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?


  1. Awesome... you must have drawn every kinnigolian - actual or pseudo into nostalgia...

    I had my own share of living kinnigoli out - while reading your post.

  2. Ravi,I didnt know you very good at writing. My email is npatil1975@gmail.com (Nitin Patil Ex-Dolphin).I have created my own blog page "npatil1975.blogspot.com" and trying to learn it.send me an email.

  3. and thanks for including me in one of your story (the friend who shown u how easy was the HTML code..and u started learning it)..
    Great days with lots of memories at Dolphin.