Girls will be girls

Though my usually long journey to and from office in the bus in this varsity town of Cambridge is never uneventful , what happened today was unforgettable.

While returing today, I shared the sparsely occupied bus with a duo of teenage girls , the impatient but good-natured and slighly on the wrong side of weighing scales called A and the sly and naughty, overly weight and appearence concious one called B.

OK now A is highly impatient – she likes to comment loudly on everything she sees outside , mostly stupid comments.B sits quietly in a corner sucking a lollypop , unmindful of friend's hyperactiviness.

One by one the bus empties down – I was sitting at half-back – just beside the heat vents – my favourite spot – for a chill was blowing outside.

A noticed that the bus was almost empty and looked back to reassure herself – I was the only person around – she looked at me and said 'hey can you be my friend – pls be my friend' – I tried to shrug of with a smile somewhere between embarrasement and indifference.

New people had started trickling in but that didnot divert her attention from me – from half way across the bus she kept (mock-)pleading 'can you be my friend – pls be my friend?'

Then she came across and placed her bulk in the seat across the aisle from me – suddenly B also got interested she came in and sat immediately behind me.I continued my mock non-chalance.

B told A (to my immense relief)  'hey I'm your friend , leave him alone!'

A won't leave 'Is she your friend?'I shook my head to indicate a no – 'Am I your friend ?' I shook again – 'why? I need a friend, please …'

B tried a different ploy – 'he's not undertanding a thing' she said to A.

The sportsman in me woke up – the wish to play along out of embarrasing situations.

'I do' I said to B;

This emboldened A.

I told B 'Was that to trick me into talking?'

A was still nagging and I said , foolishly 'I have the right to remain silent – anything I say can and will be used gainst me'

B got interested 'Where are you from?'


'So am I , I can speak Urdu'

'Really?' I said tried to mimic the Brit way this word is said – so much so that it can make the meaning clear if spoken to someone who knew no English.

And the surprise was genuine – she didn't look a tad Indain – one of those English girls – snow-white skin – she was a very pretty English girl.

''Tum Mote ho' you know what it means ' – it took me awhile to understand what she meant – then I chuckled 'Does she know what that means?' indicating to A.

'What?' A cried – her wailing subsided now after I got talking to her friend.

Then she asked me something else I could not figure out.

'Are both of your parents Indian ?' I asked in serious doubt.

'My Mom is English (Ah there you go) but Dad's from Pakistan but his mother was from India'

My remark about India and Pakistan being same once was ignored by a

'Do you know Urdu?'

'I can understand – its closer to my national language' said I.

'Can you tell me what is Urdu for -' ( I saw it coming) ' Fuck off' – I hesitated – 'Dont you worry we won't meet again – please tell me – I want to use it on my Dad'

The disrespect for parents in these teenagers westwards of Turkey,was not a new thing for me.

I still hesiatated – while she pleaded and prepared to alight  – her stop approaching – I didnot want to give her a 'respect your parents' sermon (the root of the problem cannot be cured bu mere sermons) – nevertheless, the extensive expletive vocabulary I had picked in college seemed to fail me – exasperated, I told her 'Mera peecha chodo' ('Leave me alone' in Hindi) – she repeated – memorizing – thinking it to be the  gross-est expletive she had ever learnt.

While she got down from the bus and crossed the road I waved to her and she waved back (and A looked upon,quite sullen now) -and I smiled accepting imaginary gratitude from her Old man.


The Freak Show

My existence summed up in just one word – 'freak'.I have despised it for long but have come to accept it,finally.People around me would say that it is a modesty trick-but deep inside they know its true.

And why not,the world is swarming with smart people – good-looking people,intricate brains, with huge fan following-so much so that an antithesis is required – me – I am one of the few people trying to balance out this profligacy of undue smartness.I can picturise many comrades but most are garbed beyond recognition,irrevocably.For the Haloween of life ;the mask of their smartness has actually dug deep into their epidermis.

People around me keep thinking-why won't he mix with us,why won't he eat with us, why won't he drink with us,why doesn't he be more presentable?I used to think 'why should I?',now I just say because 'I'm a freak'. I'm in a competition with all you people – its not about looking better,acting smarter,getting more attention,earning more,having more girlfriends/boyfriends.It`s about hatred-that I hate you more than you do me. For all you people who have labelled me 'psycho' – just for wanting to preserve my personal space, for seeing the world with my own eyes, for doing things my own way,for not expecting anything on anybody's faith, for not trusting anyone.

I won't say I 'm happy being a freak-I would have been happy to be left alone-to be just forgotten – but no- for accepting all the taunts,cusses and abuses unleashed from the known and the unknown alike,and without me ever retaliating – people say 'his ego is dead ' – not really, its just anesthetised-not feeling the pain- the price to pay for independent thinking.I inherited this endurance from the woman who pushed me into this world-this world where the only options for a man to survive were – to dominate or being the underling of an alpha and scavenge his kills – to be a hyaena;I desired an alternative. The Desire, the word I was named after, ironically, never got fulifilled.

Yet it is only my mother for whom I'll never be a freak – no – donot want her pushing to go in vain.She is the only woman for whom I'm still the most understanding,compassionate and joyous person.

For the rest of the world,I'm up for display at the freak show (that's my life!) – 'Presenting…the freak without two heads or three arms – but interesting all the same – enjoy!!! '


It was sometime in 1985 or '86 – and I was just five or six when I found myslelf hoisted in the arms of a Pakistani Ranger – I was in India and the person who carried me affectionately, stood in Pakistan.That singular memory is something I've treasured all these years – at the border in R.S.Pura sector of  Jammu (this was close to the northernmost tip of our undisputed border with Pakistan- some 200 km to the north it would turn into be the blood spatterred LoC). I sometimes find it difficult to believe the truth behind this memory – could it be true ? or is my memory playing tricks – many of my father's collegues would have killed those of the person who was holding me and vice versa – could my father trust me in those hands.Particularly in those troubled times – Gen Zia was ruling there – Indira had been killed here.

I find it quite difficult to understand that we ,from all diverse parts of India were responsible of protecting the border between the people who had more cultural similarities between themselves than with us.It was like building a huge wall in your ancestral Haveli and employing a Gurkha to protect you from your brother on the other side of the wall.
Now I realize there really is a sense of oneness between the two nations separated by half a century of distrust.Of shared history – of marauding invaders from Cetral Asia of emissaries from East – none had said India – Pakistan – we're one culture – one history. Is this dispute ever going to get settled – will this border marked by blood ever fade into an amber of hope – if not vanish completely.

One flew over the cuckoo’s nest

It was the height of boredom and loneliness which you get when living in a strange place, in a dimly lit melancholy hotel-room without internet or Discovery channel -and no kitchen or microwave either, that you get get to try something less mundane – like popping into the nearby movie-store – however expensive it might seem and renting a movie you've always wanted to see but never got to.
'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' was one such extragavance – the first thing that strikes you is simply the way it touches your heart – it's a sad sad story inside a lunatic asylum – true I've seen lots of them in Hindi and most notably in Malayalam – but none has made such a lasting impression as this one- I've watched it twice in the last two days – and the montage of all the characters fits in so aptly that it is a solved jigsaw – except that does it really get solved ? It looks so real – right from the protagonist MacMurphy down to the dominant Nurse Ratchet and her immature underling Pilbow – the attendents Washington and Warren – they too all seem to fit so well in place – so real – into a sad sad story- that I have to pinch myself into telling 'don't cry !!!its just a movie'.
MacMurphy (played stunningly well by Jack Nicholson) is sent to this 'home' for evaluation from the prison where they suspect he's feigning mental illness to escape work.What he finds in the place jolts him – a ward of 18 men with 9 chronic cases and rest being turned into the living dead by 'theraputic' procedures driven by Nurse Ratchet – most of these 9 non-chronic cases are 'voluntary' – it has been drilled into their minds they are here on their own accord and they are not yet ready to be a part of the society.
MacMurphy fights for their cause and tries to stall the therapy by arranging fun activities for his friends by jumping the law.He tries to and succeeds in getting it into their brains that they are 'no more crazy than the average asshole who runs the streets'.He teaches a (Native American) Indian called Chief that he really is as 'big as a mountain'.But the system is just too strong – it has the physical strength (strenght in numbers and of electricity) to hold down when the brainwashing starts wearing off ;the notorius 'shock' therapy is administered.And a the system extracts a heavy price from Mr R P MacMurphy.
My heart goes out for each of the occupannts of the ward , especially the youth called Billy Bibbit who was put here when he turned suicidal after the woman he loved rejected him – the role is so well played that everytime he stutters a response your heart skips a beat – he's not crazy – no sir – he's just too madly in love.Then there is Cheif- the Big Indian who pretends to be deaf and dumb and inspite of his enormous physical proportions seems to have lost hope, saddened by his Popaya's plight.Mr Harding – the intellegent looking middle-aged gentleman – dressed immaculately in a gown – eyes outlined by the plastics of expensive spectacles – mouth by a well kept moustache – who loves to talk about the 'form and content' of his 'life' which was his wife, that is until he started suspecting her of infidelity…

Martini the childish imp – Cheswick the forever compassionate – will always take your side when the whole world gangs up on you.
…Then there is that outsider – the naughty girl called Candy whom MacMurphy would approach for satiating his and his gang's sensual needs – so well played – that sultry blonde – with pea sized brain – willing to oblige anyone – one of the most memorable scenes is when MacMurphy introduces her to the gang and she asks them in amazement – 'you'll crazy?' – to which the crowd cheerfully  shouts an emphatic 'YES'- to that moment when Billy sneaks a private moment with her and stutters coyly 'oh you have nice hair'.'Ah thankyou' she replies with all of her hallmark coquetry.
Another remarkabkle moment is when MacMurphy is caught stealing a fishing boat (ofcourse after jumping the hospital) with his comrades – the owner/caretaker of the boat asks who they were – Mac replies nonchalantly – 'we are from the …State Mental Institution ..' and he introduces his comrades with their last names – with the title Dr. prefixed to each name 'this is Dr. Martini,Dr Cheswick…'- the guys nod as if they were centre-stage.The boat-man is absolutely befuddled and dumbstuck.
Another memorable moment is when Mac sneaks in two girls and a truckload of booze into the hospital at night (after bribing the guard ofcourse) – Mac gets onto the public address system and says 'Medication time' – mocking the nurse's daily call – 'the spirits of the night are  here'.
Unfortunately the movie ends tragically (in a way) with a haunting Native American background music especially with the lifeless form of MacMurphy in the foreground and the Big Indian Chief sprinting out of sight – his heart (and ours too) weeping for the man who taught him once again to feel 'big like a mountain'.
And the system still is miraculosly in place…