25 April 2007

Memoirs of an invisible man

Memory is a child walking along seashore. You never can tell what small pebble it will pick up and store away among its treasured things.
~Pierce Harris, Atlanta Journal


Somewhere in time, not long ago

“So your dream has come true?”
I asked Joyer. We had just finished wandering at Karavali Utsava and were having dinner at VILLAGE!

“What dream?” He asked. But I guess he realized what I am saying; I could see the smile at his face.

It’s a long story, or collection of anecdotes, spanning years and years and a generation. I know because I was there. Like TIME I have seen it all. I can still hear the voices from abyss. Like a ghost I remember everything and forget nothing - my memoirs are that of an Invisible man!

Once upon a time

Unfortunately (this is true), I no longer stay at Kinnigoli. Because of my work I can visit Kinnigoli only - once a year.

Every time I come down for a vacation, I expect some sort of drastic change; something entirely new; something which was not there before! But time and again, there is not much change, some small things here and there but Kinnigoli is always same, not much different.

Like the Ekta Kapoor serials – even if you see them, after a break of years – you are never far from where you have left. Same with Kinnigoli, year after year I see very less change.

This year though, there is a major change: my grand father is no more!

Of course life at Kinnigoli is not much affected by his departure, most of the Kinnigolians won’t remember my grand father, but I will always remember him distinctly at least for one reason.

My grand father had this unique habit of staring at nothingness! It was quite strange, if you don’t know him. While walking on the road, he would suddenly stop, look at the sky, stare at nothingness above and be a statue for at least 10 minutes or sometimes more. For a stranger he would look like a scientist, thinking about some strange formulae.

Subsequently he would come out of his stupor and continue his walk as if nothing had happened. I was always amazed by his trance! It would always be a mystery to me.

I have a feeling, my grand father must be like Galileo – who became famous only after hundred years of his death. Deep in my heart, I have a small hope that my grandfather would become famous one day! May not be now, may not be in near future, may not be in our life time but some day!

Finally a change
First day at Kinnigoli, a police man stopped my bike at the circle! I mean a real officer of the law!

I am from the era – if a police man comes to Kinnigoli that would be - big news! People would talk about it for months to come! Now there is a police man at the bus stand all the time!

“Mister!” he said “You can not enter the bust stand the way you want. You need to maintain LEFT side!”

Can you believe that? I mean - there was literally a time when you can enter the bus stand from which ever direction you want! There was no divider, no police to monitor you, plain faith on the fellow drivers.

The man from Dubai
After this police incident I had avoided bust stand for some time. I started traveling around the outskirts of Kinnigoli.

During one of these trips I entered a small hotel just to have Tea. This is a curse of software industry – many people consume tea regularly. Regular tea will give you a momentary small high and lot of problems in future!

I had a single tea; when tried to pay, I realized that the smallest currency note I had was of 500. I told the man on the counter that I am out of change.

“You should have checked for change before having SINGLE tea!” he said
I didn’t say anything.
“Are you from Dubai?” he asked.
“Not exactly, I was in Middle East”
“What is it with YOU Dubai-guys that makes you blind to notes below 500?”
Once again I didn’t say anything.
“You need to buy something else to get the change” he said.
I bought 2 packets of biscuits from the counter. Only after this I got the change.

Money plant
On my return journey to Kinnigoli – a “collection group” stopped me. They were building a stage and were expecting some donation.

I wonder what has happened to the stages built last year and the years before! I gave more donation than my regular quota and asked them to build a stronger stage this time - that last for years!

The moment I stopped my bike in front of Naveen’s shop, I met Cyril.
“Give me some money – I am hungry “he said; which is not true because he had said the same thing last year.

“Cyril I know you, you will DRINK from the money”
“No. I am really hungry”
“If you are really hungry I have 2 biscuit packets “ . These were the ones I got in exchange for change.

“I don’t need them”
I didn’t give him anything. But then he followed me everywhere I went. Finally gave him some money – before people start connecting me with him.

God’s House
On Christmas Eve, I went to the mass on time; which is uncharacteristic. There was a gigantic man made Christmas star in front of the church, much bigger than the ones you see in the sky!

For a long time I was under the impression that the name of our church is – immaculate CONSUMPTION! That is because I didn’t know the meaning of neither immaculate nor consumption. Now that I know what is IMMACULATE and what CONCEPTION is, I have my own doubts about IMMACULATE CONCEPTION!

Church was full; I didn’t get a seat, so I went to the balcony. I could see everyone from top – believers, non-believers, good men, nuns, kids, altar boys and gossip lovers.

I was specially looking for the guys who post crap things on Kinnigoli.com with alias names! God, give me some hint – I prayed. I just wanted to see these morons.

There was a skit just before the mass. Armaan, Joyer’s son was playing Jesus, may be the most coveted role in the world. At less than a year, he may be one of the youngest to play that role, which even Jim Caviezel found difficult to act. In Armaan’s case though he didn’t have to do much, he just needed to be himself!

From the top I saw my father. He was alarmingly close to the altar! If the priest threw something from altar he would be the first person to catch it! My dad was an atheist long time back. Now he is a super theist! I don’t know the reason for this paradigm shift! He goes to daily mass now. He sits on the front row. The only person who had this kind of dramatic change is Paul-AKA-Saul who got enlightened on the way to Damascus! There are rumors that he (not Paul But my dad) is the main force behind the daily evening mass; which has started recently in Kinnigoli.

Also saw my mom; she was at a practical distance from altar. I always have a feeling that she is trapped between an agnostic son (that is me) and super theist husband (that would be my dad)!

Dead man walking
Our vicar had announced to meet and greet at least 5 new people after the Christmas mass. It is very difficult to meet 5 new people, especially in a small place like Kinnigoli where everyone knows everyone.

And if you are a famous person like Joseph Quadras or Henry Mathias you can never find a new person at all.

I could not find 5 new people instead I met a person whom I had thought dead long back! This person came to me and said “You are Ravi Lobo and your birthday is on March 4th!” Can you believe that?

Luckily I was not alone, else I would have fainted.

Unfortunately I cannot reveal the identity of the person because he/she may not like people considering himself/herself among the dead!

Mysore palace
During Christmas, lots of Bombay kids come down for vacation; they somehow consider themselves superior among Kinnigoli kids, just because they were born and brought up in Mumbai.

These kids have lot of bookish knowledge, which is hardly practical!

“Why there are no coconuts in this tree?” One of these kids asked me at our farm.
“There may be other valid reasons” I said “but the chief among others, I believe is because it is not a coconut tree, it is a betel nut tree!”

Did you get my point! These kids are not dumb, they are simply bookish. For example they know the scientific name for betel nut tree is – “Areca Catechu” and that for coconut tree is – “cocos nucifera”. They also know that both trees belong to scientific classification Division: Magnoliophyta and Class: Liliopsida!

But if you simply drag them to the farm and ask them which is which, they will go amok!

My grand father never knew about Areca Catechu or cocos nucifera! But he had a very good practical knowledge of palm trees; we were never short of coconuts!

In a similar incident, I was traveling via maravoor at night and this kid suddenly started shouting “ Look – Mysore Palace!”

“Mysore palace is in Mysore stupid!” I corrected him “This is MRPL!”

“Guess what? “ I said “Mysore palace is lighted only for 10 days a year but MRPL is lighted whole year – year after year!”

New generation

“Free Food! Free Accommodation! Scroll down for Republic day offer” – I received a SMS. I promptly scrolled down and here is what was written,

“Send SMS to police informing about a BOMB at the parliament. You will be put in jail! Food free! Accommodation free! Ha Ha Ha “

I wonder which moron with the IQ of an amoeba generated this SMS. Is the Indian intelligence agency so much short of work that they have started checking brainless SMS messages?

I am sad (I am using a mild word here) about our unpatriotic youth!

The Snake
Some people fear mice, some cockroaches, some heights, some lifts and some crowds. This is really funny; I don’t know what is there with the cockroaches to fear!

Of all the things, I have OPHIDIOPHOBIA; the fear for snakes – yeeeeeeeeeeks! I always didn’t like snakes, but the magnitude of fear I realized only after seeing a real one in my bedroom!

I was in the bedroom, searching for something I don’t remember now and there it was in front of me a real, live, snake! I don’t know how it landed up there; our windows are at a considerable height.

I didn’t sleep in the bedroom for two days. I will never be comfortable in my own bedroom! This is creepy and unfair especially when you are married!

One more thing I won’t be able to do is a - proper shower! I was once watching Alfred Hitchcock’s – PSYCHO all alone. It was around midnight – I mistook the movie for a romantic one. Till half of the movie – there is nothing – it looks like a plain romantic movie.

Some where in the middle; the lead actress goes for a shower at a motel. Our lead actress is singing and taking bath – I am very alert expecting something interesting – and suddenly a hand with a knife comes from nowhere and stabs the actress more than 10 times!

There is blood all around. I was so stunned, shattered by this sudden killing. This is not only a classic example of expectation mismatch, also one of the scariest scenes I have ever seen!

After this, I have never taken a comfortable shower - never! Now this stupid snake!

“Snakes don’t stay at houses NORMALLY, they stumble by mistake but they don’t stay for long “ - my mom said!

“In an ABNORMAL case, they may consider staying!” I told her.

“In fact a snake is more afraid of you, than you being afraid of it!” she said

“There are humans not afraid of snakes, there can always be a snake who is not afraid of humans! “ I replied.

No matter what – she could not convince me!

Finally we have fixed mosquito nets to all the windows of our house! I am sort of okay now, but I will never be able sleep in my bedroom peacefully anymore; this stupid snake will haunt me for ages to come!

Magnya zamath
The literal meaning of MAGNYA ZAMATH is PRAYER MEETING. But in reality it is hardly anything to do with prayer! It may be the most misunderstood word.

To understand it, you need to travel in to the past! Till you reach the time of Socrates. Socrates was a Greek philosopher with a very intelligent group of disciples, like Plato.

Everyday evening he used sit at the market place with his disciples and talk philosophy. People didn’t like this. Socrates was never famous during his time; in fact he was forced to drink poison!

Never the less, 2000 years later, now we consider Socrates among the pioneer philosophers!

Modern days – I and friends sit in bars, for the same kind of intellectual exchange, which Socrates used to have 2000 years ago. Like Socratian times, contemporary people don’t like us.

In fact the alcohol consumption is very less during these meetings; it would have been zero if MAPU not being in the team. I have caught so many times around Kinnigoli bars – that I have stopped convincing people that I am a teetotaler!

I have seen some of the major decisions and history in the making during some of these meetings! The discussions are always visionary, futuristic and intellectual. The topics discussed range from chaos-theory to butterfly-effect. I received lot of general knowledge, in these meetings.

Like bourgeois Athenians - My parents didn’t like these meetings; Even though the information inputs were magnanimous. For that matter no Kinnigolian parent would like their child to spend their evenings at bars; even if it is to have a cup of mineral water!

When the resentment at our homes increased, we friends decided to have a code word for our meetings. The code word was – MAGNYA ZAMATH.

Typically Joyer would call and some times my mom would pick up the phone. “There is a MAGNYA ZAMATH today evening “he would say “ Please ask Ravi to attend it without fail!”

This went very well for some time. Joy would call, mom would pickup the call. She would think I am in a MAGNYA ZAMATH! But in reality I would be in a bar with friends. The bars really prospered during those days.

My mom was not surprised with this sudden change in her son because she had seen similar change in her husband!

Of course good days don’t last long. Mom eventually found out about MAGNYA ZAMATH and as a punishment I was forced to attend few real MAGNYA ZAMATHS.

When Vally came on vacation he was center of attention at least at our house!
“Look at Vally” my mom would say “ He is NOT like you guys! He is so pious and religious; He goes straight to the church and comes back straight home. He won’t look here and there. Not like you guys - wandering cattle”

Vally is this, Vally is that, bla bla bla ……bla bla bla
Suddenly Vally was larger than life – a superhero!

This was too much. A change was required. Finally we friends convinced Vally for a Magnya Zamath!!

“Where are you going at this time of the evening?” Mom asked.
“I don’t want to go any where” I said “But your blue eyed boy – Vally has called me for a party!”

“Don’t spoil his name! He is a good guy!” mom said with unbelievable tone.

“Call him now and find out for yourself!”

We had a great party with Vally. It was really wonderful. Since he is in Middle East – there were discussions about camel meat and belly dance. Vally had tried both!!

Vally’s nephew comes to our house daily morning to collect the milk. The day after the party my mom asked him – “Where was Vally yesterday Night?”

“He was at a party with his friends; He came back very late. Why, anything wrong? “He asked.

“There was some confusion about Vally” I said from behind “I think it is cleared now, isn’t it mom?”

AIDS test
One time when I was in Mangalore, I saw a yellow van with AIDS awareness information.
“Sir, do you need an AIDS test?” One of the volunteers asked me.
“I don’t need it. I don’t have it.” I said.

“Sir you are never sure about AIDS” the volunteer persisted.
“I may not be sure about AIDS” I replied “but I am very much sure about my sex life!”

Old friends
I met an Old friend, surprised him and he was like ‘YOU…!’ as if he was surprised to see me alive.
I knew, he was unable to recollect my name.
“Tell me my name” I asked him.
“You think I don’t know your name!” that was smart.
“That’s what I think! Tell me anyway!” I knew he was still thinking.
“You are the craziest person I have ever seen” he said.
“That may be true! Tell me my name!” insisted him.
“You used to crack the stupidest jokes!”
“I agree, now tell me my name” forced him.
“Because of Joy, you used to win quiz competitions and take all the credit!”
“That is not true! Just tell me my name”
“You were always compared to Patrao, even though you were no where near to him!”
“That’s a lie. Who am I?”
“In chess, because of Jerome you won many tournaments”
“I don’t want to talk to you”. Made a mistake, shouldn’t have asked this idiot.
“You were always second best! Sort of second hand”
“I am not listening”
“Now since you want to know who you are. My dear friend you are the one and only Ravi the f@#$ing Lobo” this was like an academy award announcement, and the Oscar goes to…..
“That is not my exact name” I said “But you are very close!”

Old friends are like that. They pull your leg all the time. But they are also the first ones to reach out in need. They are happy to be with you, not because of your fame or money but just because what you are.

Dochha’s marriage
Dochha aka Lawrance is an old friend. I can write a lengthy article on his marriage. Two amusing incidents happened during the marriage.

One lady - whom I didn’t know and I am sure she didn’t know me either mischievously, suggested “next is yours!”
“Next is mine - what?” I asked her.
“Marriage , you-stupid!”
“I am already married” I said.
“Oh, I am sorry I mistook you for someone else. Now I know who you are. So where are the kids?”
“I don’t have kids, you are wrong again!”

During lunch, there was a shortage of waiters and some how I went with food to serve dochha. On the way J B Miranda – my Hindi teacher saw me!

“So this is what…………..” and he stopped. I know what he wanted to say - “So this is what you have become after all my efforts!”

“Sir I am not a waiter. I am just serving my friend.” Cleared his doubt; later introduced Reema to him. Interestingly we both were his students. Thanks to this great man my Hindi is much better for a south Indian.

Buffalo race
Even though most of my adult life I have spent in Kinnigoli I was an alien to Kinnigoli night life. That was because during my younger days I had strict orders to be at home by 7.00 PM. You will find it difficult to believe that I had never seen a Yakshagana till I was 30. That was because Yakshagana starts at around midnight, and as a rule I was supposed to be back at home by 7.00 PM. For almost 30 years I missed this magnanimous cultural event. It was like a house arrest for 30 years.

But the time has changed; I can come home anytime now or need not come at all if I wish that! I am like spider-man, wanderer – anytime, anywhere! But much like spider-man – with great power comes great responsibility!

[Deep in my heart I believe that parents should be little bit strict. At least one of my parents was strict (you know whom I am referring to!); because of that I am, what I am today. Even with this enlightening piece of knowledge, I won’t be a lenient parent. I am going to harass my kids to the core. I will bring down the 7.00 PM bar to 6.00 PM!
I will expect extreme greatness from them, even though my achievements are mediocre! I will do all the nonsense and illogical things to them which my parents didn’t do to me!]

In my Last visit I saw Yakshagana, I also saw KAMBLA the buffalo race first time in my life. It starts at night, I went with Naveen. He is a no nonsense guy with contacts. He is like a Mafioso in the small town, people know him, they admire his power and keep their distance.

The buffalo race was awesome. This animal, human combination was simply superb.
No Jesse owens, no Asafa powell will ever dare to race in this, in their wildest dreams.

We saw a few races, roamed around a bit before returning. There were biggest water melon piles, tea stalls, omelet vendors and sweets with no names.

After effects of Magnya zamath

Magnya Zamaths were good as long as we were bachelors. Once married, the wives suffered with constant absence of their husbands.

One time, when I went to Joy’s house to invite him for a outing, I met his wife – Icy,
“I am taking your husband for couple of hours, and promise to return him safely” told her jokingly.

“Take him for the whole day” she said “and don’t return him!”

This is a counter joke; I doubt it was 100% pure joke!

Over the period I and friends have realized that if we want to maintain our friend ship then we need to involve the families.

“It’s a dream” Joy had said “to have a get-together with all the old friends, their wives and kids “

I feel you need to be careful when you are dreaming, because believe me sometimes even dreams come true!

The spirit of Kinnigoli
Whenever I am with Naveen we go for a tea either at SWAGATH or DURGA DAYA. Some times he is busy, so I go alone. During one of these times, I realized for my horror that I am once again short of change.

I went to the counter at SWAGATH and politely told the guy on the counter that I am out of change. “May be I should have checked before having a single tea. “ I said “I really don’t mind buying something else in exchange for change”

“No need” he said “You can give me the change next time”
“Just like that?” I asked.
“Just like that!” he said.

That’s why I love Kinnigoli the most. People are basically good here and they believe in you. The heat of modernization has not affected Kinnigoli yet. On the contrary Mangalore has not only become cosmopolitan but also communal. The natural greenery has been replaced by communal colors.

Freedom fighters, who fought for freedom of the nation oblivion to cast and creed are dragged into religious posters. I will think twice before roaming at night at Mangalore.

So far Kinnigoli is peaceful. It is full of good guys, non-Christian business men who speak Konkani fluently than their mother tongue, bus drivers giving priority to our PURSHANV, auto drivers refusing to take fare from our priests. I have seen it all.

In other parts there is lot of religious confusion. Killings, on the name of religion. These things are yet to be seen in Kinnigoli. You can kill a person, but not an idea, or thought. How can you kill the spirit of a place?

Memoirs of an invisible man
Time is the best medicine. The cool guys and hot babes of our time are no more cool or hot! Mata Hari’s of our time are no more in vogue. In their place some new faces have popped up. They are after the temporary glitter and an ominous fate of their kin of yester years.

Macho men of my time are no more macho! They do menial jobs to meet their day to day needs. The Gandhi-types, who used to sit on the front benches, with specs and neatly-oil-combed hair, about whom I used to laugh, are in form; these are the guys who rule.

Like TIME, I have seen the history in the making. I have made my mistakes and learned my lesson.

I remember the days of ASHOKA talkies and bella candy during the interval. There was a soda making factory behind the market; lemon bottled soda with blue marble to keep the fizz.

There was a small tree in Saint Mary’s ground; we used to play MARA-KOTI. Wednesday’s there used to be CHITRAHAAR and one movie on Sundays. There was no remote; no channel surfing.

“Washing powder nirma” was a constant ad. There was a liril ad; lady swimming under a waterfall, considered hot. For a long time I was under the impression that GIVE ME RED was a soft drink ad.

There were quiz and chess competitions and Cricket tournaments! A big crowd used to go for quiz competitions; loud cheers for every correct answer.

Incredible chess end games, nail biting cricket victories, trekking, idealism of youth rumors, scandals, romance and a wild spirit. I can see them, hear them, and smell them as if they were incidents of yesterday. So many memories; some more time and they all will be lost in sands of time.

“Hey Ravi, what are you thinking? “ That was Reema
“Nothing” I said.
“Surely you are thinking something important, I saw you standing unmoved for almost ten minutes”

Finally I have understood my grandfather.

A million dollar dream
At last we could manage a family outing. Most of my friends were there with their family and kids. Joy, Naveen, Francis, saver, MAPU, Rudy, Lawrence and Premu; It was a good outing. We had a good time.

Armaan was there, sleeping most of the time. NOLAN, Naveen’s kid was there. He has just started talking and talks beautifully for his age. These kids have a long future ahead. They will be friends like their fathers. I hope life would be fare to them, as it was for us.

“So your dream has come true?”
I asked Joyer. We had just finished wandering in Karavali Utsava and were having dinner at VILLAGE!

“What dream?” He asked. But I guess he realized what I am saying; I could see the smile at his face.

In the corner I could see our wives talking and giggling. Reema waved at me. I waved back. They were laughing, may be sharing a joke, I could not hear them, they seem to be happy. At the end of the day what else a man need than a happy family?

Two days in heaven

“The man talks nonsense” said a visitor after hearing the Master speak. Said a disciple “You would talk nonsense too if you were trying to express the inexpressible”

- From ONE MINUTE NONSENSE by Anthony de Mello

The merchant of dreams
Some days are routine; there are no memorable events during the day. They are the ones which don’t stay in the memories for long.

And some days are different; you remember them for a long time.

It was one of those days; I was on the terrace of my rental flat in Bahrain with my friend. Those were also my final days in Bahrain.

We were talking this and that and with out any preamble my friend asked – “How do you feel to be on a cruise - only with your wife?”

I have heard cruises for a group but only for a single couple? “That would be romantic”. I said.

“Would you like to go for one?”
“Is it in Venice? That would be expensive” I said.
“No, it is NOT in Venice, the place is Kumarakom”

I could see the traffic on the exhibition road. It is the most crowded place in Bahrain.
I can also see the sea, Bahrain is a small Island; sea is never far.

“Where is it?” I asked.
“It is in Kerala! I have a friend, who can arrange..”
So it was not a totally altruistic suggestion!

“What are you selling my friend?”
“Ravi, I am selling you two days in heaven!”

The Package
The package was for 2 days and 2 nights on the houseboat for a couple. There will be 3 additional crew members to manage the houseboat. Food will be cooked and served on the boat it self!

I was never on water for 2 days and 2 nights anytime!

Friends in need
When I told my friends about my Kerala visit, they discouraged me like anything! Their point was: Kerala is very much similar to Mangalore; A Mangalorean won’t find anything new in Kerala!

“You will be the first Mangi to visit Kerala!” they said. Mangi is the short form for Mangalorean! It took me almost 30 years to realize that I am a Mangi!

Chances are more that you are a Mangi yourself, but have been enlightened by this fact just now!

A Promise to mom
“Promise me, you won’t go near the water!” My mom asked me just before leaving. I hate all the guys who don’t listen to their mom, no matter what!

In my case it was an impossible promise because the whole thing was on water.
“What is your definition for NEAR?” – I asked.

“Don’t start that jargon, just be careful!” she said.

I usually carry a book for the journey. This time it was THE PRIZE, by Irwing Wallace. I don’t know, does anyone read him now a days - he was famous during the sixties and seventies. Nevertheless he is one of those writers who do their research well before writing a book.

THE PRIZE is about the Nobel Prize: It has all the trivia information and inside stories.

Alfred Noble, on whose name these prizes are given, was a bachelor, inventor of dynamite, millionaire, and an atheist who read his bible daily!

The noble prize is not awarded posthumously! There is no Nobel Prize for mathematicians.

I am sad; my all-time-favorite Gandhi didn’t get a Nobel for peace! Even Tolstoy who was Gandhi’s Favorite (and mine too: A=B=C!) didn’t get one.

Surprisingly I found Irving Wallace books at Mangalore railway bookstore, which I was not able to find at crosswords! It’s a good omen; I bought two of them.

On the train
I reached Mangalore station one hour early with Reema (ex-girl friend, current wife).
Malabar express was already waiting in the station. Indian railway may be the only thing which is on-time or before-time in this country.

Lot of things in the railways have been changed, except for the food. Railway food is the one thing which is not changed in decades, it is not horrible but very close to it!

I saw a mouse on the train, a real one not the computer mouse. Other than the mouse, nothing much happened on the train. At Cochin, an old woman boarded – she had an upper berth. I was on the lower. It was difficult for her to climb, so I switched the berth with hers.

She said thank you! It was a real THANK YOU, you can recognize it. I hope someday when I am old, some young punk will switch seats with me!

I could not sleep the whole night; there was an AC vent directly on my head. That much for helping an old lady!

Day 1
We reached Kottayam station on time at 5.00 am. Kumarakom is 15 KM by road from Kottayam. The pickup car which was supposed to be on the station with a placard was not in the vicinity!

I called my travel agent; it finally arrived at 6.15 am.

“Why so late?” I asked.
“Sir! There was an incident yesterday!”
Unless you have a white paper on X-Rays and Nuclear Gamma Rays from Fast Particles with theory of alpha rays or something similar to your credit, you need to be very careful about the guys who call you –“sir”!

Obviously they have to sell something, which is not worth it. Else why would they call you – ‘SIR’?

“What incident?” I asked.
“There was a car stolen yesterday and police is checking every car in the morning!”

This can be as true as Shah Rukh Khan performing in the next Yakshagana at Kinnigoli bus stand!

Houseboat and the crew

I had never seen a houseboat and didn’t know what to expect. I think I was expecting a small typical boat just to manage - a two day tour. But what a surprise was in store for me!

We were waiting for the boat on the banks of the canal when I saw a huge boat coming towards us. I was expecting a small boat behind the huge one, turned out the huge one was ours!

A typical houseboat looks like a giant Armadillo. This is a wrong example because there are no armadillos in Kinnigoli or in India. Nevertheless it looks exactly like a giant armadillo!

Kettuvallam (Houseboat) or ‘boat with knots’ - is so called because the entire boat is held together with coir knots only - no nails! The boat is made of planks of jack-wood joined together with coir. The facilities on board include trained crew with hotel like ambience. There will be a living room, Kitchen, two bedrooms with attached bath and a raised central deck for lazing on cushions while watching the world go by!

There were three people with us, Vivek the Chef, Sasi and the captain Sagi.

“Where are you from?” – Captain asked me
“Which place in Bangalore?”
“Not Bangalore – Mangalore - Mangalapuram” He got it!

Houseboat, as the name says is a real home on water! With deluxe rooms and state of the art facilities, it’s a grand experience.

Missing my sister
Our crew was fluent in Malayalam, no Hindi – only passable English. Even with the language barrier they managed beautifully.

One person I missed on the whole trip was my sister; she is the only one in the family who can speak fluent Malayalam!

She was with a mallu gang for a long time, instead of teaching the gang Konkani – she has learned Malayalam. Shah Rukh Khan is no more her favorite. She needs Mohanlal or Mammootty, else she won’t watch the movie!

Incidentally Malayalam is the most difficult language in the world. It is also a palindrome that means you can read it from both sides. For a long time I was under the impression that MALAYALAM is the longest palindrome, till I came across meaningless - TATTARRATTAT!
As of now TATTARRATTAT is the longest palindrome, It was coined by James Joyce of Ulysses fame! I am sad about this guy, he was such a famous fellow I don’t know what made him to coin this stupid meaningless word just to make it - the longest palindrome!

I don’t know what is stopping somebody from making a bigger palindrome by adding 2 A’s in the beginning and end resulting – ATATTARRATTATA!

In Malayalam, words are not pronounced as they are spelt!

God’s own country
Like an elephant, houseboat moves gracefully with a gentle speed. You can relax in the front hall and enjoy the scenery unwind.

Rise fields as far as you can see, coconut trees with huge coconut bunches, ducks racing to out speed you, Lotus flowers popped out of water, immersed algae and nameless water plants you can see, as you majestically move forward.

Fishermen fish in the canal. Smaller boats wander selling coconuts, fish, flowers and other day to day items.

There are so many canals, constructing roads is difficult. Hence there are passenger boats. Instead of bus stands there are boat stands!

The water around is twelve to fifteen feet deep. It is not very clean.

There are fellow tourists traveling in other houseboats. They are mostly foreigners, with least amount of clothing possible - a pièce de résistance!

They are friendly, some of them waved at me I waved back.

“Welcome to God’s own country!” – I shouted to a couple traveling in the adjacent boat.

“Merci beaucoup” they said – Thank you very much!

Food was divine. I am a glutton, I know when it is divine! Exotic dishes like pineapple curry, black fish curry, Banana fry and oyster chilly without the shells!

My mom never removes the shells from the oysters, just because removing shells reduces the quantity by one tenth!

We had a certified Chef. For the food, you have a selection between North Indian, Keralite and Continental. Whenever you are on tour, it is always suggested that you should try the local food. We opted for Keralite delicacies.

They put lot of oil and coconut in every dish! Just like Arabs who put dates in everything!

Years back I had a fascination for paneer, till I went to Delhi on a project. I noticed in Delhi, they put paneer in everything except - tea! That’s how I lost taste for paneer. Now I avoid paneer.

Last thing on the first day
First day at around 1 am we decided to sleep.
“Do they have hidden cameras?” Reema asked.
“What?!, For Gods sake these guys are professionals. They won’t think doing such a thing.”
“Let’s check anyway” she said.
“I think you are paranoid.”

Only a fool will argue with his wife just before bedtime on a romantic cruise! Hence checking for the hidden cameras was the last activity for the first day. We found two hidden cameras - got you there - just kidding!!

Day 2
Lady on the water
I saw a lady rowing a small boat single handedly.
“Are you not afraid of water?” I asked her.
“I was born in these areas” she said.
“My mom is very much afraid of water” I told her.
“In fact, Water is safer than land!” she said. For a moment I was wondering whether it was Plato, Kafka or Camus. But then I think she was just joking.

Champakulam Chundan
Champakulam Chundan is nothing but a snake boat. Kerala is also famous for boat races. These are held in the second Saturday of August every year.

Nehru came to Kerala in 1952; fascinated by the game he suggested it to be a yearly event. There is a Nehru Trophy on his name, every year.

The event is telecasted on Doordarshan and in 64 countries.

A typical snake boat is 130 feet in length and Breadth around 70 inches; with 100 – 150 rowers, it is the world’s only game having so many team members at one side!

Ayurvedic Massage

I also tried the much hyped Ayurvedic massage. Massaging is very famous among the Arabs in Middle East. Even though I was there for almost 3 years I had never tried massaging.

One hour full body oil massage was exotic. After the massage, took bath in a top-less bath room, surrounded by cocoa trees.

A cocoa pod has a rough leathery rind about 3 cm thick. It is filled with sweet, mucilaginous pulp, enclosing 30 to 50 large almond-like seeds that are fairly soft and pinkish or white in color.

Cocoa is the dried and partially fermented fatty seed of the cacao tree from which chocolate is made.

Aleppy beach

We banked near Aleppy and took an auto till Aleppy beach. It is very clean compared to Juhu and less crowded.

It is also very steep. I may be the first Kinnigolian to visit Aleppy beach but surely didn’t want to be the first Kinnigolian to drown there - hence didn’t go far from the shore.

Saw the sunset, it was a normal sunset - not romantic, I am not a poet!


If you are the kind of person who likes to travel hundreds of miles - to take pictures of ground nut offerings to monkeys at a zoo; house-boating is not for you! If you like to take snaps besides medieval sculptures – feeling a kind of euphoria and content - don’t think about backwater cruise!

Instead if you are someone who is bored with the fast-life, concrete jungle and management jargon and someone who finds recreation by just watching the nature and fish in water, do try the house boat experience.

I hope I am not sounding nonsensical by trying to explain the unexplainable!

Most of the time travel agents show illuminating, flashy things on the catalogue but when you actually see the place it will be a totally different experience!

So the holy life saving pond of yester years, is nothing but a waterless hole with tadpoles. And the king’s winter resting palaces are nothing but dog sheds!

But cocohol (my travel agent) is not like that; in software terms, the whole package is WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get!). The whole experience was more than expected and more than promised!

If you are like me who would like to eat idli or vada sambaar for breakfast instead of croissants; may be you can wind up the whole thing in 15,000 RS for a couple.

I wish I get some kind of compensation for the article from my travel agent, but alas life is not that beautiful!

Following are the contact details of my travel agent incase if you decide to give it a try. Just give it a try, believe me it’s worth it!

Roshan Philip
1st Floor, SRL C 54,
Sankar Lane, Sasthamangalam P O,
Trivandrum - 695 010,Kerala, India.Off: 0091 471 2318452Mob: 0091 9847833089email: roshan_philip@cocohol.com

Arabian Nights

Na main moman vich maseetan
Na main vich kufar dian reetan
Na main pakan vich paleetan
Na main andar bed-kitaban
Na main rehnda bhang-sharaban
Na main rehnda mast-kharaban

Bulla ki jaana main kaun
-Bulla Shah (18th century Sufi saint)

March 2004, Hyderabad
In the beginning

“Is this Ravi Lobo?” someone had called me on my cell.
“Yes?” – I asked.
“Ravi, I am calling from Polaris software, we have an opening in Bahrain for the post of SQL Server DBA, if you are interested I can arrange for a technical interview?”

That’s how it went. I was not very keen on a job opportunity in Middle East. My room mate suggested to ask for a dream salary, so that the target company will reject me eventually.

I did the same thing, I cleared the interview and asked for a ridiculously high salary. To my horror and later surprise Polaris accepted the salary what I asked for and that’s how I ended up in Bahrain!

I had never been outside India and I didn’t know where Bahrain located, on the map. I searched for Bahrain in Atlas and could not find it, that is because it is a very small country. It is the smallest Arab nation in the world!

Later I searched about the country on the net and found many interesting things. Bahrain is an archipelago with 33 islands. It is such a small island, that you are never far from sea.

The word Bahrain means 2 seas. There are sweet water streams in Bahrain, and the country is surrounded by salt water. That’s why the name - two seas.

The population of the country is slightly more than 6 lac, out of which 2 lac are expatriates. There is literally no cultivation, the land is arid with less than 1% farming. Desert constitutes 92% of Bahrain!

Bahrain was once, proposed as the site of the Biblical Garden of Eden!

It is the first country in Middle East to discover oil. Also it is the only country in Middle East to host Formula one race.

It has the best exchange rate for Indian currency after Kuwati Dinars. One Bahraini Dinar is almost 120 Indian Rs. Can you imagine winning a lottery of 1 lac Dinars? You will be a millionaire!

On air
Nothing happened on air, except for a very funny accent of air-hostesses. For a brief moment I was under the impression that the in-flight announcement is in Arabic. Later when I listened carefully I found out that the announcement is in Hindi!

Air-hostesses speak Hindi in a very funny accent. I have visited almost all the Hindi speaking parts of India but never heard this kind of accent!

There was an interesting demonstration of what needs to be done in case of emergency landing on sea. I watched the demo carefully, I didn’t want to be the - Ignorant, if such an event occurs!

April 2004, Bahrain
“Salaam Alaikum” – Immigration officer said.
“Pardon me sir, I know only English” I said politely.
“Welcome to Bahrain” he said.
“Thank you!”
That’s when I decided to learn at least few words of Arabic, in case I am lost and need to ask for directions.

Eagle has landed
First thing I noticed when I came out of airport is that, Arabs drive on the wrong side! This is the first taste of so many things the Arabs do in opposite ways compared to rest of the world!

The roads are straight, spotless and beautiful! Vehicles move with a very high speed.

The country is full of shopping complexes, sky scrapers, beautiful roads, but almost no greenery. It could be boring sometimes away from nature.

I have never seen so many mosques in one place. The country is full of them. Interestingly there are prayer rooms everywhere even in shopping malls and movie theaters. You can pray there during the prayer time or for that matter anytime.

Arabs are well built, good looking and have large families.

Most of the Arabs are simple minded and easy going people. You will rarely see an Arab - advanced Java programmer!

I have never seen so many people in Burqa - anytime, anywhere!

Day to day life

The climate is extremely hot, except in December and Jan. You can not walk the smallest distance. There is almost no rain! In three years that I was in Bahrain I had seen rain less than 10 days.

There are lot of massage centers and fast food corners. Arabs love both! Food is cheap and nutritious. Non vegetarian food is cheaper than vegetarian food!

And the cheapest of all is black gold - Petrol! The one thing, that has made all the difference. The one thing, that has given the Arab region, a presence in the outer world. The gift from God for all the heat, sand and ignorance!

Elephant song
“Have you seen an elephant?” An Arab asked me once. “I mean a real one, not in the TV”

There is virtually no wild life in Bahrain. It has only one zoo, which doesn’t have many animals.

“Yes” I said. “There is a temple back home, and there is one in the temple”

“Have you touched it?” he asked. Touching an elephant!

“No. I didn’t know it is a privilege!” some times Arabs can be funny!

Grand mosque
Grand Mosque is the biggest mosque in Bahrain. I went there with a Muslim friend and was surprised to see that the whole place is almost empty.

“Where is the God? I mean are there not any idols?”

“We believe God doesn’t have a form” my friend answered.

Interesting concept!

Bulla ki jana main kaun?
Once, while shopping one of the persons at the counter asked me – “Are you from Pakistan?” My God! Of all the things!

I have been confused for a North Indian, a Hindu, racist, extremist, atheist etc. etc. In a worst case I don’t mind some one calling me child molester, wife beater, homo, gigolo, nymphomaniac and all those unpronounceable meaningless words, but a Pakistani?

I didn’t know what to say. I lost words.

Politely told the guy that I am not from Pak and no Indian likes to be called as a Pakistani!


Arabs like Hindi movies. They even hum Hindi songs without knowing the meaning. “Have you seen Mera Naam Joker?” One old Arab taxi driver asked me once.

“No, I have not seen it. It is an old movie”

“We used to watch Raj Kapoor movies during those days, Fridays mostly. He was a good actor” he said.

Good old days.

Quid pro quo
The theatres in Bahrain are small, unlike India not crowded. When Mani Rathnam’s YUVA came to Bahrain I was the first to suggest for a movie outing. As usual I was the co-coordinator, so I took the responsibility for booking the tickets.

When I reached the advance booking counter, it was empty!

“It will take some time” the person on the counter said “There is some problem with the computer”

“I know a little about computers “I said “Do you mind if I have a look?”

I went inside the booking cabin and found that one of the databases was not getting started. I solved the problem and also booked the tickets for the group.

Normally I go for a movie well in advance, that too if it is a Mani Rathnam movie I will be the first one on the venue, but that day because of the delay from our group we reached the theatre 10 minutes late. The movie was already started. Except our group there was no one else in the theatre.

I went to the booking counter and introduced myself as the one who solved the database problem.

After pointing that the theatre is empty except for our group politely requested the guy to restart the movie from the beginning!

The guy got convinced and started the movie again. You can not think of doing this in the smallest theatres, in India!


King Fahd causeway is a land link between Saudi and Bahrain. It is 26 KM in length, and is one of the engineering wonders.

You can go for a long drive on this road with maximum speed. The night drive is simply wonderful.

There is going to be a link road between Bahrain and Qatar soon. This will be the longest link road in the world!

Tree of life

The tree of life is a lone tree in the middle of the desert. This is a 400 year old tree! The source of water for this tree is a mystery!

The only reason why I didn’t go to see it is because of the thousands of trees I had already seen in Kinnigoli!

Malabar confusion
Once an Arab asked me “Are you form Kerala country?”. Middle East is so much crowded with Keralites that many of the Arabs are under the impression that Kerala is a country!

Most of the Keralites speak fluent Arabic. I have also seen some Arabs speaking fluent Malayalam! Tit-for-tat!

The most difficult period in Bahrain is the holy month of Ramadan. Everything moves slower during this period. Muslims fast during the day. It is a tough time. They don’t even drink water.

No person who follows fasting can work more than 6 hours per day according to Muslim law. Arabs start working early, by noon everything is closed.

During one of the Ramadan days, Arabs celebrate Gabga. Gabga is an occasion where close members of a family meet to break the fast in the evening. I was invited once for Gabga.

Gabga is celebrated with good, delicious Arabic food. The guests are greeted with Gava, Arabic tea. If one is interested he or she can enjoy shisha, a kind of Hukka.

Arabs prefer khuboos instead of chapattis. They prefer less masala and less spicy food. After the food a good game of Domino follows. Some play chess. Good Arabic music follows and a long night ahead.

In Arabic, Hawar means baby camel. It is also the name of a small Island group belonging to Bahrain. It’s a tourist place almost 45 minutes by ship from the main Island. I went there with wife and fell from a jet-ski in mid sea.

We were floating in mid sea for almost 10 minutes till the coast guards saved me and my wife. That’s when I came out of the rat race and slowed down. Also I wrote my first article on Kinnigoli.com based on the same experience.
King of trivia
Siddartha Basu came to Bahrain to host a nation wide quiz. Naturally I was very enthusiastic, unfortunately my client was not. It was very reluctant to sponsor the entry fee. They were very sure that we were going to lose.

In fact no one came to cheer us for the finals. I along with my partner studied day and night for the quiz. My partner was a kind of eat-drink-and-sleep quiz guy!

We managed a second prize!

“You must be very ill!”
“Yeh” I said “I should have come earlier”. We both were in the hospital. The guy who asked me that question was waiting for the doctor, like me.
“Look you can go ahead of me, I am not in a hurry” That’s how I could see the doctor before him, even though he had come earlier. I met the person later and thanked him again.
“Where are you from?”
“Badin” he said.
“Which part of India it belongs to?” I had never heard of the place.
“It’s not in India”
“It is in Pakistan”

Call of the wild
In between I got US visa. Finally it was time to wind up and move.

Insha Allah
“Salaam Alaikum” – The immigration officer said.
“Wa Alaikum Salaam, Shlonek Ente? “ I said, now not a stranger to day to day Arabic.
“zen, al humdulla. Will you be visiting Bahrain again?”
“Insha Aallah” God willing, I said “some where in future”

From the flight I could identify some of the buildings. They were miniature images becoming smaller. After sometime I could see only blue sea, white clouds, azure sky and finally nothing.

Jan 2007, Kinnigoli
A promise to keep
I have reached Kinnigoli, met my friends, and had some good time. There is not much change. I am on vacation so not much to do. I roam around unknown places on my old bike.

Once I was roaming on my bike and was suddenly forced to apply breaks on a blind turn. And there it was in front of me, blocking half of the road, the mammoth – elephant.

It was a kid, still it was huge! I was bit nervous because here is a giant, if it likes, can lift me easily with my favorite bike and throw aside putting an end to my miserable life!

I didn’t know what to do. For a brief moment our eyes crossed. What is going on in this mammoth’s head?

Before I could do anything, it just forwarded its trunk, may be expecting food. I was bit reluctant, nervous, scared, out of my wits, pushed my hand forward mechanically and finally just touched it.

Conditions apply

vox populi vox dei

According to me the most misunderstood person is OSHO (Rajneesh), who somehow at his prime ended up saying – the way to God or moksha is by having great sex!!!!

Can you believe that? When I first read about this I thought I have brain tumor or some kind of unpronounceable brain disease, because of which my eyes are playing this trick!

I am sure he made that statement for the intellectual enlightened 2% of the total population. But the people who made most out of it are the ones like us, ordinary people!

Nevertheless he made that statement and I am sure he might have bit his tongue very hard once he said that. Subsequently I, who used to run away from religion like plague, became an intense follower of his teachings and preaching.

Osho might have had a bad time, because wrong people got wrong ideas! Nothing wrong with Osho though, it is human nature to find loop holes in anything and everything!

I was once working for a company, which as an employee-friendly gesture decided to give tea and snacks for all the employees who stayed back late at work till 7PM. Suddenly almost everybody (who earlier used to leave at 6PM), started staying till 7PM, even though they didn’t have work! Did you get my point? It is almost impossible to make any generalized rules because people almost always find a loop hole.

Much later Osho also said - Beware of the ignorant! I can understand his pain. By now he was well aware of the skills of people, to manipulate anything to their advantage!

I don’t blame our people, because being the most populous country we have been fighting for nearly everything. We have unique problems which other countries don’t have. We spend most of our life in queues and traveling. In most of the countries there are no queues for buses, no queues for water, no queues for trains simply because there are not many people to stand in queues!

In a typical software company there is a development team which creates projects and a testing team which find bugs (short comings) so that the end product is flaw less.

In such an organization management decided to reward the testing team when ever they find a bug. This will not only motivate the testing team but also improve the quality of the product. After this the number of bugs suddenly sky rocketed. Finally management realized for their dismay, that there was an understanding between both the teams. The development team will simply create a bug, and informs the test team which will escalate the same to the management. Subsequently both the teams share the reward!

As Darwin said it is the survival of the fittest and of course it is very true for us. I think it is this tendency for survival, has made us smart (or is it over smart?) and to find loop holes in everything.

Even logic has loop holes. Consider this, logically half door open is equal to half door closed. To simplify this lets put that as a formula,

½ door open = ½ door closed

If you are a math student you will realize, in the above formula same attributes on both sides of “=” can be deleted! So mathematically you can delete ½ from both sides of the equal sign. Hence the formula will become,

door open = door closed

This may be correct mathematically but is it correct technically?

Barometer problem

"How could you measure the height of a tall building, using a BAROMETER?" this question was asked in a physics degree exam at the University of Copenhagen.

Normally you can calculate the barometer pressure at the top of the building and bottom, using a simple formula you can calculate the height.

Instead one of the student answered, "I would tie the barometer to a string, lower it to the ground and measure the length of the string!!"

The person who said that is Niels Bohr, Nobel Prize winner for physics! You may be thinking this kind of reasoning is manipulative, but another person has smartly christened the concept as Lateral Thinking. Edward De Bono has coined this term and has written more than fifty books on the subject.

These guys are not the ones you meet in the market place or in tea shops. Bohr has a chemical element named after him (Bohrium - atomic number 107) and Bono has a planet named after him!

Hand of God

Maradona once scored a goal by Hand in one of the football matches! Can you believe that? He did it with HAND in a game whose name starts with FOOT!!

This is not a match you play in the local church yard with no audience. In stead it was a quarter-final match of the 1986 FIFA World Cup between England and Argentina!

Maradona not only made the goal with hand but also told the media that it was - hand of God! If I was God, I would have burnt this sinner to ashes the moment he made that blasphemous statement!

But God with his infinite mercy must have forgiven and forgotten the whole incident within micro seconds because just after 5 minutes Maradona scored a second goal which is considered as the greatest goal ever in football history!

Eventually Argentina won 2-1.

The point is people go to such an extent, to take advantage of situations, they will even take God for granted! Don't you know people who go to Saturday mass, which somehow they feel equivalent to Sunday mass, a mild adjustment to their needs and a small bribe to God himself!

Even the business people are smart. They know people won’t enter their shop unless there is a phenomenal discount. You enter the 70% off sales shop and find out there is no such thing! Upon enquiring you are redirected to the farthest corner from the entry door, where you find almost all the time, shirts so large (XXXXXL size) that you and your brother can wear them at the same time. Obviously you reject them but now that you are inside, you have to buy something!

The Guru
In the 1950s the Yemeni (Yemen is a Middle East country shares common border with Saudi Arabia and located south of it) administration realized that their main unit of currency Rial was in disappearing. After investigating the matter it was realized that all Rials were routed to a single person. This young man in twenties was placing unlimited buy orders of Yemeni Rials in the news papers.

During those days the Yemini Rial was a pure silver coin and was much in demand at the London Bullion Exchange. What this guy found out is that the monitory value of the coin is more when it is melted!

For example, you found out that the value of 1 RS. coin is 1.25 RS when melted. So you place an ad in the paper for 1 RS coins, in exchange for 1.10 RS. Later you melt these coins and sell with a profit of 15 Paisa. That’s what our guy did!

This guy would buy Rial, melt it in pure silver and sell it to bullion traders in London. He made a good amount of money before the Yemeni government stopped him. Guess who is this guy? You will not believe, it was Dhirubhai Ambani!

Some countries have unattended news paper stands. You can just put a coin in the coin box and pick what ever news paper you want. No one will monitor you, obviously it’s assumed that no one will swindle with such a trivial amount. Can we have the same thing in our country? Initially people will wonder whether there are any hidden cameras. Whether Cyrus Bharocha will suddenly appear from no where shouting –“ MTV Bakra!”, the moment you near the stand. So they will approach with caution, but by 4th day they are sure that this is for real. On the fifth day there is no stand, no news papers and no money all have been simply vanished!

Father, forgive them
Forget guys like us, who will be grateful even if 10 people remember us fifty years from now. But these so called smart guys will not even leave alone a wonderful person like Jesus.

Jewish leaders thought they could trap Jesus. They asked Jesus, "Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" And, they thought they had him in an awesome trap, so they brought the Herodians with them. The Herodians were the policemen. If Jesus said, "No, we should not pay taxes to Caesar," they knew that the Herodians would arrest Jesus for sedition to the government.

On the other hand, if Jesus said, "Of course we should pay taxes to Caesar," then they thought it would appear as if he was saying, "It is ok to have false gods and false leaders."

Ingenious two way trap for the son of God!!

Jesus said, "Show me the coin used for paying the tax." And they brought him this coin. He asked them, "Whose portrait is on the coin?"

They replied, "Caesar’s."

Caesar’s image was on the coin. He replied with one of the most famous quotes of bible, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s!"

Saving the sex guru

Coming back to Osho, you can not deny the fact that he was a well read person. He had a hypnotic personality. If you start reading or listening to his tapes, you will finally end up following everything whatever he said.

Even though he discoursed on diverse subjects, only the sex thing finally tagged with him. Many people remember him only as – sex guru.

Lot of people chase lot of things in life. Few people chase God. I think it is a good thing to search for him because if you find him by chance, nothing like it! Even if you don’t, the quest is worth it. Materialistic things make this search for God very difficult. That’s why Jesus said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24).

Can you write a poem or create a piece of art when you are hungry? Of course you can not. You need to quench your hunger and then only you can carryon with other tasks.

I think Osho was stressing the same thing. For example if you are having a noble cause of searching God, but also let’s say tempted by needs of the flesh (I am trying to be politically correct). You need to finish your worldly business first before you start seeking God. When you are aloof to materialistic things you can be enlightened. As an ignorant layman I think that’s what Osho meant when he said sex is the way to God! But then of course he is the one who said – beware of the ignorant!

In search of GOD

This article is dedicated to my parents, who are always bit concerned about I am not being very religious.

My words are containers, content is silence. - Osho.

Finally I have gathered the courage to write something on God. The article is a group of anecdotes which I have collected over a period. The stories are not mine. My only credit is that I have put them in a single article.
The article will not counter the faith of believers nor clear the doubts of agnostics. It is kind of a meteor in a dark night, may not affect lot of people but a thing of beauty for the observer who is bored by the stillness of the sky.
I hope the mystics will enjoy the mysticism, while the skeptics can simply enjoy the stories.

Are you there?
There was a mountaineer, who lost the grip at the top and started rolling down. He was about to fall in a deep trench when he caught a small shrub and was hanging on one hand. The shrub was not strong enough to sustain his weight. The mountaineer realized that any moment from now he will fall.
At the final moments of his life he thought of taking refuge from God, started screaming “God, if you are there, then save me and I will worship you all my remaining life!"
There was a long silence.
Finally he heard a voice - “I am here of course! Leave the hand from which you are hanging and I will save you!"

Are you listening?
There was a small village adjacent to the sea shore. Bit far in the sea there was a tiny island with a temple. The temple had thousand bells. Whenever there was a good breeze, these bells used to ring with a melodious chant. Villagers used to enjoy this.
Years later, the island submerged in the sea, along with the temple. There was no more music from the bells. But the myth said that if you listen carefully you could hear the music even now. No one tried it, so the myth was not confirmed.

One day a traveler visited the village and came to know about the myth. He didn’t have much to do, so he decided to test the myth. He sat on the shore from morning till twilight trying to listen to the music of mythical bells.
Day after day he tried to listen but could hear only the roars of sea waves. The time came to move on from the village. He was frustrated and decided to give up the whole thing. On the last day, while he was lying on the shore, a thought came to his mind- So far he was trying to listen something which was not there. Because of this he had missed the music of waves.
He decided to listen to the waves.
He was enjoying the music of the sea waves, and realized how melodious they are. When he was in this trance, he felt that the music of waves is slowly fading, there was nothing for some time. Only silence. And then piercing the silence, he heard the beautiful chants of thousands of bells ringing with a resonance!

Are you God?
A group of salespeople were delayed at an out of town meeting and had to catch a train. They came to the station just at the last minute, with tickets in hand, and ran, hoping the train hadn't departed. While running, one of them hit a table and on the table was a fruit basket.
All the fruit got scattered and bruised but they didn't have time to stop. They kept running and made it to the train and all of them breathed a sigh of relief that they had made it, except one. He went to the table that was knocked down and behind the table was a ten-year old blind girl who was selling the fruits to make a living.
He said, "I hope we haven't ruined your day." He pulled out RS 500 from his pocket, handed it to her and said, "This will take care of the fruits," and he left. The girl couldn't see what was going on; all she could hear were the footsteps leaving. As the footsteps faded away, she shouted from behind, "Are you God?"

Greatest Knowledge
There was a simple man living in a village on the banks of a river. In front of his house there was a big stone, which he considered as God. Daily morning he used to stand in front of the stone and pray. Whenever he had problems he will sit in the shades of the stone and discuss them with his God.
Years later he found a better house in town and decided to move there. He transferred all his belongings to the new house, except the stone in front of his house, his God.
Life moved on, and one day a thought came to his mind. He had transferred everything from old house to the new one, even some unwanted things, but NOT his God. Is God cheaper than the unwanted things he has already shifted?
He went to his old village, caught hold of some guys, paid them and requested them to help him move God to his new house. When the time came to cross the river, God was put in a boat, in the corner. There were few children, women and laymen on the boat, also crossing the river.
When the boat was in the middle of the river, there came a wild tempest because of which the boat was about to sink. One of the travelers took charge of the situation. He invited everyone to throw heavy things to the river so that boat will be lighter and easier to manage. People started throwing things but the boat was still not under control.
Our simple man was sitting in the corner with his God, nothing to throw. Traveler came to the guy with a skeptic look and said “Mr. You need to throw that stone to the river”
“It is NOT stone, he is my GOD! I am NOT throwing him anywhere!”
There was a long silence, frantic looks on the women and children, no one knew what to do.
Finally the traveler asked – “Is your God more important than the women and children who are going to die, if you don’t throw him?”

End credits
As I have mentioned earlier the stores are not mine. The credit goes to following authors,
Are you there? By Anthony De Mello
Are you listening? By Anthony De Mello
Are you God? - By Shiv Khera (from the book You can win)
Greatest Knowledge By N. D’souza
I have slightly modified the stories as per the need of this article.
Further reading
If you liked the above stories I am sure you will love the following books.
Prayer of the frog By Anthony De Mello
Song of the bird By Anthony De Mello
One minute wisdom By Anthony De Mello
One minute nonsense By Anthony De Mello
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

Real life, real people

The greatest knowledge is the one which tells you the difference between right and wrong - Socrates

Warning: All or some the characters in the following article are real. While I have NOT asked their permission to include their name, it is with good faith I have done that. Any injustice to their personality is not intentional and the only person who needs to be blamed for such an error is myself.
- RL

Sometimes I wonder, what these movie directors think of themselves. You need to completely shut down your logical part of the brain to understand some of the contemporary movies.

I am tired of the lead actors who eat only GAJAR KA HALWA and actresses becoming pregnant the first time they have sex (believe me this is NOT humanly possible, chances of winning TWO consecutive KARNATAKA STATE LOTTERIES are more!).

Let’s consider the “police chase”, a common scene in many of the movies. Mostly this scene will happen at an airport or a railway station. In our movie, Jitendra (Police Inspector) is chasing Shakti Kapoor in a crowded station. Suddenly Jitendra fires two shots in the air, shouts “down, down everybody on the ground!”. Hundreds of people without delaying obey the order. Now, except for Jitendra and Shakti Kapoor everybody is on the ground.

Jitendra takes aim and fires six shots (Somehow director has forgotten that our hero has already fired two shots in air at the beginning) at Shakti Kapoor and each one of them hits the villain around the heart at a radius of 2 inches, a feat impossible to achieve even for Olympics shooting gold medalist, Sheikh Ahmed Hasher Al Maktoum, when the target is moving!

In an utopian condition it may be possible to hit a moving target six times at the same spot, but what amuses me is the synchronization of the general public. I am skeptic about people falling to ground upon hearing the warning or gun shots! Hundreds of people synchronously following the orders, is not only interesting but also amazing. Is this possible in real life?

Let’s simulate the whole thing in Kinnigoli and analyze how people respond in a similar circumstance. Since we don’t have an airport or a railway station in Kinnigoli we will have the whole setup around Kinnigoli bust stand.

In our scene a thief is chased by a police inspector from Kapikaad. Our villain takes a turn to Kinnigoli bus stand and tries to make away from Golijaara. This is the scene, while our characters are at different positions in the bust stand.

Our first character Vally is at the auto stand far end of bus stand with his three kids entering an auto. All the three kids want to sit at the window seat. He is in a dilemma! His wife is not talking to him since yesterday night, because yesterday was her birthday for which he had given her a blue sari. But she was expecting a sky-blue sari. She is sad because, according to her, he is not able to understand her even after so many years of marriage!

Bitlee (not his real name) has just arrived from Dubai two days back for marriage. He just had a 4RS tea at Swagath , paid the bill with a 10RS note and asked the waiter to keep the change. More than 100% tip, a feature common only in Dubai return guys. While he is coming out of Swagath, he is bit concerned with his receding hairline, growing tummy which is causing the reduction of females from the marriage pool.

Ever green MAPU has finally decided to marry and he is in deep romantic conversation with his fiancée at the telephone booth just outside Swagath. He is recovering from the recent two wheeler accident. Inside he is very happy because his Kinnigoli Anthem poem is a hit on Kinnigoli site. It is not only one of the most viewed page, it is “THE“ most viewed page on the site!

Conductor Rajanna is tremendously angry and looking ferocious because the Maroli Travels which is supposed to depart Kinnigoli bus stand at 17:45:32 is still in the bus stand at 17:45:54.

Leena Bai is bargaining for Jasmine flowers with the florist at a ridiculously low price. Eventually she will not buy the flowers at any rate, she just wants to kill some time.

Now let’s start the scene. Our police inspector is chasing the thief from Kapikaad. The thief has taken a left turn at Kirmuda triangle in which he was about to fall, but somehow escaped, entered the bus stand area. When the thief is at Swagath, our police at Durga Daya fires two shots in air and shouts “ Down down, everybody on the ground!”

Not a single person lies down to the ground. In stead they look at each other, confused with the strange noise.

Some good-for-nothing guys actually heard what was said but they simply give an angry stare to the inspector as if they want to say “who the F@#$ you are, to order us?”

Leena bai asks the florist – “saibere enhina avond undu?”
“Bayamma Picture shooting avond undu..eer onchuru saidege bale..! “

Mean while some school kids run towards the police shouting “Pataki, Pataki”, technically a wrong move.

Leena bai is still skeptic - “eende saibere CAMERA olu unduye?”
“Enk tojundu CAMERA, post office da mitth kontud dengaad deethere pandeth, ORIGINALITY barod athe picured?”

Even though Vally heard the gun shot his mind has not registered it. He is cursing himself, for not remembering his wife’s favorite color as sky blue, NOT dark blue!

Bitlee has seen the thief running towards him but he is more worried on whether to reject or select the girl which he had seen as alliance yesterday. He is not sure whether he will get a better girl if he rejects this one.

Inspector aims and fires the first shot. Instead of hitting the 2 inch area on the thief’s chest, it hits a stray dog who gives a WHY-ME look at the inspector and dies.

Rajanna hears the shot and thinks it is a tire burst “Stepny deppule bega – dumbe must late aathedn mool!”

Inspector fires the second shot which misses again and hits Bitlee on the shoulder. Normally this falling-to-the-ground will be a black and white scene. And it will be in slow motion. Lots of flash-back memories like bunking school, bunking Sunday mass to see Mahabaratha, his first love dumping him for the ugliest guy in engineering etc come in front of his eyes just before loosing conscious.

Now the guys in Swagath, Naveen bar, Star video realize that this is not a movie and the whole thing is real! They are more afraid of the police than the thief.

Inspector is in a moral dilemma, he thinks is it worth capturing a petty thief at the cost of shooting innocent bystanders. He stops shooting and about to catch the thief with bare hands when the same good-for-nothing guys surround the inspector with a kind request - “ sir..sir nimma cinema.. alli...namgoo ondu chance kodi sir....”

Mean while our thief escapes via Golijara!

The only person who was not aware of this incident, and was told about it later is MAPU who was romantically glued to the telephone.

Human beings react in bizarre ways when they meet a new situation. It is the new circumstances in real life which stun you and stops you from responding, how ever trivial they are. We act in strange way because the situation is not NORMAL for us.

When there is a fire, people act in extremely strange ways. There will be all kind of confusion, all kind of noises and chaos. People run everywhere except for the EXIT door. Some run for the lift which is a wrong thing to do when the whole place is on fire. Unless we are conditioned for these situations we respond in poor ways.

This is the main reason why we have a fire drill at our office. Once in a while fire alarm honks in a loud noise and everyone is supposed to run for the EXIT door. The moment you hear this alarm, you have to start running, you can not stop to finish the pending work, you can not stop to switch off the PC, just run, because the fire spreads at unbelievable speed. Once you are out you are supposed to be at a fire assembly point, where our fire warden gives a small speech on FIRE!

All this was very exciting for me because the drill was a welcome break from work. Initially I was the first person to run for the exit door when ever I heard this alarm. I used to race with my colleagues to reach the fire assembly point. But over the period I observed that this thing is only a drill, there was no real fire. I was bit discouraged, in spite of practicing for so many times there was NOT a single incident of real fire!

Gradually I lost interest in the whole thing and stopped getting anxious upon hearing the alarm. So when the other people were running for the door, I used to finish my breakfast, switch off the computer, lock the drawer and was the last to reach the assembly point. One or twice I was warned by the warden.

Once I was in the toilet (i.e. Fresh room, if you are a sophisticated non resident Kinnigolian), when the alarm started honking. I didn’t know whether it was a real fire or just a drill. So I called a friend from my cell just to make sure.

“Ravi this seems to be real this time. Where are you?”

“I am in a difficult situation. You don’t want to know!”

When I came out of the building first person I met was my fire warden, who was extremely angry. Before he could say anything I blurted out – “Sir this time I can explain”

“Your reason better be good Ravi. Don’t think I am an old fool who believes in cheap tricks. Don’t tell me you were in the toilet!”

“In fact, I was …..”

“Cut the crap, stop it right there “

Of course I could not convince him, but over the period got convinced about the necessity of this activity. The main purpose of the above activity is that , you will be prepared when there is a real fire, you know exactly what to do and what not to do. When you repeat things, gradually you become conditioned.

But the down part is, when you repeat things over and over you take the things for granted. You lose the importance of the activity. Have you not seen people on the counters who say “good morning” without even looking at you? People who don’t say THANK YOU, when you open the door for them (Because they assume it is your duty to do that). People who say, “Frankly speaking….” (That indicates, the person was NOT speaking frankly so far!). Have you not seen emails with THANKS AND REGARDS in the signature as default?

Most people repeat things as a part of their daily working life so many times, they look hollow and artificial.

One of the most artificial people I have seen are the teenagers who work in fast food restaurants. Surprisingly they start and end each sentence with “Sir”. When you want to know how long it will take for your order, they will say 8 minutes or 17 minutes as if your order for burger is a NASA space launch program where minutes and seconds are of utmost importance!

You just want a simple burger, but you will be provided with the choice between extremely unrealistic funny names like “Big J combo” or “Mac xxx real meal” (Try to order “Mac xxx real meal” in Rama restaurant!). You don’t know the difference between the two, but don’t want to look out of date, so you smartly say “I will have the first one”

“Sir with cheese or without sir? “ This kind of questionnaire continues for some time and finally you end up paying more than what is displayed on the menu!

Since I work in a bank I have my salary account in the same bank like most of the employees. We have a considerable amount of employees, most of the time people who stand in queue and avail services are employees! Management somehow thought that this is causing hindrance to their regular customers and came with a rule that employees will be served only after 4PM. This reduced the queues at the counters during morning hours and non employee customers really got benefited. Once I was passing by the counter and found that the whole area is empty. Incidentally I needed a bank statement and asked the person on the counter about the same thing. I was promptly told that I will be served only after 4PM (since I am an employee and it was only 3.30PM) .The person on the other side refused any kind of cooperation even though there were no customers!

This is the problem with conditioning. You forget the real purpose. People act like machines and try to blindly follow the rules with out responding to need of the hour.

Once upon a time there was a guru in an ashram with a pet cat. He loved his cat like anything. Cat in turn loved the Guru, but it was mischievous. It used to disturb him during the pooja, so he started tying the cat to a near by tree just before the pooja. One day he died and after some time cat also died. Ashram guys chose a new Guru. The day came when the new guru needs to do a pooja in front of all the disciples but he will not start the pooja. On enquiry he simply said- “ where is the cat? Without tying the cat to the tree how can I start the pooja? Go fetch a new cat for me!”


Once I got an interview call from TCS. It is such a big organization, joining itself is a dream come true. Even in my wildest dreams I have never dreamt of getting a call from TCS. I was so anxious that I was the first person to reach the venue. It was early, even the doors were not open, so I was waiting outside.

Some time later, I saw a guy getting down from the taxi came straight to me and asked for 500 Rs. change. I don’t know what I would have done in other circumstances, but that day somehow realized that if I don’t give him the change, may be he will not get it because it was very early and shops were still not open. I gave him the change and forgot him.

Technical interview was good, only thing pending was the management interview, just one step from success. When I entered the interview room, there were three people in the panel. I didn’t want to make anything wrong at that stage, the first question asked was – “Are you not the guy, who gave me the change for 500 Rs?”.

Suddenly I realized, even God will find it difficult to fail me that day. Sometimes the simple acts of kindness create such a big ripple, your life will not be same there after.

Made in heaven

'A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.'- Irina Dunn

This article is dedicated to my wife, Reema
For being there, always!
- RL

The sad thing about experience is that it comes with age. So when you are full of experience it is almost time to leave planet earth. Intelligent people learn from other people’s mistakes and increase their experience. But some of the things you can not learn theoretically, like the experiences in marriage!

Now that I am really married my experiences are entirely different than the ones which I heard before marriage. Interestingly till the last moment I didn’t know that MARRIAGE COURSE is mandatory for a Christian marriage. Come to think of it, no other religion forces a marriage course! Being superior in animal kingdom, I don’t know why human beings need a marriage course when other animals simply follow their basic instincts!

Anyway I joined a marriage course conducted by a Goan priest. I was simply amazed by his comprehensive knowledge on sex. Is it possible for a person who is practicing celibacy to have so much theoretical knowledge without practicals? Of course it is difficult!

Nothing much happened during my marriage, except complete strangers taking some major decisions! My marriage was no different than other marriages, so as usual there was tremendous leg pulling between my side and my wife’s side. Long discussions and arguments on simple things like whether to have mango pickle or mixed vegetables pickle for the menu!

First thing that comes to my mind when ever I remember my first night is Henry Mathias! Long time back he had married on the same date as I was. He was celebrating his anniversary and I had an invitation. Henry Mathias is such an important personality, that you can not simply reject his invitation even if it is your first night! So I went to the function with my wife, thinking it was a half hour hi-hello-bye affair. God, how wrong I was! The function dragged till midnight with speakers after speakers giving lengthy speeches on successful marriage! The last thing you want to hear on your first night is speeches on successful marriage life!

I could not escape from the function because the stage was very near to the gate. It was difficult to escape without coming to the notice of many people. Also Joseph Quadras was standing near the gate. I had this feeling that he is noting every person who is leaving before time!

After finishing the function, when I was standing near the gate ready to go home, a sudden thought came to my mind. There used to be a guava tree near the gate. What will Henry Mathias think about me if he ever comes to know that I was one of the guys who used to steal guava fruits from his tree! That was long time back. Since then a lot of water has flown under the bridge. At present I can afford fruits which come with a quality sticker, but the taste is no where near the ones which I used to steal! Hope Mr. Mathias will forgive me some time!

When I reached home that night everybody was sleeping! Because of the Hindi movies I used to watch I had this strange notion of first nights. In all the movies I had seen the grooms drink a huge glass of milk, followed by an item number. Now that our cow was not well that day, milk was out of question and we were too tired for an item number. My wife could not sleep because she had hundreds of hai-rpins and flowers on her head. So till early morning next day I was removing hair-pins!

When I came out of the bedroom in the morning first person I met was my grand mother who promptly asked – “When is the good news?” Since I was hearing it first time I could not make sense out of it. But after that over the period thousands of people (some perfectly strangers) have asked me that question without shame, without presence of time and without politically being correct!

Those were the initial days. After that I and my wife have slowly started our marriage life. First Thing we learned in our marriage is cooking! Before marriage we were so deep in love we didn’t have time to learn trivial things like cooking. Also the blame goes to our parents, who in spite of being very good cooks never taught us a single thing about cooking!

Modern days are not like that of our grand fathers, where ladies used to spend their entire life in the kitchen. Time has changed and now everything is crack-jack! (i.e. 50 – 50). Early in our marriage I and my wife have decided that one will cook and the other will clean the dishes. I have taken the cleaning and realized to my surprise that cleaning is much more difficult than cooking! The complexity of cleaning increases day by day as you postpone it!

Also found practically that soft drink cans kept in deep freezer explode! This is because all the liquids increase their volume at a low temperature. Even though I had read this during my schooling, never gave a serious thought till I practically experienced it.

I came to know that Chapati’s come in many interesting shapes other than the regular circular ones! I was bit tired of my mother’s perfectly circular shaped chapati’s. My wife makes chapati’s in all possible shapes for e.g. square, diamond, parabola and my favorite amoeba shape! My mother could not do all these shapes, I think she was lacking creativity!

Before marriage I was a hardcore fan of Baywatch and fTV, now all my favorite serials start with letter – K. The challenges of modern day husbands have been increased by never ending Ekta Kapoor serials. All ladies get their state of the art tips from these serials. I hate Ekta Kapoor more than Hitler, who was directly responsible for the killing of 6 million Jews during World War II. She can expect physical harm if I ever meet her. Also I have a feeling that an Amoeba has more IQ than Ekta Kapoor! Interesting thing about these serials is that all house-wives blame these serials, but never forget to watch them everyday!

In the golden olden days, my grandfathers didn’t have the challenges of Ekta Kapoor. They were happy men. Both of them have more than 5 kids. Obviously they didn’t believe in contraceptives!

Married guys need to make unique compromises. For example my wife sleeps in such a low AC-temperature that can give cold to a polar bear! Since I am from non air conditioned black and white era I feel very uncomfortable with low room temperature. But all these things are part of married life and come in package!

Married men over the time develop an unique ability to alter the facts or politically being correct. Every married men during their long marriage period, face the ultimate question from their better half - Do I look fat?. Now if you are not married to former Miss India, It is a very difficult question to answer. This innocent looking question can make you sleep on the front room sofa or out side the front door for one week to one month, depending on how you answer it. Seasonal marriage counselors fail to give convincing answer to this age old question. My suggestion to all married men when ever you face this question is that – fall down to the ground immediately and act as if you have some kind of mental fit. Don’t come out of fit till the subject is changed!

Ladies and spinsters who never bothered to see me before marriage have started showing interest in me. Of course I don’t fall for it. This is a dog tied to the pole trick. How ever ferocious may be the dog, once it is tied to the pole, it can not cross the radius!

Marriages have their own advantage, like scientists have now proved that married men live longer than the bachelors, which anyhow they don’t want to!
Fruit sellers and fisher women who used to sell me their goods at outrageous prices, now make marginal profits because of my wife’s bargaining power. Sometimes I feel I have married the world’s best negotiator!

If you ignore the near fatal food poisoning incidents in the earlier days of our marriage, I feel my wife has become a super cook! She can now, not only participate in all India Konkani speaking women’s cooking competition, but also can give some valuable tips to Sanjeev Kapoor! Of late I have found that her chapati’s are becoming more circular, I think she is losing creativity like my mom!

Young couples ask me all the time what is the most interesting moment of my married life. Incidentally they are aware that I knew my wife much before my marriage. So they expect something romantic and filmy. I try to escape this question because they will not believe my answer.

Sometimes when I recollect my younger days I realize how stupid I was. How did my parents tolerate all my antics? If ever in future my kids do the same things which I did when I was younger, I will simply throw them out of my house! I think when you become a parent you will get this divine quality of unconditional love and forgiving.

Most romantic things of my married life are - cleaning fish, going to the market with wife, drinking tea together etc. Most of the beautiful things in life are simple day to day things. They don’t cost much. You just need to have an eye for them.