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?

 

 

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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?

rajni1

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.

Nightmare by invitation

Swapnil Pednekar had never foreseen this problem. Intractable as it was, the predicament didn’t seem to offer a way out and he was getting knotted up by the minute. Whatever  happened to our dear Swapnil?

Fancying himself a creative writer, Pednekar always tried his hand at smart and quirky themes. He believed he would have rocked the field of advertising, but his ‘well-wishers’ advised him against taking up an ad agency stint, citing pathetic pay scales. Resigning to his concession of being a typical Indian middle-class young man with an eye on a secure future, he took up the first available job at an IT firm in Pune.  As with many individuals of his sensibilities, he went about pursuing his passion for writing by the moonlight. Never did an evening pass without him scribbling his thoughts; never did a day break without his resolution to quit his nine-to-five compulsion.

Swapnil had a hundred short stories to his credit, but just a handful of them published. He always wanted to be known for that one piece that would end wars and vanquish poverty. In his constant endeavour to churn out that seminal work of art,  Swapnil always meditated on different approaches to telling a story. His latest brainwave was to tell a story featuring a writer whose characters came to life, literally, and threw his life out of gear. Kicked about this revolutionary idea, he dashed home from work on a breezy evening, and pulled out his laptop without bothering to change even. This was a grand idea, and he would not rush it one bit. He just wanted to make a start, save the draft and sleep over the flow of the story. He wrote, “Ron from Bombay wanted to disrupt the literary world and wrote a story in which the characters came to life and started talking.  The protagonist was a female prostitute who commanded respect in the alleys of Bombay, and was sought after by the media. During an interview with the Times of India, Mala Dy,  the prostitute was asked if she ever thought of changing to a respectable line, and being a model for many of her followers. Mala Dy retorted , “But why should I change? This has given me life and today I’m sitting here talking to you because of what I do, night and day!” The interviewer seemed to be convinced.” With these lines Pednekar saved his draft and proceeded to finish dinner and then call it a night.

He went to bed, with a smile that refused to leave him till he drifted off. The smile sat on his lips right after he woke up early, and resumed dancing ever so gaily.

Till he opened the saved draft.

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In continuation, Swapnil wanted the interviewer to ask Mala Dy about what was the median age of people visiting her. But the last line read completely different.

“Dude, can you get me a job that pays this kind of money? If yes, come and see me tomorrow. Or do you wanna make it tonight itself?”

Swapnil rubbed his eyes a dozen times and stared at that last line. Was he seeing what he thought was happening? It was still the same, “… tonight itself?”

He was wide awake now, and could hear his pulse racing. For a good five minutes Swapnil let himself lose all calm and started howling, wondering as he did, if THIS was the sound of his impulse.

Back at his laptop, Pednekar scrolled up and saw that the one paragraph he had stopped had had crossed a page.  As he eyeballed the activity on his machine while he had slept in ignorant bliss, Swapnil saw that there was a conversation in progress.

Ron: “Hey Swapnil, kaay re! Tu svatah la kaay samajtos? Who do you think you are?”

A few blank spaces down.

O baba, aiktoyes ka? Do you hear me?  I just wanna know what made you think I’m a writer. Man, I wanted to be an MLA and go on to become CM. Hell, maajha naav Roshan Galande, Ron naahi. Chaaila! Jai Maharashtra!

Swapnil read on and realized that the belligerent Roshan Galande had decided to peek into the character that his own character had supposedly created.

“O writer bhau, hullo, ithe bug! Tula sex manje khup aavaData ka? You seem to like this sex business a lot! Writers are like that only. Given a chance, they write out their imagination! Hello madam, interview vinterview sagaLe bandh kara aaNi ghar zaa! End this interview business and get going!”

To which the feisty Mala Dy responds, “Oiy, mera baap bhi aise baat nahi karte. My dad would think twice before yelling at me. Look at your guts! This is my interview, and I have every business being here.”

Galande: “Wait till I go get my boys! You will face the heat. Aattha bug! Jai Shivaji!

Mala Dy, returning to the dumbstruck interviewer, “Can we please continue? Don’t mind these thugs, huh? I know how to deal with them. What was your question, again?”

Interviewer: “Have you ever considered changing your line and getting into the mainstream,  and being a model to your followers?”

…. ….  …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. …. ….

Pednekar, fairly in control of himself and alert now, realized it didn’t make sense to continue this story. But then, should he be quitting? Wasn’t it THIS great idea that had found favour with divinity or mysticism or black magic or whatever? He could close the file and destroy it forever. Or should he let the characters tell the story themselves? All he had to do was trigger a conversation and stop worrying about the proceeding. Wouldn’t that mean he was relinquishing his creativity for inanimate characters that decide to start typing on their own? Still better, should he start conversing with his characters and arrive at an agreement, and complete the story in harmony? But seriously, would that even work? A writer who doesn’t want to be one, gets to be a politician and goes about terrorizing the neighbourhood. A prostitute cannot survive a story, because she’s being tormented by the politician. How does one even kill a character?

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What was that? Kill a character? How about bumping off the MLA? And make the prostitute very peaceable?

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He looked at his watch and realized that he was a couple hours late to work already. Darn the bloody story, get to real business, he decided. While at office, his laptop’s hard disk crashed.

The computer died. Swapnil Pednekar survived!

Carla – the daughter of the cop

The Bengaluru city Police Commissioner’s prodigal son-in-law never ceased to baffle the top cop. Barely three months into the marriage, Rohan displayed excessively erratic behaviour in sporadic fashion. Nothing could be predicted of him. The first four weeks after the wedding witnessed what was a continued party.  Rohan, and consequently his wife, would cut cakes at sharp 10AM celebrating each day of marriage.  ‘Happy tresdieversary’ was written on the cake on the third day after the wedding.  Commissioner Da Cunha later learnt that the word was coined by Rohan after a quick internet research. The newlyweds would step out of the house at around 2PM visibly intoxicated, but smartly dressed nevertheless. They would return at around 8 or 9, start chanting psalms, which bewildered many, as Rohan came from an orthodox Hindu family. In the second month, for just under a week, Mr & Mrs. Rohan had set up an office, with an elaborately done glazed steel signboard that read ‘Carla’.  By the eighth day, the office had disappeared. For the next two weeks, in the chilly month of January, the couple had taken off to Munnar, without a single woolly or a jacket packed in, as observed by the domestic help.

It wasn’t that Da Cunha was completely unprepared for a binging of sorts. Carla, his only daughter, was a notorious reveller and used to make the headlines in the local tabloids quite often. But she had never crossed the limits of the law.  A graduate of English literature, she had done a course in Physics on a whim. Not that she tried to meld her apparently disparate sets of knowledge to present a new thought to the world or anything like that.  She would never give a rationale to her random pursuits. People started dismissing her as a result of being in her influential father’s endowment, coupled with her aspiration to be a newsmaker. On her part, Carla, successful in working herself out to a svelte figure, dressed without inhibitions but stunned many the other way when she would come  attend socio-religious gatherings draped in elaborately woven Kanchipuram silk sarees . Da Cunha had given her security cover, inexplicably having it accounted for in the department’s books.  So, Carla would never suffer a scratch even if she were to pose in the nude. When she was interviewed by the media a couple times, she surprised people again by her statements on hard work, respect for the elders, and, on the virtue of virginity before marriage. In fact, she was going steady with Rohan, and never had taken off with him outside the city, nor was she seen with him after dark.  This had reinforced Da Cunha’s belief in his daughter’s choices, and made him readily accept Rohan as his son-in-law.

Carla

However, all said and done….

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Three more months later

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Two more companies are known to have been registered in Carla’s name – Carlacious and Carladen – neither operating now.  Enquiry reveals that Carlacious was a food joint and Carladen was a holiday ideas company. Her whereabouts have been ascertained but she’s unreachable.

Rohan is making some noises here and there. He  doesn’t live with Carla, and has been spotted commuting to work. An analyst gig at Goldman Sachs. A couple of his reports have been published in financial journals.

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Da Cunha is none the better for his confusion still

—- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —-

Carla has just returned home. She doesn’t look very different, but her face betrays uncertainty. Rohan asks her “You must have made your notes. What do you think?”

Carla says, “Maybe it’s just our country and not the world”

“You are saying our country still doesn’t offer limitless possibilities?”

“Not for your average chap on the road. My being in a position of influence didn’t get me that far, just think of others”

Da Cunha has his moment of reckoning.

He utters regretfully, “Wish I were never a Commissioner, or you were born to a different father”