A Really Long Short Story Titled “Cause & Effect” [Chapter 1]

-CHAPTER 1-

For a long time he stood there, naked except for the wet towel around his waist, eyes closed and arms wide, inviting the strong flow of cold air that the window-mounted air conditioner spewed out. He knew that it wasn’t the cleanest air he could breathe, and knew that a lot of dust and potentially harmful things were being hurled at his face at a high speed, but he didn’t mind. It was the cold he wanted, the momentary relief from the unforgiving, sweaty humidity of the summer that forced him to shower twice a day. He didn’t mind the showering part – what he didn’t like was that he sweated so much every day, even if all he did was sit on his desk all day at work. The weather was all that he hated of the city – the city that he had moved to a couple of years earlier in search of a new life. He had found it and much more. He loved the chaotic harmony of the tiny city made up of all those tiny islands in the corner of the country. He loved the fact that he was barely twenty minutes away from a secluded beach. He loved the fact that he could get lost in the crowd in this city and not panic. It was a city of straight lines and parallel tracks. And he loved every inch of it. Except for the bloody weather.

He came out of his trance-like state and walked around the room, discarding the towel and mined his clothes for the day from the wardrobe – a chore that always made him feel a little bit like an archaeologist digging for buried treasure. The room was tiny, but given the standards of the city, a palace. The apartment was a one-room deal with a kitchen and a living room. He shared the bedroom with the only person who made living in the cramped quarters fun – his wife.

He dressed quickly and sat down on his desk, angled the air-conditioner’s vents so that he could feel the cold blast of air on his face and lit a cigarette. Even before he lit it, he knew it was asking for trouble.

He had hardly taken a couple of drags on it when his wife opened the door and entered, wrapped in a wet towel of her own. She stood there, staring at him and his cigarette and folded her arms across her chest and said, “Why the hell are you smoking?”

[to be continued]

As I Sit In My Hotel Room

Yes. I’m in a hotel. I’ve checked into a seedy hotel and the room looks hauntingly familiar for all the wrong reasons. I think I’ve seen many a porn movie shot in this very room. I can’t be too sure about this, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Why the sudden turn or events, you might wonder. Why did a guy like me, who has such a lovely house in the suburbs of Mumbai have to check into a seedy motel at 9 in the night on a weekday, you might ponder. Well, even if you don’t wonder and ponder these mysteries, I’ll enlighten you.

It all began two months ago when my landlady turned stupid.

She noticed that the power company had failed to deduct the monthly electricity bill from her bank account, and being stupid as she is, she thought it was her good fortune that the power company forgot to charge her. Little did she realize that it was a major oversight on her part that her bank had stopped the automatic clearing of bills. She had the same ‘good fortune’ last month, apparently, and she was over the moon. She had saved so much money!

So, I come back home at 8 this evening, tired, drenched in my own sweat, reeking of the day’s exploits and turn the keys in my front door and enter a dark abyss. I turn on the light switch to no avail. I panic a bit. I turn on other switches all over the house and I’m still covered in a thick layer of darkness. I panic, stumble blindly from one room to another, screaming for help and trying to get the darkness off my body. No, I’m exaggerating. I have a flair for drama and I get carried away sometimes. I get my torch and find out that the power company has ripped away the fuse and left a notice in it’s place. It’s a notice that’s in their letterhead and looks very ominous.

“Dear Cheapo,

Pay your light bill in the next 15 days. Or else…

Sincerely,

Power Company”

Or something to that effect. I call my landlady and explain the situation to her. She then realizes that her ‘good fortune’ was actually a serious blunder. She apologized profusely and told me a hundred times that she’ll rectify the issue tomorrow and begged me not to make a big issue of this. I reluctantly agreed and told her that I’d dropped the idea of driving to her house to spend the night.

So, here I am, almost in the middle of the night, checked in to the nearest hotel I could walk to, and I sit here on the chair, where I’m vaguely sure that many a pretty chick has done it doggy style. The creepy blue lights and a transparent bathroom add to the cheesyness.

Yes. The bathroom / toilet has a TRANSPARENT wall. Fuck you very much, landlady.

Transparent Bathroom
The Transparent Bathroom
Cheesy Blue Lights
Look Familiar, Porn Fans?

 

Habit Over Hate

Mumbai BeachFor those of you who have been wondering why MirrorCracked hasn’t been updated for two months (to the day), well, you can stop wondering. I am still alive, unfortunately, and I’m back in business. For those of you who assumed I had given up, for those of you who assumed I was dead and for those of you who just didn’t (and still don’t) care whether this blog gets updated or not, the least I can offer is a friendly wave.

I’ve been living in a beach town for a while now and working for an ad agency, setting up a business of my own and working on my third book, so arguably, I’ve been a bit busy. Add an ill-timed illness and brand new fuckers around, it does get a bit dicey to manage blogging time.

But anyway, here I am, exactly two months after my last post, itching to tell the world about my beach town.

For a while now, I’ve noticed that the town I live in has been mistakenly called many names and not all of them pleasant. It has been referred to as the Crap Recycler, The Widowmaker, The Land of Opportunity and, my favorite, A Triumph of Habit Over Hate.

I don’t think it’s any of those. The more I look at this town, the more I come to believe that it’s a small-time beach town that has had a sudden influx of different dichotomies:  randomly distributed pockets of wealth and penury, steel-and-concrete monstrosities and corrugated cardboard disguised as houses, intellectuals and dumbasses.

There are still remnants of the little beach town that it actually once was – the early morning air with the slight hint of seawater in it, the small lanes paved with tiles, thatched roof huts (if you’re lucky enough to spot one), tall coconut trees and the stink of freshly caught seafood. People getting haircuts and shaves on the pavement, the constant cacophony of the crows (which seems to be a trait of almost every beach town), and finally, the vast areas of mangroves that signal the edge of land all make up for a wonderfully misunderstood beach town.

Then there are the beaches themselves. Some beaches here have been overrun by people who, I think, have never seen a beach in their lives and hence empathize with. But others are pristine in their naturalness. Vast stretches of sandy shores devoid of any human pollution, the gentle lapping of the waves as they kiss your feet and the distant horizon where the unnaturally large sun sinks, throwing up a fascinating array of golden lights dancing on the rippling water…

There I go again, losing myself while describing the sea. The point I was trying to make is that all these things put together make this place a lovely little beach town which has all the beauty and serenity of any other place like Gokarna or Mahabs or even some parts of Goa, with all the amenities of a fully-developed city of money, power, cricket and Bollywood. It would help if we go past the negativity that is being spun into our lives by everyone who’s been here. Every newspaper, on an average, consists of 90% bad news every day. Murders, political scams, money laundering, government incapacities, road rage, traffic snarls, and other nonsense. Forget all that for a day. If you live where I live, try and overlook all that for just a day. Try and connect with the small-time beach town that it really is.

I live in Mumbai.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

candlelight dinnerShe wore a very pretty, pink, long-sleeved sweater that hugged her body and showed off her curves quite well. Her jeans were a couple of sizes too small, which was perfect for me, for obvious aesthetic reasons. She walked towards me from across the crowded bar, with a lovely smile on her lips – blood-red lips that broke into an easy smile that wrinkled the corners of her hazel eyes and made her look that much more beautiful. She was a little under 5’10” tall, and easily one of the tallest women in the room.

She moved with a graceful, relaxed-yet-sexy walk, with her brown-streaked curls bouncing up and down with each step she took. She walked over to me, her smile widened as I stood up and hugged her tightly for a couple of seconds, and held out a chair for her. My fingers deliberately brushed her shoulders and her waist as I helped her into her seat, leaving no doubts in her mind what my intentions were.

“A gentleman,” she said. “You guys are hard to find these days.”

Her voice was sweetness personified.The lilting tones put my head into overdrive and even before I could say anything, I felt a stirring in my loins, an almost animalistic urge to pounce on her and take her roughly, right there in the crowded bar.

I smiled my best smile and said, “Then I’m glad you found me.”

We spoke of this and that, made small talk, and flirted quite a bit. I think my best line was, “I wish I knew Braille.” Since it was a blind date,  she got my meaning, and blushed deeply. Her lovely face turned bright crimson when I said it. We ordered a couple of drinks and a bite to eat. I reached my hand over to hers and held it there for a few minutes. She didn’t retract her hand. Instead, she locked her fingers between mine and we sat there, looking into each others’ eyes. Was this love at first sight? Was I really doing this? Meeting this beautiful woman, holding her hand, looking into her eyes and steadily falling in love?

The waiter handed me the bill, and just as I was about to pay, she reached over and snatched the bill away from me.

“I’m paying,” she said with a sweet smile.

I couldn’t react because I had seen something that had sent a shiver down my spine and in an instant, filled my very soul with terror. I wish I hadn’t seen it and I hoped I had imagined it, but I knew it was wishful thinking. I had seen the most terrifying sight that threatened to make me into a sniveling coward.

“Uh,” I said. “Look, I – I have to go. I am running late for a meeting.”

She stared at me coldly, stunned, unable to comprehend. Even before she recovered, I stood up, hastily threw down some money on the table and muttered something about it being my treat, stammered an apology and like a fool, I stumbled out of the bar and ran for my life. I did not take a cab, I did not even bother looking for my bike that I had parked close  by. I ran the three blocks to my house, in full sprint, not looking back. I was scared and I was not going to stop until I reached home.

After what seemed like an eternity, I reached my front door, out of breath and wheezing heavily. I rang the doorbell and almost collapsed into my roommate’s arms. Being one of my closest friends, he was obviously shocked and worried. He helped me into the chair, gave me some water and helped me calm myself down. My kid sister, who was also home, came out of the room and stared at me. I looked a total mess. They asked me what happened and demanded an explanation. They even offered to call the cops, thinking I had been mugged.

“No, don’t call the cops. They won’t be able to do anything,”  I managed to say between deep breaths.

“Nikhil, you’re scaring me,” said my sister. “What happened!?”

I looked into their faces – my sister and my best friend – anxiously looking at me, and waiting for an explanation. So, I told them my story about how I had met the perfect woman, the wonderful time we had had, the drinks and the dinner and the conversations. Then I reached the point of the story where the bill arrived and she had reached out to snatch it from my hand.

“What happened? Why did you run when she took the bill??” asked my roommate.

“Dude,” I said. “She had body hair!”

***

“I Have Mother!”

Or, as it’s rightly said in Hindi, “Mere paas maa hai!” was, still is and will remain the most famous dialog in Bollywood for the next few decades. The 1975 classic Deewar set new standards in Indian cinema and elevated mortal beings into superstardom. Sadly, the ’70s were all that Bollywood could offer in terms of originality, innovation and pleasure. Apart from the occasional gem, a majority of  the movies made in Bollywood today are worthless pieces of stool.

There is one – just one – formula that all Bollywood movies follow nowadays:

A meets B.

Falls in love with B. 

A thinks life is all roses and unicorns. Sings a song or two. 

But, oh no! What’s this? B is in love with C! How unexpected!

A is shattered. Depressed. Sings a song or two.

C, meanwhile, is a jerk and does something inhuman, untrustworthy. 

B loses faith in C. B is depressed. Blames self for misfortune. Sings a song or two.

A swoops in like a knight in shining armor. Consoles B.

B falls in love with A. All is fine, sing a song or two.

Optional (for violence): C and A have a fight. 

If A and C are men, you have a strong romantic movie filled with songs, drama and action. If A and C are women, you have a spicy, romantic chick flick.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but every one of these so-called ‘new and improved’ movies work on these lines. This is the core formula. The unchanging storyline for any movie worth it’s salt to pass inspection. Package the formula with a college theme, a superhero theme, a gangster theme, and just about any goddamn theme – you get one crappy movie after another.

The Bollywood Crap Factory has been churning out disaster after such disaster for the past twenty-odd years. And it’s amazing how people just fall for it each and every time. Either that, or re-hashing successful old movies with more masala and lesser clothes and disgusting lyrics to excite more hapless people.

Unabashed over-the-top acting with too much drama and too many emotions and too many movements of the eyebrows, relying too much on non-Indian folk to add some elements of ‘variance’ or as the producers like to call it, ‘a global touch’ – these are few of the trends that are bound to backfire and implode sooner or later. Actors who engage in silly publicity stunts, those who sell their souls to be on a reality show and those who sell their bodies to get featured in a newspaper – we have all kinds of lunatics in this business.

I crave for the day this ridiculous trend is overturned for something better. Bollywood needs a face-lift. And soon!

2011: Acknowledgements & Year In Review

2011 Year in ReviewIt’s been a long-drawn battle with time, and I finally won. A crappy year ends and a hopeful, new one begins. There were so many instances in 2011 when I thought that things couldn’t get worse, and each time I was proven wrong. I have laughed, cried, fought, patched up, been cheated, cheated myself, been lied to, lied myself and finally, searched for the eternal peace which has seemed just barely out of reach for so long. The past year has had occasions of absolute bliss and considerable misery for me, and I will very glad to end this year on a good note, with friends, lovely strangers and a lot of well-earned alcohol.

2011 began for me on a fairly good note, with a job offer at a promising firm. Just a couple of months down the line, I realized my mistake and it was too late to rectify it. The company turned out to be a nightmarish hell-hole managed by lesser mortals and run by an insect. After being sucked dry, my will to go forth and survive took over and I quit the garage (yeah, it was a communications firm being run out of a garage) and started managing my own firm, which had been neglected so far.

I did that for a few months and made some absolutely lovely friends in the process. Here’s a shout out to Satish and everyone at Design Esthetics. A couple of more months saw me take up scuba diving as a pseudo profession. But, as luck may have it, the dive center for whom I was doing the marketing, was run by another insect who turned out to be a bastard of the highest order who cheated all his employees out of their hard-earned money and respect. It’s only sweet justice that his business is ruined and he has nowhere left to run. Oh, I’m waiting to see the asshole’s face in the papers when he gets arrested for fraud.

Things got really interesting after that, and I reached a point where I had to dip into my savings for the first time in five years, just to survive. A year-long courting ritual with a well-known and respected multinational communications firm finally reached fruition and I made the decision to move to Mumbai, tentatively at first, to check out the playing field. It was a decision that I have not regretted and I’m pretty sure I won’t regret for a few more years.

On the personal front, things couldn’t get more strange than they did in 2011. I had a lot of illusions shattered this year when the woman I was in love with turned out to be nothing more than that – an illusion. I made a few bad decisions, I agree, but when two people love each other, they are capable of both pain and pleasure. I realized that money plays a vital role in deciding how long you can love someone. So, on a fateful day in November this year, I lost someone very close to me and made me wonder if she ever was capable of loving someone for who they are and not how much their wallets can carry.

Just when I thought I’d give up hope on 2011 being a good year, I rediscovered what it was to fall in love with someone totally unexpected. A fresh feeling of puppy love, evolving into lust and desire and at this point of time, to a steady state of mutual understanding, trust and faith, made me a believer again. Here’s a warm bear hug to the woman I’m in love with – the hottest mallu chick in the world. Yeah, I’m dating a mallu, and if anyone’s got a problem with that, you can pick a number, get in line and kiss my ass when your number’s called.

If I were to send one message to 2011 and all it’s incidents and people, all it’s merry and misery, it would be this: Good riddance to bad rubbish.I can’t wait to enter the new year. I’m ever the optimist, cautiously pessimistic and according to my girlfriend, annoyingly pragmatic.

All the people who have made my 2011 bearable: Rohit Nayak, for his constant support and encouragement; Pavan Attavar, for making sure I never got drunk alone; Mum & Dad, for their support through financial famines; Satish, for his trust and belief in my limited abilities; Nargis Namazi, for making the transition to Mumbai that much more easy; Sagar Pandey, for his warmth, generosity, hospitality and for allowing me to use his PS3; Mark Monteiro, for ensuring that I didn’t kill the asshole dive center owner by replacing the air in his tank with rat poison; Mahesh Bajaj, my newest friend who took the leap of faith and is hopefully in a better state of mind after Gokarna; Renuka Balachandran and Niveditha Singh, who made my days in the godforsaken garage bearable; Nitin Kumar and Pooja Rao, for their steady supply of sex scandals, movies, television shows and porn; Gitanjali More, for making sure that I got my steady supply of interesting conversations; and finally, a very special mention of my new-found sister, Aishwarya, without whose support and love, I would not have been able to settle into Mumbai.

My love to you all and I hope 2012 will be a fantastic year for all of you.

The Day I Turned Ninety

Saturday, November 26, 2011 will always remain etched in my memory as a historic occasion, a day to remember and revere as I try to live out the remainder of my days painfully. I aged dramatically that day and it reminded me of The Last Crusade, where the bad guy drinks from the wrong cup and turns into an aged, shriveled skeleton in a matter of seconds.

It was a really bad decision to play a professional cricket match with no practice.

I used to play a lot of cricket as a kid. Played for the school and college teams and garnered a bit of pro experience here and there. I wasn’t a great cricketer, but I wasn’t too bad either. I could hold my own against the real professionals. But, its been an awfully long time since I’ve played competitive, professional cricket, and I’ve been woefully out of touch and practice. I have put on a few extra kilos around the middle and I don’t move as quickly as I used to. I had completely forgotten what a grueling ordeal it is to be out on a cricket field on a hot and humid day for six hours.

As I started with my warm-up stretches in the morning, I wondered whether the exercises had become tougher over the past few years. I soon realized that my body was resisting it after being accustomed to comfortable couches and soft beds. I forced myself to finish the work-out and to my horror, found out that the match had already started, that my team was batting first and that I was to bat at Number 3. For those who are uninitiated into the sport of cricket, if you’re third in the batting order, then you go out to bat as soon as the first wicket falls.

I padded up in a hurry, went out to bat when the first wicket fell and was clean bowled first ball. I didn’t seem to notice the ball zooming past my bat and my sluggish head was still trying to decide what to do about it, while I made the long walk back to the pavilion.

When it was our turn to field, I shuttled from one end of the field to the other after each over and by the time we were halfway through, I was ready to drop dead. I prayed for a natural disaster to disrupt the match, I prayed for the opposition to knock off the runs quickly and I prayed for an excuse that would allow me to get off the field with a feigned ‘injury’.

By the end of the day, after we had lost spectacularly, my feet were beyond pain and I had to remove my shoes and carry them with me as I hopped painfully into a cab to come back home. My entire body was one big bruise. I ached in places I didn’t know could ache. Muscles that I didn’t know I had, hurt each time I did something trivial. It was painful for me to spray deodorant on myself because my finger hurt when I squeezed the can.

The whole of yesterday was spent in recuperating at home, in bed, with timely cups of hot tea.

Saturday, November 26, 2011. The day I stopped being twenty-eight.

The day I turned ninety.