Thursday, April 26, 2007

It's Malgudi every where I see...

Talkitive man will have to wait. I have something to share in the meanwhile....

Somebody once reasoned that RKN chose the name Malgudi as a combination of Malleswaram and Basavanagudi. There is no corroborating evidence presented by any credible source yet. However, it is possible. Very much.

I see Central Tiffin Room in Malleswaram. It has a high pedestal on which the proprietor sits and orders around. There are a couple of seats very close to him which he may reserve for his guests with whom he can talk while he works.... This could have easily been Hotel Boardless. However, RKN is the master of taking the most interesting aspects of many places and putting them all together in one imaginary place. According to me, this is one of the reasons for his wide acclaim. Individually, we would have seen/felt each of the parts... Hence the 'whole' does not seem strange at all. You feel that it is exactly the way it should have been.

Nowadays I see Malgudi everywhere... Last two weeks I have been reading only RKN apart from newspapers. This has made me see everything in that shade.

I go to Hotel Ajantha for breakfast. Foreigners looking for moderate accommodation are frequently spotted there. The waiters (those who think they speak good English) often compete to serve them for better TIPs. Thats normal.

From the last three days, a typical Indian gentleman and a European looking lady are having tiffin round about the same time as us. Both of them dress modestly, though trim and tidy. They speak very less to each-other. In their faces they exhibit a rare satisfaction of having successfully completed decades of a healthy inter-racial marriage... It did not like they had any children. They were very happy to be with each other... and for each other. I can guess that guy is a convent educated government officer... Must be a archaeologist or a historian of some sort.. A professor in literature may be. He must have been to Europe on a study tour... The lady must have fallen love with our "tall-dark-handsome" hero and came to India with him. It had to be that way... They would be having a nice bunglow in New Extension Layout... But the question is, 'why is he having breakfast at Boardless?' Is their maid sick? Or has she gone to her village on the pretext of ailing mother. Or is her cow 'Kaveri' giving birth to two calves (siamese twins) is the reason? That must really be a spectacle... people from all the neighbouring villages must have come to see the freak of nature. The village must have been divided in opining whether the creature is a form of God or daemon.... My imagination just can't stop wandering around Malgudi. Reality just fades away to background and gives way to imagination every so easily...

The other day, somebody commented that the knives in office pantry were not sharp enough... I controlled my self not to mention the story of Ranga in "The Edge"...

I see monkeys playing around on Bruntton Road, I can't help looking around for a Sami (of 'The Mute Companions') searching for his partner.

A week ago, a guy from Deccan Herald came to our door step to give us complimentary copies of the newspaper... Wasn't he the Chandran from 'BA - Bachelor of Arts' ?

RKN definitely got his stories from his neighbourhood. Thanks to him, I now see my neighbour hood in a totally different way and try often guess - 'what is the story that this guy is trying to tell?'

PS: I have not yet returned the book.... ;-) Wondering if the book can tell me a story that is not printed in it?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

A beautiful journey through the world of RKN

As always, the book was borrowed. A kind-hearted friend of mine (who does not yet know my prowess of building a library out of borrowed books) lent me "A Town called Malgudi". It is a collection of two novels and sixteen short stories. Simply awesome. It's a keeper... I may even break my tradition and buy this one :-)

The Man eater of Malgudi (1962):
I read RKN not for the story - but for the story telling. There is no concept of a spoiler... You can actually know the ending (or in fact the entire story) and still enjoy the "reading" part just as much. When I started reading the 'Man-eater' I knew that the ending was a murder and it was comical (thanks to the kind-hearted friend). As I started reading through the book, I actually did not care what happened at the end... at some point, I did not even want it to end... How could one when you came across such lines:

(humbly copied without permission...)

... 'I have never felt better,' I said, although the thought kept troubling me that the veterinarian was trespassing unwarrantedly into human fields.

... The alarm-clock that had screeched in the dark on the previous night was now ticking away modestly.

... Every daemon carries within him, unknown to himself, a tiny seed of self-destruction, and goes up in thin air at the most unexpected moment. Otherwise what is to happen to humanity?

Add to these... fabulous characters.... The narrator Nataraj, (the hero) is a through gentleman. Although he inherited the wealth, does a honest day's work for lively hood. He is extremely nice to redirect some (most) of his customers to his neighbouring press - The Star Printers who have a much advanced machine - The Heidelberg. RKN does not mention the name of Nataraj's press in this novel. But reading other novels you can know that it is called "Truth Printing Press" How apt for a man of his character. My respect for the character doubled when I was reading this....

(again respectfully replicated)
The septuagenarian asked again, 'Is Nataraj here?' unable to see inside owing to the glare.
'Yes, yes, I'm here,' I cried, and went down to help him up the steps.

How many business men welcome old people (who have not come to do any trade) with such respect? Later the old man rambles about his diet, his longevity and what not. Nataraj listens to everything patiently and even promises to find a replacement dog for his grandson.

The other characters - the poet (Does he have a name?), Sen - the journalist, Vasu - the villain, Muthu - the tailor, Kumar - the elephant, Rangi - the dancer, Nataraj's wife, all make distinctive impact on the readers mind - thanks to RKN's description that leaves very little to the reader's imagination... at the same time not burdening the reader with too much detail.

Oh, I could go on and on... the whole novel is filled with touching details that are too close to everyday life. But then, I will let you to read it yourself.

Next post is about the Talkitive Man... till then, grab a book and read.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Wish I were a child again

There are two routes to go from Bangalore to my home town Kota. One is through Hassan-Mangalore, and other through Shimoga. The former carries lot of traffic and usually buses ply at night only. As a child, I always liked the later route. Only by that route, we would start our journey (from Kota) by early evening. At the Kundapur bus stand my father and Uncle (so nice of them) would get busy buying tickets and securing seats for all of us in that red bus. There would be one window seat fought for among we three cousins. Usually elders intervene... and invariably a seat sharing formula would be devised... amicable to all the parties involved. Half an hour into the drive, we would have forgotten all our differences and all three of us would be looking out of the same window. After all, what good is a good scenery if you can not show it to some one and admire together? Happiness is nothing if you have no one to share it with ;-)

To cut the long story short, we would wait for that treacherous mountain pass to get the enchanting view of the sunset. The driver used to be considerate. If he reached the spot a couple of minutes ahead of time, he would make up some lame reason to stop. We would get out and take a leak... in the middle of no where... Sunset always used to be breath taking... That red ball of fire, no longer had the intensity to burn... But only to fill the entire sky with colors that had no name for... Soon after the sunset, (sometimes even before one) some body would shout at the driver for the delay and we would be asked to board again... I never understood what was the hurry.

Next attraction along the way would be the well lit tea-stalls - some by petromax... some by tube lights... and some by our very own dim Mysore lamps... There were hundreds of them and we would not stop in any one of them... May be that is what attracted us to them... seen a lot of them, but ate in none.

Some times, the sibling rivalry for the window seat would flare up again... and I used to go all the way to front of the bus to stand behind the driver... Now I had a much bigger window to look at ;-) After twilight, I would be amazed that the number of animals on the road. Dogs, wild cat and abandoned cattle... their eyes glow when they watch the oncoming vehicles... When my fatigue would match up to the enthusiasm, I would doze of standing there... Little later, I would be back to seat next to my mother's and curl up on her lap. My father must have been the transporter ;-)

Now, I go to my home town couple of times a year... Typical journey involves - first of all being alone. Secondly, I go to sleep even before the bus gets out of Bangalore... and wake up to the honking noises of local buses of Mangalore. Getting a good night's sleep has taken over the priority. When I chose buses, I do not see the route it takes, but the time it reaches Kota. It has been years since I have seen a proper Sunset... Ages since I saw a sunrise (apart from mountain peaks during trekking). How pathetic...

Some once said - "For a child the journey is as important as the destination". How true. I miss being one.

Saturday, April 07, 2007


Stop trying to make sense of the title. Things will be clear later.

In spite of my perceived extrovert nature, I have very very small friend circles. Yes, more than one circles that are carefully kept disjoint ;-). Each of them have hardly 3-4 people in them. This arrangement was working fine until a couple of months ago.

Two things happened. The mostly closely knit circle - the Malleswaram gang simply lost its single most binding factor - bachelor hood. 2 of them got married, one left the country (I hear that Indian High Commission in London purportedly *lost* his passport. No chance of him coming back in near future). This has left my week-end calender totally khali.

Secondly, I have started spending long hours at office (for reasons beyond my control). At first I thought I was only getting used to it... early morning and late night commute seemed very attractive in terms of traffic. Slowly I have got addicted to everything at the office... the place, the people, the AC, coffee, Internet, the speakers at my desk, Kennedy's speeches and so on...

Yes, you may say that week-ends are for family. I agree. Its not that I don't like my folks. I have extremely loving and supporting parents. But at this age, my first choice to hang out with are not my parents. More so, ever since the questions about my impending arranged marriage sneaks into every conversation.

The net result is that I have to spend these two days every week cut off from everything I love and avoiding uncomfortable conversations (with people whom I otherwise adore). No wonder I am filled with this scary OF'IF (Oh F***, Its Friday) feeling.

Solutions welcome.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Trust and Mistrust

Absolute trust is the basis of all relationships. duh. How many people have already told you this? I am not going to repeat the same. What I am trying to bring out is not 'the power of trust' but the difference between 'absolute' trust and the 'almost absolute' trust. Yes, the kind of trust that has stood by you in all the good times and has never been tested yet... but assumed to be absolute.

An airplane is made of the highest quality materials that the scientists can produce. It is one big complex unit that works (most of the time). Just like our 'absolute' trust in some one. But, even a small hole in the air-plane's armor is dangerous. At such high altitudes, high speeds, and higher pressure even if the shell of an aircraft is slightly compromised, the point of failure quickly finds way to expand all over and rips the shell apart.

This is exactly how a small hole in sub-marine is capable of crushing a mighty sub and condemning the inmates to a watery grave. This is exactly how a single spec of impurity in iron starts the process of rusting and can bring down a bridge in time.

By now, you should have realized where my analogies are heading. Trust is mighty powerful when it is absolute. It can help ordinary men achieve seemingly impossible feats. It can help families get past their darkest hours into the sunshine of happier days together. Blessed are those people who enjoy somebody's absolute trust and who can absolutely trust others.

The same trust becomes extremely helpless if it looses its wholeness. Almost complete trust always loses to that small minuscule amount of mistrust (or suspicion). The 0.01% mistrusts mocks at the 99.99% pure trust... calls it a fool, naive and emotional. It boasts itself of being pragmatic. It taunts you for blindfolding yourself with trust. That 0.01% of suspicion is on its way to corrode and eat into the share of 99.99% complete trust. It is in its nature to do that. Very soon, you will see that mis-trust snow balls itself into a monster acting totally out of control... This monster does not let you see reason. No logic, No mantra can sedate this beast. It sets you on path of self-destruction.

All is not lost though. In any relationship, we should be on guard not to let mistrust creep in - however stealthily. The first traces of such act must be dealt severely with outright honesty and frankness. Kill the mistrust before it becomes a monster.