Gear stick


My friends and I get wings when we talk about cars. The mesmerizing vast arena of never-ending discussion opens like Niagara Falls in its full glory when the topic turns to automobiles during our quick catch up breaks. It goes like a bumper to bumper insurance cover, without leaving no part untouched and then generally left incomplete to be continued at a later session. For those who are not so obsessed with the topic, possibly the most terrifying part of a car could be the gear. What led me to this conclusion? Well……. 

Incident 1. Two women talking. Now listen carefully and don’t ask me ‘who’ they are. This is not as simple as belittling my friends. This is a much more serious stuff and can be life threatening. Hence, they stay ‘some two women’. So, the conversation went on like this. Lady 1, ‘I don’t understand why someone would drive a car faster than 40 km per hour! 40 is a good speed to reach anywhere on time’. Lady 2, ‘Absolutely, I never understood why the manufacturers even keep *gears over 3! it is totally not required’. Lady 1, ‘oh you’ve stolen my words, I never pushed it beyond 3’. Lady 2, ‘yeah, and its already difficult to operate clutch, break and accelerator with two legs and simultaneously keep your hands on the driving wheel and do 100 other signaling functions’. Soon they summarized the conversation with a commonly agreed statement that the actual issue is the unwanted 4th and 5th gear and looked at me for my opinion. I stood up from my seat slowly, pretending something else was happening in the next room and started walking while noticing a fourth person, another guy sitting in the room, secretly smiling!

Incident 2. An office meeting. Seven of us were talking. Group had six men, majority of them were fighting to take their tern and open the treasure of automobile knowledge and gift everyone a piece of their valuable information. Conversation went on like it was free for then and if you do not listen, later it will be charged for a revision. One or two others just waited for the conversation to end so they can discuss the topic for which the meeting was called for. The only lady in the room stood there like Nia Long who just found out that Martin Lawrence was in the Big Momma’s costume till that date cheating her! Her eyeballs were bulged as if it waited for permission to fall out and run.

During the conversation one said, ‘my car is not giving me enough mileage**’. ‘oh, is it? what happened?’ the other one amused. ‘don’t know, I normally drive very careful. Don’t understand why I don’t get the mileage’. This time, my eyeballs were out remembering a previous day conversation where he mentioned never crossing 3rd gear while driving. I was a nerd to quickly say, ‘where will you get mileage when you always drive in 3rd gear’. The devastated look on his face brought me back to normalcy. Maybe I was too loud and fast to pull my dear friend down in front of the whole team. I shouldn’t have but couldn’t figure out why the 4th or 5th gear was not used. One thing was clear. Yet again, the problem child has been named out. The gear!

Incident 3. This goes about a decade back. And the hero is none other than…… the very talented…….. wait, you’ll find out.

1st week of my 1st car. Overconfidence was all over me. Decided to drive till office and invited a colleague to be a co-passenger. It’s a 20km drive that normally takes one and a half hours in the heartless Bangalore traffic. Ideal driving time, 15 mins at the maximum. Somehow drove in to a narrow and stupidly busy road to pick him. Both of us were in a south Indian ethnic wear called ***‘mundu’ for some special occasion at office. It is very rare that I fall for such ethnic dressing exhibitions because of the challenges involved to hold the mundu in place. Before getting out of that road, a bike bangs on the right-side front door. My heart broke into multiple pieces. There is an obvious dent on the door. A hundred thoughts flashed in my mind. If I get out and pick up a fight with the biker, he might notice the mundu and what if he just pulls it off my waist! Even if the colleague comes for help, it will only result in two idiots standing in that busy road without proper garments and trying to spread our palms to protect humanity. Our own humanity. So, gently smiled at the biker and asked if everything is okay with him and we moved on without stepping out of the car.

A groom in traditional Mundu for wedding

Already shaken, I somehow wanted to reach the office. Almost 2km left to reach, and we got trapped in huge traffic at the middle of an underpass. Which would mean, now it is a steep up when we restart. After 20 minutes, vehicles started moving. I pressed my leg on the accelerator in relief. Car is not moving. It just got switched off. Started again…. same thing happened. By then vehicles behind me started honking. Sweat rolled down from my forehead. Other drivers around are screaming at us. An enormous bus right behind started honking continuously. How can my new car breakdown in the 1st week? Did the accident damage the engine? Before slipping into a coma, heard an angel whispering. ‘Isn’t the gear supposed to be in 1st when you restart?’ I looked at the angel. Angel’s face looked familiar like that of my colleague’s but in total confusion. Looked at the gear position. Its in 3rd! Life came back to my body. Pushed the gear into 1st and pressed the accelerator. It worked…. Phewwww. I am relieved, colleague is relieved, other drivers on the road are relieved, my new car is relieved. Relief has become my favorite word.

But it was the gear!


  1. *In India 1 to 5 manual gear cars still rule the road over automatic.
  2. **Maximum area you can cover for 1 litter petrol/gas.
  3. ***A single piece of long cloth that is draped around the midriff.

5 Star Hotel


Long time ago…… more than a decade back, there lived a guy called ‘Me’. It was a time Business Outsourcing from the Europian countries, and the US has become an established trend in India, especially Bangalore. Since Me was not a prince like in other “long time ago” stories, he chose to go with the flow and joined one of the Multinational Corporations (MNC). All went well and a life of his own started.

Couple of years passed and one day it was a client visit time.  Floor was all set for the visit of a top client. Me and others were asked to come in formal. This would mean an additional tie for guys and a suit jacket for the head of the operations. Ladies were blessed to categorize anything they wear as formal. Confused? So, it works like this… They can either wear western formal and call it a ‘formal’ OR Indian attire and call it ‘Indian formal’. The irony of the lady’s Indian attire was that it has changed its name to ‘Ethnic wear’ during ethnic day celebrations. Considering the dual role they had to play, Me could only imagine the kind of work pressure those attires went through! Men had to normally beg, borrow, steal an Indian ethnic wear on those days. Only consolation was that they are normally good at all the said 3 actions 😊.

It was interesting to watch girls walking like queens, head held high and struggling to hold the heavy outfits in place on those special days. While struggling to walk, they looked at guys as if they haven’t seen those ugly creatures till that day and innocently wondered why the guys are staring at them.

Client was happy after the week-long reviews and meetings. It was announced that there will be a dinner with the client for the management team that evening. Venue, a 5 star hotel. Me immediately called his hostel friends and told them not to expect him for the regular Friday pity party. Also mentioned he would however will contribute for them to have some silly fun time of their own. He and a couple of others squeezed into the long vehicle the client has hired during their stay in India. Others followed in the department head’s car. Soon the 3 km journey started.

Bangalore being famous for its horrible traffic sense, and Me being someone who wanted to portray India as one of the best places on earth Infront of those internationals, he genuinely prayed to reach the hotel ASAP in official language. That moment, like lightening, the other Indian colleague in the vehicle asked one of the client “so, heard that traffic is similarly horrible in London?” The Brit lady, Me’s colleague was trying to communicate, being naturally polite responded “Yes, but is more organized”. Me passed a burning look at the colleague meaning ‘you had to ask that now, is it?’. colleague returned that innocent look on her face in her Indian formal cum ethnic wear.

Finally, after a looong 15 mins, all reached at the venue. Me, hiding the naked truth of entering a 5-star hotel for the first time, took a secret glance of the surroundings wondering how these things existed in his close vicinity without him noticing.

Dinner started. Client ordered for wine. Somebody came along with a — years old bottle and explained the royal generations the bottle lived through and poured a few drops in the wineglass. While Me was wondering why only that little is served, considering the glasses filled till the brim he is normally used to, the lady took a sip and said ‘Its good, you may serve’. Oh, so that’s how it works! Also, you get a glass of wine and that’s it. You can’t ask for more, if you do, modesty is at stake.

Soon it was time for soup. That day Me learned the bitter truth how awful a soup can taste. The fresh, uncooked lemon grass grinned at him. His mouth drooled for the thick corn flour thing that he otherwise used to call soup. Soon dishes were overcrowding the dinner table. Then it was time for that….. this…. then…… Me din’t know what!

While returning home in an autorickshaw, totally hungry, Me was more worried about explaining the mesmerizing experience with his hostel friends beyond the cry of his empty stomach and counting money to handover to them for their pity party.

Featured

Dancer


Not sure what got into me that day when I was getting ready for office. It all looked normal when the day started. As soon as I reached office, somebody told me that our department annual day is fast approaching. It would mean SHOW TIME. The wide smile of Jim Carrey from the ‘The Mask’ 1994 spread on my face. I always had this dream of me performing an outstanding number like Stanley Ipkiss would dream. Not to get the Tina Carlyle, but to ensure am still in the game and I can do it. See, purely to be a professional employee. Hence, sometimes I sit alone, picturing myself moving outstandingly and create a wow factor amidst the people around.

So, it is the time. Inspirited by Anybody Can Dance etc., (OR was it Anybody Can Cook from the creepy little animated rat movie!!! I wish not to dig too much in to it fearing if the truth unfolds in to the later and I lose the grip of my story line here) and to keep the team spirit up rather than doing it alone all by myself, created a move among the management including the super boss. Now no one can complain. Moreover, building team spirit was one of my annual goals to be evaluated for the year’s appraisal review. There you go baby, one stone and 2 birds…… how about that?

Super boss being the super bozz, said we will split in to two groups. One group that included me, henceforth named as group 1, will move to some western songs, and the other, that included him and henceforth named as group 2, will develop steps for few super hit song collections that had been thrilling youths in the north and southern parts of India that time. His reason for the division was that some of us behaved, dressed and talked like we understood western culture a bit more than the other team. Not knowing whether to swallow that reasoning or try chewing it before swallowing, we agreed to the suggestion for no particular reason. It is to achieve my dream. After all, what can beat the chilling drums and guitar ripping the party hall when group 1 starts the event.

Throughout the rehearsal sessions, I’ve ensured that I stood at the back and kept talking more and correcting others so that in case I am doing something wrong it does not get noticed. To top my pain, our group instructor was an excellent dancer and showcased some moves that I would never be able to replicate even after the event gets over. So, I ensured that I fell sick a couple of times, took long breaks to serve water/coffee to others and created a couple of emergency situations at home to safeguard my back-line position. Do not get me wrong here, it is not because I don’t believe in myself. But only to save the world and make it a better place for ME 😊.

Group 2 was led by the bozz and we could see their rehearsal camps very active and ‘obedient’.

D-day has arrived. Evening 7.30. Everyone dressed up in western formal for the event at a 3-star hotel in the city centre. As agreed earlier, group 1 has decided to stay in formal and do our thing to add more spice to it. One ultimate decision had come before we get on the stage that we all will wear sunglasses to make it look dapper. Soon this was announced, a couple of my colleagues started running around searching for one and managed to get few ladies sunglasses. After all, they did it.

It was time for our event and group 1 rushed to the stage. Music started playing and I could see people In front of me moving like shadows. Something is wrong. Looked through the corners of my sun glass and saw another colleague dancing In front of me just threw his sun glass saying something like ‘this sh*t, can’t see a thing in the dark’. Realizing it is the sun glass blocking my view in the dim-lit party hall, I too had tossed it. Could hear the cheering and madness among the crowed applauding. Felt very glad that all are liking it.

Then for a minute, I realized that I am not dancing! The song is playing, others are dancing, I am not dancing! I stood there not able to move my body. The heaviest object I’ve ever handled, Myself! I forgot the moves! Now I understood why the crowed is screaming hysteric! While group 2 was breaking the roof off, I slowly moved towards the bar counter realizing I was not wearing ‘The Mask’ that day.

Recently somebody posted the very same video on FB after a long time and someone commented, ‘I like the dancer at the last corner. Who was he?’!

These days I totally understand what social media can do to Big and Famous people.  

Flash (way too) back


Sitting at home, especially thinking about what to do next, though never really wants to find the next task, can be awfully stressful!

Only talent you need is the patience to do nothing and contemplate the next possible ‘nothing’ and think how stressful it is. While a specific set of people are always successful in this art, the often-mistaken identity of this exercise is that you will be heinously criticised as being lazy, unproductive and possible mental health humiliation. All for the very innocent gaze you can offer back! Now, tell me if it does not seem stressful to you. (Wanted to add the expression “my foot” here for no reason but thought of the legendary writer Kamala Das who once expressed the same and a paparazzi being concerned for her and asked ‘Mam, what happened to your foot’!)

Well, in one of those blissful – above mentioned state of mind, I was trying to pull the ‘when I was in America’ days. Needless to mention, it is always beautiful to dig from the past since you don’t have to at least physically strain while doing so and it is emotionally appealing, snowy and….. Oh wait, I know for some of you it might remind the irritating itchy white skin on your leg due to the cold weather. After all, Indian men consider using moisturizers too feminine than being called the Mom’s lad. So, we stay ‘Mard’ (Man) by sneakily scratching the leg in between the client meetings, imitating the ostrich trick and strongly believing that no one is noticing 😊.

To get back to our thought ‘when I was in America’, now that the vicinity of the picturization is too far, that even if you want to hurt someone, they would never know about it too soon. Thank God, after all the supersonic and modern transport techniques currently prevail, America is still a few long hours far from India had you wish to travel. Gaining overconfidence from all these, the beautiful memories lined up in my mind pushing the one at the front like the limited distribution of government liquor shops in Kerala. Each one wanted to come in first as if the opportunity might get confiscated if someone tries to wake me up. Those beautiful neighborhoods, well-paved walkways, broad roads, what more, even the tree leaves I find better looking hence I’m sure you need no detailing of the hooters!

If your answer was ‘yes’ to the narration of hooters, I am not writing this to you insensitive Bharatvasi (Indian).

I was swimming like a dolphin in the memories, slowly jumping out of it, nose diving back into it, breathing the little water umbrella into the sea air etc. etc. As simple as Picture Perfect.

Now here comes a Brit lady (in the memories of course), that too from a very recent dialogue exchange at one of my client visits. By the time I wondered about her role in my American dream, the innocent voice flew out like from thousand trumpets ‘I feel so horrible for what our country has done to you, it was total exploitation. I am sorry’.  Immediately the chivalry shook its fur in me like a lion and I told her, ‘It’s absolutely fine. Europe always had a superior lifestyle that every Indian wants to be a part of’. Before I could spread out my American experience for her comfort and my secret satisfaction of letting her know that once I was in there (that I am a superior Indian unlike others around me during the incident), she said ‘no, India always had it. You had a much more open culture than Europe. It is evident from the book of Kamasutra. It was written way back than Europe could even think of such a thing’.  

What crap. Shoot! I hate these doing nothing times.

It is so stupid, lazy, unproductive and possible mental health humiliation! I am no jobless. Let me at least make a lemon tea, truly Indian style, and get back to work.

Ticket


Bro-in-law and family had planned to travel to North-East India. Since the air travel was booked from a different city for some reason, and they had to travel by train to reach there. I thought an air-conditioned train that starts from Bangalore would make their travel more comfortable. My thought agenda included to ensure this European, Indian mix family talk about a changed India with a double decker, food served at your seat… etc. etc. kind of service in an Indian train. After all, I am a “would like to be” more proud Indian. And, this is family.

All my gimmicks started a couple of days before the travel date. Found some fancy train names and while explaining some details to them, I was ensuring my facial expressions are not giving them an idea that Indian railway calls me first to take my opinion about the trains. While secretly appreciating Mr. Sundar Pichai and team who empowers little lambs like me, ego was taking an equal amount of credit. Why not? In the last 10 years I might have used railways at least 4 to 5 magnified times! When bro-in-law finally announced the result of booking the Double Decker train from Bangalore to Chennai, I looked at my wife to receive that “thank you my darling” recognition which I felt like deteriorating the expected repetitiveness off late.

The D-day fell on a Saturday and the journey began. Somewhere my confidence was already taken a hike being stuck in the legendary KR Puram traffic. I squeezed my tiny hatchback in to the tail end of a supposed to be car parking space. The only wish I wanted to be granted at that moment was the train to come ASAP without these people noticing the limitations and lack of information all-around. Finally, the wish was granted. As if an Egyptian mummy getting ready for a new world of beauty pageant, a ghost-like figure of a train appeared at the platform, moving its hip in rhythm. All paint peeled off from its skin, it looked exhausted, but still someone is forcing to run nonstop for the next 5 hours. As soon as the train cried out loud and stopped, people paused taking selfies and started pushing their way forward to get in. Family somehow managed to get in without getting hurt.

Whatever, I am done with it. While walking back I felt relieved. Guess I was whistling an old song?

A good-looking lady’s waving hand woke me up and ha! she is very pleasantly asking for something. See, excellent things can happen in this place. All set to help, I walked closer to her. 1st question was “how many of you are here?” While calling out for him to stop and come back to where I am standing, I very politely responded “My brother and I”. “Ticket please”, she asked. What? I almost murmured. “Ticket, platform ticket” she said. The knowledge of not having one of that prestigious piece of paper tickled my wallet. To add more oil to the fire, an elderly man walked past us and she asked him for the ticket. He immediately presented the certificate to her by throwing an ugliest smirk I have ever seen at me. It was evident that it’s my turn to receive a lecture of depreciation. She said, “see, he is a senior citizen, even he knows to take a platform ticket. You have to pay Rs.300 each Rs.600 as a penalty”. I responded with the cutest smile I can mimic on my face and said “Please help, no money to go back home”. I was also ready with severe image damaging yet another final expression if this doesn’t work in my favour. Luckily she agreed to settle it with writing one penalty.

While driving back home I did not hear my brother asking why did I drag him into it. Moreover, he was busy on phone explaining the entire scene to my wife with added spices.