Monthly Archives: July 2008

Mastram ki Mastiyaan

After stories occupying many of my past blog posts, I finally have a chance to talk directly about something I love – Myself. Thanks to Sultan of Samarkand for tagging me. I, on my part have never tagged him and intend to return the favour sometime.

This blog post is gonna be long, for talking about myself is one thing I like to do for as long a time as possible (and that is Mastram ki zeroth masti). The post may also veer from its course at times, for, as the title suggests, I’m a Mastram and happen to be in one of my Mast moods right now. I’m terribly sorry if someone would rather a short-n-sweet post. I just can’t help being verbose right now.

These are my Mastram ki mastiyaan, in no particular order of preference.

1. Love the name!
Yeah, I’m in love with this name ‘Mastram’. I’ve had several nicknames over the years, but this one takes the cake. Was given to me during the ragging period, by Khare I think, for writing several pages of Mastram-type literature for the benefit of my seniors. Fit like a glove, this name, for not only did I give the real Mastram a run for his money by producing some very exciting literature totally worthy of the name, in normal life I’ve always liked to stay ‘Mast’ for as much time as possible and do not entertain many unnecessary pains in the neck. ‘Mast’ remained fine, but over time, the sound of ‘Ram’ in the end slowly lost its appeal and I had stopped believing that this name suited me, until Himachal happened.

I went to Himachal in the summers for a trek in the wilds. Ever so much the Aravalis’ own boy, I took to the Himalayas like a duckling takes to water. I was pretty good at everything we were supposed to do, and some of the local guides were even gracious enough to admit that I was right in their league!

Now, the guides (bless them, pure souls!) had names like Dola Ram, Doley Ram, Sohan Ram etc. My friends in the trek admired my climbing skills, and started calling me ‘Aniket Ram ji’, ala Dola Ram Ji, Doley Ram ji and Sohan Ram ji. And that’s when it hit me: The name ‘Mast Ram ji’ or Mast Ram WAS my name. It was as much meant for me as the green colour was meant to cover the lower Himalayas and as the white colour was meant to cover their peaks.

Yeah, unfashionable as it is, this name is my name. Pity though, that not many people are left in the college who call me by this name.

2. ‘Song listening Principle’ :

“‘Never change a good song before it is completed.'”

I love music and also the people who create it. I think that if you change a good song before it ends, you’re doing an insult to the artist who was gracious enough to perform it for you. So, I formulated this principle. Not that I always abide by it; but I always try to.
The artist has put in an effort and deserves a chance to present his thing. Listen to him, give him his chance, and then reject him if you wanna. But not before that, please, not before that.

3. Music: Another peculiarity about music: I cannot listen to a music for long unless I understand its lyrics. And also usually, the less instruments and sound effects, the better. Lyrics and vocals are of primary importance to me in my music. Also, I’m a minimalist: too many of the instruments and effects, and the real emotions get buried under them; hence the less of them, the better.

4. Schools: I get totally ecstatic, absolutely very, very happy sometimes at the sight of a school. Especially if it’s in a remote area and there are lots of kids running around. I think several subconscious factors may be at work behind this reaction. Maybe the school tells me that someday, everything will be alright with India, that it has a very good future, that every kid in India is studying and will have the chance that is due to her. Or maybe, it just subconsciously takes me back to those good ol’ absolutely carefree school times when we played during the days and the evenings never came…

5. Athletic girls: I somehow feel very attracted to girls who’re athletic (meaning girls who’re good at running or jumping). Not only attracted, I hold them in high esteem and have a special respect for them, a kind which I have only for them.

The attraction thing puzzled me and I read about the mechanisms of attraction, what makes some girls attractive to guys and what doesn’t. It basically has to do with our subconscious instincts. Won’t go into the details, but I think maybe the athleticism of a girl tells me that she’s gonna retain that marvelous figure for a long time, maybe it’s just appreciation of the qualities in another human being. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because of myself being an athlete too. Only an athlete girl can appreciate the finer details of something that’s an integral part of me and which probably precious little number of girls can even understand.

6. Mania for climbing:
Our very own tharki dirty old man of India, Khushwant Singh once admitted that almost every woman he comes across, he, well, sizes her up. That he pictures her in bed, how’d she look and act during the act and so on and so forth.

I’ve grown up among the Aravalis, and things like running up and down steep hill slopes, climbing vertical ascents, jumping from heights and ‘skiing’ down slopes over loose pebbles are second nature to me. But in all these activities, climbing up vertical ascents without any ropes is what turns me on the most. I equally love climbing up trees.

So far, so good. But it isn’t just that.

Climbing runs much more deeper into my head. So much so that whatever structure I come across, I ‘size it up’. Meaning figuring out whether I’ll be able to climb it or not. And that includes all kinds of structures. The IIIT Main Building front, the boulders we come across in Hyderabad, the trees in the campus, any wall, railway wagon, hill slope, cliff, basketball column… any goddam vertical structure. After sizing it up, I make a plan in my head and picture myself carrying it out. “I’ll proceed like this, then put my foot there, no, I won’t be able to put it so high up… from here, that’s better. Then I’ll grab that chink in the wall, no it won’t hold my weight… this angle will be difficult, that position impossible.” Like this I proceed in my head until I’ve climbed the ascent, which may be anything from a few feet high campus wall to a thousands of feet high Himalayan peak. And I do this with almost every structure I happen to pay any attention to. I don’t know of any other person who does that. Maybe there isn’t any.

Our Tharki Sardar enjoys his secret pastime with women. I remain quite happy with my heights.

I tag the following people to blog about their ‘quirks’:
Chand , Pagare, Himank, Sunanda, Aakanksha, ,Shubhangi .
The people I’m tagging, please visit anks for rules n stuff.

Categories: Myself, Tag Posts | 13 Comments

Rape(Concluding Part)

Story so far: Abhishek, a software engineer from IIIT is trying to kill a friday evening alone, when he chances upon Neha, a past acquaintance. He finds that Neha is in distress, and as they talk, Abhishek finds out that Neha is undergoing a break-up. During the course of their meeting, Neha breaks down.

Neha jerked herself free from him, and stood up, facing him. The light from the street washed her and got reflected from her tears, and in the backdrop of the ink-black Hussain Sagar, she looked ignited. “What can you understand, huh, Abhishek? What can you understand?” She was shouting at the top her voice now. “Can you understand the feeling of being used for six years? No, you cannot! You’re not a girl. How can you understand this feeling, this feeling, of being raped?!!“

Neha burst into a fresh bout of tears, and started walking towards the edge of the sixteen feet high embankment. Abhishek sat on the bench, paralyzed. Neha’s last sentence was still hanging in the air around him, and he felt himself getting crushed under its weight.”

Abhishek sat on the bench facing the shimmering Hussain Sagar, his mind numb. He was a sensitive guy and never had had much proximity to any girl. He had no idea about the amount of grief women can hold in their hearts, and when Neha’s floodgates opened, he couldn’t help being overawed with her emotions. Neha’s words had entered his head and had refused to come out, any which way. “He raped me Abhishek, He RAPED me!!” her voice rang out in his head. Immobilized, he stared and stared at the Hussain Sagar.

Somebody screamed, “Maidaam, hey, maidaam!”

Abhishek snapped out from his shell with a start at the sharp call addressed in alarm to a woman. And the first thing he noticed was that Neha was nowhere about. Somebody again screamed, “Arey, KAHAAN TU BHI DHYAAN HAI MAIDAAM!!!”. He followed the voice to see a young Hyderabadi teen calling out from at a distance of 4-5 feet to a female figure draped in a black dress standing almost at the edge of the shore of the lake, which ended abruptly in a sixteen foot fall into the crocodile-infested Hussain Sagar. The woman was totally oblivious to where she was standing, that a boy was screaming at the top of his voice just at her back, that if she lost balance, that would be the end. She seemed to be lost, staring into space. And to his horror, Abhishek realized that the woman was Neha.

“Fuck this boy, why doesn’t he just grab her arm!” were Abhishek’s first thoughts as he scrambled to his feet. Running like a bolt of lightening, he pushed the bewildered boy aside and roughly reached for Neha’s wrist and pulled her towards himself. Neha was jolted as Abhishek couldn’t control the fit of rage that he just felt at her. “What the fuck, Neha! Have you gone crazy? What do you think you were trying to do?” Neha’s wrist was clutched in his fist, and her face was inches away from his. Her black, round mascaraed eyes stared at him, terrified. Her 24-year old face bore the expressions of a 2-year old child who has just come to realize that he’s in unfamiliar arms.

As Abhishek looked at those eyes rounded with terror, the fit of rage passed out as soon as it had come. The guilty realization came that he was hurting Neha the way he was holding her, and the way he was talking to her. Coming to his senses, he noticed several pairs of Hyderabadi eyes upon them in their secluded corner of the lakeside. And then it dawned upon him why the boy had just kept on shouting from at a distance at Neha. He was a Hyderabadi boy in his mid teens, and going near a woman in an evening dress, leave alone pulling her by the arm would be anathema to these conservative people. Slowly, Abhishek loosened the grip on the delicate wrist. Neha was feeling weak. Abhishek took her arm and guided her to a nearby bench. The Hyderabadi boy kept looking at them incredulously, and then turned his back and left.

Abhishek gently helped Neha down, and then himself crashed on the bench beside her, exhausted. It isn’t everyday that you listen to the naked rona-dhona of a dumped girl, and then pull her away to safety just as she’s getting suicidal. The thinking part of Abhishek’s brain, which had helped him code his way to glory, told him to abandon this baggage there itself, and look for more interesting ways to while away an otherwise promising friday evening. But the students of IIIT Hyderabad, Abhishek’s alma mater, are as much taught in their syllabus to ‘feel’ as they’re taught to ‘think’. Not that every student learns whatever he is taught, but Abhishek was a sensitive guy, always eager to help. And it just wasn’t acceptable to his conscience to leave Neha in this condition.

So they started to talk. She, rather. And very soon Abhishek wished that he hadn’t met Neha, or talked to her in the first place.

For women hold grief into their hearts and hide it and not let it out so easily. As a result, it accumulates. And when it does come out, it becomes difficult for the woman to handle. And for any person who wishes to console another, getting inside the skin of the other is essential. He has to put himself in the other person’s shoes, feel exactly what she is feeling, and then think on his own as to what he should say which would soothe her. Needless to say, the listener’s job is no mean business. It can be very exacting. It takes sensitive hearts to think and feel like the other, and often the flow of emotions can be a bit too much to handle for those selfsame sensitive hearts.

Neha poured out her story. The fun she and Rajat had had; but she quickly came down to the bitter part. How she’d made sacrifices for him, how she’d told lies to her parents about extra classes to spend time with him, and then in college, how she’d saved money to call him and to go meet him whenever possible. She’d given in to his whims and fancies, she’d given up on her social life as he had disliked her talking to other guys, and so on. With each passing incidence, Abhishek felt increasingly sad. Two people in a relationship were like intertwined creepers, he reflected. You could not separate the two without much bleeding. And no amount of balm can instantly soothe a bleeding heart. It has to take its own time.

So they sat and she talked and he listened and listened. A good-looking, made-up girl in attractive clothes, bubbling with smiles and laughter enchants the senses. And a howling girl, sniffing on your handkerchief, mascara from her eyes running down her puffed up cheeks is almost as repulsive. Abhishek had been listening to her, with a patient ‘yes’ and ‘no’ occasionally, braving it all, bearing it all. Because he knew that he could not let another human, who had trusted in him, down. It had been way past his dinner time, way past his smoking time. And then the stories started to repeat…

  • It was late night now. Neha had stopped sobbing. Also, Abhishek had started talking. He told her that she had to pick herself up, however difficult it might seem to her. That she had to do it, as nobody else could do anything in this regard. and then he finally suggested that it was late and that they should both be heading home. At this suggestion, Neha asked him to come closer and when he did, she hugged him tightly, and started weeping. It felt nice to be hugged by a girl. But as the convulsions started coming again, and the tears started flowing, and he felt the back of his shirt moisten, he wished that she would just let go. It wasn’t such a great experience being hugged by a weeping girl after an emotionally draining evening.

    Finally she let go. Abhishek sat quiet, looking at his feet, as he heard the buckle of Neha’s purse snap open. She took out an anti-puff cream and applied it to her puffed cheeks. Then looking into her tiny, folding mirror, she wiped off her mascara and reapplied her lipstick. After a whole evening of howling and sobbing, she seemed much at ease now. Abhishek was famished, sleepy, emotionally drained and his shirt was ruined from the mascara stains all over it. Still, he thought drowsily, the evening hadn’t been a waste. He was happy to be able to help someone. Besides, he’d earned a friend that evening, he thought.

    He saw Neha walk confidently towards the road and hail down a taxi. With half closed eyes, he saw her get inside it. Suddenly, he realized he had forgotten something.
    “Hey, Neha!”, he called out and ran towards the taxi. The taxi had started but it stopped as he approached it.

    Neha looked out from the window. As he stood face to face with her, he sensed that the Neha of ten minutes ago had been replaced by a much more confident and self-composed Neha.

    “Oh, I forgot to thank you Abhishek”, she said, “thanks for being so patient with me”.

    Abhishek smiled in relief, and then put his hands on the window of the taxi. “Aren’t you forgetting something”, he smiled, looking inside. “We forgot to exchange contact numbers”.

    At this, Neha looked into his eyes, and for some reason the thought struck Abhishek that everything wasn’t as he was perceiving it.

    “You know Abhishek” Neha looked straight into his eyes, “I’m getting engaged next week. And the marriage will take place the day after.”

    The words made Abhishek snap out of his drowsiness. If she’s getting engaged, what’s she doing around here, clinging to me like this, he thought. Also…

    His thoughts were interrupted by Neha as she continued, “surprised, haan? well, his name’s Rajesh, and he lives in Germany. I won’t be coming back to India for a long time now, and I thought it best to dump away the bag of unpleasant memories of India in India itself.”

    Abhishek stood straight from his bent position, his mind racing but still not knowing what to make of what he had just heard. It just didn’t make any sense. Neha smiled at his demeanor, and then continued,

    “You were a patient listener, Abhishek. Thank you for making things easier for me. And as for the contact number, well, I don’t give away my number that easily to strangers. After all, we only met this evening after eight years.”

    The taxi rode away, melting into the night. Abhishek fought the urge to fall to his knees in the middle of the road. Somehow he dragged his feet to the side of his road and leaned against the railing. He was beginning to realize that Neha had used him. To get rid of her emotional burden, to let it all out before beginning a new life. She had wanted a patient, understanding ear and a strong shoulder to lean on and feel secure, and he had been foolish enough to provide whatever she had wanted. She had taken advantage of his emotions. It was a new experience, something he had never heard or read about. He had been emotionally used.

    He lit a cigarette and started walking back towards the Prasad’s complex, where his bike had beed parked. Neha’s words once again rang inside his head. “He raped me, Abhishek, he RAPED me.” For a moment, Abhishek wondered if he could say the same thing about himself. But as he crossed the deserted, flood-lit IMAX chourasta, leaving the glittering Hussain Sagar behind him, the fact slowly began to sink in. That this evening, it was he whose emotions had been played with. This evening, it was he who had been raped.

    Categories: Short Stories | 22 Comments

    Karant Wale Balaji Ka Mandir

    Old City of Ekta Nagar. Janak Puri and Ibrahim Mohalla, two adjacent lanes off the main Chaurasta. Sitting like two ancient sages with their backs to each other, watching with eternal patience the hustle-bustle playing on in front of them. One lane was inhabited by Hindus, and the other by Muslims. While garlic and onions were stolen secretively into the homes of one, the smell of chicken roasting wafted freely through another. Young women from one lane burnt the midnight oil, studying for their PG degrees, while most of their former classmates from the ‘peechhe wali galli’ were busy tending to their ever growing brood. Cows restricted themselves to only one of the lanes, for they were no longer held sacred once they crossed their threshold and ventured into the adjoining one. Apart from this, the Gallis looked identical. Small, dingy double or triple storey houses, with small windows opening out into the the galli, the absence of anything remotely green throughout their length and collective breadths, heaps of rubbish adorning both their alleys, kids playing cricket in both of them, ever ready to run at the sound of rubber meeting glass. The same churan-toffee, biscuit-chips, cigarette-bidi, gutkha-supari, chudi- bindi, atta-dal, samose-kachori were sold from the generations-old shops, little more than holes on the walls really, which lined the two gallis.

    In both the gallis, people screwed in the nights, went to shit in the mornings, pissed 5-7 times a day, tucked themselves under quilts in the winters and turned the fans on in the summers. Red blood would ooze out if you cut through the skin of a person from either galli, and to each would it hurt just as bad as it would hurt the other.

    In Janak Puri, a red-faced kid monkey, in his restless playfulness, one fine eleventh day of the month of the Hindu Calendar, in front of the Ram Mandir of Janak Puri, decided to hold two parrallel running electric wires with both his hands simultaneously.

    As his charred, brittle remains fell on to the road in front of the Bhagwan Ram ka Mandir, and the smell of his burnt flesh carried into the homes, the emotions of the people welled up. And as usually happens in such situations, the flow of emotions quickly took a reverent turn. People poured out of their small homes in the Janak Puri to pay their homage to this incarnation who had decided to bless their galli by giving up his life on the Ekadashi day in front of the Ram Mandir. Some offered him sweets, other offered him money. While in his living avatar, the monkey would have lived his life bearing the brunt of the local children’s sticks and stones and surviving on stolen edibles, after his death he became divine. The local MLA promptly arrived at the scene, and keeping fully in mind the upcoming elections, announced, to the utter gratification of the gathered residents, a handsome grant so that a temple in the memory of the martyred incarnation be built.

    The temple was built, a statue was bought and a priest duly appointed to look after the proceedings. On the auspicious day, a group of higher priests did the ‘Pran Pratishtha’ of the 3 ft high marble statue. The temple had been built exactly on the spot where the divine life had released its bodily prison on its way to meeting the Supreme. Of Course, the road regulations had been conveniently forgotten in this process and the new temple was built entirely on a piece of land where traffic had been running all these years. But devotion is higher than physical comforts. The pedestrians can hold their pajamas up and step into the drain, the motorists can slow down and pass through the already much encroached upon, and now further narrowed alley. They ought to slow down to pay a silent obeisance to the lord, anyways. The monkey, who would have been regarded as a nuisance in his life, was given a new life of the divine kind by no less than high Brahmins, the representatives of God on this earth. Every morning, carefully scrubbed Hindus passed walked through the muck of their lane, past the garbage heaps, to offer flowers, fruits and money to the ‘Karant wale Balaji’, a thoroughly clean and purified elevated ground at one end of which stood the small Mandir. The inconvenience of the motorists was compensated for by the divine happiness that each person who prayed to the Balaji felt.

    There was another galli, the one just adjacent to this one, to whose residents the Karant Wale Balaji made little difference.

    A bearded, skull capped youth once during the time of the evening Aarati, was riding through the main road after shopping for his dinner. Nafees never entered the Hindu Galli without any purpose. But the shop on the main road was out of green chillies, and he knew that a Mali in Janak Puri would be the only one selling it at this hour. Blissfully unaware of the existence of the Karant Wale Balaji, he entered the Hindu Galli at the usual speed.

    He saw what he was about to hit, but never got the time to react.

    The left bumper of his motorcycle rammed into the side of the elevated ground on which the devotees were standing and singing their evening Aratis. From the impact, Nafees was flung at the feet of the devotees, and he felt a warm sensation inside his mouth as his bearded face hit the white marble floor. The packet of his dinner shopping flew straight through the small gate into the Mandir itself.

    As Nafees steadied himself, he felt his mouth, and as he opened it, one of his teeth came out. Unable to control it, he watched helplessly as a stream of blood mixed with saliva flowed from his mouth on to the sacred chabutra. In the meanwhile, a huge ruckus had arisen at the mandir gate. A full freshly culled chicken, the output of Nafees’s evening shopping was lying at the feet of the Balaji. Some blood from the dead chicken had joined the coat of saffron paint adorning the Balaji’s profile.

    The devotees, with their ever so sensitive devotions, could not stand this outrageous and unacceptable insult to their deity. Not only had a lowly, filthy Muslim destroyed the sanctity of their Balaji by spitting on his Chabutra, he also had had the audacity to flung a dead animal at His divinely alive statue, thereby corrupting their religion (Bhrasht their Dharma)! The floodgates of rage burst out, and among feeble protests from some ‘weak’ members of their community, the members of the vegetarian group wreaked havoc upon the hapless Muslim man.

    This scene did not escape a group of Muslim boys standing at the end of the Galli, smoking cigarettes and enjoying a cricket match at the Pan shop. While a group of more hot blooded boys hastened to show to the vegetarians their true place, the mobile phones of a few others became active. Soon, a large group of Muslim men, armed with whatever weapons they had at their disposal assembled in Ibrahim Mohalla. The group of Muslim boys, some beaten black and blue, and others bleeding, were slowly trickling back into their Galli. The few Hindus going about their business in the Muslim Galli sensed the danger, but for some of them it was too late. They were caught by the Muslim mob, and thoroughly beaten up. A hindu thela wala managed to escape, but his wares were looted by the mob and his thela hacked to pieces. A Hindu Auto Driver, who was dropping some passengers to Ibrahim Mohalla, was beaten up and his Auto Rickshaw set on fire. The lone Hindu shopkeeper in Ibrahim Mohalla was stabbed and his shop plundered and later put to arson. Similar was the fate of the Muslims who had had the ill-fortune to be present inside the Hindu Galli.

    The police had been notified soon after the riots had started, and as night was falling, both the Gallis were put under curfew. The Karant wale Balaji had stood a silent spectator to the ruckus. A small portion of the side of the Chabutra had broken off, where the motorcycle had hit it. The Blood from the chicken had been cleansed off from the Balaji’s profile even through all this confusion. On the Chabutra, the blood from the first muslim mouth had got mingled with the blood of several more from his ilk.

    Ramesh had been one of the hapless few caught up by the Muslim mob in Ibrahim Mohalla. A stave had hit his head, and his skull had burst open. He was admitted in the City Hospital, fighting for his life. It was late night, and the Gallis were still under curfew. A young woman stepped out of one of the houses, taking hurried, tentative steps towards the broken Chabutra of the Balaji. She was Sujata, Ramesh’s wife. In her hand was a lota.

    Looking left and right, she quickly climbed the steps and walked into the Balaji Temple. Hurriedly, she poured the pure milk from the lota at the feet of the Balaji, and with folded hands and closed eyes, the pallu of her sari firmly on her head, she proceeded to fervently pray ‘Hey Karant Wale Balaji, mere pati ki raksha kerna, hey Karant Wale Balaji, mere pati ki raksha kerna…’ (O Karant Wale Balaji, please look after my husband, O Karant Wale Balaji, please look after my husband…)

    Categories: Short Stories, Spirituality | 22 Comments

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