20 June, 2018

de Vicky, de Vet & de Vibhishana Syndrome

Rambling me thinks seriously is an art form. Leave alone the fact that it is only me poor idiotic self who thinks like so. Yet rambles too have n need a construct as the free flowing verbiage requires a direction. If it does not have one, where would one go with it or what would one do with such nonsense? Junk it, of course. Let that be, here the construct is in two parts, where the spirited storyteller establishes his identity and explains who he is and then in the second part is the actual story. Are both of them required here as one? Maybe not, maybe yes too... this is quite an unreal experience and cannot be narrated by a real storyteller. An unreal story needs an unreal storyteller that is why the introductory prologue goes on and and on .... it has no faith, no religion, no politics only un-really real happenstances.

This does have the promise to turn out into a humdinger of a tale. Oh wait! What are you asking me?  That the title has confused you? Now you are not at all sure in which European language would this story be narrated, is that it?

Please don’t worry. The narrative is neither in French nor German or any other European language that uses ‘de’. It is in English, yes, the Queen’s English at that. Now it may not be exactly as how Queen Victoria used it in her time or how Queen Elizabeth uses it now. It shall be more in line with how her subjects of England and the Commonwealth of the present day mutilate it indiscriminately. How does that matter??? So long as it is understood, it’s okay no, right? That is what languages are for after all; a means of effective communication, a common tongue that is understood clearly. I was just trying out a new accent and that caused all this confusion.

Do I go on like this always… on and on and on all the time? Not really, it just so happens that I am absolutely free now, free of any and every encumbrance. Yes, I was weighed down and encumbered earlier with a significant weight on my shoulders that was quite heavy. It is gone now. How? Well aren’t you the impatient one, what is your hurry? Relax, sit back and allow me the indulgence of a ramble. There are no rules against rambling as yet. Ohhh … OK Do you want me to start my story in the same manner in which you are used to reading stories.  OK…here goes…like you want it.

Once upon a time in a big city, long, long ago, there was I who had made all the preparations to tell a story and then the urge to inanely ramble overpowered me. Forget ittttt…these standard formats are not my types, also let me tell you the story in the same weird, disorderly manner that I experienced it; much like that paper kite which has broken away from its string and is being tossed about directionless in the blowing wind. 

Who Am I? 
Freedom is the main culprit; it does this to me, especially when it is newly found. One doesn’t have the equanimity to handle it. This is an ancestral issue. My ancestors resided in corpses; before they were cremated. Does that make us Hindu’s? Why bring faith into a discussion where it has no real meaning. We shall take it up more in detail in possibly the story itself if its requirement comes about. The base level qualification criterion was that the corpse belonged to a storyteller. This was compulsory in my family tree.

Rules somehow never really applied to me, while my ancestors at least most of them followed them rigidly, without ever questioning them. They called it tradition. I questioned the necessity of the body having to be dead and as luck would have it I got to live in a live one. A live body of a man; one who enjoyed cuisine, was not shy about loving it and did not bother too much about being lean or mean. If a body is to be my residence why would I ever want a lean one, tell me? I too like my space and so I quite enjoy living in a man with generous proportions like this one is. Given a choice don’t we all want a spacious accommodation? Show me one dude in this crowded metropolis, who if he does not live in one, is not aspiring for a 3 bedroom hall kitchen apartment?
Whoever chooses or acquires small apartments and houses willingly unless she or he is compelled by budgets or other constraints?

So who am I actually? Does it matter? Because there is really no matter.
So who or what exactly am I? However hard you may shake your head in denial, I know you are very curious to know the answer to just this very question.  Am I a microbe like a bacteria or a virus? The answer to that is a firm NO because however and whatever it is that I am, I am not a parasite. Microbes are not that particular whether a body is living or dead or for that matter whether it is a body at all, they just exist, wherever. My kind on the other hand is more finicky and choosy. I share this body with his (the story teller’s) soul. We were housemates, his soul and I. Living with someone in such close proximity allows one to know each other fairly well. Yes. It was in one body and we did occupy different rooms or body parts if you are going to get technical on me insisting that I also be legally and factually correct.

I am a free spirit and I have happily been a part of this body, or shared apartment like you human’s choose to define this particular staying arrangement. His soul and I get along well together it is friendly, well read, quite a wacky one and utterly good company. It had no hang-ups at all of him being a soul and I, a spirit. No discriminatory bone in this soul if I am allowed to use an anatomical metaphor. He and I were actually two of a kind. Souls are immortal and get to occupy live bodies always, whether human, animal, bird or anything that has life. We spirits on the other hand are in reality those souls that do not get live bodies in the first case but corpses.
What really happens is that when a person when alive has both his body & soul together as one package deal. This combination then together imagines, dreams of, and aspires for a whole lot of things before the expiry date of the body is reached. Then we arrive at a case where some of these aspirations having remained unsatisfied, unfulfilled. Now the souls get separated from the dead body after its demise. These souls then do not get immediately swapped or exchanged with another live body. They actually do not get to live in either live or dead bodies but are found flying aimlessly. Without bodies and continuously flying here, there and everywhere, they too get tired and stressed out, so what if they are souls. They too need a home base. Have you grown up thinking that the souls are always stress-free and never have a chance to be stressed? They do, it is the stress from the pursuit of release.  When would they be released from this open nomadic existence? These souls often end up making certain geographical locations like trees and forests or even apartment houses their homes. Their penance is to get these aspirations achieved off, that is check marked on their incomplete bucket list as quickly as possible such that they their release is achieved. Every such unsatisfied soul is in a hurry to get its release and often are found abounding the same area where their original body stayed. Souls too like their comfort zones.

Around such zones, because people do not see them visibly, there exists this huge unleashed energy openly out to fulfill the departed body’s aspirations. This is the force that is often sensed by some humans and it scares the living ones. Just because these souls do not leave those geographies till their job is complete, they move around in that locality and haunt the area. Hence the people who sometimes sense n feel this energy  strongly refer to these areas as haunted. We are the Vet’s … that’s what we prefer to call ourselves. Had it not been for Vicky we would not even have been known. Vicky … Ohhhh !!! Don’t you know that dude who hung around with my great-great-great( and several more hyphenated greats than I can’t count on my finger or waste words by writing them here) grandfather. He was the king Vikramaditya. Our family tree branch is the vertical where we have a common  surname ; Vetal.

I am a spirit of the same kinds but I was granted shared residence into this body by the friendly soul. My famous ancestor mostly resided on a tree but when it came to Vicky he had chosen his favourite spot.  This place has been our favourite, always. He used to love the nape of the neck of Vicky. Oh, who was my ancestor? He did not have a name either but his name became attached to that of the great king Vikramaditya and their journey together is recounted as popular bed time stories in many parts of this country as the stories of Vikram & Vetal. They were the most happening star story pair from the 11th century till the 16th century until their popularity was usurped by two unlikely pairs. One pair was that of Tenali Rama & King Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagara and the second pair was that of the Emperor Akbar and Birbal, one of the nine gems in his court.

Be it as it may, Vikram and Vetal set the conduct of us Vetal’s on this planet. I come from the family tree of the common Vetal’s and since I definitely do not see myself as a common Vetal, I call myself “the Vetal”  or “de Vet” in short. So there you are …. Have you now been properly introduced to me now? I hope I have been brief enough? There are also times when I do love being crisp and to the point. I tell stories and never pose a question at the end of it… no moral, who do you think I am, an Aesop? I do not need any answer on any moral. In fact most of my stories are about people who are immoral.

Ahhhh!!!! So now your neck feels a weight is it? That is because I have mounted it and have settled there. You have been warned, I shall remain on your neck forever unless you read this till the very end … got it?

Epically Erudite : 

The Vibhishana Syndrome  and the Immoral Silences.
He splashed water onto his face after waking up, squeezed the toothpaste on the brush and in an absent minded manner of a daily routine and habit started brushing his teeth. He just so glanced in the mirror above the wash basin. What he saw in it startled him so badly that he almost swallowed the toothbrush. The ten headed supremo of Lanka, Ravana, was staring back at him from the mirror. He speedily finished brushing his teeth, gargled and cleaned up. Then again splashed some more water on his face and warily looked back into the mirror. 

It was Ravana again but this time he was playing the Veena. He did actually hear Bhimsen Joshi belting out a song from a Marathi movie. The rich baritone soothed him considerably. <--- (click on the link for the song)

Was it a hangover that was playing with his imagination now? Yes, the single malt consumed last night had been quite exquisite. Yet he had partaken of it in his usual measured quantity, nothing that was hangover worthy. When he looked back into the mirror again, it still was Ravana on the musical instrument but also one more face joined his now. It was his pal Raghu. He looked back to see whether Raghu had entered the bathroom but no, nobody was there and how could Raghu have been physically present here? He had died four years ago.

Kush and Raghu were the best of pals since childhood. Once in a game where kids make promises, they too had spit on their palms and shook hands in a pact that they would always be there for each other when needed. Raghu’s dying had not disturbed this arrangement one bit. He visited when Kush thought about him and they communed with each other. Their understanding between each other being so deep that oftentimes they did not even need or use words.

His wife was on a tour. After coming out of the bathroom he made tea for himself, munched on a few biscuits and lit a smoke. Raghu smilingly ambled over and sat in a sofa chair across the hall looking out of the wide open French windows overlooking a lush banyan tree. Kush raised an eyebrow looking at Raghu. He was still confused about the Ravana image in the mirror. It is the Vibhishana Syndrome all over again Kush, said Raghu.

Kush smiled at these words and the particular epical reference. It was that episode which had made them friends. The twinkling eyes of his friend took him down memory lane.

Kush thought to himself recalling everything vividly. It was in school and their 8th standard class, where that question on the Ramayana was asked. “Who Killed Ravana?” The entire class had dutifully written Rama and theirs had been the only two answers that stood out differently. Both of them he remembered had written the same answer and it varied from the rest of the class. The teacher looking at their homework books had called out their names. They had stood up in their places.  Across the class their eyes met, Raghu had smiled at Kush and Kush knew he had made a fast friend. The teacher was not quite irritated with them in reality, in fact he had been fairly open minded and beamed at them. Gesturing for Kush to sit he had asked Raghu to elaborate further. Instantly Kush started assembling his thoughts, in the event Raghu faltered. But that had been an unfounded fear. Raghu went on, stating with abject fluency his own thoughts on the subject. Those words as is, flashed back into his mind today and mind all ye, it is an incident from nearly 35 years ago. He had guessed then that with an imagination, spark and clarity like Raghu's wouldn't it be wonderful if he took up writing someday. He had and unfortunately died way before he made a name for himself.

The man who did in Ravana:
The teacher had looked at the class before he started and said, both of them have answered Vibhishana . The class erupted into a burst of delighted scoffing laughter, a sound that one hears from a crowd relieved to have been all correctly bunched together and not singled out for a rebuke or an admonition separately. Different eyes of the class looked at him with different emotions, fascination in some, scorn in most, disgust and disagreement in a few and a lesser few even had anger writ on their faces at this affront served on the righteous Vibhishana, a character from one of the two most popular epics of India, by one of them with supreme conviction.

Raghu's elaboration began with a question. “Who is Vibhishana?” He asked looking at the teacher and the class. “A side-kick” he said with utter disdain. He is a character who for 98% of the time is not even in the epic, written by Valmiki. Just imagine said he now, looking at the class, eyes blazing “had the Ramayana been a movie Vibhishana is the character with absolutely the minimum footage.” The interest shown by the teacher allowed him to express without interruption.
"Ravana was the eldest of a brood of four born to the sage Vishravas and Kaikesi. The others were Kumbhakarna, Shoorpanakha and the last was Vibhishan. The sage Vishravas from an earlier marriage also had a son Kubera who ruled the kingdom of Lanka. Kubera had an excellent mercantile brain and he amassed wealth in a manner that almost displaced the goddess of wealth Lakshmi from her pedestal, such was his acumen. With it he became a moneylender to the gods and Lanka the island kingdom became the trading capital of the world. If Kubera was smart his younger step-brother Ravana not only was smarter but also brave, generous, brilliant, dashing, talented and assertive. He defeated Kubera and took charge of Lanka. If Kubera had made Lanka rich, Ravan enhanced its riches and glory even further, that Lanka became famous in all the three worlds as the Golden Kingdom or Soneri Lanka. Ravana’s blazing intelligence and smarts earned him the sobriquet of Dashanana or the ten-headed one. Not that he actually had ten heads as was depicted in most pictorial representations but the fact that his one head was the equivalent of 10 heads of scholarly people." The teacher nodded with absolute delight as he paused for breath. "That’s correct" interjected the teacher.
 He continued “Ravana was a just ruler, tough though very fair and his people loved him with a devotion and pride of the greatness and wealth he brought to their kingdom. He was a curious learner and is the first known pilot of his era when he created and mastered the Pushpak Vimana or plane. Like Rama’s father the great Dasharatha, Ravana too was an accomplished Veena player. He was a born king and ruled all that he surveyed. His siblings namely Kumbhakarna and Shoorpanakaha never had a problem with his assertive go getting ways while the timid Vibhishana was perpetually scared. Kumbhakarna and Shoorpankha had joined Ravana in battles and fights but never did Vibhishana." By that time the entire class was hooked at the perspective he was giving to the same story; a story that had been recounted in every household mindlessly over generations.

He again asked a question, “What must have all this achieving by Ravana done to the mind of Vibhishana, has anyone thought about it?” He continued after a pause, “Vibhishana the non-entity must have burned inside looking at his talented siblings, Kubera, Kumbhakarna , Shoorpanakha and especially Ravana.
This differential status of talent and ability was bound to create a feeling of inadequacy within a person, especially when you are the fruit from the same tree. Why have they been blessed like so and why not me? This was Vibhishana’s dominant refrain, growing up, ignoring the fact that Ravana never had things easy for himself either. He surmounted every obstacle in his path, worked very hard at mastering his skills of war, nobility, mastering the art of flight and even the Veena. He did not come blessed at birth with these skills but he gathered them, nurtured them and grew them. And then Ravana took charge of Lanka and Vibhishana seethed inside that he too was entitled to Ravana’s talents and the throne of Lanka. Why, because he too was the son of Vishrawas and Kaikesi.
He hid his feelings of envy pretty well and he started praying to all gods that irritated Ravana who did not even for once fathom that it was being done deliberately to provoke him. Vibhishana created an image for himself that he was the pious and right one. Envy when it takes root in one’s soul can fester and become vitriol. Vibhishan was waiting for an opportunity to get back at Ravana. He waited and waited and in Shoorpanakha’s nose bleed and insult by Lakshmana, Ravana to avenge the insult meted out to his sister abducted Sita. This was Vibhishana’s footage time, his moment and in Rama he sensed that karma and fate is offering him a chance. He grabbed it with both hands and moved to Rama’s side. There he shared every weak point of Lanka and Ravana with Rama; so seething with jealousy was he that he never realized that a code of family ethics was being broken.
If ever Vibhishan became famous for something and immortally known in the epic for anything, it was in being labelled as the first traitor in epical chronology. “Ghar ka bhedi, Lanka dhaaye” is a common adage very popular in North India. Had he not told Rama that Ravana has nectar stored in his navel making him immortal, how would Rama ever have known where to shoot his ultimate arrow that became the end of Ravana? But despite everything, even Rama acknowledged his brave foe and had Lakshmana and others bow down to Ravana in his final moments." The teacher on hearing this spontaneously came over to him and hugged him. He only said, "I love your thoughts Raghu but you and Kush, he said looking at me, for the examination paper do please write only Rama as the answer to who killed Ravana."

Kush remembered clapping on hearing this story, the likes of it which not even Valmiki had stated so clearly with a perspective so different. Raghu had smiled at me then like he was doing now and I had gone over and shaken hands with him. From that moment on we were inseparable. I couldn’t have said the same thing just as beautifully.

While Raghu could be articulate and garrulous he could also be just as crisp and concise. In that one phrase “It’s the Vibhishana Syndrome all over again” he had sifted through the chaff and straight gone to the core of the matter. I nodded smilingly and blew out a ring.

Kush looked at Raghu lounging comfortably beaming looking into the infinity much like he had seen his cats do. Then he shared, "You know Raghu it is not the first time today. When I had gone to visit my folks to give them my book, I have no clue as to why my sister at that time spewed venom. It was pure spite at work and looked at my parents in whose house I was then waiting for them to admonish her on that tirade. But no, it went on and on and on. It was not her tirade that hurt as much as their being quiet. That silence to me then drove my mind to another epical scene and instead of my parents all I saw was that I was in the court of Hastinapura. In place of my father I saw the blind king Dhritarashtra, in my mother’s face I could see the erstwhile princess of Gandhar, Gandhari. My sister’s Dubai returned husband was not on the scene but I could sense his presence and in his place I could only picture Shakuni and on the tirade spewing shrewish lady, I could only see Duryodhana. It was bizarre the scene. At one point I would have got angry but was only hurt as I had no intent to do battle but an invisible bow in my hand twanged. What is happening? Am I going bonkers?

Raghu waited a moment, closed his eyes and then looked at Kush with a blazing bright light shining from his eyes.

Kush could feel the intelligence, knowledge and the power of that gaze on him and again floated on to another page of Rishi Vyas’s epic. He could feel the dirt beneath his feet and at a distance saw his parents mounted on chariots in the battlefield of Kurukshetra and then Raghu began to speak.

“Ahhh!!!” exclaimed, Raghu. “Ahhh!!!! the parental trap , the sisterly avarice and a host of other things is it?” So your parents have crossed over to the other side and are trying to boost up their other child? Have you examined the ‘Why’ of it? Did you ponder over it? Look at your hands holding the smoke. I could just see a bow but the hands were quivering. There was a burst of confused uncertain energy waiting to cut loose but held back from a lack of understanding.

"My friend" said Raghu "You have been ambushed. Betrayal from one’s own is not an easy pill to swallow or face, especially when you do not know or see a reason for it. Let us begin at the beginning. Your epical flitting from one page to another is but natural. You are in shock. And when the soul faces extreme shock it separates from the mortal body and travels and sits onto another, in this case the symbolic characters from the epics who have faced something very very similar."

Let us start with the Vibhishana syndrome. You saw Ravana today in the mirror. You have been projected as the villain of the piece but consciously examine the fact that are you really the villain here? Who was envious of Ravana? His youngest sibling. That is exactly what is happening here. Vibhishana before leaving the court of Lanka during Rama’s siege must have given a sanctimonious speech to his far more just, capable and talented elder. I am sure Valmiki’s vocabulary was limited and constrained. It may have been richer when he had been n led a fisherman's life than after he became a sage. He could never use real  profanity while he was penning his first book in his sage avatar, but had it been the times of today, Valmiki would have used the exact words she spoke, on the mouth of Vibhishana filled with the same venomous righteousness and expletives. Vibhishana was shit scared and when a person who is in a delusion that he is righteous and entitled to all the royal things that Ravana seems to possess he becomes vicious. All sanctimonious schmucks when provoked are like so, absolutely greedy, supremely secure in their addled minds that they are righteous and attack the quietly able. That is what happened here as well. You not reacting to that tirade would have not just emboldened her but given her a sense of correctness and momentary victory. At the end of the day what is Vibhishana known as or for; The betrayal of all things worthy and worthwhile. His value system never was the value system of Ravana. This is precisely what shall happen here. Now bear in mind one thing that they are afraid of you and hence do this, not because of anything else but the fact is unlike Vibhishana who knew the nectar was in Ravana’s navel. Your sister does not know where your nectar is? While you do see Ravana in the mirror, you never ever see Ravana dead because he shall not die in our epic.

Ravana was not too bothered about Vibhishana because he was a nobody. He was only hurt that a family member would choose to crossover to the side of an enemy and betray him. Here too the Vibhishana in our story is equally a metabolic waste. The best one can do with metabolic waste is flush it down the drain.

Now let us come to the second epic and what you see. Your hand may itch for your bow but let it remain there for the moment. In this projection of the images is the stage beyond just betrayal. You have seen the characterizations spot on. This now is a story of the Immoral Silences

The Blind king Dhritarashtra has an entitlement mindset and feels that he is the real king of Hastinapura which was a kingdom actually being run n administered by the regent Bhishma. The subjects merely tolerated the blind man with good humour since he was symbolically on the throne and that did make him king. His queen Gandhari capable though she was has willfully put a blindfold on her eyes. This is because she too knows from the time of birth that her favourite child is ill omen-ed. You may never understand the guilt of a mother on having to face this truth that her offspring is a good for nothing. In order to avoid seeing this truth that could be mirrored to her from the eyes of her world, what does she do? She wraps her eyes closed with a blind fold. Then she plots n plans to set things right for this defective piece. 

Now what happens when you have extremely poor raw material to work with in the first place, how much ever you design well, it just does not have the ability to stand up to the other one that is not. This is her biggest grouse , her frustration and problem. When her effort to prop up the faulty piece fails, the only way to make her two offsprings equal (thank god there are no 100 here, then she would have gone cuckoo much earlier ) is to bring down the able person to the faulty one’s level. The faulty piece has no ability but is full of ambition, the entitlement mindset and the sheer greed inherent to her keeps fueling this guilt in the mother and also feed the misplaced superiority felt by the blind father. This is a self-serving strategy for inheriting the entire kingdom of Hastinapur, without even sparing the mere five villages for the other,you. And these have not even been asked for yet or may not ever be. 

Shakuni is an interesting character. He came back from Gandhar ( read from somewhere outside, like the Middle East, where he had been actually happy and to some extent, even productive ) to find himself as a flunky in the court of Dhritarashtra playing second fiddle to even his own Duryodhana ( the wife in our story ). Now he fuels Duryodhana’s ambition to usurp Hastinapur which he shall tacitly rule knowing Duryodhana has no interest in the actual ruling part but is merely happy to be sitting on the throne, seen as superior and the ruler. The first plot is hatched by Shakuni and it gets put into action smoothly and very well. This was what you did not understand my friend. Here Shakuni too is frustrated both with himself and Duryodhana because there is a fly in the ointment; you, who may not allow his grandiose scheme to succeed. He is smart and sly, and he shall never ever declare himself by coming out in the open. Hence he chooses to remain away and absent himself from most apparent battles, what you sensed is correct. He is very much around and in hiding. The sole purpose is to destroy Hastinapura and Dhritarashtra.

These are some of the dots of your story my friend, will you now be able to now join them? Each one is a distinctly separate dot and there are quite a few of them. You thought it was just the one done dot, greed. You were angry with the displayed greed and it being projected as if you are the one wanting it all. The dot’s are many in reality, what you are up against is a medley of issues; a veritable bhelpuri of misplaced values, like entitlement, robbery,  misogyny, avarice or greed, hate, spite, guilt, sly manipulations, blatant untruths and above all the absolute unfairness of it all.It is very complex this tug of war because the individual motivations also are at cross-purposes with one another. You are the symbolic target for this game of darts. Since they obviously can't throw them at one another they have chosen the rather far residing fall guy. 

Remember my friend, this too shall pass. You shall overcome.

Raghu has done it again; brought forth a new perspective. With clarity comes in a vision and when a vision is sharp and focused the target is clear. 

Suddenly the shoulders of Kush straighten up, his face flushes with energy of an impending battle. Raghu’s words made him tighten the bow string of his imaginary Gandiva Bow. He looks ahead and sees himself standing on the front line of Kurukshetra. He had not started this fight, but a fight had been brought to him. He was damned if he was going to walk away from it, without taking all of them on. The result of the battle did not matter to him now. In his ears he heard the resounding Twanggggggggg of his bowstring.  All he felt like saying was “The Gandiva is ready and in my hand. Now come forth you scum!!!”

An old man walking by on the street below see's Kush standing alone on a higher floor smoking calmly, his eyes glowing with a fierce light of a fight in them. He gets startled by this smouldering quiet look and almost stumbles. Looking up again, the man also see's him in conversation with someone standing alongside and is truly puzzled that he does not see anyone.

27 September, 2017

Flight of Fancy

The writer of this account had a life threatening accident. He was riding home on a two wheeler and was hit on the highway. Luckily some good Samaritans picked him up and hospitalized him quickly. Here after 3 intricate surgeries and 40 odd days of being bedridden under observation he was discharged to only spend a further two months at home before he could be up and about. The blessings and goodwill of loved ones played its part in the recovery. But this hit and run incident wiped clean off the memory of how and why it happened as he had surfaced to consciousness a clean 5 days after being bumped off. This is a flight of fancy ... a reconstruction of what may have transpired during then

The flight...

Gee, it is really cold, brrr, almost chill and I wrapped my arms around myself. It didn’t work. The wind whipped my hair around, entered my ears. I tried to open my eyes but the lids were dull and heavy. I fought against their weight and just about managed to sneak a peek. Oh!!!!  My!!!!  God!!!!  Is this real? It must be…but how??? …was I flying ?  I was flying.

This certainly was not the flying by free will that one's dreams are made up of. I was whipping through the air and clouds like a misshapen projectile shot out from a giant catapult. The phrase that popped up inadvertently into the mind drew out a smile. How could it ever have been shapely? No particular gym had seen this body subjected to workouts for long, ever. Then the mind got back to what exactly was happening here. Is this a dream, it asked? But my eyes were now partially open and not even watering. Then again if it was a dream wouldn’t I be flying gently, gliding or soaring and not go like this? Bammmmm ... came a sound, it was loud yet curiously, and my ears did not hurt. Had I broken the sound barrier now? One logical part of the same mind acknowledged this possibility as well. I was shooting up and then it happened, Cleaving through a rather thick bank of clouds I landed outside the gates of a rather largish estate.

The landing and the wall ...

The landing was soft but now my eyes could open fully and it was cold, not extremely chilly anymore. I got up and looked around. This was a curiously familiar ethos. This looked very much like the mist of some of the places I had been to and even read about. It was bright with light though the sun was not to be seen yet the visibility was no more than 15 to 20 feet. It could have been Ladakh in winter or Ireland in summer or even a

Kodaikanal in late November; it could be any of these places.  I was closer to the estate hence its wall and gate was all that was apparent to the eye, the mist obscured the topography of the terrain around me.

I approached the gate and he came out smiling. I was so glad to be warmly received. Having no clue on how long the ride was wherever that I had landed it became apparent that the people here are of a friendly disposition. The bearded face that looked at me was sun browned and the eyes were darkly piercing yet warm. His white gold bordered Jellabiya shone purely. The flowing jellabiya is a garment that I had last seen worn in Egypt so was this Egypt? But it was too cold to be that country. Was this some other place in Arabia, I wondered?  Looking beyond him at the gate there was a small tent on which I could make out a poster design of a young girl, fresh, beautiful with a number written alongside her. On closer observation I saw that it was the number 72.

My mind jumped back to a memory of the number and its absolute certainty in my financial life. Yes, 72 for me stood for the rule of 72. Divide the number 72 by the rate of interest and one arrives at the period in number of years when ones money would double and vice versa. Kooky and wild though the thought was it did make sense for the number, though I could not figure out this advertisement or the lovely damsel’s poster. Maybe here was a travelling salesman who sold financial products.

 I raised my eyebrow and the man smiled gleefully and said “Welcome to Jannat”. “Whatttt ??? Jannat as in … Heaven??? It was as if he heard my thought and preempted all the additional questions that would have naturally followed. Yes, the man answered, this is Jannat and that what you see is my tent and yes there really are 72 virgins for pure souls when they enter here. This just blew my mind. Incredulously, I asked him are you for real? And he looked at me closely from head to toe as if all of me was visible to him even with my clothes on. He said gently, son this is Jannat and since you were not a Muslim, let me ask you something, Have you lost your way again, like you usually do? This man sure was full of surprises and it was really puzzling; how does he know that I lose my way often? He said you seem like a Hindu hence this is neither your gate nor destination. He pointed with a finger saying follow the wall and go to the opposite side of this gate. There you would meet Chitragupt the man who may know something about your being here.

Educated and how...

I again looked inside the gate and saw that the estate had many gates cut out into this one wall that circled it. I thanked him and asked curiously, Heaven, Jannat, Swarg or whatever that is inside these walls are they housed in separate buildings like dormitories or is it a common condominium like a co-operative housing society with different wings? He asked me is this confusion that is residing in your mind about faith and religion? I nodded in the affirmative. He looked amused and asked did you expect that Swarg and Jannat or Heaven would be different from each other? I again nodded a yes. Are all religions different, he asked me? And he could read the yes in my eyes and continued. Suddenly his energetic lively eyes sparkling with vigour attained a very sombre but wise hue as he talked. He said at the very core of the practice of faith lies a thought. This thought is a morality and morality by itself is not different in any religion practiced by all you down there. The reason I looked at you and you noticed my Jellabiya robe is the second moot point of religion that you need to understand, which is, identity. This in a nutshell is what all religions or faith is all about Morality and Identity. Faiths are united by morality and separated by identity.

Then he smilingly said everything inside is common, it is the same deep inside. You guys who live in the kingdom below could never digest the uniformity or the sameness. There everyone wants to be different, to be seen different and you formed these sororities or clubs. You named them Faiths or Religions.  Then for administration and differentiation you made guidebooks, rules and conduct manuals for each club. Some became bestsellers without being completely read like the Bible, the Gita and the Koran. This segregation limited your understanding and hence for the rite of passage when mortals complete their journey and come here we adopted the approach of you our customers. Having lived by one manual all your life how will you know that you have come to the right place? It is for your ease and comfort that we have made these different gates. The supposed good souls find their way here else for the others there is Dozakh, Hell, Pataal etc. It’s only different at the entry point and our record-keeping roles got divided, what we had envisaged as a role for one guy is now split into many. You mortals have created excess employment up here. I am in charge of the Islamic entries. Before you reach your Hindu gate to Swarg manned by Chitragupt, you would pass the pearly gates of Simon Peter who is in charge there for the Christians. I asked him “Your name is hardly ever mentioned by my Muslim friends only a fleeting reference was made once by an old uncle who had mentioned Ridwan. Are you Ridwan? He smiled and I found myself in this strange place, outside a wall and a gate that had a tent just inside, talking to a man who surprisingly quoted the great bard “What’s in a name, a rose by any other name smells just as sweet”.

The transit towards ...

I was rather enjoying our conversation but since I was not on his catalogue he seemed to have lost interest in me and he turned to go back to his position. I thanked him and started walking in the direction pointed out by him. The pearly gates had a bright shiny neon sign announcing HEAVEN. One just could not miss it. The sign glowed brightly and colourfully like a casino signage from Nevada, Las Vegas, so dazzlingly brazen was it. As I walked by, a spotlight caught me and a kindly looking gent sitting on a high seat inside the gates in a starched white robe raised a hand and shouted ‘Howdy’? I nodded back with a smile and a thumbs-up and kept going on. The spotlight followed me for a while and then it was gone.

I kept walking and soon saw a grand wooden carved gate similar to that of a few temples I had seen and been to before. The word Swarg was inscribed on it in various languages. I just could make out Devnagari and Sanskrit, the curls on a few letters indicated a south Indian language while one of the others was unmistakably Bengali. A perverse part of me was convinced that it would be Bhodrolok written to improve the feel good factor for the Bangla’s. What relationship does Class and being genteel have with heaven, absolutely nothing for any other Indian but a Bengali? For him, it is imperative that he is a Bhodroloki.

The gates were closed and there was nobody around. I knocked on the gate which created a dull thwack and before I could knock again letters started rearranging themselves on the door. I could not believe what I was reading. They said, you have reached us in our siesta time which is between one & four, kindly take your token and stand in the line if there is one or wait for the hour. My mind instantly jumped to the conclusion and even as I tried to brush away the scandalous thought, the possibility of its truth would not go away. Like the brash guy I was, I found the words slipping out from my mouth not of my own volition. “This dude Chitragupt must be from Pune.”

CG & the heavenly chatter...

I too sensed a languor creeping up on me and I sat where it indicated that a line must be formed, leaned back against the wall and dozed off. Reaching here had tired me and had not realized it. Before long I was fast asleep and curiously the chill absent so far crept back into me. Just as the cold got uncomfortable, I felt a tap on my shoulder that woke me with a start. I was being stared at by a fair face that had mischief written all over it. The blue tinted grey eyes that looked at me were amused. Apologetically smiling with a sheepish look I got up and folded my hands in the traditional salute, Namaskar.

He too smiled back and said”I am Chitragupt. Why don’t we go into my chamber?” Befuddled with sleep I got up and followed him without question. Quite unlike Ridwan’s tent or St.Peter’s box in the sky, Chitragupt’s quarters at the gate were really spacious. He led me through a large assembly hall into a room that looked onto another conference room which had an attached library. From there he walked into a small private meeting room where he gestured for me to sit. A table and two chairs, he took one and offered me the other. Looking around I saw a framed portrait of a dark skinned mustached man on a buffalo who could have been none other than the god of death Yama. “Your chambers are pretty snazzy unlike the tent or the cabin I saw, back there at the Jannat & Pearly Gates”. He nodded laughingly “but then I am answerable to 33 crore beings in here and a few billion outside”.

I was seriously intrigued and asked him the question that I had been avoiding for a long time.

“Hey CG”, I said and he looked up with a start interrupting me right there, “What did u call me?” I smiled back and said “CG… SeeGee isn’t it cooler than calling you Mr.Chitragupt or Shri.Chitragupt or Maharaj Chitragupt, what say you?” He nodded and said that Maharaj would definitely be inappropriate as he wasn’t a king, Mr.Chitragupt sounded incongruous while Shri.Chitragupt made him feel like a baba with an ashram on earth which wasn’t right either, had I been there could have been a candidate for an arrest. So I asked him how the people before me addressed him. To which he answered, nothing, they were too awed and simply passed him by when their name was confirmed in the register. So I asked him where this register of his is.  He gestured towards a filing cabinet full of scrolls that I had not noticed earlier and said the older ones are in the archives. Then again I asked him aren’t you going to check mark my name in that, why did you bring me here for this discussion? Do I belong here at all? He smiles back and replies in my exact diction “No dude, you don’t.” This cleared a few lines on my forehead and I nodded, I knew it was too good to be true that I would find a place in heaven. Looking at my crestfallen expression his face softened and said no dude, I do have both the registers one of Swarg (heaven) and the other of Narak (hell) and your name figures in neither. I slapped my forehead in disgust … this was happening to me all over again.

It had taken me back to the time I was looking for my result on the engineering polytechnic notice board. It was the first year examination result displayed. I had started searching my number in the list of numbers that had cleared the examination. Cockily I had started from the top most category of “Passed with Distinction”. Not finding my number there my glance had reluctantly started looking down towards the First Class, then Second class and finally Pass class. Not finding my name there, I stoically had searched for my number in the list of failures only to find it was not there either. Right at the bottom of the displayed result sheet was a small asterisk marked number, it was mine and it said “Result held in reserve”. Not understanding the meaning I had gone and found that the examiner had erroneously marked me absent, instead of the candidate ahead of me on one examination paper. When I had proven that I had indeed attended, the result was revised and ended up with my expected distinction, but it had taken a painful 15 days. That result did not give me as much pleasure as the pain felt because of the procedural anomaly. I looked at CG and he said smilingly no…it is not anything like that case. On my raised eyebrow he said “It is because you aren’t dead yet. This was not your time.”

I was zapped into silence for a moment but only for a moment and CG patiently allowed me the time to compose myself and spit out the question that formed on my lips. Am I not here? What is this then that is here, I demanded an answer? He said what is here is your incomplete soul. Unless your soul is all complete no one finds that their time has come. As to why are you here and before you ask me what of you is incomplete, I shall tell you. This would not and could not have been cleared at the gate hence I brought you here for our tête-à-tête. You speak French too? And he said we do have Hindu’s all over the globe and those who grow up wherever they are born end up speaking that language. I am a linguist, as a gatekeeper host I have to be one don’t I now, he said without any modesty. But this is not about me let us talk about you. Why are you here? Well..he sighed and remarked ‘you were in a hurry. You may not remember and this episode of ours later would also get erased from your mind from starting off as a faint memory. You have had an accident, where your two-wheeler got knocked over in a hit and run. But it was just that, an accident, it was neither your fault nor that of the vehicle that brushed you and sped off. You got knocked over and your mortal remains are lying below in the hospital being reassembled together by a team of very excellent surgeons. The force of the knock dislodged the soul from your body and it simply speeded up here.

As to why are you not eligible for admission here, is not because the roster of your deeds are so dark that you would be denied a seat. It is only because you are not a complete soul. We have had a case like this some centuries ago and that case went into a discussion of right and wrong in the heavenly courts and that guy he pointed out to Yama’s picture on the wall lost the case. He blew his top then because being a god and in charge of the dual functions of Death and Justice he could never envisage nor stomach the loss but lose he did. Ohhh, so you guys make errors too, I chortled gleefully. He smiled ruefully, chuckled and said in a conspiratorial tone. He is my boss, Yama. He is in charge of this department of assigning numbers to people on their journey’s end on earth and also looks after the transportation logistics of souls. Rarely there comes a case like yours who is here all by himself. Normally the soul comes along with Yama riding pillion on the mighty buffalo Paundraka. The buffalo also had protested once that Yama must not be eating all the high calorie sweets that he is fond of and the humongous quantities of meats he gorges with starchy accompaniments like Nan’s , Butter Roti’s and Paratha’s. He has gained enormous weight. I looked at him and said I like Yama already and to my utter surprise the god in the picture on the wall winked at me and smiled. The last time I had seen this happen in a photograph was in the photo frames hanging on the walls of Hogwarts, the school, in the movie. There was a Harry Potter’ish kind of magic happening here in the reception room of Swarg and now I had reached a level of acceptance where nothing surprised me any longer. Hmmm continue I said and CG started saying Paundraka is a he buffalo and very quick because he is born out of the thighs of the Rudra avatar of the mighty Shiva. Buffaloes are normally assumed to be senseless and this one is dark because ‘death is unknown’ said I completing his sentence and he was surprised to which I told him, some of us on earth too read sometimes. The Rig Veda I said, says that Yama’s Buffalo is symbolically dark and senseless like the death that befalls every being irrespective of age, gender, class, time or even reason and CG nodded so I asked him ‘ don’t you have animal activists here , like those PETA fellows, who protest for Paundraka being overworked and overloaded? To which CG smiled Paundraka is capable of handling himself pretty well and while Yama feels he is in command most times it is the buffalo who rules the logistics. If Yama acts cocky and arrogant then Paundraka is known to have bucked and thrown him off and never let him get back on till he right properly is apologized to. But why are we discussing his buffalo, we were discussing the case. 

The case that Yama lost ...

I nodded and he said it was that of Satyavan the soul who was identified by Yama to be brought here. I listened with rapt attention. This was the case that brought into focus the chapter of the complete soul as defined by the 8th avatar of Vishnu, the naughty Krishna. Krishna he said thrice had to show his Vishwaroopam or the fact that he is a god on earth to his kin and family. The first time was to mother Yashoda by widely opening his mouth when he had gobbled up her butter and she was quite pissed off. The second time was in the court of Hastinapura where Duryodhana wanted to capture him when he had gone there as the messenger & emissary of peace. It was in his third attempt, when he showed his form to Arjuna and spewed out the Gita that explained and crystallized the definition of a complete soul. Satyavan’s lawyer was his canny wife Savitri and she challenged Yama who had already picked up Satyavan’s soul and was mounted on Paundraka to be on his way back. Now look at the case. Savitri and Satyavan was a young couple in love and I still don’t know what made my boss pick his name as a candidate to be brought here. Savitri served Yama a notice and told him that she would take him to the divine court and sue him. My boss scoffed at her and she hauled him up right there. There in an assembly of the mightiest she demonstrated a legal skill that has been the stuff of legends here in swarglok. Yama was the defendant and he defended his side well but Savitri was someone who he had not bargained for. The lady quoted the Gita and asked Yama for evidence of the soul in his possession. Yama produced the soul of Satyavan and Savitri challenged him stating that how did he assume that the soul was completely Satyavan’s? Yama showed the assembly of gods Satyavan’s likeness and again Savitri asked him whether he would let her accompany Satyavan? To which Yama flatly refused stating that he absolutely would not as her time had not come.

By saying this Yama had unknowingly fallen into the lady’s trap. She challenged Yama and beseeched Dhanvantri to act as the pathologist for the prosecution and examine the evidence presented by Yama in totality and requested him to check specially whether Satyavan’s soul was complete in all aspects. Dhanvantri examined the soul and said that the soul is complete as all parts of it were present. Yama roared with triumph accusing her of wasting the court’s time. Then Savitri asked Dhanvantri to examine the heart of Satyavan in the soul and establish whether it was indeed Satyavan’s? Dhanvantri re-examined this time in detail and came back to give evidence. Yama and the entire court looked at him in anticipation and bated breath. His voice rang out clearly the heart in Satyavan’s soul is not Satyavan’s but Savitri’s. The wily Savitri then requested the court that Satyavan’s heart beat inside her and hers was with him and since Yama had categorically refused to let her enter Swarg it not being her time, it was then by the law-of-entry of full and complete souls not Satyavan’s time either. Both of them should be returned back. Yama was humbled and graciously then accepted his defeat at the hands of a master practitioner of the law.

This was the case that happens to be the precedent to your lack of eligibility. Your mind and soul body is here but your heart beats in someone who is standing at your bedside waiting for you to open your mortal eyes. So go with god my friend said he and escorted me back to the gate of swarg. I was astonished to find Paundraka the black buffalo standing there waiting for me. CG said he is your ride back. I smiled at CG, and folded my hands in a namaskar and bid him goodbye. I stroked Paundraka and the huge black buffalo looked at me nuzzled me and purred like my fat cat. As I mounted him he leisurely loped at first then broke into a gallop and then took off and within a blink of an eye he had dislodged me on bed no.6 of the Fortis hospital in Mulund, Mumbai. 

Back to to the where it all began ...

My soul just seamlessly entered the body ... and something kicked inside of it with that entry. I started to ache but my eye opened and was looking into the warm brown eyes of my woman. The strength in her flowed into me as did my life and zest. People started running around my bed; nurses, ward boys and even a doctor. He came closer and shone his torch right into my eyes. The contracting pupils told him the medical story he was searching for. Then he commented, “it was five days back that you were brought here and now you surface, good, you never intended to really die did you?” I looked at him strangely and told him but I did talk to Chitragupt. That started him on a furious head shaking action. Before he walked away, he whispered to my wife, “the knock on his head has been pretty severe, he may ramble senselessly like this for a few more days, so don’t worry. I just held on to her hand, closed my eyes and went off to sleep. 

13 March, 2017

Badrinath ki Dulhaniya – A Spirited Sequel

In 2014 Shashank Khaitan made ‘Humpty Sharma ki Dulhaniya’ with Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhavan and 2017 sees the same trio have a go at it again and Humpty Sharma morphs into Badrinath Bansal from Jhansi.

There is something extremely charming about the Desi hinterland that has claimed most of the cinema space in recent years. The charm lies in the fact that the Desi is hip ... this was a barrier that existed for long not just in Cinema but in all of the visible media space in any field. Strangely this barrier was blown to smithereens in the field of cricket by a lad from Ranchi who stormed into the team to captain it and lift the world cup bringing the country honor's of kinds it had seen only decades ago. Mahendra Singh Dhoni with his wacky hair do his cool quotient and consistent performance made the Desi look cool beyond everything seen, heard or experienced before. Could Cinema the virtual mirror of a changing society have remained very far behind?

Everyone now rushes out of Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata and the location ethos has moved to places like Gurgaon, Haryana, Jaipur in Rajasthan to now Jhansi and Kota in this film. From here the Desi boy and girl fearlessly steps out of the country and becomes International. Gone are the days when international necessarily meant you were big city Urban and Polished. Now the edgy unfinished Desi also fearlessly expresses and achieves his dreams and those aren’t small anymore. That apart, here we walk into a classical stereotype father of the North – Central India.

Retrograde customs like dowry are bandied about along with the gender inequality with absolute casual impunity. A girl child being a liability and the boy kid being an asset sets the tone of the film for the ethos that grooms such a mindset in society. So here we have a tenth pass Badrinath the second son of a counting machine of a father in Rituraj ( quite credible ) who is by profession a moneylender but never is seen lending or receiving money. Badri does extort for his father in his informal recovery department and in one such case wrangles out an invite for a wedding of a borrower, at Kota. In the marriage Badri runs into the fiery, spunky, extremely articulate Vaidehi of a service goer father ( Swanand Kirkire, the poet, singer and Music director in reality ). She who has been cheated and jilted in her prior attempt at love has now given up the idea of “holy matrimony” despite being of an eligible age. She would rather see her elder sister married off first.

Now we enter another regressive methodology called persistent stalking that climaxes into a scene where the girl is virtually picked up, kidnapped and dumped into the boot of a car and whisked away by the hero who has been rebuffed by her time and again. Yet he is so charming and sincere and otherwise well mannered and in today’s times won’t hurt to call him sanskari either. He proposes marriage first having seen two instances of loving a partner not working favorably; one in his house with his otherwise quiet brother who enjoys a tipple on the rooftop terrace every single day. In the memory of a past love in whose place he has been wedded to a Shweta Prasad (the talented child star from Makdee and Iqbal who now looks extremely fetching in a sari ). The plot is so wafer thin that in a food analogy it seems like the proverbial yet very well made Chiwda in the first half and turns into bland popcorn in the second,as it travels to Singapore.

Yet it is a splendid easy going watch of a film simply because of the energetic pair of Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhavan who have sensational onscreen chemistry that they simply sparkle. Close your eyes and the light hearted romance resembles that of a Govinda film of the 90’s where you were expected to leave your thinking cells at home. Varun Dhavan has grown up on them; what with his father David having directed most of them. 

The songs are hummable and fun; from the boisterous " Aashiq Surrender Hua"  to the melodious " Humsafar" and "Roke na Ruke Naina" and the zingy title track "Badri Ki Dulhaniya"  

While Alia is as usual on the button with her performance, it is Varun Dhavan who injects sweetness into his Badrinath and so totally looks the part and always remains in character. It is a must watch for all those who love the honest to goodness, lack of pretense, of a Bollywood 'Mad Masala Movie'. 

27 December, 2016

The Bakhleone Chronicles : The Nagpur Nuptials

Disclaimer: This is an account and a tale entirely inspired from fact and stretched as much as could be allowed in the realm of fun. Very little is fiction. This writer was assigned box seats and an insider kin pass for close in observation.
This is a closed group account and not an open read. Only those associated with the Bakhleone family in any fashion would be able to relate to this and it should not be made compulsory for the author to fork out explanations on what, how or why...he just may not answer and is not legally bound to either.

Circa 1st Dec 2016

A light wind rose up in a sunny afternoon on the island city that is the commercial capital of this country. It blew all around in tufts and gusts. It sneaked in through an open slit into the apartment and ruffled the pages of a book and the cover of a DVD lying on the table. Godfather was the book and Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge the cinema disc cover.
The tail end of the same wind found the apartment’s occupant boarding a flight. It went right in through the ears and nose as the doors closed behind him. He carried it with him in his journey. This wind was mischievous and his soul traversed all through New York, Sicily and some yellow flowered sarson da khet in the North while the plane flew on high in the easterly direction.

An hour and some minutes later
The flight taxied down a runway, albeit 45 minutes behind schedule. Firm hands held on to wrinkled mature ones and the pair negotiated steps and slopes. Anybody watching would assume from this picture, that they knew who was supporting whom. Reality though was in complete variance. It was a symbiotic support game. Youth, aided the resolve of maturity to negotiate a distant geography and meet a decided objective while maturity held in check the wayward flights of exuberant youth.

They were kin. It was a happy occasion and a celebratory event that this party had flown over to attend. A Sicilian marriage insisted the wind in the youth. Closing his eyes for a moment before calling up his contact there, he just imagined the set that would await them. Was it a movie? The wind inside answered in the affirmative. He just raised his hands up heavenwards and gave up fighting with the wind.


Location                                : Village Corleone, Sicily commonly known in these parts as Dhantoli, Nagpur

The Movie                              : The wind inside insisted it should be “Dilwalene dulhaniya pataa to li, aur dono baapon ko mana bhi liya, ab woh usey ghar laa riyaa hai” he subdued the wind saying this was too ridiculously long a title. It should be something short, such that the viewers can recount it easily. Even the acronym was much longer than a DDLJ… it must be something nicer like say “The Winter Wedding” (He had to call it sumthin…MayLaka, LakaMay naa naa … ChinSha???? huhhh yessss it was “ChinSha Express ”, the card had declared it so...that was perfect.

Producer                               : WinWonChin productions

Main Assistant Director          : Don WinOye

Directed By                             : Lady WonDonna


• ChinmOye Bakhleone: (The Lead) 
The handsome young lad headed into everything with his chin out; Brave, Heroic, Charming, Impish, Talented yet he could also be a smiling bumblebee… one who bumbled first into a sticky situation, took a quiet yet hard sock on his chin, yelled an “oye” and then fought his way out of the same in his trademark style.

• Shawl a.k.a. TeaWorry: (The Leading Lady)
She was the princess of the Orange Orchards. She could and did squeeze out the best orange juice from a fruit. Chai though remained her single largest concern. She need not have ever been disturbed by this at all, because the world liked what she did brew, but somehow though her worry persisted and refused to go away. Her single point agenda in recent times was to keep ChinmOye warm. Like the charming and visionary vixen she was she had devised a technique. Wrap arms around ChinmOye like a shawl and create cosy warmth. So we call her Shawl a.k.a. TeaWorry, now you know … so please don’t ask again.

• WinOye Bakhleone: (Main Asst. Director)
Don Bakhleone was what he was respectfully addressed and known as. The Don had an intense, quiet and calm manner and then he would make everyone an offer that they could not refuse. The offer would be cool and balanced as was his forte; he was Dhantoli’s book keeper extraordinaire and ruled the Accounting, Banking, Hospitality syndicate of the Bakhleone Empire also called the B'Company.

• WonDonna Bakhleone: (director)
The basketball prima donna of the empire, she was the only one who could manage DonWinOye with panache by keeping her 32 pearls on constant display. They were lethal these teeth, when they flashed out into a smile, it was a killer smile, the world around her turned to putty that she could twist and shape into in any way she wanted. One often could, would and did miss the steel in her eye on most occassions. This lady was tough beneath her very charming shell.

• Pasha Bakhleone:
The younger brother of DonWinOye, had he been born in Arabia he would have been the Pasha, mounting white steeds and riding away into the wind with a smile on his lips and a world to charm into submission. Here he made do with mobikes and cars. The Pasha was a Banker and the Consigliore of this syndicate, he handled the banking vertical. His being charming and loquacious made him but the natural choice to head the reception committee, the role became him.

• AlpsAana Bakhleone :
The Banker Pasha was smitten by her the minute he saw her in the “Kanda-Poha+Tikhat Shev” programme he had attended many moons ago. As a banker, knowing Switzerland was vidhilikhit someday to his fate, he proposed to her in the only manner he could … “Mere saath AlpsAaana pasand karogi?” and how could the light eyed damsel ever have said no to that?

• She Wahh!! Lee:
Pasha and AlpsAana in their spiritual union conceived a wide eyed, smiling tot of a child who was so enamoured by the Bruce that whenever Bruce came on the TV screen and smashed somebody the child would exclaim loudly every time with a gleeful gurgle of a laugh…Wahh!! Lee…since the child was a She, they named her so, what real choice did they have?

• SuchIt Bakhleone:
He was the younger one, the first cousin of WinOye and Pasha…and they were close, all of them. They came from the “Esh” lineage of the Bakhleone branch…the Elder sibling had been Surésh. His philosophy was music or music was his philosophy, now this is a detailing lost in family folklore, while SuchIt’s dad is the venerable ROMésh . This could have been the reasoning behind the IT in SuchIT ( dad has ROM beta has IT ), but he had extended the syndicate into the healthcare vertical. Such was his quiet diligence to every single task assigned to him, It was a given, that show him a target and it would be hit. He naturally became famous as SuchHit.

• SuperrrrNaahhh  Bakhleone:
SuchIt had liked one of the girls he had seen. This one was an educationist. SuchIt had suggested softly to her that could they be friends first and marry later or maybe even try a live-in? To that the girl had so vehemently screamed a “Naahhh” at him in the inside room they were given to talk, that an elder sitting outside remarked, what a Superrrr pitch this girl can reach with her voice. They got hitched and SuperrrrNaahhh was what her title came to be.

• MannaLee & WarOn :
MannaLee was the elder offspring of SuchIt & SuperrrNaahh, one could speculate that the daughter had firmed up that she would branch out into designing structures having seen the way their dwelling rose up, and was an architect in the making. The younger kid was at once a combo of high energy & mild manners who gave an impression that he always needs a war to survive and thrive, he was named WarOn.

• The Council of Elders:
This council was a very well liked, looked upon with a lot of affection & respect and consisted of 4 dinosaurs. They were not Dino’s as much as Dhantoli was not a Jurassic Park, far from it; they were far more mature than the extinct species. They showered the Don, The Pasha, The SuchIt, their superior halves and offspring with equal and more, love, warmth and wisdom; As and when they felt it was necessary or required while most other times they stayed well away.
SueB or Sue Ricotta Bakhleone had her name shortened to SueRico because she didn’t like to be named after a cheese, she wasn't cheesy. She was the most calming, pleasant influence with a smile that radiated warmth on all those who came in her range. ROMesh we met earlier was a man of leisure now and happy to swat flies with accuracy on his ultra wide balcony when he was not out walking.
PromoD his younger brother, after ending his younger day association with Dilli had hunted around for another village where he could build a house and settle down. He had but one condition and was pretty fixed about this. The village name should begin with a D, he had grown to liking his name so much he didn’t want to remove the D in it and change it now. That’s why Dhantoli met all his criteria and PromoD(illi) became PromoD(hantoli) and none was the wiser.
UrrrrMeLawB was the final member of this council and equally pleasant as SueB, she was the better half of ROMeshB and generally managed him pretty well with an unbeatable poise. In their apartment her word was the law.

The Crew
This consisted of extras who fancied themselves as stars. They handled the necessary and important tasks of locomotion and transportation of the guests. They also fed them by keeping the food ready as and when required; they were accomplished Drivers, Maids and Cooks. There was one though who acted above his station, the cook. He fancied himself to be so important in the hierarchy of things that in his own mind he was just as relevant as the priest who would conduct the marriage ceremony. Ask him any question and he would “pun” out an answer that could be read in ways more than one. After delivering his pun he would end it with ab khao or Eat. The family was quite  used to this foible of his and tolerated it generously. They even started calling him “PunnedEat”.

These were the animals that lived in this zoo. A few others lived there too but they were strictly the accessories, the main cast & crew is as above. Since all the occupants from time immemorial were for creation, re-creation, maintenance and nurture of this partially tame and  more wild of a life sanctuary that was their dwelling, they were all totally Pro it. Thus “The Indian Bakhleone Housing Apartments (TIBHA)” complex came to carry the nomenclature: ProTIBHA.

The B’Company:
The B’Company as the Bakhleone family was actually called is a very old and respected enterprise. This enterprise had its roots originally in a distant land, now that is a separate country altogether. This city was called “CarRachi”. The earliest founder was a dude blessed with a full head of hair that he passed on to his blood, but he sported a rather weird hair do; it looked forever rumpled n crushed…he was “BaalCrushedNa Bakhleone”. The venerable old patriarch had created a largeish brood and this stood him in good stead, a blessing in the days to come when the province got eventually partitioned. These were ten in all ,sons and daughters, subsequently who came over to this country. The company was uprooted from “CarRachi”. His progeny spread far and wide across the countrywide expanse and created two main home bases. The Patriarchs eldest & youngest sons made it to the Western Coast of Bombay while their other siblings found the Central Provinces with Nagpur as its epicentre more to their liking. Their sisters were wedded off and while one went about northwards the others were found hovering around the central provinces only. The Western provincial founders made their fortune in Tyres. The ones in the Central provinces made their bases firmer in Textiles, Media, Academics and what have you. The B’Company embraced change willingly and today as the ones in the West focussed on Technology & Healthcare predominantly the ones in the Central Provinces smelled the numbers and branched into Accounting, Book Keeping, Banking and Health Care monitoring.

The Bakhleones had arrived. The family had become a Company and where earlier it was considered crude and not classy to refer oneself by this nomenclature…the times had changed. There was an innate pride now in being affiliated or connected to the B’Company, whether by blood, marriage, friendship or allegiance.  Though Bombay historically has been and still remains the commercial capital of this independent country, it curiously was the Nagpur and Central Province branches that focussed on the commerce end of the educational qualifications of the family. The Central provinces are so accounts oriented that there are arguably more Chartered Accountants per square feet found practicing here than in the Bombay provinces.

Other Famous Bakhleone’s:
The first one to hit the headlines was a singer. He practised an art of crooning that fell into a genre called natyasangeet. He was a specialist who would get so carried away with his own performance that whenever his audience asked for a “once more”… he always agreed…but the gent had no sense of proportion. He went on and on and on till the same listeners had to scream “BussKar Bua”…this is how BussKarBua Bakhleone became a celebrity. The second one was this writer’s mater. She was a sly fox, at once charming and steely determined. She ruled with a chuckle and a laugh. The media discovered her skill at being unerringly accurate at pocketing every single wooden piece with an ivory striker on a boric powder smoothened wood board. This game had a curious name, CarROM. Was it because it originated in CarRachi from where the Bakhleones were launched on to the world? No one knows this for a fact. She loved wearing Nike shoes under her sari and was fast at everything she did like even ping pong. She was thus christened WhooSha Bakhleone. Nike then stole her name for branding their footwear but she forgave them. She was the first one to make a foray into & opening the eyes of the B’Çompany towards Banking as a vertical. She engaged with the biggest this country could muster up in Banks. ArabiAai… no… no… no… it had nothing to do with the Middle East, but if we reflect now as to why Pasha may have chosen this vertical, there could be some sub-conscious reasoning’s hidden here deeply, and can be determined if probed by a shrink.

Present Day - Now
He pulled out a phone and radio waves crackled on the hallowed soil of the central provinces. A cavalcade had come to receive them and out from it stepped the dashing Pasha. Two sets of youth and maturity were enveloped by and swept away into the local hospitality. The youth smiled as he now understood the cavalcade of cars. The B’Company was from CarRachi, this instinctive affinity for wheels was a given.


The Plot: “The Nagpur Nuptials” ( ChinSha Express unfortunately could not be used as there were copyright issues for this chronicler with the involved parties )

Cut to the opening frame:

Once upon a time in Dhantoli ( quite a few months ago )

Don WinOye looked out of his balcony staring at the leaves, laid wet by a burst of a seasonal rain shower. His son’s words rang quite clearly in his head. A droplet of water trickled down the spine of the jamun leaf held his gaze, as it finally hung on to the very edge of the leaf for a million moments…and then dropped on to the space below, lost out from his sight.
His concentration broke off and he looked back into his tea reflectively.
“Baba”his son had said tremulously but with a lot of hope in his voice, last evening. “I am going to make these two, staring at his own hands…four”.
He remembered his own reply. “We are accountants, Chartered too, not creative ones my son…our numbers have to balance every single time. That’s why we are engaged by our clients. You are not a trainee and an intern anymore. One doesn’t and shouldn’t make 2 look like 4 in any table. Had this been any other company it could have maybe been OK…but we are the B’Company and we have a reputation to protect.”
On this his son had frantically cut through…”No…no ...Baba, you misunderstood me. You know my friend Shawl…she and I are like …engaged.
Still in his business track thought he had asked “Who have you been engaged by? This is nice, the fact that you have gone and procured a new client“
ChinmOye his son had then said “Baba…you are not listening. Look here… I have asked Shawl to be my wife…is this understood now…I proposed and she accepted..OK…Got It…Clear ???... Fair ???”
He remembered his instant reaction “Does your mother know about this?” and When ChinmOye nodded it caused him an irritation way beyond anything he could comprehend and he remembered his rather curt reply “Fair ??? You ask me is this Fair ??? No it’s not Fair…its FOWL.
ChinmOye had laughed derisively and remarked “Baba, Foul the opposite of Fair is spelt as F..O..U..L  not F..O..W..L”
To which Don WinOye replied in his trademark style “Chimyaaaa…now you shall be teaching me spellings is it ? I thought you would get it. I said fowl because I meant fowl…you eat chicken , she is a pure vegetarian how will that ever ever work?” To which his son had got back stating…Didn’t you and Mum make it work…and he had walked out of the room.

He looked into his tea and his mind like minds have a propensity to in tense moments, took a flight to events nearly  3 decades ago. This was when his friends sister and her pearly teeth had caught his eye. She adroitly hooped the ball’s through the basket with ease and he was already reduced to being a basket case in her presence. While his thoughts were always quite clear and he wanted to make her his own, his tongue came out with unintelligible sounds when she was around. After a few tense, anticipatory days, weeks and months of needlessly hanging around her house he had plucked his courage and asked her brother to relay his ardour and fondness to her. Cupid was smiling on him then and she had managed to make sense of the sounds he uttered in her presence which he was sure was conversation. Life had been a song after her acceptance. 
(cut to a song in flashback mode)

Song 1 : DonWinOye & the Lady WonDonna      ( <- click on this to hear the song in the situation)

Yes it had worked out for him and while it was a difficult decision on many a plane, namely his son had found a girl for his own and not given him an opportunity to search one for him, he brushed this one away …since he was guilty of the same act with his father. She was a vegetarian and he had high hopes that someday his daughter-in-law would cook superb non-veg in the house…he brushed this thought away too, it was his son who was marrying her, that’s his business, he can go without Chicken…or order in. And then he came to the real reason for his irritation. His wife had known about this much before he did…why…how…hmmm and reluctantly realised that she always knew a lot many more things happening around them far earlier than he did. Did he really have a choice in this matter? He examined this question before him quite dispassionately. Shawl …was a very nice girl; haughty and sharp perhaps, but extremely well-mannered and very well qualified. She seemed to possess the quiet temperament absolutely essential to keep his energetic son in his proper place and yes she was extremely pretty too.  

Chinmyyaaaaaa he called out and his son came in looking quite sulkily at him, yet with a question in his eyes. Arrange our meeting with Shawl’s parents. His son had impulsively hugged him and that made him stifle a smile..Ok..Ok..enough…go now..congratulations.

Cut to Scene 2

ChinmOye was mighty kicked…as he looked around. It had all worked out after all.
Those weeks of waiting and worrying and hoping and then the sudden distance that had sprung up in their association with her shifting away on some silly work assignment, had shaken him then. She had given him a vague reason that he never understood her. He had never quite figured out the contrary conflicting completely addled messages, that girls give out as signals to the boys, that they actually are interested in. It was a harrowing time for him that had pushed him towards the stage of decision making.
(Cut to a song situation)

Pensive song as imagined by ChinmOye     ( <- click on this to hear the song in the situation)

This was the only time when the movie plays a serious reflective mood song. All along their journey they had gambolled around like Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh…nahh... he thought that is too old a pair, while our pair is much younger, our songs, the ones that we sang were really more like this

( Cut to additional song in the same flashback)
ChinmOye & Shawl going at it with a gusto  ( <- click on this to hear the song in the situation)

Scene 3 and the present:

Shawl a.k.a. Teaworry and WonDonna had met and were quietly chuckling about the two men in their lives who thought they ruled. The male of the species is so naïve, both had such knowing smiles as they discussed the redecoration of ChinmOyes room that would soon become Shawl & ChinmOyes room and how should the wardrobe be partitioned. 

WonDonna too had to yet completely get the hang of the mother in laws role but she was glad that she would finally have a civilized companion in her house who was a female at that. Females are inherently so clean, hygienic and well groomed and their interests are so detailed and varied. She was itching to go out shopping with someone of her own who could understand the truest pleasure in minimum three hour shopping binges, one who could understand the art behind the Chikan embroidery. Unlike the males, for whom Chikan was Chicken and she never could make them understand...infact the males never understood or got it that "rani colour" was "rani colour" and not some shade of "pink", why are the bed-sheets to be tucked in just like so and properly too at that or why after taking a bath it is actually necessary to put the wet, soiled clothes into the laundry basket or bucket and not tossed about here, there and anywhere. There were women in the dwelling but not someone who she could notionally own and boss around, there was a niece somewhere in the dwelling who did understand some of this but now she would have real help to discipline the boys properly too. WonDonna was a happy lady. 

She had decided that she would be more a mommy than a saasu mummy simply because she did not know how to be a Saasu mummy.

cut to Song situation 

Reflective song in the Shawl & WonDonna space.  ( <- click on this to hear the song in the situation)

Climax, the end and the new beginning :

Then Don WinOye, ChinmOye and WonDonna they practiced hard, enlisted the support of all in the B’Company, invited all their relatives made arrangements for their stay and hospitality, booked the Hall that belonged to a Rani (yes, it was her kothi) and not a Raja for the final nuptials, similar stuff was happening quite frantically at Shawl’s place too.
They also arranged for round tabled spiritual communions on the terrace with friends who were closer than kin and the visiting kin, in a regal and labelled manner both red and black. Age brought in some decorum to this august gathering but each one around the table was singing the signature song of such milieus. It also marked this occassion splendidly.

cut to song : Romance, fun and zing ( <- click on this to hear the song in the situation)

The Mehendi, the Sangeet and the Haladi climaxed onto a marriage and reception... and before they knew it…
ChinmOye and Shawl a.k.a.Bakhleone were saying a deeply respectful Hi to the Lady Mahalsa at Goa.

And thus they began their journey to live happily ever after.


Circa 5th Dec 2016

The youth and his entourage of living fossils made their way back to the same airport and like earlier they were fated to be on flights that never took off on time and so they whiled away some of their time at the airport, boarded and returned to the Maximum City many hours after midnight and predictably. The City was still awake, awaiting them.