You Could Be Killed…

Friday, October 28, 2016

“What the hell do you think you are doing…? YOU COULD BE KILLED”…

The 1st half of my 100 odd cousins who live in New Jersey… another half in the state of Microsoft in Seattle… and a third half spread across the iOffices of Apple Inc. in Cupertino and the Bay Area…

All had equivocally warned me… “you have never driven in the US… don’t even attempt to do that… YOU COULD BE KILLED”…

circa Sep 2002…

I had started to learn to drive a car in 1996 – a clear 6 years before I attempted to drive in Uncle Sam land… not that it was a pre-qualifier for me to have driven in India before I drive in the US… but it helped… somehow… trust me…

Starting to learn to drive a car when you are in your late 20s isn’t any sign of your late arrival in life… nor is it any significant validation of your skills and competencies… or a lack of them – particularly, your Learning Agility…

But I guess I had taken to driving like fish to water… in fact, in Delhi where I lived at that time, that would be called “Owning the Road”… it did not matter which car you drove… as long as you ‘Think in Punjabi’ while you drive…

Only to be warned by the 4th half of my cousins at that time in Hyderabadu… “What the hell do you think you are doing…? YOU COULD KILL SOMEBODY”…

——————–

A host of years of driving later… in Mumbai, where I have been driving for the last 7 years now… driving has a different meaning…

With the teeming 20 million that live in the city… and another 2 that snake their way in and out of the city every single day for their daily livelihood… Mumbai offers unique challenges when I am behind the wheel…

When I got into Mumbai 7 years ago, I knew the city had 2 seasons… a ‘Hot’ season and a ‘Hotter’ season… maybe 2 seasons and a half if you threw in the 3 months of rains into the equation…

But what I did not bargain for is that there are 2 more seasons to Mumbai… the REPAIR Season… and the PREPARE Season…

October brings with it, the umpteen festivals that signal – quite ominously – the ending of the rains and the onset of the Hot season… also incidentally kicks off the Repair season…

BMC, or the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, the civic body that governs my quality of life… and my lifestyle in this city… reopens its treasure chest for repairing the city and to rid it of its potholes and craters… with promises, always, to get the roads back in shape before Diwali… and to predeem (preemptively redeem) itself of its sins that it has yet to commit… restart all the infra projects that came to a standstill because of the rains…

I adore BMC… it keeps my sense of apathy about Municipal Bodies in the country quite well in place…

But it’s not the pathetic state of the roads that test me, my car, my patience and my spine… there are other idiosyncrasies of the city that test my driving skills… more specifically when I am NOT driving…

I am serious… most of my drive time is negotiating around turns and T-points… where you have the traffic lights… and where, the maximum drama unfolds…

Given the width of the 1.5 lane roads… in which the snaking traffic invariably finds 4 lanes of vehicles to squeeze, it takes an eternity before the turn happens…

Add to that the potholes or the uneven surface of the road around these turns… and you add a few more seconds of precious time for each vehicle to make that turn…

Add peanut vendors… flower vendors… mobile phone accessory vendors… pirated books vendors… and eunuchs to the kerb on the road near the traffic lights… and you have the luxury of spending some more time negotiating the turns…

Add the beggar brigade… particularly the mother in tattered clothes with an equally tattered infant in her arms and you start wondering how to avoid hitting the head of the hanging infant with the exterior appendix of a rear view mirror of your car…

Add to that the pedestrians at every traffic light… and everywhere else… who seem to believe they are at the top of the food chain when it comes to the right of the road…

Add to that the left turn never free for you to take at most traffic lights in Mumbai… one of the few cities in the country where the rule is followed…

Add to that the Traffic Cop… who is literally the King on Mumbai roads… because his outstretched hand to signal for the traffic to stop… or to go… is benign and is the God’s own word… to him, it doesn’t really matter if you think in Punjabi while you drive…

——————–

Meanwhile, BMC can wait… can take its sweet time to REPAIR the city in this hot season… and when we get to the hotter season in April and May next year… and the next… and the next… it can PREPARE me for the rains again…

Because life must go on… seasons must come and go… the hot and the hotter season… and the Repair… and the Prepare season…

——————–

20 years down the road after learning to drive… I realize neither sets of cousins of mine on either side of the Northern Hemisphere… neither in Hyderabadu… nor on the Stateside could get me on the wrong side of the road… irrespective of whether I am driving cars with right hand or a left hand drive…

I neither got killed… nor did I kill anyone… in all these years of driving on both sides of the road… er… northern hemisphere… because our Municipal Corporations in the country repair me… er… prepare me well for all seasons… and for the geographies…

Always before Diwali… well… almost…

Happy Diwali…

Ravi Kodukula

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PDA – Personal Digital Affliction…

Friday October 21, 2016

Looks like the world skipped a beat last Friday… I did not publish ‘Fursat Friday’ last weekend… 3 people and a half (the half is my 10 year old nephew), WhatsApped me and wanted to know the reason…

Individual WhatsApping was fine… but putting it up in a WhatsApp Group that they missed me… was taking their PDA to an NLE (Next Level Evolution)…

I, for one, after many long years, realised how much I miss Meena…

“Sabko Gher Lo Bhai… Thane le chalo sabko… Inke Maa Baap ko bulate hain… sabki khatir karenge”… (Take everybody into Custody… take them to the Police Station… we will call their parents)…

Hawaldar Joginder Meena of Dilli Puls (Delhi Police) thundered with a squint eye… as he entered the small little enclosure in an under-refined and neglected park at Suraj Kund… the park had thick, non-descript, overgrown foliage… and to the naked eye, gave all signs of an uncared for, abandoned zone… in an otherwise well manicured huge open garden at the edge of the main Suraj Kund picnic zone…

And there lied the key to why Meena and his gang of 3 policemen were policing the ‘uncared for’ zone where my Girlfriend and I – along with a few others of my ilk were… well… huddled up… before we got hauled up…

circa… Feb 1992…

Having never been to a police station in all of my childhood… the prospect of visiting one along with Meena and his gang of 3… and with the 3 other clueless couples… my parents getting called into the police station along with my Girlfriend’s parents… did not seem to be a great proposition…

We split after that… my Girlfriend and I… 100 rupees each for Meena and his gang…

And we did eventually split after a few months after that… we went our own ways…

So much for PDA – Public Display of Affection…

——————–

25 years on… a more benign shape of Meena emerges… in a new avatar…

Mark Zuckerberg would never have imagined when he launched Facebook and then acquired WhatsApp… that one day… one fine day… his creation would find the most ultimate and an intimate platform for many to display their affection… in public… for the most personal relationships that people love and cherish…

Sample this…

At the life stage that I am, most friends of mine celebrate 3 things…

One – their partner relationships in life… and since most of my friends are Gen X, I do see that they are stuck with the same spouse or partner for eternity… so they celebrate their 20th or 25th year of togetherness and once-hoped bliss…

Two – accomplishments and achievements of their offspring… every Facebook friend’s child seems to be scoring no less than 98.93% in their 10th and 99.24% in their 12th grades… and then they go on to do their HIGHER studies in UNDER-graduation in a scenic foreign locale…

Three – passing away of parents… I know this could be a celebration particularly if it was a self-fulfilling life that this person lived and a life equally cherished by others around the person passing away… but going by the number of likes people hit on messages that my friends post when somebody in their lives dies… it does sure look celebratory…

Now… as a self-styled Soc Med (Social Media) analyst… I observe a trend here… it’s not about the post itself… but WHAT they typically post…

I don’t know if they ever use such flowery language otherwise, but on Facebook, everybody is a poet, an author, a writer, a Ghalib or a Shakespeare, a Meer or a Milton… everybody is a thinker, a philosopher or a photographer…

Borrowed verses are posted – some acknowledged and credited to the right source… but many touted as self-done concoctions of love, affection and admiration of the achievements in relationships… some of which are endurance, some survival and many, mere existential… I know of at least a dozen friends of mine who have gone through a few shitty extra-marital flings and who do not fail to come back to Facebook on their anniversaries and confess – everything is fine, this anniversary… Wow…!

What take the cake though, are the photographs… my friends post photographs of 20 years ago… when both of them partners looked young, fresh and chic… and claim they still have the same love for each other on their anniversary… come on… let’s tell the truth… what you are actually wishing for is your spouse looked the same and has the same zeal and zest for you… still… hopefully…

And mothers posting photographs along with their daughters… on their daughters’ birthdays… with a caption – hey – I looked exactly like you when I was 18… how self-gratifying can that get, eh…

Trust me, some mothers do have ‘em… old wine, if you will… they look as delectable as they used to, when we were dating…

And if you got a little vengeful into Vernacular India… you would be better off with Ghalib… I mean you are my “Phool” and “Chand” (flowers and moon) is still acceptable… but for many of my Bong (Bengali) friends… their partners and offspring are always Mishti, Chomchom, Shondesh… man – give me a break… how diabetic can these relationships get, with so much of confectioned sugar in them…

Or in my own Telugu land, everybody is a “Pundu” (like Puh-un-doo – a fruit)… how luscious can that get now… imagine somebody calling you “Yapplis Pandu (Apple) of my eye”… so much of personalisation of love… barring those seed that you find in the middle of the Apple…

——————–

Meanwhile… I hope Hawaldar Joginder Meena is watching all this with his squint eye… and wondering at such an amazing evolution of PDA – Public Display of Affection to PDA – Personal Digital Affliction…

Are you wondering too if you are a part of it…

And more hopelessly, if I am…

Hmmm…

Happy Weekend…

Ravi Kodukula

Zindagi Ganna Hai…

Friday October 7, 2016

“Just 5 minutes more, Amma… promise… it’s so cold”… I would tell my mother…

There was a nip in the air… there always was in October mornings…

Getting out of the thin blanket on October mornings was not easy… it took an effort… and a wink of a while to get tuned to the temperature outside… and a worse feat to feel the cold water from the tap on your palms and on your face and in your mouth while you performed the morning ablutions…

In a cash-strapped, shoestring budget household… the twilight climate zone is often a tricky time to be… the electricity bill around hot water geysers have not been budgeted for in the month of October… ‘it isn’t cold yet’ my father would say… and the fans or the air coolers will not start whirring yet until April… of course, ‘it isn’t hot yet’…

——————–

I hated summers in Delhi in my growing up years – from the bottom of my heart… not because of the heat and dust… but this uncomfortable sweat in my pants used to make me fidget and squirm in all such situations when I needed to be calm and poised… say, when I used to see the sugarcane being run through the juice machine, over, and over, and over again… a delight in Delhi Summers…

Come on… how much will you squeeze a 6 foot sugarcane…? used to remind me of a life yet to be lived… my work life… when every day in and out, I will be squeezing myself to get the last drop of value that I possibly can… and all my bosses in life including my wife… would gang up to tell me ‘that last drop ain’t enough, Kodukula… squeeze more’

Zindagi Ganna Hai… Life is a Sugarcane… Trust Me… 

My fidget and squirm would amplify to a fuss and a fiddle… each time I needed to stop by the 5 paise (small glass) and 10 paise (big glass) ice cold water box at the bus stop… ‘Machine ka Thanda Paani’… the source of all malaise and disease in the city… and that had Dr. Premalata Rao, our family doctor, laugh all the way to the bank…

Guess she never had the ‘Machine ka Thanda Paani’

But there was cheer too… the onset of Summer was always laced with a promise of premium ice cream for the entire family… as it coincided with the finishing off of the exams at school for all 3 of us siblings… who, contrary to my parents’ worried looks on their faces during March, used to scrape into the next grade every year without fail… and the bribe of the premium ice cream was a prize to cherish to go the whole hog and finish the academic year with colours that never flew…

I recall Gaylords ice-cream at that time – sold in a plastic white ball with an orange cap… which duly, after the ice cream has been devoured, served as a good replacement for a cricket ball… of course, after the first over bowled, the cap used to come off after every ball… but the game would continue after replacing the cap…

After all… the ball used to spin so elegant that it used to make me feel like a Bhagwat Chandrasekhar… or an Erapalli Anantrao Srinivas Prasanna… or a Srinivas Venkataraghavan… or a Bishen Singh Bedi…

And when Gaylords closed down… and the ‘Spin Quartet’ retired one after the other… life took a spin…

Doordarshan happened… or started Happening…

——————–

Cricket in India in early 80’s was a winter affair… Test Cricket was the only form… Gavaskar was God… a Radio Transistor was a show off… Radio Commentary was man’s best friend… and nobody knew what to do on the 4th day after the Test match started – as that was a ‘Rest’ day… any cricket playing country – actually all 8 of them – played not more than 10 tests in a calendar year…

But Doordarshan used to bring hope every October… hope for diehard cricket fans like me… I would switch on the new TV set that we had invited into our home… DYANORA… it had a 21″ screen and a tube at the back encased in exquisite wood… a spring twist channel changer knob to change between Doordarshan and Doordarshan… and guess what… to protect the kids in the family to get unduly addicted to TV… Dyanora provided parental controls… in the form of a wooden shutter door that could be pulled from two sides and locked… with a key…

And my mother would keep the key… so that we did not get access to excesses like TV watching for 2 hours ever evening that Doordarshan beamed TV content…

Doordarshan always lived to its promise… it had the best technology at each of the cricket grounds… a Single Camera placed at the Pavilion end… and anything happening on the ground had to be viewed through this one lens…

Door-darshan… a view from afar…

And to whip up the fire was Joga Rao… the TV commentator who used to dope himself to sleep in the middle of an otherwise uninteresting 5th day’s play… when most test matches painstakingly inched towards a draw…

I always had a better plan… Doordarshan would be on… the volume would be off… and I would do the commentary… my idol was Sushil Doshi, the archetypal Radio Commentator who is still etched in my ears… smooth and clear…

“Thodi si short-of-length gaind… ek kadam aage badhaaya Gavaskar ne… aur ye cover aur extra cover ke beech mein se… CHAAR RUN… khoobsoorat shot”… and a follow up comment by him… “Jaise West Indies mein kehte hain – ‘No Man Moved Shot’…”

My audience would clap… Lucky, Manoj, Murty, Bunty… I had a dream to grow up to become a Cricket Commentator… nevertheless… got quite close to it…

With glasses of Rasna (Mango Flavour) and Potato Chips that did their rounds… my mother would always have a grudge… “Come On… put that TV off and get to your homework…”

“Just 5 minutes more, Amma… promise… India is winning…”

——————–

October Mornings…

Gavaskar is now in the Commentator’s Box… and I am in a Cubicle…

Zindagi… sahi mein Ganna Hai…

Happy weekend…

Ravi Kodukula

Trija… Born Thrice…

Friday, September 30, 2016

Hello… OCTOBER…

Seems like only yesterday some of my friends and I had invited the New Year 2016… we are already down by 9 in the year…

We had collectively said 2016 was going to be defining in more ways than one… one of my friends was stepping into his 50’s… quite an accomplishment that – given that he blows the wits out of people around him and they would still let him live longer… each time…

One of them had one of his kidneys removed and now lives a ‘solo kidney’ life… in another, hangs his liver by a thread…

A fourth has had heart trouble a fourth time in her life… the first three occasions when she was spurned in love… and now, the fragile arteries gave way…

But we all had agreed upon something new that we would do this year… something that we hadn’t done before…

Because in 2016, the digits added up to the auspicious number 9…

Yes – I had done something new this year… I published my first book – which I wrote to write and never to really sell… I had held it in my palms… the first print… felt extremely lofty… gave that to my mother for a first read… not that she understands every word of it, because even I don’t at times, understand what I write… but she does… the emotion behind the gesture when I touched her feet for all that she has given me… in life… and in my birth…

And my birth has a very notable attachment to number 9 too… 9 elements that continue to contribute to the 3 times that I am born every year…

——————–

Windy, stormy and squally was the night when I was born… typhoon Durga was raging her wrath in a geo-cosmic way… you see I was born in the east of the country where geographically the Goddess Durga was caught in a cosmic combat with Mahish Asura – the demon – that she slew with her trident…

I don’t know where this exactly happened… or the spot where the blood of Mahish did really spew… but given the frenzy with which all my Bong (Bengali) friends go gaga over Goddess Durga and her eccentricities, I am assuming the east of the country should be that place…

This geo-cosmic combat sorted… on the 8th day (DurgaAshtami) of the 9 day war that raged between the Goddess and the demons… and with the confluence of Earth, Wind and Water were firmly established as the first 3 elements that contributed to my birth… and since all of them have an equal Gregorian connect – the calendar that Pope Gregory XIII introduced in 1582… it was confirmed that 29th September was the date when I was born – as ordained by the Pope…

That was the start of an eternal skirmish that the Pope and the Goddess have been involved in…

Since I was born hours after Mahish died… my Mother first… then my Wife, and now – my Daughter – the next 3 positive influencing elements in my life… believe I have traces of the Asura in me as the demon’s soul has conveniently found its way into my body… you see – geographically I was the closest in proximity… Mahish did not have to pay much for transporting his soul into my body…

And all these 3 elements believe that Mahish’s DNA manifests itself in its behaviours in many ways in me… for example… every time I have a worldview, different to the ways of their world… I am often considered to be the substantiation of all that is evil that Mahish stood for… and over the years, all these 3 women in my life have been training their tridents to spew my blood out of me…

So much for considering all the women in your life to be your allies… they would perform all kinds of rituals on DurgaAshtami… to thwart the evil out of me…

That’s my second date of origin and assimilation in this world…

The last 3 elements of the 9, hold a more tangible gravity in my life… these are my PAN Card… my Driving Licence… and my Passport… they contain the official date of birth… and the perpetrator of my fictitious (read… mysterious) birth date on all these documents, is my father…

My father never had a drop of alcohol in his life… nor, as much as I would imagine or know, was he ever on drugs or any other substance abuse either… but at the time when he was registering me in my school, he had a cerebral disposition around his life long magnetism for the number 9… he registered my birthdate on my school records as October 27…

He has logic… I would retire from my working life a month later than I would otherwise have… his trained ‘Government Servant’ mind could only think of this explanation when I asked him about this discrepancy in the dates between 29th September and 27th October…

——————-

Finally, I was born thrice… at least, that’s what all my official documents issued by the Government of India… as ordained by my father, the servant of the Government that he was…

1 of 3 is done… 29th September… a Confluence of the Earth, Wind and Water…

2 of 3 is on 9th of October… DurgaAshtami… a Connivance of my Mother, Wife and my Daughter…

3 of 3 is later in October… on the 27th… a Conspiracy between my father and his employer – the Indian Government… as betrayed in my PAN Card, my Driving Licence and my Passport…    

9 elements… Born Thrice…

Seems like only yesterday…

Happy Navratras…

Ravi Kodukula