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.

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

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?

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

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

—- —- —- —- —- —- —– —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —-

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!

Advertisements

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….

—–   —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —-

Three more months later

—- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —-

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.

—- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —- —-

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”

Arivu – A parable about an endangered culture

Once upon a time in the present day there lived a Retriever named Arivu. Arivu was a smart mongrel that was owned by a wealthy human who sheltered him in a plush kennel.  The dog would walk about the bungalow and flop down at will. His master was a man who had travelled the world and knew a lot about many things. Often times, Arivu would snuggle down at his master’s feet while the latter would softly stroke his head while discussing animatedly on a wide range of subjects with his visitors. The master would often take his visitors to a large room filled with books, and Arivu would perk up and follow the conversation intently.

retriever_book

One day, a visitor had brought his German Shepherd along to visit the master. As they entered the study, Arivu darted in lest he missed the conversation. But in no time he was attracted to Naasha, the Shepherd. The latter was a tease. Both the canines started chasing each other and soon were lost in merriment.  Before long, it was time to part. But to Arivu’s delight, she was back the next week. It was a new found love for Arivu. As they rollicked around, they fell outside the bungalow. Both were so lost in their world that they didn’t realize that they had long left the house and beyond reach. They never bothered to find their way back either. But their love barely lasted a day.  The following  afternoon, Arivu woke up to realize Naasha had given him the slip. The Retriever couldn’t manage to stay alone however. In no time, he found himself gate-crashing into other canine settlements and picking up bitches.

A week later, Arivu started missing his master. He was sauntering about when he saw another Retriever being taken for a walk. He started following the dog and its master, whose left hand held the leash and the right, locked in the arms of a woman. The woman turned and saw Arivu and got excited. She wanted her companion to take him too. In a few minutes, Arivu was riding an elevator, up 15 stories, and presently entered the apartment the couple lived in. The house was all of five rooms, none of which appeared to have held a book ever.

It was one month now since had moved in. He ate well and stayed put, save for a customary morning walk.  One day, a lady came visiting. She looked at Arivu curiously for a minute, and then asked him “Arivu, run and fetch that magazine, will you?”  The dog looked at her with a blank expression, and yawned!

-A reader

‘From Hell’ – disturbing and awe-inspiring

‘Jack the Ripper’, the one with the conveniently ascribed name in the wake of a set of horrific killings in Victorian England, the one with bloodied hands and a knife to the cadaver of an unfortunate woman he won’t rest till he’s mutilated every inch of, finds himself transported to a scene at a place of work in the midst of the next century.  While going about his slashing and ripping, he looks around and expresses his consternation at the sights he gets, and utters a soliloquy: “Dear God, what is this Aethyr I am come upon? What spirits are these labouring in what heavenly light? No, this is dazzle, but not yet divinity. Nor are these heathen wraiths about me spirits lacking even that vitality. What then? … Are these the days my death shall spare me?… shall man be given marvels only when he is beyond all wonder?.. with all your shimmering numbers and lights, think not to be inured to history….how would I seem to you? Some antique fiend or penny dreadful horror, yet YOU frighten me! You have not souls, with you I am alone!”

This bit of monologue in Alan Moore’s ‘From Hell’, should serve to summarize the indifference of the generation that ushered in the new century, to the likely legend of the fiend that terrorized late 19th century England. Given the identity of Jack the Ripper has never been established, the question of his relevance may raise more eyebrows when we witness an exotic dancer in the year 1998, slipping out of her thong at a downtown club in London, and swinging to a techno beat ‘Jack Jack!!’

Despite himself, why is the serial killer discussed in literary circles to this day? If the scenes above ever so slightly attempt to bring vividness in the reader, then one must wait till they finish the 576 page reflection on the monstrosity that occurred in Victorian England towards the close of the 19th century. ‘From Hell’ by Alan Moore is easily one of the greatest achievements in the medium of graphic fiction, and a painfully researched one at that. Throughout the book, the one recurring thought in my head was ‘it is a ‘graphic’ novel alright’! Moore’s ‘V for Vendetta’ and ‘Watchmen’ are more accessible and universally revered. His retake on superheroes and vigilantes appealed immensely to the sceptics in us and gave a most plausible interpretation of anarchism. ‘From Hell’ however posits itself on the other end of the spectrum, so to speak.  We are not even presented with an anti-hero, but the utter lunacy of a deeply meditative mind. The perpetrator was never apprehended and no one had claimed with conviction to have seen him. What Moore serves us is one of the several versions of the legend, which appears palatable to the reader given the involvement of the royalty in the messy affair. A word on the research. There are exhaustive notes explaining the rationale behind each chapter, and they are anything but blind assumptions about the events.

From_hell_tpb

In Moore’s version, a member of the royal family is smitten by a shop-keeper girl and fathers a child from her. The queen intervenes and gets her surgeon to ensure that the woman doesn’t ever squeal, and save the throne from embarrassment. However one of the woman’s friends, a prostitute who’s creaking under a huge debt, decides to make fast money by blackmailing the royal family with a letter threatening to make the affair public. When the letter reaches the queen, she summons the royal surgeon, William Gull, again. What follows is a series of murders of unprecedented gruesomeness, perpetrated by an individual with deep surgical capabilities. The victims, all belonging to London’s East End, are chopped to pieces, their abdominal organs plucked out. Coupled with varying theories about the identity of the murderer and a largely incompetent Scotland Yard, the menace becomes palpable across Great Britain.

Eddie Campbell’s black and white artwork accentuates the grimness of it all – blood in black still gives the shudders. The lines are sketchy, and for me, they served to heighten the expectation of sombreness from every plate. The language in the book couldn’t be more apt.  Queen’s English, cockney accents, colloquialisms, you have it all. As for the narrative, any self-confessed anglophile will be sure to relish the proceedings, though he or she could so much as even begin to realize that a romantic Victorian England is but an illusion.  Dr. William Gull’s character is brilliantly crafted – a wretch who talks the most sophisticated language, who displays a keenness for history and the arts,  but doesn’t ever let things happen other than on his terms! Some character study this!

While the theory of the identity of Jack the Ripper may be suspect, the story effectively mirrors the moral depravity that was so rampant in the London underbelly during the late19th century.  Jack or no Jack, the commentary on evil and politics will continue to be relevant for a long time to come.

HARDly Content!

Heck, the Internet seems to have spread its legs real wide!  It’s a digital whorehouse, and a free one at that! And I’m as guilty as everyone of you ‘Johns’ and ‘Joann(?)’s, I’ll admit! Well, almost free, given that, as some wise ‘observer’ commented ruefully that ‘we have come to live in an age where WiFi can be cheaper than water’, probably after scratching their head in desperation about getting people to retrospect and decided to do so with an ‘insider view’.

Negative-Social-Media-Comments

A real beauty, the Net, I tell you, but it tosses me in my bed to think how everyone’s having a go at it, willy nilly. Facebook and its ilk, I tell you, have made Wikipedia appear a scholarly journal. Anything goes. Like recently when dating app Tinder decided to conduct a social experiment to check on men’s and women’s biggest fear while dating someone online. Say, worrying they might hook up with an ‘overweight’ lady, or a stalker on the loose? Yeah, the results of the ‘experiment’ should be tabulated in a report for the department of social justice. And while they are at it, how about developing an app to gauge excitement levels of couples on their date? Closer home, there was this lady sweating it out on the streets of Mumbai  asking men how many times a day they thought of sex. This one has got several thousand ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ on Facebook and other sites. OK, so you proved that men are not forthcoming about their basic instincts, or they couldn’t articulate their feelings, or better, aren’t sexually charged. But none of that was published. We are expected to draw our conclusions from it. Sure, that you could have put the camera battery and editing time to direct use, say, to see if people can do without FB videos for a week.

These experiments and videos are still bearable at some level, as they can be regarded as short films by character, if not more. But the written word I tell you (OK, I’m bracing myself here).  Websites of questionable parentage have mushroomed all over and are humping the Internet (read ‘Web’) with crazy vigour and no let up. There’s this website, which piggybacks FB than walk about itself. Without  naming it, this one’s mostly known for ’10 things’ or ’15 reasons’ series of inane realizations, syndicated from the darkest corners of the Web. Easy way out, who doesn’t like bulleted lists. Wish it were more though.  ‘9 differences between life at 16 and life at 25’. Presumably written by someone who’s feeling geriatric at 25! ’14 struggles of being in a long distance relationship’, with the subhead ‘in a nutshell, long distance relationship sucks’. So you know how insightful the list will be, and why didn’t it occur to us all these years? The 9 and 14 are curiosity inductors no more. And Deepika no wonder entered the Forbes 10 list this week; her face is all over their website, which  I visited to see what their mission and vision statement were. Their About Us page assumes I’m either trying to nominate them for ‘TIME Person of the Year’ or being plain curious! I take this, but they still don’t give me any dough. Ask me to check back sometime later.  A couple days later I was almost ready to forgive and forget because a ’15 reasons’ list caught my eye. ‘15 things you will get when you have a South Indian friend’. With an air of triumph, I opened the list and what followed was bunkum! Sample this: ‘Bharatnatyam is not Kathakali’ and ‘Their Hindi has a funny accent’! If it’s all written by the same individual, again presumably a North Indian, then forget having a South Indian friend, they have not got their basics right! But I’ll hold myself, as they do conclude saying cool things about South Indians.

Agree, online content won’t remain fresh for more than a day, but can they help ‘not serving us oily and tasty stuff over healthy and bland ones, please’?

Orgiastic tendencies – Compulsive screwing, mindless gorging!

Us and Them

Baradwaj Rangan takes us back to our days of Floyd worhsip!

Baradwaj Rangan

With a new Pink Floyd album out, Baradwaj Rangan reflects on the band’s longstanding popularity with kids across college campuses in India.

So Pink Floyd have a new album out. It’s called The Endless River, which sounds about right for a Pink Floyd album. It’s the kind of name the band is so fond of, suffused with new-agey imagery from nature. I mean, just look at their discography. There was Delicate Sound of Thunder. There was Obscured by Clouds. There was The Dark Side of the Moon. There was The Wall (okay, not exactly nature, but you build walls on the earth, and that’s surely nature). There was The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. There was Atom Heart Mother (which sounds like a greeting card Schrödinger would send his mum, who was surely made of atoms, as is all of nature). There was Animals

View original post 737 more words

Damned if Rajini knew, forget others!

ling

Pray, what do I do? I haven’t made the film, but I want it to succeed. I don’t know how it will be, but I know how I want it to be. It shouldn’t be the best, but it should be the best yet. If it’s got him, it has to be real good, but not in the real sense of good. It should be nothing like what has come till date, but should have everything we have come to expect.

Pray, what is it about? Is it progressive? Does it have a human touch, or only his touch? Does it portray women well? Will it glorify the alpha male? Will it have punches aplenty, a swagger too many, and Chicken-soup advices candy-wrapped in tunes? Is it a story of against-all-odds or is it about getting even? Does that even matter?

Pray, will it win? Alpha male or betta’ female, the film should win in which he should win. He should win, because it is the person in him and not the actor in him. I want the punches, because no one else pulls them like him. I want the odds and evens both, because he tags style to victory. His style. He should win, because he has shown that the bizarre can win too, and how!

Pray, is there anything I can do? While I await the answer, let me do what people do best.

Pray