Saturday, October 23, 2010

With out a forwarding address.

I am sure most of you never came across the name A. Ayyappan. He was a poet in "malayalam" my mother tongue. A true Bohemian in every sense he lost his parents very early and started writing at a very early age. The last of the anarchists of his time he never built a home or did start a family. He slept on verandhas and bus stations and stayed with his friends whenever it pleased him.

He was a poet of the youth. May be he was the only poet in my land who was given a welcome in the local market. He was the most famous orphan of my land and yet he had no forwarding address. He was found unconsious on the streets of thiruvananthapuram 2 days ago and was recognised only when he was being moved to the mortuary. His last poem was found inside the folds of his shirt sleeve. Its in malayalam but i have attempted to transalate it it goes

The Teeth

An Arrow will hit me

Any moment from now

I am but running for my life

The Hunters Shack is Behid ME

A gang after my flesh

And the trees gave me no refuge

I opened the door of the rock

Stood still while he roared

And i am his meal, with pleasure

Monday, August 9, 2010

River,Canal and the Wadi

Cut 1 : My Phobia
I dread heights, i used to be more afraid of water. As a kid i once had the misfortune of watching a man fall from our terrace in to our well and there was the incident when i got swept off by the current while washing our truck in a river and i woke up later in a hospital. I also remember falling in to a water cask head first and remaining there till saw my legs sticking out and saved me from drowning. So by the school going age i was really very very hydrophobic.

An irrigation canal ( Source : Google)
Cut 2 : The canal
I am riding a bike, sandwiched between two burly 3rd year seniors of my engineering college, i'm feeling numb coz the ragging had been going on for weeks and i was sick to the point of quitting college. The bike suddenly veered off the main road to a dirt road and we approached a pedestrian bridge connecting two banks of an irrigation canal just wide enough for a man to pass. I closed my eyes and i could hear the gurgling water above the din of the motorbike. The guy must have crossed that narrow bridge a 100 times on his bike he crossed the bridge with out reducing speed and i felt the fabric of my jeans scraping the wall of the bridge. Our college had no mens hostel then and most of the guys rented out villas near the college. It was customary to name the villas so as to identify them easily and names went like "triple x", "white house" ," Pentagon" , "Kryptex" , "saplee villa" , " buji villa" etc. This time around they were taking me to a particular villa named " Durandam". I thought about all the stories about "durandam" , of it occupants and their antics. Durandam is a malayalam word which means tragedy i hope i neednt explain further.
I was expecting the usual round of punches slaps and horrific abuse which were common in those days in engineering colleges as part of the ragging for first year students but to my surprise there is only shakehands and casual conversation. One of them introduced himself and took me along for a walk. We walked and talked and then he lit up a cigarette and hoisted himself up on the railing of the canal's walls and made me do the same. He asked me if i could swim to which i explained my phobia. He nodded and pointed to me a foot ladder and told me to make a good note of it. I was still asking myself, why he asked me so when he just pushed me in to the canal's gurgling,froathing swirls. I opened my mouth to scream only to taste murky water , i thrashed around, i tried to call for help when i came up for air , the current was pushing me along like a twig. I saw a lot of seniors by the bank laughing their heads off. All of them shouting at me to grab the ladder. I grabbed it somehow and made my way up slowly, i collapsed exhausted and vomited my insides out. I smiled to myself as i my ears and nose slowly cleared. They had much fun at my expense but i got cured of my hydrophobia.
Ragging is really good to break the ice and get rid of your inhibitions,if it is done by sensible seniors and as long as it does not involve abuse. I made a lot of friends amongst my seniors and juniors because of ragging. When i first came to muscat i felt very very alone but my life here changed for good when i met 12 other guys who studied in the same college.

As-Siffah wadi near quriyat : (Pic by me)
Cut 3 : Wild Wadi
I am navigating using a gps, with kevin (my colleagues 10 year old son) on my lap. we are trying to find a wadi near as siffah dam. I see a bunch of omani guys jumping off a cliff face as we park by the wadi banks. I walk over to them saying salam and i watch as they show off their diving skills. One of them says to me " sadeeq taal minni, leish entha kauf ? "(my friend come over here , are you afraid?). I smile and tell them " aiwa sadeeq , aana wagid kauff" (Yes my friend i am very afraid). Another one sneaks up behind me and push me off, i was expecting it and i do my perfect knife dive routine and come back up with a thumbs up sign laughing my head off to the loud cheers whistles and mabrouk calls from the omani guys.
So this is the story of how i acquired and got rid of my hydrophobia, now i have the fear of heights to overcome.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The only Vuvuzela in Muscat !

That's me blowing my vuvzela @ office . Bet's have been placed and a carton full of beer is standing by . Nothing like a worldcup to beat the sunday blues. ;-)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Water Colours : The young man and the sea

All those times i flew over it and the countless hours i spent being a beach bum . I never imagined the colours that lay beneath ..... the deep blue sea . Ofcourse i have seen enough underwater pictures and movies but you have to believe me when i say nothing will prepare you for that moment you first see a coral encrusted rock or swim along with a school of fish or fly in formation with a sting ray. 2/3rds of the world is under the sea and that the food for my thoughts ever since i dived for the first time in my life last weekend. Owing to lack of equipment to take my camera underwater there are no photographs i took this time but i hope things will change and this is the begining of something that's truely satisfying and calming as a hobby ..( only if it wasnt so bloody expensive ;-) like all things i like to do ) .

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Each Second Counts

I am sure most of you have seen Slumdog Millionaire. Do you remember the slum shown at the beginning of the film beside the airport runway? I have been there and it was while there I tasted the most delicious Bengali food garnished with love made by a strong woman who fought all odds to raise her kids after her husband left her years ago. Her son is my friend and we were out celebrating at a restaurant in Muscat yesterday night. I ordered lobster and he was relishing a falooda, we were having a very good time until he had a seizure . He began rolling and thrashing about on the restaurant floor and all hell broke loose, men started shouting and the women screamed. I sat there unable to understand anything and was still munching on my lobster for about 30 seconds.

It is not easy when someone close to you looks like they are going to die. Believe me, it takes time to register. Then I revved up... tables were moved and space was made for him to thrash about freely, a spirited (what is it that you want to say here) and kind Omani gentleman poured iced water on his head while others rubbed his hands and feet, loosened his clothing etc.
Although I had long ago learned in my Red Cross volunteer first-aid course that there is no risk of him swallowing his toungue and there is no point in making him hold something made of steel, as it is traditionally believed is the way to minimise control during an epileptic attack.

I still gave him a fork and spoon to hold. It was a blur after that, paramedics, the ambulance ride to the emergency care, filling out forms, doctors, reports etc...

This incident left me thinking about how many of us know what to do in case of an emergency. It is probably more important to know what not to do than what to do. We always complain about the inaction of a crowd when they see some one in need, and now I am thinking how many in a crowd know what is the right thing to do. I urge all of you to get yourself acquainted with necessary first aid and other resuscitation procedures applicable to commonly occuring emergencies such as burning, drowning, heart attack, electricution etc.

At least show the presence of mind to call 999 because really, each second counts

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Thing's Missing :- Rain

A series of photos taken at my home after a bout of rain

I'm dizzy from the shopping malls
I searched for joy, but I bought it all
It doesn't help the hunger pains
and a thirst I'd have to drown first to ever satiate
Something's missing
And I don't know how to fix it
something's missingAnd I don't know what it is
At all
When autumn comes, it doesnt ask.
It just walks in, where it left you last.
And you never know, when it starts
Until there's fog inside the glass around your summer heart:
How come everything I think I need,
always comes with batteries
What do you think it means

Pics by me & Lyrics by John mayor

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The smell of gunpowder and marksmanship

To me, the sharp, sweet smell (atleast to me.. it is )of burnt gunpowder you experience when you open the bolt of a rifle to eject a spent shell is heaven. I just love it, I have spent a small fortune on bullets just to enjoy that smell. In fact I have spent enough time on a shooting range nosing around, to be able to recognise the smell given off by different breed of catridges. Ok, enough about the smell.

This post is actually about my love for marksmanship. It's about hitting a dot dead centre a.k.a the bull's eye from a distance and being able to do it again and again all the while knowing that the probabality of hitting the bulls eye is more near to zero than one i.e. if everything goes the way things ought to go.

Speaking in scientific terms, you should be able to reproduce the outcome of an experiment if you are able to do it in identical controlled conditions. In a target shooters case the controlled conditions include but are not limited to 1) Three Part Breathing 2) Attentional control 3) Maintaining body posture aligned to the target and the the sighting scope etc.Hitting the bulls eye is the result of perfect execution of a series of actions like any stage art you can think of.

I still remember the first time I squeezed the trigger (they pull the trigger only in the movies), it was almost as good as any first kiss. ;). I long for the company of my fellow riflemen and their tall stories about their junglee exploits and about guns passed on from generation to generation ... in that other life of mine.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Borders Abroad

Growing up in Kottayam, a small town down south of India, I was kilometers away from the nearest border post with Pakistan but was never too far from the emotional shelling that happened every morning when news was discussed at the breakfast table and at playgrounds. We celebrated war movies, cried together when we lost a cricket match and silently swore to kill them all when ever a jawan came home from kashmir in a coffin. For me, patriotism went hand in hand with an underlying hatred for Pakistan and Pakistanis. I know hate is a harsh word but I would never have shared a meal with a Pakistani during my growing up years. To me ,Pakistan was in another planet .
Years later, living in another city, I now know that there is a Punjab in Pakistan along with Sindh and Balochistan. Now that I have friends from the other side, I have no qualms about sharing a meal with Most of the time, I mean it when I say "Bhai Jaan". Lahore is now just another city I can look up friends in, if I ever went there. I don't really mind when they call me "Hindi" behind my back because I identify more "Hindi " than being called a "Malabari".
The way I look at things now, there isn't much difference between us and them, if we forget what we assume and what we were told about each other. They like SRK and we like Junoon, they are mad about cricket as we are, and we always cheer for their team unless, of course, they are playing us, don't we ?
Of course, there is that invisible thin line that separates us in all ascpects of life out here ( we seldom watch cricket together, we don't talk about the wars and we never share accommodation). As the saying goes, good fences make good neighbours.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The General of J Block

Hans is my colleague and he is from germany. Every morning he walks past my office to his,after punching in. We wave to each other and say our greetings. This morning how ever it occured to me to wish to him in german and the words just came out of my mouth astonishing myself "Guten Morgen,Wie geht's?" ( good morning , How are you ?). I wondered to myself how the hell did i just manage that ?. I felt like a cold wave of air hitting my face. All of it came back to me in a jiffy and i was back in that hospital room again. Let me tell you how i ended up there back in December 2006. Every year on the 24th of december the boarding school i went to hosts a reunion for all its ex-students. As usual i had showed up late, managed to avoid all my teachers and got away with my buddies to the nearest toddy shop. Several Hours later i was on my way back home in my car alone and was perspiring inspite of the air conditioning, when i reached home i could barely manage to undress myself and get to bed.

My memories of the next 48 hours in some what blurred. I vaguely remember the endless vomiting and the rough ride in the dead of the night in an auto to the hospital . Of Being admitted to the understaffed casuality ward on xmas eve. Some nursing student finally learning to use the needle after several horrible trials on me . By that time i was vomiting blue and green and it was bile or gall secreted by hepatocytes from the liver. I was quickly diagonized with acute and potentially chronic hepatitis B . I slipped in and out for about two days amidst a lot of tubes and machinery.

Two days later i stabilized and was moved to a room on another block. Block J to be exact. I spent my time texting people , reading books , smiling at my visitors , flirting with the nursing students , complaining about the food and bugging the doctors. Then there was sister agnes. Sister Agnes was very old , frail , skinny but shar and shrewd like a hawk. She would come in early mornings to make sure i had been given my morning injection, she made sure my bed was made properly ( the students did that ),that i was fed nothing which had salt in it and a thousand other mundane things. In short sister agnes was in charge....she was the General of J Block. During the course of days i noticed her always muttering to herself under her breath in between shouting at the staff under her. I could barely make out what she said but it was sure in a language i never heard before and one day i mustered up all my courage and asked her about it.

It turned out that sister agnes had spent all her working life as a nurse in berlin right after her ordination as a nun till nearing retirement. Here was a woman who had seen the berlin wall going up and coming down. I was a good listener and she was a fabulous story teller and we hit it right off from there. I was awed by her stories from another world and i horrified her with mine.By the time i was up for discharge after almost a month we had become best friends and she had taught me basic german phrases , words and numbering.

Looking back i regret that i didnt gift her anything on the day we said our "Auf Wiedersehen" (good byes ) . She was such a relief to me. I dont know if she remembers me still but i sure am going to remember her every time i hear something in german or see some one from germany or read " made in germany ".