Friday, June 24, 2005

NightmAir India

It has oft been remarked by the wise in this land that the life of Siddhu Warrier is what one would call fraught with incident. Even I would be the first to agree that a lot more weird things happen around me than it does around most other normal people (not taking into account Rambo, George W Bush and other mentally retarded assholes).

But this one takes the cake.

I type this today sitting inside a cafe at the Chennai airport. At 5:30 in the morning. After not having slept one bit the whole day. All thanks to another one of those PSU white elephants, Air India.

For those who came in late, it was not merely for my amusement that I decided to lock myself up inside the airport, though I wouldn't put it above myself to do so. I was supposed to, today, reach Singapore.

At ten in the night, it appeared to be what one would call smooth sailing - a flight to catch at 0150 hours, a free meal (that would taste bad enough to poison a horse), and lo! before anyone knew what was happening, the unsuspecting populace of Singapore would be inflicted by my presence.

But it was not to be. The first inklings of this disaster were evident at eleven, when my flight was postponed to three thirty. But then that was not something that left me shocked. Air India, after all...

Then, the flight was further postponed to 0415. I decided to try grab as much sleep as I could, given the circumstances. The circumstances being a hard-as-a-rock chair, a boor who was picking his nose and depositing his treasure on my arm rest, and an empty stomach.

Yes, an empty stomach. I was in the unique position of having lots of cash in hand, but being unable to afford even a samosa at what passes for a restaurant at the Madras Airport. All because I forgot to carry a single Indian Rupee with me. And 50 dollar notes do not interest the average shopkeeper, particularly when one's asking for something worth 50 cents.

But then, Air India executed what I would call its masterstroke at around three thirty; just about when I had got used to the snot the prick in the next chair was shooting all around the place. The flight was further postponed to 7 in the morning.

I buttered the CISF people and managed to get out of the area near the gates, and to the area with the duty free shops. Being hungry, I decided to spend 3 dollars! That's 122 rupees!On a packet of Mars, which sucks by the way. But thanks to my profligacy, I have a few one dollar notes that should buy me food in this god-forsaken no-man's land.

Considering I was terribly bored, not to mention in the throes of insomnia, I decided to wash my sorrows away by spending another precious dollar. Just to type all this bullshit on my blog.

And yeah! News flash as of 0515 hours: they've postponed the flight to 0930 hours. A mob consisting of five englishmen, one american woman with a voice shrill enough to crack glass, a Malaysian woman who sounds as masculine as Benazir Bhutto, and fifteen Indians right out of Koyambedu market, are lynching some poor chap from Air India. Poor chap at Air India tries to run away muttering something incoherent, but crowd surround him, cutting off his only escape route.

I watch from outside the security barrier laughing at the plight of the Air India representative with my new cronies from the CISF (Central Industrial Security Force - completely sweet chaps who guard our nation's airports).

As I write this sentence, it looks likely that $1 may rise to $2, so excuse me while I try to ease the fiscal strain on the depleted Warrier coffers...

And pray that I get to Singapore this year. I don't fancy living on the terminal like Tom Hanks.

Maybe that's why I'm not Tom Hanks.

Maybe that's why they didn't ask me to star in Terminal...

But that's definitely not why I am spouting utter nonsense. THAT is because of lack of sleep, boredom and a slight(?) streak of insanity.

If you find this post semantically incoherent, boring or a hundred other negative adjectives, forgive me. I had to do something, and this seemed as good as a thing as any. If you find it funny, wire me money so that I can make good my losses.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Tag! You're it.

I have never been tagged before.

Except when playing hide-and-seek, in which case I was always tagged. ‘Siddhu, you fat piece of shit, you’re it!’ was the phrase that was on everyone’s lips in those days of yore. (It probably had to do with my inability to run fast enough to beat the most overweight tub of lard in my apartment building. But then, that’s a different story altogether.)

But no one has ever tagged me (or called me, or SMSed me, or e-mailed me) ever since I turned thirteen (or even when I was younger, either).
But no more! The Paranoid Android has tagged me on a book meme.

Now, this frightens me. I realize that the world shall know at long last that Siddhu doesn’t read anything of substance – unless we count erotica as high-brow literature (which we do not, being the prudes we are).

But now that the world is in the know, there is no point belabouring, or repeating my point again and again, or returning back to where I started. Or using superfluous words which are not required, primarily because they’re unnecessarily repetitive…

So, to get to the issue at hand directly without beating around the bush…

Total Number of Books I own: I own exactly 852 books; though the number could rise appreciably if I take into account the comics I bound into volumes. A lot of the books have titles which go something like Siberia, 65 East of Greenwich - Oil and People, Evenings I have spent discussing the nature of the Hyperbolic Cosine with Virginia Woolf or The Brothers Karazamov and their father Ivan Mikhailovsky Nichalosovich Sharapov.

Don’t blame me for that – those aren’t mine. My father bought them, and has reportedly read them – something I have always found hard to believe; especially after I read the first three pages of some book written by a retarded blighter named Kafka, about how a man tries to turn himself into a cockroach (though why he wished to do so of his own volition is something that I still fail to understand).

Last book I bought: The last book I bought is a source of constant shame to me. Just the day before yesterday, I spent 240 rupees at a railway station purchasing a Jeffrey Archer.

I, who had sworn to forever steer clear of scum of the ilk of Sidney Sheldon and Jeffrey Archer, not to forget Danielle Steele, Erich Segal and Dan Brown!

From the time when I realized the enormity of the crime I had committed, I have been cursing myself without respite.

Last book I read: The Psychology of Imagination, by Jean Paul Sartre.

This is a highly acclaimed book, and I personally found it brilliant. The Daily Mirror found it gripping. Other papers found it bone-chilling, thrilling, and fascinating. It was what one would call a page-turner – one of those books that has one of those unexpected twists pop out at you right in the middle of page 190. Heck, till then, even I thought it was the butler that did it…oops, wrong book!

I’ll tell you more about the Sartre after I finish page number 15 – maybe by 2015. Maybe.

Books that mean a lot to me:

The Betsy, by Harold Robbins: The Betsy is a tale of one man’s passionate race against time to build the best racing car of all time, while simultaneously working strenuously towards perpetuating his bloodline.

Angelo Perino is the alpha male who likes to make sure. So, instead of having sex with one woman just once or with the same woman several times, he has sex with several women several times. He is the kind of man who could bring tears to the eyes of Chinese population planners as well as condom manufacturers – for entirely different reasons.

If you’re going to read it, I suggest not bothering going beyond page 73. The interesting bits which follow that are practically photocopies of the interesting bits before page 73.

The Idiot, Books I and II, by Fyodor Dostove…Dyosto…Dostowhisky…Dostoyevsky: The title of the book strikes a special chord in me, because it is the word by which I have been addressed for most of the 21 years I have spent on earth. Besides, one cannot but admire a man as brilliant as Dostoyevsky – for heaven’s sake, I’ve heard that he could spell his name out clear as a bell, even with a bottle of Russia’s finest sloshing about in his innards.

The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand: This book was an eye-opener to me. I realized it was possible for selfishness to take different forms. The thoughts and ideas bandied about in the book gave me food for thought for days. In the end I concluded that it was impossible for me to come to terms with such blatant glorification of selfishness.

But my mind was predominantly preoccupied by the question of how a friend of mine could say that she felt it was a ‘kinky’ love story.

Ulysses, by James Joyce: It was this book that acquainted me with one of the most radical ideas I’d ever heard of –the stream of consciousness. Adopting this approach would mean that I could tell you about the yellow shirt that BBC chap is wearing, not to mention the plight of the giant pandas in Singapore, as I tried to climb my way into Tibet with the Dalai Lama and Luke Skywalker who converted Darth Vader into Ammonium Hydroxide. I could tell you I hate Saddam Hussein when my hindi teacher is dull enough to be classified as an energy saving bulb.

And this would be considered art (by the idiots that matter, in any case). I would probably win some kind of award too.

Psmith in the city, by P.G. Wodehouse: People who frequent this blog should have guessed by now that I worship Sir Pelham. Unless of course George W’s among those who frequent this blog.

I spent hours thinking deep thoughts on which of his masterpieces I loved the most.

The whisper went round, “Siddhu is cogitating,…...”

Siddhu, the individual, ceased to exist, and there sprung into being Siddhu, the cog in the wheel of the legion of Wodehouse fans; Siddhu, the philosopher and book lover; Siddhu, the Worker.

I did not spare myself. I wrestled with the problem with all the accumulated energy of one who, up till then, had only known what work was like from hearsay.
Whose is that form standing on one leg in the morning, contemplating eagerly on Wodehouse’s creations? It is the form of Siddhu, the Worker. Whose is that haggard, drawn face which is bent over in thought long after the other toilers have sped blithely westwards to drink at Kandan Wines? It is the face of Siddhu, the Worker.

And then I knew! It had to be Psmith, P silent as in ptarmigan and pterodactyl. Wodehouse the wordsmith was in sublime form as he sculpted the character of Psmith. Psmith’s monologues have the crisp elegance of a Gavaskar late cut. And by the way, as the die-hard Wodehouse fans may have noticed, the previous paragraph is an adaptation of a classic Psmith monologue.

Book(s) I would love to burn:

Digital Signal Processing, by Sonovabitchakis Proakis and
Illmakeyourlifemiserableakis Manolakis:
Because pronouncing the names of the authors is the easiest bit of the book.

Object Oriented Systems Development, by Ali Bahrami: To quote from the book,

As described in their seminal work in cataloguing program design concepts during the construction of multifarious programming constructs, Gama, Helm, Johnson, and Vlissides [15] say that the design pattern identifies the key aspects of a common design structure, which contribute to the usefulness of the aforementioned design pattern in creating a reusable object-oriented design.

I rest my case.

Four people I’m going to tag

Jormund: Because he has read widely. Because he is not likely to spout as much nonsense as I did.

Karan : Because he actually read Ulysses. And Nietzsche. Because he claims he was Moses, Jesus, Mohamed and Sree Krishna at various points in time.

Mercury : Because she’s steadfastly refused to blog for the last one month. Because she likes Somerset Maugham and P.G. Wodehouse.

Sisto : Because he thinks Erich Segal is a rip-off, and that there should have been a couple of murders to spice the whole thing up a bit. Because he knows The Prince better than Machiavelli himself. Because he may write of where he gets those cheap pirated books he sells to the rest of us at high margins. ;)

Sunday, June 19, 2005

This is an article I had written around three years back, when I was a mere second year, and was still a student of the college I have had so many (not-so-nice) things to say about. This article was published in sometime in 2002.

I watched them shuffle past. They looked pathetic, fear writ large on their faces, trying to fix their gaze on the sheer nothingness of the wall as they hurried away.
The first years had arrived.

I stifled the sadistic laugh that emanated from deep within myself, and felt my thoughts run away from the realities of the present to that day one year ago when.....

I trod on the ground with utmost fear and trepidation, as if it was readying itself to partake of me as a wholesome breakfast. The building was big, all right- it was big enough to fill the Warrier soul (which unfortunately has none of the courage that is normally associated with the word) with the blackest fears.
Gone were the days of my twelfth standard when I could be self-assured of the fact that I was a member of the top class, and walk without fear.

Now, I had entered college, and I felt as queasy as the goat who realizes his neck would soon have the pleasure of exchanging unpleasant views with the butcher's knife.
I looked at myself in self-appraisal. I had gone out of the way to look cheap and ugly. I ticked off mentally the list of things my 'senior' had told me, in a tone of absolute sadistic satisfaction, to be wary of-
Old, worn out chappals (yes), ordinary pants (yes), ugly looking shirt untucked(yes), hairstyle twenty years out of date (absolutely!), shaved clean (yes), and finally the look of absolute innocence (hopefully yes).

I found a few other lambs fretting it out almost as obviously as I was. We were herded by a second year---under the watchful eye of a lecturer, lest he succumb to the temptation of ragging us---to a shamiana, where the principal was to welcome us.

The principal's speech was, no doubt, 'exhilarating and invigorating' but in keeping with the tradition I had followed religiously since my induction into kindergarten, I fell asleep after two minutes and thirty two seconds. I woke up from my reverie in a start only when I heard him announce that classes would begin the next day!
I gulped. Tomorrow, I thought, I would actually be entering the college as a student.
Next day, I trembled my way to the stop where the college bus would pick me up.
The 'senior' had already regaled me with terrible tales of how first-years got their tails brutally chopped off in the college bus in a variety of ingenious ways. I prayed fervently to God that all the seniors would have decided, on this day, to stay home and catch up on their reading or their paramours, as their tastes may lie.

But it was not to be, as I saw quite a few people with the relaxed air that is the trademark of a man who finds nothing new in the college or the ride to the college. I tried to sit next to the lecturer who had placed his eye on the shepherding second year the previous day.

But he sent me back to where I was sure the seniors were awaiting my arrival - tersely informing me that this seat was reserved for the staff.
I silently cursed the man for his insensitivity and felt a sudden chill run down my spine.

I tried to stand, looking as unobtrusive as possible, trying to melt into the background. But my fears were confirmed as the most ferocious looking of the seniors pointed to the seat next to him. I placed myself gingerly on the seat. He did not smile. I gulped. He asked me my name in a tone that seemed almost like a bark. I answered in a low undertone.

"Did you bite your tongue off?", he asked me, in the same rasping voice.

He began to appear more and more like that bloke Heydrich, who was famous for his macabre tastes when the head honcho of the Gestapo.

I repeated my name... "Siddhu..."

"Siddhu...that's all?", the same rasping, and cold voice.

I silently pitied all those British spies unfortunate enough to be caught whistling "Rule Brittania" while walking past the friendly neighborhood Hitler youth. I was sure they felt quite the same emotions course through their veins as they faced the equally friendly neighborhood SS executioner.

"Siddhu Warrier", I said.

He called me a few choice words (which I must remember to use when I catch myself my first junior!), which I decline to write to avoid offending the morality of the decent, law-abiding Indian.

It struck me like one of those Daisy cutter bombs struck dear old Mullah Mohammed Omar, that the informative senior of mine had informed me how we first-years, being the lowest forms of life on mother earth, had to refer to our seniors using the salutation 'Sir'. I also recollected the terrible consequences a violator of this golden precept would have to face.

"I'm sorry, sir...I mean, Siddhu Warrier, Sir"

"Good, which branch have you joined?", came the clipped, and curt tone.

"Sir, computer science and engineering, sir", I repeated, in a small, almost feminine voice about which, the senior, who was very blunt with words, remarked rather luridly. After that I wisely abandoned the frightened falsetto.

"Tell me the names of a girl."

"Zaheera", I said, promptly, the inspiration coming from the monarch of Afghanistan, Zahir Shah.

"I said names, not name, you &*^&^*$#. Tell me names of girls starting from A through Z"

The ordeal of thinking up names within a short interval was very strenuous, and I was glad that the bus journey came to a halt when the burly chap was making some joke about my intellect, which I failed to find funny in the least.

Hearing this wisecrack, the other chaps, rather needlessly, if I may say so, started guffawing.

The classes went on, with most teachers introducing themselves, and doing other things, none of which I am sure the reader will find even slightly interesting.
I got through the return trip unscathed, except for being instructed by another chap to learn 'The Real Slim Shady' by that master craftsman (sarcasm intended, please), Eminem the next day.

Cut to: the last day of my first year

As I walked home, watching the setting sun, I realized, in an introspective and reflective mood that I had just stopped being a dreg of collegiate society. My freshman days were yet another page in the story of my life.

Looking back at the last year, I realized that it had been a good one after all. The ragging helped me make friends, and had been nowhere near as bad as I had feared
What I had gained most over the last year, I felt, were quite a few friends...

As the sun set on my introspection, I hoped the present first years would find their first years as 'profitable' as I did... ( evil grin)

As for those who didn’t, please contact Siddhu Warrier....

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Symposium blues

It was almost a year ago that I was ‘elected’ the Secretary of the Association of Computer Engineers.

The secretary has several duties which include:

a. Make inane speeches nobody listens to at functions no one attends.
b. Bunk classes to make these inane speeches
c. Sign letters granting leave
d. Organize a symposium

Duties a, b and c pose no difficulty to one of my charm and poise. I managed, during the year spent as Secretrary, to add a certain degree of flourish to my signature.

It is duty d that I write of today.

Run-up to a Symposium

Now, organizing a symposium is something you wouldn’t particularly wish to do, but for the wonderful concept called On Duty (OD).

OD is God’s gift to the indolent creature, and allows one the opportunity to while away time playing NFS 7 in the labs, flirting in the canteen and partaking of alcoholic spirits at the neighbourhood wine shop – and to do all this while being marked present in class.

The secretary is the person who signs the OD letters. That’s awesome!

But the secretary is also the person who gets to have unpleasant conversations with the HoD when classes are half empty, the corridors are full of people who are either drunk or trying to neck (or both), and the terrible screech of burning rubber and exploding shotguns rent the air in the lab.

A typical conversation with the HoD went something like this -

HoD: Where is Ponnusamy? And do you know where Singaravelu is?

Me: Sir, that’s a restaurant in Egmore. And I gave my Singaravelu away to a junior last year.

Suddenly, being a perceptive man, I perceived that the HoD was referring to a man named Ponnusamy. Why the HoD expected me to know what any numbers of people named Ponnusamy or Singaravelu were doing was beyond me.

Me: (with an expression of surprise) Well, I’ll be damned if I know, Sir

HoD: Then, why on earth did you grant them Leave on Duty, and have them marked present all day?

Me: (incredulously) Did I?

The HoD handed me a paper bearing my signature.

I scanned through the list of fifty names, and found that Ponnusamy was busy soliciting sponsorships for the symposium, while Singaravelu was working on catering arrangements. I brightly appraised the HoD of the situation, and told him that they had not met the fate that Mary met with when she went across the sands of dee. They would, I told him reassuringly, bring the cattle home.

HoD: No, they have not brought the cattle home, you idiot! I’ll tell you where they are! Singaravelu is in my office, and he has partaken liberally of alcoholic spirits. And as for Ponnusamy, he’s been playing some stupid game in the lab, and is making enough noise to wake the dead!

Me: (blushing prettily) Oh..well… Sir

Funding a symposium

The college I studied in had what is termed in management theory as a flat management structure. In fact, if it were any flatter, it’d be punctured.

Therefore, every decision is taken by the chairman, his wife, or their children (the latter involving themselves when they’re not busy plotting how to copy in the university examinations). Therefore, to receive funds, it was my duty to go meet the chairman – an old man on the wrong side of eighty whose mind was as sharp as a razor...once upon a time.

After waiting the prescribed half-an-hour outside his mansion, a crushed-looking underling ushered us in.

We walked in, wondered whether the chairman required us to walk on four for a minute, and then tried to ask him for a grant to conduct the symposium.

Chairman: Are you Computer Science students?

Us: Yes, Sir

The chairman felt in a voluble mood. He stretched his hands, yawned loudly, instructed a flunky hovering around to massage his feet, and goggled at us.

Chairman: When I went to the Gelf, I saw two peacocks – they were a male husband peacock and the female wife peacock – in the mall. The husband peacock sang loudly, and the wife peacock turned to him and shouted at him for staring at the husband peacock. Tell me how the peacocks work.

I thought of saying something how an evil scientist had probably injected them with a serum, creating a breed of transvestite peacocks who could speak. Or more likely, he was drunk when he met the peacocks and the canaries.

But all I managed, in spite of these thoughts, were a few disjointed words on how evolutionary biology was something I hadn’t given a lot of thought to.

Chairman: They are makanical things, my boy. I will give you money, you make me a peacock like that.

He threw me a glance that seemed to challenge me to refuse his offer – rather like good ol’ Don Vito!

I muttered a few more words about how I would bring him the working models of the peacocks the day after, and then listened to him talk about how Infosys would set up an R&D center on our campus the next week.

Then, one of us, more adventurous than the rest, pushed the grant request paper onto his desk, and asked him to sign it. HE looked at us for a second, blinked, and signed with a smile playing on his visage. He was probably thinking of the talking peacocks which would be waiting at his doorstep in a few days.

The day of the symposium

The day of the symposium is traditionally the day the vice-principal roars. The vice-principal had a reputation of creating last minute hitches if there were none, or adding immeasurably to the hitches already present.

The year I was in charge, I managed to avoid trouble all along till it got to about 12 in the afternoon. It was then that the electricity went out in the auditorium, and there was pandemonium.

I was frantic. The last thing I wanted was a stampede on my hands (or over my head, for that matter). There was some informal event scheduled there – what it constituted I knew not, for I had delegated it to a junior. The chap who’d organized it was close to tears. He told me that the vice-principal, who was mildly displeased by the arm-wrestling competition, blew his top when they tried to hold a beauty pageant on stage. It was then that he literally pulled the plug.

The world reeled about me. Holding a beauty pageant during a technical symposium amounted to sacrilege! And holding a beauty pageant in front of the vice-principal? The less said the better.

I rushed in to meet the vice-principal, ready to crawl on all fours if it were necessary to get the electricity back on.

It was said that music soothes the wild beast. Photographing a savage beast, according to animal psychologists, also calms it down. This worked, as this photo cooled the wild animal in the picture enough to get him to switch the power back on in the auditorium. (faces obviously blurred ;) )

The symposium wound its way to an end, with our honorable vice-chairperson walking in twenty minutes late for the presentation ceremony, yawning as she gave away prizes and after a while, refusing to distribute any more because she had other commitments to take care of. (Read: the arthritis had become a little too painful.)

Like every horror story written by the Brothers Grimm, this too has a moral. The moral reads, very simply, ‘To organize a symposium is to experience terrible agonies in several parts of the anatomy, mainly the posterior’.

Moral #2 is ‘If ever in doubt as to what to do, watch porn’

(Moral #2 is not exactly pertinent to the story, but a good dictum to live your life by in any case)

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Holy Grail of College Strikes

I speak today of a tried and tested boredom-combat technique which is used to its fullest by militant student unions around the country. It is much less prevalent in Chennai, as opposed to strike patterns observed in certain other states where a strike is more the rule than the exception.

We, on the other hand, being members of a highly disciplined student body, do not believe in going on strike more than once a year.

Its timing, precision and planning make it more an annual picnic where we spend a few hours sunning ourselves on the college lawns which, according to some, were designed explicitly for that purpose.

I shall, being a veteran of three strikes, provide interested students with pointers on how to go on a strike and how to stay prepared for any contingency.

Mandatory disclaimer:

1. The author is a certified lunatic and mental institutions around the world vie with each other to get him admitted to their respective asylums. Therefore, anyone taking anything that he ever says seriously runs the risk of being locked up in a padded cell for a considerable amount of time.
2. If any student is suspended, flogged, impaled or sent to labour camps in Siberia as a direct/indirect result of following these pointers, the author is in no way responsible
3. If the author is sued under POTA, sedition or some new law he hasn’t heard of yet, he would like to assert that it was all the ISI and Musharaff’s doing.(If not, it was the CIA)

Statutory warnings:

And you thought only cigarette packets carried statutory warnings! But as Siddhu’s first law on the war on the boredom [SID95, MIT] states –

Anything that is fun is dangerous and must carry statutory warnings. These include everything from watching WWE to attempting to do a Schumacher in Chennai traffic with a Maruti 800 made of Aluminium foil.

So, without further ado, I shall put forth these statutory warnings:

1. Please check how brutally or liberally your college would treat strikers. If you are an unfortunate student of these dotheboy halls where they impart engineering education these days, please don’t attempt anything of the sort. (Unless you want to sun yourself while kneeling down outside the Principal’s office for fifteen days, and bankrupt your parents as well). In such a case, restrict yourself to such acts of daredevilry – like daring to talk to a girl or wearing pants without cleats – which will result in relatively lenient punishments like being caned by the Chairman.

2. In more normal institutions, attempting to avoid participating in a strike could actually turn out to be much more dangerous than being the life and soul of it. For more information, contact your local college bully.

The Five commandments of a striker

With the statutory warnings done away with, I think it’s time to list the five commandments on how to go on strike and how not to get BORED when striking. (For the benefit of the curious, there are five because I couldn’t think of any more.)

1. Thou shalt not attempt to sneak out of class into labs when thy student leader hast called a strike-

This is a commandment, which makes sense, apart from being the right thing to do from a moral standpoint. The student leaders and their minions are, as a rule, not people to upset or annoy. That’s because they don’t retreat to a corner and cry foul when every student runs to the lab instead of the lawn. They haff methods, so to speak, of making you walk out. And those methods are not particularly pleasant and involve a certain amount of manhandling as well.

2. Thou shalt not adhere to a lecturer’s requests to sit in class during a strike, even if he offers thou the last five minutes of his class to strike to thy heart’s content

Nothing much to be said about this commandment, except that one of our lecturers actually made us the offer. Offshoot – the entire class which was vacillating till that moment decided to walk out en masse, leaving him alone holding a piece of chalk and the attendance book. (Rumour goes that he actually taught the empty classroom the instruction set of the 8086 and went on to take attendance, dutifully listing the names to the walls– ‘just in case the principal comes on his rounds, no?’)

3. Thou shalt identify in advance the possible days for a strike

College is the Al-Qaeda of the war on boredom. The only day when one will not be tortured by pangs of boredom is when there is a strike. Therefore, being a dutiful footsoldier of the war on boredom, you should always pay attention to the rumour mill. You can always get some information on the next strike so that you can actually ‘live a strike’.

4. Thou shalt cometh prepared for the strike, otherwise thou shalt suffer from boredom during the strike.

If you follow Commandment 3 like a dutiful practitioner should, you should have no problem preparing for the strike. Strikes, especially in normally disciplined colleges like mine, have all the hallmarks of a garden party. But without entertainment, even this can turn boring. Therefore, as a reveller, one must carry with oneself the following essentials:

a. Two packets of potato chips
b. One 2 litre bottle of 7 – up. The sceptics among you may scoff at my specifically mentioning 7-up, as the drink of choice. That’s ‘cause 7-up looks like water and so it is unlikely that unprepared revellers will attempt to join the party. Besides, I like Fido Dido…
c. One MP3 Player/Discman/Walkman with detachable head phones (in case somebody else wants to listen to the music as well)
d. A musical instrument (optional – applies to musicians only – and definitely not to those who think they are John Lennon reincarnated)
e. A pack of cards to play with when one debates the reasons behind the strike with one’s friends
f. If one is more adventurous than most, one can carry along with one a little bottle of the blushed hippocrene – something which goes very well with 7-Up! But, of course, under the influence of this stimulant, one may partake more actively in the strike than one may in other circumstances when one is less high.

5. If thou faileth to follow the aforementioned commandments, thou shalt be deemed to have sinned.

-General Siddhu Warrier
Commanding Officer, War on Boredom

Friday, June 03, 2005

Whose letter was it anyway? - Part II

The move to dismember me was met with firm approval from most ends of the class. Some characters - the kind who perform buckwing dances at Taliban executions - actively cheered Ramesh on. It was then that my guardian angel, in the form of a stripling from the sixth standard, walked into the class.

The stripling walked towards my assassin. In a meek voice did he speak –

‘Anna, excuse me, I’m really sorry for interrupting you. Could you please strangle him after a little while, please? Kranthi Madam wants to see Siddhu Anna there.’

The utterance of the feared Gandu’s name struck both of us hard. Though Ramesh would have preferred to continue to strangle me, he realized that Gandu would prefer a live Siddhu to a dead one placed on a block of ice.

As I struggled back up, I realized the portent of the stripling’s announcement. A visit to Gandu in these circumstances was likely to be a lot worse than a night spent inside Abu Gharib.

It was thus with a fair amount of trepidation that I knocked on the door to the Physics lab.

‘Hello, Ma’am… Did you call me?’, said I, trying hard to adopt a breezy manner and failing miserably.

‘Come in, you impertinent creature. What are you doing in school?’

That was a simple one, I thought. Smiling inwardly, I answered sincerely,

‘I’m studying, Ma’am.’

A look at the dreadful expression on her face convinced me that there couldn’t have been a more wrong answer to that question. She began to scream, as was her wont.

‘You useless creature!! You hippopotamus! You rhinoceros! (Gandu had an inexplicable habit of calling to the wild for help when in need of expletives) I can see how you’re studying! Studying, my elephant…er…foot!’

She waved the heart-infested notepaper at my nose, which I noticed Sweety had liberally drenched in perfume. I crinkled my nose in distaste as Gandu continued, her voice probably carrying to the furthest corners of India.

‘You are supposed to be studying!’, she repeated for the third time, ‘And what you’re doing is trying to help a girl and boy love each other! Are you a pimp? If so, go to a kodambakkam street corner! Who is the addle-brained girl who’s written this?’

Like most criminals when faced with a cop, I stayed stoically silent as she tried to worm the girl’s name out of me.

After a while, she gave up and instructed me to summon Ramesh to her torture chamber.

It was a sobbing, still homicidal Ramesh that followed my despondent self into the dungeon.

As I walked in, I could feel evil, pain and sorrow in the lab. The Vernier calipers and screw gauges seemed to be laughing at me. The potentiometer seemed to be rubbing its hands in sadistic glee.

It was no surprise therefore that Ramesh erupted, crying violently, even before Gandu could get her instruments of torture out.

‘Ma’am, I am a good boy, Ma’am. I am not doing this loving and all, Ma’am. I want to get into an engineering college, and then go to the USA to do my MS. It’s all that stupid Sweety’s fault.’

Gandu fixed upon me a glittering eye that would have put the ancient mariner to shame.

‘Go call that Sweetie, you useless komodo dragon!’

But Sweety had got wind of happenings in the physics lab, quite probably thanks to Gandu’s carrying voice, and had executed a swift exit from school – rather like that bloke in one of Shakespeare’s plays who ‘exits quickly, pursued by bear’.

Cut to: The Next Day

I was still nursing a twisted neck and a throbbing head when I was called to the Physics lab again.

Ramesh stood next to the potentiometer, dripping tears onto the spectrometer. Gandu looked a lot more somber, and was almost kindly to me.

‘I have bad news for you, you… creature!! Your Sweety’s father has complained to the KVS commissioner that you boys composed love letters ostensibly from her, in order to humiliate her!’

Another screeching halt to creation. Ten seconds when the world swum around me.

As I slowly returned to the land of the living, my head spun at the thought of Sweety’s treacherousness. My head spun even more at the thought of meeting the KVS commissioner. At the conclusion of it, I knew my career options would be limited to delivering pressed clothes in my neighbourhood and carrying sacks of rice in the neighbourhood rice mandi.

‘Not that you people are much better, but I think you ought to be saved from the righteous wrath of the KVS commissioner, who in case you didn’t know is a member of the Shiv Sena and takes a dim view of such immorality. And, yeah! He admires Talibanesque solutions to such issues between the sexes.’, Gandu concluded, a wicked smile playing on her lips.

‘The only solution’, she continued, ‘is to present the letter to the principal, and hope he can calm the commissioner down. Give me the rest of the pages of this letter. At least, that way we can try to prove that Sweety wrote it!’

I bet a part of her wanted to read it. Gandu was probably a fan of Mills and Boon.

Ramesh was startled out of his reverie. He began to bawl loudly.

Amidst the bawling, he spoke.

‘Ma’am, I tore the pieces up and scattered them in the corner of the park!’

Gandu got into action swiftly. She summoned a few minions from my class and directed us to the park to try reassemble the letter. The minions were only too happy to miss a few classes, and searched the bushes with a song on their lips.

Thankfully, Ramesh was unskilled at destroying evidence. We managed to recover most of the pieces, and piece together a reasonably coherent page or two, including a little piece where Sweety had painstakingly inscribed her name. Gandu ushered us in to the principal’s room.

The principal was a diminutive, bored-looking man, whose chief claim to fame was getting beaten up inside an elevator by a chap he’d expelled from school.

He scanned the letter with a bored air – almost as if it were a request to requisition 115 chairs for the annual day.

Then, he looked around the room, yawned loudly, stared fixatedly at the portrait of the principal who mismanaged things from 1876-1890, and finally rang the bell for his peon.

‘Go get that whats-her-name from the XII standard’, he said to the peon, and resumed his inspection of the smut on Dr. Vasu’s nose (Principal, 1945-1948).

Gandu rushed to clarify things further with the peon, and the peon rushed away.

Presently, a chagrined Sweety rushed in. She gave me a look of malevolence that filled me with a nameless dread.

‘Listen… you wrote the letter, no? It’s okay; infatuations are common among girls your age – you’ll probably realize later that this fellow here is ugly enough to scare the living hell out of most sane people.’, said our principal expansively, rather like an old uncle, pointing at me.

He was always mixing things up.

Sweety opened her mouth to speak. Whether she did so to strongly refute her having written the letter, or to explain to the principal that he had got the identity of the loved one all wrong – I shall never know. For the principal cut her off with a friendly smile and a few inanities.

He then said he considered the matter closed, and would tell the commissioner so.

It was a relieved self that walked home. The physics teacher had solemnly promised to take care of me during the lab exams, and I doubted whether she meant that she’d help me out by passing me a few readings on the sly.

At around seven, when I’d restarted my perusal of the Harold Robbins in full earnest, the phone rang again.

‘Hello’, I said, rather abrasively.

‘Hello yourself, you sniveling little bastard! You weasel! How could you even think I’d fall for you if you sabotaged my only true love? Anyway, I can’t imagine ever falling for you!’, screamed the voice at the other end rather uncharitably.

The voice continued at some length on how desperate I was, and how I’d suffer for this all my life. I realized the voice was Sweety’s, and found the proceedings quite entertaining. But then, she went on to say something that chilled my bone to the marrow.

‘I’ll poison your food someday. Just you wait!’, and she banged the phone down.

A girl who draws little hearts on notepaper is exactly the kind of girl who’s likely to walk around with a little bottle of arsenic in hand.

I spent the rest of the year without taking my eyes of my lunch box.

Cut to: 2005. A 21 year old nice young man walks along the street when he is accosted by a PYT.

PYT: Hey, aren’t you Siddhu?

Young Man: (Mutters a few modest inanities)

(A few minutes pass, and with the passage of the minutes, the young man’s expression changes almost imperceptibly)

PYT: Can I buy you lunch? My treat…

(Whoosh! And the PYT watches despondently as all that is left is a cloud of dust.)

And the fear doth thus live on…

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Who's letter was it anyway? - Part I

It was on a beautiful evening – the kind of evening when one doesn’t need any alcohol to see things through rose tinted glasses – that it all began.

It was a happy, contented self that read the Harold Robbins, tucked neatly beneath the covers of my Physics textbook. I was just getting to the interesting part of the book, where the intrepid explorer discovers the hidden location of the G-spot when backpacking through the reddest areas of New York City.

And then, the phone rang. With a soft curse on my lips, I abandoned the hero in his quest for the elusive conference of nymphomaniacs (for the nonce, at least).

‘Hello’, I said abrasively.

All I could perceive was persistent sobs from the other end of the line.

I was not amused. My intrepid explorer awaited my return, in order to continue his journey through a hundred vaginas. And here I was, listening to some idiot sobbing on a phone.

After a few more sobs, the voice at the other end cleared. It was Ramesh, a classmate of mine.

‘She sent me a love letter da’, said he and resumed his sobbing.

I wished to know who it was, being the logical, rational kind of bloke that you hear so much about. But before I could, he continued,

‘My mother didn’t (sob) raise me this way, da. I’m not the love letter kind of guy.’, and begin to bawl loud enough to wake the dead.

I completely concurred with him on that. He was the kind of chap who was raised from a young age to enjoy his tyresaadam frigid and his women even more so. What I failed to understand was why any woman would send him a love letter, when there were gallant, charming, dashing and available men like me.

‘Who is she? Is she not what you’d called endowed with espi├Ęglerie?’, asked I.

‘Dai, at this age, da! Crucial 12th Standard da! It’s so filthy to do this loving and all. And it’s Sweety!’

At this moment, the world did not, in all likelihood, stop spinning. But as far as I was concerned, creation ceased to exist for the space of a minute. Sweety was the kind of girl who could elicit a whistle or two even if she walked past a trappist* monastery in upper Tibet. Hot, to be plain, just about summed it up.

‘Then why on earth are you crying? She should be crying for having sent the letter to you of all people’, said I, rather uncharitably.

He waxed eloquent on the immorality of pre-marital love (especially if the girl fell in love first) and how he wouldn’t look at a girl unless his mother told him to. He then told me to break the bad news to her, failing which my broken neck would float in the well near the vice-principal’s quarters.

Harold Robbin’s riveting tale of a young man’s felinological quest would have to wait.

The next day, I was blessed with the opportunity to read that ode to immortal love that Sweety had written. Sweety was blessed with plenty in many places, including plenty of thick bone in the base of the skull. This was amply in evidence from the effort she’d put into drawing little red hearts along the margins of the notepaper in which she’d written the letter, and the utter bilge she’d filled the notepaper with.

I erupted into laughter when I read a line where she’d listed her only crushes in life – a list which included such doyens as Rowan Atkinson and the bloke who played Tipu Sultan in the teleseries. He was, she asserted, the only real-life character that had caught her fancy.

She went on to request him to wear a purple arm band (enclosed within) ten inches from his wrist and walk down the stairs at 12:35 pm the next day to bring to her notice his ardour.

(I owe it to the reader to explain at this point that Ramesh had the physical proportions of a John Abraham, and the psychological growth of a Little Lord Faunterloy.)

Ramesh spent the whole day cowering beneath his desk. I toyed briefly with the idea of wearing the purple arm-band myself, but dismissed it as beyond the sphere of practical politics. I re-read the love letters, placed it carefully within my Physics notebook, and prepared myself to speak to Sweety – who had till then treated me as something of a cross between an iguana and a cockroach. At 12:40, I walked down the stairs.

‘Er hi Sweety…what’s up?’, I said, trying hard not to salivate. She looked particularly tantalizing that day.

Sweety bestowed upon me a bored look.

‘ What do you want, Siddhu? Why don’t you come back later? I’m busy now’

‘Its something important I have to tell you.’, said I rather desperately, a sheepish grin plastered on my face.

‘Oh… but you’re not important. So buzz off!’, said she, rather cruelly. Her giggly friend, who stood next to her as always, began to giggle at this.

But, as I have had opportunity to mention before, us Warriers are made of sterner stuff.

‘Its about Ramesh…’, I said, a confident smile on my face.

Her entire aspect changed. It was one thing to crush beneath her pretty heel a puny little rat whom she strongly suspected had a crush on her. But it was another matter altogether when the puny little rat turned out to be the loved one’s emissary.

I tried to tell her, as mildly as possible, that Ramesh wasn’t the ‘love-letter kind of guy’, and he was a few miles removed from being the ‘pub-kind of guy’ she lusted for.

She deliberated on this with her friend, philosopher and guide for awhile, whispering away as I watched.

Then, her friend took me apart and told me in a solemn voice that she understood that I had long nourished feelings for Sweety, and that I had this soulful look in my eyes when I looked at her.

And then she concluded rather hastily requesting me to keep my pimply nose to myself, at least until I’d added a few inches to my chest and lost a few around the waist. She’s way out of your league, buster, was the message.

And that was that…

I took the pages of the love-letter off my Physics notebook and returned them to Ramesh, refusing any further involvement in the sordid mess. I told him that I preferred floating lifeless in the well near the vice-principal’s quarters. Hell, I could probably give my vice-principal a scare that way!

I then walked toward the Physics lab to submit my Physics notebook, hoping she’d understand why I hadn’t submitted it two days ago with the rest of the class. She didn’t.

I was a shell of my former self as I dragged myself back to class. In class lay waiting an agitated Ramesh.

‘B****, you haven’t given me the first page of the letter. I want to tear it up too and scatter the pieces near the park.’, said he.

‘Oh, it’s in my physics notebook, don’t worry!’, said I, nonchalantly.

‘Where the f*** is your physics notebook’, he said rather agitatedly.

The world came to a grinding halt for the second time in two days.

‘Oh f***! I gave it to Gandu…’, I said slowly, alluding to the nom de guerre of my Physics teacher.

‘Holy shit!’, screamed Ramesh as he began to strangulate me. I could see the tears stream down his face as he strained to separate my head from my torso.

To be continued…

*Trappist ( P ) Pronunciation Key (tr p st)n.
A member of the main branch of Cistercian monks, characterized by austerity and a vow of silence, established in 1664 at La Trappe Monastery in northwest France.