Saturday, 5 January 2013

Queen of Blah … Blah

 “Why did you absent yourself for days on end? You vanish into thin air when I need you most,” Nanda, my wife, glowered at Kala, our housemaid, who, after days of disappearance, presented herself suddenly at our door one day. She stood there with her head bent, not able to look at Nanda’s face. Kala was in her mid-5os, as thin as wire. She wore a cheap weave with her hair in a knot no larger than a walnut.

 “Come on; tell me Kala, why you frequently disappear from the work? Don’t you get paid for your chores,” Nanda snarled at Kala, her tone tinged with anger and rage.

 “Believe me, Amma,” Kala spoke in a cringing tone - she was still looking at the ground beneath her feet. “A black scorpion stung me yesterday. I was rushed to a hospital where I got my navel jabbed with twenty-four injections”

I stood disoriented with my senses taking leave of me. But Kala continued her bleating.

 “Yes, Amma, the scorpion was inside the kerosene stove. When I started cleaning the burner, the bloody thing stung my wrist.” Kala’s voice trailed off when Nanda started laughing heartily. She too laughed. Taking advantage of my wife’s jovial mood, the trickster entered the house and started doing her chores in her usual slapdash way.

Unlike in other towns where we had lived in for years, home maids are rare species to be found in Chennai metro. Two things are elusive in this conservative place: functional auto meters in auto-rickshaws and the services of maids

Since the tribes of maids thus dwindle here due to their not following the ‘ Varnashrama Dharma, they are in great demand.  They hike their wages to roof tops, would never touch leftover food, insist a cup of ‘BRU-instant’ both morning and evening. They are annoyingly rigid doing only allotted works, and for any extra chore they would demand monetary compensation. However, Nanda treat her maid a ‘Royal Queen’ giving her money whenever she demands and provide her with best food she cook for our family- I know Kala is a gourmet. But then,  what is more disgusting to us is not my maid’s frequent vanishing when the house is full of guests, but the reasons she adduces to justify her sudden absence.

 Kala has the ability to craft fine stories. It seems she has been immensely endowed with the power of creative imagination, which she skillfully uses to rob our senses. In the ocean of her imagination, the scorpion story is only a trifle. The followings are some of her excuses she would be fishing out to justify her sudden disappearance: death of a grandma followed by a grandfather [she had almost virtually killed all her lineage]; rain flooded her house and washed away her possessions [she would say this when the city is reeling under hot summer]; one of her children has swallowed the vegetable knife; another boy had brain tumor but got cured in three days when she gave him some herbal powder. Kala’s power of the Gab always reminds me on Rashid, the master story-teller, in one of Salman Rushdie’s short stories.

 Recently, Kala had vanished from my house for a fortnight. When we were looking for another maid, she came running to Nanda one day. She looked devastated with hair disheveled, eyes shedding streams of tears. She took hold of Nanda’s hands, pressed them against her forehead and started crying. I was perplexed, but she didn’t allow my wife to speak. Wiping her tears with her hands and blowing her nose at the free end of her sari she said: “Amma, why the gods choose to be so cruel to me? You know, my daughter-in-law was in the family way. Ayyo! Amma! She died ten days back while giving birth to a child. She was too young to die. I don’t know what sins I had committed to incur such a wrath of god.” She paused only to start crying again. I was greatly moved and my eyes too were welled- up with tears.

It took helluva time for Nanda to console the grief-stricken Kala. Swept by emotions, I asked Nanda to allow her resume work. A month went on and the cat has finally come out of the hat. When I learned that Kala has no daughter-in-law, and his only son is studying in 4th Std in a corporation school, I was flabbergasted. I went ballistic not with Kala, but only with Nanda for being so naïve and novice to allow a maid to rob our emotions. As was our wont, we did allow Kala to carry on her work at home though we know that our maid was having her last laugh at our helplessness.

 All said and done, Kala is the ‘Queen of Blah … Blah’, an outstanding ‘Juggler of Stories’ whose power of the gab combined with her histrionic skills would always give credence to her ‘volley of lies’.

 Image courtesy: Google

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Meet My Friend Prof. Santa!

“Corruption is not only eating into the vitals of our country, but makes us morally bankrupt,” Prof. Santa’s metallic voice stirred my otherwise somnambulist drawing room.  I was sitting mutely by her side and watching her glib tongue showing dark caves of corruption one after another. Prof. Santa was my chance acquaintance and we became friends the moment we met at the Connemara Public Library, Chennai.

 She was brown complexioned with fluffy cheeks, got her long hair braided on top of her head. Exuding heavy aroma of French perfume, she had decked herself up with heavy jewelries: earrings, bangles, necklace et al. She was articulate, spoke English without any tinge of regional accent. She talked like a visionary, but looked antique in Kancheevaram silk sari, sporting tons of jewelries.

She would visit my house thrice a week, mostly during afternoons. Since cervical spondylosis held me back from books, TV and computer, I was only happy to invite her home and took refuge in the deluge of her talks on corruption , which went hours on end on every occasion. No sooner had she entered my house than Neela, our domestic help, arranged a plate of butter cookies and a glass of tea on a tray.

 “Do you know, Easwar?” the Prof would always begin her diatribe against corruption with one or two questions. “Our country ranks a dismal 87th out of 178 countries on Transparency International 2010 Corruption Perception Index. The cost of corruption to the country might as well exceed Rs. 250, 0000 crore. We condemn corruption in public, but never cease from giving bribe whenever we want to get things done.”

 Whenever Pro. Santa was reeling out data to drive home her point that corruption had become our sixth finger, I was sitting duck before her and grinning sheepishly at her wisecracks and cursing my addled head for not having such a pool of information as the Prof had.

 Every day Prof. Santa analyzed corruption from various perspectives saying that corruption is like diabetic, can only be controlled, but not totally eliminated. I began to admire this middle-aged woman for her righteous anger against corruption. Her concern for the society and readiness to fight against the corrupt carved a niche in my heart. I even admired her a la Joan of Arc.

  Over enthusiastic, Prof. Santa once attempted to cross borders and shift focus on corruption prevailing world over. However, Neela, after spilling some unsavory beans about the Prof’s husband, snapped my further towing with Prof. Santa. Neela said: ‘Sir, the Prof is a cheat. She talks about corruption just to hide a host of skeletons in her home. Her husband, a Chief Engineer in the PWD is corrupted to the core. The Santas have properties worth over a crore of rupees. They live in a posh Bungalow with fleet of cars and retinue of servants. The Prof herself is having kilos of jewelries staked in her bank lockers.”

 I didn't give a damn to the aspersions Neela had cast on the Santas. I brushed them aside as maids' gossips. However, when one of my friends confirmed what Neela had told me about the Prof's husband, I got miffed not because that a fair-sex is going in tow with a corrupt husband, but because how the corrupts are astonishingly articulate in hiding their misdeeds, making tall talks about the corruption and cursing the corrupt. Possibly, a wise and conscientious man or for that matter a woman can never be corrupt since to be corrupt he/she needs an extra, 'large' head and a polluted unclean mind.

 Prof. Santa is only a figure-head representing the collective thinking of a nation on corruption. We make noise and fury about corruption and the corrupt in public just to hide our misdemeanors- we either indulge in corruption or abet it when we need things to be fixed. A Good Samaritan, I found my heart frayed and tattered because a woman, with her eloquent articulation, had completely hidden from me the dirty side of her life.

 ‘Each of us needs to look within and determine whether our action fuels corruption or weakens it. The fight against corruption is ultimately our choice- it begins and ends with people, not systems’ I thought and wanted to covey it to the Prof, when she would call me next time.

 Unfortunately, Prof. Santa stopped calling me forever.
Image courtesy: Google

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Squares and Circles!

Circles in Squares;
no sleazy matter to be frowned upon
to be wondered about.

It’s only a state of mind
with shades of laden thoughts.

Are you a circle or a square?
You can’t answer.
For, in the cave of your minds
you always grope for structure, not substance.

Is love a circle?
A heaven sent garland?
If love is a circle,
squares are lovers, their attire being dreams.

 The body may be a square.
But the soul is only a circle.
For, when the body decays and drops dead
 the soul goes out rolling.

My bed before birth was
a shapeless semi-circle
or a circle.
But, why I’m now a square,
leaping out of the ordained format.

Get rid of your fantasizes.
Get rid of cloudy thoughts.
For, the light of life is lit only by the realities,
not by make-believe thoughts.

It’s to be known therefore that
the lines that draw circles also
draw squares.
It’s no sleazy matter
To be frowned upon
or to be wondered about.

[Image courtesy: Google]

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Far from the Madding Crowd!

It was a singing competition, the magnum opus of a TV channel. The grand finale was so glam and glitzy. Four contestants were in the fray to win the covetous award: a pent house worth Rs. 50 lacks.

Among the four contestants, B seemed the best pet. He sang marvelously well. Showing all the dynamics of the song he had chosen, he became himself the song. I voted for B. Unfortunately, A, the mediocre singer, got the bounty as he got more votes than B.  I got miffed at my inability to go with the crowds. ‘Why amateurs capture people’s imagination?’ I thought.

A flamboyant politician, he only cherishes calling himself a sterling writer. He scribbles something and unabashedly calls them poetry. He, too, has been dabbling in Tamil prose for decades. ‘In the name of writing, he only indulges in pompous and bombastic verbose. All his writings are artificial, pedestrian; having no ‘Jeevan’ [soul]’. When I point out these lacunae in his writings to my friends, they call me a moron … a novice who knows nothing about the nuances of writing or the rudiments of literature.

He was called a born-actor in the Indian tinsel world. In fact, he showed rare histrionic skills in his debut film. But, after a few films , he oriented himself to the tune of mass liking and changed his acting patterns. His yelling, full-throated shout, knitting brows and crying in a falsetto voice were hailed as his excellent acting skills. The actor thus began to manifest himself in his characters and not vice versa. Unfortunately, those views of mine cut no ice with my friends as they called me an odd fish.

‘Which role of Krishna do you like most in Mahabharata?’ Prof Rao had put forth that question to my class, decades back. I stood up and said: ‘of all of His roles, I like that Krishna who protected the modesty of Draupadi. So, he stands tall in my heart forever’. ‘Stop,’ the learned Prof screamed. Looking at me as if I was a toxic worm, he said: ‘Sit down, you freak’.
 ‘Freak!’ So incomprehensible was the full import of the word when I heard it from my Prof, decades before. However, now, after getting kneaded by life and mellowed with age, I still have that sobriquet associating with my persona as people still treat me as the odd man out.

I still don’t know why I’m not able to swim along with the crowds and buy the stuff they are falling for. ‘Why I’m far away from the madding crowd? What nerves inside me prevent me from honoring ‘crowd thinking’ when it comes to deciding about men and matters? Am I in an ‘intelligent trap’, as described by Edward de Bono, not able to travel with the crowd instincts inside me?’ Questions galore in my mind without answers.

Looking for only perfection all around me and getting frowned at the cheerless amateurism in everything I see and read, I know that I’m not a man having high end of intelligent spectrum as intelligence endows one with an objective mind-set sans self-centered thoughts. Gosh! While I’m not by myself a wholesome stuff, why I want to see only perfection in others and flung down those in the gutter who don’t make the grades in their performance, be it in writing, dancing, singing and painting et al.

Long, deep introspection and a good amount of self-flagellation never let me know as to why I don’t go on beaten paths even in everyday mundane affairs. ‘Freak’ was the word my Prof had used long back to dig at my strange thoughts and my standing away from crowds. He seems right.

Not less stringent are the appellations I’m getting pasted on my person both by my friends and relatives for my living in the cave of my own thoughts. While one of my friends call me a ‘pseudo intelligent’ and vainglorious bloke, the other one attributes my trait [?] to a mind-set, which, according to her, is not wholesome, only frayed and sickened. Another psychoanalyst cousin, who calls a spade a spade, takes an uncharitable view on my thought-process. She says: ‘Easwar, yours is an imperfect mind and no wonder it seeks in others what it is not having in store. Simply speaking, your thought-process is that of a frog for whom his well is always bigger than the sea … an extreme fallacy that blinds itself to reasoning.

All said and done, I’m still going the whole hog with the dictates of my thoughts, keeping my crowd instincts at bay. For I believe in the following dictum of George Bernard Shaw:

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to him. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
[Images courtesy: Google]