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 ——


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 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.

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

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!


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’.


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!


5 Reasons Why You Should Read a Lot (better stuff than crap like this!)

But of course, you will have come across any number of write-ups extolling the virtues of reading. Some of them sounding really grave, many of them of downright patronizing, and a bigger chunk absolutely driven by motives!  Say, urging you to read whitepapers, available for free downloads! They want you to read, they want you to be knowledgeable, they want you to apply thought, but also want you to do business with them. Choose to ignore them, and they will bombard you with many more such samples. Content blitzkrieg eh? Heck, you even have books on why reading will transform you!

So, if there has been a barrage of literature on why reading is good, there sure must be some good souls lapping them all up and resolving to walk around with a book in hand the very next minute on. So, I guess there’s no harm in adding my two cents (or five?).


Here are 5 reasons why I believe one needs to be read like crazy. And no, I’m not including reading on the fly, or simply, online reading.

  1. The last line above.  Everyone accesses the internet where anything goes in the name of writing. Read a paperback or a hardcover edition, and you automatically get a brand of erudition. Some invisible tattoo sort of thing.
  2. Reduce degrees of separation. For all the ridiculous ideas you may harbor, there is surely one other individual at least in this world, who does more than merely think like you. And who doesn’t like to feel vindicated anyway?
  3. Get a sleeping aid.  Now please don’t throw the obvious question at me. ‘If you like reading so much, how can you slump over a book?’. Well that’s the beauty of books my friend.  More importantly you need to have an eclectic set of books on standby at any given time.  Books that suit your mood. Sample prescription.  Prop yourself up by a cozy pillow and try ‘Idea of Justice’ by Amartya Sen, every night.
  4. Give flight to your imagination. Now seriously, ask yourself what arouses you more. A detailed narration of how people got into each other’s pants or a steamy movie that lasts a whole minute. Oh, have I really swallowed my foot? Before you nod your ever ready  heads in agreement, spare a thought for long lasting impressions. Now, may I excuse myself from ensuing talks of fondling the flagpole?
  5. Be a quote machine. If you think you have a great memory, you should really consider reading  A LOT. You could reel off snide one-liners by conceited jerks, with equal flourish and gusto.