Safarnama : Qutub Minar #1

The prologue to the Qutub Minar visit.

It had been pouring all morning. The rain pelted down like Spartan arrows, and as whatsapp texts swore, the lower half of Shyam Lal College was already drowned. Some of my friends though, despite the torrent, had travelled all the way from Rohini and Nangloi to Shahdra to attend college, but now they sat with sullen faces, playing Balloon Pop in their generous smartphones, waiting for the rain to go ebb away.

the rain…

Rohit dropped in at around 10 am, followed by two more people. We set up the chessboard and played a few boring games. It was decided that we would take a day off, but sitting idle only wakes up the wanderlust inside Rohit, and so, he came up with this great idea,

“Let’s go somewhere. Qutub Minar? ”

It took me some time to make up my mind. Lazybones! After I prepared myself for a long drenched day, I started calling everyone. A few of them said it was pouring in buckets and they hated rain and everybody should hate rain because rain brings flood and that we should drop our plans. As you know, every adventure comes with a bout of hitches. There were plenty in this one too.

Two of them didn’t have a metro card, so, as we reached Welcome Metro station, we went upto this vending machine to get the tokens. They put the money in and waited for the tokens to drop.  But the machine was a bit of a runt – it won’t take anything but fresh crisp notes. Some billion light years later, it took pity on us and accepted the note. But didn’t release the tokens. 

“What the fuck! “They shouted together. The screen promised that it was processing the transaction, so we stood by, waiting patiently, wondering if it was Mishra that should be blamed for the ordeal. Mishra is a jinx – once he had accompanied us to the zoo and it turned out that they kept it closed on Fridays. 

“That’s not fair. “Mishra protested. “You should have known zoos are closed on Friday. ”

Nobody believed him. 

The crowd behind us was growing fretful with time. 

We called the staff and he pretended to study the screen carefully. 

“There’s a countdown. “He pointed at the upper right corner of the screen where infinitesimal numbers were decreasing every second. “Wait for it to finish. ”

And so, we waited. It was just a 90 second wait, but when you have a digital clock making you aware of the existence of every single second, the wait becomes a billion years long. The tokens dropped back, eventually. And we took the train and reached Kashmiri Gate at around 12:00pm. 

There, we met Shivam, and as the train arrived, we jostled through the crowed to bag a seat. Three of us got the seats, one being Mishra. It was a long journey, so we spent it playing the game How-Jinxed-Mishra-Is? Everybody started throwing their ideas, and somebody said Mishra is such a jinx that when he visits a haunted house, the ghosts rush to the priests to get themselves cleansed with Holy Water.

On the way, it started raining again. The train stopped at a bridge, from where all we could see were wet lush green trees and a dense valley, and it seemed we had been teleported to a hillstation.

the panoramic view from the train…

 

It was a beautiful stillness, and the only thing that budged was raindrops on the window pane.

all we could see was green…

 The train started again, and the rain grew stronger by the time we stepped onto the platform. We clicked a few selfies on the metro, and then exited the station. We waited outside for some time,waiting for it to go slow, but it never did. 

“Maybe we should take an auto. “Hemant suggested. I didn’t know of a way to fit 7 people in an auto, so I wondered if one of us will have to sit on the lap of one of us. When I was a kid, I sat in a jeep on the lap of this uncle of mine. A few seconds later, I felt something hard beneath my butts. (No I wasn’t raped). I hate to sit on men’s lap since that day, though. 

outside the metro….

We waited for some time, and when the rain slowed down, Mishra walked out and we followed him. It was a mistake, because seventeen steps later, it started sheeting down. We ran, completely deficient of a strategy. I was sure we were running for an auto, or some cover, but a minute later, I realised we had left behind all the autos and were still galloping aimlessly down the road for some heavenly reason. 

“What are we doing? “I screamed.

“Following Mishra. “Shivam shrugged his shoulders. 

A minute later, Mishra stopped beneath a small tree. Everybody else stopped as well. I peered out into the distance, wondering if we had reached the Qutub Minar. Was Mishra jinxed enough to displace Qutub Minar from its place?  Mishra looked at us in utter confusion, we looked at each other in utter confusion. 

“What the hell just happened? “I asked. 

“Were you guys following me? “Mishra asked, baffled. “I was just looking for a shelter. “He explained. I was so apoplectic I felt like punching Mishra. I ran for cover, and everybody followed me this time. People are fool, they will follow you for anything. 

We found a shelter, a roof above a flight of steps, and sat there, watching the rain come down like magic, dipping the world in lush green. 

The board above us read – Sulabh Shauchalaya

To be continued

The Disneyland and the Fireflies 

When light is darker than the shadows..

The night is ablaze again. The sky burns with unsteady flickers of turquoise and emerald. It seems like the heavens are awaiting a sorcerer’s spectacle. Down on the earth, one million LED Boards, shaped like peacocks and flowers and women holding flowers, sparkle brilliantly. In the shadows echo the blissful laughters of small, rugged children….

Welcome to the Disneyland, the small travelling funfair that is set up every year in my hometown. The preparations begin a month before and a century of trucks get parked in the Rangbhoomi maidan. Workers start setting the poles and gradually we see giant swings rising up, part by part, till they are ready to launch your soul up in the sky. 

When I was a kid, I’d clutch my mother’s fingers and hop for the next 20 minutes till we reached Disneyland. It was my dream to enter the place and never leave. I so wanted to hide beneath those counters and sneak out when everybody left. I’d go on from stalls to stalls, eat everything and sneak everything and maybe even take the taking parrot home. No I won’t go home. It was a dreamy world, my own spectacle, the Disneyland. 

Then, as it happens, I grew up. The sparkles don’t attract me anymore. I stay outside, licking Ice Golas with my friends, discussing the outrageous pricing policies of Samosa Vendors in the fair. 

“The same Ice Gola would cost double inside that little tent. “Atif says as he crushes the ice to make a solution. 

“They wouldn’t call it Ice Gola inside that little tent. It’d be a Ferrero Ice or something. ”

We laugh at this silly joke and carry on. 

Last night, my friends desperately wanted some cigarettes. I accompanied them to the kiosk in front of the Disneyland and they made a face and said,

“Ravish. You never gave us a treat. ”

I knew those bastards were asking me to pay for their cigarettes. I could have refused but it wouldn’t have changed anything. So they bought two goldflakes and vanished into the distant shadows to blow up giant smoke rings, feel weightless and heavenly as their souls floated and their lungs rotted. 

I meandered about, watching those lightboards, and how those lit the empty sky but left the crumbling earth with a sad silent bleakness. 

The world above my chest was a world of light. The kids in front of my eyes, however, weren’t tall enough. They hid behind the cars, chasing each other, playing hide and seek, running with unrestrained shrieks of laughter. They collided with light occasionally, exposing their boney frames, their tattered clothes, their immortal smile, but the next moment they disappeared again. When you stared hard you could make out their existence. There was a time my eyes would follow the lights, but age changes your perspective. Now shadows attract me more. I followed those happy little kids and all those people who lived in the mini slum at the periphery of Rangbhoomi, all of them enjoying their own picnic on the carpets of grass, talking amongst themselves sitting in the dark and watching the lighted sky. 

I wished I could listen to them, the things they talk, the jokes they crack. But no matter how close I went, the posh roar of Disneyland buried their feeble whispers. The crackles and the joy, everything seemed muted, yet unwavering. The delight was pure. But the dazzling lights exposed their misery. I could see their wounds, the gradual, persistent erosions that had washed away their layers, but not the souls. Perhaps they were the lives of the shadows, it was the light that made them look ugly. 

The world of light is actually darker. Full of shadows sneaking about, wearing a million faces, sneering, jabbing, lying, squabbling. 

The people in front of me were the fireflies of dark

“Do you have more money, we got to have chewing gums? “My friends asked.

“Fuck off. “I said and we moved. 

The kid inside me jerked to life again. But this time, I didn’t want to stay in Disneyland all my life. I wanted to stay in the shadows, with those fireflies… 

The Summer Odyssey #2

With few minutes left to board the train for a 30 hour long journey, would you take the risk to find the rare toilet of Anand Vihar Railway Station?

I have a problem. A disease maybe. Whenever I achieve something difficult or am almost asleep, I get this insuppressible urge to pee. I might be a monk and balance myself on a sword with my little finger, or pull heavy duty trucks with my eyelids, but I can never manage the pressure of my stupid bladder. So when my bladder started ballooning at platform number 3, I nearly went mad. 

Here were people, all happy and excited and fulfilled, waiting for their trains, passing time by munching on nuts, reading newspapers, or talking among themselves, and here I was, carrying a squirmed face, waddling to and fro along the whole length of the platform, looking for the FUCKING chamber they call a toilet. Twice I stopped at the lift, and half a dozen times I almost peed in my pants. I could go take a leak in one of the train toilets, but I didn’t want to end up being exported to Bhuvaneshwar in the process. After what seemed like a millennia, I was sure they don’t build toilets on platforms in Delhi. And whoever rated Anand Vihar station so high  probably peed through transpiration. 

I ran away, not caring about the time or the train lodged at platform number 3 and never stopped till I found a toilet at a desolate corner of the station. There were three rooms one each for Women, Men and Handicapped. For a second, I wondered if that meant handicapped men and handicapped women were allowed to pee together (sexy) and then I moved to men’s chamber. 

Now, men’s toilet have two different  arrangements. They have doored commodes and they have open thigh length basins. You pee in basins and you shit in commodes. So when you are peeing others can watch you without any obstruction. What’s odd is that almost all men are quite okay with it. They really don’t care about the audience. But my little Godzilla is a shy animal. I can’t pee unless I’m locked within six walls. Even on long bus rides, when the conducter announces a pee break, and all men just get out and pee around the bus, I find the most isolated, haunted place and shhhhshhhh myself to pee. Twice I’ve nearly missed the bus in such situations. 

Anyway. In public toilets I use the commodes. This one had five toilets three of which were already occupied. There was a man waiting outside the third and another outside the last. I wondered why they weren’t going into the two vacant chambers. I moved towards one. It was choked with turd. I almost vomited at the sight. 

I had two bags and no friends. And I HAD to pee. Inside a locked door. I couldn’t take the bags with me. It seemed like the prelude of a tragedy. I was either going to lose my bag or wet myself. A sadist would love this as Omorashi porn. When the third toilet was finally vacant ( 2 dumps later ) I went there and tried setting my bag against the most hygienic side. As it had wheels, it wouldn’t stand properly. Everytime I tried propping it against the wall, that stubborn bag would start rolling like an ice skater. Setting it up took a bit longer and a constipated man sneaked into the toilet amid that. I was so apoplectic and destroyed, I wanted to cry. I wondered if I should just jump into the ladies room without caring about the consequences. I mean it’s not as if they cut your little Vince McMahon for entering a ladies toilet, do they? I also wondered if I should just play a handicapped. Who knows I might have even met my soul mate in the handicapped room. Fancy the first encounter! It could be the superhit sequel of How I Met Your Mother. I had TRPs floating in front of my eyes when I recalled I had to pee. That’s the thing, when you start thinking about it, it only gets worse. By the time that asshole came out, my intestines were submerged in pee. My whole body was shaking and I could piss through my earholes. 

I shot in, shut the door properly, but leaving a chink, and found myself enveloped in the post-potty scent of a toilet. I was sure Nazi concentration camps used the same gas to kill people. I pulled down my zipper and told myself to feel good about this. I was finally ejecting the heaviest liability in a human’s life. I peed for a while and then turned my head to look for the bag. It was there, safe and still. So I continued to pee. Also I considered variables like the speed of my stream and worked out on a theory that If I looked for the bag every 8 seconds, I would have a fair chance at catching the culprit, in case I get screwed. So I peed and looked and peed and looked and kept on doing this till my neck went stiff. But let me tell you this, ladies and gentlemen, there’s no such thing as peeing. It’s the most comforting orgasm one can ever have. I walked out with a triumphant smile on my face. The bags were still there. I washed my hands and ran for the train. 

It was 6:30 am.

To be continued…

What a mess! 😡

Here’s why you should never seek a mess in Delhi.

My mess owners are descendants of Satan. They are pure, unadulterated anthropomorphic incarnations of evil. If Magic Mirror existed in real world, it would show them as red, horned, sharp-toothed, fork-tongued, tail-bearing, trident carrying dwarf creatures. When my mess owners die, wars shall stop and epidemics would dissapear and everybody would be happy and Gods would descend down to take free, relaxed morning walks in the pure rejuvenated air of earth. 

“Ah! The world is so less polluted now. “They would say, and casually look around for some tight assed girls.

I had read about pathetic mess facilities in books, especially in Chetan Bhagat novels, and I had witnessed the appalling condition of mess on news channels. There were runny sambhar, bug infested rice, charred rotis. Not to say they all tasted the same. My mother used to warn me when I criticised her cooking talents. 

“Once you start living away from home and join a mess, you’ll know what a magician your mother is. “She would say as I made fifty different expressions of disgust at the dinner table. 

Now that I think of it, Ranchi was still bearable. I mean they did provide Paneer twice a week and Friday nights were Fast Food Specials. That apart, salads were fresh and free. The cost was minimal, too. And the mess owner was hot. Okay not so hot maybe. But at least she was not 80. The delicacy and comfort of home-cooked food was absent, but I coped. I mean what could have been worse!?

My definition of worse changed after I started living in Delhi. Here, you can’t define worst. You think this is the limit to which evil could be thrusted upon you, but yayyy, surprise! that was just the starting line. Get fucked more. 

switched to my current mess after I was fed up with the former one, who charged thousands for shit. I mean how long can you survive on type 7 human stool they call Dal, manufactured and salted citrus droppings they call Pickles, and half-baked circular pieces of dung they call Roti!?

Once, they cooked Paneer. The excitement and joy that flooded the PG at once could never be equalled, not even if there was a bukake festival in town with a free entry. I had suddenly started feeling grateful for my mess owners. Then came show time. 

It looked like paneer. I mean only paler and less attractive, as if it had been boiled and peeled, and poisoned, but it did look like paneer. I stared at my ex-neighbours’ faces, and they stared at mine. I took a lump. And how unlike paneer the paneer in my plate was! It didn’t taste like anything. If I were blind I would have sworn on my mother it was potato, or lady finger, or whatever the hell they cooked because everything tasted the same. I was sure that the cook believed all of us either were diabetic or had damaged tastebuds. 

“How’s the Paneer? “The cook asked. 

I wondered if I should suggest him to quit cooking and look for some other career options, maybe even make his profile on jobs.com, but I just smiled in fake appreciation. Ah! How bad it was! If that guy went on Masterchef Sanjeev Kapoor would have him executed. 

“It’s awesome. “My ex-neighbours said. And so did everybody else. I came home wondering if my ex-neighbours and the cook and everyone else were plotting against me. 

“It was shit. We were just being polite. “They later clarified. 

The new mess is owned by a pair of ancient people, who are old enough to enter Guinness World Records. I’m convinced they practice black magic. 

The old lady is sweet but shrewed. And her man is a talking machine. First, I’ll describe the old lady. So good natured she is, you’d wonder if she lives a secret life chopping kids and storing their pieces in the refrigerator. A wrinkled face that evokes sympathy, a speech full of honeytalking and oversentimental stuffs, and a brain full of evil and selfishness. She’s such a drama queen. One day she was looking at her grandson’s photo, her eyes wobbly and quivering. My neighbours spent a good deal convincing themselves that the young guy sitting like a crab in the sofa in the next room is actually her alive grandson and not his ghost. 

“I mean her grandson was like four steps away. And not even dead. And she’s was like this is my grandson, you see? “My neighbours later told me.

The old lady once offered me some almonds. I was so thankful I wanted to hike her pay at once. Then I came to my room and chewed those almonds. I had to take three Listerine gurgles to erase the horrid taste. 

Her husband is pretty delusional. Maybe it has to do with old age, or maybe he is a genuine asshole. Once I was standing right in front of him when he asked,

“Has Ravish gone yet? “I was so speechless. 

Once I showed up without a lunch box. When I asked if he had spare lunch boxes, he said of course, and pulled out a Shenaz Husain Gold tub and started pouring Dal. 

“Uncle, “I said, “I guess I’ll run back to fetch my lunch box. ”
My neighbours were sick of their parasitic nature. So once they went to seriously warn him to improve the quality of food or be prepared to lose customers. 

“Uncle! “They satarted.

“Oh! Kids. Blah Blah Blah…..Blah Blah…BLAH….I HAD A HEART ATTACK ONCE….Blah Blah Blah Blah. ”

3 hours later.

“You were saying something, kids? ”

“No. Uncle. Nothing. Nothing at all. “My neighbours said. 

Happy Holi. 

Holi, nah, I don’t like it!.

I am not much of a festival fanatic, so I did not write a post about how I drenched kids in toxic paints or smeared Gulal at random cleavages after guzzling down barrels of Bhaang, which I didn’t, this Holi. I belong to a land where Holi is an important festival, because there’s a monolith in my neighbourhood which people refer to as Prahlad Stambh, the most important artefact associated with Holi. Now I don’t know or care if the mythical lion God really broke out of that goddamn pillar or not, but the thing is that my people are crazy about this festival. 

Every year you’d see the the fervour reach its crescendo amidst the awfully gloomy board exams. Shopkeepers suddenly start the additional business of colors, Gulals, spray guns and Bhaang and people of all kinds and ages flock at their shops to buy in bulk. Then, on the day of Holi, they go utterly, extremely, crazy. There are people everywhere on the streets, painted and ghostly in appearance, laughing hysterically with their ugly blue teeth and their ugly blue tongues, which would make Jared Leto feel bad about his existence. 

There’s a special set of clothes people wear for this occasion. Unlike how you Americans dress up for Christmas, or how we Indians dress up for Diwali, the apparel for this festival isn’t glamorous at all. Holi clothes are usually the shabbiest cheapest pieces of cloth, blessed with a garden of holes, patches of wear and stratas of dirt amassed over a period of time. Well, in India, every cloth is actually destined to become a wipe or duster towards the end of its life cycle. Just before that phase of drudgery, it becomes a festival cloth for a day. We wear it on Holi and let our relatives suffocate it with paint, and rip it into pieces, and then rip those pieces as well. 

Then comes the Bhaang part. Bhaang, or cannabis, is a psychoactive drug prepared in pots and offered to adults. Adults guzzle it in one breath, and after that, as shown in every tv soap in the history of India, get to fuck their lowly girlfriends with romantic music playing in the background, which they, as a part of plot twist, regret later. I had a friend who had bhaang once. He kept abusing for three days on trot. He also revealed loudly and elaborately how hot he found her newly wed aunt, much to his embarrassment later. So bhaang is basically a Veritaserum with a side effect. And no, dear Americans, we don’t get laid after bhaang overdose in real life. So it’s rather unfortunate. 

That apart, women are assaulted quite often, not like the Monica Bellucci Irreversible assault, but gentlemanly (like hello madam! I’d like to fondle your breasts a bit while pretending to play colors, even if you don’t actually intend to participate in this enlightening event.), under the garb of celebrations. There’s a lot of touching and ogling going on. 

But there are a few good things about holi as well. Like food, and joyous people, and of course, sex if you get to have it.

When I was a kid, I preferred watching Sinchan movies they showed at Hungama to playing colors. Because like women, I too don’t want to get wet without my consent. (Totally punny!)

Anyway, these days, a few kids in the neighbourhood had targeted me for a while. They had thrown balloons at me, but they missed, (no hopes for Olympics, lads!) the earlier day. They were the same kids who were shooting arrows at me on Dusherra. 

I planned my day this time. I purchased necessary supplies, and spent the day holed up in my room, playing against 34 people on chess.com. That was a perfect holi.

 

💀 14th March 2016 💀

Account of the D DAY.

A lot of people won’t forget this day. People of Mansi Niketan certainly would not. I remember it as vividly as Americans remember national tragedies. It was our national tragedy, in the shape of a question paper, with the word MATHEMATICS printed at the top, in bold and capital.

The eve was spent in a frenzy, the night in maddening revisions and discussions, and also buttering up the Hindu deities who had even remotely scholarly outlook. People were going nuts as every tick of the clock made its presence felt. We felt like prisoners of war trapped in a Pakistani jail, waiting to be hanged naked at the dawn. 

The evening was fine. Lord Evans had just routed me in chess, because he was bored of all the Maths they were making him solve. He was so smug, that geeky godzilla! We had a little walk, after which it was the time to pick up those horrible books for one last time. 

I knew some differential equations, a bit of probability, inverse trigonometry, basic calculus, and the first chapter whatever it was. I could clearly see my relatives’ faces, scrunched up in disgust and pity, warning their kids to never become someone like me. 

“That guy doesn’t even know Rolle’s theorem! “I imagined my uncles talking behind my back. 

“Did you see his score? I’d get more if I write blindfolded! “One would say. 

“Sharma ji’s son scored 99. He would never know what’s a 99, he’s so poor at Maths. “Other would add, and they’d have a good laugh about it. 

I imagined myself offering tea to them. They’d stare me right in the eyes and one would ask me if I knew what tan 90 was. I’d fumble and forget, and then they won’t accept the tea because I’m so bad at Maths. Kids would sing tables at my face, Aunties would ask me to calculate cost prices of twelve Sarees, and I would scratch my scalp and the world would dissolve into malicious laughter. I would contemplate suicide and try to hang myself, but I’d fail because there’s a lot of Maths involved in hanging yourself. 

I opened the book and practised like the world was ending tomorrow. Everybody was doing the same. Everybody was fucked up as a rat. Everybody except Lord Evans. Lord Evans is never fucked up as a rat. This guy solved NCERT appendix questions for fun. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do. 

Nobody slept that night. (I had a nap for a few hours, after 2 am, because well fuck maths!) The morning was dewy. The sky was vulture grey. The breeze gave the skin goosebumps at every brush. It was a cold morning, a silent cold morning. 

It was the D-DAY. We nailed our eyes to the books. Nature’s calls went unanswered. Well, till they could. People made chits, wrote on palms in microscopic fonts, chanted confusing formulas pauselessly, solved questions after questions till there was no time left. We prayed for earthquakes, tsunamis, terrorist attacks, anything that gets the exam cancelled. But even the rain, that day, was a fizzle. And Osama Bin Laden was already dead.

The road was glistening. The greenery was lush as a fairytale. It was a beautiful morning awaiting an ugly mishap. We reached the center, our clothes damp from the drizzle. 

The papers were distributed and as it was pretty clear, the youth of India was fucked, yet again. I gave full fifteen minutes to the Linear Programming Problem, used scale and  shading and everything, and got it wrong in the end. The question about curves, I got that right after three attempts. I drew metrices after matrices, but that fucked up thing won’t unjumble anyway. My answersheet looked like Pablo Picasso’s artwork. Maths teachers did not have the intellect to understand it. 

Once back to the lodge, things became pretty normal. We went out, a bit relieved, pretending there wasn’t a time bomb ticking inside our heads, waiting to blow up some day in May.