Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Tykes and Bikes

Most people have had a tally of one "near-death experience" in their lifetime- if they are blessed by the divine and can differentiate between actual death and the experience of waiting in traffic during rush-hour on the roads of Chennai. I can say with a sense of pride that I have been personally privy to two NDEs- and on the same day; within a span of forty to fifty seconds at best.

It was a tranquil, moonlit night that drenched the streets of Vastrapur, Ahmedabad. Just the kind of night you expect your father to take his five year-old on a scooter ride to the local "paan shop". My father was quite conventional in that sense. We parked the scooter in front of the hooded stall that housed the owner, his betel leaves and the several condiments designed to make the best of mouths salivate in crimson ecstasy. As my father placed the order, I parked myself on the seat, legs barely reaching the basket compartment in the scooter's front and sat reflecting on whatever it is five year-olds seated on scooter seats do while waiting for paan, when I perceived a white fluffiness emerge from my left, flanked by a dog-walker in shorts. A mesh of conditioning and hereditary traits has made it hard for me to be sure if a morbid fear of dogs existed in me then or whether it was a product of the experience about to follow. To be honest, it was mostly an unverifiable blur, but here is a speculative version of it:-

The fluffy canine slobbered meekly on its leash for a couple of seconds by my side, and unable to handle that sort of pressure, I jumped off the scooter and took off. I don't suppose that for the first three to four seconds of my imperiled sprint, the dog caught on. But when I looked over my shoulder after about six seconds, the dog was hot on my trail. I gave a squeak of a rabbit in the wild whose mortality has been challenged and renewed the fuel in my legs. My tiny legs motored away as they had never motored in their short lives. Swirling clouds of dust and sand took birth as my blazing feet left the ground with each bound.

In a short time, either alerted to the hunt by the bloodthirsty howls of my pursuer, or disturbed by the rift in the space-time continuum caused by my supersonic speed, other dogs clambered onto the party wagon. Since I could count at the time, I noted fleetingly that I was now running from a total of five yowling, hooting dogs of different assortments.

I ran in all possible formations I could think of to bamboozle my quarry. I zagged and zigged, vice versaed, ran in concentric circles, ellipses, hexagons, and possibly even a rudimentary version of the "Chakravyuha". But seemingly they were abreast with the Mahabharata as they matched my every dodge to keep the minimum distance of two metres from my sweating posterior at all times. As the thread of breath dwindled in my chest, I started seeing spots and other kaleidoscopic projections. I saw the pearly mistiness of heaven, and the scorching rouges of hell- NDE#1.

Then, in a final burst of energy, I launched myself off the ground- possibly in the hope of catching an updraft of the wind and soaring above the canine mass surrounding me. Fear, as it turned out, does not lend you wings, and after a brief stint as an amateur airborne gymnast, I fell to the ground and skidded along the rough, sand road. As I commended my young body to God, I saw a blinding orb of white light rush towards me. As I experienced NDE#2, a realization dawned that the white light of God should not have alloyed wheels, or a chassis suspension, or a two stroke engine, or front disk brakes. I swallowed more sand than I could spit out as the bike skidded to a screeching halt not more than two centimetres from my tiny, airless, grounded chest.

My dual Near-death Experience was caused by two of man's supposed best friends- dogs and a motorbike.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The English teacher

He possessed as balding a pate as one could have without plagiarizing Homer Simpson. Two sorry looking stoic weeds still clung on to dear life on the smooth planet surface. One look at the man's woebegone face betrayed how he treasured the loyal remnants of his weather-beaten top. Then he saw an infomercial on TV and bought himself a new lease on his dying follicular life in the form of a misshapen wig. He taught us English.

He claimed that even the sale of his entire literary prowess could not have bought him a head of natural hair after his undying stint at our high school. We, if he were to be believed, were dunces. And not just your average-joe, everyday Dummkopfs. We had scaled the highest mountains of stupidity, thrust our flags upon their snowy peaks, and still had the resources to uproot more records of incompetence. We explored the boundaries of English grammar and orthography to please him. We studied greater and greater works of English literature to earn ourselves a place in his good books. But he was never devoid of newer and newer innovative phrases to condemn our grasp of the English language. Several versions of his condemnations have been repressed in our memories for their sheer battery of any and all mental capabilities we might have possessed, but a vague residual recollection of them still lingers to haunt us nightly. Now all flora and fauna in the ecosystem are presumably allowed their opinions. But this man's intense critique was aimed at us. So as self-respecting students of the English language, we deemed it fair to "exact revenge".

Retribution of the scale which we had envisaged deserved an appropriate pedestal from which to unleash itself. A simplistic thumbtack on the seat routine did not do justice to our incensed souls. A bucket resting on the open door sequence was as overdone as a scorched omlette. What the years of copping denunciation of the kind meted out to us merited was an attack on the most cherished aspect of his life. He was blessed with a loving wife, lived in a huge bungalow in the richest locality of town, had money to burn after years of teaching at our fine school, a wig, several cars that engendered covetousness in all, a legendary stamp-collection that was rumoured to be worth a bundle, a gorgeous daughter, a beloved set of archived books in his personal library, and an iPod nano. We picked the wig.

The plan was simple in its potentially monumental impact: On Convocation Day, all faculty are supposed to wear hats- probably in altruistic spirit to give us solace for having to don our own set of graduation hats. Amongst ourselves, we assigned a group the task of applying a generous amount of glue on the interior crown of his hat half an hour before the ceremony. We also knew the Chief guest was scheduled for his speech right after the English teacher's farewell speech. If all went well, he would doff his hat in respect to the Chief guest, and with it strip his head of its modesty in front of the entire congregation present. And the consummate clergy of photographers there would capture the hysteric moment for posterity, and in all likelihood publish it as well since it contained the Chief guest.

He reported sick on the day. It later emerged that it was on account of hair transplant surgery.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Reading deeply into the bespactacled page,
you stare for engravings to say hi.
When you become well read, as goes the adage-
spilt milks seldom cry.

Ostrocized beer cans strew themselves about
smelling for their salts- frantic;
and desperation gets into the bout
to quash any ill-advised brave antic.

Pressurised keys sound their steam
and once state their cause.
Gazing around to catch a moonbeam
they fall over and across.

Years of thorough squeezes
guarantee the cloth its creases,
and only a lifetime of prayer
would absolve you of all your fleeces.

Curtain calls for its daily wage
and you must rush to its glory
Get your share before rushed gets the stage.
People want their chunk of the story.

Dandruffs careen over the scalp
while watches wash their hands;
braces reach for their cousins for halp
and the stick gives sad way.

Leaving the choice alone
the duck did itself well.
Rabbits could dig their carefree way out of stone
but we must chime the pleading bell.

Vacated placards recalled their slogan
as soon as the apple reached the slavering Earth.
Scientific is its approach to a poem
regarded to generate well-timed mirth.

De-odourants cry out for their suction cups
and hugely talented ants oblige merrily;
the lowly ant sat moaning its pups
as its brothers got converted verily.

Saved now, he thought back to those days
of unbridled ends that would always kick buckets.
This man hasn't opened his card case
for fear of drawing crying muppets.