The 46-Rupee Meal

Ten years ago, when the world was a nicer place to live in, I was just getting out of high school, full of misdirected ambitions of making a difference in the world. Of the many things that were ideal back then, I liked the fact that I could have a hearty meal for less than ten rupees. That’s about 5 cents. Maybe not a ‘hearty’ meal, but certainly a couple of idlis and a vada for eight rupees. For the uninitiated, an idli is a white colored, steamed rice cake, about the size and shape of a BlackBerry Curve and a vada is a brown colored doughnut-shaped (and sized), deep-fried eatable that goes perfectly well with an idli. Ten years ago, a pair of idlis and a vada together used to cost eight rupees.

Today, ten years later, I realized that there has been a 475% increase in the cost of the same meal. A pair of idlis and a vada, today, costs 46 rupees.

Idli Vada
Two Idlis and a Vada - The 46-Rupee Meal

That’s still less than a dollar, but for someone who’s spent the better part of his life here in India, that’s daylight robbery. The strangest part of the entire experience today over lunch was not that I was fretting about the astronomical increase in the rate, but the equally enormous decrease in the quantity and taste.

The sizes of the idlis and vadas have reduced so much that its hard to spot them when you put them on a plate. You have to have a pair of really good binoculars to identify where they are and make sure that your spoon hits the mark. No, I’m exaggerating, of course, but you get the idea. And the taste, well, I have eaten pieces of cardboard (for free) that have been tastier.

I hate to call this inflation, because the term ‘inflation’ has a definition, a universally-accepted identity. I would call this phenomenon a gross negligence on the part of the Indian public, who have allowed this kind of injustice to penetrate every aspect of their lives. Our lives. Commonplace examples – a tennis ball that used to cost ten rupees now costs thirty. A piece of chewing gum that was half a rupee is now three rupees. A toothbrush that used to cost around four to five rupees is now thirty-five.

How I wish I were living in the stone ages, where all I had to worry about was the next critter I caught for dinner and the next female I slept with. If wishes were horses, I’d be a very rich, sexually-gratified stable boy.

The ‘Butt’on Brigade

This post is for the person who gave me that screwball lecture on Global Warming,   😀

I sat through a long discourse on global warming and how it’ll affect the kind of clothes we wear on a daily basis. Apparently, the Earth is going to become too hot for us to wear clothes and we’d all be walking around butt-naked on the streets, sweating like pigs. Nudists are going to have a field day, however, but for the rest of us unfortunates, we will be forced to do something drastic to preserve whatever ‘little’ decency we have.

From the Stone Age to the Information Age and the present Boobage, we’re hurtling towards another Ass Age. Strangely, this comes just before the next Ice Age, and the two pronunciations are not to be confused. So, what do we do in this ex-ass-perating situation?

There will come a time when people’s butts will become a taboo – as taboo’d as the other ‘private’ parts. Unfortunately, people will not share the same obsession they have for these parts and we’ll see them being bared in public. But the butt, it’s gonna be highly private. Someone will invent a Butt-Guard or a Butt-Off or something similar in all shapes and sizes and fake ones too, that will protect the butt from prying eyes. More than anything, these inventions will prevent Ass Lovers from their eye-candy.

These Ass Lovers will create a secret society called the ‘Butt’on Brigade, and their main objective will be to beautify the backside through underground videos. Scores of people will be misled into joining the ‘Butt’on Brigade and kids as young as 10 will be brainwashed and made to join. Law and order will fail against the sheer numbers of the Brigadiers and the kids will create their own version called the ‘Little Asses.’

And since all the truths about Global Warming would have been proven to be true, the Governments of all the countries will decide that they need to ignore the ominous signs again. Their anal logic would be: Lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice, so why should Global Warming?

But the logic would turn out to be just that – anal and stinky, Global Warming would strike again, bringing an end to the Ice and the Ass Age. The taboos would return to normal. We’d be flashing our butts in public again and hiding other parts.

If only this fucked-up version of the future were true. Unfortunately, it’s just a dream. An ass-piration…

From Bangalore With Love

Stranger Than Strange
My Life: Stranger Than Strange

Strange things seem to happen to me most of the time. I don’t know if anyone else experiences weirdness on a daily basis as I do. Today, a DHL courier guy sniffed my butt, I broke my thumb, and I managed to get myself locked in an ATM counter. All within a span of two hours.

I wanted to send a package to Trivandrum, in Kerala. It was a set of pretty Fabindia kurtas for a friend, on the occasion of Onam. She had specifically asked me not to send anything, and that was why I had to send her some nice clothes. So, after some confusing shopping, I settled on a pair of kurtas. I vowed never to shop for women again.

In the evening, I left office a bit early to courier the package at the DHL office in Malleshwaram, which is just a few miles from home. A harrowing one-hour ride on my rickety bike later, I reached the place.

“Hi,” I said to the courier guy sitting behind the desk. “I’ve got a package to be sent to Kerala.”

“Sir, all connections to Kerala are closed for Onam. It’ll reach only on Monday,” he said.

I sighed and said, “Ok, fine. Give me the earliest connection,” and tried to un-sling my backpack, but it wouldn’t budge. There was an irritating hook in the bag, which had gotten stuck to my belt buckle and my bag was locked in place. When I tried to move it, my pants rode up, giving me a wedgie. It was quite embarrassing, and the courier guy was looking at me with some amusement.

“Excuse me,” I told him. “Can you please check this hook? I think it’s stuck to my pants.” I was utterly, completely, thoroughly embarrassed and I hoped to hell he wouldn’t recognize me on a later day.

He came around and stood behind me and crouched down and held his face as close to my butt as he could. After a while, he said, “Yes sir, the hook is stuck to the belt buckle.” He took a pair of scissors and bent down again. We struck a queer pose – me, standing there and him, bending down, examining my ass with a pair of scissors in hand. I was desperately praying that no one walk through the door at that time and find the both of us in this compromising position. My prayers were answered and no one walked in, and soon, he had freed the hook from my pants and I could un-sling my bag. We avoided looking into each others’ eyes.

“Can I pay with my credit card?” I asked as I handed over the package to him.

“No sir, we don’t,” he said. Of course they won’t. Things can never be too easy, right? So, I told him, “Ok, then start billing, I’ll go to the ATM next door.”

Three people stood in a line outside the ATM, and I stood there, patiently awaiting my turn. Ten excruciating minutes later, the guy in front of me finished his transactions and I withdrew my money. As I tried to open the door, I realized that it was locked. The ATM counter had a button that we needed to push in order to open it from inside, and that button had been ripped out, with only a few dangerous wires hanging from the hole. I didn’t know what to do. There was no phone inside the counter. I had my cell phone, but I didn’t want to call the cops and be embarrassed a second time.

I waited there for exactly 9 minutes until someone else came up to the counter. I told him that I was locked in and that he could open the door by inserting his card through the slot on the other side. He did so and I was free. I thanked him and together, we hauled a piece of tile and blocked the door so that it wouldn’t shut completely, trapping some other poor fellow.

I ran up to the DHL office and paid up the money and took my receipt and ran out. Finally, I said to myself. I can go home in peace.

As I was removing my bike from the parking lot, I dropped my helmet, which I was holding in my hand. Instinctively, I bent down to pick it up before it rolled away onto the main road, and lost control of the bike and fell over to my side, with my left thumb being pinned between the concrete road and the bike’s handle. One tiny bone somewhere inside that thumb snapped and driving back in that pain was hell. I was screaming all the way home and people thought I was drunk.

From Bangalore, all the way to Trivandrum, with love. I hope they deliver the package to the right address! 😀

The Big Crunch!

end of the world2008 hasn’t been a very good year for me so far. In fact, it hasn’t been a good year for most of the people I’ve known – failed marriages, failed love lives, too many bad days at work and school, diets not working, falling down, accidents, losing clients, losing major contracts, losing jobs, cost-cuttings, fights at home, and so on… The list is endless. Most of the people I know can’t really explain what’s happening. Last year, it had been so good for these people, me included, and all of a sudden, fortunes change drastically. A close friend of mine lost close to fifty thousand rupees on the stock markets and another good friend of mine had a life-threatening accident. I almost had my brush with death when the plane I was traveling in, on my way to India from New York, experienced so much turbulence that the pilot announced that they had to make an emergency landing somewhere – freaked me out at that time, but the turbulence passed and I reached safely.
But on the whole, it hasn’t been a really good year.

Friends of mine have flunked their exams and whose who were waiting for job offers and marriage proposals were disappointed. Another friend of mine called Divya was so happy that she had finally found a guy to get married and she called me up, all hyper-excited! A week later, she told me the marriage was off as the guy decided to study further and rejected her. I was more heartbroken, not only for her, but it proved my theory of 2008 being a very very bad year for most people.

Now, I know why it is a bad year. I did some calculations and called up a few people who take this astrology thing seriously, and I have a passably corny theory, wrapped in some flimsy auspices of scientific fact. Here it is:

The Big Bang Theory states that once the universe stops expanding, it’ll start collapsing into itself. This phenomenon is termed the Big Crunch. Sometime in December last year,  the Universe reached its limit of expansion, and just like an expanding balloon, it paused for an instant, stretched out to its tensile limit, and hung in an instant of timelessness. Everything stopped in that instant, including time. I don’t know if any of you have noticed that time seemed to be behaving strangely around November-December of 2007, but for me at least, it was so unnerving. I used to think that time seemed to be going slower than usual. Maybe it was because I had my exams at that time, but I don’t know. The clock never seemed to move ahead!

Now, in 2008, the Universe has begun the Crunch. Everything is moving in reverse – bad things are replacing good things everywhere in the world. Crime rate is up 11% in India alone! We are stuck in this lawless, reverse universe for a couple of billion years minimum.

I think we’d better start praying…

Disclaimer: The above theory has absolutely no scientific or astrological basis. It’s pure and utter nonsense, a brainchild of a bored and zombified mind. 😀

Desperate and Penniless!

I’m a week and a half into my Bangalore phase of my life and I’m stuck in a quandary which, at first glance, may seem pitiable, but on the second, hilarious.

I have three credit cards and four debit cards in my wallet and not a penny, dime, nickel or rupee in cash. I was banking on swiping these precious plastic cards to get my way around the city, at least until I get my first paycheck. The first thing I did when I came to Bangalore was go to a nice, expensive restaurant for lunch with my parents and my younger brother and order everything on the menu, including the kitchen sink. (Well, almost!)

When the obsequious maître d’ arrived with the check, I grandly whipped out my wallet and selected my Capital One card and gave it to him. Eyes sparkling and mouth watering at the thought of a fat tip, the man went to do the needful. He returned a few minutes later, and I could see the hatred in his eyes clearly.

“This card doesn’t work in India,” he said, handing me the card back, and added, “sir” with venom.

I gulped. I took out my whole arsenal of plastic cards and gave it to him. “Use whichever works,” I said.

Unfortunately, none did. And fortunately, Dad had his wallet on him. He ended up paying close to five thousand rupees and tipped the obnoxious maître d’ a paltry ten bucks. He literally kicked all of us out. As a final revenge, he made us wait for close to fifteen minutes in the sultry afternoon heat before the valet brought our car to us. I wished I could disappear.

Since then, I’ve been absolutely penniless and desperate for any sort of financial help. And by financial help, I mean the occasional ten-twenty bucks for coffee, smokes and fuel. Dad still pays for the fuel, but grudgingly. I can almost hear him laughing inside – US-returned, my ass!

Come Monday, I start working for this pretty cool PR firm called Hanmer and Partners. I can’t wait to start, only to get my restlessness out of my nerves and more importantly, to get my hands on a card that actually works in India!! I’ve met most of my old friends already, caught up on old times and when its time to pay the check, I always fall back on this line: “Hey, its your treat this time! I paid last time!” 😀

Most of my friends are good-hearted people and they recognize a plea for help instantly and pay for me. Not for long, I keep telling myself….

Not for long. 😀

The Case Of The Disappearing Currency

4:09 pm – I bought a couple of packs of chewing gum at a roadside store, paid with a hundred-rupee note and got ninety rupees back, including a 50-rupee note.

4:20 pm – I’m driving in heavy traffic towards Barista to meet a friend and have a cup of coffee.

4:32 pm – I stop to pick up some smokes at some other roadside store and pay the guy ten bucks.

4:59 pm – I think to myself as I’m parking my Mom’s old, worn-out Luna that I need to fill up a water bottle with fifty bucks’ worth fuel for my bike, whose tank was bone dry.

5:45 pm – Rags and I leave Barista and walk over to the gas station across the street.

5:47 pm – The attendant fills up the water bottle with fuel and I open my wallet to pay him…

What happened next was a complete shock to me. There was no money in my wallet. There should’ve been close to sixty bucks in there, and all I saw was some dirty old ten-rupee note. I gulped and looked at Rags. She pitied me and gave me the money for the fuel.

I called the Hardy Boys to investigate the crime, and they came promptly at around ten in the night. We ended up getting drunk and woke up this morning not knowing why I had called them.

Ah, my hard-earned fifty rupees! 😦