THE  DESCENT  –  a  short  story

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I stood right next to her, taking in the splendid view of the city nightlights. It was an amazing sight, and I was going to follow it now with an amazing moment. We both were standing in one corner of the open-air restaurant, at the top of the 40-storey high Crescendo Towers. It was one of the few tall buildings the city had. From there, Nicole & I could see almost the entire city.

I had been waiting for this day for almost three months now. Today was the day I was going to ask her the question. I was almost certain her answer would be ‘Yes’. I had known Nicole for more than three years now.

Without letting her know, I tried to get the small jeweller’s box out of my trouser pocket. The waiter with the sizzlers tray rushed past me, brushing my hand. My arm jerked from the impact. The box went flying over the  railing. The next second I had caught the box with my outstretched hand.

In hindsight, I don’t know if it was pure reflex action that caused me to jump and reach out for the box. Or was it the subconscious knowledge that I had spent a huge chunk of my savings on that exquisite diamond ring. Whatever be the reason, the result of that action was that I descended those 40 floors much faster than anyone would ever want to.

After that incident, I would give anything just to let her know that I love her immensely, that I want to marry her, that I want the two of us to live in our own big lake-side house, along with the four kids that we planned to have.

Here I am now, sitting right next to her, in her father’s car. He is taking her home.

If only Nicole could see me or hear me.

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People in Papua New Guinea seem to have found a solution for rising gas & petrol prices – run vehicles and generators using coconut oil (coco-fuel)

If the citizens of a small island in Papua New Guinea can do it, people from “God’s Own Country” should definitely be able to do it.

What a dream scenario – buy a huge can of coconut oil. Or even better, make it in your own ‘parambu‘ (piece-of-land) — after all, what better use for the 50+ coconut palms standing tall on your land.

And then, when your wife needs oil to make Pazham-Pori (Banana-Fry) or to fry Pappadams for Lunch, ask her to take some oil from the can. Later, when your son wants to go for his daily class at the local CTCC (Coconut-Tree Climbing College) ask him to fill up the tank in his motorcycle, from the same can !

Meanwhile, you can sit on your patio and enjoy a dozen nariyal-tel flavoured Dosas, with fresh Nariyal Chutney.

Lets make this world a better place ! Lets do our bit to reduce carbon-emissions ! Lets work together towards the goal of more coco-fuel stations popping up everywhere, around the world !

Today, I read this very hilarious post about Indianisms

Now, I don’t intend making fun of death or of people dying. But I just want to say that I liked the way Kyla had imagined it in her post – “I get this image of someone walking along the steet, the clock striking a particular time and that person suddenly collapsing. That’s it, he’s expired

At this point, having worked outside India for a few months now, I have slowly begun to understand the way we Indians have developed what I would call “Inglish” (short for ‘Indianised English‘) Over a long period of speaking the Queen’s language, we have created our own vocabulary of English words. And then, armed with our H1B visas & Work-Permits, we go to work in western lands. Here we use this same ‘In-glish’, much to the shock & surprise of the people there.

I had this colleague, Raghu, who often used the phrase “Time-Pass“, which is very common for people in India – or atleast very very commonly used in Mumbai. For example,  “I was walking around the Mall just for time-pass“. Now the phrase is made up of two English words, time & pass. So Raghu thought it would be a commonly used term in U.K.  But that day when he used it in a meeting, he saw a big question mark come across the face of the Yorkshire-born Bob.
Then once we were having a big lunch-event for the entire project team. The project manager, Mark, suddenly points to Raj, and says that there was something he always wanted to ask. He says that the in the mails that Raj sends to the Support-Desk, the last line always was “Please do the needful to resolve this“.
Mark says, “In all my 45 years, I have never heard of the word ‘needful’ being taught in any school in Britain.  Its not even an English word ! Where did you get that word from ?” And then everyone at the table start laughing.

Well, I am sure I also use many such Inglish words. But then I would say its not entirely my fault. Its partly because of what I was taught at school. And partly due to my laziness to perfect the language.

And then, I would like to add here, every place & every country adds its own flavour to the English language.  Like the South African sitting in the next cubicle always says “Here in the US, everything about English is mixed up. They call a sport Soccer, when all over the world its called Football. And then, they call another sport Football, even though its hardly played with the foot !

Hmmmm … have you, at any time, knowingly or unknowingly, used any In-glish phrases ? Or, have you been at the receiving end of any In-glish ?

In my short work career so far, I have had the chance to work in quite a few offices. The number is not anywhere near the dozens of offices and clients that my friends and colleagues have been to.

But, I have always wondered and even been amused by the different types of coffee breaks that I have been introduced to at these places. I am attempting to categorise some of my coffee breaks here.

I am sure most of you out there have your own types of coffee breaks. For those who don’t like their java, it could be a break for any other beverage or even a smoking-break. Please feel free to drop in your 3, 30 or 300 lines about it, in the Comments section here

The break could be from any kind of work – from office-work, from house-work. It could be a break from your desktop PC, or a break from your kitchen PC (which is the ‘Pressure Cooker’) or a break from working at the Dixons or Circuit City store …. or even a small break from barista duties at ‘Cafe Coffee Day’

Here goes …
At the Desk + Brainstorming” Coffee break
You are so deeply drowned in some critical task at work – like, say, something that you were supposed to complete and send yesterday. You don’t have time to un-glue yourself from your seat. But you still need the dose of caffeine to keep you going. What do you do ? You pick up the phone, dial the small pantry facility that your office has, and request the chap (Nandu) to bring you a cup of hot ‘Kaapi
He puts on his usual talk about desktop coffee only being given twice a day and that for the rest, you need to go yourself & get it. But since you are one of Nandu’s “Frequent Foodie” customers, he obliges to your request. “Only this last time. Next time you will have to walk over and get it”, he says as he places the cup right next to your mouse-pad.

Deadline-meeting celebration” break
This usually happens the day following the above mentioned situation. The previous night, just as the on-duty security guard was about to drive you nuts with his long story about the time he met Sachin Tendulkar and Pravin Amre at some Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav celebrations, you managed to complete the work and send out a  mail. You managed to get the last Autorickshaw waiting near the office gate – to reach home, just a couple of hours before the “Good Morning India” show on TV started.
And now, today to describe your brave midnight ordeal to two of your colleagues, you take them for an extended morning tea-break, over to the neighbouring Indian Coffee House

Long-weekend stories” break
I saw these type of breaks on one of my overseas assignments.
Its the Monday after a long weekend. Everyone on the project team had either gone to some exotic vacation spot, or had gone to the hot & happening pubs, clubs in town. And now, each person is eager to share his story with the team. So, at sharp 10-30 AM, the whole team decides its coffee time. All take the Lift (Elevator – if you prefer that way) down the twenty odd floors, walk over to the Starbucks across the street. Everyone buys their stuff – Latte, Mocha, No-sugar-no-cream Coffee. Some grab a muffin or two. And the whole point of going all the distance is to get enough time to exchange weekend stories.

Oops-I-broke-the-machine” break
At one particular office, I did’t have to walk too far to get my perfect coffee.

The office has a shiny, techno-smart vending machine. Press 5 buttons in the right order, keep your favourite coffee mug in place (or the disposable plastic cup will also do) and press ‘START’. Voila ! Hot & sleep-defeating coffee is ready in 15 to 150 seconds !
You also get to meet one or two new people in the office, while you are waiting in queue for Miss Jane to get her coffee from the machine.
All this on the better days. On the bad days – when you sat on the wrong seat on the train, and when you had actually managed to put a layer of polish on your shoes – the machine will give out a grawky noise and suddenly spray the coffee over the floor – and all over your shining shoes.  B!**)y Hell !!!  The bad day just got worse !

So … what kind of a break do you like to take every day ?
 

Have been busy at work since a few days. So, I was mostly absent from blog-planet (except for reading a couple of posts that fellow blog-mates had put out)

MumbaiWallah (MW) had put out a post, asking for information on public libraries in India. I could not think of any such libraries in India.

Later, MW wrote a nice & informative post about “Public Libraries in India“. That was when I thought – of course, the British Council Library in Mumbai – how did I forget !!

Some time back, when I was in school and still trying to get my multiplication tables correct, one of my cousins lived with us for some time. Dave ( name changed here 🙂 ) had just moved to Mumbai, in search of a better job & a better life. Even though Dave was my cousin, he was much older than me. He lived with us until he had adjusted to the city and was able to move into an accomodation on his own.

One of the first things that he did after he got a job at an office near V.T was to become a member of the British Council Library. And then he used to bring home these wonderful books. I found them wonderful because they were neat, clean and hard-bound. They would have this tracking page stuck on the inner cover, with blue rubber-stamped dates indicating when the book was due to be returned. And, I was still very young to actually understand what was in the books, or who the authors were.
Since Dave had to travel in the local train every day to & from work, he would finish reading the books quickly. Within two or three days, he would come home with a different coloured book 🙂
I would only notice the colour change in the book’s cover, whereas he actually would have returned a book and brought a different one home that evening.

Those were my memories of a library, until a few years later, I got my own library membership. The library that I joined was a simple circulating library, opened in a small unused shop, near where I lived. It was started from the charity of a big lot of second-hand books.

And the library mainly worked during the Summer and Diwali vacations, when hordes of school & college students would drop in for quenching their thirst for Enid Blyton, Ian Fleming, Sidney Sheldon, Jeffrey Archer, Mills & Boon and even comics like Asterix, Tintin, Superman, Batman, Archies. Those vacations were days of fun – read a book within a day or two, and rush back to the ‘library’ to get started on the next one. Nothing else to worry about, nothing else to do !

Now on to something else that MW had said in the post requesting library information …
“I remember a library (or so it seemed) at the back of a municipal school near the big fish market in Chembur, Mumbai. The state of the building and the location in general did not encourage visitors”

I know exactly what she meant when she said about the location being not so encouraging to visitors 🙂     …     I don’t know if there is (was) a library behind the municipal school. But the big fish market is still there.

I had to walk past this particular ‘location’ whenever I needed to go to the Chembur Railway station. Partly due to my good luck and partly due to my love for travelling in the B.E.S.T buses, I have avoided going to Chembur station to a large extent. But when I did have to go that way, it was always an eye-opening experience.

Ok, before I proceed, would like to say this here. I am a vegetarian by preference. I do like eating my chicken and my sea-food, but I am not a connoisseur of any type of cuisine. I don’t know too much about food – I just eat whatever I get.

My only principle in eating is – I will eat whatever is readily & easily available, as long as it tastes “ok” and as long as its still not moving when brought to my table.

So, if any of you feel that in what I am writing next, I have offended your beliefs or your culture or your food – please understand that it is not so. I am just trying to explain the ‘fun’ of walking on a road where all your human senses are put to a test.

Now coming back to the Chembur Fish Market. On one side is the roadside fish market. A dozen or more vendors displaying and selling all types of fish, to people on their way home from work. Across the road – a poultry shop selling eggs & chicken. And all these people conveniently dump all their waste right there on the side – a rotting, stinking heap. If anyone with a blocked & stuffy nose was to walk that way, he would have his sense of smell back to normal even before you could say the words “Vicks Vaporub” !! 

Further up this road, there would be other not-so-pleasant sights & smells (especially in the mornings !) which I will talk about some other day.

That is enough said about stinking garbage near fish markets. Let me clean up this mess.

Talking about libraries & fish – the next book I take from the library will be “Three Men in a Boat” by Jerome K. Jerome. I still remember a story from that book, which I studied in school, in my English class. It was a hilarious account of a trout on display at an Inn and how everyone there was bragging about how they were the ones who had caught it.

                                                                               

He suddenly woke up, shaking like a leaf. In the little light coming in through the window, he looked around the room. The room seemed very unfamiliar. This was not the room that he usually slept in. It added to the craziness of the dream that had jolted him out of a sleepful state.

Mohit had dreamt about a car crashing over the edge, going off one of the twisting-turning roads in the Western Ghats, somewhere in Maharashtra. He had seen it very clearly. In the dwindling evening light, a maroon car was toppling down a ravine. He could not see who was inside the vehicle, but he could hear a man’s screams, as the car took the man down to what seemed would be a fatal fall. At the top of the hill, another car, that was until now parked by the side of the road, drove away towards the junction where it could get on to the expressway.
And then, in a flash, Mohit saw inside the car, which was now lying on its side, on the floor of the valley. The shock of seeing his own face on a corpse had woken him.

He was now in a decently sized bedroom. He could not remember how or when he got there. There was some other furniture in the room. There were two closed doors. He walked in the dark, towards the smaller door, at the opposite end from where the bed was. When he opened it, he could make out, in the faint light, that it was a bathroom. He fumbled on the wall for a light switch.

When the light came on, he glanced at the mirror, more out of an habit formed over the last 30 years. What he saw in the mirror almost had him fall back against the wall. 
The face staring back at him was not his !!!

That particular afternoon, I was busy trying to understand the classification of animals – their Class, their Phylum etc. I just needed to hang on to this information for another 20 hours. The next day at the same time, I would have finished the last exam of my H.S.C Examinations (also called Pre-Degree or Plus-2 in Kerala, and probably many other names across India). After that, it would be pure, unadulterated freedom. All this only till the exam results come out, following which hell was sure to break lose at home.

I sat at my table, attempting to digest the differences between animals of Phylum Annelida & Phylum Arthropoda, when the ringing of the phone woke me from my crustacean dreams. It was Bhanu uncle, who worked with a company in Andheri. He asked me whether I had heard of it already.

Heard of what ?”
You haven’t heard of it then ! They say that bombs have gone off at three places in the city, including at the Bombay Stock Exchange
What! Oh

Now, this was a time when the satelite TV boom had just started in India. The boom had begun with CNN & its almost-live coverage of the war then going on in Iraq. So, back then, there weren’t three dozen Indian news channels spurting out the same news every hour in ten different languages. The only places to get live news about anything in India were still Doordarshan & All India Radio.

I turned on the TV. And sure, something was happening in the city. There was news trickling in, of various stories & rumours – about bomb blasts in various parts of Bombay (as it was called then)

I quickly called Brijesh, my class-mate & study-mate. He said he was about to call me. His father had called him with this news. His father worked in a building right next to the Air-India building at Nariman Point. Sitting in his office, Brijesh’s father had ‘felt’ the blast that had happened in the Air-India tower’s basement garage. The glass on their building had vibrated, and some panes had cracked.

By evening it had emerged that around 13 bombs had exploded in the city, all within a span of two hours. Scores of people dead, property worth millions damaged. And the whole city in a state of shock.

All that happened exactly 14 years ago, on this very date – the 12th of March.

Even after 14 years, that ‘Black Friday’ has left its scar on thousands of people. Scars that are not just physical, but a lot many mental scars too. So many sons, daughters, wives, husbands, siblings, parents lost that day. So many dreams blown away in a few seconds, by the dirty deeds of a handful of terrorists.

And, even after all these years, the judicial proceedings against the accused are still going on. Nobody has been punished, while the main perpetrators have evaded the arm of the law & long ago flown off to safety.