Thursday, July 30, 2015

(Fantasy)

"Just like a bloody man" Saritha said in disgust as she glanced over at her husband. "Lazy, good for nothing imbecile." she continued as he slowly made his way over to her, head bowed low.

"Dinner's ready, ji. Shall I serve you?" he whimpered softly. He never knew what mood she was in so being as quiet and invisible as possible usually served him well enough.

"Well is dinner going to serve itself then?! Get me some, I'm starving." shrieked Saritha. Her husband scampered off to get her her meal.

"All day I work to feed this family, what do you do all day at home, I don't understand.  Lousy cook, lousy at housekeeping. At least you could keep yourself in shape like Leela's husband does." she licked her lips at the thought of Leela's young husband. Completely brainless but what a hot piece of ass. Leela had done well to go in for the rugged villager types instead of the usual middle class variety.

Saritha's husband sat quietly near her as she ate her dinner, trying not to let his tears show. He tried so hard to be a good spouse. Women were always so hard on men. If only society were less unfair...

In Search of a Demi God

In India, we're always in search of a hero. And when we find one, we don't just stop at hailing them as such; we need to turn them into a god.

From Gandhi to Teresa to Tendulkar, to the recently deceased APJ Abdul Kalam, our heroes only make sense to us if they are flawless. We will readily make up / believe stories of their innocent childhoods, the hardships they faced to get to where they are today, their benevolence in all aspects of their lives, their perfection and we will even attribute all sorts of inspirational quotes to them that were heretoforth attributed to that best quotemaster of them all 'Anonymous'.

We don't like to think of these heroes of ours as mere human beings. They can do no wrong. If they do wrong, we are blind to it. If they are actual underachievers who made it big through sheer effort of being dicks, we will mask all that with stories of their great valour. We like to point out how foreign countries too think of our Greats as great. When APJ Abdul Kalam, the 'people's president' (ex president of India), the guy who used his presidential tenure to run to every school in the country and be the presiding chief guest at every college convocation and give long funny speeches that we'd listen to if only to make fun of his accent and funny hair, when this scientist (whom no one can quite remember a specific invention of) recently passed away, there were rumours on Whatsapp of how even the White House flew its flag at half mast to mourn his passing. Which was false of course; the half mast was in honour of the US soldiers shot at Tennessee.

Should a foreign dignitary or celebrity fail to acknowledge the greatness of our god, we will unleash the full fury of our troll armies at them. Like Maria Sharapova recently faced for professing not to know who Sachin Tendulkar, that great god of cricket in India, the man who does not take one for the team if there isn't a century in there for himself, who that Sachin Tendulkar was.

And once these greats pass away, we will pay homage by immediately renaming a street after them. And god forbid anyone try to stop us. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Android System WebView (Also known as 'WTF, Google?!')

(This is a write up about an app available on the Google Play Store. No this isn't a tech blog. No, I'm not practising to write for a tech blog. Yes, I am a bit of a geek. And Android fangirl. You're welcome.)

What do you do when your OS provider rolls out an update to an app you had no recollection of ever even downloading to your phone in the first place? You give it rave reviews on the app store, of course and give everyone a testimonial of how it changed your life.

So Google recently rolled out an update to an Android app called 'Android System WebView'. According to the Play store, the app is meant to allow for in-app web browsing. Not everyone likes the fact that an app that they don't understand the function of is allowed to auto update on their phone. Kind of like the ANT radio services app bloatware that existed a couple of years ago that everyone subsequently decided was so much easier to just disable on their phones. It would be nice if Google could've propagated an article or two about the service before forcing an update on us. But in lieu of that, just grab some popcorn and enjoy some of the reviews on the app store.

Here are some choice reviews from Android users on how Android System WebView (what a mouthful) changed their phones... and lives:

Thanks to this app, this guy doesn't need Viagra any more. 


This guy admits he has no idea what the app does, but it's a helluv an app anyway.


This guy got a unicorn. But he hates unicorns. Damn.


If you had to update just one app for the rest of your life, this should be it.


And where would we be without a political reference?


If you've got a couple of months to kill, you might as well just read all the reviews on the Play store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.webview 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

On being an unmarried woman in India

In a week or so, my father is going to visit me to try and convince me to get married as soon as I can. The main reason being that I'm a single 32 year old woman and clearly that is a travesty that cannot continue to exist in this country.

In India, and perhaps elsewhere too, women's relationships statuses are time constrained. They are governed by our biological clocks. We are held to ransom by the depleting numbers of eggs in our ovaries. Not for us the luxury of being able to choose the man who we want to spend our lives with by means of casual dating, perhaps for a year or five before we decide we can't live without each other. No. Indian society rules that you have to make up your mind on settling down with The One before the small hand hits 35 and the big hand reads Old Maid.

It's not as though being single is an easy decision  to make. Or a decision  at all, really. I don't know if I'm going to meet the Right Man either. I don't know if I want to offer a dowry and toss a mangalsutra to every date of mine that goes well within a month or so of a steady relationship. I don't know if I want to choose to live alone forever and avoid the conventional married life.

I just wish I had more time. And the privilege to decide to be undecided about my own life path.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Cut to the quick

Your heart can break a hundred billion times
In a thousand million ways
Into a gazillion little pieces. 
And every time you think
You're strong enough to
Endure another heartbreak
The shards rattling about inside
Beg to differ. 

Love in the time of NH10

They stole out of their homes in the dead of the night. She couldn't bear to steal from her own parents, so she only took with her the money she'd been painstakingly saving for the past eight months. And the gold chain Papa had bought her when she was seven. And the gold earrings Ma had given her when she was thirteen. She took all the clothes she had; they weren't much in any case. And one tiny photograph they had clicked at the village mela some ten years ago. Something to remember them by. He met her by the far gate. As they had agreed. It was dark out here and the watchmen wouldn't be awake this late at night, and even if they were hardly came out this way.

They had to walk nearly ten kilometres before they felt safe. Running half the way. They came to the highway where they hitched a ride with a truck driver.

By the time the sun flashed its first pink rays into the sky, they had reached a dhaba, where everyone got out of the truck. They grabbed their first meal outside their home. The whole journey they hadn't even spoken to each other. The enormity of what they were doing had not escaped them. If found, they could be beaten to death. Burnt alive. Killed. By their own families. By the people who had given them life.

Over the cup of chai she cradled in her nervous hands, she gazed into her lover's eyes. And ashes were all she could see.

Source: BBC News India couple lynched in 'honour killing' in Bihar


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Accepting Adulthood

There comes a time in the existence of every sentient being, or at least the ones who have to pay taxes, when they have to question the meaning of their lives. Questions like where am I going with this, how do I attain true happiness, do I need to buy new underwear, come to the fore. While for most people struggling with their day to day affairs these questions move to the backseat of their vehicle of contemplation, for the rest of us these questions loom large, especially when we've come to a point in our lives in which it appears imperative that we find these answers before we can so much a take another breath.

I admittedly don't talk much. I don't share a lot of myself with people I interact with. The bulk of my thoughts and feelings are vomitted on the pages of this blog. I know I've succeeded in becoming a person with values that I admire: a non conformist, liberated from the binds of a formalized religion or societal institution like marriage. I have constantly chose to support free thought and freedom of expression. I volunteer at places that do the kind of work I cannot do myself on a large scale. I respect my friends and try to physically be there for them any way I can. I wish of course I were different. More brash, more bold, more intuitive, more... Significant. But everyone has to deal with their own failings, somehow. To see every day the sort of behaviour you subscribe to, to inwardly cringe at your weakness of personality and to be able to do nothing about it has got to be the largest of the burdens we must bear as a race.

But to the questions. I keep asking myself if I have yet found that passion in life that keeps me going, that is my life mission, that will give some vague meaning to my otherwise frivolous existence. But every time the answer is a resounding no. I have not written a book. Or travelled to a high peak. Or started an NGO. Or even spent time with my mother when she had a terrible cold. I've failed, pretty much, in all the standard adult tests so far. In fact, as I mentioned to someone recently, we should be mandatorily made to clear certain tests before being declared adults. Not the types that certify us as being old enough to drive a geared vehicle. But the types that test our ability to treat our surroundings with responsibility and care. Until which time we should just be wards of the state and not allowed to mess about with adult affairs.

Passing my own rigorous test of adulthood is the challenge that lays before me now. Can I muster the strength to take decisions that may not bring me immediate satisfaction but will bring a hugely positive to the world, nudging and prodding it in the right direction. I really want that to be my life purpose. Not of course speaking in terms of blowing myself up to prove some fascist point. But to make sure that the struggles of the underprivileged, no matter what strata of society they are from, no matter what species they belong to, are minimised to some extent in the long run. And perhaps along the way satisfy certain personal goals that I still somehow don't seem to have clarified in my own mind.  The least of which should certainly not be enforcing and celebrating my own self respect.

Wish me luck, will you?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Place of Peace

"Mr. Filled Up King, would you please stop trying to unfill your filling?!" screamed Bill in exasperation. It was only the third patient in his dentist's chair today and he was already at the end of his tether. The current patient was attempting to test the strength of his just-filled tooth to see if it might dislodge itself so that he could then claim a handsome refund from Bill.

"I need a holiday." texted Bill to Priya in a Whatsapp message as soon as Filled Up (his actual name) had made himself scarce.

"Ooh, where to?!" texted Priya back, as she battled a furious client-demon at work. She'd managed to confuse the client into thinking that the reason she hadn't sent in a report was because the client hadn't sent her some important material about it, but she was fairly certain the client would soon realise that was hogwash.

"I don't care where we go; let's just get out of this town. I can't take it anymore. Do you know what my latest specimen just did?!" said Bill as he proceeded to fill her in (yes, this author will stop with the filling jokes now); he always referred to his patients as specimens, which somehow described them quite perfectly, given their low IQ.

"Perfect. Tomorrow sound good? Just be ready by 4am. I'll bring my car round and we'll set off."

"Perfect." replied Bill, happily. "I'll shut the clinic early today. I have a headache."

The next morning, promptly at 7am, Priya swung her car onto Bill's porch, narrowly missing a hedge and Nero, one of Bill's canine kids.

"Hullo, Nero! Oh-" said Priya as she was flattened by the massive Neopolitan mastiff as she got out of her car, in one swift move.

"Always on time, as usual, eh?" commented Bill. "Ok, my bags are all packed. Let's be off, shall we. Oh, come on Nero, she's not made of beef, you know."

"Oh-" said Priya as she picked herself up a bit shakily, "Yes. Quite. Get in. Be off. Come on. Good boy."

In an hour's time, they were on the road, on their way. It was a beautiful sunny day, the weather slightly warmer than usual but the air was getting cooler as they moved towards their destination. As they neared their destination, a resort that she'd booked the previous evening, Priya realised they were hopelessly lost; mainly because the GPS on her phone stopped working. Surreptitiously casting a glance at Bill to see if he'd noticed they were lost, she was glad to note that he was too busy enjoying the scenery to notice if they'd even reached the wrong state border. She looked about to see if she could find a pliable local who could give them directions. Fortunately, she soon chanced upon a man with his dog, staring into the hills. He was bespectacled, which gave him an air of vague intelligence, so she hoped that meant he could guide them on their way.

"Hullo there, good sir! Nice doggy you have there. Yours?" she said cheerily, stopping the car by the man and his dog, addressing him as though she had stopped by for a friendly chat.

The man and his dog continued to stare into the distance, ignoring her completely.

"Why have we stopped to chat with these two?" asked Bill, curiously. "Nice dog. Yours?" he repeated to the stranger.

"Can't be his; looks like a stray. No collar, et cetera." said Priya, nonchalantly, as she wondered if she could find a villager with a tongue in his head to point the way to the resort out to them. Now if only she had switched to a better network back when Vodafone had started to turn to shit....

"Stray?! Who's a stray? Brutus is no stray!" shouted a deep male voice suddenly. Bill and Priya both turned their heads, shocked, towards the stranger, who somehow seemed broader and taller now. He slowly turned to face them, his fine chiselled features evident, cloaked in a brown thick jacket, a simple shirt and trousers and thick boots. The stranger continued, "The dogs of Himachal are not of the stray kind. They are strong, quiet and not easily petted. They are deep thinkers mulling over the deteriorating quality of life in the Himachal. They love foreigners but are easily angered if you try and mess with the sheep that they guard for their humans. They are the dogs that Himachal deserves, they are the dogs it needs. Because they.. can take it. They are silent guardians and watchful protectors."

"You sure talk a lot for someone who pretended to have no tongue in their head." observed Priya.

"Himachal?!" shrieked Bill, alarmed. "I thought we were on our way to Goa!" He turned towards Priya with an angry glare. "Please tell me why you own a car if you don't know where anything is."

"Now, hang on here, you said -" began Priya, eager for a fight as always, when she was cut short by the stoic looking Himachal dude.

"Please do not disturb the peace of the hills with your meaningless bickering. If you two need a place to rest for the evening, the doors of my home are open to you."

Priya and Bill stared at him for a bit, trying to make up their minds. He stared back, and curiously enough, so did his dog, and then the two of them turned and walked towards the village.

"Ok, so seeing as we're here, I mean... we might as well, right? You did want a holiday. What does it matter if it's in the hills or on a beach side, eh?" began Priya in a conciliatory tone.

"But I've only packed my shorts! I'll freeze my butt off! But yes, we can hardly drive across the country at this later hour. Drat and double drat."

"Please feel free to follow me to my home once you two are done with your arguing. In silence, please. Ours is a town of peace." said the Himachal dude, pausing a bit to mention this and then resuming his walk home.

Priya drove behind him in silence and they shortly stopped at a narrow street, filled with pleasant looking houses, small and cheery. The Himachal dude wasn't kidding when he said it was a peaceful town. The town was eerily quiet, with just bursts of bird song breaking the silence every now and then. Village folk looked up to watch them pass and calmly continued what they were doing once they were safely inside the Himachal dude's home.

"Um, excuse me, Mr. um.. Mr..." said Priya being painfully polite. Being any sort of polite was painful for her.

"Yes?"

"I think what she's trying to get at is: What, kind sir, is your name?" said Bill in his usual direct manner.

"Oh. It's Sujay." he said and turned into a small kitchen. "I hope you like tea. It should warm you two up. You don't seem to be dressed for the weather of the hills. It tends to get cold out here at this time of day." he spoke slowly, as though he were speaking to really stupid children.

Bill gave Priya a withering look.

"So what sights are there to see hereabouts? Besides, you know, mountains and stuff." said Priya brightly, attempting to shift the conversation away from the present topic.

"Well, there is the viewpoint from Mount Chambra. There is the stream by the hills to the east. And then there's the haunted townhall. Will that be one spoon of sugar or two?" he asked without the slightest change of his tone.

"Haunted townhall?!" said Bill excitedly, forgetting all about Goa immediately. "Where is it? And how soon can we see it?!"

"Well." said Sujay, measuring his response as he slowly stirred their tea. "I suppose the best time to experience a haunted place would be at nightfall, which is two hours from now. And I'm guessing neither of you is tired enough to sleep immediately. So perhaps we can visit it in a short while from now. I will pack us a meal to take there."

"Well, a man who can cook and not talk a lot. And a thinker, too. What a nice fellow." whispered Priya to Bill as she looked at Sujay with admiration. She turned back to Bill, "Aren't you glad we didn't make it to Goa, now?! I know how you love ghosts."

"I don't believe in ghosts!" scoffed Bill. "But it sure will make for a good story. I'm always looking for new places to set my spooky tales in."

After Sujay had packed them a meal, they drove the short distance to the townhall. The townhall was a huge building. It seemed to have been built within the last five years, was well maintained, had a nice manicured lawn in front of it and even had a pleasant looking security guard posted in the front of it. In short, it looked nothing like a haunted place, at all.

"Is the Himachal haunting as distinct as its dog is?" asked Bill, looking around for some sign of a shadowy sighting.

Sujay looked at him for a moment before he replied quietly, "I think you will find that it is distinctive enough to leave an impression on a person for a long, long time."

"Ooh. Ghosts and all. At least you don't have any hair to lose over it, eh." joked Priya to Bill, who gave her another withering look. She looked at the security guard and asked Sujay about it, "What's he looking so happy about anyway? If a Himachal haunting is as scary as you say it is, shouldn't he be scared out of his mind and not be reporting for work, and all that?"

"Well," said Sujay, in his slow and steady manner, "You'll find that the town and its people have reached a sort of - arrangement - so to speak, with the ghost that haunts the townhall. We do not disturb its peace and it chooses to ignore us." He paused a bit, hesitantly, but seemed to make up his mind as he went on, "Perhaps it would be easier to show you..."

He walked slowly up to the entrance of the townhall and looked towards a window of the building. It seemed like any of the other windows. But just briefly, Priya thought she saw two red eyes staring back out of the darkness at them from it. She blinked and wished she had brought some beer along to make this easier to observe.

"So when you say agreement, is it like a written thing then? How does a ghost sign something anyway? Can't imagine any legality would hold any binds over it, eh?" asked Priya in a barrage of questions.

Sujay held up a hand. "Please. I will take questions once we are back home. You wished to see the ghost of the townhall. I will grant you your wish; but we must go in silence."

He bid them to follow him into the building. Brutus wisely sat outside, 'wisely' was the only way to describe anything Brutus did, and watched them disappear into the darkness of the townhall.

Sujay lit up a lantern he had brought with him and the gloom cleared slightly before it as he held it out before him. The townhall was extremely well taken care of; not a cobweb in sight. There was a large room with a stage and chairs arranged before it. To either side opened sets of stairs leading, presumably to some of the rooms whose windows looked to the outside of the structure.

"We are allowed to use the townhall for peace. For good. Not religious gatherings. Not even political gatherings. The ghost doesn't like that. It has - expressed dissatisfaction - in the past, when this was done." said Sujay. "If you wish to see - it - we may. If you are sure that this is what you want to do."

"Oh, I'm pretty sure." said Bill, rubbing his hands with glee. "So is Priya, of course."

Unbeknownst to him, Priya didn't want to see any more of the dratted haunted building than she absolutely had to. More than the townhall itself, which was disappointingly not scary looking at all, it was Sujay's solemn manner that was creeping Priya out. She wasn't so sure she didn't believe in ghosts any more. Not that she was superstitious in the least. But the man seemed honest and here he was talking about a ghost like it was his retarded sibling that had to be kept in a good temper at all times. It almost made one believe it were true. She shivered slightly, as she felt someone's eyes on the back of her neck. She didn't turn around to confirm it.

"Right, let's just get on with it and go home, alright. I'm cold and getting hungry." she said briskly, putting on her brave face.

Sujay walked towards the stairs on their left and began to climb them, and bid them to follow him. Priya went up next, determined not to be the last one up the stairs and Bill followed the two of them. Something else followed them up, quietly, in the darkness.

Sujay reached a corridor and walked down it and stopped before a door numbered '11'. All the other doors looked the same, all numbered sequentially. Nothing really looked out of place. Except, of course, that this door opened by itself as they stood watching it.

"Well, come on in." said Sujay dully to them as he entered the room.

Priya had her misgivings but refused to show Bill that she could be scared in the least and sauntered into the room. Bill followed and the door promptly closed behind them.

"Good host." said Bill out loud. Or good automatic doors, he thought to himself, not wanting to hurt Sujay's feelings seeing as he had been nice to them so far. Can't blame hill people for all this silence making them all a little mad. What other entertainment was there for this lot out here, anyway?

"You may sit down." said Sujay, pointing to two chairs that were placed before a fireplace. In which, inexplicably, there was a crackling flame. Sujay remained standing and stood to one side of the hearth. He seemed to be waiting, as though it was a drill and he merely had to wait his turn for the next happening.

Priya and Bill took their places in the seats, Priya grateful for the fire and Bill peering into it to see what electrical device had turned it on. They sat this way for a while, no one saying anything, until the humming began. It was hard to describe what they heard. It seemed to have been born from a tune that started on their own lips. Both Bill and Priya felt that they knew the tune and yet, had never heard it before. Bill felt like it was something he had heard in his childhood, reassuring and inviting warm memories of happier days. Priya felt that it was something she listened to on those cold nights she lay alone in bed, making her feel better as she dropped off to sleep. Sujay seemed not to notice. He merely shuffled, only slightly uncomfortably, as though he was waiting for the charade to be over.

The humming grew louder and louder and both Bill and Priya were as though hypnotised. They'd never been this happy before. And then just as the humming reached a peak, it died down and the room was filled with a pleasant glow, almost as if it were daylight outside. They glanced towards the window and noticed it was still night, of course. Bill looked around for hidden lighting. Priya was still feeling cheery and bright and felt almost as if she'd been drugged. This happy state was momentarily interrupted when she felt a hand on her shoulder and looked up into a kind face that blinked out of eyeless sockets at her as it asked her if she felt alright.

After Priya had fallen out of her chair and passed out on the floor, it was Bill's turn to face the eyeless form that stood before them.

Sorry about your friend, said a voice in his head, that seemed to be coming from the figure in front of him, but people do tend to do that when they - encounter - me for the first time.

"Oh think nothing of it," said Bill. "Usually she does that after a couple of beers. You just helped her get there without the intoxication. Haha."

The form, which seemed effeminate, merely looked back at him, a reddish glow emanating from where its eyeballs should have been.

Do you want to know why I am, it asked Bill, suddenly.

"Why you are, what?" asked Bill, slightly embarrassed that he didn't believe in the thing that was addressing him so politely.

You know, why I am. Why I exist. Why I continue to be. It's not very difficult to explain if I try. And if you have the time, it spoke into Bill's synapses.

"Sure. I've got nowhere else to be."

What followed was a strange psychedelic trip in Bill's mind, full of fast moving colours and pictures. Pain, anguish, torment, wails of generations. He saw images of war, strife, people killing their own neighbours. Religious symbols, political rallies, hatred and the ugliness of humanity. Suddenly all the images parted and gave way to peace. Profound, pleasant peace, with images of the village they'd stepped into today.

And that, dear Bill, is why I am. The figure had moved closer to Bill now, as though monitoring his reaction. Throughout my earthly existence in the flesh, I had fought long and hard for peace. For rationality. For reason. But only in death, I managed to achieve all of this in this quiet little town. The place that had once seen bloodshed and ruin, born of the senseless greed of men. Only after I came back as - this - I was able to bargain for peace and an end to their useless ideologies. For they know what will happen if they destroy the peace now.

For a split second, the figure seemed a lot larger, darker and angrier than it had been, and Bill had to tear his eyes away as it assumed a most terrifying form. And just like that, it was gone.

The room was dark once more, Sujay's lantern offering the only glow. They heaved Priya up off the floor, neither of them speaking to each other. The door opened to let them out and shut behind them and they made their way quietly to the car.

Priya came to in a little bit, as the smell of food being warmed up wafted into her nostrils. "Did I miss anything?" she asked, relieved to be back in the comfort of her own car and to see Sujay warming up their packed meal on a fire the security guard was helping to stoke nearby. She had only a vague memory of climbing up the stairs and entering a room where everything seemed happy and couldn't remember anything after that. Except that the back of her head was developing a large sized bump on it.

At first, neither of them replied to her. It was only after they had begun to eat that Bill responded, "Perhaps it's just as well that you did miss it. You're bound to be as scary in your afterlife, as well."

She looked at Bill, not comprehending. Sujay hid a smile, the first she'd seen him smile since they met him. The security guard went back to his seat, and Brutus sat quietly watching them all eat their meal. Upstairs, a window closed very quietly and two glowing red points in it disappeared into the darkness of the room.


Sunday, April 05, 2015

Good friend, bad friend

It's the people who don't have something who realise that object's true value. Like the poor person who knows the value of a one rupee coin better than any rich person can. Like the person who has been without food for days who would find even the stalest of rotis to be equivalent to a yuppie's five star buffet. Like the lonely person who knows the value of a true friend.

I may not have been the best of friends to my social circle. Which is not to mean I don't try. I have grown up in figuring out how it is an adult should treat their friends: with respect, with care, with concern and going out of your way for them as much as is humanly possible, to make sure they're okay and feel validated. Of late, I've been facing flak from various friends: being called obnoxious, boisterous, an opportunist. But I'm none of those; or perhaps I'm all of those. On the one hand, I'm glad these people felt comfortable enough with me to vent out their frustrations even if they came out as insults aimed at me. But every good doormat needs a dusting out every now and then. So step off and come back when I'm cleaner, okay love?