One small love is all it takes

“It’s Valentine’s.”

There’s a tone of voice attached to that…like ‘hey, It’s party time’.

There used to be a time when it mattered to ‘Us’. ‘Us’ is a club of losers who remained single whatever shit you did, however hard you tried. Which I think is now a fast vanishing tribe. Everyone seems to be hooked up. And if they are not, it only means that they have managed to get out of one. And back in the game.

But to Us it was more like ‘Shit, it’s Valentine’s man…again.”

It was something strange that came from nowhere and hit us. Probably leaked along with a pair of Nike shoes and Toblerone Chocolates that some rich bum brought back with him, after visiting his cousin in the US. And unleashed on innocent folks like Us who suddenly had to buck up and find ways to be a part of this cool thing.

Nobody had a freaking clue of what this was all about. And when we did, the pressure started to build. And to add to it was the ‘Archies Gallery’ chaps who flaunted red banners outside their hideous looking shops, stuffed with so much mush that could even make Cyrus Broacha turn romantic.

Inside ‘Archies’ was…..broadly two sections. The “Will you be my Valentine?” section and the ‘To my Valentine” section. Obviously the first one was more crowded with more people and lesser cards. And even more obviously, we’d be the ones standing there, peeping on to the other section, scanning the faces of the fellows there, and wondering what part of ours went wrong.

The florists would stock up bunches of red roses and sell them at prices of gold. All for some miscellaneous chick to chuck it back at your face. Or take it out of pity, or worse still because she considers you like a brother. The concept was new, and so the confusion gave birth to some strange cases. Suddenly, Valentines started to double up for Rakhi…another occasion to express brotherly love. Conveniently, some of them refused to get the simple concept that brothers don’t buy roses for sisters, especially paying a hundred bucks for a bunch.

We expected bombs in return but we only ended up spending one.

The love in the air funda got all that air by borrowing the wind it took off Us.

So, like what most would refer to as cheap loafers on the street, we roamed around with a bunch of cards and roses and chocolates and speeded away in some random direction, looking purposeful, and expecting…..well nothing. When you do that for 3 years in a row, it kind of becomes an accepted practice that this is a festival to give love and not necessarily get it back.

The fever would start about a week before the event. It was more or less a day to realize that noone in the world gives a fuck about you. And it reaches a finality when the clock strikes 12:01 on Feb 15th. Ya, we’d secretly hope for miracles to happen and give it time till the last second of that night.

But it was sadder for those who had a date. It’s like, if it’s Christmas and there is only one Christian in your gang, everyone would go out together so that he can celebrate his Christmas. The same concept was extended to this festival too…so about 5 of us would tag ourselves to that one lone couple in the gang, and follow them everywhere…..or atleast till the entrance of “Time and Again’ disco at Brigade Road. A disc that reminded us time and again that it’s entry for ‘couples only’. So the 5 singletons would be identified and stopped at the entrance, and the only couple in the gang would make their way inside and we’d stand there to get a glimpse of how ‘hundred inflated heart shaped balloons’ looked like together. The thick door would slam shut the voice of a dozen chicks going berserk to a remix of ‘Unbreak my heart’. And we’d scatter away in different directions, because it was still better to be spotted being single alone, than being singles in plural.

What’s even more disgusting is if you are playing mediator. Or Cupid. Or stupid. The chap who has nothing better to do than transport love notes and other love accessories between two lovers. Between the guy you hate, and the girl you wanted to date.

The only way to play that role is to find every possible way to convince yourself that the girl is ‘not so hot’ afterall. And the guy is an asshole who deserved no better. It’s a lonely training session between yourself and yourself.

And yes!! This is also the day when you realize that among all the people you know, there are more numbers in your gender than the other. The women you knew were the same women everyone else knew. And you spend a good week lowering your expectations and then realize that the even the one at the bottom of your list is taken. Either by some mysterious boyfriend, her parents, her grandparents or some aunt who lives in an unreachable address.

And then there was this disgusting series of ‘Everlasting Love songs…Volume 1 to Volume 28”. Loaded with numbers by Boyz II Men, Boyzone and other nauseating boys who wailed in heart wrenching pitches, waiting to be ejected out of your tape deck and passed on to some lovestruck chick you are unable to locate. But the tapes remained with us. Till they got twisted and tangled and strangled and the same boys now dragged and cried in unbearable variations.

I still remember the junk. “I’ve been waiting for a girl like you’ by Foreigner. Or ‘End of the Road’ by Boyz II Men. In pink, mauve and purple covers with sickening graphics of flowers and silhouettes of men and women by the sunset, that resembled the posters on the walls of some ‘Welcome Lodge’. We’d sing along with these pricks who were still pretending to be boys, alone in the afternoons in some locked up room, to some imaginary women, who never surfaced. And then these tapes later became embarrassing pieces in our music collection.

And movies like Maine Pyar Kiya and Dil and QSQT would release around the same time, mind fucking us a little more. I am sure that this Bokadia chap and his variety were even bigger asses of their generation than we were in ours. They packaged all their fantasies and passed it on to us and we followed it like a text book. And we’d watch these, replacing the heroine with some hazy woman in our heads, so that we could replicate whatever the Khans were teaching us to do. We never found them…and we’d sleep better that night by concluding that it was actually ‘them who are not finding us’ or some such idiotic theory.

You don’t have a Valentine, you are uncool. And if you are uncool, you don’t get a Valentine. It was a loop that you could never get out of.

Now the scene is different. Everyone single takes learnings from those going around. And remain skeptical. It’s almost cool to be single now.

We never had anyone around to take any learnings from. And if anyone fucked up, we were more than willing to step in and correct it all.

There was no commitmentphobia or jack like that. We could have been committed to a tree.

We’d spend sleepless nights thinking of every possible reason for ‘how did that jerk of an asshole of a ‘the latest bad word’ land up with a chick like that??????’

It’d have been fine if we had not seen all those miraculous cases, where some dumb looking dodo would zip past us with the hottest chick clinging on to his designer shirt from ‘Sona’s Men’s Favorite Shop’. These chaps kicked back the hope within. And we’d follow them on our mopeds on this mission armed with love ammunitions and take the longest possible route to nowhere.

On the night of Valentine’s, all the bums would gather  again to discuss the fundamental reasons for failure. More or less a summary of everything that they have analyzed over the week that passed by….

“You need a bike man…that’s the problem.”

“Balls man. You need dough.”

“No man…It’s not that…the bottom of it is that we are truly ‘fucked up’.

Now when I see a million women sending pink chaddis, I can’t help but wonder where were they all then?

The problem now seems to have taken a different turn….. noone’s allowing these poor lovemakers to dance beyond 11:00 pm and spread the message of love.

How I wish we were blessed with such agonies!!

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Advertisements

Gowrnamentu adutising-the final post

Phase 7- The presentation

It was a bright cheerful morning. Atleast to Boss, who appeared in his new friday dressing, neatly scrubbed and drenched in cologne. All set to dazzle the discerning DIPians. I sat in the navigator seat feeling small in his extra large SUV, clinging on to the delusions of the Gowrnamentu, specially designed by us for them.

Boss adjusted his rear view mirror to take a final look into his nostrils. And we zoomed away in his Sierra to doom’s dungeon.

“How many agencies were there did you say?”

“About 40 of them I guess!”

“Ha…The numbers are getting larger’ The Boss declared in a tone that rubbished the other 39 like they all needed to be running a poultry business instead.

Everyone outside the window seemed to have had their baths and breakfast. I hadn’t slept or bathed in 2 days. The perfume from Boss’ armpits enveloped me into an illusion that I had had my bath too.

The smell of the rubber solution in the layouts was comforting. Somewhere it indicated that this saga was coming to an end. I had washed my face with the handwash in the loo, and the harshness of the liquid helped me stay awake. I hadn’t had the time to change into another costume so that The Boss could look at me differently.

No.

I still looked like the same idiot who couldn’t get a handful of books on time.  The memories of which were vividly kept alive by the same shirt I was wearing ever since I came back from Vidhana Soudha.

The Sierra swerved into the DIP Building, and Boss walked out in style waving out to every passerby, clicking the auto-lock button on his keychain. I followed him with a fat bunch of layouts under my arm, keeping as minimum a distance between us, so that people do not doubt my pedigree.

I felt strangely happy to be back in that dismal room, in the company of my stinking stubbled sleep deprived fellowsuckers each accompanied by their clean shaven, cologned and wide eyed bosses who were all eagerly waiting to perform their role of flipping the flap to reveal the Gowrnamentu’s cryptic achievements in an easy ‘show and tell’ form.

The flunks yawned endlessly, and their Bosses looked like their lives depended on this. I was happy that Boss looked the smartest of the lot. He looked sufficiently educated and MBAish as compared to the rest.

But Boss looked out of place in his fashionable attire. It seemed inappropriate in an atmosphere like this which was uniformed in plain white terrycot shirts. Such dressing was equated to being overindulgent, materialistic and frivolous distancing yourself from the seriousness of the matter that everyone had gathered for.

Boss decided to give the frivolity of his Friday dressing some purpose by bonding with every official who passed by. Loudly enquiring about matters that only an ultra confident man can do in a tense hour like this.

He enquired with utmost concern to an official who was hurrying inside…

“Mr Sampath….yes….so what happened to the litigation on this building. I heard that the office is going to be transfered to the premises of Vidhana Soudha….Is that true?”

The other inmates looked insecure with Boss’ indepth level of trivia on the business. They fidgeted in their seats uncomfortably revising their layouts. Surely, a man who knew all this could never go wrong with a piddling ad.

“Can I see your layout?” the man beside me nervously whispered noticing that I was momentarily orphaned by My Boss.

“No” I replied like a loyal dog.

“Come on. Now nobody can do anything…….just one glimpse. You can see our’s as well.” He urged having no qualms to reveal the secret he was holding.

The discussion was disturbed by the popular Desai making an entry into the room. The audience stood up in attention, and greeted him like it was the most important parameter in the selection procedure.

“Good morning all of you. Good morning ..good morning. I can see that you all have had a very tough time. I know, this time we were not in a position to give you all more time. My apologies. Would you all like some coffee or tea.” Mr Desai said in a rehearsed tone.

“No…No”…”That’s ok”….”It is normal in our business”…” ha ha”…..”that’s ok”……” the various bosses echoed various words disguising their desperation with earnestness, and the various flunks gave artificial smiles that instantly faded away the minute their respective bosses had verified their display of courteousness.

Suddenly Boss decided to rise above this ordinary bonding and seeked a private moment with the man who supposedly knew it all. Mr Desai discreetly signaled to us asking us to meet him at the canteen.

And Boss walked away through other envious bosses adjusting his sunglasses in slow motion. I followed him adjusting the layouts through various flunks who actually cared for nothing at that moment but to go home and get some sleep.

I was actually feeling shitty for letting my co-flunkies down by participating in this last hour drama.

We settled at a private corner at the canteen.

The Boss proudly unveiled the masterpiece to Mr Desai and watched his reactions intently.

Mr Desai put on his reading glasses and ran his eye-balls shiftily.

“I hope you like the colours. This time we have gone for brighter tones….It really jumps out.” Boss mentioned in a manner that automatically made the content indisputable.

Mr Desai sipped his filter coffee and gave a sharp whack to the cardboard with the back of his palm. “This is wonderful” He declared. “The colours are very eye catchy.”

The Boss was pleased that his palette matched Desai’s taste.

“But in some publications it bleeds, you know.” Desai added

“Don’t you worry….we’ll take care of that. Let’s meet over a drink after this assignment.” Boss perked up Mr. Desai as a compensation for his fine observations.

Somehow, the content seemed the least important everywhere. I was expecting atleast Desai to spot the absolute havoc played on the information. But I guess they were so well camouflaged by Mahadeva’s overpowering clip-arts. Or maybe I was just too sleep deprived to live in reality anymore.

Soon we returned to the room, and Boss waited for the opportune moment to say a loud ‘Thank You Mr. Desai’ that could be heard by everyone sitting out there. And looked at the others like they were all wasting their time and energy.

In a few moments the peon came and collected our answer sheets and disappeared into the Secretary’s room.

And everyone waited like expectant fathers outside a maternity ward.

And all of a sudden the swing door threw itself open and the secretary stormed outside, followed by Desai, followed by another unidentifiable man, followed by Mr Sampath, followed by the peon with the day’s collections, straight into a white ambassador that was parked at the portico with the ignition on.

Everyone jumped up and followed this procession. But the doors of the Ambassador slammed just in time.

And we all clustered around the car like a superstar was departing. But the Ambi zipped past clouding our faces with black smoke.

Of course the gowrnamentu wasn’t going to end all this so easily without adding some thrills from their end.

And we rushed to the parking lot and started our vehicles in a frenzy. And frantically chased the cavalcade.

My Boss and me participated in this car chase and speeded away in the direction of the Ambi.

“Where are we all going”

“To Vidhana Soudha you fool. They will be presenting our layouts to the CM now.”

“Oh. So will we be presenting it to him?”

“No…..But we need to be there in case the CM wants to verify something. He might just call in any agency at any point, so we need to be prepared.”

“But what will he want to ask us?’

“Anything!!”

But it all made sense to me then. I understood what this type of adutising was all about.

I recalled what a Harijan had warned me about on day 1.

“Remember….They tell you nothing. You make something. But be prepared, as they can ask you anything.”

At Vidhana Soudha, we parked our vehicles and rushed like maniacs till a certain point. After which we were all stopped by security guards like we were entering a cricket match without passes.

Mr Desai came to subside the enthusiasm in the crowd.

“Please calm down. Everyone’s layout will be presented. The CM is going to personally go through all your efforts, so please settle down. We will call you in case of any clarifications. Till then I request you all to patiently wait in this room.”

Another waiting room filled with numerous chairs. A peon walked in and switched on the fans to help us fizzle out our left over energies.

And we waited. A skill that I had mastered by now. I no longer needed the help of topics to keep my mind engaged. I had exhausted every topic under the sun to think about in the past few days. I had no more thoughts in my head. No more questions that needed answers. No nothing that demanded participation from my brain. I had learnt the art of existing with an absolute blank mind. I let my involuntary actions take over and paid attention to every sensation that my body was going through. I enjoyed the cool air every time the standing fan faced me. I turned my face towards the direction of the wind and tilted my head, to create different hairstyles without using any effort, and checked the results periodically in a stained mirror at a far off corner.

We spent the next few hours by engaging ourselves with every distraction possible. Everytime the door clicked…everytime someone cleared their throat…..everytime someone coughed….everyone were alerted, hoping that any one of these would slowly evolve into a full fledged entertainment programme.

But nothing of such sort happened.

Soon a bearer appeared with a huge tray of coffee and tea cups. He walked around asking everyone “coffee’ or ‘tea’.

“Coffee”…”no …no…tea”…..”no no coffee only” said one member unable to make up his mind as to which could help him stay awake.

And this was the best joke for the evening. Everyone laughed unanimously on this man’s funny portrayal of indecisiveness.

We waited for about 5 hours. Somewhere in the middle Boss suddenly realised that he was The Boss. And excused himself from this peasantry.

“Call me if you need me and I’ll be back” He said giving me a look that meant “You are a fool if you really believe what I’m saying.’

I felt relieved that I no longer had to keep a grim face. I no longer had to feel the pressure of keeping the conversation going. I no longer had to keep thinking about what he was thinking. I no longer…….I dozed off into my chair.

To be woken up by a commotion that I had just gone through some hours back.

The ambassador glided in and took position at the portico.

Everyone woke up and took their positions as well.

A gentleman stormed out. Another uniformed man followed him. After a brief pause, the secretary and Desai darted across the room with a peon following them holding the layouts.

We all ran to the parking lot again. Kick started our vehicles and chased the secretary’s car all the way back to the DIP’s office.

I was fainting with this sudden burst of excitement in my sedate condition. I was not in a position to think of anything better than follow the herd, for whatever its worth.

Soon we reached the DIP’s office and before we could reach the waiting room, The Secretary, Desai and gang had entered the prohibited room and slammed the door.

I thought for a while if it would be appropriate to call back the Boss. But what If I was needed in the room. Calling Boss back also meant that Im increasing his anxiety for some good news.

I looked around. I could see many flunkies abandoned by their respective bosses.

I could see only the lower strata filtered into the room now. It now resembled the crowd that I had seen on day 1.

It seemed too inferior a situation to summon My Boss back. Either I could have the privilege of delivering him the good news. Or exclude him from being a part of receiving the bad news.

So ‘screw calling Boss back’, I concluded, feeling scarily advantageous, for the being the sole decision maker on this matter.

Phase 8-The Results

In a few minutes it was time to announce the results.  It was an understood ritual that the agency who’s name is called out first, is the winner. Ofcourse, to make this grand announcement the Secretary stepped out with Desai and the Peon, flanking him on either side with a beaming smile, that conveyed that they were also instrumental in the selection of the winner.

We all stood up and flocked around the jury impatiently waiting for the results of this mysterious game.

There were no hot favorites. Nobody had a clue.

“I would like to call upon……the first agency…….” The secretary announced dragging each word to create an intrigue in the audience, where most of them were ready to pass out. We were in no mood for this suspenseful build up.

But the secretary was feeling as fresh as a daffodil.

“..The agency I would like to call upon is….” The secretary looked at Mr Desai for a final nod of approval.

“Ok….can we have Avantika Adutising……..yes yes….please come inside.” The secretary smiled and retired into his cabin. Mr Desai waited at the door to shake hands with the winners and the peon held the door open as a mark of respect.

The members of Avantika gleamed with pride and walked inside looking like they knew it all along, to collect their prize.

Of course the prizes were known to all.

First Prize

Deccan Herald….the costliest publication. Prajavani…the second costliest publication and a few other random publications thrown in.

Second Prize

Indian Express…..the second costliest english daily and a few other random publications…

Third Prize

The Hindu…the 3rd costliest English daily and a few other random publications…

The others were now left to haggle and negotiate in the room and bargain for the leftovers like Raitha Rajya, Ushe Vani, Sutta Mutta Suddi and other unheard publications that boasted of circulations which were so few in number, that you could distribute them personally.

I knew deep within that we couldn’t have won this contest. The rapport that Boss shared with Desai was all fake. Ultimately the CM seemed to have spotted the fictitious numbers.

Somewhere in the middle I was summoned.

The secretary had left by then, leaving Desai to distribute the consolation prizes to the inept mediocre losers.

I stepped into the room and Desai handed over our layouts back…..

“Mr. Renaisaance adutising….very sorry. I thought that your design was the best, but what to do…..the CM preferred someone else’s design.”

“That’s ok sir.” I said opening my note pad to jot down the list of publications allocated for me.

“Jot down please….Sankrtanti, Jana Jagruti……and Sanje Suddi’

I hadn’t heard of any of these publications. I scribbled them down on my pad feeling completely defeated.

“Hmmm..what is sad is that only your agency had got the content perfectly…..only if you had paid more attention to the design…. Infact the CM has asked us to use your content……..but someone else’s design.”

I was speechless. I took time to recover from this shock.

2051730631_91cdaa78a6

‘Saar…atleast for that can you pleej give us one english paper …pleeej saar” I succumbed and pleaded shamelessly, embracing my destiny and deciding to not question its strangenesses.

And then I realized, that was the only thing you needed…to be into adutising.

Gowrnamentu adutising-part 3

Phase 5 – The Brief

After two grueling days, I returned from Vidhana Soudha with my own understanding of the statutory warning inscribed on the building “Government’s work is God’s work”. But I always doubted if they had misspelt GOD.

I got back to the agency with a feeling of triumph. The receptionist failed to see the glint in my eyes and asked her regular “Have you signed the register?’, reducing me to just another employee, the variety who need to record their attendance to earn their wages.

She probably didn’t know of the treasure I had in my bag. Six delicious annual reports as ordered by The Boss. After all that, in my head, I knew I belonged to a superior league, where I no longer had to stoop down to such chores to ratify my existence.

I walked in The Boss’ cabin with my head held high and chest out, in spite of the weight on my shoulders. And emptied the contents of my bag on The Boss’ desk with pride, and put my hands on my hip and freezed on that pose, waiting for him to construct his words of praise.

The Boss made a quick count, 5 mundane looking books in assorted colours and one of course, photocopied.

Boss looked at me and then at Mahadeva with a half grin, and said nothing, and pressurised Mahadeva to come up with his comments first, so that his own gathered some respect in the waiting.

“Earlier the books used to be much thicker, no Boss!” Mahadeva commented, roughly weighing one of the reports in his hand.

Boss nodded and smiled reminiscing the burden he had endured in his youth. He erratically picked up a book and flicked it, and stopped at a random page and studied the contents for a split second.

“…..But….what took you so long?” The Boss made his opening remark with a practiced restraint.

Mahadeva duplicated The Boss’ look on his face to make the question seem doubly worrysome.

I was shocked to find any traces of appreciation missing in his remark or Mahadeva’s concerned face.

“I mean, Sir….you have no idea what I had to go through to get these books. Each one had a unique problem….and Mr Desai had given letters to many others……I had to wait endlessly………they treat you like shit…” I tried everything to evoke sympathy out of their sadistic faces.

The Boss remained unmoved. Mahadeva did a quick cross-check and decided to continue with the same look.

Since this had no impact, I added impromptu “Someone even said that this is a futile exercise since he had inside information that they don’t even want an ad….” with a bleak hope that this might make him suspend the exercise altogether.

The Boss cut me short……

“Listen….listen…you should have given me a call. Didn’t I tell you, that this information is urgent. We don’t have all the time in the universe. Just give me a call….how difficult is that?”

….and Mahadeva punctuated his speech with the necessary expressions.

“But…..what….I mean….” I was trying to find the diplomatic version of ‘What the fuck could you have done?’.

Boss looked at Mahadeva and asked him “What’s that new chap’s name….ya Appaji’s assistant, call him.” highlighting the distance in heirarchy between Sudarshan and him.

(Sudarshan was the new flunk who worked under Appaji. And Appaji….was a fat middle aged man who held a mysterious post in the office. Appaji had joined Renaissance at a tender age, and had been handling tender notices since then. He was a separate department by himself. He cared for noone, and noone cared for him. The everyday chaos in the agency never affected his life. And he liked it that way.

He was happy and content with this portfolio, and demanded no more than an assistant to help him with his ever growing clientele. After years of penance he was granted one disciple to serve him. A young timid looking Kannada literature student, Sudarshan.

Appaji had a special corner for himself, where he stayed aloof. And he had equipped himself with bad breath to keep public at bay. He enjoyed his space. And to further ensure his privacy, he wore the same pink shirt everyday, till it had gathered a shimmer on its crease. A strange mix of these odours protected his territory, a tiny corner in the office. Thankfully, Sudarshan perpetually had a blocked nose, which enabled him to interact closely with Appaji and vice versa.

Appaji was fiercely protective about Sudarshan. After many years and a great deal of difficulty he had found a flunk, and didn’t want others to now poke their working noses into their relationship and muck it up. Appaji was so visibly excited with his empowered status, he would make sure that his orders to Sudarshan were heard by all “Sudarshan, didn’t I tell you to file these yesterday? Why is it still here in the table?” and beam with pride as his little lamb trembled with his orders.)

In seconds, Sudarshan appeared in the Boss cabin, parking Appaji just outside the door, to eavesdrop on this mysterious summons.

“How busy are you?” The Boss asked Sudarshan in a tone that dictated the answer along with the question.

Sudarshan folded his hands and bent down modestly displaying his slavery which he had perfected under the aegis of Appaji.

“You need to help this boy out here. We are working on a DIP pitch. And he needs a lot of help with Kannada. You need to read out all these books to him within tomorrow morning.”

The Boss turned towards me like he was generously giving me a second chance to prove my worth to continue holding the dignified title I held.

“And you …….don’t waste time now….you need to take notes of any point that might seem essential for the ad. Let me explain, take for eg. housing,…you need to gather from this book, how many houses they actually built in the past one year!! Is that clear? Numbers are important…..so any figures….make a note of it. I want it all by tomorrow morning.”

The Boss exited in a hurry, jamming Appaji’s nose at the entrance, which he had anxiously kept pressed to the door.

The Boss explained to him “Appaji ….this boy needs your boy’s help. Some kannada help. So spare him for a day.”

Appaji nodded sheepishly, feeling empty to be flunkless for a day.

The Boss retired leaving behind the labour class to figure out the nitty gritties of this transaction.

Sudarshan crossed over and stood beside me symbolically lending the needed support, leaving Appaji alone in his flank.

Appaji glared at his son with vengeance “Sudarshan, by all means you can help him out. But don’t forget the Canara Bank estimates we need to hand over by tomorrow.”

And came close to me and whispered in my ear “Learn to handle things on your own, you young fellow.”

I hurriedly exhaled unable to handle the stink in his breath. But Appaji felt content mistaking it to be an expression of regret.

Soon, the other members of the agency cleared the field one by one, leaving Sudarshan and me staring at half a dozen annual reports that were waiting for such victims of joblessness, ever since they had been printed.

As instructed by The Boss, the office boy switched off all the mains that connected you to objects of distraction like TV, Computers and locked up the shelves that contained intimidating books like The One Show. Even the girl in media had safely tucked away all the voucher copies of exciting publications. Leaving the two of us with limited access only to switches of harmless survival gadgetry like the tubelight and the fan.

So me and Sudarshan finished our dinner and sat under the fan. Sudarshan picked up his first book of recitation and began his verbal diarrohea in a Sanskritish dialect of Kannada. The government had decided that these books could be used as a medium to preserve the purity of the language.

The annual reports were torturous to say the least. We started with ‘The Housing Department’s’ annual report. The text started a millimeter inside the bleed area in page 1 and continued breathlessly till the bottom most edge of page 187. All in 8 point size with no pictures, graphs or any form of visual relief. It looked like the writers of the book had been specifically briefed to breakdown all useful information and scatter it all over the book, so that it becomes a gripping mystery novel.

Sudarshan orated tirelessly through the night like he was reading a thrilling screenplay. He was delighted to display his fluency in the language and explained the nuances of certain words and exampled their usage through some poems he had written for his college assignments. He cribbed about the death of Kannada. And gave me an instant crash course on appreciating the language through his poetry that preached goodness in twisted ways.

He was feeling stifled with this limited exposure his masterpieces were getting. But he had decided to juice this lone member in the audience to the fullest. He waited for words in the report with which he could seamlessly digress into his poems. He seemed to have found something to keep him engaged through the night.

I was waiting to find mine.

I suffered him for about three hours and then interrupted, inviting him to participate in some gossip. “What is that Canara Bank estimate? Can Appaji not handle a simple job like that on his own!”

I was egging Sudarshan to loosen up a bit and bond over our menially similar job profiles. I had ideas in my head that could save us from this drudgery. Afterall, how difficult was it to invent a few numbers? But that needed participation in the crime. He had already given me a clue about his virtuous personality through his poems. But I still hoped that I could crumble that facade by bringing him to terms with harsh reality.

Sudarshan dodged “No no…..Appaji is very hardworking. Also he is very senior to do all this?”

“Forget all that. Are you getting paid enough? For all this donkey work…..I certainly am not. I get paid peanuts.” I confessed my shitty stature in the organisation, to create a certain comfort level between us.

“Ya. I got a good offer. They are paying me what I asked for.” Sudarshan replied not fully trusting me or the walls of the agency.

“Are you getting what you deserve?” I pushed him further hoping that his pay was as pathetic as mine.

“Yes. I am happy.” Sudarshan dismissed it quickly and returned to his recitation even more purposefully to not be seduced into pointless discussions.

I hated the honesty with which we were carrying out this irritating job. I never knew that the houses built by government in Bidar and Belgaum would haunt me through such sleepless nights.

I was trying hard to see Sudarshan’s stupidity as sincerity and be inspired by his goodness. But the boredom of the subject failed to take this motivation any further.

By now Sudarshan had even stopped giving poetic reliefs to the narration. He sensed that his digressions could make the conversation livelier, but mine were dangerous. So he decided to steer clear of this.

8_boredomI collapsed on the table by 5am unable to hear another word in that voice that hadn’t stopped for about 10 hours.

Phase 6- The ad

The ads had a format. It was simple. Arrange graphic icons of houses, electric transformers, schools etc in ascending order of their heights, to represent the growth of these departments over the years.

So year 92-93…a visual of a small house…with text underneath, 1400 houses built. Year 93-94…the same house now bigger… with the text underneath 2,100 houses built and so on and so forth.

Thankfully at Renaissance, you never had the problem of getting your brief approved. You only had to get it art directed.

Mahadeva appeared with newly spray painted illustrations of houses and electricity poles and schools, the recency of which reflected on his long fingernail, which was shining with a similar shade of colour used in one of the illustrations.

And a headline above that “MEETING EXPECTATIONS. BUILDING HOPES.” waiting to be poetically translated into Kannada by Sudarshan who was now back in the custody of Appaji, as promised. Sudarshan hid from Appaji, inside the closet that stored ‘Canara Bank Estimates’ and wrote some lines and passed them over to me. They seemed like desperate adaptations of his priceless poems he had rattled away to me the previous night. I picked one and whispered to him “This one sounds good.” Sudarshan smiled. I felt happy for him.

But I knew that the ad was nothing but a pathetic attempt at glorifying bullshit. Only I knew it. In spite of being in the trap of goodness the previous night, most of the numbers in the ad were all made up. The annual reports rarely revealed numbers. It only had adjectives like ‘almost double’, ‘surpassing the previous year’, ‘ a new milestone’, ‘stupendous’ and other words that were invented to conceal the actual. The numbers were more or less a reflection of the impact each adjective had on me. The stronger the adjective the higher the numbers. What lay before me was a graph that loosely plotted the state’s welfare based on my personal reaction to assorted adjectives.

But nobody interfered, as long as it stuck to the norm of the approved safe tried and tested ascending format.

We covered all these pieces of fiction with colourful textured handmade paper, mounted them on thick GSM boards and proudly pasted stickers of our agency to enable the gowrnamentu to pick the rightful authors to orchestrate their fantasies.

The Boss flipped the cover, and poured into the contents and commented about everything that needed no informed opinion, like the colour, fonts, kerning and friendlier territories that bordered on subjective tastes.

“Why can’t the colours of the houses get brighter and happier over the years?…Mahadeva…..comeon…I am sure you can do better than this?'”

Mahadeva took this valid suggestion and painted the houses progressively in dizzying variations of florescence.

To be contd….

Gowrnamentu adutising-part 1

work cartoon1

I have reached a stage now, where I can say ‘back then, in our days, it was so much tougher’. Well read my side of the story, then you’ll agree that I am well within my rights to claim that. 

With the same embarrassing dreams and stars in my eyes, I set foot into advertising with the hope that one day, I’ll be able to convert my stupid mad-ads jokes into award winning commercials that can sell any damn product. Write crazy Hinglish baselines, compose jingles, meet glamorous models, sport a ponytail, and walk around cursing the shit of every son of a gun, who had doubted my calibre for all those years. And prove to the world that ‘So what if you’ve only scraped through every exam all your life, you can still become an enviable icon that the world will bow down to’.

Facts about Edison setting his neighbour’s chicken coop on fire, and running away from school had always remained close to my heart, and boosted my confidence everytime I flunked. I could feel Edison patting my back and saying ‘Dont worry son. You are doing it all right by doing it all wrong’.

I was thrilled when I got to know that Akbar was illiterate. I was delighted when I discovered that Einstein was the worst in his class. Though I admire Edison more than Einstein, because I’ve used the bulb, but never Einstein’s theories. Oh shit! I’m digressing…..

I seeked inspiration from winners who were losers before. Only because, that gave me the liberty to continue being the way I was, for some more time.

I patiently waited for the world to dismiss me as a failure. Reduce their expectations. That was the only way I could make them notice and appreciate every tiny achievement of mine. 

But I guess that I was pinning too much hope on the genius within me to eventually surface.

Destiny took me to a place where the genius inside never needed to make an appearance. Simply because it had no role to play. 

I started off in an agency called Renaissance. An INS accredited advertising agency. Yes INS (Indian Newspaper Society) accredited. I know I have said that twice now.

But they said it over 3 times in their small 30cc ad. “WANTED COPYWRITER’ ad, for an ‘INS accredited agency’. I had little clue what INS meant. But like most abbreviations, I assumed that even this one must be something important enough.

I applied thinking that it would be a cakewalk for me. Atleast, certainly after I show them my bagful of mad-ads certificates that I had accumulated over the years. I made sure that my resume recorded every little accomplishment of mine. Except for the second prize that I had won for ‘Lemon and Spoon’ race in Grade III, which after a lot of pondering I decided to drop it from the resume, and keep it only as a special mention during the interview, in case the need occurred.

But with all that, I did manage to gain an entry into the big bad world of advertising. But not as a copywriter. But into client servicing. 

The guy who ran the place convinced me that there was a very thin line that separated the servicing blokes from copywriters, with the “Ideas can come from anywhere…..everyone is creative’ kind of bullshit speech. The average intelligence with which I had lived all my life made me naive or desperate enough to believe this crap as well. 

And I joined. With the grand title of Junior Account Executive. In short AE. Everyone loved the abbreviation more, because it phonetically resembles a South Indian way of derogatorily summoning someone ‘AyEEE…..baro illi’.

Forget what the title actually meant or what the job involved, I just hated the title. I hated the sound of it. ‘Copywriter’ just sounded so much more cool, maybe because a copywriter must have decided it. But an ‘AE’ didn’t quite have the same ring to it.  

But then I thought, what’s in a title. It’s what I make of it. Atleast, ‘I’m into advertising” sounded cool enough. 

“AE.”  I decided to live with this reassuringly cheap title. I instinctively knew that I was doing something stupid, but I convinced myself to keep it that simple.

And for a speedy induction to this subservient job profile, they decided to put me on an account that can quickly demolish all the attitude that I had so dearly acquired.

‘The government’.

I spent the first fifteen days in the agency flipping through the ‘never ever opened before’ volumes of ‘The One Show’ and ‘D & AD’. And the owner patiently let me enjoy this brief stint with fantasy, after which he flung me straight into the DIP office….which grandly expands as “The Department of Information and Publicity’.

Ya, that’s the client. The same chaps who are responsible for all those ‘poor people looking happy’ kind of ads. And we were one of the privileged agencies artworking those masterpieces for them.

The way it works with the government or rather gowrnamentu (the correct pronunciation of that here) is something else. This post can only be a feeble attempt to capture all of that.

It is a system that is so brilliantly watertight, that it makes sure that nothing you have ever learnt in life can be put to use (That was the only relief, since I didn’t have much to regret). To them advertising or rather adutising, was nothing but an added perk to boost their egos. A facility which they can use as they please, to publish their latest passport photographs along with some attractive adjectives (honorable…respected….Dr….) attached to their names. And also use it for recreation purposes, where they can get to explore their creative side. And the advertising agency was more or less an assembly of jobless screwballs, who are always eagerly waiting to convert their bizarre imaginations to artworks.

Gowrnamentu adutising. 

To begin with, the client sits in a building that is sandwiched between the Indian Express and The Hindu. The governmentish part in this side of town. Buildings that boasted of timeless architecture and even more timeless inhabitants.

Where even the parking attendants would use you as an opportunity for timepass. They’d open the gate for you, and patiently wait till you fully parked your vehicle, and then tell you “saar, visitors vehicles not allowed”.

Where the attendants at the canteen would pour half the sambar outside the plate with a scowl on their faces that effortlessly translated the thought behind the action “So what else do you expect for your shitty six bucks, you subsidized scum”.

Where even the peon believed that you were specially selected and sent to him, so that he can practice and perfect his role of authority, before he is found deserving enough to be handed one. 

Let me divide the entire process of ‘Gowrnamentu adutising’, into the many phases so that the agony is well balanced in all its parts. Think of this as my little bit to make you feel much nicer about what you are doing right now.

Phase 1 – The pitch

To begin with, we get a call from DIP. ‘We’ is the agency. And then an ‘I’ is picked in that ‘WE’ to entertain them. The youngest goat in their livestock that they don’t mind sacrificing is sent to the gallows.

The ‘One Shows’ and the ‘D&ADs’ are snatched and flung into a far off corner.

And replaced with a humble ‘Amar notepad’ and Nataraj pencil. And you are packed off with this sufficient ammunition to the cattle-field. 

Once you get there, you are lead into a strange room by a sniggering peon. Dressed in a ‘once upon a time white shirt’, a tilted Gandhi cap, and rubber chappals held together with a safety pin. A typical peonish uniform, thoughtfully designed and enforced by the senior officials, so that the visitors don’t end up unnecessarily wasting their respect on him and keep it preserved for the right officials who are seated inside.  He ushers you into a huge room with wooden chairs arranged alongside the walls, with an expanse of empty area in the middle, where even the fans choose to air the vacuum in the centre, rather than waste it on you.

This incidentally, is the waiting room outside the cabin of The Man who has summoned you. The Man who will bestow upon you his precious brief, the one that will enable your agency to pay you your salary, the following month.

The Secretary.

An important looking man jots down your agency’s name in a shorter convenient spelling on his scribble pad and subtly gestures you to take a seat.

You then pick your seat amidst the various fellow harijans, and patiently wait for your turn. They all belong to other similar INS agencies, who’s owners have some distant relation in the government. And if you count, they’ll roughly add up to about 40 of them. A small meeting ground of sorts, for people who performed badly, through their school and college.

An invigilator is designated to check on the behaviour of these inmates, and reprimand them accordingly.

“Spit your gum outside.” (Slip down by 4 positions in the queue.)

“Stop shaking your leg.” (Slip down by another 2.)

The same peon who admitted you to this dispensary, now reappears in a more dominating role, announcing the names of the agencies, turn by turn. And disappears quickly leaving you undisturbed to pensively regret your past doings under the noisy sound of the airless fan. 

The amount of time that each candidate spends in the room varies in extremes and the randomness in which the names are called out have nothing got to do with the order in which it has been jotted down. 

So, you patiently wait for your turn that is slotted with such suspenseful uncertainly, that it could threaten to occur exactly at that time when you choose to go grab a smoke or a bite.

So you have nothing better to do than control every other urge of yours, and instead indulge in a meandering conversation with your neighbour, where you analyse how different journeys can lead to such a similar fate. You then compare notes of your life with his and evaluate for yourself if it is justified.

Only after you have covered every conceivable form of killing time in that minimalistic room, will you hear the announcement you’ve been waiting for.

‘Renisan adutising’ the peon will call out, giving you time only till he figures out the pronunciation of the next name in the list.

The prompt respondents will then be given an entry into the heavenly gates (a squeaky half door with spring action) of ‘The Secretary’. If you were observant, by now you would have learnt that the right pose to make an entry is with the pencil tip inches away from the open note pad. A vivid display of your enthusiasm for the business. And also to jot down any precious gems that might accidently slip through the paan dripping mouth of The Secretary.

Studying the faces of the previous entrants, I had figured out the pattern. The ones who looked smarter spent lesser time inside than the dumber looking ones. The reason was simple. The dumber ones made ‘The Secretary’ look smarter. So he spent more time with them. The more confident you look, the lesser of a confidante you seem. A lesson I only learnt after the first few interactions.

Phase 2 – The Briefing

“May I come in sir?’

“Yes”

“You called us?”

“Yes. Because we want ad”

“What ad?’

That is a meaningless question to The Secretary. According to him the briefing is over. This is unnecessary interrogation. But he chooses to be forgiving in the beginning. 

“Press ad”.

The information is always disseminated in installments. The Secretary is clear that he’s not there to clear your unclarity.

But since you are still unclear about his clarity, you idiotically probe further.

“Color or b/w”

“Some color. Some b/w”

“What is the ad about?’

“About our achievements”

“What are your achievements?”

That is the final question. You have just revealed your ignorance. You are just another cliche example of a brash youngster who has turned a blind eye to all the stupendous accomplishments of the men in power, and conveniently bracketed them as bureaucratic scoundrels.

None of this is said.

It is a conversation that has transpired purely by “the way he looked at you, looking at him. And the way you looked at him, looking at you.”

“Next.” he jams the bell on his table in a manner that communicates to the experienced peon, that he want you OUT, more than he wants the next person in. 

And you walk out with that one easily memorizable line in your nice smelling notepad, weighed down with the strange pressure that the unused blank pages are adding on you.

“Ad. Color/ b/w. About achievements.”

“But that’s the deal. It works like this.” explained a slightly more experienced fellow Harijan to me, bonding over that mutually beneficial Gold Flake King, that we planned to share after we finished our respective sessions. 

“It’s like a competition, my friend. A guessing game of sorts. About 40 agencies are called. And everyone is briefed. The same ‘we want ad’ brief. And everyone is given the same deadline of 3 days.

The game is simple.

1. You need to guess what the ad is about?

2. You then need to find information that can back your guess.

3. And then you need to make an ad and present it to them.

4. All the submissions are taken to Vidhana Soudha, where a secret jury selects the ad that is believably closest to their manifesto,  even if it is farthest from the truth.

5. The winning agency gets to release the ad in Engish dailes since they are the most expensive.

6. The artwork of the winning ad is distributed to the other participating agencies.

7.The rest of them have to bargain and negotiate for the remaining dailies and release the ad.

It’s a weird system. But that is the system that they are most comfortable with. 

So the trick is to find the right people and get the maximum information possible that is required for making the ad.”

But nobody knows what is the information needed. Nobody knows who has this information. And nobody knows how to get it out from them.

DHAN-TE-DAN……the search now begins…….part 2

Halli daariyalli….evening hothinalli

It happens often. And it can drive you crazy. Atleast it happens to me. You suddenly remember a song, and then you want it badly. So badly that it can drive you insane.

It happened to me again.

From somewhere out of the blue, an old kannada song called ‘halli daariyalli’, started to haunt me. A song that I vaguely remember seeing Kokila Mohan dancing in some jazzy dinchak outfit. A song that had made my new ‘Dyanora’ color tv proud, some years back.

I kept tossing and turning last night in my sleep, trying to remember the song fully. I woke up singing the same tune. I could not take it any longer. I needed it. And needed it really bad.

I tried googling it with no luck.

Then I youtubed it. And i found this interesting clip. Though it isn’t the original, I must admit that the dude out here has done quite a brilliant job of it. So watch it to get an idea of what this post is all about.

I had no clue which movie it belonged to. But I could bet that SPB was the singer. 

So, with this limited knowledge I first went to the neighboring music stores, Planet M, Music World, Calypso and a few others. Unfortunately, noone knew what I was talking about.

And then I remembered this unique tiny shop called Totalkannada.com located in the basement opposite Pai Vihar, Jayanagara, a shop completely dedicated to kannada movies, music, books and other “Jai Karnataka Maate’ paraphernalia. 

This was my last resort. I was going half mad. And I hoped and prayed that I find it there.

As I entered, a salesgirl was sitting at the counter. A simple young kannadiga girl, who was almost dozing off to some old kannada melody on the speakers that was apt for a sleepy afternoon like this. There was another lone customer loitering around and messing up the alphabetically arranged Vcds. 

One look at her and I was convinced that she would have no clue either. 

With full anxiety, I leaned over the counter and whispered adding the customary ‘maydam’ before every sentence to sound as authentically kannada as possible….

“Maydam, ondhu haadu hudukutha iddini…..(I’m searching for a song) …….halli daariyalli”

She turned down the volume of the speakers that was playing ‘Namoora mandaara hoove’.

I repeated my request ‘Maydam…halli daariyalli’, with an irritating eagerness that I didn’t care to hold back.

She turned the volume further down and closed her eyes to concentrate on getting the tune of my request.

I impatiently waited for that one customer to clear the field, and then cleared my throat.

“Maydam …haadla..(can i sing it?)”

She nodded impatiently.

I looked around and broke into the song accompanied by a half-hearted jig, to add some excitement to her memory jogging process…..”Halli daariyalli……tan ta daan ta da taan ta da taan…” and abruptly stopped, wishing that her imagination would take over with this cryptic clue.

She gave me a look as if to say “Go on…don’t stop, it’s coming …it’s coming in my head…keep it going”.

So I took a good look around and continued….

“Halli Daariyalli……tan ta daan ta da taan ta da taan…

Thampu breezinalli…tan ta daan ta da taan ta da taan…

hmmmm hmmmmm hmmmmmm…something something and 

ooru inda bandanu Mr Maraaanu”

She showed me symptoms of having heard it before. Her eyes lit up and she started mouthing the words to herself. She closed her eyes and transported herself back to her ‘Dyanora or Solidaire TV’ days. 

I encouraged her further by again repeating all that I knew.

She jumped “Correct. howdu….ivaga nyaapka barthaayide…..Englishu Kannada mix maadi ondu haadu” (Ya…now I remember, it’s a song that mixes up English and Kannada words)

I was thrilled to bits and continued…’ya ya, haaruthide love birdsugalu…..’ and was promptly interrupted by some fool who walked in wanting some Darshan hits.

The imagination that we had built up till now was drowned the minute she slipped in the ‘Darshan Hits’ CD to test it. The sepia toned imagery floating in the air was ruthlessly spoilt by the garish garbage that belted out of the speakers.  

I casually asked that customer “Saar Halli daariyalli haadu yaav picturu antha goththa?” (Sir, do you know which movie is ‘Halli Daariyalli’ from?)

He meditated for a while and said with supreme confidence “Halli Daari alla adu…halli meshtru…..Ravichandran picture” (No …it’s called halli meshtru..a Ravichandran film).

I controlled all my urges to slap him. And let him groove to the irritating tune of his latest purchase that was blaring from the speakers.

Thankfully, the guy was happy with what he was hearing, and he soon exited leaving us alone to resume our exciting search.

And the salesgirl promptly returned. 

I took off from where we left.

“Correctu madam….English Kannada mix…haaruthide love birdsu galu…oduthide cowsugalu..”(love birds are flying and cows are running)

“Hero yaaru gotha?’ She asked frowning hard.

“Seriyaagi nyaapka illa madam…Kokila Mohan anusoththe” (Cannot remember clearly….I think it is Kokila Mohan)

“Haan…” she jumped in excitement and promptly returned with a Vcd of the movie ‘Kokila’.

We quickly poured over its contents.The Vcd also contained a listing of all the songs. But no, this number did not feature.

She was visibly dissappointed with her ineffeciency. And I was visibly happy that she was taking such a keen interest in this.

We both agreed that it could only be SPB who could have sung this song.

She kept humming the tune to herself, as she rummaged through dozens of SPB hits looking for this number.

I picked up a bunch of illayaraja hits hoping that I’d find it in them. I always felt it had a very ‘Illayaraja’ flavour to it.

But we both failed in our searches.

She then picked up a big fat book, a kannada cinema encyclopedia and began searching for it. 

After about 20 minutes of pouring into it, she lifted her head and looked at me strangely.

She studied me carefully.

Obviously there was something running in her head.

And then she said in a nervous whisper “Actually nam bossige gothirathe. Andre ivaaga nidde maadtha irthaare!” (Actually my boss would know. But he’ll be sleeping right now).

She was mentally weighing the worth of this deal. Even if she did identify the cd, it couldn’t be costing more than 30 Rs. Was it worthy enough to spend a phone call? Or risk disturbing the owner at such an untimely hour?

I could sense the dilemma going on in her head. 

I put on the most desperate face I could. 

She pondered for a while and thankfully decided that it was more important to please me than worry about the deal and her boss.

She hesitantly picked up the phone and punched the buttons.

I could see the tension on her face.  

“Sorry sir…..ondhu customer bandidhaare…halli daariyalli bekanthe…yaavu piccharru antha goththa nimmage?” (There is a customer searching for halli daariyalli song here. Do you know which movie it belongs to?)

There was a pregnant pause. She made unpleasant faces at me, imitating her boss’ mood at that time. 

She tried to sound her polite best as she responded to him “..’Muniyana maadri’…..andre adralli Shankar Nag alva…haaan….correctu…….Kokila Mohanu idaane…thumba thanks sir” (Oh Muniyana Maadri…but isn’t that Shankar Nag!….oh ya right….even Kokila Mohan is in that one. Thank you sir)

She hung up and bit her tongue feeling happy that she was done with the difficult part. She rushed and reached out for that Vcd. And ran through the listings.

Yes. The song did feature.

She handed over the vcd to me and said “Boss kopuskondru…parvaagilla….nimmage haadu sikkthalla!” (Boss was wild. But it’s ok. Atleast you found your song).

I grabbed it and was all set to rush back and listen to it. 

But she held me back for a few minutes, frantically rummaging through a few other Cds. I was getting impatient. I had dug out the exact number of notes needed for the transaction, to make it as speedy as possible.

She finally returned with a compile of SPB and held it out to me.   

“Saar. MP3 nu sikkthu…beka? Beri 25 Rupayee!!” (I also got an MP3 of it. Do you want it? It’s only 25 Rs!!’)

I knew that she was doing this only to justify the deal in her own head.

And I could have paid anything for such sincerity.

halli

 

 

 

 

So here it is……I later found it in on youtube….Now that i know which movie it belongs to.

 

Thanks to someone, who’s so passionate about their job.

To hell and back-The final post

We took the turn that the hunters prescribed. A narrow opening just before the first bridge. The hunters had put it across very mildly. 

It was not a turn. It was an incline that was almost 90 degrees. Like 89 or 88 maybe. Ok not less than 87 for sure.

Even Jackie Chan would have used a stunt double for this. It seemed like a joke. We threw another glance at the other way out. The monotonous rail track which we were familiar with. The very idea of walking back 13 kilometers like a herd of sheep seemed worse than death. 

Jeeva decided to give this escape route a fair chance. And ventured first, followed by Aslam. The rest of us waited for a few minutes. And as expected the two of them came tumbling down. 

“Ok guys. We gotta choose. Either we go on and on, on that same wretched rail track. Or we somehow cross this nonsense, and get the fuck outta here as quickly as possible. What do you all want to do?” Jeeva took charge, reminding himself and the others that he was the leader of the pack.

Thoughts crossed our minds. Maybe the incline was only in the initial stage. Maybe after that initial bit, it might suddenly clear into a plateau of greenery. Maybe the highway is just around the corner. Maybe we could end this nightmare in a few hours. We knew we were fooling ourselves into believing all that, but we couldn’t help being tempted that it might just turn out to be true. It was difficult to get rid of our foolishness so fast. So we motivated ourselves by remembering poems from our English class like ‘The road not taken’ and shit like that, took a deep breath, and embarked on this height of stupidity.crossroads

“OK. lets go for this.” we echoed, trying to gather enough conviction to match the volume of the chorus.

We jumped and clung on to the first rock in that opening, pulled ourselves up and crawled on our bellies, scratching our faces and rubbing our noses to the moss and mud. We heaved and puffed and pulled our bodies with all might. We exerted so much that we could taste everything that we had eaten in our lives with our nostrils. 

A few metres above and it was too late to give up. We were all hanging, clinging on to some tree, shrub, creeper and anything else that our hands could reach out to grab. 

I had no idea how Bonda was managing, but he somehow seemed to be doing it.

After sometime, the incline did reduce, but it was still steep to be fully relieved.

We progressed with an amazing speed of 100 metres an hour. 

Guru stopped and leaned against a tree. He opened his bag, took a good look, and made a decision that he should have made earlier in life. He realised the key to survival was to get rid of physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology and other bullshit that weighed him down from leading an assured life. He understood the difference between wisdom and knowledge.

One after another, these worthless pieces of information went rolling down the cliff, making him lighter and wiser, and giving his life a second chance.

Further down, somebody else took a leaf out his books. And soon we heard the kerosene stove rolling down, without even an explosion to give us a momentary thrill.

The wisdom was infectious. The utensils followed.

Everyone started reducing their load, merrily polluting the environment that had been unkind to us. 

Clothes, undergarments, tiny sleeping mats, leftover food…we renounced anything and everything to feel lighter. 

We gulped the last few drops from the final bottle and flung it far away to degrade a thousand years hence.

After this small display of magnificence, we continued our journey with rejuvenated sprits.

But by then, we had lost track of each other. Separated by our varied degrees of agility. 

Each person followed objects that were renounced by the previous guy, hoping that whoever is leading this trail, has attained nirvana somewhere up above. 

We were all alone. Breathless, panting and crying in pain, under some tree. Fallen on some rock. Bruised and bleeding all over. Even the joy of seeing your fellow mates groan in misery had been taken away.

Now and then the skies would echo some familiar voice screaming in pain, and we kept ourselves engaged in a little game by guessing who it might be. 

It was gloomy and it began to pour. Thankfully, we had set out early in the morning, and it was only noon. So, we still had the entire day to figure out the way to freedom.

After about 4 hours of solitary meandering, we miraculously congregated at one point. Each entry, swaying and staggering and finally collapsing on a rock, facing some random direction, exposing their backs to the rain like stray donkeys.

Noone spoke to each other. We hadn’t communicated to each other for more than six hours, but allowed the silence to exchange the mutual misery without seeking any solace in return.

We were drenched. We were sick. We were hungry. We had nothing left. No food. No water. No cigarettes. No bags. No nothing. Just ourselves in some wrecked clothing. The only thing that still remained was Bobby’s equipment, which he chose to retain, over common sense. 

All our parent’s and teacher’s advices started to find meaning here. We secretly decided to become ‘good boys’ when we returned. 

The reason why everyone stopped here was because it had a reason. It was at this junction that life decided to offer us an unwanted choice. The path diverged into three narrower paths, each promising to be more unpromising than the other. 

Arrows“Fucked trekkers you all are. I am a chuth to come with you all.” Bonda uttered his first sentence with utmost clarity.

Aslam lifted himself up, took a small run up and kicked him hard.

Bonda rolled down and screamed in pain.

“Maathar chodh…..” Aslam gave him another kick.

Nobody knew why Aslam reacted like that. But Bonda’s pain came much later in our long list, after our aching body parts, for anyone to be bothered.  

Bobby put down his tripod at the junction, pulled out a gigantic binocular and peeked into them.

He rotated his head and peeked into it again.

And then rotated it further pointing it to the route of the first path and peeked into it once more.

Since nobody seemed inquisitive about his queer behaviour, Mr Sherlock Holmes decided to divulge the findings of his little experiment, himself.

“I have just seen all the three paths. I think we must go down this path.” Bobby declared, pointing to route 2.

“Why?” 

“I can see coconut trees at the end of this direction.”

“So”

Bobby: “You ignorant asses. Coconut trees only grow in civilisation.”

Aslam: “Balls to your theory man. The first route seems most clear. It seems most used.” 

The rest of them found it appropriate to spend some time in depression than debate. As expected, Jeeva decided to take Bobby’s path, as it at least made sense in the long term. We chose to keep our opinions insignificant, and blindly went with Bobby’s recco.

A kilometer down, the path ended at an elephant trap.

Aslam snatched Bobby’s tripod and flung it into a bush, inviting him to participate in a wrestle match behind it. They both disappeared and for sometime nobody cared to intervene.

Soon, Jeeva realised the importance of his role, and reluctantly went behind and brought them back alive.

We retraced our path back, and this time, we went with Aslam’s choice.

The path ended at a violent stream.

Aslam and Bobby continued their unfinished match behind a new bush. This time Jeeva intervened earlier as he had discovered that Bobby needed faster help. 

We retraced our path back, and finally chose the least chosen path.

We walked and walked. And walked. And walked.

And came back to the same spot where we started from.

It was 3 pm. We had reached a stage where we were willingly preparing ourselves to end our lives. Balls to our conviction. Balls to the brave and mighty. Balls to Wordsworth, Frost and their kind who decieved us into this. Balls to Mother Nature and her tricks for wooing us into this mess. 

We formed a huddle and cried together. 

“Ok guys. I have given up on my life. I don’t care if I live or die anymore. I cannot think of anything else but crossing that stream.”

“Ya, atleast let’s die trying.”

“Think about it. Its 4 pm. Soon it will be dark. We have no torches. No food. No nothing. It’s do or die.”

Neil came staggering back with a huge branch fallen nearby. 

“Lets hold on to this and walk. If we make it, we make it. Or we die.”

Jeeva removed his jeans and wore it on his neck. A gesture which was once a symbol of guts and glory, had now become a uniform for suckers. 

We all followed. In tandem we removed our jeans, and adorned it on our necks, and proceeded towards the stream, moronically marching in our undies.

The roar of the stream didn’t frighten us anymore. We stepped into it with an attitude of suicide bombers. 

Jeeva stood first. Followed by Guru. Then Bonda. Then Bobby. Then Neil. Then Aslam and me. This was decided according to our swimming capabilities. 

Jeeva, Guru and me knew how to swim. Aslam and Neil thought they knew how to swim. Bonda and Bobby were sure that they didn’t.

The stream was about 200 metres wide and gushing wild with rage.

Jeeva had a stick that he checked the depth with. The rocks were slippery. We took measured steps and waded into the danger.

I think we walked further with the power of our eyelashes, hair and stubble as they were the only parts in our body that were not yet aching.

We took that huge branch and chucked it in the middle of the stream till it got interlocked between the rocks.

We muttered a hurried prayer and clung on to that branch hoping that it would not give way and waded through the ice cold stream lashing on to our bodies.

The branch gave way every now and then making us lose our balance, and choke out water from our nostrils.

Once we covered the length of the branch, we’d lift it and push it further ahead, and continue on this death mission.

In about an hour, we managed to get over to the other side. Surprisingly, the head count remained the same.

We hugged and celebrated like as if we’d swam the Suez canal.

A few yards down we spotted a little hut. A 60 watt bulb flickered, dimly lighting up the courtyard that had been flattened and plastered with cow dung, with an elaborate rangoli inviting us. A few plantain trees, and a guava tree laden with fruits stood at the entrance, waiting to be devastated. 

Our eyes were filled with tears of emotion, accompanied by a vague sense of deja vu on seeing these evidences that belonged to a civilisation, that we were once familiar with.  

In less than a minute we were on top of the tree. We spared no fruit, not even the ones that were on the way of becoming one. 

A young lady opened the door. And she was shocked to see her flimsy tree infested with seven malnourished monkeys in underwear, raiding her fruits of labour.

She retreated with a piercing scream that summoned the rest of the inmates which included her mother-in-law and two kids.

They surrounded the tree looking at us like we were aliens. We were unmoved. We continued eating. We couldn’t have cared even if they had guns.

After some heated exchange within themselves, they finally settled at being amused.

The lady took pity and asked “Coffee kuditheera?’

By then, Neil had had his fill to answer that. And with an untimely display of politeness he replied…”Illa aunty…it’s ok. No problem.”

The ladies shrugged their shoulders, went back inside and slammed the door.

Soon, we dived down and six of us threw Neil on the ground and were all set to slay him alive.

Just then the lady opened the door again and was shocked to see this sudden repositioning of the primates. 

monkeys

Jeeva sheepishly looked up and begged “Seven cups coffee. We haven’t had anything since last night. Sorry……….aunty.’

The lady returned with seven steel tumblers of steaming coffee.

Foaming_filter_coffee

We plonked ourselves on the courtyard and sent out a strong signal by sucking the last drops as loudly as we could, forcing the lady to bestow more kindness.

She returned with a plate of bananas.

As we were busy gobbling up the bananas, we heard a honk.

It didn’t strike us at first. Then suddenly Bobby jumped up and shouted in a banana voice…

“Did you hear that?’

“What?”

“You asses. That was a truck man, a bloody truck. Which means we are next to the highway.”

It then slowly dawned upon us. 

Jeeva collapsed on the floor.

Aslam did a war dance.

Neil combed back his hair.

Bobby finally dismantled his camera.

Guru secretly pocketed a plantain or two.

Bonda gurgled his saliva

And I was drenching in jubilance.

We couldn’t believe that this journey actually had an end. 

Hitch_Hike_Alright_by_tizzy_busy_idiotSoon, the seven of us stood again in a single file, holding our thumbs out to hitch a ride back to earth.

Ofcourse, in our underwears.

(It’s a different matter that we hitched a ride to the nearest bus stand, and waited for 13 hours at the bus stop to get a bus back home. Ya, but i don’t want to spend anymore time reminiscing this trip. I just want to get back to celebrating that I’m alive.)

Bakasura Beedhi

Those who read it as beedi, let me correct you, it’s beed(h)i. Like in South India, when we put an ‘h’ we mean the ‘h’. We would spell Vidya as Vidhya, Tandav as Thandav, Dil will be Dhil, and we don’t forget the ‘h’ when we pronounce Mukesh.

Coming the point, Beedhi means street.

vadas-and-others

I am talking about what most people refer to as ‘food street’ at VV puram. To me it has lost half its flavour with that name, so I have renamed it gastronomically. 

This has been covered in Time-out and sporadically in other newspaper supplements when they’ve run out of pictures of fashionable drunkards. I have always felt that no coverage has managed to give people an actual idea of what a visit to this street means. To embark on this mission itself is stupidity but nevertheless. So, let me give you my version of it.

Firstly, it doesn’t fall on your way back home.

Secondly, they do not serve non-veg.snake-god

Thirdly, it is located in a boring Brahminical area where the only other thing you can combine to this trip is a visit to the umpteen temples located next to it.

Lastly, there is no bar in the vicinity.

So I am completely aware of the risk I undertake by recommending that you dedicate one evening out to this place, inspite of all these shortcomings.

To begin with, this place lies somewhere between Chamrajpet and Basavanagudi. Near Jain College. Near Lal Bagh West Gate. Behind JC Road. Close to Cauvery Petrol Bunk. Get somewhere close to any one of these and find your way.

sms1

Tucked away in a part of Bangalore where people still haven’t changed their ways to suit lifestyles of the modern. 

The street runs for about 400 metres, with stalls located so close to each other, that the aroma from one stall might actually lead you to the other. I have been frequenting this place for over 16 years. And after lot of experimentation I have now developed The Ideal Path that could help you enjoy this place better.

First, make sure that you stay away from health and fitness magazines during the preparation period. And assemble a gang of four or five. And make sure that they don’t include killjoys who take pride in displaying their knowledge of good eating habits, and turn into calorie counting machines while you are at it. 

The golden rule is that never ever order too much at any stall. Order about one or two plates of each dish and split it among yourselves. I also advise that you skip your afternoon lunch. And get there by about 8pm. (The place is open only in the evenings, between 6 and 10:30pm). 

And prepare your stomach to hold everything that your tongue callously sends below.

The street starts with VB Bakery and ends at a corn cart. Get to the other side, and begin with the corn. It is easily the most unique offering of this place. You’ll find a fancy cart that has a small electric fan fitted on to it that kindles the charcoal. He has an elaborate menu printed all over his cart, that can end up driving you nuts, american corn ghee fry, baby corn chaat, corn mix and other non-innovative names. Screw it. It’s just the same ingredients in various permutations and combinations. 

charcoalStraight away ask for the baby corn masala. The final dish in your hand looks as good as the raw material. But it is nothing short of dynamite. Tender baby corns are thrown with their covering, into the burning charcoal. And removed when the covering is charred. The corn is now stripped off its leaf, cut into small pieces, and served with a squeeze of lime, salt and some explosive green chilly masala, on a harmless looking platter of a fresh corn leaf. The flavour of charcoal is so subtle, that had it been done in a five star, the chef would have had a program named after him on Travel and Living.

Once they disappear, keep an order of American corn mix on standby to quickly recover from the jolt that just ruptured the path between your nostrils and your brain.

The second one will calm you down a bit. Now, finish it with an total mix. I have no idea what the official name for these mixes are, neither does the maker. So, just rotate your hand around all the ingredients and tell him ‘all mix’.

What you’ll be holding is a medley of raw mango, baby corn, american corn and pineapple. All charcoaled and spiked up adequately. Beside him is a strategically placed fruit chaat vendor. Use his services, if you feel the need to instantly bring down the dizziness in your head.

Walk down the path without being tempted by anything else you see around, and stop at the most crowded dosa corner on your right. 

Order for a couple of masala dosas. And while you are waiting for them to be done, fix yourself a plate of idlis and gatti chutney. The idlis are not the best I’ve eaten, but the chutney definitely makes you lenient on the criticism. While you are passing judgements, keep an eye on your masala dosa taking shape on the smoky tava before you.close-up-dosas

Once the batter is spread out in concentric circles, watch the guy pick out a packet of ghee, that he will now squeeze out inconsiderately on to every dosa, through a pin hole prick on the packet, drenching each piece with ghee, as you go through a list of legitimate reasons to justify why you deserve this binge. And just when you begin to think that he’s overdoing it, he’ll invert the dosa, and repeat the act.

 

ghee-laden-dosa1You’ll be delighted when you notice that the dosa comes without a smearing of that disgraceful red paste, a recipe that most darshinis share today. 

Once you bite into it, the ghee oozes out from every pore of this delicacy but tastes so heavenly, that you instantly pardon all the evil that this humble dish has been cursed with.

Pick an odd assortment of the various vadas and bajjis on the counter, but resist all temptation to settle down here, and move on. Just make sure that you haven’t forgotten the Mangalore bajjis

Walk further down, and stop at the stall that has a curious looking dish being fried on a bumpy vessel that I find hard to describe. (See pic)baba-fried-idli1

Ya sure, the vermillion sadhu adds to the effect. It’s called fried idlis. Not too tasty, but I guess it must be appealing to some taste buds. But the tamarind chutney that accompanies it is uniquely sweet, salty, sour, pungent and spicy in equal measures. 

Walk further up to the ancient VB Bakery and pack some breads, biscuits and other condiments. By now, you’ll be sufficiently full, so chances are that you will not be packing more than necessary. The variety over here is quite tasty, but I’ve heard from some old timers that the quality has dropped. So skip it, if you belong to a generation of better taste.

Since you are in the area, walk ahead a little further, and on the right hand side of a massive circle, is a shop called “Vasavi Condiments’. During season, they make specialities with a green colored bean called avrekai. You get to taste it before you buy. So take your picks, and walk back to the street that is still waiting in the hope of your insatiable return.

I have delibrately left out quite a few dishes, so that you have some to discover on your own. Like the mysterious looking preparation in this picture.

akki-rotis1

 

Oh! I forgot, stop by for some hot jamoons and jilebis, the exact location of which, I trust the sweets will announce on their own. 

Once you’re through with this, walk back all the way to the corn cart that started it all. Close to that you will find your finale point. The last shop on your left. Order for a ‘Butter Gulkand Fruit Salad with Ice Cream’. Ya! that kind of sums up what it contains. But you can still expect surprises. And finish it all with a Masala Pepsi, a jaljeera of sorts, and probably the only new age offering on this side of the planet.

 

last-shop-menu2So, the next time you have someone from Delhi raving about purani dilli ke parathe wali gully, you know where to take them.

 

May not be so elaborate, but then we’ve always been known for our modesty.