Monday, January 09, 2006

The Big B

“What movie is happening at Imax?” asked Dhruv.
“Don’t know. What’s the difference? Any movie is cool”, answered Dhiren.
“Do you people really want to go for a movie?” asked Monali. “I know! Let’s get a tattoo done. There’s this really cool place in Bandra.
“Well, I don’t know about you guys, but Siddhesh and I are going for the biology lecture,” piqued Natasha.
“You guys are such bores!” protested Dhiren. “Enjoy life guys; lectures happen everyday!”
“I am not averse to bunking around two-three lectures a week,” replied Siddesh. “But what you people are up to is absolutely ridiculous! You attend just three to four classes a week, and that too with great difficulty. Mark my words, you’re going to be in trouble.”
“Fine, go ahead and attend. We promise not to be jealous when you get the ‘Nerds of the Year’ awards!” commented Monali. A peal of laughter was issued from the apparently ‘cool’ trio, while the ‘nerds’ just rolled their eyes.
Such conversations were usual in the campus of the Sir Victor Mehta College. Students with their don’t-carish attitude looked down upon others who cared about ‘mundane’ and ‘boring’ things like attendance and academics. For them, being cool was all about dressing weirdly, bunking lectures and above all, being impertinent and insolent to their professors. Money spoke for them, and if they got into any trouble with the authorities, their parents were more than ready to bail them out of such minor scrapes.
As opposed to this lot, there were the really sincere students, who liked to have a bit of fun as well, but not at the expense of academics. These students also took part in various activities, as the college encouraged everyone to, but they managed to strike a balance between all the demands on their time. To cut a long story short, let’s just say that these students had their priorities right, but also believed that a little fun never harmed anyone.
Such was the story of our five protagonists. A more bizarre group wasn’t to be found anywhere on the campus. Bizarre because they were a mixture of two completely opposite kind of people. The regulars and the irregulars. So then, why were they together? This was because, each of them, without realizing it, admired something in the other party. Dhiren, Dhruv and Monali secretly wished to be like their brainy friends Siddhant and Natasha, who were good at almost everything, in spite of watching as many movies or going on as many picnics like them. However, since the grass is always greener on the other side, Siddhant and Natasha always wished their parents were as easy-going as their friends’ or that they were allowed to party more often like their friends.
As exams were fast approaching, there was a mad scramble around for notes, and a realization amongst the students that they had no idea whatsoever as to what the syllabus for the exam was. Attendance suddenly reached previously unattained records, as students realize that it was the Big B time. Blacklists for all subjects were being put up, and that is certainly not one place a self-respecting student would wish to see his name in.
But unfortunately, some things are avoidable, unless you make up your mind to do otherwise. And so, Monali, Dhiren and Dhruv’s name happened to feature in the blacklists for all subjects. That can only mean one thing, and that is, a tête-à-tête with the principal. And as their previous academic records were nothing to write home about, the trio panicked and fretted, but to no avail. The meeting with the principal was simply unavoidable.
“Come in,” said a deep voice, as Monali uncertainly knocked on the door that bore the name, ‘R. Vasudevan, Principal’.
He looked up as she entered and remarked rather nastily, “Not the first time in my office for irregular attendance, are we? What is the excuse this time, Ms. Choudhary?”
“I’m really sorry, Sir. But I promise you this won’t happen again. Do believe me this time,” she said, close to tears.
“There will not be a next time. I had warned you about this in the last term itself. I cannot do anything now. You are forbidden from appearing for this term’s examinations. That’s all. You may go,” said the principal, and got back to his work again.
“Oh please Sir! Just one more chance. I promise to be regular from now on. I’ll be detained this year if I cannot appear for my examinations. Please do something,” pleaded Monali.
“Ms. Choudhary, there is nothing I can do. And please tell your parents not to waste precious time in coming to meet me. This is a university rule. Nothing is in my hands,” replied Mr. Vasudevan calmly. He then went back to his work.
Weeping and sobbing, Monali walked out of the principal’s office. Dhiren realized what his fate was going to be, the moment he saw Monali’s face. And he was right. He too, was forbidden from appearing for his term examinations. But as he walked out of the principal’s office, he gave Dhruv a venomous look. A look packed with hatred and fury. However, Dhruv did not happen to see it and veered into the principal’s office nonchalantly.
The latter looked up from his work and continued looking at the boy standing in front of him. Both stared at each other when suddenly as if on cue, they burst out laughing.
“Like father, like son, eh?” remarked Mr. Vasudevan, good humouredly. “You don’t have to idolize your father to such an extent, my boy. Now go away and don’t waste my time.”
“Yes, Dad,” came the reply. “See you at dinner. I’m going bowling with my school friends right now.”
With that, Dhruv walked out of the Mr. R. Vasudevan’s office, while the latter set down to finish his task at hand.

- Shaswat Mohanty, Avani Shah, Tulika Bathija and Mukta Lad.

A Day At An Economics Class

Here I am, sitting in class almost on the brink of death. No, no, NO! I wasn’t caught in an accident with the classroom door (many of my friends complain that its in the way, and therefore walk right into it!), but I’m dying to hear the bell ring. The next thing after this stupid lecture is lunch-time. My mum has packed my favourite stuff for lunch, and I’m obsessed with it. My mouth just waters at the thought of going to the local joint with my best friend and eating that delicious dessert. However, like a model student, I drag myself out of all the food waiting to be eaten, and calmly wait for divine intervention. Please dear God! HELP!
I look around the rest of the class with lack of nothing better to do, and notice a roomful of comatose people. My friend Sneha is doodling idly in her notebook, drawing pictures of delicious looking steaks and writing Hungry Kya? under them. You bet I’m hungry! Moving around, I notice Ankur and Siddharth, two more guys from the gang animatedly discussing a computer game. A third friend Sumit benevolently looks upon the two freaks. Yuvraj wants to violently dance to the song he is stealthily listening to on his discman, but one can see he is struggling to restrain himself.
“You, stand up!” said a manly voice. I’m rudely brought back to the present, when I see Mrs. Rathore glaring down at me. And I mean it when I say ‘manly’ voice. She could put most boys to shame with her amalgamation-of-Dharmendra-and-Lara Dutta voice. No jokes. If it wasn’t me she was about to yell at, her flared nostrils full of disgusting hair would have been as funny as usual. I could feel Sneha wanting to laugh hard. I gave her a kick and stood up.
“What you looking here and there? I teaching with heart and soul for walls?” she asked indignantly. In spite of myself, a loud giggle escaped me and I stood there staring at her with a grinning face, wanting a miracle to change its expression to a more ashamed one. I heard guffaws from the rest of the people, and it was a funny scenario. A third person staring through the windows wouldn’t have made head nor tail of what the situation in the class was. Here was a professor in an angry state of mind glaring at a grinning student, with the rest of the class laughing. So either she was telling a joke to the students with the angered expression as a special effect to the joke, or that the grinning student was caught doing something stupid. Strange.
“You girl, why you laughing? I telling a joke? I acting like monkey?” she demanded. Never had I wished someone else was in my place. Ah those good old times when I could sit with Sneha and laugh my head off while someone was getting ticked off! We always looked forward to Mrs. Rathore getting annoyed. It brought about the showering of precious gems on us; gems that made us realize that English was truly a funny language. But this time, I wish I wasn’t the one faced with the I acting like monkey? question. I so wanted to tell her that gorillas were more her style; monkeys were a little too little delicate for her. Nevertheless, all these thoughts pacing through my head made the grin on my face bigger instead of shrinking it. I wished to goodness, she would stop with her English; its simply the funniest thing on the planet, more so when you’re being yelled at.
“Tell the rest of the class what I was teaching just now,” she ordered. Well, I could finally feel the smile shrink.
“I’m sorry I don’t know,” I said meekly. Sneha burst into a fresh burst of giggles. Suddenly it all didn’t seem so funny anymore.
“Why? You sitting in class na? Why don’t you know?” she asked me. “You did not understand?”
“No.” I don’t know why I said that, but it seemed like an easier way out.
“Then when you not understanding, why don’t you stop on time?” she asked me, a little kindly this time.
Stop what exactly? I thought. Stop breathing? Stop the brain from functioning? Well that had happened long time ago anyway. I just continued staring at her, hoping against hope that the bell would ring and I would be free from this torture to go chew on my lunch in peace.
She went on ahead on how the professors were all there to clear their doubts and how they were to be treated as friends. I’m really sorry but I don’t want Mrs. Rathore as my friend, thank you very much. She bored us to tears three times every week, and I’ll be damned if I have to make her my friend in addition to that. The next part of her speech I caught was that we could ask her any doubts even a hundred times, and she would always explain till we understood. Ask Mrs. Rathore something a hundred times? Have we gone bananas? The best thing to do in her lecture was to shut up and meditate, hoping somebody would take pity on us and ring the bell, even by mistake. I stole a glance at my watch and heaved a sigh of relief. She only had four minutes more to torment me.
Her next statement jolted me back to reality, which was, “Come down with me just now in the break, and I’ll explain what you not understood.”
The only sound that rang in my head after that was an open laugh from Sneha.

Mum Mum MUMBAI!!!!

The below mentioned views and opinions are not directly the author’s. They are the observed facts and any resemblance to person living or dead is purely coincidental.

Mumbai. The slush…the poverty…the ever-increasing number of rickshaws, taxis…the list just goes on. Don’t forget to add the alarming rise in population and the sprawling out of the ‘bhajiwalas’ onto the roads. And what about the traffic problems and the ‘haathapaayi’ to get into a local train? Yes, it surely is a part of life in Mumbai. But isn’t this impression of Mumbai, superficial? Is this all what Mumbai is all about? Don’t you think we are forgetting to mention all the spice which is the essence of Mumbai? An outsider will never know what it is to be a ‘Mumbaikar’. Too bad. They have simply no idea what they are missing.

Mumbaikars are a species all by themselves. They represent all strata of society and the various categories of people, be it the celeb world, the common man, the slum-dwellers or even the underworld. All of these spell Mumbai. The city is totally incomplete without the amalgamation of its constituent classes.

Mumbaikars are not prim and proper. Actually, one can even go as far as saying, they are hip and happening people. The love to party, they love to watch movies, they absolutely love to eat. Anything sells in Mumbai, as long as you know how to market it. Once you know your way around this race of suspicious people, the rest is easy. Just win their confidence, and watch things happen smoothly!

Well, what is it about Mumbai that attracts so many? Although Mumbai seems to be this big mass of confusion, crowd, dirt, and lots of other things, people still want to be a part of Mumbai. So, what is it that makes people come here by the herds, and once here, don’t want to detach themselves from the place? No, it can’t just be just the jobs. It can’t be just the better opportunities and higher standard of living. Somehow, there is certain attraction to Mumbai that differentiate her from the rest. Be it the locals, the hangouts, the means of transport, the fascination to live dangerously, anything. Yep. Mumbai caters to all of these and more.

Mumbaikars like to do things differently. They like a little order in their normal affairs. They like it when their traffic’s a little orderly, and when the rickshaws and cabs run according to the meter, which is not the case with other cities. That’s why; you find a lot of haggling if the rickshaw driver charges a passenger even a rupee more than the actual fare. The standard excuse of “Meter kharab hai.” doesn't normally fool a citizen of Mumbai. He counters the driver’s argument with a “Toh phir jitney paise de raha hun, utna chup chap lo. Varna ek rupaiya bhi nahi milega.”

However, piss of a Mumbaikar, and get ready to be bombarded with a volley of the choicest swear words. All Mumbaikars seem to be well-trained in the field of swearing. However, in the recent years, it has been observed my many wives, sisters and daughters, that their husbands, brothers and fathers (respectively) use their choicest swear words while driving. Also, at such times, language is also not a major barrier. A normally English-speaking person jumps into Hindi when he gets into the groove to swear (Saale chutiya, for e.g.), while a north-Indian seems well versed in Marathi swearwords (Tujhya aaila, for one). So, coming back to what I said, I don’t know whether its drivers who make good gaali-givers or gaali-givers who make good drivers. On the other hand, don’t get me wrong. I would never mean that swear words are used by vehicle drivers exclusively. No way. What’s a train journey without some swearing? And I proudly would like to mention here that gender equality is prevalent in local trains. Saali kutti! Utar ja train se nahi to bahar phek doongi! being the attacking lines in the ladies’ compartment, while Saali soovar, baap ke ghar se layi hai kya train? Harami kahiki! Being the counter defenses. However, the language is more colorful in a gents’ compartment. Bhosdike saale ch**t! Kab se bol raha hun zara sa udhar ho, lekin nahi! Chutiye ko mere pair pe hi khade rehna hai..! Do note that the examples provided above are the mildest in their category. You just do not realise how time flies, if you are witness to a fight in a train or a part of it... Kya karen bhai, yeh hai Mumbai meri jaan!

Most ‘educated’ Mumbaikars don’t vote, but politics seems to be the favourite topic of discussion. Woh Lalu Prasad!?! Rail Minister ho gaya hai bhadwaa. Tab se toh aur hi chadh gaya hai, chadhiyal kahin ka! are a few excerpts from the discussion. Politics and older Mumbaikars seem to be inseparable. They feel something’s amiss, if they do not read the daily newspaper. What happens at 10, Janpath affects lives in Mumbai to a great extent. This is the typical Mumbaikar. Whimsical, but likeable, nevertheless.

Cricket! A religion which all Mumbaikars seem to follow. An epidemic of cricket-fever hits Mumbai, especially during an Indo-Pak match. Roads are deserted, shops are closed, leaves taken from offices and colleges bunked. Every TV set is occupied by telecasts of the match, and the viewers are more into the game than the actual players. “Arey Sachin, dekh ke khela kar yaar!” and “Rahul, full toss hai, four mar! Abey FOUR MAAR NA!” is some of the ‘friendly’ advice supplied by the viewers. Hmm…it is so simple to be out playing in the sun, but difficult to be sitting at home, with a bag of chips and watching the match! We understand, totally!

Mumbai is really floored by good food. A new restaurant opens every other day, but it is as well-received as any other. Mumbaikars love to eat out. They are connoisseurs of good food and are fond of anything from a tasty vada pav to fancy Thai cuisine. Never is a restaurant found empty, be it morning, noon or night, or a weekday or Sunday. Mumbai does full justice to its restaurants and dhabas.

Mumbai has never been frivolous. It has a lot of substance. It has had its share of terrorist activities. What about the riots of 1992, and the recent bomb blasts in the trains and the bomb blasts at the Gateway? In short, nothing keeps a Mumbaikar down. He will fear for his life, fear for his family, but still go about his routine. Be it a bomb blast, a Tsunami wave with its epicenter at Bandra or even Bin Laden threatening Mumbai personally, a Mumbaikar will try and forget about his dreadful past and begin every new day with a freshwave of enthusiasm. How, people ask, do Mumbaikars happen to be so cold about the happenings around them? The answer’s easy. Mumbaikars are simply practical. They do not worry about things beyond their control. Sitting at home after a bomb blast is not what a Mumbaikar would do. He would watch news bulletins on all news channels possible, and express his fear of tomorrow within the four walls of the house. But the next day, a Mumbaikar would wake up to a new day and go about his chores as if nothing happened the previous day. After all, paapi pet ka sawaal jo theheraa!

All-in-all, everything in Mumbai goes. Be it a bomb-scare, an earthquake or floods. Nothing can keep a Mumbaikar’s spirit down. He takes each day as it comes and lives for the present. And I’m glad to be a part of this city. As someone rightly said, “The city never sleeps!”