Action Manifesto

‘Controlled aggression’ was the headline of an ad for a mutual fund in today’s newspaper. The image was that of a bowler pumping his fists and screaming after scalping a wicket. I gave a hint of a smirk before turning over the page.

Forget a newspaper ad, no force on earth could change my mind.

Amol Badwe, Learning & Development Manager with an MNC at Pune, used to think that genuine cordiality was the best demeanor one could have. Winning over people was very important. No, he wasn’t too keen about collecting a virtual army of ‘friends’ on Facebook. They were just names for most part, he thought. Winning over people at work, his professional contacts, and his limited set of friends of course.

Amol never said ‘no’ to people. Even if he had to, he would take extreme pains to get them to empathize with him before letting him off the hook. There were instances when people would tell him irritably, “theek hai yaar, tension kashaala ghetoyaes? Naahi jamnaar tar naahi jamnaar. Its Ok”.  He never missed an opportunity to compliment people on their attire. While he was more vested in women, he would do an occasional, “that’s a nice shirt, man!” to the men around him too, just to reassure himself that he was being fair to both sexes. He knew it himself that he was looking for avenues to flirt. Yes, he was married and, in a love-filled one at that. But who has set in stone the definition of propriety?

People well-acquainted with Amol knew that he wore his heart on his sleeve. His face betrayed emotions. He was aware that people could manipulate him, but rationalized it saying it was because of the face God had given him.

If he hadn’t rehearsed, he couldn’t lie. When Ravi, an old friend had once asked him on phone what his weekend plans were, he had said he’d be traveling to Andheri East in Mumbai to meet his cousin, the latter had exclaimed, “Wow! You’d better have made plans to meet me. You know I live in Andheri right?”. Amol could have said any random thing to Ravi and shake himself off obligations. What he instead was, “ohh.. yesss.. of course you live in Andheri!! You see, my wife will be a little impatient. I’ll be done with my meeting at 6.30. To meet you would mean another hour. If I leave at 7.30,  I won’t be at Pune before 11.30-12! I’m sure you can understand”

“Why would she be impatient? You would have driven down, right? And the day after is a Sunday anyway, how would half to one hour make a difference?”

“I agree with you buddy. In fact, it would be so great to catch up with you after so many years. But I’ll make proper plan and visit you sometime soon. We should do a good lunch with drink, what say?”

It was on one of the pleasant Friday afternoons, when the general mood at office was to not work, with many of the folks ready to leave early for the week and board a train or flight to their hometown, that Amol Badwe’s idyll was disturbed. Milind Raut, the guy who he had no clue about the existence of, came visiting. The receptionist got Amol on his desk phone.

“OK. I’m coming. Ask him to wait for a minute.”

He entered the reception lobby and caught Milind, flipping a newspaper. Milind, a scrawny bespectacled chap wearing a steel watch that placed itself perennially on the dorsum of his palm, a checkered slack with sleeves curled inward in an effort to hide his tubular arms, and jet-black denim trousers standing heavily on colorful sneakers.

He came up to Amol at the glass access door, looked right into his eyes, and said in an unexpectedly gruff voice,

“Amol Badwe na tumhi? Yaa majha barobar. Please come with me”

“Hello, boss, I don’t know who you are? Aani Kuthe yaeoon?”

Abbe saale! Kaana khaali ek dega na, you’ll understand!”

“What??? Please get out of here, right away! Prerna, ask the security to take him away please!”

“Call the security if you have to, but before that here goes”, Milind took a step closer to him menacingly, and whacked him hard across the face, sending Amol reeling. Amol heard these words before he collapsed, “Bhenchod, next time you send those Whatsapp messages to Gauri and act like a saint na, saale bajaake rakhdoonga!”

When he came to, Amol found himself on a hospital bed. His colleagues had rushed him to the hospital, just to be sure. They had imagined that a defibrillator or some such technique would be needed to revive him. But the doctor had just shaken him up violently and given him water to drink. He presently asked Amol to take rest for a while before heading back home.

 The  motherfucker mentioned Gauri! I could just chokeslam him and he wouldn’t get up ever! He looks puny, but I must give it to his temerity! Whatever happened to the thing called civility? Maybe he is Gauri’s boyfriend; others wouldn’t have given a damn! And whatever on earth did I do that he almost finished me off? A Whatsapp message? Really?

These thoughts swam in his head. He was anything but resting.

Gauri Verma was the girl he used to chat to at the gym. A joke or two he would have exchanged with her at the most. And maybe a compliment here and a harmless coffee invite there. Not that anything ever materialized. It’s the cheap thrill I get, seeing the Whatsapp notification with her name appear on my phone, he rationalized to himself. The bitch! She has ratted on me, though I can’t for the life of me understand whatever on earth had I done to tick her or that good-for-nothing boyfriend of hers off.  If this is the kind of people she hangs out with, then to hell with her.

But something still needs to be done about Milind all the same.

At the start of the week, I launched a Blitzkrieg of sorts against Milind. I didn’t have to do many enquiries before getting to know where he lived. Wanowrie. I went over to his apartment complex, told the security my name was Gauri Shankar, and he only had to say Gauri, Milind will know. I was let inside. I knocked on his door on the 2nd floor. To my luck, he answered. I had carried an old defunct laptop with me. I smashed it on his head with one lavish swing. His mother came out alarmed. I held a Whatsapp message on my phone, to her face. It said, “You’ll get your money if you fuck my mother”. Obviously, I had stored some random number as Milind Raut. In the fury and shock of the moment, she wouldn’t bother to check if her son could indeed write with near-impeccable grammar. I told her to have a hold on her son, else he will be a confirmed sociopath. Having ensured Milind wouldn’t move an inch and that his mother would spend all night wondering if she should finish off the work I had started – breaking her son’s head – or attend to his evident concussion, I headed back home and flipped open my other functioning laptop. I dashed off an email to the editors of Pune Mirror and Sakaal, who I knew personally. I tipped them off on the newly surfaced menace called Milind Raut,  a gerontophile on the loose. A photoshopped picture to boot. I was confident they would publish the story with discretion. The next morning, on the way to work, I lodged a complaint against Milind at the police station. Showed the inspector the doctor’s report and the morning’s newspaper. That evening I tracked Gauri at the gym and told her that her boyfriend was done for. All thanks to her brainless tip off. It was a pleasure to see the horror on her face.  Finally that night I went over to Mlind’s apartment, bribed the security to stick a note on his door, which read, “try acting smart, and you won’t know what hit you next time. Tu gelas re!”

The next morning, nothing seemed to have moved. It looked like a lazier Saturday than usual. Amol had woken up late. Of course, having dreamt a revenge dripping with venom, he’d needed time before he had soaked his illusion in.

But who on earth was Milind Rau ? Gauri, whom he met later in the day at the gym, denied knowing him. She may have lied, but I’d made it known to her she would be on my radar right then.

Later that evening, he got a Whatsapp from an unknown number.

“Hey Amol. Don’t trust Gauri. Regds, Milind”

Amol was visibly flustered. And he thought, ‘this time, real action, no shit’.


——-  Could be continued ——



The light isn’t flashy. It doesn’t blink either. Nor does it light up the darkness. Literally and figuratively; you can take my word for it. Unless you opt to turn on the flashlight. Which you would invariably do when looking for something under your bed or the settee or inside the bonnet, and not in many places else. But there’s no escaping it. Not a chance. For it contains those precious packets of potion to get your life going. But of course, I’m talking about your dear old latest smartphone, silly!


The Internet is that potion which you, I and all the denizens of this goddamn planet have crowded under a giant tap to drink greedily from. And the very same potion is now available right by your bedside, in packets. Those little colorful apps without which your life refuses to budge. Right from the word go, right from daybreak! Apps to get you out of bed, to help you exercise, to monitor your pulse, to give you company while you take a dump, to jerk off on, to fix a better meal and snack than yesterday, to give you the headlines of the day, to get you to your office as quickly as possible, to remind you to pick up that gift for the family friend on your way  home, to play a flick you could never catch at the movies, to tell you which cinema is playing the latest blockbuster, to relive memories, and among many other Man Friday roles, to even help you drift off to sleep! And did I mention, to communicate with people? Man Friday is a misnomer, man. Man, woman, and the entire cosmos Sunday through Saturday!

A life in the mercy of those little square packets beckoning you from behind that glossy screen, sitting smugly in the reassuring illumination of the backlight. Which is effectively turning into one measurable in packets.  One hour of ‘me time’, measured praises, contained laughter, love separated from marriage, politically correct humility. Random occurrences but connected by packets. Little ones that lead you to believe  you’re leading a sane life.

Technology does inspire metaphors, sure! And these don’t come in packets, do they?


Happy, but lucky?

What is it like when you feel exhilarated, but the world around you goes about in blissful oblivion? Remember the bowler who sent the stumps flying, only to realize she had stepped over the crease? No madam, I’m not once questioning the validity of your excitement. If anything, the crease is probably an accomplice in conspiracy. No, I meant the feeling of having to swallow your pride along with all that booze, after your invitees do a no-show at your party. The world just doesn’t give a damn about you, does it?

Just in case you thought this little essay is about the virtue of being happy for others, it is not. Of course, one needs to be happy, all the time! If you are of the multitasking kind, as most of us are, you make space for happiness for others while stealing those moments of glee for yourself. Happiness here being, a state of being! It’s more about, shall we say, people syncing to your state of exuberance.

‘But how can you expect that? The world isn’t programmed that way!’ would probably be a standard response. Sure, they got the keyword right. Programmed. Imagine a charade at work where you go about giving hi-fives and back-slaps to every second chap you bumped into. (And please, can we keep Karan Johar out of this?) An observer of slightly higher refinement would whisper to their friend, ‘she must have smoked up some real good shit’ or ‘this is what comes of smoking cheap weed’. The masses would probably mutter among themselves, ‘bhai, bachke rehna usse! She is probably putting on an act’! Bad programming, maybe.

How is it then, that we end up talking zestfully to some people, keeping up with their demeanor? One would think we have a great party coming up, that our lives are a bouquet of pleasant surprises, and that we are perhaps well endowed. They may well be forgiven for assuming that we belong to similar worlds. How lucky! Step back a little and you’ll see that the people whose bearing we match will likely have many such circles of friends or connections. Positive vibes they give, we would like to attribute. Heck, they don’t even need a cause to celebrate. It is they who should be high on something.

So, the next time you got that award at work, or picked up a sexy new car, or even got your book published, make sure some serious overhaul of your facial expression precedes that event. But who’s to say when something big will come your way?



The travails of hyperstardom

During the audio release of his last blockbuster Enthiran/Robot, Rajinikanth while addressing the star-struck audience raised his right hand and twirled its index finger in air saying, “once one reaches the top, one has to come down. That’s life. If you remain right there, there’s every chance you will disappear” and signed off with that staccato laughter. A good measure of what he said seems to apply to the great man himself today. His popularity has reached stratospheric heights, but his movies are apparently taking the fall for him.

If Rajini were to be stationed high above this lonely planet, in the stratosphere, how would a conversation between him and ground control look?


Rajini: Ground control, I have a situation.

Ground control operator to his colleagues: Oh my God!!! Anbu, Ilamaran, Umaa seekiram vaanga inga! Guess who’s on the line from stratosphere? Enga thalaivar da! Rajini has called.

Anbu: Comedy pannaadha (don’t kid me)! Speaker le podu, let’s hear

GCO: I’m serious! Thalaiva, is it really you?

Rajini: Aamam da kanna (yes dear), it’s me! Now listen, I don’t have forever to talk. Up here, I’m alone and getting really bugged. Can you get me back on earth?

GCO: Impossible thalaiva. You shouldn’t have gone so high up. We have never had anyone reach such heights, and don’t know how to deal with it.

Rajini: Dammit, I’m stuck! OK, here is the real deal. My movies are not keeping me company

Ilamaran: What happened thalaiva?

Rajini: You bloody well know. Last five years, none of my movies have done well

GCO: Very true annai. You should choose good scripts

Rajini: Dei, you think I’m doing time pass? We need to keep evolving, yes? I can’t keep warning every baddie who comes my way with my finger and pack him off with a punch line. So I try to do something different these days

Umaa: Sir, we want you to give us movies like Baasha and Padayappa

Rajini: Ayyoo, the ghost of these movies will continue to haunt me even in my grave, I’m sure! Can’t you ever get over these?

Umaa: That’s difficult sir. But we also like different movies….

Rajini: Where? I try an animation flick, that too motion capture, and you say ‘kuppa padam’ (trash), ‘bomma padam’ (doll movie). I try some history and add amusement, and you say it’s too long and boring. I play a gangster again, just for you, and you still aren’t happy. What shall I do?

Ilamaran: We understand thalaiva. I feel you need good directors

Rajini: You fool! KS Ravikumar has given some of my biggest hits. You call him a bad director? Ranjith is young and promising and critically acclaimed. That’s also a mistake? I’m getting tired I tell you

Ila: Shankar, sir. See how good  Sivaji and Robot were

Rajini: I can’t book Shankar for a lifetime, can I? Anyway next year 2.0 is coming. Working with him 10 years now

Anbu: Why do you worry so much annai? We will continue to love you anyway

Rajini: (to self) When will these jokers understand that a string of flops is not good for a superstar. My resume is starting to look pathetic anyway. I don’t want to end up like Rajesh Khanna.

(to the kids at ground control) It’s for your sake I’m trying different roles guys! Today you watch movies from around the world and choices are varied. I need to give you something that matches international quality

Anbu: All that I agree. But you are special, you see! You are bigger than your movies.

Rajini: Karmam! (all my doing)

(to self) no point in discussing with these kids!

(to the team) ok guys! I’ll see what I can do. Thanks for your time, nice talking!

Hangs up.

Then to his accounts manager, “do you think I will do fine even if I announce retirement?”

Accounts: Yes sir. You can also endorse some brands on TV

Rajini: Kanna, I will never come on TV! Understand? You better understand!

An image too precious

Can you pick out three individuals from your life and think about  your image of them? Now then, I’m unsure whether you are going to share your list with me or not, so let me pull up a fairly generic selection from our collective experiences. Does that work?

The chap who knows that you – and countless others – have a crush on him

Your man, the dude, has caught you fawning over him. And you, like your other similarly smitten classmates/colleagues, haven’t mustered the courage to tell him that he looks like a billion dollars. So, what does the dude do? Raise the bar. Not for you to jump over, but to outdo himself. He brings on more enigma. A clever line here, a smirk there, and of course, making himself a little scarcer than he already is.  You end up convinced that he deserves all the adulation no doubt. But if there’s even a hint of curiosity inside you, you have to know more about him at any cost. You try to dig out more. If your dude is happily settled (not necessarily married, mind you), he’ll probably insulate his personal life from work; if he’s foraging about, he may likely play hide and seek. He will only present to you that side of himself that you first fell for. You finally decide to get closer to him and try to chat up a little more. Not much comes out of him. You gradually start wondering if you are really talking to a human. If you are not persistent enough, you let go and wash down your consternation with, wine probably? If you are of the other type, you take him head on, and say “hey, is this how you are all the time?” For which, the dude may say, “how?” You know he’s up to his evasive tricks when you say, “hell, I wonder if there’s anything more to you than just show off”. If that ticks him off, he will say, “bhenchod, dimaag ka dahi ho raha hai mera! Just what do you want?”

Whatever happened to the suave and smashing young man you salivated over? He still may be one, for all you know. But didn’t fit your image of him, right? Did we hear a burst??

Your sarcastic bossimgmgmt

So you have this manager who can never spare a sweet word for you. Even if he’s approving of your work, it will be with a sneer. Hard to say if he has complimented you. Like, “this is wonderful! Some precious talent you have, huh?” Now you don’t know if means that your talent is really precious, or if you have been hiding it all these days that nobody has noticed it.  But the same chap talks very cordially with others at his level. He’s probably nasty with juniors then. Maybe he has some soft corner for you after all. You think he will look out for you if you continue to deliver. You are cruising along, when one day by a stroke of bad luck you goof up in your work. And he has a go at you. With a vengeance. You then feel that you shouldn’t have given him the benefit of doubt at all. A few days later, you are at a dinner do with him, among others. The wound has healed. You think he might socialize with you and talk general things. But not a peep from him. You then walk up to the group he’s talking to amidst laughter and quietly blend in, whisky glass in hand. And in no time you hear him say, looking your way, “guys you need to involve our buddy here a little more in the strategy meetings. We need more people who can think. But hey, tell your wife you may get home late in the days to come huh? Let her not get worried” You are like, “really? Did he just show some concern, and also appreciate my work?” You try to catch him when he’s alone a few minutes later. He throws half a glance your way and moves away, appearing to responding to someone

Your favourite movie star

She’s vivacious, intelligent and dignified. She sounds just so right in all her interviews. You catch her at the inauguration ceremony of a huge store. She certainly all that she is known to be. You manage to shake hands with her. She is all smiles, but did she meet your eye for half a second even? Of course she has to satisfy a hundred other fans. But hell, what’s a handshake without proper eye contact? Do you mean anything at all to her? You wonder, what if you write to her. Would she respond? Yes, you should try that. You go home and turn on your iPad. Your fingers are raring to tap the keypad. But you just aren’t getting the words. And then something dawns upon you. How’s a fucking email gonna help when she gave herself away in real time!

Lethal Whim

Ji wished for a secret weapon.

He had concluded that the only way to end crime against women and children was to be able to attack culprits from stealth. He wanted to do better than Batman. Indian criminals were too shifty to take on someone like Batman. So he reasoned. They shouldn’t know what hit them.

It isn’t clear to this day if Ji had a divine intervention, or if he experienced a violent spasm in his sleep one night.  Police dossiers mention that the hunt for clues is on. But the fact of the matter is, when Ji woke up, he felt a little weightless. After he had dressed following shower, he casually interlocked his fingers and pressed to crack his knuckles. Then headed out. He saw someone he knew and waved at the person. The latter seemed to look through him.

A couple of similar observations later, Ji was sure that he had become invisible.

He spotted a lanky young man with a hint of a moustache, making passes at a girl passing by. He walked straight up to the boy, grabbed him by his wavy hair, swirled him around and smashed his face to the wall. The paralyzed young man began to scream. Ji then flicked open a knife, and started slashing through the boy’s trousers from behind, while having him pinned down. When the last shreds of the boy’s pants had come off his legs, Ji proceeded to destroy his testicles. That was when he remembered there was some work he had attend to. He let go of the boy, dashed out of sight, ran for a couple of kilometres, and transformed back to his regular self.

Ji checked the newspaper the next morning. Not a word about this strange incident. Nor any mention on the Internet.

He decided the only way to contain any crime was to strike terror into the hearts of the people. They have to sit up and take notice. In the limited time he had on hand during evenings, owing to the clandestine nature of his ‘operation’, he set about looking for signs of trouble. He would float by like a ghost, wreak havoc and flee.

The news people and social media did dig this. They added emotion to sensation. Other things that went into the mix included sorcery, religion, politics to name a few. Respectable publications turned tabloids overnight. Homicides started trending. Crime it seemed had just gotten glamorous. The thugs and hooligans wanted their fifteen minutes of fame apparently.  Women in the city had never felt more unsafe.

Ji flunked his exams a couple months later. He realized that if he had to make a living, he needed to pass his exams. His invisibility would only empower him to loot.

Ji is now praying hard to get back to being normal. He is disappearing without warning, and greed & lust getting him through his moments of invisibility.

Dangerous times. We should all pray for Ji.

The Trigger

Alright, can we have a show of hands please? How many of us think happiness is transient?  Or should we roger Abraham Lincoln’s words, like many others’, that ‘most folks are happy as they make their minds to be’? Let’s  ask Ribbin Joseph.

Ribbin, the accountant, is a very unassuming chap.  He cracked an interview with Intellect, a respectable technology firm in Bengaluru around six months ago, and accepted the job offer in a trice.  Not that Ribbin was any the less gainful in employment, but it was the need for change that raised its alluring head, which incidentally is biennial on an average.  His folks cheered him and wished him the very best. They said they should celebrate his getting the new job in style and took Ribbin to a fancy restaurant. He wasn’t sure if this really called for a celebration. His friends demanded a treat, to which he responded by laughing it off and asking them to raise their standards. What’s great about changing a job, he would argue. I got a higher role, yeah, so what? I haven’t won a Nobel, have I? he would continue saying.

One has to give it to Ribbin’s sense of humour, though a bit on the drier side. When a colleague of his asked him to lend to her the Michael Crichton novel he was raving about, he replied pithily that it was booked! Pity that the lady didn’t get it, but he was mighty pleased with himself. If you had been around and spied on him at that time, you would have caught him chuckling to himself. With half a self-congratulatory nod, he went back to his desk and started clearing those invoices with a little extra vigour.

Soon, life at Intellect for Ribbin hit the treadmill, and weekdays started appearing indistinguishable from one another. Gym, breakfast, commute, traffic, login, cigarette, bills, meeting, blah, lunch, cigarette, bills, blah, logout, traffic, home, TV, dinner, reading, sleep. In this cycle of daily activities, not much could possibly change. And then the weekends were a heady mix of sleep, TV, reading and eating out.  In due course, Ribbin had subscribed to the apparent monotony of work, which showed in a couple of instances. He walked in late on a windy Monday, oblivious to the storm that was brewing in the boss’s cabin. He was summoned in no time, and it suffices to say the meeting had done its job of hitting Ribbin’s self-confidence. He smoked an extra cigarette, contemplated on resigning first and then looking for a job, as he  felt he didn’t belong here. What a gloomy day it was!

Sometime in the late afternoon the same day, as he was walking across the aisle, Ribbin averted a head-on collision with a lady he had been throwing admiring glances at. Now Shubha the lady had not met his eye once in these six months, leading our man to believe that he probably couldn’t carry himself off well. Cut to the present. Shubha stopped in her tracks, caught his eye and grinned at him before moving on.  Ribbin was quick to quick in flashing back that benign smile at her and stood aside to let her pass. He could barely hold his excitement. She too had perhaps been secretly admiring. Probably she hadn’t mustered the courage to come up and speak with him. Never mind, as long as he knew that people had approving thoughts about him. Wasn’t the world beautiful? But of course bosses will have a go at you. It’s part of their profile. And who doesn’t make mistakes? With these thoughts, Ribbin spent the rest of the afternoon, and closed his day a half hour early, feeling he deserved that time off for himself. Such a lovely evening that it was!

In less than a week from the date of that sweet accident, Shubha left the organization. Ribbin decided that one shouldn’t have been so easily excitable and made a solemn vow to himself. In fact, he hadn’t made any great friends over the time and guessed that it might remain this way for him. Lonely, undervalued, and strictly business like. That his bosses and some of the old hands at the company had a coterie of sorts didn’t help matters either. Ribbin’s manager, Piyush, was a gentleman of varied interests and was known to lead a very ‘happening’ life outside work. But for some inexplicable reason, Piyush seemed to restrict all conversation with Ribbin to business. So, when he walked up to Ribbin’s  desk and chatted to him about books, Crichton included, our man was pleasantly surprised. Ribbin grabbed the opportunity to talk about movies, travel, sports, music, all in the window of 5 minutes. The boss seemed to be in a chatty mood that day, and responded well to observations on the aforesaid topics. Boy, wasn’t that wonderful? Ribbin’s reasoning as he drove back home was that Piyush wasn’t such a tart after all.  One only needed to make time for small talk, and bob’s your uncle!

What does one say about Ribbin Joseph? He appears to be of the kind who don’t have much to complain about in life, but aren’t the most enthusiastic either. Not of the kind who will likely have ‘happiness’ added to the ‘things to do’ list for the day, but more like the ones who need a trigger for happiness. Yes, a trigger.

Should happiness really need a trigger? Ribbn says he doesn’t know if that is how you term it, but just that those fleeting moments of joy give him an instant high, and is sure that there are plenty more to come by.