Posts Tagged ‘fun’

Looking for what’s not there. And missing what’s there.

Now that I think of it, maybe my wife had been waiting at the door for long, expecting a beaming smile and a warm hug from me. But at that moment, I was seething with rage at our building watchman. He had gone missing just when I wanted someone to help me carry my overloaded bags from the cab to the elevator.

I was probably frowning when I got out of the elevator at my floor. Maybe that’s why she sacrificed the idea of a warm reunion, and settled to holding my bags instead of me.

“How’s mom?” she asked, as I entered our home muttering curse words at the watchman.

“Mom?” I shot back irritated, as I roughly kicked the bags in, as if they were the watchman. “What about her?”

There was silence.

I looked up and saw her glaring. It struck me only then.

My mom’s health, of course! That’s why I had rushed from my home in Mumbai to my hometown off Chennai, a month ago!

Why do intelligent men become stupid husbands!

There’s nothing like good old humour to cover up your goofs. Provided it’s funny. So, I tried.

“Oh, yes! Motherland is safe! Enemies- Sugar, Potassium and Sodium have been pushed back to their normal levels,” I said, gesturing and sounding like a General who’s made enemy troops retreat in a battle.

When I didn’t hear her laugh, I turned around to see if she was at least smiling. She was glaring.

Where humour fails, intellect works. Mostly.

So I dumped on her all the medical gibberish that the doc had thrown at me, without really knowing what they meant and hoping she wouldn’t ask for explanations.

“Come on Rum, what I want to know is whether mom’s back to being herself,” she stopped me mid-way, countering intellect with emotion.

“Is she sleeping well? Eating well? Smiling again? Is her sense of humour back? Has she become her ruthlessly frank self, calling a spade a sword? Has she begun to fight with the gardener over her favourite plants again?”

I stared blankly.

Suddenly, I felt regret plunge into my heart, like a dagger.

“Er…I don’t know. I didn’t notice.”

“Ok, at least tell me if she has begun to laugh the loudest at her son’s insipid jokes?”

The dagger sank further in.

“Umm…I forgot to joke with her this time,” I said, rather dumbly.

My wife stopped and stared intently at me.

“Then what did you do there? A full month with your aging mother in a home that you spent all your best childhood years! Don’t tell me you just wasted the opportunity away! Surely, you created some wonderful fresh memories this time?”

Every word made me bleed more. How on earth did I miss to see this as an opportunity!

In fact, things had begun well. So very well.

I had reached the hospital only to be told by a cheerful doc that everything was fine and my mom could go home in a day or two. I had felt happy, and relieved enough to joke.

“Ah, are you telling me I came all the way here for nothing! False alarm, eh?”

All silences that follow jokes are terrible. This one was deathly.

It was an ICU. Grim patients stared back at my insensitivity. My mom glared through her Oxygen mask. And the cheerful doc lost his cheer and walked away.

My wife’s right. My jokes are good. Just that they are told at the wrong place at the wrong time to the wrong people.

Soon, my mom and I were back in my childhood home. For the first few days, I was obsessed with her medicines, bland diet and postures of sitting, walking, sleeping. All I was talking about was her illness.

Now that I think back, she did make feeble attempts to make me see beyond that.

She had asked for our old albums and home videos. But I dismissed them with some careless remarks.

“Oh, they are dusty. They will start you on a sneezing bout!”

“Oh, they are heavy and in the loft. The last thing we want is a sprained back!”

Every time she started a conversation about my childhood, I’d say, “Oh come on, why do you strain yourself talking. You have told this story a million times before. Get well. And we will all come back to listen to your old stories, see those albums and watch those videos together…some day.”

Never pausing to think: What if that some day never comes?

Or: Why can’t that some day be today?

The only time I came close to making the most of that stay was when one evening she and I took a small stroll around the house. I saw mango trees laden with mangoes, flowering plants in full bloom and a jackfruit tree braving the weight of three massive jackfruits.

Memories of my brother and I running around those trees when they were much smaller, flooded me. We had played cricket there, broken flower pots, got yelled at, seen snakes, counted birds, chased butterflies, listened and giggled at mom talking to her plants…

I yelled out to mom wanting to remind her of those days. We could have spent the next couple of hours talking and laughing about it, and probably set the tone for my whole stay there.

But it was not to be.

As she walked cautiously over dried leaves and pebbles to where I was, I spotted a bare stalk on the jackfruit tree. Clearly, someone had cut a jackfruit from it.

In a matter of seconds all that nostalgia and emotion were swept away without a trace, by anger. By the time my mom came near me, I was all worked up.

“Someone’s stolen our jackfruit!” I said.

She stared back at me, looked up at the tree for a few moments and explained, “Some branches grow barren.”

“No, I have been seeing jackfruit trees for 54 years! I know,” I argued.

“And I for 76!” she said, trying to clinch it with experience.

“I know people better than you do,” I was in no mood to give up. “I’m sure the gardener stole it when we were in the hospital.”

“Look, he would never do that. And even if he did, it’s after all a jackfruit,” she tried to bargain human values with economic value.

“No way. Today it’s this, tomorrow it will get bigger!” I tried to scare her into acceptance.

“What? The jackfruit?” she joked, hoping I’d laugh. (Like son, like mother!)

“No, his theft,” I explained.

Logic is a bigger joke-ruiner than silence.

“How can you blame someone without being sure?”

“It can’t be anyone else. I’ll prove it to you.”

That’s how my next twenty days with my mom in my childhood home was wasted away.

All I could think and talk about was the missing jackfruit. All I did was try and trap a thief who was no thief.

I left the three fully grown and ripe jackfruits in the tree as baits, and spent many sleepless nights peering into darkness through small openings in windows. I threw crisp dried leaves around the tree and ran at their slightest crackle, only to see a snake slither away or a squirrel dive in.

Couple of nights I even made my recuperating mom take turns and stay awake.

Every time I spoke to the gardener, the words were laced with stinging innuendoes. Not that he got it.

But at the end of it all, I had to leave without solving the whodunnit.

The jackfruits left as baits rotted in the tree and fell off. I spent a whole day plucking all the mangoes even before they were ready, so that none would be left to steal. As my mom was advised not to eat ripe fruits, I packed all of them in my bags and carried them to Mumbai- even paying a huge amount for the extra baggage on the flight.

“Ramesh sir was not his usual self. He was cold and preoccupied throughout. He behaved quite strangely this trip. Maybe your illness had upset him,” the old gardener told my mom after I left.

Back in Mumbai, as I now sat on my bags full of mangoes and contemplated on the stupidity of the whole thing, my phone beeped a message.

It was from my mom.

It said: “I was the one who took that ripe jackfruit on the tree, one afternoon when you were asleep. Sorry it ruined your stay here. But honestly, the jackfruit was so so good, it was worth it!”

I felt like crying. But ended up laughing out loud at her joke. For the first time in months.

I sent her an LOL. But how I wish she could’ve heard me.

I called out to my wife.

“Nothing to worry. Mom’s back being her sarcy self!”

In love? With love or loved one?

Here’s the thing about my wife and me.

After 22 years of our marriage, we might not know when to say what, but we know very well when not to say what.

So, five days ago when my wife asked, “Shall we go out for coffee?” I instantly said, “Yes, why not.” It should logically have been, “But why?” because both of us hate the coffee at coffee shops. We believe we make the world’s best coffee at home. She, hers. I, mine.

But that’s the way it is with us.

It’s never about what’s said, always about what’s unsaid.

So, for no said reason, but for a very big unsaid one, there we were, last Friday evening, walking up to the coffee shop down our road.

Sorry sir, you need to have something red on you. There’s a dress code for today.”

I was stopped at the door rudely, like an immigrant without a passport.

With a WTF expression, I turned around to look at my wife beside me, as if she owed me an explanation to this nonsense.

She wasn’t there. She was already in. A red stole that I had never noticed before, now prominently draped around her neck. She rolled her eyes that left the “I have given up on you!” unsaid. She took out a red handkerchief from her handbag with a flourish that one only sees in magic shows, and I was in.

Ah, so you knew the code?” I asked sheepishly.

No, I knew the date,” she said as we proceeded to the counter.

Today isn’t 9th November, so it can’t be your birthday for sure!” I said and laughed at my own joke, like the smiley people insert after messages.

Even if it were, my birthday would only be tomorrow,” she said.

Oh yeah! 10th November! Slip of the tongue,” I said, biting my lip.

As we waited at the counter to get our order right, I glanced around for our seats.

The cafe was almost full. Filled with gushing, giggling youngsters- couples in love. Most of them barely as old as our children. The whole cafe was an overdose of red, hearts and mush. For a moment it seemed that the whole world had abruptly turned love-struck and young. Until, I caught my distorted reflection in the glass window. It assured me that life wasn’t a fantasy.

When done, we chose the first available seats. Usually, I choose the one facing the TV and she chooses the one facing the people. Not because I love watching TV, but because she loves watching people and I hate people watching me.

Aren’t you wondering what all this fuss is about?” she asked looking around, as soon as we settled down.

Oh, it’s just a marketing gimmick,” I said. “Youngsters are suckers for atmospheres. Create one with loud music, psychedelic lights and suffocating smoke, and everything illegal becomes a hip thing to do. Create one of love and romance, and people are more than willing to go all lovey-dovey. The occasion becomes so overwhelming that most people are overawed by it and go about like cupid zombies. It makes them do stupid things. Like proposing. Worse, accepting. Look at that,” I said pointing to a table.

A boy had just then gone down on his knees in theatrical fashion and proposed to his girl, extending a rose and then flipping a ring under her nose.

We watched the girl blush on cue and pretend to have been completely surprised by his love, this proposal and the gift. With eyes welling up- with tears of joy I presumed, and not with the disappointment of the rock turning out to be smaller than she had imagined- she uttered a yes, and it was his turn to show that this was the most unexpected answer.

They hugged and kissed. We were the only ones watching. The others were busy with their own acts of romance.

How could a grown up man- okay, grown up boy- go down on his knees and plead: Will you marry me? And how could anyone say yes to a beggar of love. Love can’t be asked for, it needs to be earned, elicited, evoked, made to feel. The problem is that people fall in love with love more than each other. In love, like most things human, people miss the soul and hold on to the frills that come with it.”

How would you know! You never proposed to me.” she said.

My dad did,” I protested.

Yes, to my dad. And after they said yes to each other, do you know where you took me out for our first date?”

There were no coffee shops around those days,” I said in my defense.

Maybe, but surely, there were beaches, gardens, malls and movies? Of all the places, you took me to the Automobile Association of India’s office. There we sat at untouchable distance from each other on a rickety old wooden bench, cobwebs dangling from the ceiling threatening to fall on our heads, in an office full of dusty files and bored clerks on the verge of retirement.”

Ah, you remember all of it, so vividly,” I said trying to bring a little glee to the proceedings.

How could any girl forget such an experience,” she said.

Did she say forget or forgive? I wasn’t going to ask for sure.

Tell me, do you also remember our marathon call that would put all these What’s Apping youngsters to shame?”

Of course, from 10 in the night to 4 in the morning. I was on the phone when my dad went to sleep and I was on the phone when he woke up in the morning. It sounds so romantic, but do you know, I was yawning away at the other end? Because all you did for those 6 hours was describe your family tree- a large one at that. Who was who, and why the whos were so special. In such detail that by the end of it, I could have written biographies of them.”

And what about my love letters to you,” I asked excitedly.

Love letters? Where was the love? I remember every word of all the letters you wrote in the four months between our engagement and wedding. The most boring ones any man could have ever written to a woman. I’ve preserved them for posterity. One day they would make a great book titled What To Expect From Life After Marriage.”

Are you serious? You still have my letters?”

Yes, all 37 of them!”

And for the next 45 minutes, all through our coffee and our trip back home, she narrated parts of those letters. Agreed, they were terribly unromantic.

But even after 22 years they made her laugh, tease, ridicule and talk for that long. And I played along, like I have all these years, in the know that I have made this Valentine’s Day, unforgettable for her, in my own unique way.

I don’t know if the boy and the girl at the cafe that day would remember that cafe or the readymade card they exchanged, or the gift he gave her, 22 years from now.

But I am sure on every Valentine’s Day, they would be dressed in red, sitting at some fancy place that has hearts strewn all over and soaking in the perfect atmosphere for love.

I only hope it is with each other.

Good, by failing to be bad

Can you run a race while singing a lullaby?

Can you climb a steep ladder while changing a baby’s diapers?

I couldn’t.

At just 32, I was running a vicious rat race, climbing spiral corporate ladders and desperately vying for the world’s best husband award, all at the same time, when the nurse interrupted to announce, “It’s a boy!”

Until then, bundles of joy had only meant cash incentives at office, to me. Until then, babies had meant only baby girls to my wife- how could Barbie be a boy!

But that announcement changed everything.

Nothing mattered anymore, because our minds were doing synchronized cartwheels in celebration. Perhaps, a bit prematurely, for we were unaware of what was to follow the first child.

No, not a twin.

Parenthood.

Ever figured out why there are no training institutions, personal coaches or holy scriptures for parenthood- a job that puts the future of this planet at stake?

Or why, in a world where we can’t drive without a licence, where we can’t build a bridge without a degree, and where it’s illegal to even heal a dying man without qualifications, it is perfectly okay to be responsible for the birth, growth and life of a human being, with no prior experience, qualification, assurance or expertise?

Look for help, and you’ll find more books about making babies than about bringing them up.

Ask the much-experienced for tips, and you will get absolutely polarized views.

If one says, “Spare the rod, and spoil the child,” the other says, “Use the rod, and lose the child.”

In an environment that was as unsupportive as that, my wife and I began learning to be parents based on Trial & Error- an obsolete methodology that has for long been discarded from every professional set up, now practised only in lucky-dips, lotteries and marriages.

Nineteen years and two sons later, I realized we had committed so many errors that I could easily fill a book bulkier than the Bible with What Not To Do In Parenting.

A few months ago, on a particularly bright enthusiastic day, motivated by my wife’s “Let the world benefit from our blunders” plea, I made the cardinal sin of blogging an abridged version of those Don’ts.

I started by stating the golden rule of parenthood: Do the exact opposite of what you think is right!

As an indulgent writer, I even went on to explain that.

When my older son was around cola-demanding age, we thought it right to blanket ban cola from our home. We thought we had won the cola war, until we discovered that our boy had been going on a cola binge at family gatherings, birthday parties, neighbours’ homes and everywhere out of our home. It was by then too late to correct him. Today he can be classified as a colaholic.

For the second one, we changed strategies. We never said no to him. We gave him an overdose of cola, so much of it that we hoped he would get fed up of it. We waited for that day when he would throw up at the mere sight of cola. We waited and waited for years. That day never came. In the process, he has grown into an incurable cola junkie today.

Only bright spot of our failed experiments in parenting is- offer the kids cocaine and cola, and they’d any day choose cola.

I never knew the world had so many parents waiting for a new post with a parenting tag every day. The response to my post was fast and furious.

Dear doctor,” wrote one, “I have been bringing up my kid for the last 10 years exactly the way you have asked us not to. I am now a nervous wreck. Am I creating a Frankenstein? What should I do? Is there an antidote? Please advise.”

Why do people assume that books are written only by experts? To sound less like a trained child psychologist and more like a clueless dad, I changed that title to: Ramblings of a hapless dad

It didn’t help. From a dad I knew, came this comment: “Dear Ramesh, I have brought up my daughter exactly the same way as you have advised us not to. And I am proud to say that she is the one who has topped your son’s batch this year.”

That’s when I realized how difficult it is to generalize parenting.

One man’s Dos are another man’s Don’ts.

That would have remained my first-and-only attempt to warn would-be parents about parenting, had I not gone for a recent family function and met my niece’s husband.

He is an engineer. He lives in Mauritius. He enjoys good food. He plays chess. He loves cricket. He misses no movies. And yes, he is on the verge of fatherhood.

Of all those common interests we had, he chose to pick my weakest, “So, Ramesh uncle, any tips on fatherhood?”

Now, uncles can be bald, fat, grey, boring, clumsy and terrible to converse with, but they just can’t afford to be unwise. Ever.

“Tips? Of course, plenty!” I said, pretending to prepare for a long and tiring sermon, in reality, hoping that it would scare him and give him enough time, reason and opportunity to escape.

But he is a sincere fellow. He didn’t, and I was forced to begin.

What started off as gibberish, somewhere in the middle picked up steam and started becoming relevant, and finally when it ended, I don’t know about him, but I was mighty impressed with myself.

Pardon my lack of modesty, but I today consider it as the best treatise on parenthood that I have ever come across.

Judge for yourself.

Here it is, in full:

Parenthood can be divided into 4 stages.

  1. Correcting their wrong (0 to until they walk):

Only babies have the privilege of doing the yuckiest things and yet be termed chochweet, cute and adorable. They will pee and shit on the bed and on us, and bawl to wake us up at unearthly hours. Good parenting is all about becoming sleepless zombies, mastering the art of changing diapers and soiled bedsheets, while singing a lullaby and feeding the baby.

  1. Preventing their wrong (Until they talk):

Once they are mobile, their wrongs extend as far as their hands can reach. Good parenting at this stage is all about prevention, about out-thinking the baby or simply being faster on the draw. So, fish tanks go one shelf higher as wobbly legs learn to stand on their own, glass bottles disappear in the nick of time before chubby hands reach them, electric sockets get plugged to avoid little fingers completing high voltage circuits, and sharp edges get cushioned by palms just before baldie bangs on them.

  1. Explaining their wrong (Until they balk):

Babies become kids when they begin to talk. Their wrongs are now beyond correction and prevention, and require a change of heart. Good parenting becomes all about the skill of reasoning, and the ability to hold a one-to-one conversation with someone you share no logic with, and whose attention span is 4.05 seconds- the average time between two Facebook alerts.

  1. Discovering we were wrong (Until the end):

When children become adults, every deed of theirs- good and bad- becomes a rude reminder of our follies and stupidities. Everything we thought was right would have gone wrong, and everything we thought would go wrong would have turned out right. Basically, we would have gone wrong about both the right and the wrong. Good parenting here is all about graciously accepting life’s biggest goof up.

Exasperated with the anticlimax, my niece’s husband simply asked, “Ramesh uncle, in essence, what are you saying? Is there no formula for bringing up good children?”

Now, anything that sounds impressive in longform can sound hollow and empty when summed up in a line as an essence. Does “Jesus Suffers, Jesus Saves!” justify the Bible?

However, there are days when you just can’t go wrong. That day was one such day.

In a sudden fit of inspiration, I said, “Those who starve are prone to binge!”

His eyes widened as if he had just seen a halo appear around me.

His silence told me that he was expecting a halo-befitting explanation, which at that moment, I didn’t have. But in the next, I magically got.

(I discovered that I think better not while thinking, but while talking.)

“Goodness by constraints and restrictions is no permanent goodness.” I thundered forth thinking.

“For no will is strong enough, no resolve fierce enough, to stave off all the world’s evil for a lifetime. Pent up evil is like a volcano waiting to erupt. Sometime in life, it will and how. That’s why, very often good children grow up to become terrible adults, and terrible children grow up to become good adults.”

I took time off to drink a glass of juice that passed by, so that I could end well what had started well.

“The basic mistake is, we as parents assume all children are born good, and thus spend all our lives to protect them against the bad, to keep them away from the evil. We forget that it can never be done for too long, never too well. Instead, if we assume that all children are born bad, all our efforts would go into luring them to goodness, and making values desirable. If we succeed in making them feel good about being good and bad about being bad, the job would be done. For, only those who become good because they failed to be bad will remain good forever. The goodness that comes from the failure of the evil is the real goodness, the only permanent goodness.”

As I finished, he rose and touched my feet to seek my blessings. As I was blessing him, through the corner of my eye, I spied my kids at the bar. They were having an argument with the bartender, drunk on cola.

Thank God, the father-to-be was too bent in devotion to notice.

A child prodigy at 50 and bit


I dislike two things about child prodigies.

One, that they are children.

Two, that they have pesky parents.

Let me explain.

Child and prodigy to me is like child and facial hair. They don’t sit well on the tongue, do they?

Incongruous, to say the least.

At an age when they should be displaying child-like fragilities, they are accomplishing adult tasks.

Sad.

I can never understand why this world is in such a hurry to turn children into adults, when it’s the adults who should be trying to become children all over again.

Parents have got to take the blame.

Most parents look at children as start-up ideas, born to them in bedrooms, car back-seats or elevators. Much like garage-born enterprises.

They turn into aggressive marketers, and unabashedly hard sell their products.

Never before! Never again!

A child like no other!

In a world where USPs are invented if they don’t exist, any semblance of prodigious talent is godsend and exploited to the hilt. I have been a forced consumer of this nonsense a couple of times. That, I must confess, is the closest I have ever come to any prodigious talent.

I remember two instances.

“Darling, see who’s come! Ramesh uncle!”

Her parents expected her to shriek with joy from inside, and come running to hug me.

But nothing happened.

“Now, stop playing with that stupid doll and come here. Uncle wants to ask you something.”

Turning to me, they whispered as if it was the world’s biggest discovery being let out before going public, “You know she is just five and can name the capitals of 196 countries!”

My eyes widened and jaw dropped, in surprise.

“Oh, are there that many countries in this world?” I nearly asked, but fortunately swallowed my misplaced surprise at the last moment.

When the prodigy finally appeared, ironically, all eyes turned towards me for the performance.

The script was clear.

I was supposed to ask tough, intelligent questions and be blown away by her instant answer.

But what the hell do I ask?

I would look stupid and would be insulting her if I asked her the capital of America, India or England.

So I racked my brain and came up with this:

“What’s the capital of Waidhofen an der Ybbs?”

There was silence, as ignorant parents stared at their dumbfounded prodigy in disbelief.

She had never taken this long for anything.

Was this the moment of truth? Was she just another ordinary child?

Those must have been the terrible thoughts running through her parents’ minds, when the prodigy, to my great relief, spoke.

“Uncle, Waidhofen an der Ybbs is a city!”

I recovered faster than I thought I would. In the process discovering some hidden prodigious skills in me, too. That’s the thing about age. It teaches you how to fake intelligence.

“Ah, terrific. Of course, I know. I was only testing you!”

There was general relief all around. I felt like a winner myself, having encountered a prodigy and come out unscathed.

In another house on another day, it was a boy.

He could answer mathematical questions in seconds, his parents boasted, and invited me for a duel. These are the only duels one goes to hoping that the other wins. Who wants to be the guy who fails a prodigy and kills his parents’ dream!

“Ask!” they shouted, like the gong that gets gladiators going.

“Square root of 36?”

Answered.

Parents threw a oh-come-on-ask-better-questions look at me.

“Square root of 625?”

Answered.

This wouldn’t be done until I asked something impossible, I knew.

So.

“Square root of 52748438147344?”

“7275412!” comes the answer in an instant.

I break into a well-rehearsed jump, cheer and exclamation, making it look like an impromptu one. Parents were beaming, and I was hoping we would get on to more exciting rituals like tea and snacks, when the dreaded prodigy interrupted.

“Sorry, uncle. It is 7262812.”

There was an awkward silence. The prodigy had made a mistake for the first time in his life!

Unaware, I was celebrating even after their world had fallen silent.

Did I overdo it?

I recovered in time, and displayed more prodigious skills.

Age, I tell you!

“My God, he is terrific. Not only does he know the right answers, he also knows what is wrong!”

None got it. Not even the dumb prodigy. But it worked. Celebration broke out again in that household.

Some would say I am envious of child prodigies, and this post is a case of sour grapes.

Not entirely untrue.

But my point is that it is okay to be born with prodigious talent, but aren’t those freaks a bit unidimensional and stagnant?

They seem to have arrived in life even before they have begun. That’s why they have nowhere to go. That might be the reason why we never hear about these child prodigies after they grow up.

Ever wondered what happens to such talent? Do they just fade away? Or like the fabled tortoise, does the rest of the slow world catch up? Or do they just become big bores, doing the same thing all their life? I mean, how many times can one ask tough questions, listen to instant answers and jump with surprise!

On the other hand, look at inferior beings. They are always in transit. Their present is always more dynamic and they will always have a future to look forward to, because they have so many to catch up with and so much to improve on.

So tell me, who deserves the world’s respect?

Someone who is bestowed with abundant talent by some queer gene mix-ups at birth?

Or someone who, through effort, stretches his modest capabilities a little further everyday, to keep progressing?

Take me, for instance.

See how much I have grown and progressed from childhood.

I now have a bigger belly, scarce-but-nice silver hair and a higher BMI than when I was a child.

I also play better chess, sing better in bathrooms, have read more, written more and know more than when I was 20. Even my harshest critics say that I have become less nasty, less illogical and less annoying than last year.

Why, even my wife says I am getting better at…okay, let’s not go there.

A clear sign that I am on my way to becoming a prodigy is at our dining table. Every night, I wait impatiently for my kids to finish their victory stories of the day and their attempts to tell me that they are budding prodigies, because I have my own and much much more to tell them.

The only problem with becoming a prodigy at this age is that your family is least interested in marketing you. You have to do it all by yourself. Look at me.

But believe me, it’s a far better space to me in at 50 and bit, than at five.

Yawn, but don’t sleep

“Watching people sleep!”

Now, that was an embarrassing answer to give someone who asked, “So what’s your hobby, son?”

Especially in the early 1970s, when the popular answers were:

“Reading.”

“Cycling.”

“Swimming.”

“Pen Pals.”

As an activity-challenged kid, I knew that.

Which is why, I became creatively inclined to lie.

“Quizzing,” I had once said.

Only to be asked, “Good! Can you name a mammal that lays eggs?”

(That’s the difference between kids and adults. Kids ask questions only if they don’t know the answers. Adults ask questions only if they know the answers, and are sure the other doesn’t.)

“Collecting rare, old coins,” I had said the next time, to avoid being quizzed.

But when someone insisted on seeing my collection, I had to lie again.

“Sorry uncle, it’s gone for album making!”

The worst thing about such lies was that people switched to these as birthday gifts from then on.

Oh, how I hated an album of old, rusty coins instead of a gleaming red toy car!

All this, because I was too embarrassed to admit that my real hobby was- well, watching people sleep.

Not that all kids always did purposeful things.

Considering that little Bill Gates had, perhaps, simply stared at windows, Jim Morrison at doors, Steve Jobs at apples and Steven Spielberg at jaws, little Ramesh Rabindranath wasn’t too bad.

After all, sleep looked like a mystery that hadn’t been fully unravelled yet.

There was something about the way people snored, the way their torsos heaved and their lips quivered, in sleep.

“Sleeping like a baby!” seemed a description that begged deeper investigation.

After wasting many productive hours, I came to the conclusion that sleep is nothing but the human soul in a state of absolute innocence.

“Every soul becomes pure and pristine in slumber. Only in slumber.” I derived.

If true, this finding had the potential to become a world-changing one.

All jails and reform homes could become sleeping spas, where culprits could simply be made to sleep to goodness.

Sounded great. But like fate, was flawed.

The first time I sensed this was when I was 12 and my brother 8.

We had had a fight and I had sworn revenge.

After he had slept, I decided to creep up to his desk and destroy a few of his favourite toys. But when I saw him sleep- mouth open, drooling, helpless and surrendered, I changed my mind.

How can you trick someone who sleeps in total faith that no wrong will happen to his world?

I forgave him.

But the next morning, I felt cheated when he told me how he saw a wonderful dream wherein he beat me to pulp and broke all my toys.

I realised dreams can be vicious, and that it was possible for a person to be more evil in sleep than when awake.

My hobby suddenly lost all its sheen.

But not my belief.

I was certain that there would be a moment- however small, insignificant and fleeting- when even the worst soul in the world would be in a state of absolute goodness.

If it wasn’t sleep, then it must be something else. And it had to be discovered. For the greater good of the world.

Bill Gates founded Microsoft, Jim Morrison formed Doors, Steve Jobs started Apple and Spielberg made Jaws.

I discovered the Yawn.

Yes, the Yaaawwwwn.

Rediscovered it.

Unlike sleep, yawning wasn’t corrupted by dreams. Or even thoughts, for it is difficult to think or do anything while yawning.

“The yawn is the purest state of the human mind!” I yelled for posterity, in a second attempt to have my life’s Eureka moment recorded. 

I had discovered the magic of this precursor to sleep by sheer accident.

I used to sell Life Insurance at that time. As all salesmen know, understanding the body language of the customer is everything.

When the customer smiles too much, it means he is struggling to be polite, but might not succeed for long.

When he widens his eyes, it means he is not interested, only pretending to be interested.

When he nods too much, it means he is happily agreeing with you because he has just bought one the previous day.

And yes, when he yawns, it means he is bored.

Or so the world thought.

Until I discovered how child-like the human mind can be while yawning.

When a man yawns, his mask falls, his defenses are lowered, poise crumbles, best-profile contorts, and he stands disarmed and vulnerable.

Most of my sales were based on the exploitation of this moment, summed up as a mantra thus:

“If you make them yawn, even the toughest would relent.”

Ask any army man. He’d tell you that sleep deprivation is one of the most popular techniques to make captured enemies spill secrets.

People yawn secrets out.

That’s the thing about yawns.

It has the ability to make even the gravest issues worthless. It makes our point of view meaningless, and the fight for it seem silly.

That’s because the yawn brings a universal perspective to everything, making our immediate attitude, thoughts and deeds seem petty in the larger scheme of things.

It is difficult to be cruel, envious and negative when you yawn.

Try it.

Think about it.

Do you think a yawning man can ever rape?

Steal?

Or back stab?

Have you ever seen a terrorist yawn?

Never.

Yawning is an act of self-realisation, of actualisation.

If only more people yawned more often and longer, every soul would become a noble one. And this world would be such a good place to live in.

At least until people go to sleep and begin to dream those terrible dreams.

New, Improved Nature! Almost.

 

Thanks to stories, lies and the unbound imagination of a child, nothing in our heads at that age are absolute truths. They are either pure fantasies, or facts liberally mixed with fiction.

What a wonderful hub of creativity that little head is! A potent mix of ignorance, innocence and imagination.

Unfortunately, most of those early scripts that we write and co-write in our heads, fade away with that terrible destroyer of all, called age.

Some are reasoned out by the rising influence of intelligence. This tyrant is merciless on the illogical and the unproven.

But a lucky few myths escape detection and remain. They grow and evolve. Mostly in disguise, just to survive the surveillance of wisdom.

Peer carefully into your head. Some of those beliefs you cooked up years ago would still be around masquerading as dreams.

Recognise them?

I have.

Most of them are too silly and stupid to discuss in such an evolved forum.

But if you promise not to laugh, I might muster enough courage to blurt out a less embarrassing one just now.

Let’s see…

Give me time to warm up, okay?

This one is particularly close to my heart. It has grown with me, become bigger and more elaborate through the years.

It was seeded in my head around the time when I was eight, when someone told me that Nature had a huge office from where she runs her daily operations on a 24-hour shift.

Understand, eight in 1969 was a gullible child, not who he is today. So, I imagined a huge Government Secretariat kind of office with dusty files, creaky furniture and bored people, simply because that’s the biggest office I had seen until then.

No cyclone or famine by Nature, shook me. After all, it was most expected from a chaotic office like that. In fact, I thought of it as a miracle how Nature managed to get the other million things correct daily.

As the world around me progressed, the little myth in my head kept pace.

That eight-year-old’s Nature’s office is today a master control room on the lines of NASA. The 5-floor atrium is a mind-boggling visual of highly sophisticated and complicated monitors, controls and instruments. The kind of place that would boast of 99.99% efficiency.

So, the cyclone and famines?

Well, I now know Nature’s classified truth! Shh…don’t tell anyone, they aren’t accidents! They are deliberate undercover deeds, like any evil that big corporations and nations perpetuate for “the greater good of humanity”.

See how over time, a child’s fantasy gets mixed with an aging man’s cynicism.

But the thing with half-sleep is that it doesn’t recognise your age.

So, the other day I was this rebellious teen on a mission to discover Nature’s Control Room, and maybe even infiltrate it.

Yes, Hollywood is right. Such places are always somewhere in the snow-covered nowheres of Siberia.

There it was, Nature’s NASA!

One look, and I knew it wouldn’t be easy to get into that heavily guarded fortress.

But again, by now even a child knows how to avoid searchlights, duck laser beams and go about in the dark, muffling, slitting, decapitating each of those highly trained guards, one by one.

By early morning I was in, wearing the uniform of the insiders, moving around like one of them.

On the way to the coffee machine, I sneak into the strongroom and open vaults that contain classified information.

How so easily, you ask?

You can crack any code by putting an ear to the door. And all locks in the world click open if fiddled with for a few nail-biting seconds using a hairpin.

As for the doors that open only with passwords, well, don’t even dream of getting it right in the first try. If it allows only three attempts, go directly to the last attempt without wasting any time.

I do that.

Now, the third and last chance left. Think hard, the password will have to be something someone once told me, and didn’t make sense then. Think hard, think fast I can hear footsteps!

It has got to be something Nature would think of. Something that symbolises her work. Feminine. Promising. Beautiful.

Ah yes, Rose Bud!

I key in xxxxxxx.

The door opens.

Thank you, Orson Welles!

There I am, inside the control room that runs this Universe!

What now?

I take out a long list from my pocket. It is a list that I have been carrying since childhood.

That’s a list of things wrong with Nature, that need to be corrected.

Here are 12 of them from that list in random order:

  1. Sun to rise in the West and set in the East. Why should we Easterners wake up first always?
  2. Roses not to have thorns.
  3. Tornadoes and hurricanes to die down when they come within 2 km from a living being.
  4. Seas to part for every man and woman, not just for Moses.
  5. No life on other planets. In fact, no planets, stars and galaxies except the Earth. Maybe even Venus, if it is true that women are from there.
  6. No father or mother or child to die. The rest can go to hell.
  7. Every night to have full moons. Romance can’t be once-a-month affairs.
  8. Frogs to have no voice; porcupines, no spines; and men, no nostril hair.
  9. Women to not gain weight or age after 22.
  10. Men to be slowly phased out.
  11. Ocean bed to be raised to diveable depths and made walkable. Seas will be made crystal clear.
  12. People to be born educated, knowledgeable and with the ability to snorkel, ski, swim and dance. And do mental math.

However, before all that, there’s something far more important that I wish to change.

It is said that childhood is wasted on children, youth on the young and wisdom on the old.

What if I find the controls for those and change it around?

What if I give the old’s understanding of life, to children?

Wouldn’t they learn to enjoy and make the most of the wonder years, rather than just waste it away bawling and protesting- first for milk, then against milk?

What if I give the young, the innocence of the child?

Wouldn’t they stop ruining their lives with an overdose of sex, drugs and violence?

What if I give the old, the optimism of the young?

Wouldn’t the fogies stop being so pessimistic about everything in life, and not write such posts?

Perfect, you say?

Great.

Here I stand, amidst the power that can change this world in an instant.

And then the truth hits me!

That’s the problem with half-sleep. They can get real when you don’t want them to.

Standing in front of what was the largest console that I have ever seen in life, I realise that I have always had this phobia for gizmos and am quite an illiterate when it comes to technology.

How the hell is someone who hasn’t learnt to type, use remotes, play PlayStation, or understood all the functions of his phone yet, ever going to figure out what, where and how on this console?

I stand and wonder as the footsteps get closer. The siren sounds a security breach!

Damn, it is the Pressure Cooker.

Dinner is over-cooked! And my wife will be back in 10!

I strike out Point 5 from my To-Change list.

In search of a smarter God

(39 days ago on this blog, I had done an open evaluation of God’s performance thus far. The results were appalling. As a consequence, the CEO of Universe, Inc., Mr.God, had to be sacked, and as its self-appointed Chairman, I had promised you that I will find a better alternative soon. So, here I am.)

Honestly, I didn’t know it would be this tough. I had foolishly assumed that it would be easy to pick a God from the many that exists in this world already.

In the extreme case of none befitting my high standards, how long would it take to create a new one!” I had even boasted to a friend.

It would certainly be easier than creating babies, though not as pleasurable!” I had joked.

After all, I didn’t need a partner for this, and didn’t have to depend on her not having a headache!” we had laughed.

I was so so wrong.

Clearly, finding a common God has got to be the toughest job in this Universe.

Compared to this, God’s Creation of Man seems like kindergarten stuff- which he made a mess of, by outsourcing its mass production to Adam & Eve with absolutely no quality checks in place.

Ever since then, man has been trying to recreate his creator. It led to theories, stories and trouble. What started off as plain curiosity, soon became an obsession, then a business, and later a convenient excuse for the cunning.

But hopefully, we are past all that muddled religious times, and are ready for a more homogeneous and meaningful belief, starting now.

Yes, I have good news in this context.

(You may now rise, and get ready for a standing ovation as the announcement follows.)

Ladies and gentlemen, our eons-long search is over. I have found a new God; not just for me, but for you and for this Universe.

A more capable, proven and result-oriented God.

Someone you can touch, listen to and talk to.

Someone who will answer your prayers, guide you and correct you in real time.

Someone who will encourage no religious fundamentalism and terrorism, and make everyone accept the theory of One World One God.

A God who will be not mine, yours or theirs, but ours.

(Applause here.)

I am as proud of the process as I am of the result.

In keeping with the democratic traditions of a civilised world, I had asked all the people I could meet in January this year for their best choice, for the Universe’s top post.

By simple computation, I arrived at the winner.

And then, true to the traditions of the developed world, I vetoed it, to nominate a God who I think will be better than the popular choice.

Before I say who it is, let me, in classic reality show style, announce the results starting with the bottom choice first.

In the fifth position with merely 3% votes is The Saint!

Shocking, how he, who I thought would be the most obvious successor to God by virtue of being No.2 in the pecking order of divinity, has been unceremoniously relegated to the bottom of the pile. Perhaps, making the blind see, getting the lame to walk and parting the seas no longer impress the generation that has been brought up on astounding special effects.

Also, how long can people keep watching saints perform miracles on others?! The message from them is loud and clear- “Miracles are useless unless it is happening to us. Until then, it is just a magic show.”

In the fourth position with 7% votes is this never-say-die creature who has the knack of popping up in any poll- The Politician!

That he features in this list, is no surprise. That he features higher than The Saint, surely is.

It is a hint that the job of God is a political one.

God’s tact of fueling faith through hopes and promises, and keeping that belief intact even in the face of his colossal failure and pathetic performance, is an art best practised by the politician.

If that’s so, why not get the professional for the job?” a few seem to suggest.

In the third position with 10% votes is The Corporate Honcho!

Coming to think of it, he is actually a politician dressed in business suit who communicates through PowerPoint presentations.

He features higher than the politician only because he has turned greed into a virtue and made it a result-oriented business science.

Also, unlike the politician, the business head converts detractors into accomplices by sharing his loot with them, and respectfully calling that shareholding.

So, a vote for the businessman is a vote, I suspect, for a share in God’s profits.

In the second position with 12% votes is The Superhero!

He is everything you want your God to be. He’s there whenever you need him, to save you from distress and the world from annihilation. To add to it, there’s mystery around his real identity that adds to the aura.

I guess the only reason why he didn’t become the top choice is because it is difficult to imagine a batmobile traversing the narrow and overcrowded bylanes of Mumbai or Bangkok. Or the Spiderman answering an Arab’s call for help in the deserts of Saudi Arabia. Where will he swing his web from?

And Superman? Well, it is kind of difficult to have faith in a God who wears his undies outside, no?

Finishing in the first position with 68% votes, ladies and gentlemen, is my poll’s winner, The Individual!

This one was the most unexpected. But I should have guessed. After all, who is going to miss an opportunity to vote for himself as the most powerful dude in the Universe?!

But in a way, this reiterates what the world’s most ancient philosophy says: “Your search for the greatest and the most powerful will take you all over, and finally bring you back to yourself. For, there’s no one who can change you, protect you and evolve you better than yourself. You are the best God there could ever be.”

I agree.

But as its self-appointed Chairman, I can’t have 7 billion CEOs for this Universe.

I need one.

So, I vetoed the poll verdict and continued my search.

The answer of all important searches in life is always at the last place you look for.

I went looking for a common God all over the Universe, when it was actually in my hands- in our hands.

Not figuratively, literally.

Yes ladies and gentlemen, the new God is an App!

The new temple is the Smart Phone!

It is as individual as it can get and as mass as you want it to be.

It has unprecedented universal acceptance, and is today the world’s fastest growing religion.

With the youth as its evangelists, it surely is only going to grow wider and faster.

But does it play God?

Of course, it does.

It’s omnipresent, staying with you all the time. Always accessible, always responding to your requests.

Isn’t “Seek and ye shall find, ask and ye shall be provided!” truer of your app-loaded smart phone than of any God you have known?

If God’s job is to keep you away from evil, then don’t you think that the phone has done that in double good measure?

I don’t have statistics, but I am certain that since the advent of the smart phones, the youth have lesser time and interest in other things. Parents will vouch for that.

If there’s still drugs and crime in this world, it must be thanks to those who don’t have smart phones yet, or those who haven’t loaded enough apps yet.

I am not saying it is all there. But it surely has the most potential.

Imagine an app where you could feed the values you want to adhere to. Such a smart app can actually prevent you from all things evil.

So, as you talk, the app can beep your cuss words, distract you when you lose your temper or warn you when you write a nasty message.

An app that will automatically dial a number in your phone book after a pre-fixed number of days, just to keep you in touch with each other. So there’s no drifting apart in relationships ever.

An app that will have no ego in sending out a “I am sorry if I hurt you” message to someone you have had a silly fight with.

It’s a God who will make tangible changes to our lives.

It’s exciting, entertaining and very personal.

But you know what really makes it the best new God of this Universe?

It just doesn’t inspire fanaticism.

No one’s going to wage a war in the name of an app. Or blow himself up just because you criticised it.

It needs no priest, no saint, no middleman.

Across caste, colour, creed and gender, there would be one app.

One World, One App.

Nothing called children of a lesser app.

It is everything God and religion were meant to be, but weren’t.

Get converted. Go download.

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