11 October 2009

Good news

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
- Elizabeth Stone

My wife knew me long before our marriage, hence on the first night there were no secrets to share or no old affairs to confess. No -forget the past and start everything afresh - kind of thing.
Marriage day was hectic - shaking hands with hundreds of people; taking pictures with strangers; trying to recollect the names of distant aunts. It was a mess.
At the night, I was so tired, I told my wife: “Let’s do something different than the regular guys.”
“What?” she asked.
“Let’s go to sleep,” I said. That seemed to be a nice idea to her. However she could not sleep; she had hundreds of hairpins. I ended up removing hairpins till the early morning.
In the morning, when I came out of the bedroom, first person I met was grandma, who promptly asked: “When is the good news?”
I didn’t know what that meant? But after that thousands of people, some of them unrelated, some perfectly strangers – have asked me, millions of times: When is the good news?
Grandma’s dilemma
“God is not taking me,” grandma used to say, “He will take me only after seeing your baba!”
Over the period I have become immune to this kind of banter. It is possible that I might have become a – Kevalin.
“At your age, your grandpa had 3 daughters,” Grandma said last time.
“He was a sex maniac,” I retorted.
“Don’t talk like that.”
I sighed and grunted.
“Do you believe children are God’s gifts?” she threw a sudden question.
“Sure,” I said.
“But God’s part is not 100 percent. You need to put your efforts too,” she said that with a suggestive wink.
Oh, Lord! Save me from the old generation. Once people become old, they think they may talk about sex openly! Nothing is impolite or taboo for them, anymore.
Grandma is nearing 90. You don’t talk back to a person that old. That is against our culture. (Nowadays, Mangalore is suddenly high on Culture! Overnight, everyone has become pro-culture.)
Planting the seeds
I can understand grandma’s restlessness; even people who are nowhere related, pick me nowadays.
“Congratulations!” one of our neighbors said at the market with a mischievous smile.
“Thank you,” I replied, wondering why. “Why the wishes?”
“You naughty boy, becoming a father soon, still have childishness,” pinched my cheeks.
“What?!” I was shocked. “Why didn’t you tell me?” asked my wife.
“Tell you what?”
“That you are pregnant!”
“I am not pregnant!”
“But the old crone here is saying you are pregnant,” muttered to avoid the attention from the pedestrians.
“How can she tell I am pregnant, when I know I am not?”
“I don’t know. I am not sure, how these things work. Okay, wait a minute,” I turned towards the lady, “why do you think she is pregnant?”
She hesitated a bit. “Well I thought, since you are married for couple of years now, it must be the right time. I saw a bit of bulge in her stomach-”
“She has put on weight, not pregnant,” I corrected her.
“Oh!” she giggled. But immediately composed herself, and gave a solemn warning: “Don’t wait too long. You need to plant the seed soon!”
God! How can someone talk like that? I have a wacky imagination. If someone talks about – planting the seed – my mind pictures the whole thing. This, planting-the-seed metaphor bogged my mind for several weeks.
Parental blackmail
After a certain age, parents act like children.
“Any good news?” mom asked on the phone last time.
“Bought a car,” I said.
“Any other good news?”
“May get a promotion-”
“Anything else?” At this point I know where the conversation is leading.
“President Obama came to our home yesterday, for coffee.”
“Okay. Any other good news?”
“Is your wife vomiting?” (A highly politically-incorrect question!)
“Remember your friend - Rakesh?”
“Yes, what happened?”
“His wife is pregnant.”
“Yeh. He married after you.”
“Remember Susan?”
“Is she pregnant too?” (Premonition)
That follows a long list of women who are either pregnant or delivered babies recently. In our small town, Women, the moment they realize they are pregnant, call my Mom to deliver the good news. And my Mom, no matter how late it is, calls me and expects similar news from me.
Unusual voice mail
One day, got a call at 3 am in the morning from an old aunt.
“What?” I said.
“Nothing.” (Imagine a person calling at 3 am to say – Nothing!)
“Why did you call?”
“It is 3 am.”
“Do you want me to remember the time zones of all the countries at this old age?”
“Okay. I am sorry. Why did you call?”
“I have a question.”
“Tell me.”
“Do you have any good news?”
“No,” I said.
“Don’t lie to me.”
“I am not lying!”
“Your grandma told me-”
“Is this why you called?”
“Well, grandma is old. She doesn’t know what she talks.”
“I won’t tell anyone. Tell me is it true?” she begged.
“No, it is not true. How many times should I tell you?” raised my voice.
“Don’t be angry,” she muttered, “I am keeping the phone down; simply wasted money on this call.”
I got so frustrated by such calls, for some time, I didn’t answer any calls, and composed a custom voice mail for this period. That went something like this: “We are currently out of the home and not planning for a child. Please leave your name and number. We will let you know as soon as we have any good news.”
Sometimes, I have felt like the whole world is waiting for my kid - some sort of a messiah!
Suicide Notes
One day, while on the terrace, a sudden thought entered my mind. I realized, If I jump from the 7th floor all my problems would be solved. I would have jumped, but then I thought I should give some meaning to my death.
I decided to fully utilize my death for a great cause. Hence I wrote the following letter to NASA.
Dear Chief Director (NASA),
Let me know if you are looking for a person for your space odysseys - to Mars or such distant planets. Being remote chances of returning, I reckon, many don’t volunteer for such programs, however I consider myself an exception!
When I didn’t receive any reply from NASA, I wrote one for the Indian president.
Dear Mrs. President,
If you are looking for a volunteer to conduct mischievous/ mysterious activities at the border, please count me in.
Then one for the American Medical Association (AMA),
Kind Attn: The Dean, American Medical Association.
Sub: Volunteer to identify the taste of Cyanide
Dear Sir/Madam,
If you really want to identify the taste of potassium cyanide (KCN, that’s right, I know the scientific name, I was a science student), do let me know. Since I am a writer, I can describe the exquisite experience precisely. Please call me after 9 pm CST, since incoming calls are free at that time.
Then I wrote one letter for Daiji,
Dear Daijiworld proprietors,
I have always wondered about the mysterious name of your web site - Daijiworld! Hundreds of precious hours, I have spent in vain, decoding the meaning of your web site name. But looks like the mystery won’t be resolved before my departure. However that is not why I have written this letter. I am going to make a generous offer to you, which, like in The God Father, you will not be able to refuse! I would like to offer all the rights of my articles, including films rights - to you. I have my reasons – mysterious -like your website name. Please don’t say No.
Then I wrote a final, short but effective, letter to my parents.
Dear Mom and Dad
You are responsible for my suicide!
Life around Babies
I have not received any replies for my mails. But I have high hopes. Coming back to babies - I don’t hang around with people having babies. Parents with babies don’t come on time for any occasions. They blame the baby for the delay. In fact babies don’t take much time, parents are simply lazy.
Some moms showcase their babies like Olympic trophies; some sort of an achievement. This strange behavior has mystified me since long. The result of unsafe sex is not an achievement; it’s a blunder!
Finally, one has to listen to the parents, about how great their children are. “He is going to prove E is NOT equal to MC square,” a young mom told me about her child. I regarded the child with great veneration. But these super–intelligent kids, I don’t know what happens to them, when they grow up, shred all the traces of intelligence, become very ordinary and opt for such menial jobs as that of a bus conductor!
I can not blame people; my mom herself thought I would become some sort of a scientist. Mom tortured the guests and family friends with my future scientific endeavors. But when I failed in the science subject itself, all her hopes and dreams shattered. “You would probably become a stupid writer,” she concluded.
Somewhere after this incident, my teacher caught me scribbling, with a char coal, on the outside wall of our school toilet. I was so engrossed in the act, I didn’t notice his unexpected arrival. Teacher pulled my ear, twisted it and was about to cane me, something caught his eyes. “Where did you get this?” he said looking at my scribbling.
“That’s my own,” I said.
His jaw dropped, cane fell down. “Punctuations are proper,” he muttered, “verbs and nouns are in balance, sentence flow is smooth,” then a thin smile appeared on his lips.
“I won’t cane you,” he said, “you are anyway doomed. You will become a worthless poet my friend. Now get out of here before I change my mind.”
Sometimes or probably every time, the curse of your mother simply gets you – and you are done for life!
“Can you hold my child for a moment?” a lady asked at the supermarket, and before I could say No, thrust the baby in my hands. The child tried to pluck my eyes, pulled my hair, bit my nose, and twisted my cheeks. These politically incorrect gestures would offend a normal person, but not me. If I tell you, then and there I decided to go for a child, I would be telling you a lie. But the thought lingered in my mind. Everybody goes for a kid, why not me? I thought. Like a fast food buffet, the options in life are limited: Birth, marriage, sex, children, enlightenment and death. Death is hereditary, enlightenment is unheard, sex is overrated, marriages fall apart – there are not many options in life.
A less ordinary Doctor
For years, Hindi movies have kept us in darkness by showing women becoming pregnant, the first time they have sex. Nothing is farther from the truth. You don’t become pregnant the first time you have sex. This is humanly impossible: A big no-no (Don’t try it though!).
But when you really want to go for a baby, you find lot of complexities, including but not limited to: Poly Ovarian Syndrome, early menopause, irregular cycles, hypo-thyroid, mental stress, perfectly working contraceptives etc.
“Is anything wrong with you?” restless neighbors have asked.
Some others have questioned crudely: “Did you consult a doctor?”
“I don’t need to,” I have tried to be polite.
“How do you know? Are you a doctor?”
After this I became paranoid. I really thought something must be wrong with me; and rushed to a doctor along with wife.
“Doctor, we are planning for a baby,” I said.
“Is anything wrong?” doctor asked.
“You tell me. You are the doctor.”
“OK. I have a scientific test for these cases. Just answer whatever comes to mind when I ask the questions.”
“What is the capitol of Chile?”
“I don’t know,” I said “But I know Buenos Aires is the capital of Argentina, which is a neighboring country. Will that do?”
“That is fine. What is the full form of KGB?”
“Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti,” my wife said.
“How did you know that?” I asked her.
“Dad did a small project for them during the cold war.”
“Jesus!” I said, “I knew it! I knew it! He was a spy all along! What else did you hide from me?”
“Next question,” doctor intervened, “What is the sum of 75 and 25?”
“Don’t,” I stopped my wife, she was about to say something. “This is a tough one.” I figured. All my engineering life I had used an electronic calculator. I can smell a tough one.
“Let me try the engineering approach,” I told my wife, “Let’s define two integer variables - Then round the values. The ceiling of 75 is 80 and that of 25 is 30. The sum of these two numbers is 110 - Minus the delta. The result should be 100 and something. But since the initial data types are integer the result should be 100. Final answer, please lock it,” I said confidently.
That satisfied the doctor. “You guys are normal,” he concluded.
“Can we go for a baby?”
“Of course”
“Do you recommend anything?” I asked earnestly.
“I recommend lots of sex,” he said.
Good news
I haven’t received any letter from NASA, I am still waiting.
Couple of months back, my wife got some strips from the pharmacy.
“What are these?” I asked.
“Pregnancy test! A drop of urine on the strip, tells one is pregnant or not.”
This is not a great invention according to me. The strip tells something, which you will eventually come to know anyway, with or without a strip.
Few days later, early morning, I heard a sudden thud in the bathroom. Immediately I jumped out of the bed and rushed to the bathroom. The door was locked. In a similar situation, Sunil Shetty – a Mangalorean hero - would break the door and save the heroin. I am not a Hero and we have a strong bathroom door. I waited. Door opened in few minutes. My wife was fine. She gave a mysterious look.
“What?” I asked.
“I am pregnant!” She said.
*---------------*------------------* Note: If you liked this memoir, you might like the others in the series as well. Click Here. 

This article was first published at daiji. 

20 August 2009


“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”
- His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Call me, Mang-Man!
That’s right, Mang-Man is my name; which is short for Mangalorean man. I am a distant cousin of Batman, Superman, He-Man, and Spiderman. Like all superheroes I have meta-human powers, I can fly, dive deep waters, swim along with the sharks (literally), leap across the mountains and I wear my underwear outside - mine is pink!

In the past, whenever there was injustice in the world, a superhero has been born. The cultural degrade in Mangalore has given birth to Mang-Man.

My foremost task is to uplift the cultural drift in Mangalore: To save Mangalore, straying from culture. In short my motto is: Save Culture. That’s why In front of my Mang-suit I have a K that stands for culture. Unfortunately I realized, much later, that the word Culture starts from C and not from K.

My education is limited. I don’t believe in education. Education corrupts minds. Einstein said: “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.” How true! Mang-Man bows to Einstein with great respect. I don’t believe in technology either. My weapons are primitive: small stones that I pelt at defaulters.

Before the cultural chaos, there was not much work for me. I used to do voluntary work and roam around job-hunting agencies.

One time, Matsyagandha train stopped at Mulki station. It just didn’t budge. “Everybody get down,” shouted the engine master. All passengers gathered on the platform.
“What’s going on?” asked Santhanam; He had a gunny bag on his head that had an enormous jack fruit. And a sac full of coconuts at his feet.
“Tires are jammed,” said the engine master, “everybody, at the count of three, start pushing the train.”
“What? Pushing the train? Is this a bus?” retorted Santhanam.
“C’mon people, this is Mangalore! Anything is possible here.”
Luckily I was nearby. I sent all the passengers inside the train and pushed the train for a furlong, only then it started moving smoothly.

Another time, I was at Bajpe airport. A trainee pilot forgot to apply the brakes, the plane moved on a straight line and was about to dive in to the abyss - I pulled the plane back clutching its tail.

I was doing all this in the initial days. But nowadays I am busy for such pro bono work.

Like all superheroes, I have enemies too; mine are Mangalore police and Richard Gere.

Enmity with Mangalore Police
I had always wanted to be a police man: protector of Mangalorean culture. This was a dream since childhood.

When I submitted my application for the police post, it got rejected outright. The inspector laughed at my low educational qualification. “Nowadays uneducated loafers want to take the law in their hand,” he said, “Young man, Police station is not a public toilet to enter and exit on your whim.”

“Sir,” I replied politely, “since I am a superhero, I have never used a public toilet. Therefore I am not in a position to understand your analogy.”

“What is this? Are you some kind of a joker? Get out from here, before I throw you out,” he shouted. I came out flying with a great speed.

But nothing can stop the perseverance of a dedicated mind. Finally I have become a police, if not real, a different one – A moral police!

The Richard Gere incident
If you don’t know Richard Gere, then probably you are from distant planet - Tanglomex. I was a big fan of Richard Gere, before his cultural suicide. He was once considered the sexiest man alive.

Women all over the world would do anything just to get a glimpse of him. Julia Roberts, once highly paid actress, accepted the role of a prostitute, in Pretty Woman, just because Gere was in the lead role.

This same Gere, I don’t know what went to his head, during his India visit, in front of hundreds of people, kissed or almost kissed, a Mangalorean lady - Shilpa Shetty! A truly uncultured gesture! Gere was on the AIDS-awareness campaign, preaching safe sex for truck drivers. He probably thought it was safe to kiss a Mangalorean lady.

This incident made me sad, made Mangalorean people sad, made Indian people sad. Later, I heard even Richard Gere felt sad with the guilt of committing something unholy. The only person who was not sad was Shilpa Shetty herself. Her not being sad, made me sadder! Over night, my favorite hero became my arch enemy!

I was planning an attack on Gere, when he quietly left for USA; which unfortunately is not my territory. The IAS (International Association of Superheroes) forbids me from operating in USA. IAS clearly states that a Superhero can not operate in an alien country, if that country has a local Superhero. I am in a fix. I have decided to seek help from my American cousin Spiderman.

Day-to-day life
Being a moral police is not easy. My foremost job is to preserve culture. This is a difficult job, particularly when nobody knows what exactly our culture is, but wants to follow it strictly.

I am waiting eagerly for the publication of Dr. No Brainer’s much awaited book – “How to survive in Mangalore: a cultural approach.” I expect few good tips from the book.

Sometimes I hide near the movie theatres, waiting for young couples. I promptly send them back, if I find one. Few days back I saw this couple near the movie theatre, walking hand in hand, without a care for the world. I made a sudden entry.
“Freeze police!” I said.
The couple got startled.
“Can I see some ID?” said the boy once recovered from the initial shock.
“I don’t need an ID. I am a moral police,” I said. The girl recognized me from my attire.
“Mang-Man we both are legally mature,” said the girl.
“May be legally, but not culturally mature!” I retorted. (I don’t know what that means. Ha Ha. But it sounds cool!)
“Why don’t you mind your own business?” said the boy.
This really hurt me. Who is this young moron to question the great cultural superhero? I raised my hand and with all my power let off a blow. But the girl intervened. The blow landed on her face. Her cheek turned red. Tears rolled down.

The boy started but the girl stopped him. She looked straight at my eyes. “So Mang-Man this is what you have become; slapping your own women. Is this your culture?” she asked. Then she spat on my face.

Finding Neverland
I got so dejected by this incident: I just wanted a drink. So I flew straight to the nearby pub.

Recently MAMP (Mangalorean Association of Moral Police) has installed metal mannequins at the entrance of all alcohol serving venues. Just before the entry you would place your hand on the metal hand of the mannequin, which will recognize by bio-scan whether you are a male or a female. Only for males the door will be opened. It won’t open for females; instead they will receive a mild electromagnetic shock from the metal-man.

Once inside, I took a corner seat and ordered my favorite drink –martini, shaken but not stirred! There was no power; hence the metal-man at the entrance was not working. To my horror I saw an old lady entering the pub. She walked straight to the barman.
“Could you sir, kindly, oblige me with a glass of water?” she said.
“Ma’am, my culture forbids me to entertain a lady in this establishment,” replied the barman politely.
“Kind sir, I am asking only for a glass of water.”
“If only you were a gentleman -”
“But sir, only a glass of water-”
“My lady, today you ask for water tomorrow you will ask for Vodka. Where is our culture headed?” said the exasperated barman.
“Sir, what kind of a culture distinguishes men and women as unequal, when God has made them equal?”

And the old lady left. I quietly followed her. She went straight to the bus stand.
“When is the next bus that leaves this doomed place?” she asked a conductor.
“Next bus to where?”
“Any place, I just want to leave.”
“Let me see,” conductor shuffled his time table, “we have a bus in 5 minutes that leaves for – Neverland,” he said.
“Give me a one-way ticket to Neverland.” She said.

A matter of Heart
Some time people confuse my role. They expect a lot from me. Like this one time - I was in Ideal, enjoying Gadbad.
“Somebody please help,” I heard a piercing shriek. Immediately people gathered.
“Don’t worry ma’am Mang-Man is here,” someone suggested. Then a lady, a bit relaxed now realizing my presence, came to me.
“Mang-Man, could you please help my husband?”
“What is wrong?”
“Looks like he is having a heart attack.”
“Madam,” I said kindly, “this is a medical issue; whereas I am a moral police. Though I can help, this is clearly not my responsibility.”
“Please Mang-Man,” she begged.
“I am sorry Madam; I can only provide you moral support.”

Then two identical looking men came forward.
“Madam, we will help you,” they said. They helped the fallen man with first-aid.
“We have called the Ambulance; it will be here any minute.” They consoled the lady.
“Thank you gentlemen; you are true Mangaloreans,” she said.
“On the contrary we are outsiders-”
“Outsiders?! Where are you from?”
“We are aliens.”
“Yes Ma’am. We are from planet – Tanglomex. We are doing a human study here.”
“Oh! Please come home sometime for tea. Do you drink tea?”
“We are afraid it is not possible. We are leaving today.”
“Why? Can’t you stay for couple of more days?” said the lady earnestly.
“We need to leave as soon as possible. This place is not safe for aliens.”
“Where are you going?”
“We are leaving for Iran today night.”
“Iran? Why my God?” she was shocked. “There is a war going on in Iran?”
“We know about the war, ma’am. In war, unlike this place, things are predictable.” Their conversation stopped abruptly at the sirens of the ambulance. The aliens set the patient in the ambulance, consoled the lady again; then they left for their long odyssey.

Minority Report
There are 4 groups in Mangalore: Hindus, Christians, Muslims, and Mang-Man. Mang-Man doesn't belong to any religious group. His fight is for culture.

One of the many unique things in Mangalore is minorities are powerful here. Minorities rule! This is against general logic and common sense, but it is a fact. Christians are a minority compared to Hindus hence powerful. Muslims are minorities compared to Christians, hence more powerful than Hindus and Christians.

However, since Mang-Man is alone, and a minority compared to every other group, he is the most powerful man/super-man in Mangalore.

The minority rules – is one of Dr. No Brainer’s many theories. According to him, many universal laws, which otherwise function perfectly, become null and void in Mangalore. He once famously claimed that, in Mangalore, if an apple falls from a tree, instead of coming down, would go up to the sky. Nobody could disprove this, since we don’t have apple trees in Mangalore.

Dr. No Brainer’s theory
Dr. No Brainer is not a doctor in medical sense. He was an usher at the local cinema theatre; the one who keeps the half part of your movie ticket and guides you to the seat with a torch light. Because of his job, he saw more movies than a regular viewer; and developed a wild imagination.

During his free time he used to scribble small articles on the back side of the movie posters. One such article, which was supposed to be a joke, got printed by mistake in the local news paper. People didn’t get the joke; they thought it to be very serious. This article later got published several times and got translated in many languages, is now widely known as – Dr. No Brainer’s theory.

The theory says that there are multiple Gods, at least one for each religion. Each religion has its own heaven and hell. The theory claimed that sins don’t get carried over when you convert to a new religion. The last point was a hope for many old criminals. Many old people, who had led an amoral life, converted to a new religion, with the hope of gaining an entry to heaven.

Overnight No Brainer became Dr. No Brainer. He has left his old job. He is a big-shot now. He has formed his own group – Universal Brothers. He conducts seminars on his theories. The theories say everything and nothing at the same time. The theories convince his disciples and confuse his foes. He moves among influential people who don’t understand his theories. And the ones who understand his theories, a lesser group, loathes him; one such person is the village idiot.

The village idiot
The village idiot roams around the city without any concern. He was a teacher once. In fact I was his student in the elementary class.

He opposed Dr. No Brainer vehemently. One time, in a public meeting, Dr. No Brainer challenged him with a peculiar question: “What is your stand on God and religion?”

The teacher said: “All religions are like rivers. They merge in one God like rivers merging at one sea.”

There was a wild roar and cacophony. People could not digest this. Dr. No Brainer’s theory was already accepted by many. The teacher was immediately declared insane.

Thenceforth his roaming started. He didn’t bother anyone afterwards. At night he slept in the church graveyard. One day from the graveyard he saw a light at a distance. A house was on fire. The idiot tried to wakeup the neighbors; no one budged. In desperation, he ran to the church and pulled the church bell.

People heard the bell at the unusual hour. They sensed something was wrong. Soon a large crowd gathered. And 5 lives from the burning house were saved.

However MAMP arrested the idiot. A committee was called. The Idiot got questioned. The chairman said: “Dear Sir, Idiot, you have committed an unpardonable crime.”
“What is my crime?” retorted the idiot.
“You have committed a sacrilege by using church bell for an unholy purpose!”
“The most learned members of the committee,” said the idiot,
“Is a church bell holier than the human lives?”

This aggravated the committee; they punished the idiot severely. The committee forbade the idiot from using his brains. Because it strongly believed that common sense would lead one to commit unholy deeds.

Old man at the market place
The whole world is waiting for the 27th annual intergalactic seminar, which will be held in the distant planet - Tanglomex. It’s a proud moment for Mangaloreans. Since the only representative from earth would be none other than our own – Dr. No Brainer. He will mainly talk about his new theory on multiple suns and moons. The theory demonstrates the need for multiple suns and moons, one each per religion; according to him that would help solving the chaos.

On the market days he has seen doing charity work. He donates small gifts to the beggars. On these occasions he wears the white gloves without fail. He waits for a short period, till some one clicks a picture. Then he rushes away, he is a busy man. The picture appears on the front page of the next day edition of the local news paper.

Last Thursday, kind Dr. No Brainer met a wretched beggar at the market place.
“Are you hungry?” asked the kind soul of Dr. No Brainer.
“Sir, Is it not evident?” said the shivering beggar.
“I can make your belly amply full for the rest of your life,” promised Dr. No Brainer.
“You Sir, are a great man.”
“But one condition-”
“Anything, kind sir”
“Are you a member of any group?”
“Yes Sir. I am a member of NF-2 (No Food No Future).”
“Hmmm. You must convert to – Universal Brothers.”
“Sir, I am just a hungry man. I will convert to anything.”
“That’s very good. Tell me, dear beggar-man, what are your views on - salvation of the soul?”
This confused the beggar. But the cunning beggar intelligently replied: “Your views are my views sir.”
“Smart man,” that pleased the noble soul of Dr. No Brainer, “Would you like low-fat-cream-cheese or fruit-jam on your bread?”

The greatest player
Like Universal Brothers and NF-2, there are many minor groups in Mangalore. They have their own agenda. One of them is – UGON (Under God One Nation). UGON is a small group of highly dedicated members. Its motto is to make Mangalore an independent country. It also wants a dedicated sun and moon for Mangalore. There is a virtual group whose name is – Communal Harmony. To which every Mangalorean belongs - virtually. There is S4 (Secret Society of Secret Societies), no one knows who its members are. Finally there is a real and very active our own – Cosa Nostra.

But above all there is a group, which is undercover, about which nobody has any information. This group creates a lot of misdeeds. Sometime I travel incognito as a holy man. Every body thinks I am a holy man, but in reality I am Mang-Man undercover. I am on a constant lookout for any one of the group members. That would give me some information. I don’t know who they are and what they want. Recently this group has attacked the holy places. Luckily Universal Brothers reached the venue immediately; though they could not help much.

On the day of the attack on holy places, I roamed around, disguised as a holy man. I wanted at least some lead on the miscreants. And then I saw this guy, in the market, sitting at a corner. He clearly didn’t belong there. He had a kind, peaceful radiant face.
On nearing he said: “Hello Mang-Man”

I got shocked. How did he recognize me! It is humanly impossible. There could be only one possibility; and a thin smile appeared on my face.
"Hello God," I said.
"Hello again," God said.
"God, what are you doing here?"
"I am taking rest. This place is very peaceful."
Sure! Taking rest in the market place! Bla bla bla. I mean he is God. He needs to be unique.
"Holy places have been attacked!” I informed God. “Now that you are here; I guess it’s a fiasco."
God gave a knowing smile.
“Careful God,” I warned him, “they are trying to kill you!”

This is the idiot speaking
The attack on the holy places has created more chaos. I heard that the idiot has been stabbed and hospitalized. I rushed to the hospital.
“He doesn’t have much time,” said the doctor.

Idiot was really weak. He had all sorts of tubes poked in his body.

“Who did this to you?”
“That is not important,” said the idiot.
“I will-“
“Listen to me Mang-Man,” he breathed heavily, “I don’t have much time.”

“I am listening,” I said with a sigh.

“Mang-Man, things are not black and white as you think. There is more than what it seems externally.

When I was younger, things were simple. And people were simple. As a young man, I wanted no fame and no money. I just wanted a small family, wife, kids and good friends; a small home and understanding neighbors. Not much. That is all I wanted from life. Am I wrong in expecting these things?

One time, I amassed few rupees, asked my old father to take a holy pilgrimage. My father didn’t show any interest. No place is holier than our place, he said.

Now look at our place. People are afraid to come here. We are busy with religious fights. What is a religious victory, to a mother, who has lost a son in this chaos? What future we are promising our children?

Why do we have to fight for a home for God, when He has created the whole universe?

And what promise of heaven, initiates these ghastly deeds? I don’t want a heaven that forbids entry to my neighbor just because he is of a different religion. And how a God is different from man, if he desires my neighbor’s blood?”

I heard the whole thing silently. Then suddenly, reasons unknown to me, I asked: “Dear Teacher, what is the greatest crime?"

He gave a thin smile.
"Taking advantage of innocent people's faith is the greatest crime." Those were his last words. Then he died.

Though Idiot didn’t belong to any group, one of the religions, who claimed Idiot to be a pious devotee, avenged his death by killing a bus conductor of a different religion.

The change
The death of the idiot has changed me. I don't need big reasons for a change. Remember, I am a superhero, not a human being.

I must say, half of what he said I didn’t understand. My ignorance made me sad. I decided to overcome this handicap by reading as much as possible.

Later, I spent hour after hour at the library. Being a superhero I can read extremely fast. I read all the important books: classics, philosophies, biographies, memoirs, history, and art. Finally I read Gita, Koran and Bible.

After so much reading, my views have changed. I can see the things more clearly. Then one day I asked myself – who would benefit from the idiot’s death?

The truth
I met Dr. No Brainer at his head quarters. I didn’t beat around the bushes.
“Why did you kill – The idiot?” I asked.
“He was not an Idiot, Mang-Man. Never for a second had I thought him to be an idiot.”
“Then why did you kill him?”
“He was a threat.”
“What threat?”
“Threat to whatever I preach.”
“Are you saying – your preaching’s are wrong?”
“I don’t know what is right or wrong. I have always said what people wanted to hear.”
“Your mindless murder has cost the bus-conductor his life.”
“My people killed the bus conductor.”
“Yes. Mang-Man, I killed both, the Idiot and the Conductor.”
“Why did you do that?”
“To create religious chaos.”
“If you are such a bad person, why did your people save the attack on the holy places?”
“Why do you think, Universal Brothers were the first to reach the demolished holy places?”
“They were the ones who started the attack on holy places. And they were the ones acted like saving them.”
“You have been playing with people’s innocence.”
“That is true.”
“You are evil, Dr. No Brainer”
“I can not deny that.”
“Why did you create all this confusion?”
“You are an innocent man, Mang-Man.”
“Why did you create this chaos? What is your motive? You must believe in something.”
“Money and power”
That was it: His motives.
“I am going to expose you, Dr. No Brainer,” I said.
“Do you think you can really do that? How will you do that? Universal Brothers won’t allow you to leave this building.”

“Don’t forget Dr. No Brainer, since I am a minority - since I don’t belong to any group, I am the most powerful person.”
“Do you really believe that Mang-Man?” Dr. No Brainer laughed, “Though I appreciate you supporting my minority theory, I would suggest you to use your common sense.”

Dr. No Brainer has succeeded in convincing people that I am a public enemy. I have been charged with crimes against humanity. And my punishment is public death by stoning.

On the allotted day a large crowd gathered at the open ground. People came from distant places. I was on a small podium with my hands cuffed. Dr. No Brainer gave a small speech on two suns two moons theory. Once again he succeeded in convincing or confusing the crowd. The confused crowd gave a wild approving cheer.

“Why so much delay? The last bus to my village leaves in half hour,” someone shouted.

People were ready with stones. Some people were betting; there was a prize for every perfect aim.
“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” I shouted.
“What is that Mang-Man, is that a movie dialogue? It is very funny,” said a villager; poor fool, don't even know where that comes from.
“Kind Sirs,” I said, “just finish the business. Aim for the head.”
“You are funny Mang-Man”
“I, sirs, kindly accept the complement.” I sighed.
Crowd was getting restless by the moment.
“Mang-Man, why don’t you free yourself, and show everyone that you are a true superhero,” someone else shouted.
That’s what people want - A magician!

“I can save you,” Dr. No Brainer whispered in my ears, “If you join Universal Brothers”
“Never,” I said.

“Any last wish?” he held the mike near to me.
“Dear Mangaloreans,” I said, “I will not be present to bother you henceforth. This place is in your hands. Please be kind to your home town.” When I said that, I lost control, a small droplet against my wish, rolled down from the edge of my right eye.

“Mang-Man, do you need to be so dramatic?” asked Dr. No Brainer.

I didn’t say anything. Someone blind folded me. Among the shouts of the crowd I felt divinely peaceful. And I waited. It was a short wait.

Note: If you liked this short story, you might like my other short stories as well. Click here for more. 

Note: The article was initially published here.

09 August 2009

Writing Tips

Following are some tips for new writers; also a checklist for myself. I collected them over a period from various sources. Hence I cannot take any credit for the article. I hope these points will give some hope and direction for aspiring writers.

I will update the article as I find new points. Also update the sources for these points as I recollect them. Let me know if you have any suggestions.

· Read, Read and Read (If you don’t follow this rule, then you can’t become a writer. You can as well discontinue reading further.)

· Write daily (Keep a daily schedule. I don‘t write on weekends.
  Note: Sept 2012 
  I do write on weekends now. This change has happened after my daughter. In the past, I used to write in the evenings. Daughter doesn't allow that anymore. Now I write in the mornings. Daily. 6:30AM to 7:30AM. 

· Maintain a diary or a folder on the desktop to write your ideas (I get ideas all the time, I use post-its, sometimes I write on my hand. I have small book-lets everywhere. Ideas come rarely; You can't afford to lose them. )

· Read a Dictionary (Or do something to improve your vocabulary.)

· Read 500 books before writing your first short story. (I did)

· Write 50 short stories/articles before writing a book. - Further information by Alex Keegan

· Write for yourself (Ignore the critics; There are no statues for the critics!)

· Observe how your favorite writers create characters and situations.

· Avoid slang, flowery language and big words (The goal is to tell a story, not to show your readers how smart you are.)

· Don’t tell them, show them (be practical. Don't fall for this trap.)

· Know your readers

· Re read the drafts

· Cut the length by 10% in the second draft. (On Writing by Stephen King)

· Observe people in real life (they will be your future characters)

· One central theme

· Use a good grammar book 

· Be passionate about your characters (R K Narayan, Gogol)

· Once finished, don’t publish the story immediately, take a one week break, reread the draft once again after a week, do the changes and submit for publishing

· Reread your old published articles and find out what changes you could have made

· Do research on your subject (Write a bit less than what you know. Ice-berg theory. Hemingway.)

· Avoid technical terms and jargon

· In a short story start very close to the ending (Kurt Vonnegut)

· In a short story use minimum characters

· Don't be afraid of mistakes; Veterans make less mistakes,  beginners more. Many of your readers won't even notice the mistakes.

· Read War and Peace
· Concentrate on small characters, make them interesting
· Don't be afraid of having the setting of your story in your small town

· Read the kind of books you want to write 

· Avoid big words (but use the right words) 

· Read your favorite book sentence by sentence and, understand the mechanics of writing 

· Avoid adverbs--ly words. 

· The good story has a conflict: Hero wants something, bad-guy wants exactly opposite. 

· End of the story, the main character (and readers!) should have some transformation. 

· Don't kill your main character 

· In the initial stages write stories with plot 

· Use clear, unambiguous prose 

· Every scene should move forward the plot 

· Avoid describing anatomy in a sexual scene. (Avoid sexual scenes, if they are irrelevant to the main theme.) 

· Avoid colloquialism

Books on writing
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
On Writing by Stephen King
Writing down the bones by Natalie Goldberg 

Articles on writing
Fiction Writing Articles

Books on Punctuation 

Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss

Books on style 

The Elements of Style by Strunk and White
A Dash of Style by Noah Lukeman

Grammar reference
Online english grammar
Whose grammar is it anyway? by C. Edward Good 
Handbook of English Grammar and Usage by Mark Lester and Larry Beason 

Advanced books on writing 
Immediate Fiction by Jerry Cleaver 
Characters and viewpoint by Orson Scott Card 

Books on Editing 

Self-Editing for fiction writers by Rennie Browne and Dave King

14 July 2009

A fast train to Virar

"…for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword."
- Matthew 26:52

There is a train every 3 minutes. That’s what they say. At least there is one at the peak hours. The Churchgate station is never empty. Not even at night. You would always find someone. The trains move to and fro, around the clock, except for few hours after midnight, for a short sleep. Outside the station, there is a colorful city that never sleeps.

In the mornings, the office crowd swarms the station. The busy crowd doesn’t have time for anything or anybody. This is a daily routine. Any change in the routine causes unpleasant delays.

The TC stands at a corner with the patience of a vulture. Many won't realize his presence; but he has an eye on everyone. And every now and then he catches the right person without a ticket. Nobody knows how this system works. This doesn't work anywhere else except in Mumbai.

Bit far from the tracks, sits a row of people busy in shoe polishing; they work with a lightning speed. The speed fetches a few more coins. They don’t make much money once the offices start.

At the far end there is a book store before the subway. People buy news papers here. Not the books. There used to be lanes paved with books just outside the Churchgate station on the way to Fountain. But they are all gone now; evacuated by the municipality.

Opposite to the book store there is a railway canteen; that is usually empty. Many prefer to eat outside on the roads. The food on the road is cheap, unhygienic and tasty.

The shop at the exit door sells cold drinks: lemon and colored drinks. The drinks taste divine; else you can add masala, which is again unique to the city.

Our man, new to Mumbai, was having a lemon drink without the masala. This is his first visit.
The large crowd surprised him. He had never seen such a big crowd anywhere. Not even at the yearly village festival. At first he thought, there may be some kind of festival that caused the rush. But it was just the home going crowd after a tired day.

Strangers might have thought he was a sales person. He wore a non formal tie, though it was hot. His face was expressionless. His eyes were very calm. They were observing the nameless trains, identified only by their arrival or departure time. In one hand, he had an office bag; that had some old news papers, couple of files, two pens, a tiny soap box and a crude hand made bomb!

A commotion started outside one of the stationed trains; its departure being announced. The man in the tie finished the drink in a hurry. "Where does this train go?" he asked the vendor.

"Fast train to Virar, where do you want to go?"
Train started moving.

"Destination doesn't really matter," he started running after the train. This nonchalant reply irked the cold drink vendor.

"Then why did you ask mother-" irate words of the vendor trailed behind him.

Train was gaining speed. He ran along; for a moment thought of taking a different train. Right then, some one shot a hand, pulled him inside the train.

"You should not run so close to the train,” said the good Samaritan, “Are you new here?"
"I just got a job," he moved inside to avoid further conversation. He didn't want unnecessary attention. Once inside, he kept his bag on the rack. An old man, with broken glassed spectacles, gave him a courtesy nod. He ignored the old man.


He had travelled hundreds of miles to reach Mumbai. This will be his last visit. He won't come back here anytime in future. After the assignment he will go back to his village; lead an obscure life with no traces of past.

He had met his contact at the interstate bus stop; where the bus from his village had left him.

"How was your journey?"
"Fine," he had said.
"Did you receive the money?"
"You can still return the money and forget the whole thing."
"More than the money I want to do my part for the cause," he had said.
"Well, that is the best thing I have heard in a long time,” said the contact, ”On the assigned day a person from my side will hand over a bag at the train station. The upper flap has a button. A press of the button closes the bag and also completes the electric circuit. The bag will explode in 10 minutes. Is it clear?"
"Once you press the button there is no turning back. The timer is crude. You have approximately 10 minutes. Don't wait long, get as far as possible; any questions?"
“You need to change your attire. You look like a villager. Buy some good cloths, wear a tie and look sharp.”
"Good Luck"
They walked abreast for a few paces.
"One more thing"
He waited.
"Don't try anything stupid. We have paid you full in advance, because we know how to retrieve the money if needed. In a worst case, probably nothing will happen to you, but we will kill your whole family including the children."

No one would have dared to talk like this in his village. For a moment he forgot everything: the money and the cause. He suppressed a deep urge to grab the contacts collar and snap his neck. It was not the right time. There is a right time for everything.


A push from the fellow traveler broke his chain of thoughts. Gradually the crowd inside the train increased. Standing so near to the bag made him perspire.

On the ceiling there were various advertising stickers and a railway map. Just above his bag there was an ad of – Baba Bangali. Do you have any problems in life? The ad asked the potential customer. Baba has the solution. Do you have problems in business? Marriage life? Loan? Premature ejaculation? Baba can solve any of your problems. Call Baba Bangali today. Baba is waiting.

His wife had asked about his trip.
“I will return in a week, may be bit more,” he had said.
“Where are you going?”
“That is not your business.” He snapped.
“Who are these new friends of yours?”
“No one”
“There is something in your mind. You come home late these days. Where do you go?”
“What should I tell the children?”
“Don’t tell them anything.” That put her off. Quietly she went inside the kitchen and sat near the window. Outside her children were playing; her moist eyes blurred their images.

Someone was tugging his shirt sleeve. That cut his thoughts.
“Saab, a railway time table for just 10 rupees,” said the boy. He had a small plastic bag in one hand that had colorful cheap items. The other hand carried an infant.

“I don’t want it,” said our man.
“Not just the time table. You also get a 4 in 1 pen. A pink dairy…”
“Go away”
“Saab, also a pocket torch, and an elastic comb. Five items, for just 10 rupees. You will not get in Chor Bazaar. Even a thief won’t sell you his stolen goods this cheap.”

Our man didn’t budge. The boy let a sigh. It was a rough day. The infant in hand started crying. The boy stopped the sales pitch and started soothing the infant. A Sardarji, who was observing the whole thing, put a coin in the boy’s hand. The boy gave a stern look and returned the coin. “I am not a beggar” he said; and moved to the far corner searching for potential customers.

Two teenage school students sitting near the window were giggling. They were reading a text message on the cell.

Our man peeped across the iron mesh, a lady was cutting vegetables in the adjacent compartment. Two people sitting across the aisle were playing cards on the office suitcase.

At the far end, a group was deeply immersed in Bhajan. The leader of the group, a peon at the court house, chanted the hymns solo. The group intoned the same lines, along the rhythmic clinks of manjira. Aarti on a plate got passed among the devotees. Some offered money, some didn’t; everyone took Prashad.

Our man watched with indifference. What do these people know about the cause? He thought. They just eat, work like a donkey and die, never think about the higher values. Ignorant fools. I was no different, he observed with guilt, till I met my mentors. Now I have a cause: my life has a meaning.

The pungent smell of Bandra creek nauseated him. People squatting along the train tracks for body needs disgusted him. Never ever I will come back to this city. He decided.

The train stopped; couple of ladies got down from the ladies compartment. A eunuch, realizing the crowd at the men’s compartment, climbed the ladies compartment.
“Hey, this is a ladies compartment,” shouted a middle aged social worker with blood-red lipstick.
“I am a lady,” said the eunuch with an understanding wink.

A rag picker with a large sack on his back climbed the men’s compartment. There was no place inside. He hung at the door with one foot on the floor and one in air.

The train moved. Inside the train the crowd was getting restless. After a while, from the crevices of the door, our man saw the amber lights of the incoming station.

The city and the people had tired him. He could not wait longer. This is the time, he decided. He gave a cautious glance around. No one was looking at him. Slowly but sternly he pressed the button of the bag.

Once set the timer, he hurried towards the door. The crowd pushed him in every direction. The train reduced the speed preparing to stop.

A heavily built man stopped him.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“I need to get down here.”
“This is Andheri,” said the muscular man.
“You don’t get down at Andheri station from a Virar train.”
The crowd that was indifferent so far suddenly got curious.
“If you want to get down here, then you should take an Andheri or Borivali train. You Andheri people always crowd the Virar train.”
“I am new here.”
“Boss, I am not from Alibagh. I have heard this excuse hundred times. Get down at Borivali and take a return train. This will teach you a lesson.”

Our man tried to push. But the big man pushed him back. A commotion started. Unrelated people grabbed our man. A person who had missed the earlier train gave a sharp knock on his head. A government employee who had missed the promotion punched him in the guts. A thief tried and succeeded in stealing his purse. Our man felt dizzy, unable to control the blows from everywhere finally collapsed.

“Please don’t kill him now,” the old man with broken glassed spectacles appealed the crowd. He had somehow managed himself at the center of the mob.

The train that had less than a minute stop-over started leaving the station. A fat man running along the train tried to enter the moving train. But the rag picker hanging at the door with one hand kicked the fat man away.
“No space, take the next train,” said the rag picker.
“Is this your father’s train?” shouted the fat man.
“Watch your tongue, wild swine.”
“Come down I will show you mother-”

The train had gained speed by this time. Inside people had laid the unconscious person on the bench.
“Pull the chain,” an overweight boy suggested. He was eating a vada-pav.
“Hey Hero, I will give you thrash under your ear,” said the muscular man, “already the train is running late.” That silenced the boy.

The old man sprinkled water on the unconscious person. Slowly he opened eyes. It took him some time to understand the situation. Once sober, he got tensed.
“How long-” he murmured.
“What? Don’t talk, you need rest,” said the kind old man.
“How long I was passed out?” he asked in a hurry.
“Not long, couple of minutes. Don’t worry. Lie down till next station. You will be fine. In all this hurry you forgot your bag. Here, keep it under your head as a pillow.”
Our man tried to resist. But he was week and exhausted.
“Please…” he tried to say something.
“Shhhh!” the kind old man put his finger on his lips, “Don’t say a word.”


Note: If you liked this short story, you might like my other short stories as well. Click here for more. 

This story was first published here.

This story got selected in BlogAdda's Spicy Saturday Picks for the best blog posts from Indian blogosphere.