Dog is a DJ – Part 2

It was about 4 months. The shine on the DJ badge had begun to dull, and this cool pastime started seeming like a job. I could spot the cracks in the mahogany around. I knew which waiter was putting on an accent. I knew half the cocktail recipes. I could see a face and guess the tracks that he or she would trip on. I knew who spends, who doesn’t. I knew which person would be footing the bill at any table. I knew the cats at snooker. I knew the bartenders. I knew the chefs. I knew the marksmen. I knew the cleaners in the loo. I also which CD belonged to which cover. I knew which CD had a scratch. I knew at which second the track in that CD would jump.

I started hating the songs that I used to love, and starting loving the ones I always hated. By the end of that, I could appreciate just about any genre of music under the sun. I had mastered the art of changing moods. I knew which song I could use to shift from hip-hop to rock or from a romantic song to a dance track.

I also knew that I played a big part in determining the waiter’s tip. I had often seen waiters fighting for the requests that came from their table. Great service would earn them a handsome tip. But a request that was played could just triple that amount.

I also realised that it’s important to keep the women happy. If the women returned, the men will simply follow.

I pulled along learning something new everyday.

But the hunger pangs was something that I just couldn’t bear. After many experiments, I narrowed down on one long track that could give me the needed escape to go grab half a plate of egg noodles at ‘Bob’s Chinees Cart’ right outside the pub.

An extended remix of George Michael’s ‘Fast Love’, that went on for 16 minutes and 42 seconds.

So everyday, at about 8 PM, I’d quietly slip in this CD and dash out. Bob had programmed himself to break an egg into the wok, the minute he saw my shadow elongate from a distance. By the end of the meal, I’d rush back just in time, with about 30 seconds of the track left and pass by dozens of dizzy drunks, who’d be in a motionless state of trance with George Michael running out of breath and words…..

..’looking for some fast love….looking for some fast love….looking for some fast love…….looking for some fast love….looking for some fast love……………..’

and dive to reach the cross faders…’all aboard…..the night train’…

..and settle down sucking the last string of noodle dangling from my mouth.
djmonkey

I had managed to keep the manager in the dark about my vanishing act. I also knew exactly when he was around. I had developed a code language with the waiters to find out the auspicious occasions of when he was missing. I knew which request evoked what kind of a response. So I’d hold on to the risky ones and play them only when I was sure that the tiger was not on prowl.

By now, I had started identifying customers by their favorite songs and their eccentricities.

There was the ‘Cocojumbo’ man, an old weary loner who’d walk in at the same time everyday, wearing the same hat, and sit on the same bar stool and order the same drink and lift his glass in my direction gesturing me to play the same song again. Cocojumbo. The minute the track began, he’d shut his eyes and listen to it till his Bloody Mary bled with pathos. And balance his head on the counter, by holding the bridge of his nose. I’d never seen so much melancholy in reggae before in my life.

Then there was the ‘Scatman troop’, a bunch of teeny Cottonians disguised in cool sweat shirts and jackets that unconvincingly concealed their uniforms beneath. They’d chuck their school bags to an obscure corner, split that everlasting pitcher and then their fingers to make a ‘Pepsi Can’ pose and try keeping pace with Scatman. They’d scat all the possible gibberish, scattering all the beer they’re holding and end in a dramatic fashion by knocking their fists and finishing together “Ski Ba Bop Ba Dop Bop”. And do a quick scan from the corner of their eyes, to spot any prospective female fan of their do.

Then was the Nirvana chick. A short-haired, seven earring sporting wild feline. She’d wear tees that had huge hand painted logos of ‘Metallica’, ‘Megadeth’ and ‘Maiden’. She’d only request for numbers which had a minimum decibel level of a rocket launch, with lyrics penned by sadistic undertakers.

Can you play ‘Countdown to extinction?’
“No”
“Symphony of destruction”
“No”
“Skin of my teeth”
“No”
“Corporeal Jigsore Quandary”
“No”

After her initial requests of morbid head rupturing cacophonies, she’d unsettlingly tune down her ear drums to Nirvana’s ‘Smells like teen spirit’. And break into a headbang that had an unpredictable radius. She’d continue this war dance clearing the field around inaudibly questioning the machismo of the men around. They’d surrender by replacing their sissy pint beers with an extra-large of the hardest liquor in the house.

Then was the ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ dude. A young chap who wore shiny shirts with hypnotising patterns and tight denims. He’d simply lean over a pillar with a drink in his hand, watching a snooker game in progress. No song mattered to him. The only song that deserved a response from his limbs was “Kung Fu…”. Everytime the track changed, he’d get into position, hoping that the initial beats would mysteriously blend into his favorite request. And when it finally did, he’d make partners with the pillar, and slip into his role of Bruce Lee making drunken monkey, crazy horse, flying cobra and other Shaolin poses.

And of course, the strangest was this curly haired guy from Mauritius. He’d walk-in with this break-dance step that universally suited any tune that I was playing. And wink at me from his corner. A gesture that’s suppose to mean ‘bring my favorite track on’.

“Every breath you take”.

(He’d corrected the request after I goofed up the first time by playing Sting’s version of it. He scribbled specifically ‘By Puff Daddy’, the next time.)

The minute the track was played, he’d enact a Mauritian national dance to this tune. A step where he’d first vibrate his feet which then electrifyingly travelled to his head reaching every body part during the journey. This was followed by a random spin. He’d then freeze for a few moments and smile at whoever he was facing. He’d continue with this step, in a loop. By the time the song ended, he’d have staggered all over the place, displacing the maximum audience possible. And at the end of it, he’d crumple a paper napkin into a ball and chuck it at me. The first time, I was annoyed with his style of thanksgiving. But when this practice continued religiously, I dismissed it as an Mauritian way of showing appreciation.

To be contd……

Dog is a DJ – Part 1

Un Dos Tres, Macarena, CocoJumbo, Barbie Girl, Samba De Janeiro, Don’t Stop Move It Baby, No Limit, Mata Oh Ah Eh, I’m Too Sexy For My Love, Tic Tic Tac…..

There was a time when these numbers ruled the charts. Coincidentally, there was a time when I was a part-time DJ, partly responsible for making all that trash popular. Ok, not all of it was trash. Agreed that it’s not Dylan or Floyd, but you can’t make funny faces at each other and do some weirdo moves listening to them.

Downtown Pub needed a Dj. I wanted money. This simple equation started a relationship between us, and I stepped behind the console, with no consolation after that. It sounds cool, DJ and all, but the truth is far from it. Lemme just explain the fate of a DJ specially if he’s spinning at a pub, and not a club.

Firstly, the timings. 7pm to 12 midnight, seven days a week. One day off a month, and it cannot be a Wednesday, Friday, Saturday or a Sunday.
The pay is not even worth mentioning. But I stuck on for one year, because I loved it as much as I hated it.

“No Fusion. No Trance. No Heavy Metal. No Lounge. And most importantly No Indian, that includes everything Bollywood, Regional, Indi-Pop, Indi Rock, Indi-whatever even if it is UK Bhangra….ok…Apache is OK. (He is the only Indian who managed a license at Downtown). No personal favorites. Try and play as many requests as you can. Your job is to keep as many people happy as possible. But hello, as long as it doesn’t include any of the above.” said the manager who resembled a badly maintained mafia don. He even had the necessary make up for the effect – a black blazer, a hat and a long scar across his chin.

I had done a small research on the man, and had found out that he was the owner’s blue eyed boy, a privilege he had earned by giving a few black eyes to many scoundrels who had messed around with the decorum of this den.

He started off as a bouncer. And after a few bashings, he had bounced back in the role of a manager. And was given a free hand to deal with his staff, just like the way he had dealt with the hundred odd drunkards who had earned him this promotion.

“OK. That sounds cool.” I said taking my offer letter.

“And listen. Dont’ fuck around. I’m mostly good. But when I’m bad, I just don’t care. Break the rules, and I won’t mind breaking your bones.” He said adjusting the buttons of his formal shirt that were bursting at the seams. He gave me a wicked grin, like he was impatient to show me the side of his, I never wanted to see.

“No don’t worry” I said mentally picturing myself screaming for help like a stuck record.

“No drinking. No taking breaks during your time. Not even for dinner. Dinner is only after the pub closes. And listen buddy, if the music stops even for a few seconds in between, don’t bother coming back.”

“No don’t worry” I repeated, not risking any new lines.

“We have all the titles with us. And any new music you want….just give me a list every month, and we’ll arrange them for you. About 5-6 Cds a month is all you’ll get….” he added.

“What if I need more?” I said, trying to make it sound like I wouldn’t need more than two new cds a year.

“We are running a business. Not starting a music library, so stay within that limit. If you want more, bloody well buy them yourself.” He said losing his patience. And thought to himself, that a sample demonstration of his personality would help in cutting this conversation short, and spare him from any other silly doubts that I may have.

He suddenly bellowed at a security guard of the pub who was passing by…….’thevidiyaa…….vaada inge’….

He stormed out of his cabin, caught him by his arm and shook him to pieces. The previous night, he had noticed the guard leniently allow a customer of the opposite pub to park over here. He warned him in the choicest tamil slang as loudly as he could.

“Anything else” he asked, returning victoriously from the ring.

“No. I’ve understood it all.” I said studying his giant profile from close quarters.

“Ok. You start tomorrow. And don’t be late. Unlike other pubs, this one starts filling up the minute we open.” He said slipping out a whistle through the wide gap between his front teeth.

Downtown was one of the earliest pubs in the city. It was distinct because it had two professional snooker tables. And pretty well maintained ones, complete with dedicated marksmen. It also had one separate sound proof glass cabin dedicated to snooty groups where they could unbelong and have their own private conversations. These perks particularly attracted a lot of white skinned folks. Since, they already had a loyal crowd, the reliance on music to increase the population was comparatively lesser. So, the idea was to not change anything and let it remain as neutral as it can get. And my job was to make sure that I keep my contribution to the minimum.

But it was only about 30% of the the crowd who were the loyalists. 70% still remained a floating population of new faces, who came with assorted expectations, which provoked me to disturb this peaceful balance.

The manager had enough experience in this field. He knew that music was a necessary evil in the business. He also knew if this evil is not monitored, the crowd could go out of control. And he had little faith in his staff to handle that situation. So he had taken it upon himself to keep a strict vigil on the excitement level of the boozers. He’d constantly police up and down, and If he noticed someone shaking their head a little too much, he’d send a messenger asking me to change the track. And keep making me change it, till that head banger got his head back, steady on the shoulders.

And in case of emergency, he had identified a killjoy track, that had a special corner in the CD rack.

“Unforgettable’ by Nat King Cole.

This track was tested and proven to not have any unwanted side effects. It never failed in dropping the energy level to zero in a record four seconds. So it was used in cases when more than two tables echoed together….”Alice…Who the fuck is Alice” CUT TO “Unforgettable…….that’s what you are….” OR “It’s my life….it’s now or never…..Unforgettable…that’s what you are…”
He’d do this so discreetly and vanish from the scene, leaving me as the face of the music. So I’ve seen hundreds of pissed drunkards walking out, glaring at me with vengeance in their eyes, and leaving the music to complete the communication…….. ‘Unforgettable….that’s what you are.’

A drunk walked up to me swaggering and slurred…

‘Hey buddy….can u play….key to yorkshire.”

“I haven’t heard that.”

‘What the heck….you played it a few days back…’

“No. I did not. How does it go?”

“Key to yorkshire…key to yorkshire…key to yokshire…key to…. york…hic…shire….”

“Ok. You mean…..Free from desire.”

“Yeah man..hic..same shit. Play that ok….thanks. I’m on my last drink….so please play it fast….hic… buddy.”

‘Free from desire’ had this infectious energy that kind of got most of them to stand up and shake their heads. I was fearing that Mr. Nat King might be called upon again to save the situation. But the crowd seemed within the approved limits.

The party picked up again.

“When a man loves a woman by Michael Bolton” read the paper napkin before me. A request I was trying to avoid from a long time.

I was playing happy popular numbers, the crowd was having a good time. I didn’t want Michael Bolton to poke his piercing nose and voice into this mood. I flung the napkin to one corner and was busy cuing the next dinchak number.

“Dude. I just placed a request.” I heard a desperate squeaky voice. A young chap with pink chapstick, armed with a duplicate copy of his napkin.

“Ya. I got that. But maybe a little later….the mood doesn’t seem right.’ I said trying to look busy.

“Dude. Please…..please….please…..play this for me man. See there, that’s my girl.’ He said pointing to a chick in a red gown, who was one step away from falling in love, looking dreamily at an empty chair before her.

“I’m just gonna propose to her. I need this song man….I need it… like now.” He said fingering a red envelope in his jacket pocket.

I felt responsible for this union, and had to give in.

“Saturday Night…..Saturday night..”………..fade out….

….pierce in…..’When a man loves a woman….” blared a constipated cupid, bringing together two lovers at a far off end.

Bolton continued shattering the window panes…

“When a man loves a woman
Can’t keep his mind on nothing else
He’d trade the world
For a good thing he’s found”

The meaning then pierced through a section of the crowd.
In a choreographed fashion, they cleared the bill and trooped out.

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To be contd….

Apart-mental meetings part 3

After looking at her timer for a few seconds, Princi Face decided that it was now time for her to speak up. She unfolded her hands and cleared her throat.

Riverdale closed her Archie, put it beside and folded her hands, and took on her mom’s pose, relieving Princi Face to freely express her views.

“The Secretary recently replaced the fused bulb on the 2nd floor landing. I appreciate that….” She paused.

I had no clue why she referred to me in third person, even when I was sitting right there. Was it respect for the title, or was it because she hated even mentioning my name? This doubt was cleared in the next few seconds.

“….But I think The Secretary has been very unfair. While the first and third floor landing have ordinary 60 watt bulbs, why did The Secretary have to replace it with a fancy CFL bulb on the second landing?”

I gulped and meditated for a little while, to pick the right emotion before I answered that question.

One of The Four Ladies hated the delay, and decided to confront it herself.

“Why, atleast let one floor have good lighting. Let the bulb in your landing fuse, and then we’ll put a CFL bulb even in your floor…if that will make you happy.” She flared. It was obvious that she belonged to the second floor.
“…I think The Secretary has done something good. We must thank him for that” she ended, and looked at me like a victorious mother hen.

I felt like a coward to have engaged a spokeswoman.

Suddenly, in a fit of rage, Riverdale sprung up violently, flung her comic to one corner. “Oh okay!! If that’s the case, I’ll just go and break that damn bulb on our floor right away” and was all set to storm out and enact the scene.

But the proceedings were spoilt by the Oriya Stud, who was quick and responsive with his out-of-the-box solutions. He volunteered to donate the two spare CFL bulbs that were lying unused in his attic ever since he had moved in here.

The Smiley played his role of a cheer mascot by rotating his head in slow motion.

The Princi Face called a truce by folding her hands and returning back to her initial pose.

Riverdale was visibly upset that her dramatics was nipped by this Gandhian settlement. She sat back on her chair and furiously punched the shortcut keys to Snake Level 5 on her Nokia.

It was 9 pm now. I was hungry, and I made some feeble attempts to disperse the crowd.

“Looks like your kid is feeling sleepy”
“Isn’t sa re ga ma finals today?”
“The neighbour must be wanting her dining chair back”

The hints were conveniently ignored. The audience wore a determined look, that they would not budge till they got their full share of entertainment. Also, they had just been deprived of some explosive action by the Oriya, and this had to compensated.

The meeting gained an inevitable extension, when a new entrant walked in with fresh enthusiasm. All hopes of fulfilling any unfulfilled entertainment now rested on this new messiah – A short middle aged man with an irritating looking moustache. A spiky one that automatically gave his pesky looking face an authoritarian edge.

He leaned across to the elderly man and got himself a quick update on all the points discussed. He shrunk his lips till the spiky hair of his moustache fanned out, and nodded his head in introspection with a ‘hmmmm…’.

A ‘hmmmmm’ that bundled all the matters discussed, to futility. And arrived at a subject of paramount importance, that could possibly make up for the lack of substance, during his absence.

“What about the calling bell? I heard that a new one was installed, and now even that one is spoilt?” he said in an accusing tone, looking at a wall hanging situated right next to where I was sitting.

(OK, a little background on the calling bell….. At Kumbha, the watchman’s room was a furlong away from the gate. And Kumbha residents had made it a point that the gate be locked sharp at 10pm. So anyone who arrived after that, had to wake up the watchman by ringing the calling bell, the switch of which was next to the gate. No, It was not expected that the watchman remains awake at that time. The calling bell had not been working ever since I moved in. And nobody found the need for it, as everyone got home before 9pm. So, after many unsuccessful attempts of trying to wake up Bahadur without waking up the others, I finally decided to change the calling bell. A decision I bravely took without consulting the others. To my dismay, the new one stopped working, within a month.)

The others hung their heads as if they had been put to shame by my careless act. They obviously knew something that I didn’t.

“I put a new one….and ya, it conked….so i’ll replace it now.” I said trying to dismiss it frivolously.

Mr Moustache gave a half grin, stared at a particular tile on the floor and said in a menacing tone “How much did you pay for the calling bell?”

“250 bucks” I said.

Mr Moustache shifted his grin to the other half of his face, and stared at another tile on the floor.

“250 bucks. Hmmmm….What a waste!”

He placed his chin on the hand, curled his upper lip inward, bit a few strands of his moustache hair, and continued looking at the tile on the floor. And waited for adequate silence to prepare ground for the point he was about to make.

I was fed up. I had made up my mind that I will trash any remark of his to pieces.

Without moving his head, he lifted his eyebrows and looked at his wife who was One among The Four Ladies, gesturing her to state the point that I was so idiotically missing. She clasped her hands and broke the suspense.

“Mr Rajesh, don’t you know that he deals in calling bells?”

The Elderly Man moved back into his chair, to clear the path of vision between Me and Mr. Moustache.

“For 11 years, I’ve been working in the sales department of a calling bell factory. We manufacture all kinds of calling bells. And also thermos flasks.” continued Mr. Moustache adding finer details to emphasise his point.

His voice quivered. He was absolutely shattered and betrayed that noone bothered to consult his expertise in this area. One of his rare chances of offering advice had been impetuously neglected.

“If only you had asked me, I could have given you the latest in the market at cost price.” he regretted.

Riverdale observed silence by dogearing her comic. The Princi Face passed her judgement by letting out a loud sigh. The earrings of The Four Ladies shook in tandem. The Elderly Man jutted out his lower lip and folded his notes. The Elderly Aunty munched her potato chips noiselessly. The Oriya wore a look of condemn, hoping that I would pick it up. The Smiley’s smile relaxed, giving me a glimpse of how he looked otherwise.

The pressure in the room forced me to not be amused by it. I had answers firmed up in my head for everything. Not this one. I was at a loss of words. I had never met anyone, even remotely, who had anything to do with calling bells.

I was forced to shamefulness, for taking the wrong call.

Rather the wrong calling bell.

My thoughts were interrupted with a ‘Ting tong’.

The neighbour wanted her dining chairs back.

Apart-mental meetings part 2

I looked around to see if I’ve missed out on anyone. I still had one glass of Fanta and a paper plate of the critically reviewed potato chips and sweet.

I scanned the faces in the room, one by one.

Two Elderly Aunties, who had sacrificed their evening brisk walk for this social cause.

An Elderly Man who was holding sheets of the previous two ‘minutes of the meeting’. While the ladies were busy chit-chatting on their tailors and trinkets, he was constructively highlighting the pending jobs with his ‘Reynolds Bold’.

A young Smiley man who provided evidence of his presence, by breaking into a smile everytime he felt someone was looking at him.

An even younger Oriya software dude, who was a first timer in these meetings, all set to outshine the others with ‘out of the box’ suggestions.

A ‘School Principal Faced’ lady who had her hands folded and looked at her watch periodically to indicate her displeasure, on any loose talk.

Her teenage daughter who had momentarily stepped out of ‘Riverdale’, to join this meeting. She had equipped herself against any likely boredom, by carrying an archie comic, and also a backup – her mobile, on which she furiously kept typing away smses to her tribe.

And of course the Four Ravishing Young Ladies in the centre who had no doubt that this evening belonged to them.

Everybody had had their refreshments, except the Princi-Face, because she still had not cracked how to eat with her hands folded. ‘Riverdale’ had avoided the sweet by tossing the imaginary hair that she had lost in her previous haircut. “I hate sweets” she declared with pride, certified by a customary nod from her mama.

The excitement in the Four Ladies’ corner was dying down. The novelty of their fineries was beginning to fade away.

The Smiley gauged the situation, gathered courage and announced in a nervous tone “Shall we start?”.

The Elderly Man jumped at this opportune moment, adjusted his spectacles, referred to his notes and began with the point that affected his life the most.

“The overtank continues to overflow. Bahadur does not switch off the motor on time….. The water comes straight to our balcony where we dry our clothes…..all our washed clothes are getting dirty everyday” he concluded, looking around for empathy.

Riverdale just got an sms. The Oriya had no idea that the apartment had an overhead tank. The Smiley transferred the problem to the rest of the audience by rotating his head. The Princi-Face looked at her watch. The Two Elderly Aunties broke the silence by crunching their ‘potato chips’. The Four Ladies expressed disgust that their fine conversation had to be interrupted by such a trivial problem.

Afterall, this was a meeting to discuss ‘common problems’ and not someone’s common problem.

“Why don’t you ask Bahadur to stop the motor on time?” retorted one of The Four Ladies.

The Elderly Man refused to accept that a problem of such magnitude had such a simple solution. He protested by keeping a straight face and only moved his eyeballs across the silent audience, hoping to find takers who could escalate it to greater heights.

The Smiley decided to add some weight to the discussion by compounding the nature of the problem. “No no…the problem is with the watchman. He is negligent towards his duties. He is not doing his job right. There is no proper security. He allows anyone and everyone inside the premises. He should be given a list of people he can allow without questioning…like the newspaperman, milkman, flower lady ….”

One of the Elderly Aunties found the hint she’d been waiting for and butted in “I must tell you one thing. Why does the flower lady not give fresh flowers to everybody. Some people get fresh flowers and some people get old flowers. Why? Why?”

(A little background on the flower lady: Since most of the members in Kumbha were religious, they had engaged a flower lady to deliver jasmine flowers early in the morning to every house. She had limited stock of fresh jasmine garlands, and when she ran out of them, she would hang one from the previous evening’s leftover, on the door. She followed a regular route beginning from the top most flat and making her way down. So invariably the ones on the top got the fresh ones and the others got the stale ones)……phew!!

Unlike the previous one, this problem seemed mutual enough for a discussion.

“We must install CCTV” suggested The Oriya confidently, expecting the audience to lap it up.

“Oh yeah!! They’ve got one in my college now.” said Riverdale excited with the idea of Kumbha making it’s foray into cutting-edge arenas.

The Four Ladies blinked. The Elderly Man continued to hold on to his expression, hoping that the discussion would retrace itself to the question that started it off. The Princi-Face chose to reserve her opening dialogue only for a matter that concerned her or her daughter. The Other Elderly Aunty made a hurried exit the minute she heard her favourite serial’s title tune blare out from the neighbouring flat.

The silence pressurised The Smiley to come up with a response.

After some pondering The Smiley replied ‘It’s very costly’.

For some reason, he chose to reject it on the grounds of economy than irrelevance. Also, The Smiley knew his audience better, since he was the previous Secretary. He had faced a lot of flak for spending a small portion of the fund money on refilling the sand pit with fresh sand, without consent.

Riverdale fingered a random page on her comic and poured into it, now that the topic had steered away from exciting gadgetary discussions.

After a little debate, they chose a non-glamorous way out. The flower lady will change her path everyday, so that everybody takes turns in getting their share of stale flowers, till such time The Secretary finds another flower lady who has a greater stock of fresh flowers.

The Elderly Aunty went back to her ‘chips’ feeling content on her perfect understanding of democracy.

Since one problem had been sorted out, The Four Ladies felt that they now had earned the right to indulge in some stray talk. One of them had spotted the flower lady’s husband cleaning cars in the neighbouring street shamelessly, while he had clearly refused all offers made by her, stating that he was sick. The Other Three Ladies lent their support and threatened to seek revenge by terminating her flower contract. The Oriya was touched by this camaraderie and pledged that he would spare the future driver of his future car for this purpose. The Four Ladies looked at him with compassion and mentally decided to reciprocate this kindness, by excluding him from their idle gossip.

The Princi-Face looked at her watch twice, sending out a strong signal to move on the next problem on the list.

To be contd…….

Thanks to Vyshnavi and Ramesh for helping me modify the title to a more suitable form.

Apartment-al meetings – Part 1

Ting tong….

“Excuse me Mr Ramaswamy. We have come here to tell you that we urgently need to have a residents meeting.” complained a harried Saroja and other ladies in a similar state.

This was the third time that my bell was ringing for the same purpose, after I became the secretary of Kumbha Residency, a middle class apartment straight out of ‘Wagle ki duniya’. I moved in there about 5 years ago. And moved out about 2 years back. But memories of that dismal building are plastered like concrete on my brain.

Kumbha was a grand residential apartment filled up mostly by middle class brahmin folks. It boasted of grand amenities like an overtank, a sump, 2 coconut trees and a special ‘sand pit’ for kids to play. All in the middle of peaceful Banashankari 2nd Stage. It consisted of 11 flats, both single and double bedroom options, distributed over 3 levels with no liftman. Why? No lift. The highlight was undoubtedly the parking lot, that could ideally hold about 1/3rd of the vehicles in the apartment, but still had a big heart to accommodate all of them. All of this Kumbha was safe guarded by the perseverant watchman named ‘Bahadur III’ (The third watchman in the first year of my stay, who’s name was Bahadur, twice again. The first one ran away. The second one ran away. The third Bahadur didn’t get a chance to meet the first two.)

‘Secretary’

This grand title was bestowed on me when nobody volunteered to take up this post. So my name was picked out in a draw of lots. And I was crowned ‘secretary’ for the following six months.

I took my mandatory oath,

1. I promise to provide phenyl, broom and other cleaning products on a monthly basis to the watchman. And keep a tab of it.

2. I will ensure that the common electricity and water bills are paid on time. If I fail, I will bear the cost of any fine that is incurred due to my negligence.

3. I will arrange for acrobats on a timely basis to pluck coconut from the coconut trees.

4. I will ration out the plucked coconuts to all the residents, ensuring that everyone gets an equal share. In case any coconut turns out to be spoilt after breaking, I will replace it with one from my own collection.

5. I will hunt for plumbers, electricians, gardeners and other difficult to find people, whenever need arises.

6. I will monitor the watchman to remove dog poo from the ‘sand pit’ every week.

7. I will beg and plead for monthly maintenance from all residents.

8. I will maintain a strict record in a fat ledger of all the accounts, down to the last penny. I will submit the ledger to anyone who feels like scrutinizing it, at any time in the night.

9. I will arrange meetings and also campaign them among the residents.

10. I will distribute ‘minutes of the meeting’ to all residents after the meetings are over. And that too in a typed form. (Apparently, the previous person who held the post had a bad handwriting, so this amendment was made.)

Needless to say, any other emergencies like the watchman running away, leakage in drainpipes etc., is the secretary’s headache.

So giving into the pressure, I dutifully went and pasted a ‘notice’ on the notice board inviting audiences for the evening entertainment program – ‘The Residents Meeting’.

I was also forced at yell-point to invent a list of ‘reasons to meet’ and make it compelling for the usual bunkers to attend.

The venue was my flat. It was agreed upon in the previous meeting to sacrifice a sum of Rs. 300 from the apartment fund towards ‘refreshments’ for these meetings. A glass of Fanta, potato chips and a sweet of the host’s choice was the agreed menu.

I left office early, to reach home on time, and host the entertainment programme with the approved ‘list of refreshments’.

Protocol demanded that the watchman be sent with a repeat invitation, and request the anxious guests to grace the occasion with their presence.

Usually these meetings were dominated by women folk, as the men knew little about domestic matters, and secondly, it made better sense to make the loudest respondents represent their household.

In about half an hour the guests trooped in, wearing clothes that were specially reserved to be inaugurated on this day. It was the usual turnout. By now, the bunkers had learnt to wear blinkers to any notice. Extra chairs were brought in by the watchman from the neighbouring flats and the guests seated themselves with a determined look on their faces to make the evening, a promising one. Their respective children were granted liberty to use any other room as play area for the stipulated time.

After initial discussions on each others’ sarees, which tailor in the locality stitches good ‘saree falls/ zig-zag’ on time, and who possessed how many blouse pieces, the first decision was taken.

A mutual date was agreed upon where they could meet up and barter their ‘unused blouse pieces’.

Then, refreshments were served.

After a few crunches, comments were passed on the quality of the chips. An impromptu survey was done on the neighbouring ‘chips shops’. They were compared on various parameters like freshness, taste, price and service. Branded chips like Lays were also considered, but lost out on the fear of exceeding the ‘painfully-arrived-at-budget’. And the second verdict was passed.

The winning ‘chips shop’ was declared as the default chips provider for all future meetings.

The sweet had mixed reactions. Someone suggested her Uncle’s sweet shop, that he had recently opened on Avenue Road. She also volunteered to exercise her influence and get us a special discount. It was decided that further action would be taken only after the volunteer first served a free sample of Her Uncle’s flagship sweet.

“Not bad, three concrete decisions even before the meeting started” I thought to myself.

……to be contd.

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