>Acronym Cronies

>MIS.QPR.KRA.MOM.Acronyms that govern my life at present.And no,MOM does not stand for mom,it’s Minutes of the Meeting.I’ve become corporatized.From a free wheeling,dreamy eyed time waster,I’ve morphed into an office goer.A corporate one at that.Don’t get me wrong,I love what I do at my job.I’m only amazed at this sudden transformation.It’s doing me good,by the way.

Every time I step into office,I’m reminded of Dilbert and his co-workers.Minus the cubicles,of course.The QPR mentioned above stands for Quarterly Performance Review,something which the employees have to present to their section heads for their appraisals.Having spent a year in the office and attended countless such meetings,here’s a lowdown on what actually happens.

If the meeting time reads “2 pm to 5 pm”,you can bet your life on the fact that it won’t start till until 2:45 pm.In-office mails are something nobody bothers to read.Therefore,nobody knows where to assemble for the meeting.If,in the past,a meeting has taken place in a particular room,we naturally assume that the next meeting will be held there itself.Once the discovery is made that there is no one in the room,apart from you and your similar minded colleagues,a frantic search is made for the mail announcing the venue of the meeting.It is found,people look at each other for a while,each trying to recall where the venue is.Somebody runs in breathlessly and admonishes the group for being so late and leads them to the venue.Once settled in,a hunt begins for the projector and laptop for the ensuing presentations.The IT section is called,requirements are specified over the phone and coffee is ordered for everybody.The HOD smiles at everyone genially.The wait for the IT guy begins.Note that the time on the wall clock reads somewhere close to 3 pm.The coffee arrives,duly poured and gulped down.The IT guy saunters in with a laptop,a projector and a mono expression.The process of setting the whole thing up takes anywhere between ten to twenty minutes.You doodle on your notepad,glance sideways at your colleague,who is stifling huge yawns.The IT guy emerges from the rigmarole,a jaunty expression on his face which seems to say,”There,the laptop is all fixed up.Enjoy the meeting.” He leaves and the meeting begins.

QPR.What you’ve done/achieved/managed in the last four months.To remember what you’ve done for the last four months,you need a MIS.Management Information System.A system designed to track your activities/non activities every month.To remember what to write in your MIS,you need a Weekly/Daily Log.An Excel sheet filled with what you did,at which hour of which day.And to be able to write a log,you need a KRA.Key Results Area.This defines the area of work you need to produce substantial results in.

A QPR presentation can be wildly entertaining or deathly boring,it all depends on the presenter.I’ve had the fortune to witness only the former ones.So,here we are.Settled in for a meeting scheduled to commence at 2pm,which finally starts at 3pm. It usually starts off with a round off about the previous meeting’s MOM.You know,Minutes of the Meeting.Agendas are discussed,lots and lots of random management jargon is thrown in at appropriate places,more coffee is served,several reams of paper are exhausted jotting down this meeting’s MOM,the energy levels in the room are on a constant high.The meeting finally ends half an hour past the scheduled time.Everyone glides out of the room,dazed,not sure what happened in the last two and a half hours.When they get back to their systems the next day,a cheery email from the section head reads,”‘PFA the MOM of yesterday’s meeting.”

(BTW,PFA=Please Find Attached.)

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>Funday Ka Funda

>April 05,2011.The LRC team goes for a much deserved and awaited outing at Leonia resort,located in the outskirts of Hyderabad.We board the bus,loaded with Lays,Pepsi/Thums Up and Himessss Nasal bhai Reshammiya welcomes us with his honeyed vocals,whom we fear will keep us company throughout the two hour journey.But thank the mighty Lord for Mohd. Rafi,who puts a stop to it,soothes and enthralls us with his magic. Here we are,at Leonia.It is breathtakingly clean,serene and a lush green canopy envelops the entire resort like some sort of a protective blanket.We can already anticipate the day ahead of us.

A visibly nervous but eager young aide to the manager explains our package to us.There are various games,including paint ball.I had a vague idea about the game (turns out I was badly and sadly mistaken) and was completely taken aback when the rules were explained.Two captains are elected who pick their teams.You wear the game outfit,an army-type ensemble,complete with a loaded gun.You are taken into a mock battleground set up with base camps,boulders,rocks,trenches et al.The objective of the game is to capture the enemy flag and bring it back to your base camp,and injuring as many enemy soldiers as possible.The weapon,a heavy metal gun filled with paint “bullets” is hoisted on to your shoulder.There are two referees who monitor your game through the thirty minute time limit.Here we are,gearing up for the battle.

Ah,sweet victory.I captained my team,The Green Battalion,to a resounding victory against the Black Commandos.We had our first taste of what it feels like to get roasted under an unforgiving sun in the middle of the afternoon,coupled with a heavy gun,straining to view the enemy position stealthily while trying to stage a surprise attack.We did not capture the flag, but managed to injure four soliders and also successfully invaded their terrain.That’s our team,standing by the enemy flag,while the losing team acknowledges our supremacy.Ha!

Too tired after all that war? No way. There were the pool and indoor games to be played next. (The pool pictures aren’t uploaded here for a reason.)We tried our hand at billiards and table tennis.A lot of group pictures followed this.

Foooood.After all that fighting and billiard-ing and photo sessions,we sat down to a delectable and excellent repast of the choicest buffet dishes.This is us,enjoying a steaming bowl of potato and cucumber soup.We did full justice to the desserts as well.No discrimination,you see.

On our way to the Go Karting rink.Tired,but fulfilled,we upheld the Indian tradition of Antakshari.Lacking any more energy,our songs were low decibel-ed but tuneful nonetheless.

The Go Karting Rink.

Each one of us got to do 4 laps around the rink.It’s a simple manoeveuring procedure,nothing rocket science-ish.If I could do it,so can anyone.The steering was a bit stiff,though in hindsight,I can see how that was a necessity.It effectively steers you in the right direction.You’re so busy concentrating on keeping yourself on track you don’t overspeed.Of course,experienced drivers,overconfident souls and nervous first timers almost always display speed symptoms. One poor girl pressed on the accelerator and forgot the existence of the steering wheel and promptly slammed into a wall of old tyres stacked in a corner.That was a stray incident,though. The rest of us managed quite well.

This is all of us at the EOD.End of the Day.

A wonderful day,great games,amazing food.Another set of memories.

>Dilbert All The Way

>

I have become a hopeless,lifelong fan of Scott Adams.The genius who gave the world Dilbert and Co.My roaming eye caught “When Body Language Goes Wrong” one day and as I sat down to read it,I knew I had hit upon pure gold.In less than five minutes,I was rolling in my chair,laughing my head off,much to the consternation and concern of two of my coworkers who had chosen that very moment to enter the vicinity. Adams has created a world of characters,situations and places which are very familiar to anyone who has worked/is working in a corporate setup.

Humor is firmly tongue-in-cheek and the characters say those very things which every corporate employee wishes to say to his boss,but is too scared/inhibited/wants to live.

Adams’s characters go about the daily humdrum of corporate life in a humdrum manner.Dilbert,Dogbert,Ratbert,Alice,Asok the intern (poor intern:-) and Wally slip in and out of situations like an eel through oily fingers.Many topics are touched upon,ranging from bad management to corporate jargon to powerpoint presentations to projects that never take off.

Some of the titles of his books:
Cubes and Punishment
Journey to Cubeville
This is the part where you pretend to add value
Casual Day has gone too far
Another Day in the Cubicle Paradise
Problem Identified:And You’re Probably Not Part of The Solution

and many more gems like these.
Doesn’t matter who you are,what you work as and whether or not you actually work.Pick up any Dilbert book and you’re guaranteed hours of sublime laughter alongwith a generous dollop of ideas which will start germinating in your mind.Dilbert is the cure for all maladies,period.Go,pick one now.

>’Bus’y Body

>Why is it that when you want to board a bus,the entire populace at the bus stop also harbors similar thoughts and jumps in with you? Traveling in a RTC bus is nothing short of heroic and everybody who makes it to their destination in one piece is a hero in my book.You arrive at the bus stop,wearing your best work dress,with a carefree smile on your lips,a song or two perhaps in your heart.You look around the milieu,people milling all around the various scattered bus stops.There is a general din of chatter,the blaring honking sounds make you wish you were deaf and you try to fight off a most determined fly hell bent upon making its home on top of your nose,when all of a sudden,the bus looms in the corner.The big blue and red bus charges its way towards your stop and you begin to feel energized.But as it slowly trudges up to you,about a hundred people materialize out of nowhere.You blink in surprise.Are these magic people?Your surprise gives way to a slowly but steadily rising panic as you realize that the magic people will take over the bus and there won’t be any spot left for you.At first,you politely stand in the queue and let you humanness shine.”What a fellow” and “Such a genial species of the human race” are the remarks you hear in your head when you see the queue quickly dissolve into a mass of humanity,all intent upon squeezing inside the bus.You abandon all thoughts of humanness and savagely enter the bus only to be knocked aside,jerked hither and thither by one of the magic people who does not possess a dictionary and therefore doesn’t know what the word “diet” means.
There you are.All squashed up against a metal pole which eats into your ribs every time the bus jerks forward.People all around you are hanging onto the metal bars for dear life.Some find space on the floor of the bus and take their positions with a firm resolve.You cannot feel your limbs,they have been detached from your body and will reassemble when your stop comes.Somehow you manage to extricate money to pay for the ticket and in the process,lose your change.You grope around in the sea of people,inviting glares and curses from the bus populace.When you come up,exhausted with your exertions,you find to your dismay that all the oxygen from the bus has been sucked up.As the level of carbondioxide dangerously increase inside,you wish you had access to a jet plane or were one of the characters in the Harry Potter books.Nice time they must be having,those wizard blokes,flying around on their broomsticks and smirking at the bus people below.
Everybody seems to love this bus.Nobody wants to get down and more people keep entering.The bus is almost a hundred years old and keeps thinking of retiring.It protests in its own small ways;grunting while running,stopping entirely in the middle of a traffic jam and making strange noises each time the gear is changed.
Some people get off.You heave a sigh of relief.Oxygen,which had leapt out of the bus in a frenzy,now decides to return.You breathe in the air,and feel a contented smile creeping up from the depths of your soul.You sit tight on your seat,determined to enjoy the ride,when a family of five climbs up in the bus.After stamping on your toes and crushing your dress,the head of the family squishes one of the kids onto your lap.You don’t have a choice but to make sure that the bawling kid does not jump out of the window next to you.Kids,as a general rule,should not be allowed on public buses.And kids less than five years of age should be fined for doing so.They squirm,yowl,punch,scream and think that the bus is owned by their father.You manage a polite smile and wait for the harried mother to get a seat.As soon as she gets one,you happily plonk the kid onto her lap and a major weight is lifted off your chest.
By now,some more people get off and you start feeling brotherly towards them again.Humanity appeals to you as do lofty ideals and notions.There is more of oxygen now and you wave a cheery goodbye to carbondioxide,who slinks off,to find another bus.Your stop approaches and you stagger off the bus.You enter the bus feeling on top of the world and you get off it praising the Lord for keeping you alive.

>Short Fiction-A Quiet Birthday

>It was his birthday today.Nineteenth of August,twenty seven years ago,he had arrived on this planet.Till about eight years ago,everything had been nice and jolly.Then fifteenth of July had come,bringing with it a complete new chapter in his life.A chapter filled with a year of police beatings and abuses.A chapter filled with total alienation from family and friends.A chapter filled with an uncertain future.Mercifully,he was led away to a secluded jail for seven years of rigorous imprisonment.A tiny cell with one small window would be his home for the next seven years.But he didn’t mind.They could’ve hanged him for all he cared.

Samarth Babu’s eyes twinkled as he fondled the diamond.It was a thing of beauty,pure and spotless.The pawn shop owner gently laid the gem into its velvet pouch and replaced it inside a safe.He leaned back in his creaking chair and almost laughed out loud at the fortune he had in his hands.The scene played before his eyes,like it happened just yesterday,when the wizened old man had come up to him and given him the diamond.
“I want to pawn this diamond.How much will you give for it?”
Samarth Babu almost jumped out of his skin when he saw it.Such a thing rarely made an entry into his small,almost obscure shop in a forgotten bylane.Obviously,this man was in some urgent need of money.The businessman in Samarth Babu calculated the diamond’s worth between fifty and fifty five thousand,but said,matter of factly,”Hmmm….fine looking diamond you’ve got here.Let’s see….I can give you forty..no..thirty five thousand for this.Not more.”
The old man had looked at him with pleading eyes.Something about wanting the money to free somebody.Old story.Samarth Babu had heard plenty such stories in his career.After a lot of haggling,the price was fixed at thirty eight thousand five hundred.Samarth Babu had not given much thought to this deal as there was no way the old man could raise that much cash to repay him.After the stipulated period,the diamond was going to be included in his personal collection.
Now,looking out of the window of the dreary little shop,Samarth Babu found himself wondering about the old man.How had he come into the possession of such a diamond?And whom did he want to free with the money?He drummed his fingers idly on the counter as these thoughts churned about in his head.Somewhere above him,an aged grandfather clock gave a feeble ring,announcing lunchtime.

Bikash Roy.At another time,in some other world,this name might have been bestowed upon some bright young physicist on the brink of an important discovery or a hot blooded revolutionary or even a brooding poet drinking his way to utter helplessness.In this world,the name belonged to prisoner number fifty seven,imprisoned in an average civil jail on the outskirts of Midnapore.It could accomodate upto seventy prisoners and at any given point,five or six of them could be found crammed in a tiny hopeless room.The cells were filled with all sorts of men.Men who strutted about,implying their importance,men who maintained stoic silences throughout the day,only to break out crying in the middle of the night,men who had given up on life.The cells were a study of human nature and psychology.When one is happy,healthy,surrounded by loving family and friends,it is very easy to take the simple joys of life for granted.Here,in the stale and dank cells,having to share sleeping space with five other people,having to smell terrible breaths,having to endure horrific hunger pangs,the little things of life came back to haunt the men,leaving behind a deep ache and longing.Prison teaches you well.

It had been seven years since Bikash had seen a flower bloom.Sitting on the mud floor with his legs crossed,he rested his head on the damp wall behind him.Today,he would be discharged.Free to go.But where?Life,as he had known it,had come crashing down that fateful day,fifteenth of July,when the unthinkable had happened.The scene was imprinted on Bikash’s heart and memory for a lifetime.The treachery which had robbed his parents of everything they had.The endless rounds of lawyers,courtrooms and legal gibberish.Finally when the ruling was done in their favor,the celebrating family did not notice the ice cold looks of their opponents.On fifteenth of July,Bikash had come home from the fields to see his home consumed by flames.Those greedy orange flames.Licked and ate voraciously through every childhood memory,every smile,every tear.Sometimes,late at night,Bikash could still hear the desperate cries of his parents and sister,trapped inside the inferno.

The murder had been easy.Bikash had simply climbed upto Indrajit Babu’s house,broke open the window and before the bewildered money lender could comprehend anything,Bikash had attacked him with a carving knife.He was still stabbing and screaming at the bloodied and punctured body when the police arrived.He calmly got up and let himself be taken.He did not care what was going to happen to him.Indrajit Babu deserved his violent death.

Samarth Babu jerked up from his sleep.Momentarily confused,he looked around,as if seeking reassurance from the withering shop.The paint on the walls was peeling off and the walls themselves threatened to collapse someday.Samarth Babu was waiting for his friend,Manikarma.Both had decided to go into partnership.Today the diamond was going to be theirs.He stretched his hands and began polishing his glasses when he looked up again,startled.Was that the old man?His heart beat faster.No no.God,don’t let it be that old man.How could he have raised the money so soon?This diamond,my diamond…..He peered closely through his glasses.Some other old man.His heartbeat returned to normal.Samarth Babu relaxed once more.

It had taken every ounce of district defence lawyer Girish Sen’s mental prowess and physical strength to have the sentence reduced.The district judge was clearly not in a pardoning mood and had sentenced Bikash to seven years rigorous imprisonment.Bikash’s attitude had made matters worse and he was sentenced to seven years rigorous imprisonment with an amendment.Solitary confinement.

Solitary confinement is a terrible punishment,often the worst.With death sentences,there is not much suffering.A needle prick,some delirious moments,you’re dead before you know it.A noose around your neck,it breaks the spinal connection with the neck,you’re dead.A firing squad will pump bullets into you till you die.Being confined in a room with only your thoughts for company will kill you in ways you wouldn’t have imagined possible.

Bikash had survived the seven years in complete isolation by staring at the small window opposite to his wall.He played the scene from the fifteenth of July over and over in his mind.If only he had come back earlier.If only they had learnt of the treachery before.If only his parents and sister had been out somewhere.If only….two futile,worthlesss words.

The diamond had belonged to the Roy family for generations.It was a harsh,sometimes wistful reminder of their days of glory.Passed on from one generation to the other,Bikash’s mother had possession of it.Just a few days before their beloved home burned to the ground,she had given it to her father in-law for safekeeping.Was this telepathy at work?The old man with his wrinkled face and torn shawl had gone to great lengths to safeguard the family heirloom.After the massacre,when he learnt about Bikash,he had decided to pawn it to raise money and save his grandson.The pawning part went well,the latter part did not.Sushodhan Roy had died of a heart attack just days after pawning the diamond.The bundle of notes was found by a nosy relative who hid it from everyone’s eyes and later took home to a joyous wife.

The formalities completed,Bikash was heralded outside the jail.For the first time in seven years,he breathed deeply,taking in as much clean air as he could.He was temporarily blinded by the shining rays of the early morning sun.A hen ran around some chicks in a far corner,cackling merrily.A stream of clear water flowed somewhere down,licking the stones into shape.A mild breeze began to blow and the trees swayed to its rhythm.Nature seemed to welcome prisoner number fifty seven,Bikash Roy.He looked around the jail once more.He was almost sorry to leave it.Sorry to leave the hard discipline and isolation for the meanness and deceit of the world.Slowly,he trudged homewards.

Nobody gave him a second glance as he walked towards the spot where his home once stood.Wild grass grew tall from the ground.Brown and dry.With the swaying of the grass,Bikash could hear his sister Laboni’s laughter,his mother’s voice calling him for lunch..his father’s sighs at night,unable to find a way to pay his loans off……
He fingered the grass absent mindedly when he mirthfully remembered that it was his birthday today.Twenty seven years ago,Bikash Roy had arrived on this planet.He had a loving family.Twenty seven years later,Bikash Roy stands in the middle of tall brown grass,looking over flourishing crops.He has no family.And today is his birthday.

>Why I Can Never Become An Actor

>One day I was just sitting(which is really not that uncommon) and thinking(this is uncommon) what it would be like to be known as a Bollywood actor.While my right brain created powerful visuals of me accepting the Best Actress Oscar,my left brain was engaged in listing out reasons why I could never enter that profession.Here goes:

Photoshoots:
I could be a very good example of a reflex action to be shown to a biology class.As soon as the camera flash is turned towards me,my eyes close automatically.So,in almost all my photos,all my thirty two teeth are exposed within a wide award winning big-enough-to-eat-two-cake-pieces-at-once smile and my eyes are shut.It appears that I am enjoying a good dream in a deep sleep,not something an actress would want to have in her portfolio.Who would want to cast somebody who looks like a grinning zombie in their movies?

Dancing with heels:
I love my feet,soles and the bone structure of my back and body which have undergone thousands of years of evolution to become what they are.Dancing with five inch pencil heels defies the law of Spinning Around Without Falling Flat On Your Face.I admire all our Indian actors for managing this feat.The above mentioned dance takes place in most unusual situations and backdrops,like on train tops,in the midst of thick forests,mountain tops,in the middle of the sea,some dream sequences also involve dancing with celestial beings,the planetary system,Nature,cartoon characters et al.To manage to jump,lip sync,grimace,tap the feet wrapped in those dangerous size zero heels is a feat in itself.I admit de’feet’.

Sleepless in Movieland:
Apart from my family,Harry Potter,books and a queen sized utterly unhealthy cheese pizza,the only other thing that is ultra precious to me is my sleep.I have categorized it into the following levels:
-the Reluctant Morning Wake Up
-the Mid Morning Daydream
-the Satiated Stomach Needs A Full Sleep
-Tea,Biscuits and a Pillow
and finally
-Dear Old Bed,Here I Come
This is the weekday routine.Weekends usually sing the “Eternal Sleep of the Vacuumed Mind”.
Compare this blissful existence with that of an actor’s.Running around for press conferences,giving umpteen interviews,looking stunning at any given time of the day or night,taking power naps.Oof,sleep is given a slip in the movieland and this slip records a light blip of my shuddering heart which gives yet another flip.

The Hour Glass Figure:
Ahh,my favorite topic.Not that I am the picture of rosy health,bustling with energy and sporting an enviable figure.It’s quite the contrary.To the untrained eye,I appear as a mass of clothes assembled together and forgotten by somebody.Sitting squarely at one assigned place and refusing to get up is my specialty,one that has given me a pleasing roundish appearance.Round,though a very well accepted geometrical entity,one involving numerous horrendous sums,angles and tangents,is somehow not accepted as a worthwhile body shape.One dimensional linear shapes always score more than the poor 360 degree round.I’m thinking of raising my voice against this injustice.Round people deserve to be treated at par with the Smug Linear ones.
So anyway,it takes me an hour to convince my well fed will to don some exercise gear and jump into action.But soon,my better sense prevails and the hour glass figure metamorphoses into an hour with a glass of ice cold beverage which ultimately gives me a cold.All this means that I can never aspire to light the screen with my rounded personality.However,I can be cast perfectly as a bobbing basketball.No one can come close to cinching the title.

Giving Interviews:
“Oh,we’re just good friends.”
(The less said about this statement,the better)
“My role in this film is very different.”
(Ya,instead of dancing on the Swiss Alps,I dance on Kanchenjunga.Instead of wearing five inch heels,I wear three inch heels)
“Nothing of this sort has ever been attempted before.”
(We were the only ones foolish and rich enough to take up this subject)
“I am a director’s actress.”
(Till he tells me to give another take.Then I am my own actress)
“I got along very well with all my co stars.”
(My co stars look like dung covered toads with the IQs of an earthworm)
“The entire unit was like a big happy family.”
(Families that take feverish inputs from K soaps)

No,thanks.I’m perfectly happy in my little round world.

>Raajneeti Revelations

>Surprise!! I caught the second day first show of Raajneeti.I usually watch new releases months after they release,partly because I’m too lazy to go out and crowds bother me.But this one was an exception.The tickets were already booked and not wanting to earn a sigh of dismay from my family,waiting in the car,I hopped in.Boy,am I glad I did.

I’m sure you can read the reviews and discussions pertaining to the film on any of the popular movie sites or discussion forums.What I’m doing here is listing down my opinions and a fair amount of amateur analysis.This,folks,is Palla’s Take on Raajneeti.

1.First things first.This movie shows,yet again,that all that the audience really needs is a good storyline,strong dialogues and a plausible ending.

2.Arjun Rampal is GORGEOUS.That,and he wowed me with his acting.I never considered him a good actor,not even after OSO(Om Shanti Om) and Rock On.But I was forced to eat my words when I saw his Prithvi Pratap consume the screen with his sheer presence and crafty acting.

3.Naseeruddin Shah and Nana Patekar.Two simple reasons to watch the movie.They just keep getting better and better and better with every movie and role they play.Nana shines as the sly and caring mentor of the two warring families.The sheer effortlessness and ease with which he essays his role is a treat for the eyes.All his histronics aside,Nana’s quiet performance is powerful.Naseer only has a cameo in the beginning but ah! what an actor.Is there any role this man can’t play?Naseer sir,take a bow!

4.Manoj Bajpai is one hell of an underrated actor.So what if he starred in a few flops?How can we forget Satya,Kaun and Shool?Here too,as the vindictive and vengeful cousin,Veerendra Pratap,Manoj delivers a sparkling peformance.

5.The biggest two suprises of all.Ranbir and Katrina.Okay okay,for all his pure candy bar looks and awesome dancing skills,I never liked him for his acting. Ditto for Katrina.No doubt,she looks like a vision and dances well,but with regards to acting,I never managed to give her more than four on a ten.Again,my belly overflowed with all the eating of words.Ranbir and Katrina both prove their acting prowess in this film.I was pleasantly taken aback to see her in a no-makeup look which captured her true innocent beauty,akin to the feelings of her character.As the naive scion of the political family who later masterminds the entire operation,Ranbir gives a startlingly realistic performance.He underplays his part beautifully and gives a cold, controlled and restrained act.Kudos to both of them.

6.This film further reinforced my firmly held belief that Ajay Devgan was put on earth and in Bollywood to glower and scorch the screen with his brooding brand of acting.I dont care whether he has comic timing or not,whether he can dance or not.When it comes to darkening the screen with his looks and chilling the atmosphere,Ajay’s the man for you.

7.Albeit a little longer than I expected,Raajneeti has all its elements in place.Drawing heavily from the epic Mahabharata,it translates well into the present day scenario.The screenplay is aggressive and taut,the casting is immaculate,the dialouges crisp and the performances of the entire cast are top notch.Every actor delivers his or her bit to perfection,making this film an ensemble masterpiece.

Lastly,I loved the fact that there are no sermons in the movie.Nothing is right,nothing is wrong.And yet,everything is fair in love and war.It depicts the reality as it is,no frills attached and certainly no long moral lectures.The film leaves it to the audience to interpret the ending and does not adopt a preachy tone anywhere.A huge round of applause to Prakash Jha and his entire cast and crew for taking this ambitious project and transforming it into an excellent piece of cinematic elegance.

>Short Fiction-It Rained That Night

>Sandra Torres adjusted her scarf around her neck for the fourth time and squinted through the semi lit path.The road ahead was a strip of a pale grey flecked with specks of white.She was on her way home after a late night rendevouz with her boyfriend of four weeks.As she walked,she mused on what she would tell her husband.The lengthy explanations,lies really,were getting stale and monotonous.She needed a new excuse.The sky overhead rumbled deeply once,dark water heavy clouds gathered around a bravely shining moon,ready to pour their tears onto an unsuspecting earth.The street was fairly deserted,except for young,adventurous lovers,bookworms trying to finish twenty books in one night and lonely old people wishing they had someone to talk to.As Sandra trudged through the street,she wondered where it all began.

The last house on the street was not a creepy place at all.In fact,a cheerful wreath of daisies greeted anyone who came up to the huge oak door.But for some reason unknown,people stayed away from the house.They would be all right while walking past the other fifteen houses.But as they approached the sixteenth house,an unspoken fear would grip them and make them uncomfortable.The house had no history,no unsovled murder mystery had occured and it certainly did not rest on a graveyard.”It’s just….something,”people would say.Of course,this ‘something’ riled the lone inmate of the house,Sam Terrence Wilson.A forty year old kind looking widower,Sam had recently shifted to the neighborhood.He was quiet,kept to himself and never bothered anyone.Nothing much was known about his history or previous neighborhood save for the fact that he had lost his wife to a strange illness.The neighborhood kids would make fun of him but all that stopped one day when Larry Muldoon almost ended up being viciously attacked by Sam’s dog,a German shephard, Rover.From then on,kids and adults alike avoided the Wilson residence.For someone who had just lost a wife,was living in a huge house with only a dog for company,such alienation,no doubt,made Sam quite angry and restless.
You see,I am Sam.

Mike Torres was fast asleep in a huge comfy mahogany bed when little raindrops began pattering his windowsill.The bed had been the first joint piece of furniture he and Sandra had bought after their marriage.It always gave him a sense of comfort and belongingness.The severe cold he had caught a couple of days ago seemed less threatening now,after he had gulped down half a bottle of cold medicine.The depressants in the syrup had finally worked and Saturday night found him fast asleep on the mahogany bed.
Theirs was a modest middle class house,burdened by mortgage payments.Mike was a junior lawyer at a local law firm in the city and even their combined incomes were barely enough to meet their needs and expenses.Their marriage,perfect to begin with,was under a considerable strain now,what with Mike’s terrible work hours and Sandra’s job as a children’s nurse.It was rare to catch them together at home,one would always be away.Lately,Mike had noticed that Sandra seemed preoccupied with something and always came home much later than her shift ended.He had tried asking her about this a couple of times,but she had remained evasive.
Outside the window,the raindrops began falling with a little more enthusiasm now.Mike snored on,blissfully oblivious to everything.He turned to shift sides and in doing so,knocked over a glass of water over the newspaper.The seeping liquid slowly blurred the black words from the white background.For the past several months,reports had been arriving of mysterious deaths.The victims were all women and the cause of death was almost always a fatal neck wound.In most cases,the bodies had been found without a head.The cops were as puzzled as the coroners and medical examiners.Nobody had ever seen the perp,so there was no description with the police.The community lived in a state of total fear,anybody could be the next victim.It was just a matter of time.

Sandra knew that she was being foolish,walking home all alone on a night like this,nonwithstanding the reports.She looked above at the sky,now menacingly black with angry flashes of lightning in between.As the rain fell on her face,she increased her pace.At this moment,she just wanted to be home.She wanted to snuggle up to her husband under the covers on the mahogany bed.The torrid affair with Jim was mere desperation,Mike was the only man she would ever love.Now,hurrying through the desolate street,Sandra made a decision.She would come clean.No more lies,no more far fetched explanations.She would tell Mike everything and clear her conscience.
Wait.
What was that?
Something had darted behind her.She could feel her heartbeat escalating.Gulping nervously,she turned.
“Oh god,it’s you Officer.You scared the hell out of me.”
Officer Barnes was on his beat,an overweight man with the face like Santa Claus,frowned at her.
“What are you doing alone on this street,Mrs.Torres?It’s dangerous.Haven’t you heard about the killer?”
“I….I..um was visiting a sick friend Officer.On my way home.Wouldn’t want to end up dead,”she nervously chuckled.
Officer Barnes shifted his weight to the other leg.
“Come on,let me get you home now.”
But Sandra was already leaving.”It’s quite okay Officer.It’s just three blocks from here.I’ll be fine.”
With that,they parted.

Callie and Jake were yelling again.This time,it was a bath towel.Jake had left it on the bedroom floor again.Callie,in the middle of a loudly contested argument,stopped suddenly.
“Hey,isn’t that Mr.Wilson?”
Jake squinted through the window.Sure enough,Sam had just locked the front door and was out on the street.
“What is he doing out there on a night like this?He’ll be soaked.” Callie had forgotten the argument.Jake silently thanked Sam.
“Uh…look hon,if Mr.Wilson wants to go out for a walk,that is entirely his business.” He stepped forward and stumbled onto the wet towel.
He knew from her eyes that her sermon would last all night.

Being lonely is a choice I made.Some people need other people to tell them how nice they are,how pretty they look,how their cooking is the best in the world.That kind of talk makes me sick.All I want is a faithful dog and a television.And I have them.Adults bore me,kids are inconsequential to me and companionship is like a perfuntory appendage.True,I had been married once.But it was a forced decision.I kind of felt bad when Jenna died.She was like a scared mouse around me,never contradicting,always speaking in an inaudible voice.Nice to have around.
Walking in the rain somehow soothes me.When rain is pouring down my head in torrents,I am at my peaceful best.I am actually in search of food for Rover.You see,my little angel eats a lot.A lot.I managed to chain him tonight.Hopefully,I can find something soon.

Sandra almost ran the last two blocks,trying to evade the rain.Her red and blue scarf was soaking wet and useless now.There.She could spot her block.Two more minutes and she would be home,nice and warm.So engrossed was she in scurrying that she failed to notice a small elevation in the ground.She tripped and fell,tasting murky rainwater mixed with dust.She cursed and got up when she had the strange feeling that she was being watched.She looked around.All quiet.She turned to go when something or somebody caught hold of her arm.
She screamed.
“Hey,hey,take it easy,it’s me,Sam.”
Sandra clutched his arm and her terrified gaze met his.
“Oh dear god,it’s you.Sam,something….some..thing has been chasing me.Or looking out for me.I’m so scared.”
Sam guided his hand around her trembling shoulders.
“Now,now.No need to fear.I’ll take you home.I was worried for you,Sandra.”
Bright flashes of lightning shone down upon them.Sandra thought she saw something strange in Sam’s face,but dismissed the thought.As they walked together,a thought struck her.
“Sam,what are you doing here at this time of the night?” She turned to face him.
Sam stood before her,his six foot three inch frame suddenly looking grotesque and frightening in the moonless night.He smiled at the same time as another streak of lightning flashed by.
Then,she saw them.
There they were.Two hideously long and pointed teeth growing on the sides of Sam’s mouth.The smile grew wider,the teeth now fully visible.Sandra could feel her heart stop.
Sam took a step forward.
“Sorry Sandra,you see,Rover is hungry.”
A scream which had worked up her throat stayed inside and Sam grabbed it and gazed at it lovingly.The rain was still pouring as the two gleaming teeth gleefully dug themselves into the white throat.

>That Soapy Feeling

>Some of my soapy observations:

Whenever there is a bereavment in the family,all the characters sport matching white dresses that seem to have sprouted on the spot.Wonder where they procure them from so fast.

When a leading male character gifts his wife/girlfriend a saree which is still yet unopened,the very next moment the wife/girlfriend produces a matching designer blouse with her exact measurements.Telepathy at work?

The female characters of any soap opera are always dressed to the hilt at any given time but even so,whenever they have to go out to buy veggies,they have to “dress up”.

A typical soap opera family almost always consists of aged grandparents,parents,aunts,uncles and their menagerie of children.The children deserve a special mention.If there are two sons,one of them will be the golden boy of the family and the other,the black sheep.If there are daughters too,the eldest is always a God fearing pious soul who tries to set an example for her younger siblings.

The daughter in-law is a very peculiar feature of any soap.There are two kinds of the species.Type One is the Ultra Pativrata Bahu,who will weep at a moment’s notice,bear the insults of her in-laws,forgive any and everybody within three miles of her,leave the house with a suitcase which is always kept packed for cases like these.Type Two is the Wronged Bahu,who is always misunderstood by everyone.Even her smallest intentions are viewed with suspicion.This type of bahu usually transforms into the vamp.

The vamp(no connection to Luigi Vampa) is perhaps the most colorful and snappy characters of any soap.They wear the most outgrageous outfits and accessories and their heavy kohl lined eyes do most of the talking.They get to have the most fun,what with treating their in-laws like dust,heaping insults on anybody who is less than a vamp,take delight in harrassing the Type One Bahu and indulge their grey cells in cooking up the most ingenious schemes to turn everybody out of the house.They are usually taken down a peg or two in the end by their long suffering spouses and/or the Type One Bahu.

The characters always have a family business which is flourishing nicely till the Black Sheep (refer to point four) decides to enter into it.Then,it all goes downhill and while Black Sheep goes baa-ing all over the place,the rest of the characters tear their carefully set hair in anguish.

A soap opera house is not a house.It is Buckingham Palace’s grandfather.Their houses are big enough to conduct two large scale weddings simultaneously.I always wonder,who the hell manages to keep it so spick and span at all times?The poor servants of the gargantuan household receive no mention other than being summoned to hear an earful from the Vamp.Ramu kaka is the eternal name for any servant of the house.He is almost always old,hobbling,has an unmarried daughter and a wayward drunk for a son.The Type One bahu is the one who usually bails him out.

Most of the female characters never work in any soap opera.I never did understand why.

The older characters are medical miracles.For instance,the reigning Ba of a popular serial lived for almost five hundred years.They just simply refuse to die.The rest of the soap keeps on taking generation leaps by leaps and bounds;other characters get replaced;new faces come in and they too leave after the next leap but our in house Dadaji and Dadiji stay put.They should be taken in by our cricket team.Abhi to boht centuries baaki hai mere dost.It is as if our soap opera makers have discovered some sort of a herb or tonic which preserves youth.That explains why even after the children of the lead pair have grown up and have kids of their own who in turn grow up,the parents and grandparents still look Just Married.

God save us all from these soaps.I am switching to bodywashes.

>Short story-Forty Minutes(fiction)

>
It was probably the worst day of the businessman’s life.A very lucrative deal had just slipped from his fingers,he had been told by his boss to “rethink” his options before coming to office again and the icing on the cake was the divorce petition filed by his wife,who had had enough of his erratic schedules and high handedness.
So here he was,clearing out his office,muttering profanities every now and then.A chance reflection in the mirror re-acquainted him with himself.A haggard looking,tired thirty seven year old man,with severely depleting hair,an impending divorce and an uncertain future.
It was fairly late at night when he staggered into the parking lot.There it was,a shiny black Honda City.His baby.He remembered loving it more than his own kid.The thought of losing his only child cut through his heart like a bullet through butter.Misfortunes,as they say,come uninvited and in large numbers.His baby wouldn’t start,no matter how hard he tried.Frustrated beyond belief,he aimed a well delivered kick at the car and started walking towards the exit.The nearest bus stop was about half a kilometer away.As he walked,the businessman thought about his life.
* * * * * *
“Please,one more time grandpa,”cried the excited child.His grandfather,an old wizened man smiled wearily,creasing the sides of his mouth.This was the child’s first trip to the local fair,and he had been excited about the prospect all week long.It was his seventh birthday today and his grandfather wanted to spare no expenses to make it memorable for him.
“No baba,you’ve been on this ride enough number of times.It’s getting late now,we may miss our bus home.” The child gingerly stepped out of the hanging car and grabbed his crutches.The right leg was alright,the left had been smashed by a drunk driver last year and when gangrene set in,the government doctor had chopped the leg from the knee joint.The duo started walking slowly,the grandfather stooping and wheezing breaths in between,the child hobbling but smiling throughout.They did not have much,a small stone hut,a few kind neighbors around and the paltry pension of the grandfather.But they did have one thing beyond any measure.And that was love.
* * * * * *
The businessman cursed all the gods he knew as he sat in the dingy bus,now thankfully devoid of crowds.Just a few people,a college girl chewing gum,two worn out budding musicians,the conductor and a middle aged man.The businessman’s thoughts were entirely on the divorce proceedings which would commence two days hence.At this conjecture,he wanted to have total custody of his son.He was so lost in his thoughts he did not even notice when the bus stopped to pick up new passengers.When he finally decided his rebuttal in court and some of the smugness returned to his face,he looked at the two new faces seated across him.
Like all people,his eyes strayed to the crutches and then to the empty socket where the leg should have been.”Poor kid,what a wretched life,”thought he and looked out of the window.A marriage procession was going along the opposite side of the road.The businessman gazed at the happy revelers, the bursting crackers and the radiating face of the bridegroom.He wanted to shout out,”Don’t.Don’t get married.It’s all a great big lie.” But something held him back.Swirling memories of his own wedding came back to him and he hastily withdrew his eyes from the street.The grandfather smiled at him.He managed a half smile.The child,eyes glistening like diamonds smiled next.The businessman got tired of smiling.He was about to gaze at the street again when he felt the touch of a small hand in his.The child had extended his hand with a small candy,like the ones found in fairs.
“It’s my birthday today.We’re returning from the fair now.My first visit.”
The candy was duly accepted with a startled thanks.As he ate it,he thought of the umpteen times his son had come up to him with the hope of receiving a hopeful word of praise,a hug or simply a look of love.His heart ached for his son now,but it was too late for anything.He glanced at his watch.Twenty minutes till home.The child turned to the grandfather.
“Dada,for my next birthday,I want to go to that fancy city mall and watch a movie.Will you take me?” This brought forth a sad knowing sigh from the old man.He patted the child reassuringly and silently wiped a tear from his eyes.Next year was too far away,he did not know how they would survive the next week.He’d spent a considerable amount on taking his grandson to the fair and treating him to a few delicacies.The kid deserved a good birthday,at least.But now,they were close to broke.Maybe Ramlal would lend them some money to last the week.Earlier,the thought of asking for monetary help from neighbors would have been an anathema to the old man,but now,basic necessities had upstaged pride.The child continued his banter about how wonderful the fair was and gleefully recounted how he won himself a blue teddy bear by throwing hoops.The businessman glanced at the teddy bear clutched tightly in the boy’s hands.His heart gave another mighty tug as memories flooded through him.He never had time for his little boy.All his time was spent in the office,creating meaningless presentations he did not believe in to impress people he did not care about.Money does strange things to people,and in his case,it made him completely deaf and blind to his family.True,he had a hefty bank balance,almost as fat as his waist circumference but he no longer recognized his wife and son.They were simply persona non grata.He had everything,yet nothing.The old man and his grandson had nothing,yet they were richer than he ever would be.
* * * * * * *
The bus stopped.The girl and the musicians got down.A sudden bout of coughing engulfed the old man and left him gasping for breath as he recovered.The child,just about to drink the last of water from his bottle,stopped and handed it over to his grandfather.The old man drank the water and patted the child on his head,who promptly leaned over and kissed him on the cheek.Their eyes met,a smile of contentment reached their hearts.The bus stopped once more.The two got up slowly and went up to the door.As an afterthought,the child turned to the businessman and waved with his little brown arm and got off the bus.
A warm glow,unlike anything the businessman had ever felt before,slowly made its way from his heart to his face.A beatific smile lit his face as he suddenly understood what he had to do.An old man and a little boy on a bus had taught him one of life’s most important lessons in a matter of forty minutes,something that years of therapy had failed to do.As he leaned on his arm,letting the cool night air breeze by,he felt a dead weight fall off his chest.The bus jerked to a stop.As he got down,the businessman had made a decision.He walked towards his house with a light step and a light heart.