Please find my new blog Sleepless in IIM-A at this URL - http://sleepless-in-iima.blogspot.com.
It is likely that all my subsequent posts would be in that blog rather than this one.
Please find my new blog Sleepless in IIM-A at this URL - http://sleepless-in-iima.blogspot.com.
It is likely that all my subsequent posts would be in that blog rather than this one.
Its been a little over two weeks since I've left Hyderabad.
Its been over 10 minutes since I've typed the above sentence and nothing after that. And I've been wondering, if this simple statement unwittingly gives me away. Because, if I had wanted to convey a state of passing from one phase of life to the other, I could as well have put it in a crisper manner - in a way which would make more sense.
For example, I am three days away from leaving for IIM Ahmedabad.
I read through all my earlier posts in this blog; articles which attempt at summarizing the amazing time my friends and I have had at Hyderabad, and at this summarization failing hopelessly. Because the narration is woefully constrained by my limited writing and memorizing skills, and would in no way, recount completely and unfailingly all the countless interesting moments I've shared with my friends.
I drove myself to giggles at the recollection of some of the incidents. Reminiscing further, giggles turn into laughter. And laughter to tears.
As I type in these last few passages about my brief affair with Hyderabad, my mom is asking me to start thinking about packing. That triggers a thought. Its not emotional like in the movies. Rather its just a realisation.
A realisation that I wouldnt be boarding the Charminar and going to my top berth right after getting into the train. That I wouldnt wake up groggily only after the train's pulled itself into Nampally. That I wouldnt haggle with the auto rickshawmen to charge me under 25 bucks to take me to Masab Tank. That, I wouldnt step into the welcoming familiarity of 204, Anand Residency.
Its just a subtle reminder that something's changed.
Chances are, I would keep writing my blog; in the same style, which I'm used to writing in. The thought which makes me pause for a second is that there would be a completely different set of characters.
Orkut (www.orkut.com) is not necessarily a medium through which you can hold real time conversations, as you would using, say, Yahoo messenger. But often when the two conversing parties are both logged on to the internet, a makeshift conversation could be held by leaving messages or 'scraps' in each other's webpages or 'scrapbooks'.
Following is a piece of conversation between Amit and I.
Amit: Hey, whats up ? Have you got Neo (one of my laptop's potential names) ? So, when are you leaving to IIM, Mr. Morpheus ?
PS: Whats the similarity between you and Morpheus ?
(Perhaps its fitting that he should use my dark and attractive skin color to ridicule me after I've left Hyderabad. They began with that.)
Oka: Amazing dialogue delivery.
Question for you.
Whats the similarity between you and King Kong ?
(I am not sure if King Kong has a tummy. But Amit wouldnt either. I bet he'd get the message.)
Amit: Both are kings.
Whats the similarity between you and Ambrose ?
(Does persistence really pay ?)
Oka: Tall handsome personalities.
Here's your question.
Whats common between you and Yokosuna ?
(Yeah, does it really pay ?)
Amit: Both are fair and lovely (??!!!??)
Now, whats the similarity between you and a black hole ?
Oka: Both are profound.
Whats common between you and a pregnant gorilla.
(Fair, lovely, King - all these possibilities eliminated)
Amit: Both are too good at defending themselves.
Now, I'm going to put a full stop to this conversation.
Whats the similarity between you and my niece (His niece is a toddler)
Let me answer that for you.
Both of you are totally jobless, and I have a job to do.
GET LOST !
I notice another message in my scrapbook which I had previously overlooked. It was from Kaushik, written right after I left Hyderabad.
"Hey ! You took the iron !!!! How much cheaper can you get !"
The only thing which is permanant, they say, is change.
Some things however never change.
The first few weeks in Hyderabad, we almost always had dinner in the nearby restaurant.
When we had tried practically everything in Sandharshini's one page menu, we started ordering food from a North Indian aunty who cooked delicious food and sent a boy over to deliver it.
However our kitchen cabinet was as empty as the rest of the house. There wasnt a single utensil in it.
The first few days, we ate on paper plates.
The principal reason why we continued to eat on makshift plates and even newspapers for weeks after that is a miserable four lettered word. Amit.
At the local store.
'These stainless steel plates look good. Lets get some.'
With a sharp intake of breath, and his features contorted to represent what could euphemistically be described as outraged indignance, Amit gasps '40 Rupees ! Too much !'
At the road side shop.
'This is too much !'
At the Chinese store.
'This is too much !'
The reason why we eventually did manage to get some plates is because of what happened in Big Bazaar.
'30 Rupees per plate ! This is too much !'
'And stay that way until Oka and I purchase everything we need.'
Manhunt on for the bald eve-teaser
30th April, 2004. Hyderabad. By our special correspondent.
The Cyberabad police has launched a hunt for a man who has been harassing young girls walking on empty roads, in and around Hi-tec city. According to a traumatized young girl, the suspect stopped his bike right in front of her and menacingly asked her if she wanted a lift to office. The victim has been admitted to Vikram hospital, Madhapur.
Police have put together a description of the suspect, after gathering information from the victims. The suspect is big, bald, bespectacled and rides a pulsar.
Anyone who offers information about him will be suitably rewarded...
'You know what happened today ?' Pratik had a sheepish smile on his face.
'Dont tell anyone, okay ?'
'Oh, that sort of thing huh ?' my eyes lit up. 'Okay, I wont tell anyone'.
'I was driving down this road, and saw this girl walking ahead.'
'I stopped by her, and asked if she was working in Oracle', he paused.
'She said yes, a bit hesitatingly.'
'Then I asked her if she wanted a lift till office.'
'What ?' I asked, flabbergasted. 'What did she say ?'
'She said no, and I drove off'
'Fuck man, she must have thought you were an eve-teaser or something ! How can you do something like that !'
'Come on, I had no such intentions. There was hardly any auto or anyone for that matter, so I thought I would help her.'
'No one around ? I dont blame her at all. I am amazed she didnt take to her heels. In fact, I wouldnt be surprised if by now all the nearby police stations have a pencil sketch resembling you on their notice boards, under the rapists section.'
'Shut the fuck up.'
By lunch, all my team mates knew about this incident, and during lunch we had a good laugh at his expense.
Needless to say, he was smouldering. And I was loving every bit of it.
Post lunch, most of the team, four of us actually, meandered towards the Table Tennis table.
There is no dedicated room for the TT table. Thats because Oracle has been hiring people in dozens and inevitably ran out of space to place new work stations. All the TT rooms, some conference rooms, and some huddle rooms have been filled - first with computers, and then with people.
So, the TT table is placed in an open space where the elevators and the doors to the washrooms are.
As usual, Pratik ran ahead of us, and tried all the four bats, looking for the best one.
Sunil, a bit late, ended up grabbing the same bat as Pratik did, and there was a mini tug of war going on between them. It was like a chipmunk trying to grab a banana from a gorilla.
The rest of us, understanding better the futility of such an exercise, picked up the remaining bats.
'Wait a second. I'll be back.' said Pratik as he left his bat and turned towards the washroom.
Then he stopped, as if something had struck him, turned and picked up his bat, before Sunil could even think of stealing it, and went into the washroom.
'Disgusting' I said.
When he returned, he was altruistic all of a sudden, offering his bat to everyone.
Understandably no one wanted it. Sunil almost backed into the elevator when Pratik offered him the bat.
We played a couple of games.
Predictable games, because when the team playing opposite Sunil wanted to win, they'd scare him when he's serving.
'BRRRR !!', they'd shout at the precise moment, and he'd serve it either onto the net or beyond the table.
I almost tore my hair out, because I was on the same team as Sunil.
A little later, when the others had left, Pratik and I got down to playing a few singles.
'Lets do one thing. Lets bet on this match.' he said.
'Ok. Whats the bet ?'
'10 bucks.' Now that's confidence.
'Cheap fellow. Lets make it 50 bucks.' he snorted. 'The loser owes the winner a coffee worth 50 bucks in Cafe Coffee Day.'
The reason I even submitted to this bet despite Pratik being the better player is that I have often won over him in the past by a very Australian technique. Sledging.
Whenever his shot goes outside or whenever he nets the ball, I would mock him ruthlessly for his mis-hit, and cause him to lose his composure. He'd spray the next few shots all over the place and I'd go on to win the match.
Confidently, I went into the first 'coffee match.'
Man found on TT table in a strange state.
30th April, 2004. Hyderabad. By our special correspondent.
Cyber Towers security found a big, bald, hairy man lying in a state of shock on a Table Tennis board, with all his hair standing up.
He held a Table Tennis bat in his mouth. Also on closer inspection they found the following words written on his bare rear, amongst a lot of violet bruises. "Here's your coffee".
The Madhapur police is investigating...
'Tsk tsk, poor fellow. How frustrated you look !'
'Do you want to play one more ?'
After I lost the first one, I challenged him for a 'best of 3' bet, so that I could win back the lost 50 bucks. And after its even between us, I could stop. Why be greedy ?
After I lost the next two games, I challenged him for another 'best of 3' bet. I had to bring down the amount from 100 to 50. 50 is not too much. I could afford to throw 50 bucks on him.
After I lost the next two games, I finally had the sense to stop.
'Shit man, I bet you five games in a row. Add to that the two games I won before the coffee matches, and I've beaten you seven times in a row.'
'Okay. Now stop. Dont rub it in.' That smirk on his face.
'In fact, I think I killed your game. You've forgotten how to play. Tsk tsk, poor fellow'.
That fucking smirk.
'When am I getting my coffee ?'
'You want coffee ? Here's your coffee ...'
Somehow I managed to convince Pratik that I'll treat him next month. He was convinced partly because he could understand what it is to be near the end of the month. We were both broke.
Later in the day, we joined Jaideep and Srini for dinner in Oracle cafeteria.
A telegu song was playing on the TV.
'Hey, who's that babe ?' I asked to no one in general.
'Yeah, hot and fuckable.' Pratik added in dirtily, typically.
'She dances well.' I observed. 'Wait a minute, who's that fat ass behind her ?'
'Hey !!' Srini cried.
'Watch it dude. Thats our superstar.' Jaideep said.
'Bullshit. Look at him dancing with a girl half his age.'
'Yeah, she looks like she could pass for his daughter. Isnt he ashamed to dance around like this with a girl probably in the same class as his daughter ?'
'He's a great actor.' Srini claimed.
'He must have done a lot of things with her.' Pratik chipped in.
'He wont do anything like that.' Srini persisted.
'What do you mean, he wont do anything ? Or is it that he cant do anything?' I asked with one end of my mouth up in a sly smile.
'Yeah, does he have problems, umm... standing up ?' Pratik and I started laughing.
Jaideep and Srini gave us icy looks, as we hi-fived each other.
Filmi message stupefies police.
30th April, 2004. Hyderabad. By our special correspondent.
Two men, one skinny and dark, and the other big and hairy were found in a state of trance in the Oracle cafeteria, Cyber Towers. Struck on their chests were posters of a popular Gujarathi film hero and a popular Tamil hero respectively. Around their necks was a garland of footwear. Written on their foreheads were the words 'Hail Chiranjeevi'.
Investigations are going on...
6th April, 2005. 23:00. Ohri's - the restaurant on Road No. 12.
'Shit man, Oka would leave us and go.'
'Yeah, Amit is going to feel very lonely.'
'Forget that. I am gonna lose a steady source of income. Whom will I con now?'
'Shut up, guys !'
'You know whats the worst thing about Oka leaving ?'
'The rent will be divided by 3.'
'Oka, you have to get someone else to fill your place here, otherwise dont even expect to get back your deposit.'
More laughter as Amit takes off with me in close pursuit.
6th April, 2005 appeared no different from other days. I still hadnt begun to pursue my lifelong ambition of ironing all my clothes on the weekends to keep them clean and ready for the oncoming week.
The result? I was once again looking around the house for a clean shirt to wear to office.
Fatefully (like what happens in the movies), I stumbled upon my suitcase, and it flew open. And there in a plastic cover was the off-white shirt which I had worn for my IIM-interviews.
Without a hint of what was in store for me that day, I put it on and left for office.
'Okay, fine. No cocktails. I'll order 4 mocktails.'
'Yeah, dont turn us into drunkards. We've never had alcohol and we dont intend to.'
'Uh, could you get us a Mango Bloom, a Pussy Foot, a Blue Curacao and a...', Kaushik looked around the table 'umm.. a Daiquiri, cranberry flavour.'
As we watch the waiter leave, Amit speaks up.
'You know what, I am going to do exactly what Oka does. From now on, I am going to act all high-handed and arrogant. I wont get the water refill, I wont wash my plates, I wont do any household chore. Then maybe the next year, I'll get in as well.'
'Believe me, if arrogance was the criteria, you'd get into Harvard Business School'.
'Yeah, I am going to borrow Oka's jail shorts and I am going to roam around the house bare chested, and shamelessly keep sitting half-naked even when a girl enters the apartment.'
'I am going to download the rule booklet of Age of Empires. I am going to learn how to play it.'
'But you've to learn how to play it badly as well.'
Manish dodges as I throw a tissue at him.
'The most important thing. I am going to get a kilo of soot, and smear it all over my face. After that I'll try to use Fair and Lovely over that and try hopelessly to get rid of the color.'
Amit gets it again from me.
I unlocked my computer with the familiar uneasy feeling of seeing a few unfriendly mails from my superiors in headquarters.
Normalcy returned, after I went through the new mails in my inbox once and then checked them again to make sure my ass wasnt on fire.
The work quota for the morning fulfilled, I opened the yahoo messenger, the website www.orkut.com and the website www.pagalguy.com.
Pagalguy is a discussion forum for aspiring MBA students. Basically its a place on the internet where people'd get together to know and let know, news and information about events. One such post was,
"IIM-K results are out !!!!!!!'
Well, I hadnt had an interview call from IIM-K. And the ones from which I had a call from, IIM-A for example, werent expected to announce their results until next week.
Slouching in my chair, with a sense of extreme lethargy, I opened the IIM-A website. There was a link which I had used a few months earlier to check the results of the first round of admissions.
With nothing better to do, I clicked on it and entered my test registration number and birth of date.
'Hey Manish, why does your mocktail look like that ?'
'Whats wrong with it ?'
'It reminds me of Surf Excel.'
'Good though. Let him drink it. It will clean all the shit thats inside him.'
'Guys, guys, lets exchange drinks. Each of you, pass your drink to the next person.' said Kaushik as he passed his drink to me.
As I sipped on Kaushik's drink, I felt something warm pass down my throat. Something was different.
5 minutes later, after each of us had a sip of all the drinks, 'Kaushik, what was that? That wasnt a mocktail, was it ?'
'No, that was a cocktail. Rum with a hint of cranberries.'
Amit looks at Kaushik with a shocked expression on his face.
'YOU ARE PATHETIC !!!'
The site took quite a while to open, while I lazily sipped on my Real Orange juice, wondering why do I even drink it. It tasted like buffalo vomit.
The following message appeared on the screen; a message which was quite similar to what I had expected, but not the same.
"You have been selected for admission to PGP (2005-2007 batch), IIMA.
Note: Our formal admission offer letter is being sent by Registered Post. You will have to send us your formal written acceptance and return the other documents enclosed with the admission offer by May 9, 2005. In the meanwhile, please indicate to us by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org your decision on this admission offer, quoting your name and Test Registration Number"
After reading it for about 15 times, I sank into my seat.
IIM-A results were out. And I had made it.
'Guys, lets raise a toast. Maybe we could say something now about this fucker. Amit do you want to start ?'
I am a happy man today.
I have been praying for a long time, asking God to somehow get rid of Oka. He has finally answered my prayers. And may no one have the misfortune of being Oka's room-mate in future.'
When they stopped laughing, Manish spoke, as I listened expectantly, hoping he'd say something not that obvious.
'Dont forget to use Fair and Lovely, but remember that whatever you do, you wouldnt become as fair as Amit.'
I rolled my eyes as they had another laugh at my expense.
'Ok my turn now.' Kaushik said.
We turned towards him.
'Some people are born great.
'Some people achieve greatness in course of their life.
'Then there are some people who have greatness thrust upon them.
'But how many pathetic fuckers are there, who, after having greatness thrusted upon them, behave as if its the most obvious thing in the world ?'
Contrary to what I said in my previous post, Amit did go on a fast once.
It was Sivaratri, and apparently Amit's family followed a custom which required them to not have regular meals on that day.
Well, it isnt like he cant eat anything. He could have fruits and a few snack items.
Thats what he told me.
So, that day, when I returned from office, I found him patiently cutting a papaya into slices and removing its seeds. There were a number of slices on a plate nearby, ready for consumption
'Cool.' I said.
It was obvious that the last person he expected at that moment was me, because when I devoured the first three pieces, he gave me a disgusted stare, watching his half an hour of painstaking effort spent in peeling the fruit going down my throat in half a minute.
The stare lingered long enough for me to realise that he wouldnt have had anything since morning. So I stopped raiding his plate, and went to the kitchen to get a glass of water.
As I reached out for a glass, my eyes went to the unusually cluttered dustbin nearby.
There were three banana skins, an empty chips packet and an empty peanut burfi packet in the waste bin.
'So much for the fast', I thought.
With the realisation that some things in life just cannot be changed, I changed quickly and joined Amit in the hall where he was watching an English movie. By that time Kaushik had returned too.
It was an action flick featuring Jean Claude Van Damme.
'This guy's movies are all the same. If you watch one, you've watched them all.' I said to Kaushik with a dismissive wave of my hand. 'Have you watched Blood Sport ?'
'Yeah. But I cant recollect his name though. Whats it ?'
'Jean Claude Van Damme' I said pronouncing it like 'John Claude Van Damn'
'Ah, its not John. Its not pronounced that way'
'Yeah, it IS pronounced that way.'
'Come on, Oks, you've been in France. You should be knowing how to pronounce this.' chided Kaushik. 'Its pronounced Jawn where the last letter n is silent.'
I knew better than to argue with Kaushik on the subject of pronounciation. He is obsessed with the correct usage of language and even more obsessed about correcting others when they make a mistake.
He had a point though. I should have something to show for my stint in France - atleast the correct pronounciation of famous French associations.
Talking about languages, there's an interesting trend I observed among people trying to pick up a new language. At least among young men.
The first few phrases or words they learn are almost always obscenities. For instance, I can ask someone to fuck off in about 8 different languages.
Quite a feat, isnt it ?
Coming back to French, my friends and I have had quite a few interesting experiences in France. Before I narrate them, let me tell me how to find your way around the French words in the following passages.
When I am listing down a French word, I will list the pronounciation and the english translation in brackets. The disclaimer is that the pronounciation need not be the exact pronounciation.
And when I am listing down a phrase whose meaning I dont know myself, use google language tools. Here's a link - http://translate.google.com/translate_t. Select 'English to French' from the dropdown, paste the French phrase in the text area and just fire the button.
So here we go.
Bonjour (boshoor) is almost always the first word in French anyone learns. (There are exceptions though. My first word was foutre vous (foothre voo) and you know what it stands for).
Bonjour stands for hello. Its the first thing a person says when he meets someone, as a way of greeting.
Apparently this wasnt known to Balaji, fondly known as Bajji.
When a French guy stretched his palm and said 'Bonjour', he warmly shook his palm and said very pleasantly.
To avoid such situations, knowledge of the most basic words is essential. To put it in a better way, there are some words you cant escape. For everything else there's 'je ne parle pas français' (ja na pahle pa fronsae - I dont speak French).
Equally effective is the phrase 'parlez-vous anglais?' (Pahle voo onglae ? - Do you speak English)
I must say, that over time I learnt to say this phrase with nearly the perfect accent. So much that, when a French person came and asked me something, I told him with a swagger that I dont speak French, and ended up feeling extremely proud of myself for that.
'Excusez-moi. J'ai noté que vous ressemblez à un âne sourd-muet. Pouvez-vous me dire à quelle espèce vous appartenez?'
I would run a hand through my hair, look askance at the guy and give him a confident smile.
'je ne parle pas français'
Wow. Aint I cool.
After a few months we got so used to saying this, that we didnt even try to figure out what the person talking to us was trying to say.
One of my friends asked for a city map at a counter in a Paris Metro station. Guessing, by the looks, that we might not know French, the guy replied back, 'français or Anglais' (Fronsae or Onglae - French or English)
Bang comes the reply 'Parlez-vous anglais ?'.
Needless to say, it was usually a lot of fun when we traveled together as a group inside France.
Other than Paris, in no other place do people speak English. In fact, some French friends have told me that the French despise English, courtesy their historical enmity.
So even if a tourist asks something in a French which has absolutely no sense of verbs, adjectives and prepositions, the natives are delighted by the fact that a foreigner is making an effort to learn their language.
Naturally, this had inspired a few people in our Indian group in France to seek mastery of French.
One guy in particular, affectionately called Mittal bhai by us, took great pains towards a strong French vocabulary. He would take pages and pages of printouts of French tutorials from the internet and patiently go through them every night.
The next day, when we would gather during the coffee break in the lawns, he'd flaunt his grasp of French.
'Whats French for "right" ?' he'd test us.
'Whats French for "left" ?'
'Umm.. leftie ?'
And we would all look at him with awe and respect.
But the twist in French is that the pronounciation which people infer from the written word is often drastically different from how it should actually be pronounced. The reason for this is that French shares a part of its written alphabet with English, but the same letter may have a different pronounciation in French compared to English. For instance, 'r' is pronounced 'eh' in French.
Hence English speakers, especially those who read up written tutorials frequently end up in weird situations when they try to flaunt their French.
Mittal, eager to try his French, once volunteered to get the train tickets himself. This is how he asked the lady at the counter. Pretty much.
'Brusque bisque gibberish tibberish' (Google-translating this wouldnt help you much).
Obviously unimpressed, and more importantly, unenlightened, the lady replied 'Pardon?' (Pahdhown (n silent) - Sorry?)
'Blubber flubber blah blah ticketa fourppla', persisted Mittal, not one to give up.
'Parlez-vous Anglais ?'.
I thought that was our question. Who's the foreigner here ?
Despite the obvious lack of impact Mittal made on the French, he still was our leader in whatever trips we made over there. He took upon himself the responsibility of finding out about places from people.
One trip in particular is quite unforgettable.
We were in this place called Melon, and suddenly after all the sight seeing, we had a whim to go bowling. So we tried asking around for a bowling alley. Mittal was confident that there was one in the town.
'It should be somewhere in the neighbourhood', he said.
The first attempt Mittal bhai made was in a Pakistani restaurant. The communication was smooth because we didnt have to speak in French with the owner.
'Do you know if there's a bowling alley here ?' Mittal bhai asked him.
'Umm.' the guy paused, thinking.
'It should be somewhere in the neighbourhood. Do you know where it is ?'
'Oh yeah' the guy's face lit up in realisation. He led Mittal bhai to the middle of the road. 'You see the blue building over there ?'
'Take a left there. Then you have to walk down the street.'
'Eventually, you'll come to a playground, where you can do bowling, batting and fielding - anything you want.'
And you thought French was the only barrier to communication ?
Completely unperturbed by the results, Mittal led us on. Eventually, he asked us to wait at a particular place, while he strode towards two French men standing on the pavement.
He started a conversation with the men, while we watched from a distance.
Apparently he was having quite a raging discussion with them. We could see all three men gesturing and pointing here and there.
Maybe Mittal couldnt really connect with them in French, because a little while later he got down to demonstration.
He bent on one knee, ran a short distance and let roll an imaginary ball. His eyes then followed the ball until it struck all 10 pins, after which Mittal let out a whoop of joy.
It appeared as if it was working, because the men watching the demo with a serious expression, nodded knowingly.
There followed another round of gesturing and pointing at different roads.
Finally after quite some time, Mittal returned with a satisfied expression on his face.
Curious to know what exactly happened between them, we asked him if he got the exact location of the bowling alley.
'Mittal, you guys were talking for such a long time. Where is the alley ?'
'It should be somewhere in the neighbourhood, yaar'.
There wasnt a bowling alley within 50 miles of that place.
In hindsight, it was all Kaushik's fault.
If he hadnt gone on to bond with her that day we wouldnt have had these kind of problems.
At least he should have stopped with one day's friendship. But he went to her everyday after that, muttering sweet nothings into her ear.
After a few days he gathered enough courage to hug her and stroke her chest affectionately.
And she reciprocated by licking him all over his face.
Ruby's an Alsatian. She's our neighbour Salma aunty's pet dog.
Salma aunty is herself like a huge bulldog. Now, dont get me wrong. I am not saying this with an intention to humiliate her or to sound rude. Rather I am just trying to provide a description by which you'd be able to visualise her.
But yeah, she's quite dark. She's big and obese and has a perpetual scorn on her face.
A bulldog is just about the perfect description for her.
But to her credit, she is quite social and has pretty good communication skills, which would partly explain why she frequently made small talk with Kaushik. (The other part that would explain it is the fact that she's still single).
So, the first time when she ordered some rotis and forgot to order the side dishes, Kaushik had no qualms in sharing with her, part of his rajama.
After all, you wouldnt be a good neighbour if you couldnt lend a helping hand, would you?
A couple of weeks later, I observed that Kaushik rarely went to see Ruby.
He would probably have got bored of the dog.
Well, that might be the explanation of an average guy.
Personally, I suspected that he had a couple of tooth marks on his rear. Whats more, I even found him walking strangely on his toes whenever he passed by Salma aunty's door; to avoid the dog's wrath maybe.
It became clear later on that Kaushik was trying to avoid Salma aunty and not the poor dog.
This is what led me to think in those lines.
That day, Kaushik and I were in the basement of Anand Residency, where the vehicles are parked. I was hitching a ride to office on his bike.
Just as Kaushik put his helmet on, there came Salma aunty and Ruby.
Strangely Ruby was walking behind aunty.
I found it weird because when I take Timmy, my pet dog, out for walking, he behaves as if he's the king of that area and I am his chauffeur. He literally drags me around (quite ironically, because the leash is on him).
A couple of times, I've stumbled and fallen right on my face.
By the time, he's done, I look more exhausted than him. Its a wonder how he packs so much energy in that tiny little furry body of his.
Not so, with Ruby.
Maybe she recognized the presence of a superior pedigree there and wisely chose to stay in the background.
Coming back to the situation, Salma said a hi to Kaushik and got to talking about the dog.
'Your Ruby hasnt been too well lately' she said.
'What happened to her?' said Kaushik running his hand over Ruby's back.
'I dont know. She's been dull throughout the day. She hasnt eaten anything since morning'
'Oh, thats okay, aunty. Dogs frequently take a day off when it comes to diet'. Yeah, Kaushik would definitely know about dogs.
Funny though. I've never seen Amit take a day off. In fact, its Manish who goes on fast every Thursday. Hmm.
'By the way Kaushik, did you tell the carpenter?'
'No aunty, unfortunately I havent had the time.'
'Tell him soon, okay. Just ask him to come and visit Salma's house - 202, Anand Residency. I have been waiting for the woodwork for quite a few days'.
'Okay aunty. I will do it whenever I can.'
'Thank you, Kaushik. Have a nice day.'
'You too aunty.'
As we got moving on the bike, I asked him 'Dude, what's this about the carpenter ?'
'She has been bugging me about this yaar. She wants me to go to the carpenter shop in the next lane and ask the guy to go visit her. I dont know why she cant do it herself.'
'Yeah, man. She sure can use a bit of walking. As of now, Ruby would beat her hands down in a beauty contest.'
'Whats more. She has his phone number as well. I dont know why she's after my life.'
So thats why Kaushik was tiptoeing like a criminal whenever he went past aunty's door.
It became even clearer when I picked up a couple of phone calls from aunty on the intercom that evening asking me to remind Kaushik about the carpenter.
I gleefully did that as soon as he came home.
But if I thought that she's gonna stop with the carpenter, I was quite wrong.
That morning, I had just come home after an overnight train journey from Chennai. I found aunty and Ruby at our door, talking to Amit. I caught the lower end of the conversation.
'Is she there now?' Aunty asked Amit.
'No, she's gone out for sightseeing.'
'When she gets back, tell me okay. I want to meet her'.
'Ok. I'll get going. Ruby has to have her walk'
'Okay aunty. See you later.'
I said a quick hi to aunty to her as she walked past me and jumped aside as Ruby walked by behind her mistress.
When she was out of earshot, 'Hey, has someone come to our house ?'
'Yeah, Manish's mom has come'
'Yesterday Salma aunty was telling Kaushik that two guys - her relatives were coming to visit her. She was asking if they could stay at our place, as she felt uncomfortable letting them stay with her, single that she is.'
I immediately imagined myself coming home and finding one guy sleeping on my bed with my shorts on, and the other blowing his nose into my tee shirt and throwing it into my cupboard.
'Yeah. Thats when Kaushik decided that Manish's mom has come to visit us.'
'You mean, he came up with this huge lie on the spur of the moment ?'
'What a screwed up lie ! What if she had asked me about Manish's mom ? I just arrived and I know nothing about it.'
'Did she ask you?'
'No she didnt. But what if she had ?'
'But did she ?'
'Oh forget it'. He would go on and on like this and I was in no mood to argue with the stubborn jackass first thing in the morning.
Well, that wasnt the end of it. The next day when I returned home from office, I found Amit looking particularly irritated.
'Whats up, man. Why are you making that pretty face?'
'She wants me to install Windows 2000 on her computer.'
'Oka. I am already pissed. Dont rub it in.'
'Kaushik is her handyman, and you are her technical support guy. How do you like it ? Do you have job satisfaction? Do you have good working conditions ? Do you face sexual harassment ?' I held an imaginary mike near Amit.
'Shut up.' he said. 'But really, I have no idea how this Windows thing hit her suddenly.'
'The brilliance shows on your face when your spectacles light up and your hair stands on its end.'
'But seriously.' I said. 'why did she pick YOU for this ?'
So thats how the situation is right now.
I havent been pressed into her service yet, and I am happy about it.
Maybe later on, she'd give jobs to Manish and me as well.
Manish would probably become her gigolo, and I would become her... umm.. I cant think of a single thing I am useful for.
What is sure is that she would sooner or later ask us to do something or the other for her. Its in her nature to know what to ask whom.
Or is it ?
A day earlier, I was chatting with aunty myself. I wanted to know where I could find a shop which would home-deliver cans of drinking water. She said we could see the shop right from her balcony, and called me in, to show me the shop.
Sure enough, there was a super store right across the road, clearly visible from the balcony.
As I crossed the room towards the door, I noticed that the house was quite well-maintained. There were quite a few wall hangings and paintings adorning the wall. The sofas looked royal between the lovely glass table in the center. There was a beautiful lamp as well.
The only thing that looked a bit out of place in that room was a computer in the corner.
'What do you do on the computer, aunty ?'
'Oh, I use it for browsing and chatting. Though I havent been using it much lately.'
'It has been giving me a lot of problems.'
'What happened ?'
'The computer hangs frequently. I would be having fun chatting with one of my friends and suddenly wham ! - a blue screen would appear asking me to restart the computer. Its so irritating.'
'Hmm.' I said as I pressed a few keys on the keyboard. 'Looks like you are using an older version of Windows. Why dont you install Windows 2000 on your system ? It is considered more stable.'
'Will that help ?'
'Sure. And whats more, I know just the person who'd do it for you.'