the restroom. Due to excessive amount of fluid that went into his system, and due to the fact that it was winter, the urge was all of a sudden and was sharp. He was standing in the middle of the city with no public toilets nearby and no shops open except the pubs and the night clubs.

He hurried into the same pub from which he came out only a couple of minutes back.

“Five pounds sir”
the bouncer said


“Five pounds for entry after 2 AM sir” he said politely

“But I just came out from here”

“That’s ok sir, but you are going in now. We don’t charge for coming out of the pub” he said and winked

“Will this be the most expensive urination experience in the world ?” Sam thought for a moment, but every minute became precious and he had the money. He paid for it and rushed to the restroom. When he came out, his face was fresh and clear. He felt like he was reborn.

Now, Sam was standing in front of the restroom in his house, almost dead six hours after he was reborn, with five pounds in his hand but still could not use the toilet. What a shame!

He was counting his minutes, but now minutes became seconds. And then he came to a point that disaster was looming any moment. He dragged himself to the main hall, which is equidistant from the toilet and the main door. Sam kept his cab option open as well.

Then he heard a click; a click that he was dying to hear. When she came out of the toilet, he stood straight just to show her that his emergency was not as critical as she would have thought. Sam ensured that he didn’t breathe for thirty seconds until she crossed him. When she went into her room and locked, he started running towards the toilet.

All the creatures in the world, except the humans, do not have this problem nor do they pay for excretion. We, humans, in the name of civilization, have enforced rules on ourselves which leads to such emergencies.

All the other animals pee anywhere they wanted to. Aquatic species don’t have to worry about it though. Elephants pee about five liters on the streets and yet it never declares an emergency. But humans pee less than a liter but we had to follow strict rules.

“It does not make any sense for me”
Sam thought while in the toilet. Humans are the most intellectual creatures in this planet and yet, we cannot do certain things at certain times even though it is an absolute emergency.

Isn’t that a shame?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Home coming part 2 – The train journey

“Wake up you lazy bones” my mother shouted at me.

“We still have three more hours to go” I said while sleeping.

“We are not taking a flight from here. It takes one and a half hours to reach the train station”
she shouted.

“Oh yeah”
I said with frustration and opened my eyes for the first time that day.

I have been sleeping for more than twelve hours a day for the last four days, yet I felt that I was not feeling mentally fresh. Something inside was bugging me for sometime as I struggled to find that bugging bug.

We started an hour later. Then we took a bus which took another hour in the traffic. One hour in the bus went like a day. I was kicked out of the seat once by a lady, I had to give up my seat for an old man once and I was standing with my neck bent for about fifty minutes. Why are the bus in Chennai so damn short? I would prefer an open top bus, but none of them were running in Chennai.

Finally, we reached the train station one hour and five minutes before schedule. Normally one has to spend five and a half hours in the train to reach Bangalore from Chennai. But, today, we had to spend six hours and thirty five minutes in the train!

As soon as I took my seat, I looked up to find a plug and a switch. What luck! I never knew that Indian railways have this facility. So, I immediately opened my laptop, plugged it in and started watching Friends from episode 141. When I reached episode 145 and Perambur (which is five kilometers from the Chennai central railway station), I got bored with Friends. Then I tried reading a book and got bored again. Finally, I started listening to some songs in my iPod. After thirty minutes, I got bored again.

“What next?”
I thought. At that time, I started smelling food. To kill time, I ordered four cutlets and started eating. My thoughts started drifting from food to cricket and then to football.

After a few minutes, I started thinking about my college and Dubai. Strangely, I started missing Dubai as I was never fond of this place as long as I was there.

When I landed in Dubai, four and a half months back, I was a bit nervous. But then that nervousness was gone quickly due to conscious efforts that I took. Whatever happened in the college, how much ever assignments and exams I had, I always ensured that I ate three times a day, on time, slept as early as possible and slept for eight hours a day. It helped me to concentrate well in the class all the time. So, I never had to open my books at home, even on the exam eve. I still slept at a healthy rate of eight hours per day during the exams. I even found time to jog for half an hour every day!

I have never had so much clarity in my mind about what I was doing in my lifetime before. The first term in SP Jain was brilliant. There was no doubt that we were absolutely hammered and severely cramped for time, yet I pulled off eight hours of sleep without compromising on my studies. By far, I was at my best. No question about that.

But, by the time I completed my course in Dubai, I was not the same person I was during the start of the program. I started compromising on my breakfasts as I started sleeping late, and skipped my jogs a few times. Hence, I started losing my concentration in class.

At the end of the second term, I felt like I had lost something that I had for a long time. Classes suddenly seemed boring, waking up in the morning became a pain, sleeping early in the night became even more painful, and eating thrice a day never happened. What did I gain in losing so much? Nothing; absolutely nothing. The level of concentration and confidence that I usually had started depreciating. As Austin Powers said in one of his movies, I somehow lost my mojo and I need to do something to get it back! My mojo is absolute concentration and confidence. And both are tightly interlinked for me. If I lose one, I lose the other.

Then my thoughts came back to the train. We were half way through and so are the cutlets. Two of them were over and two to go. It started to get dark outside. When I took the first bite on the third cutlet, I started thinking about the root cause for my situation. What did I do to lose concentration on whatever I was doing? It felt weird to me. It could be due to sleeping late, or skipping breakfast, or boring subjects or a combination of all or it could be something that I haven’t figured out yet.

I knew that I need to do something to get myself back on track. Then I had a look at my plate. The cutlets were all gone now. It was totally dark outside when I started to think about my immediate future. I felt that life in Singapore was staring at me, straight on my face.

But, from the window of the train, I was staring at darkness to find some light.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

A bug to be crushed

“Switch on that mosquito repellent” I shouted at my friend when I entered home after a tired day.

“It is 6 PM now and those little insects will invade soon. Close the door and the windows”
I ordered, like an army commander.

What can these insects do? They need food, and somehow they like the taste of blood. Human blood. That is how they are created and that is how they are destined to live. But, we humans only allow those creatures to live, that would co-operate with us.

So, what do we do about the non co-operative species?

Lions and tigers – put them in zoo; snakes – kill them whenever they appear; mosquitoes and other bugs– simple… use your hands and crush them!

Everything is human centric for humans. We have the ultimate power to do whatever we want to do and in the process, we let the other species die. Ruthlessly.

We humans go one step further and try to defy nature in the name of science and engineering. We build big aircrafts that defy gravity and fly for hours. We suck water and oil from deep down. We burn coal and oil for our convenience.

But, Mother Nature is watching us. Somewhere from above. She sends out a signal every now and then so that human beings could behave.

The climate change is a perfect example. We suck a lot of resources from nature and pollute it as well. Thinking what the nature can do? The 2004 south Asian tsunami is one small example of what little things the nature can do to punish us. The more we move away from the laws of nature, the more we suffer.

We treat bugs like bugs because they do not co-operate. But, when we go one step further and do not co-operate with nature, it treats us like bugs!

But, what will you do when some humans are treated like a-bug-to-be-crushed by other humans?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


“Ouch!!!!” I cried when I fell down with a big thud. Both my legs were weighing twice the weight it should weigh. That made it difficult for me to get up. Every time I tried to get up, I fell badly. After four attempts, I was lying there, flat on my back, looking up at the sky, not knowing how to get up.

Loud party music was played nearby and the people around me were trying to dance to the beats. Some people did fall during the process, but they were back on their feet soon after. I was the only guy out there who couldn’t stand on my own feet!

The pain in the legs was unbearable and the fact that I had to get up quickly as people were cruising at twenty miles per hour around me was scary. Then, it started snowing.

“Oh my god! What am I going to do now?” I thought. Crawling to shelter was one option, but that would look weird. Wouldn’t it?

Then I started cursing myself for wearing those heavy boots and getting into the center of the ice rink on a cold winter night. I had no experience of ice skating, but still I wanted to try and so paid twenty pounds to get in there and fell awkwardly four times. That’s five pounds per fall!

I tried to remove my skies, but it wouldn’t come off. Or I didn’t know how to remove them. But, I had to remove them to lighten the load on my legs so that I could stand up. I was stuck there totally helpless.

“Are you a beginner” said someone above me.

I looked up and I saw a gorgeous girl in her teens wearing a bright red scarf around her neck. She smiled at me and offered her hands. I grabbed it and tried to get up. I got up, still holding her hands. Tightly. I was still in the danger of falling one more time. The blades in my stakes were so sharp and the ice so icy that I was unable to stand.

“I need something to hold on” I said. “Otherwise I would fall again” still holding her hand for support.

She smiled at me. “You can continue holding on to my hands if you are scared”

“Gee! Thanks!” I said and smiled sheepishly.

“I am not a professional, but this is my third class. So I think I am better than you are with the skates”

“Okay, now slowly push your left leg and move forward” she said.

I just did that, but pushed my leg a bit too much and was about to fall again. Scared to death, I squeezed her hand tightly.

“Easy!” she said. I forced a smile on my lips.

“Listen, this is easy. But you have to believe me. Hold my hands and do exactly what I do” She said, looking straight into my eyes.

At that point of time, paying twenty pounds and falling on the ice rink four times seemed well worth. “Twenty pounds is not a big money” I thought. Well, lots of other thoughts were going on in my mind at that time. Normally people in Newcastle have thrown rubbish at me and abused me several times. This was the first time, a gorgeous girl in the middle of the ice rink on a bitterly cold winter night was actually trying to help me.

She took me around half the circle. I realized that I can skate. With some assistance only though. All the way, she was holding my hands, gently and helped me learn.

But, I didn’t learn anything. I was only looking at her beautiful blue eyes. She was giving some instructions on how to skate. But, none of them went into my head.

After half a round of skating, “Try to implement this technique. You will be fine” she said and smiled.

I stood there, catching the wall at the edge of the rink so that I won’t fall again. She stood there for a moment. I was like a statue. I didn’t know what to do next.

“Good bye!” she said, waived her hand and joined her friends.

I looked around, still under the state of bliss. None of the things that I saw was getting processed in my brain. The feeling was great. I could never put words to precisely describe that feeling. I looked around, once again. A couple of my friends were in the fourth class. One was skating like a Mickey mouse and the other like a robot. I laughed at them for a moment.

Only then I realized that I didn’t even thank the girl for helping me out. I started searching for her. Actually the real reason for searching her was not to thank her but to ask her out for coffee.

“Damn! Why didn’t I do that before, when she was with me?” With the limited mobility, I found it too difficult to locate her in the rink. I searched and searched. But I couldn’t find her. She just disappeared.

“Am I the dumbest person around? What an opportunity to make friends with her, and probably more!” I thought as more snow fell on my face.

I missed to get to know her. What an idiot… looser I am? But those moments, the skate for half a round, the soothing words from her, were priceless.

Someday somewhere I read in a book that Columbus discovered America by shear serendipity. But, the discovery of this strange feeling inside me, for an unknown girl who was kind enough to help me… is that, by any chance, serendipity?

Or is the feeling of love and affection a serendipity? Maybe someday, Adam and Eve should testify.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Mistakes are all mine!

Twelve runs to win off one over. The bowler started running in. I was immensely concentrating to put bat on ball. The first ball was on length and moved away a bit. I swung my bat 360 degrees. No use. The ball went straight to the keeper. I removed one of my sweaters and gave it to the umpire. I was feeling hot inside even though it was minus one degree on a cold dark winter evening in London.

The bowler started running in for the second ball. Again, the ball was on length and moved away. I braced myself for a backfoot heave over covers and was about to swing my bat.

“Are you coming or not?” shouted my friend. I lost concentration momentarily and edged the ball to the wicketkeeper.

I was disappointed to have got out the way I got out. But, when I came back to where my team was standing, guys were apologetic.

“Well played “ and “Tough luck” were the comments from them. After nodding to them, I found Krishna staring at me. I was sure that he was angry with me, by looking at his expression.

Two minutes and four more balls later, we lost the game. The team was disappointed but Krishna was still angry. After a few seconds, reality stuck me. Common sense started prevailing. Krishna had to catch a flight to go to Newcastle. I looked at my watch. It was four thirty in the evening. The flight was at five thirty.

“I am sorry dude, I didn’t realize that it is very late now. I think we can still catch the plane if we give it a try” I said.

He spoke nothing.

We reached home in a couple of minutes. All the way I was trying to call all the cab companies I knew. It was a Sunday and not many cabs were running around. We were forced to take the Bus to the airport. The journey took twenty five minutes. I spoke a lot in those twenty five minutes. He didn’t speak a word. All the way I was optimistic about us reaching the airport on time.

“British Airways are generally late from Heathrow. I am sure you will catch the flight” I said.

He gave a cold stare. I stayed quiet for a while.

“Is it not very cold out there” I asked, mainly to break the silence.

No response, again. “God! What am I going to do to make him speak?”

Krishna generally cannot control his anger. I have been a victim many times and have been smacked for all the mistakes I did in the past. Like this one. But today, he was very quiet and that was very scary for me.

When we got out of the bus, I pulled his bag and started running towards the check in desk like a mad man, pushing everyone who would come my way.

“Five thirty BA 1336 Newcastle flight please” I said to the check in agent. Krishna was walking slowly towards the check in counter. The check in lady pointed her finger towards a giant clock above her head. It said “Five forty five”

“Damn!” I said and looked back. Krishna was still walking towards me, hands on his pocket, as casual as ever.

“Oh my god!” I whispered. I was certain that I was going to be killed.

“The flight has departed” I told him, in a weak tone.

“I know that already. Saw it in the board there” he said pointing to the giant screen above.

We started walking towards the bus station after changing his ticket to the first flight the next morning.

“This is massive” I said, after boarding the bus.

“What is massive?”

“Generally you would pull my hair and smack me for small crimes I do. But this one is massive. You missed the flight and yet you are calm”

He nodded and didn’t speak.

“Why are you silent today ?” I asked.

“To start with…”
he stared.

“I believed you. I believed you that you would take me to the airport on time”
he said, in a calm voice.

I frowned.

“…and that was my mistake”
he continued.

I looked at him apologetically.

"Do you hate me for what i just did"
I asked

He looked at me and said “How can I ever hate you ... when the mistakes are all mine?”