It Runs In The Family


It Runs In The Family

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Padmanabhan, better known as Enfield Padmanabhan for he had once owned an enfield bike servicing station was one of the premier automotive parts dealers in the city. But that was in the beginning of his career n the auto parts industry when he landed in Chennai from Kumbakonam with wife and baby daughter in tow. Nowadays, regardless of the manufacturer or company, Indian or foreign, four wheeler or two wheeler, Mr. Padmanabhan invariably had a dealership for that particular vehicle. After twenty years of doing business he was now the retail king of the automobile industry- all brands under the same roof. Sometimes his peers in the automotive industry whispered between themselves that no one had a better grasp on the overall view of how the industry was faring than Padmanabhan. And not only locally, for every month or so Padmanabhan would fly off abroad visiting automotive fairs worldwide to try and grasp the arising and future trends in the transportation field to get in on the ground floor of any new innovation. For all that Padmanabhan didn’t have a large family -just the wife and daughter he came to Chennai with all those years ago, to set up an independent business.

If you thought that only Mr. Enfield Padmanabhan was the go-getter of their family you are far off the mark, for his wife Sudha was as equally ambitious as her husband but her chosen sphere of expressing her talent was  on their daughter Tara.  Ever since Tara was born Sudha had completely devoted all her energies to making Tara as accomplished a person as can ever be. She lived, breathed and dreamt all the time about how her daughter could be molded into being the person that Sudha had always wanted to be. From the time she woke up in the morning till the time she went to bed, every segment of Tara’s life was strictly regulated- French class, tennis class, college, music class, dance class everything had its proper time and place in her daily life. She had no free hour left to divert her mind into useless thoughts which might lead her astray from her mothers ambitious plan for her future. She was dropped at college in the mornings and picked up at college at the stroke of the bell by Munusamy their most trusted family driver from the same village as Padmanabhan. She never went anywhere, including her friends houses, without Sudha or Munusamy accompanying her. Her friends were all vetted by Sudha who often weeded out the undesirables and independent thinkers among them.

 In short Tara led a robotic life under constant supervision being told what to do and how to do it, all the time. The only time she had rebelled, or leastwise had tried to rebel was when she qualified for a merit seat in a government medical college but her mother Sudha had put her foot down and refused to allow her to join medicine. Sudha had been most insistent that her daughter not join any professional course but only some women’s only arts college for a bachelor of arts degree in some social sciences subject. While Tara screamed, cried and went on a hunger strike for almost ten days to be allowed to join medicine. In the end she gave into her mothers unreasonable demands and joined an arts college for a bachelor of arts degree in geography. No one ever asked Tara and she never offered any explanation for why geography.

Padmanabhan was relieved that the rebellion was finally at an end. He had left the whole management of the household to this wife and he was loath to interfere and supersede her authority in the vain fear that it would mean more involvement at home with lesser time devoted to expanding his business. Husband and wife were very happy when their daughter finally fell in-line and listened to them as she had done all her life. The only thing which puzzled Padmanabhan about the whole affair was why his wife was dead-set against medicine and refused to allow her daughter to step inside a medical college. Poor man he did not know that back in those days, before they were both married his wife Sudha had been a medical college student studying in a co-educational institution in the big city far away from their native place.There, she had fallen in love with a bus conductor named Altaf who had looked like a younger version of the then reigning filmy heartthrob, Superstar Rajesh Khanna and who worked as the conductor of the city bus which she took regularly to and fro from college to her hostel. Convinced that Sama Sastrigal her strict and orthodox father would not agree to the inter religious marriage, she had eloped with Altaf to Bombay as he had told her he had rich relatives there who had promised to get him a Gulf job. They were married at a roadside temple as soon as they had landed in Bombay and then they spent their honeymoon in a seedy lodge in Matunga.

At the end of ten days of a blissful life, Sudha had woke up one morning to find herself  surrounded by a group of rough looking men who bundled her off in a tempo van after paying Altaf quite a large sum for those days. The next few days were still a hazy memory for Sudha as the last thing she remembered was Altaf standing there and waving goodbye to her as the van carried her away to Bombay’s premier red-light district. Her next few months were spent on her back with legs raised in the air, earning for her keep by servicing up-to twenty men a night and more. Until a kind customer from their native place Kumbakonam who had visited the brothel out of loneliness and was delighted to find a  young tamil speaking girl to service him, had listened to Sudha’s pleadings and agreed to inform Sama Sastry of his missing daughters plight which he promptly did by sending a postcard to Sastry with a few brief details.

Sastrigal took the next train from Kumbakonam to Bombay and spending all his provident fund bought back his daughter from the brothel owner and took her straight back home discontinuing her medical studies abruptly. Within the next few months he had identified a relative boy from a near but poor family, called Spare Parts Padmanabhan who went around in a fish cart buying broken down scrap from garbage dealers to sell to local mechanics. Padmanabhan despite his ambitions was a failure at business and had loans all around the city with his lenders threatening to break his limbs one by one if he didn’t start repaying soon. In that kind of critical financial circumstance Sastri’s offer of settling all his debts if he married his daughter came like a godsend to padmanabhan. Although he had heard a few stories, common rumours around kumbakonam about Sastris daughter who had done something bad in the big city the offer of having all his lenders paid off and the chance for a fresh start in life prompted padmanabhan to close his ears to everything and marry sudha.

With the money that Sudha’s father gave him as dowry Padmanabhan paid off all his debts and wound up his failed business honourably without declaring bankruptcy and finally decided to leave behind kumbakonam to move to chennai to make a fresh start in life and business. And that’s how Spare parts Padma turned into the honourable Mr.Enfield Padmanabhan the owner of a string of automobile workshops all over the country.  Despite achieving success beyond even his wildest imagination in business, when it came to the home front the fact that his wife was not only better educated than him, but was the source of all his early seed money for the business was the reason that he left all the decisions of the household in her capable hands and never interfered in anything, including the welfare of his daughter. That and the fact that he couldn’t in good conscience accept even in his innermost guilty thoughts that his daughter, a healthy full sized infant, was born just six months into their marriage.

To get back to our story it was the day of Tara’s convocation ceremony when she would receive her graduate degree in the university senate hall from the state governor in his role as the vice chancellor of the university. The household was all up and in earnest from the morning. For although forced to study something she did not like, tara had nevertheless passed out with distinction and had achieved a university first and hence later this evening she would be getting her merit certificate and gold medal from the hands of the vice chancellor himself. By early afternoon sudha was all dressed up and ready, in her excitement she kept running up to daughter Tara’s room with multiple reminders of how she should dress, how she should walk , how she should greet the vice chancellor and turn to look at the audience as she received her certificate and gold medal, to better enable the professional photographer and videographer Sudha had hired to memorialize the proud moment. She also kept calling Padmanabhan throughout the day, often talking to his secretary to make sure that the great man was reminded to leave office early enough to reach the convocation hall in time to watch their only daughter receive her degree certificate, in fact the only one in their family to ever graduate with a degree. Padmanabhan promised to be there in time, even if he had to leave the entire office in lurch.

By seven PM tara was sitting there in the front row of the auditorium along with the best outgoing students of her batch who were supposed to be called early to the stage before the mass of the graduating students got their regular degree certificates. She had been primped, primed and dressed to kill by her mother and as she sat there she slowly used her hanky to wipe away all the extra makeup her mother had painted on her face. She knew that her mother and father sitting at the back of the hall in the seating reserved for parents and relatives would not notice anything’s amiss. As soon as there was a hububb in the hall and the audience got to its feet as the chief guest entered, Tara slowly slipped out of her seat and moved into the side aisle. She whispered to ther college mate sitting in the last row, “i really, really have to go pee, give me a missed call when the speech gets over” and she used the side door of the hall to leave towards the toilets.

But instead of entering the ladies toilet she kept walking straight on to the end of the corridor where there was a side entrance which looked unused. She let herself outside the hall paused to look back once at the hall where her parents sat inside all oblivious and then with a bit of a spring in her steps she walked straight to the carpark where her driver munusamy was lounging in the  front seat of the car. She got in beside him boldly, which was a first for her as they had always been careful not to let sudha suspect anything. She laid her head with a sigh on Munusamy’s shoulder as he started the car and drove off in the direction of the railway station.

Tara gave a little laugh as she said “i thought that evening would never come, the way the day dragged so slowly. Have you got the tickets for the journey ?” Munusamy patted his pocket as he said “Two tickets on the mumbai express in different names. Tomorrow we would be near mumbai by this time and day after tomorrow we would be married there and start our family.” Tara replied without looking at him “Don’t worry, money should not be a problem, i wore all my jewels to the function like you said. My mom was very happy to see me wear them all”. Munusamy looked down at the head resting on his shoulder and thought with a glint in his eye “so this is the golden goose, you can pluck it till it gives and then sell it to make a tidy profit, lucky me”.  And the car went steadily on in the night bearing daughter to the same fate as mother.

P.S. If you are puzzled by the title and ask me what runs in the family? The answer would be “Stupidity”

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Bhoomi Madha With A Big Heart- Short Fiction.


Bhoomi Madha With A Big Heart.

bhoomi matha

The minister was coming out of the sanctum sanctorum of the temple when he noticed a group of devotees clustered around a mantap near the entrance of the temple. Out of curiosity he hurried over to join the throng and to see what it was all about. In front of the mantap sat a beatifically smiling man in his 50’s clad in the saffron robes of a mendicant and he was preaching to a congregation of a few devotees. The minister paused to listen for a few minutes as the swamiji, as he automatically called him in his mind, started speaking again “how many of you sleep well at night? How many fall asleep as soon as you hit the bed and sleep dreamlessly all night? How many of you have a full appetite and eat when you are hungry?” He paused as few seconds and looked meaningfully at the listening devotees .

The minister felt as if someone had given him a knock on his head. He had just now prayed to god about his various ailments which included long and troubled insomniac nights and multiple ulcers which prevented him from enjoying all the power and perks of his office for which he had sacrificed so much and done so many crimes which still gave him a troubled  conscience even after so many years. He felt like this swami was gods way of answering his prayers, so he walked up to the mantap and gesturing his ever present security to stay back, well back sat at the back of the crowd to listen to the discourse.

“The only way  forward” continued the swami “is to reduce your expectations, your greed for more and more. However much you have you always yearn for more. At what point will you stop? Will you feel that you have had enough? Is there no end to your wants?” he paused again and seemed to be staring meaningfully at the minister seated right at the back of the crowd “unless you voluntarily decide in your minds that you have plenty you will never heal yourself” and he rasied his voice “and goddess lakshmi only loves someone who exudes satisfaction. She flees the unworty miser who grasps for more and more. So go home and reorder your life according to your needs and not your wants. Om shanti, shanti, shanti hi”.

As the crowd dispersed slowly the miniser approached the swamiji with folded hands “swamiji, i am blessed to have heard your dsicourse today, every single word you said reverberates within my heart. I want to do something for you, please allow this penitent to offer something”. The swami smiled enigmatically at the minister and said “ son, i am a beggar living on the good wishes of the gods and the alms of the devout. What could i wish for? I dont need anything. If my advice has helped you, then go in peace my son. I am through with this world, i desire nothing”. The minister who had built up his entire political life on patronage and doles to his faithful adherents wasn’t so easily swayed “ nothing swamiji? You are the first person who has said nothing even when the state home minister has asked you directly about wht you want. Its a novel experience for me to be refused like this. Its usually i who do the refusing.  I think my karma is preventing you from accepting anything from my hands. Do re-consider and allow this sinner to gain a little punya”.

The mendicant scratched his beard and got up abruptly to  walk forward and he beckoned the minister to follow him. As they went to one of the gates of the temple, the swamiji pointed out his hand towards the river which flowed beside the temple, specifically broad expanse of the riverbank  with its gleaming white sands “ i have been meaning to construct a small ashram on this peaceful river bank so i can perform my meditations as close to this peaceful river as possible. And besides the crowd for my sermons grow bigger day by day and its becoming harder to accommodate them all in the same small mantap i sleep in. I have petitioned the district collector about this previously when he came to the temple but he just accepts my petitions with a smile and does nothing with them. Maybe you can?”. The minister felt elated, “atlast”, he thought “there is something i can do to show my power”. The fact that he had been refused when offering to help had been a great shock to his system. He turned around and beckoned to the collector who had been part of the discreet group following the minister and the swamiji from a distance.

The collector came running forward “What is this i hear? That you refused to allot the swamiji this riverbank to construct an ashram? Every month some fellow or other comes with your recommendation letter and i allot him prime residential and commercial plots inside the capital city from the government quota freely, but you cannot find it in your heart to give up even a river bank for this holy man? Is this your administration?” he thundered at the collector who quaked visibly. “sir, no sir, i will sign the file as soon as i reach the office sir” he murmured.  The minister continued “See that you do. And no more troubling this holy man. If  i hear anything like that” he left the rest unsaid. After taking the holy man’s blessing the minister went back to his car and returned to the capital to take up governance again.

Although he meant to return to the temple town pretty soon to check up on the holy man again, events in his political life caught up with him and he coudnt afford to take the time off to go on a pilgrimage till more than an year had passed away. Atlast one day with the assembly not in session and nothing else to do, he decided to go see the swamiji again, to see how the ashram was coming on. When he reached the temple he eagerly looked around for the swami but he was nowhere to be found, so he hurried up to the eastern gate to look down on the river.  To his considerable shock he found the river bank desecrated, dug up to great depths, the river itself narrowed down to a thin trickle and everywhere signs of great destruction to the once pristine riverbank. He immediately got into his car and headed straight for the collectors office.

Once seated opposite the collector he asked “What happened to the swamijis ashram? What did you greedy bastards do?”. The collector who had had a pretty satisfying day till then, quaked at the minister’s wrath “We? We did nothing but follow your orders sir, we gave the man permission to build on the riverbank by granting him a patta and environmental clearance and everything. Soon lorry after lorry came down to cart away the clear river sand and when asked about it by the locals the swami had said they were clearing the foundations to build a grand riverside ashram. As the sand lorries started doing ten trips a day, some of the locals tried to complain, but the fraud swami threatened them with your name saying he was close to the minister and sent them to me as reference. I had to to tell them that you had instructed us government officials to leave him alone, so there was no way we could take any action against him. After removing all the usable sand from the river bed, the swami disappeared overnight” the collector concluded.

The minister sat there like a stone and reflected on the swami’s sermon a year back on the nature of greed and its effects on men. Nothing changes, thought the minster, everyone wants to loot the government money, be it a politician or the public. The bhoomi madha who gives to everyone again and again, no questions asked is the public money and goddess lakshmi is the public treasury. “And to think i was fooled by a greater fraud than me” he mused with a bitter frown.

P.S. Disclaimer- this story is not referenced to and in no one way about living persons or swamijis who conducted any meets in any river beds in recent memory. This is purely a work of fiction.

The Suicide Point – A Short Story


The Suicide Point

Kodaikanal_Suicide_Point

The Inspector was in a deep slumber at his desk when he was woken up by the Head Constable with a shake of his shoulder “Sir, wake up. We have another golden goose come in” which must have been their code word for something of importance as the Inspector Of Police came suddenly awake and alert and nodded to the head constable to bring in the goose to be plucked. The two persons who hurried in next were both young, twenty something males who were weeping but trying hard to show they were not. “Sir, sir” said one of them who had stepped forward, “our father has fallen off the cliff into the bushes below, you have to help us find him”. The head constable hurriedly put in his own version of their story “Their father has jumped off suicide point sir”. At this the other guy, who looked to be the younger one interrupted angrily “no, no, he didn’t jump, he slipped and fell as he was posing for a photo”.

The inspector who had heard the same story a dozen times in his life raised a hand to cut him off in full flow “Stop, do you expect me to believe that any man would be able to slip and fall off that dangerous place despite all the warning boards we have put up and the fence surrounding it? Dont lie to a policeman” he threatened the brothers. The elder who seemed to be more in control of his feelings said in a plaintive voice “Sir but that’s exactly how it happened, even we didn’t see clearly how our father climbed over the fence and got to the edge to peer down there. When he called us to take his picture he was already there and waving at us. In a fraction of a second he disappeared over the edge and we think his foot must have slipped or something otherwise we could have saved him.”

The head constable said then “They have already wasted so much time trying to find the old man on their own, they should have come straight to us instead of wasting time”. The inspector looked sharply at the two brothers and asked “what time did this happen? “ The elder brother replied “Around noon today sir ” and he stood there staring guilty at the inspector who replied “And its going on three pm now, you look like educated people, how can you behave like this? Don’t you know you have to report any crime like this immediately to the police?”.

The younger and angrier brother replied “Sir this is not a crime, this was an accident. We know the rules too. But have a heart. Our father had fallen over, we were mad and distraught and didn’t know what to do. Coming to the police station to give a complaint was the last thing on our minds then”. The inspector looked sharply at him and asked “Then why have you come now ? For what?”. The kid looked boldly back at him and said “For your help in recovering our father’s, father’s” he couldn’t complete his sentence. “Body?” asked the inspector with a cruel grin “of course you will come to the police for help when no one else is there, otherwise what are we for?” he continued “Now hear this , we are overburdened with crimes already,the investigation of which takes precedence over anything else, you yourself say this was an accident, so thats it, go give a statement to the head constable that your father fell in an accident and take a FIR copy with you when you leave” he turned back to contemplate the calendar behind him marked with dates for court appearances.

“But, but” the elder faltered in front of him “aren’t you going to help us search for him sir? Search for” he swallowed and said “my fathers body?”. The inspector turned back with a look of genuine amusement in his face “what do you think we are mountaineering experts like they show in movies? Do you know how dangerous it is, that place whee you father fell? No policeman is going to risk his life searching for a corpse there” and he paused to look meaningfully “BUT,  there are people who can help you, certain of the guides there will go down to bring up your father’s corpse but it will cost you money, as its very risky they charge a lot, talk to the head constable there, he will guide you”. The elder brother said then “money is no problem inspector we just want our father” and suddenly the younger one erupted “wait a minute, isn’t it your duty to find our fathers body? Why should we employ someone else and what guarantee is there that they will find him for us after taking our money?”

The inspector almost got up out of his chair with anger “guarantee, how dare you ask for a guarantee here, you whelp” he screamed and raised a hand as if to hit the kid when suddenly the head constable loomed in front of him, intervening with his anger and driving away the two brothers to the other side of the room “sir let me talk to them and explain things” he cajoled the inspector into relaxing and moved away to the other corner of the room with the two bereaved offspring of the dead man. After what seemed a long time but was little more than ten minutes the head constable came back to the inspector and said “I have talked to the boys and the deal is finalized”.

The inspector grumbled “and how much are they willing to pay” the head constable gave a sly grin before he said “Five Lakh Rupees for their fathers body”. This time the inspector did get up out of his chair almost involuntarily “FIVE LAKHS? damn, how did they agree to that amount? And they have no idea that the tribals who do the actual finding charge no more than twenty or thirty thousand rupees depending on how deep they go?”. The head Constable preened himself “no sir they are just kids and they have no idea about the value of money. The elder has already given me fifty thousand rupees which he carries about as loose change in his pockets. He was ready to bring around the rest tomorrow but the younger one insisted, he is pretty annoying by the way, that the balance will be paid only after we show them their fathers body which should be no trouble at all. And then we are in luck- almost four and a half lakhs to divide between ourselves”. The inspector looked thoughtful “OK. This seems to be our lucky day. Get their statement, write a damn FIR that it was an accident and get rid of them immediately. Go  call up that fellow Irulan and his team, to go down the suicide point immediately before these two idiots realize they have been duped”.

But the best laid plans can go awry too and that’s what happened with the inspectors plan. Two days later, Irulan a well muscled tribal whose profession was retrieving dead bodies at the suicide point stood before the inspector wringing his hands “We searched everywhere Yeajaman, but we couldn’t find the old gentleman whose photo was shown to us. He must have fallen even deeper into the Devil’s pit area and not one of us will willingly go into there”. The inspector and the head constable both looked at each other sadly, they could feel the rest of the money slipping away through their fingers. As they hesitated over their next course of action it was Irulan himself who suggested a solution to their dilemma “unless, if you agree sir we can bring up some other unclaimed body fully smashed and claim its their fathers dead body. No one can say how damaged a body will be after failing from such a height and you can convince them and give a death certificate that its so.”

With no other option to lay their hands on the balance amount the inspector immediately agreed to Irulan’s plan and it all went as smoothly as he said it would. Even the younger brother whom they suspected will make a scene quietly accepted that it was their father’s body and after paying the rest of the finders reward the two brothers went away with the death certificate and the corpse, to cremate it. And thats the end of it all thought the inspector as he went onto buy a new maruti swift with his share of the dead body money. But fate had a different story to show.

A few months later the inspector got a sealed envelope which he opened, read thoroughly twice and then whistled before beckoning the head constable near to him “Those two bastard swindled us. Look,” he said and showed him a photo  of a fifty something man coming out of a bank “Do you remember those two brothers who came to us with five lakhs to find their father’s body. Seems that the old man had swindled five hundred crores from the banks before convenient falling off the cliff in an accident. The bank which had sealed his lockers in anticipation of his bankruptcy petition had finally relaxed their careful watch after seeing his death certificate and two days ago the same guy had walked in and emptied his lockers of all the cash. Now the bank has sent us a photograph from the surveillance camera asking us if this is the same dead body we recovered? And how a dead guy came back to life in the banks vault?”.

The inspector and the head constable looked at each other with crestfallen faces “And of course we have to reply that it was the same corpse that we recovered form the suicide point. We cant be changing our story now after all this time especially after insisting to the boys that it was indeed their fathers body we found. We would be accused of falsifying our own records and we will lose our jobs. We are screwed both ways unless we stick to our original story till the end”. The head constable looked sadly at the inspector “To think that we let those frauds get away with just five lakhs from that five hundred crores” And the inspector said more irritably “To think we were both fooled by two young kids pretending to cry over a still healthy father. What idiots we were”.

The Guardian


The Guardian

angel

I sat there watching her sleep. I knew she woudnt want me to but i still did. After all what she didnt know woudnt hurt her would it She had been complaining of bad dreams, of nightmares, of something slithering and crawling over her as she slept. And she coudnt sleep deeply anymore as she feared to experience it again. And so there i was to watch over her in my self appointed role as her guardian, to sit in a corner of her room and watch that nothing evil came to her while i watched over her. From where i sat in a shadowed corner of the room, the better to let her sleep undisturbed- i could see just her face and her neck in the moonlight. The soft light framed her hair as an halo around her face. She looked so ethereal when asleep – compared to how she acts when awake- that i felt a slow yearning to reach out and caress her as she slept. To run my finger through her hair and twine a strand around one. To bend down and softly kiss her there – low down on her neck where it joins her collar bone. To blow softly near her ears in the hope of startling her. To give her a hickey – a small love bite on her throat – right in the small of her throat where she usually dabs a bit of perfume in the mornings. To slowly put my cheek against hers and rub it softly with the rough bristles of my beard rubbing against her silky skin. And using my lips and tongue to taste her- her forehead, the bridge of her nose, her ears and her cheeks. But not her lips – no, never her lips- those long slit like lips she kept tightly closed as she slept – unless she woke up and invited me to them. As i sat there running these things through my mind, refining them more and more in my imagination, i saw the window lightening with dawn outside. Time for me to leave, to fade, dissolve with the dust and float out on those sunbeams for my kind are not allowed to walk this earth in the light. She would wake up later in the morning – after a deep sleep with no nightmares and woudnt even give a glance to that corner where on a dusty old chair i had perched all night – watching over her – her very own guardian angel – to return again another night

Let Her Jump – A Short Story Not for the Faint Hearted


Let Her Jump – A Short Story Not for the Faint Hearted (Based on a true story)

suicide - jumpWhen he walked in that morning he knew he had a very busy day to look forward to. And as he didn’t want the hassle of starting it too soon he just walked past his secretary without glancing at her for he knew she would be giving out all sorts of disapproval signals on his coming late to office. But he didn’t care as he had just come off a calm and restful weekend and he didn’t mind if he put a frown on his secretary’s face if he could extend that mental bliss to a few more minutes. As always he switched on his computer to check his mails as was his daily routine. And it jumped right out at him with no subject heading.

He read the message again hoping against hope that he had read it wrong the first time he did. But no, it still read the same ominous way “If you want to see me alive one last time come to the top of The Temple Tower building by noon today before i jump off it.” And that’s it – the entire message was that cryptic with no hint of who or what or why. But he knew, of course. Knew it was she. No one else would use that phrase “… or else I will jump” for no one else in his acquaintance ever threatened that way, except her. It was her signature threat and had been almost the first words he had ever heard her speak when they were both three year olds in the same kindergarten class.

That day he had entered the class and stood looking around uncertainly and he had heard those words “I am going to jump” and had started turning around when someone jumped right on him pushing him to the floor. When his eyes cleared of his tears he looked around to see his new classmates as a group laughing at him and he hurriedly got up pushing away the girl from him just in time for the teacher to come in and start scolding them both. They had ended up sitting beside each other for the rest of their school days. That fateful jump was the start of their friendship and the first of many jumps she took.

The next one he remembered very clearly was in the last year of school when she again tried to jump on him. They had drifted apart over the past year with the pressure of studies and he had started hanging out with other girls. In the course of one such friendship (a budding romance) with a cute classmate he had been overheard to say that she was not his girlfriend. During the lunch break she had got up on the parapet wall of the school terrace, of course after alerting the whole class and threatened to jump off and die unless he recanted his statement in front of all their classmates and re-affirmed to everyone that SHE was his girlfriend and not the cute girl. Egged on by everyone around he had thrown one last despairing look at the cute girl before repeating the lie and saving her life but destroying his in the process.

When he had asked her later how dared she, she replied coolly that she knew, that he would always be there to catch her when she jumped, just like when they were kids. He protested that he had not but she never listened, her remembrance of events was clearly different to his memory of them. The look on his current girlfriend’s face later when they passed each other in the corridor- a look full of contempt and anger at his spinelessness – chilled him and haunted his sleep for months as he had really liked that girl and had thought they had a future together. He couldn’t help but speculate what would have happened if he had stood his ground and refused the blackmail? Would she have really jumped? Maybe she would have- she was half parts possessive and half parts psycho. Thinking about it was useless now for he had chickened out and given in hadn’t he?

College took them both along different paths and they struggled to stay in touch. He studied hard, worked hard and rarely thought about girls. She was the one who kept coming back occasionally to keep tabs on him and to discourage him from showing anything more than a passing interest in other girls he found attractive. There was never any talk about their getting married or their future or anything like that. It’s as if once she had staked out her territory she had moved on with the confidence that he would be there for her forever. And on his part he too was reluctant to push the issue knowing that he didn’t really love her. He secretly hoped she would find someone else and leave him alone. But he never told it to her face.

And then during his final year and just before his exams there was a knock on his apartment door and there she was looking like hell. She pushed her way in and made herself comfortable. It was a dreary October day and the northeast monsoon rains were pouring outside. He asked her if she would like a cup of coffee and went in to make one. When he came out of the kitchen with the coffee cup she was sitting on his balcony with her legs up on his chair. She was staring far away with a dreamy look on her face. He was instantly chilled and worried. He didn’t like that look. He went nearer and holding out the cup to her asked her to get down from the balcony railing, for it was thin, rain slicked and they were three floors up. She looked back at him smiled sickly and asked him why he had caught her the first time when they were kids for it would have been far, far better for her life if she had died then.

He didn’t know what to say to that but waited knowing she would explain. She told him then that she was pregnant. He gasped like he had been punched in his balls and asked “whattttt?”. She repeated in a matter of fact voice “Yes, I am pregnant, I met a wonderful man and I gave myself over to him fully knowing that we would be getting married soon. But he turned out not be so wonderful in the end for when he heard I got pregnant he disappeared without a word”. He stood there blinking trying to digest this perfidy on her part and then she went on “You know me; you know my family, my parents. If I bring a bastard on to this world they will commit suicide- my whole family will commit suicide. Its better then that I alone die. That’s why I came to see you. I knew that you alone would understand why I had to die like this” she said and made a move to slide off the balcony. He jumped forward and caught her arms and pulled her back “Don’t be an idiot -death is not the solution to anything, tell me” he asked “tell me, is there anything I can do to help?” Even as he asked that question he knew it was the wrong thing to ask her but a close friendship of twenty years meant he had to ask her that. She smiled sweetly at him and said “Why yes, you could marry me I suppose and give my child a father”.

SuicideThey were married two days later with no one but a couple of their old school friends as reluctant witnesses both of them when he had called them up having advised him to run and hide himself till she had gone away failing which had come to their wedding under protest. He had immediately vacated his paying guest accommodation and found them a larger apartment and had joined up for part-time work in his free (study) time. The day after their wedding she had miscarried and lost her child in the womb and developed complications and was very sick for quite some time. He took her to the hospital and without informing either set of parents he took care of her all by himself, of all her wounds both physical and emotional, taken all her pain into him and allowed her to heal peacefully with the certainty that he would always be there for her.

Whenever he could get off from her bedside in the hospital he had been out job hunting and one day he came back to her hospital room with the news that he had been placed in a great firm with a great salary -only to find her missing from the room which looked all neat and sterile as if she had never been there and it was all a dream. When he enquired with the hospital staff they told him she had discharged herself and left with a relative and all they had was a letter from her. It told him in very enthusiastic language all about her good fortune- how her former lover and father of her child had tracked her down and apologized for leaving without telling her that he had merely gone to get his parents approval for their marriage and now that he had tracked her down he wanted her to go back with him to Bangalore where they will be married properly with everyone’s blessing. He read that letter three times before he understood that she had left him forever and when he finally did he felt totally drained of every emotion. He didn’t know how to contact her or he would have pointed out that it was bigamy for her to marry again. He knew he should feel devastated and depressed at the betrayal but except for drinking himself blind that day all he felt was a strange apathy towards his being left in the lurch like this. Truth to tell one part of him was even glad she had left and his life was once again his after the agony of the past few eventful days.

So, seven years had passed since that fateful day. He had pulled himself together, pulled his whole life together and worked and achieved great things in his career and was even now poised on the verge of even greater things and she had come creeping back into his life again. He shook his head and calling his secretary to hold off all meetings and calls scheduled for the rest of his day; he went down to the basement car park, took out his car and drove off to Temple Towers where she waited for him. He went up in the lift and there she was again just as he remembered from olden days, deja vu moment, sitting on the parapet wall “I knew you would come” she said and smiled at him. He said nothing but merely stared at her. The years had not been kind to her, she looked wasted.

He stood there waiting and she was forced to talk again to fill the awkward silence “I wish people die young when they are at their best. It’s as you get old that you realize even death is less a punishment then you deserve for the life you lead. I know that I have behaved very badly towards you and I have thought of coming back and apologizing a hundred times, a thousand times but I never had the courage to face you again. Till now” he still waited silently as she went on in the same gushing tone he remembered so well from the past “yes, now that I am about to die, I can tell you how sorry I am. You were the only person who never hurt me. The only person I could trust always. The only person who would catch me if I ever jump and some crazy thought, some crazy, crazy hope that you would catch me again this time too was what brought me here again”. She looked hopefully at him but he stood as still as a statue. She went on recklessly then “Who else could I go to? After all you are my husband?” she said and smiled sickly at him. The smile did it – what all those words didn’t do, that smug smile did. He just turned and walked away “No” she screamed “don’t go, I will jump, I swear if you don’t stop right now I will jump” were the last words he heard as he took the stairs down.

As he drove away in his car he could see in the rear view mirror a crowd gathering around the other side of the building but he felt no curiosity to stop and see over what. He just went straight home and rang the door bell. His wife who let him in was surprised “Why? So early, what happened?” He brushed her off with a casual “Headache. Can I get a coffee?’ When she brought in the coffee he caught her hand and pulled her closer and said “You know, I thank god every single day that you were still single when I traced you so many years of losing touch after we finished school and went our own ways”. She smiled at him and said “Ah, if only you had not been such a gutless worm and had boldly said I was your girlfriend to that bitch we would not have been separated all that time and you need not have despaired of finding me single”. For a minute he stared at her solemnly “Yes I wish too that I had stood up to her then and told her I found you seriously cute but I never learned to speak the truth well – at least not till I married you”. She smiled at that frank avowal and sat down beside him “You really were afraid of her weren’t you?”. He smiled at his wife and said “Not afraid, not that at all -it’s just that I loved her too in my own way but it was not the way she wanted- I hope you understand”. His wife smiled radiantly at him “Yes, yes, I do” and she gave a light kiss on his cheek to show all was well between them.”Gutless worm, am I?” he asked as he pushed her down on her back and started nibbling her cheek.

சரக்கும், சைடுடிஷ்யூம், வாழ்க்கை தத்துவமும்


சரக்கும், சைடுடிஷ்யூம், வாழ்க்கை தத்துவமும்

onion pakodaபோன சனிக்கிழமை மதியம் அண்ணன் ஜே.வி திடீர்ன்னு என் மொபைல்ல அழச்சி “நம்ம பிரசன்னா பாண்டிக்கு போயிட்டு வந்தப்போ ஒரு பாட்டில் க்லேன்பிட்டிய்ச் ஸ்காட்ச் வாங்கியான்தான், அத இன்னிக்கி கச்சேரி வெச்சிக்கலாம்ன்னு நேனைக்கறோம். நைட்டு ப்ரீயா இருந்தா இந்த பக்கம் வரீளா’ன்னாறு”. சரி பெரியவா கூப்பிடுறாரெ ஒரு எட்ட போயிட்டு தான் வந்துடுவோம்ன்னு நானும் “சரி அண்ணே வந்துடுரேன்”னேன். சாயங்காலம் கிளம்புறதுக்கு முன்னாடி அண்ணனுக்கு மறுபடியும் ஒரு போன்’ன போட்டு “அண்னே என் பங்குக்கு எதாவது சைடு டிஷ்ஷு வாங்கியாரவா?ன்னு” கேட்டதுக்கு அண்ணன் ஜோதி பெருந்தன்மையாக “உன் விருப்பம்”ன்னு சொல்லி போன்’ன கட் பண்ணிட்டாரு. செரின்னு நானும் கொஞ்சம் வெங்காய பகோடாவும் (சுட-சுட), வருத்த முந்திரியும் வாங்கிட்டு அண்ணன் வீட்டுக்கு போயி சேர்ந்த போது மணி எட்டு இருக்கும்.

“வாயா வா, கரெக்ட்டா டைம்க்கு வந்துட்டே” என்று அன்பாக வரவேற்று என்னை உள்ளே அழைத்துச் சென்ற அண்ணன் என்னை அவர் அருகில் அமர்த்தி எனக்கும் ஒரு கிளாஸ் ஸ்காட்ச் ஊத்தி “போதுமா? கூட சோடாவா பெப்சியா?”ன்னு பாசமா கேட்டாரு. “பெப்ஸியே போதும் அண்னே”ன்னு சொல்லி அவர்ட்ட இருந்து அத வாங்கிகிட்டேன். ஜோதி அண்ணனும் நண்பர் பிரஸ்ஸும் கடமையே கண்ணாயிரமாக வேலைய பார்த்துகிட்டு இருந்தாங்க அடுத்த ஒருமணி நேரமும். நண்பர் பிரசன்னா இளங்கன்று பயம் அறியாது கனக்கா மட மடன்னு குடிச்சிட்டு இருந்தாறு வேற எத பத்தியும் கவலைப்படாம வாய திறந்து ஒரு வார்த்த கூட பேசாம.

இவங்க இப்படி தான் குடிப்பாங்க போல நம்மள மாதிரி கலகலப்பாக குடிக்கற ஆளுங்க இல்ல போலன்னு புரிஞ்சிக்கிட்டேன். ஆனா வெறுமனே சய்லேண்ட்டா குடிக்கற டைப்பு நான் இல்லங்கறதால பார்த்து கிட்டே இருந்து கொஞ்சம் பிரேக்கு வந்ததும் (குடிக்கறதுல) மெல்ல நான் கேட்டேன் “அண்ணே ஏதோ குறையரா போல இருக்கில்ல?” ஜோ அண்ணனும் ஆமா’ன்னு தலைய தலைய ஆட்டி “சரக்குக்கு சைடு டிஷ்ஷு செட் ஆகல’ன்னு நறுக்குன்னு சொன்னாரு ஷெர்லாக் ஹோல்ம்ஸ் கணக்கா. இத்தனைக்கும் அங்கே நான் கொண்டு போனது போக ஏற்கனவே முட்டை தோசை, முட்டை ஆம்லெட், பரோட்டா’ன்னு ஏகத்துக்கு ஐட்டம் இருந்திச்சு. யோசிச்சுப் பார்த்தால் சரக்கவிட சைடு டிஷ்ஷு தான் அங்க ஜாஸ்தியா இருந்திச்சு.

நான் மெல்ல அண்ணன்ட்ட கேட்டேன் “அண்ணே நம்மல்லாம் காலேஜ் படிச்ச காலம் ஞாபகம் இருக்கா? ஹாஸ்டல்ல பிரண்டுஸு ரூம்ல உட்கார்ந்து சரக்கு அடிச்ச காலத்துலே சரக்கு வாங்க தான் காசு இருக்கும், சைடு’க்கு வெறும் கடளையும், சிப்ஸ்ஸும்தான். ஆனா அதுவே நச்சுன்னு செட் அகும்ல இப்போ ஏன் அண்ணே இப்படி?ன்னு” கேட்டதுக்கு அண்ணன் ஜோதி ஒரு ஏப்பம் விட்டுட்டு சொன்னாரு “அதாம்பா வாழ்க்கை. கெடைகறப்போ அதடோ அருமை தெரியாது போன பின்னாடி தான் பீல் பன்னுவோம். எல்லாத்துக்கும்”ன்னு சரக்க வெச்சு ஒரு தத்துவ மொழி சொன்னாரு.

jo and me

அண்ணனும் நானும்

அட இவருக்கு ஏறிடுச்சு போல அப்போ இன்னும் கொஞ்சம் அவரு வாய கெலரி பார்ப்போம்னு அடுத்து கேட்டேன் “எனக்கு புரியல்லே. நீங்க எத பத்தி அண்ணே சொல்றீங்கன்னு” அப்பாவி தனமா முகத்த வெச்சிக்கிட்டு. அவரும் நல்ல ஒரு புல் கிளாஸ்ஸ ஒரே கல்ப்பு’ல அடிச்சிட்டு அமைதிய என்ன பார்த்து சொன்னாரு “நீ எத பத்தி கேட்டியோ அதப்பத்தி தான் தம்பி’ன்னு”. ஆகா மணுசன் உஷாரா தான்யா இருக்காருன்னு அவரு வாய கெலர்ர வேலைய விட்டுட்டு நானும் என் வேலைய பாக்க ஆரம்பிச்சேன்.

அப்போ அவரு பதிலுக்கு எனக்கு ஒரு பிட்டு போட்டு பார்த்தாரு “நீ நல்லா படிச்சிருக்க, நல்ல வேலையில்ல இருக்க ஆனா நீ ஏன்பா இன்னும் கலியாணம் கட்டிக்காம காலத்த கடத்துறே, சீகெரம் கட்டிடா தானே வாழ்க்கையை ரசிச்சு ருசிச்சு என்சாய் பண்ண முடியும்’ன்னாரு”. நான் மனசுக்குள்ள நெனச்சிக்கிட்டென் “யோவ் எனக்கேவா? ரெண்டு ரவுண்டு அடிச்சிட்டா எல்லா மேட்டர்ரும் ஒளரிடுவோமா என்ன?. நாங்க இன்னும் பால் குடிக்கற கொழந்த இல்ல அப்பு’ன்னு” என் உள் மனசுல நெனைச்சிக்கிட்டு அவரு பாணியில்லேயே அவருக்குப் புரியறமாதிரி பதில் சொன்னேன் “அண்ணே இங்க சரக்குக்கு இத்தன சைடு இருந்தும் கூட சரியா அமையலன்னு பீல் பண்றீங்களே. இது ரெண்டு மணிநேரம் கூத்துதானே? வாழ்க்கை எத்தன வருஷ விவகாரம்? அதுக்கு சரியான சைடு தேடவேனாமா? அவசர படலாமா” ன்னு ஒரே போடா போட்டேன். மனுசன் நம்மல நல்லா உத்து பார்த்துட்டு கம்முனு மறுபடியும் சரக்கு அடிக்க போயிட்டாரு.

ஆக மொத்தம் இதனால்ல என்ன தெரிஞ்சுச்சுன்னா ரெண்டு மணி நேரம் சரமாரியாக சரக்கு அடிச்ச பின்னாடியும் ரெண்டுபேரும் இவளோ அலெர்ட்டா வாய விடாம பேசி இருகிறோம்னா தப்பு சைடு டிஷ் மேல மட்டும் இல்ல- அந்த சரக்கும் செரியில்ல. சரி தானே மக்களே? நீங்க என்ன நினைக்கரீங்க?

 

Dude, Where’s my Cochin?


Disclaimer: After a severe bit of tongue-lashing from my friend and loyal reader (sometimes “only” reader) Mahesh- about my last post where I had switched languages to write in the local language Tamil which he says many can’t read and were disappointed and after a hilariously botched attempt by Google Translate which just couldn’t cope with the earthy local language (colloquial Tamil) I had used in that post- I felt I must provide my own translation of the post for Mahesh and other non-tamil readers. Although re-writing an entire post (even in another language) is a real bummer, I promised to do it for my friend and here it is. So people who have read the previous post in the original Tamil – please skip this one and come back for the next, ok? And oh, this one’s for you Mahesh. Promise redeemed.

Dude, Where’s my Cochin?

20131025_103014Last week I had a chance to travel to the gateway of South India – Cochin in Kerala state to attend a medical conference. Cochin is famous in history as the port of Muziris where the Romans, Arabs and assorted other peddlers (like the Portuguese and the Dutch) came to bargain for spices in historical times. Unlike them I didn’t have to travel in a creaking old ship and get se-sick but opted to travel by aero-plane. The reason I stress the word “Aeroplane” would become clearer as you read down the rest of the post. From my hometown Chennai, I took the ten ‘o’clock Spice Jet flight down to Cochin which was supposed to reach Cochin by 12. Actually it’s not that long a distance away to necessitate a two-hour flight but because the passenger traffic was comparatively less- say 30 people in all for the flight and the tickets were dirt cheap (it was a low cost airline after all) SpiceJet had put in service an ancient Turboprop plane instead of a modern jet plane. So what was a journey of say 45 mins got converted into a two hour flight- which is tolerable if you consider the cost of the ticket and the overnight journey by train.

My companion on the trip was Mr. Kathiresan for whom this was a first time on a plane, any plane. So he clearly enjoyed the entire process including such mundane activities like undergoing the security check – the pervert’s dream of whole body patdown/strip which goes under the name of security check nowadays. Like an overenthusiastic tourist he posed for photos everywhere and with everyone turning me into his own personal travelling photographer. I guess he did a pretty good job documenting the entire new (but old) Chennai airport in his photographic montage series – to show around to his family as “the day I travelled on a plane”. He even visited the various eateries doting around the airport concourse to check the menus and prices – although he never bought anything to eat- the reason for which I learnt as soon as we boarded the plane.

Like every seasoned traveler I knew to avoid the rush at the counter as soon as the first boarding cal was announced but my friend Kathir would have none of it- low price ticket or not he wanted to spend every single minute of his airplane experience on the , errrr, aeroplane to get his full money’s worth. He was first in line to board and willy-nilly I tagged along with him. As soon as we had strapped ourselves in I knew we were in for a long and boring flight. This had nothing to do with the actual flight as such but from a cursory first inspection of the airhostess on view- the single female one for this flight. She was too small and her dress was too large and I usually prefer my airhostesses to be the opposite- large ones in small dresses. So with a sigh of complaint for what goes on in the name of cost-cutting in low cost airlines – even in-flight entertainment is restricted – I leaned back in my seat anticipating a boring two hours.

As soon as the No-smoking/Seat-belts off lights switched off, my buddy Kathir looked at with real anticipation to the large cart being pushed/pulled down the aisle. “Is that the food cart? Do they have everything?” he enquired in a voice thrilling with anticipation. I nonchalantly turned around and exclaimed “they do have a fine selection of both vegetarian and non vegetarian, but if I were you I wouldn’t order too much” he turned towards me and asked “why? You fear for the quality?” I shook my head and replied “no I fear for the bill, these stuffs cost too much- they are marked up very high”. He blanched and exclaimed “but don’t we get free food in aero-planes?” “Ha-ha” I thought “so this is what you think buddy” and then I proceeded to break down his illusions “boss, check your ticket again- this is a low cost flight, here they charge you for everything and usually exorbitant prices too. The only thing I am reasonably sure is free on today’s flight is water”.

But Mr.Kadhir was up and equal to the task- he decided that for the price he had paid for the ticket he was going to get something free from the airlines even if it was just water and he proceeded to call over the airhostess repeatedly to his seat and drank down at least five to six glasses of the “free” water by the time we had neared cochin. Just as we were nearing our destination we hit some mild turbulence and then I heard some scrabbling beside me and turned to find Mr.Kathir wrestling with his seat belt trying to unbuckle it -I forgot to mention that he had made me take a photo of him with the seatbelt on just to show his family and had kept it buckled on for the entire two hour flight and was now making an effort to get up despite the fact that the fasten seatbelts sign had come on. I pointed it out to him when he said he urgently needed to go the toilet as all that “free water” had done its job inside him.

The only way not to attract adverse attention from the cabin crew (and other passengers) and to keep him glued to his seat was to resort to a fib, a small white lie and to hope that he would believe me. I told Kathir in an offhand manner that the reason low cost airlines were so free with their in-flight water supply was that they looked to make money by charging a hundred bucks (plus tax) for every single visit to the toilet. Kathir quieted down then and said in a plaintive tone “Boss, my piss is not worth a hundred bucks boss” and then he held on to it all the way till we finally landed at Cochin airport and he rushed off to the “free” toilets in the airport terminal with a last despairing cry over his shoulder “Get me black bag also will you boss?’ as I made my way leisurely to the baggage carousel to pick up our luggage.

20131025_121359Once we had completed all our formalities at the airport I suggested to Kathir that we book a pre-paid taxi at the airport itself to take us into the city from the airport. But he demurred – cost cutting as usual. He suggested that we go outside the airport where we were sure to find some auto-rickshaws passing by which we can board and bargain with the driver for the trip. Ordinarily I would have said to hell with you and gone on my way- but I didn’t want to abandon a newbie and so decided to tag along and see what else he was going to do to make my trip interesting. Once outside the airport we saw that Cochin does not have the conventional auto’s we are used to here in Chennai but only large share-autos which come cramped with a whole lot of passengers packed tight as sardines inside. Seeing us standing there with a couple of large bags each, most of the auto drivers opted to give us a miss until finally one large hearted (half-empty) auto stopped near us.

As I have a very limited knowledge of the local language Malayalam spoken in Cochin – I just knew the standard emergency phrases which every tourist needs like “I love you, you beautiful babe or give me a hug or how about giving a handsome tourist a kiss”- I left the negotiations for the trip to my buddy Kathir. He spoke to the auto driver in an atrocious Malayalam-accented Tamil “cochin coming?” the auto driver looked strangely at us and said “Ernakulam?” Kathir shook his head “no, no, cochin I said cochin, near cochin cricket stadium” and the auto driver grinned obscenely and said “Same, Ernakulam” while one of the inside passengers leaned over to the auto driver and said “oh, Kalooru, Kalloru”. My friend Kathir was meanwhile shouting loudly enough to make a deaf man hear again “Cochin, cochin, near cochin railway station”. The auto driver grinned even more at us and said “Same, railway station, Edappaly” and he gestured for us to board. I hopped in quickly before he too left us stranded on the road and told my friend Kathir “come on, boss, I am getting bored of this stretch of road, let’s go in the auto wherever he takes us and go stand on some other piece of road for a change”.

As I moved deeper into the auto and sat down leaving kathir to take the door/window seat I at last reached into my pocket and pulled out my mobile phone which I had switched off at the beginning of our flight and switched it back on and activated the inbuilt GPS to look at Google Maps to identify where exactly we were. The maps showed that we were on the correct route- the highway to the city proper and I was relieved. Meanwhile my next seat neighbor (on the other side) – the friendly gent who had leaned over to talk to the auto driver on our behalf made mysterious gestures with his fingers and pointed this side and that and said “This side Ernakulam, that side Edappaly and stadium is Kaloor” and when I asked him “but cochin?’ he excitedly twirled his fingers and said “All Cochin” and then it hit me. All those names the auto driver had mentioned – ernakulam, kaloor etc were just suburbs of Cochin like Mylapore and Adyar were in Chennai. Here we were standing in Cochin proper and for the last half an hour had been asking for transport to Cochin – no wonder they had looked at us as if we were mad. It was like a traveler to New York standing beside the Statue of Liberty and asking for the way to New York.

As I sat there I felt a keen sense of exasperation at my friend Kathir. The guy was the reason we had wasted so much time trying to get to a place where we already were. If only he had listened to my advice and booked a call taxi at the airport itself we might even be in the hotel room by now- for I am sure that airport taxi drivers would necessarily know English to communicate with other state tourists unlike random share auto drivers who get by with just the local language. I decided to needle the guy and so I turned towards him with a plan already in mind. He was staring suspiciously out of the auto at the signboards of all the shops we seemed to be passing by and seemed to have missed out on the enlightening conversation we just had. When I prodded him with my elbow he said “I can understand us sleeping on a bus or a train and missing our station, but how can we miss on a plane? I remember hearing that pilot saying Cochin arrived didn’t you?” I pulled on an innocent look on my face and said “I know what we should do boss. As soon as we get to where we are going we should ask for directions to the nearest police station and then go in and give a written complaint about it. Puzzled he asked “Complaint to the police about what?” And I answered with a grin “That we have lost our Cochin and they should find it for us”. His subsequent shout of outrage “Gansssss” (my name) could be heard all the way in Chennai.