Reflections On Mankind: An Introduction

crowd of peoplePeople all over the world are clutching their falling pants and wiping their runny noses while trying to hold back tears of joy. That’s all I’m going to say about my vanishing act and my subsequent return today. I’m back. Let’s not read too much into that.

During this hiatus, I’ve done a lot of thinking. I’ve thought about the way fans turn and cigarettes burn. I’ve thought about a lot of things that people seem to have forgotten – the fact that vehicles on the road are actually driven by people. One of the best things that could have happened to me, happened this morning, as I was fighting for my life on the roads of Bangalore. I was locked in a fight to the death on my bike with three buses on a road that was wide enough for just one of them. Just as I narrowly avoided killing one of the buses with my not-so-well-aimed kick and sped through the rapidly-closing gap between another bus and the road divider, the image of a family of giraffes dressed in human clothes floated into my head.

Giraffe wearing clothesNow, it is a strange enough image to float through one’s head at any other point of time, but images that float through heads know no Earthly rules of propriety and timing. They are very rude, inviting themselves in unannounced. As it happened, this particular floating image called itself into existence seemingly out of nowhere, and lodged itself permanently (for the time being) in my peripheral vision.

I urged the bike to race ahead, leaving the three buses to fight among themselves, and for the remainder of my ride, tried to decipher the meaning of a family of giraffes who were dressed in human clothes. I arrived at a satisfying explanation after a few minutes:

Maybe Earth as we know it, is a zoo. A big, very big zoo. And all of us are the inhabitants. Maybe there’s a planet out there inhabited solely by monkeys. Another planet inhabited by elephants. And so on and so forth. Someone decided to take a few specimens of each of these species and put them all together in a vast zoo, and charge a fee to visit us and view how we’ve learned to live together. A very cool version of Noah’s Ark, without the drama. Maybe the little giraffe in the red baseball cap wanted to visit the zoo for his birthday.

If you’re wondering what you just read, and wondering if I still serve any purpose as a funny guy, then I don’t blame you. When you reflect on mankind, you start seeing a lot of strange things where logic and reason cease to exist.

Over the next few days/weeks/months, I’ll outline in detail my view on humanity and everything that matters, and I hope to demonstrate a pattern of ridiculousness that we have come to accept as our natural state of being. I do this in the hope of convincing a few of you to join me in the quest for insanity.

The Man From Nowhere

“See the nowhere crowd cry the nowhere tears of honourΒ 
Like twisted vines that growΒ 
Hide and swallow mansions whole…”

— James Hetfield, The Memory Remains

He came from nowhere and he didn’t know where he was headed. He seemed lost, confused, a paper boat caught in a hurricane, with turmoil eroding the last traces of sanity and reason in his head. He was escaping, hopefully to a better tomorrow, but he didn’t know for sure. He wanted a fresh start, desperately. He didn’t know how he was going to achieve it – his bad luck seemed to have followed him here as well. Everything he tried seemed to fail, and fail miserably. He caught himself searching for straws to clutch at.

He vowed to find a muse, an inspiration, a candle in the whirlwind of his bad luck. He wanted to find the elusive abundance of good luck that had deserted him for so long. He yearned for the peace and tranquility that had been hiding from him. It was not a search in vain.

He met her on a hot, sunny afternoon and they regarded each other cautiously, unsure of just how much attention the other person warranted. She seemed harmless enough, but he was expecting his seemingly unlimited quota of bad luck to step in again.

“Been a while,” he said. Cautiously. Two tigers, one paranoid and the other indifferent, circling each other.

“Yes. How have you been?” she asked.

“Good,” he replied and they went on to talk about other things mundane.

Time flew by and a pact was etched in stone between them, unwritten yet indelible. It took time, obviously. It did not happen overnight. He began to experience her presence more and more in his life until it almost became an addiction. Over time, he started craving for her company. She became the beacon of light in the darkness that had clouded him. She forced him to embrace good luck again, though he never knew how she managed to do that.

He still had no destination in mind, but he knew that his journey wouldn’t be lonely anymore; the journey that he had started from nowhere and had seemed to head nowhere; the journey that she had spectacularly derailed and made more bearable. He had a lot of things to be thankful for. And for a million things more.

He had found his muse. He had found his share of good fortune. The man from nowhere was finally home.

It’s A Burpy Ride!

Chennai!!
Chennai!!

I went to Chennai on Friday for a day’s work and caught the 9.30 pm bus back on the same day. It was a Volvo bus and quite comfortable. As soon as I entered the bus, the sticky humid heat of Chennai was forgotten and I settled into my cozy seat and put my feet up and pushed by seat back a long way until I heard the squeal of terror from an old hag sitting behind me, whom I’d just crushed, and sighed contentedly. It had been a tiring day, made more tiring because of the heat, and I’d sweated all the three litres of water I’d consumed. I took a long swig from my bottle of cold mineral water and held the bottle up against the side of my face. It felt so good. I could feel my body cooling down, and I smiled to myself. I’d be home by 5 am tomorrow, and in the peace and privacy of my own private toilet, I’d answer Nature’s calls. πŸ˜€

Just when my eyes were half closed and my mind was imagining something romantic, I heard heavy footsteps climb up through the door and I felt something heavy plonk itself down next to me. I ventured a peek and saw that there was a huge, obese man who was breathing heavily after his exertions of climbing up the three steps of the bus. He wheezed loudly and I thought he was going to have a heart attack, but thankfully, he didn’t. He had a bottle of water in his huge, pudgy hands and he drank half of it in loud gulps. He then leaned back in his seat, turned his head towards me and burped. πŸ˜€

I jerked up and glared at this mountain of flesh masquerading as a human being, and made my best angry-disgusted face. He excused himself and three minutes later, he was snoring away. I was apalled. I tried to forget the incident and read my book for the next hour, when the bus stopped for dinner at a wayside restaurant. The fat guy went down, and a few peaceful minutes later, came back up with a creame bun and some Ruffles Lays and these he devoured with an admirable speed. πŸ˜€

Just when I thought the trip would be uneventful, the jerk began picking his nose and rolling up his snot into tiny balls and tossing them around. I cried out loud within myself and covered myself with the sheet and tried my best to control my anger!

A harrowing 5-hour ride later, we entered Bangalore and finally, I was free from the indignations of the mountain of snot. The bus driver burped as I was alighting and the auto driver burped as I was getting into the auto. I caught a glimpse of the sky as I climbed in, and saw that the moon was crescent, almost resembling an evil smile! πŸ˜€

Hippie For A Weekend!

Perhaps the best weekend of my life so far. The title of this post is in appreciation of Bina‘s wonderful retirement plans (she plans to retire as a hippie in Goa at the age of 25!), which inspired me to do something similar, if only for a weekend.

In Gokarna, I was a hippie for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with nothing to do except lounge around on the beach, lie down on the sand in the heavy rain, waiting for the waves to come crashing into me, a bottle of cold beer by my side and a packet of cigarettes handy. We left Bangalore at 9 pm on Friday night and the first sign that this was going to be pleasant journey was that the bus was a sleeper AC coach, with long beds where I could stretch my 6’1″ frame comfortably and plug in my music and go to sleep. πŸ™‚

A clear, blue sky with a spectacular sun gave way to dark clouds that bore ominous signs of a wet weekend. And wet it was – the skies opened up a few hours after I entered Gokarna, and didn’t let up for the three days. It rained intermittently and heavily and at one time, it rained for half a day continuously. This was perhaps the best part of the whole trip. Waves six feet high crashing on to the rocks made a spectacular view.

Imagine this: you’re sitting on a piece of rock that doubles as a chair in a beach-side restaurant, you have a cup of piping hot tea next to you, you’re sitting under an asbestos sheet that barely covers your outstretched legs, the sound of the rain thumping down on the roof is deafening, this sound has been masked by the crashing of the waves right in front of you, waves that rise to astronomical heights, spraying you with a fine, cold mist of salty sea water every time it does, you sit there from morning till evening watching the tide ebb and rise, and at the highest tide, the waves almost come up to the rock on which you’re sitting, instilling in you a faint fear of being washed away, but sitting there with the confidence that the place has been built there to withstand the highest tides, struggling to light your cigarette because the wind is blowing with all its fury, adding to the harmonic noise, and finally, just when the ancient clock in the cafΓ© strikes six and the tiny lights go on, you see similar lights turning on all along the beach, hundred yards away from each other, and throwing a magnificent view of the entire beach in twilight, corresponding to the distant lighthouse and the small specks of light on the horizon among the waves.

I made friends with a nice, cute dog there, who had a striking resemblance to Balto, and I christened him Murthy. This was because he had only three front teeth, and I couldn’t think of any better name for him. I was having a conversation about existentialism with him and I asked him, “Do you believe if the whole concept of existentialism holds water, no puns intended?” He gave me the most logical answer I’ve ever heard on this topic: he scratched his head, sniffed his balls and trotted away. πŸ˜€

Gokarna town is a rustic village, located twenty minutes away from Om Beach, and is famous for its historical temples. There’s one very famous Mahabaleshwar temple here and legend has it that Lord Ganesha tricked the demon Ravana into leaving behind a Shivalinga here. In spite of the might exerted by Ravana (Maha Bala), the Shivalinga stayed fixed, hence the name Mahabaleshwar. The pull exerted by Ravana, is said to have caused the Shivalinga to resemble the shape of a cow’s ear and hence the name Gokarnam (literally means “cow’s ears” in Sanskrit). I had a nice time at the temple with the crowd of people thronging there, braving the rain to offer their prayers.

I started reading Roland Barthes during the journey, a French thinker who had been on my list for a long time. His book Mythologies is quite fascinating, and most of his essays are really intriguing. A good read for any occasion. But the most excitement came in the form of Italo Calvino.

I fell in love with this book called If on a winter’s night a traveler, which is perhaps THE best book I’ve ever read in my life! Thanks Anushree for getting the book for me!! I could not put the book down and once I finished it, started kissing the book all over until it was sloppy. I really suggest this book. I love Italo Calvino! You have to, have to read it!! πŸ˜€

Caught the bus back on Sunday night and reached this morning, thus bringing to a close one of the most beautiful journeys in my life. As I said earlier, if anyone hasn’t been to Gokarna, please do. It’s one of the most breathtaking places you can ever go.

Getting there is not much trouble – buses leave from Bangalore every night at 9 pm, and the tickets cost around 500 bucks. I don’t know about buses from other places, but I’m sure it’s well connected. Any bus going to Goa stops at Gokarna. From Gokarna town, catch an auto to Om Beach for 120 bucks and stay there at Namaste CafΓ©, at 150 bucks a night! That simple! πŸ˜€

Part of me wants to go back there and part of me knows that it’ll not happen again for at least a few more months. I guess I can wait! πŸ™‚