July 29, 2011

I yam ye piroud Mellu!

How come when the whole world and their uncle speak good English, nobody is surprised, but when a Malayali speaks proper unaccented English, it’s treated like the 8th wonder of the world?

Twice yesterday, by two different people, I got this. “You’re a mallu? But how come you don’t have any mother-tongue influence??!” “I’m sure you wouldn’t have studied in Kerala! There’s no other way you can speak such good English and Hindi.” And when I say that I studied in a KV, they’re like “Aaah!! That explains it!” like they cracked a very difficult code.

When I came to Hyderabad, same story. Scores of people have asked me this. It’s like the biggest puzzle of the century for them.

I mean, seriously, what is with people?? We’re not all that bad ok. Sure, maybe some of us do say Ungil for uncle, andy for aunty, mengey for monkey, wonly for only, vaater for water, etc, but we are not the only ones in the country who have bad accents and the so-called mother-tongue influence. I’m not going to mock anyone else because then I’ll be labeled a racist, but let me tell you, I’ve been called Dibiya instead of Divya by quite many people, none of them Malayalis. I know of people who’ve said Phuck (with an aspirated ‘p’ sound) instead of ‘fuck’. Loads of people have asked me whether mallus eat ‘fis’ every day or not. Have I laughed at any of them? Have I made fun of their language? Well, maybe behind their backs, ya. But never to their faces! I’ve never asked a north-Indian or a Kannadiga why they don’t have an accent while speaking English. And I’ve never heard anyone else also asking a person with good English, who’s not from Kerala, how they speak unaccented English. Why is that not a surprise? Why is it a surprise only when it comes to us?

If we speak in Malayalam, people say that it sounds as though a lot of stones have been put in a steel tumbler and is being shaken. Or that it sounds like I’m abusing someone. And if we speak in English, that also comes under scrutiny. Give us a break, dammit! Four years of being in a non-mallu land, and I’ve heard enough and more about my mother tongue. Well, let me tell you something. Not every Malayali speaks and dresses like LolaKutty. If that’s the image you have in your mind, it’s time you made a visit to our land. I’ve even been mistaken for a North Indian because I don’t have curly hair or don't walk around with coconut oil in my hair. They think we wear only Kerala sari or pattu-pavada. Times have changed. Why do you think only Kerala is stuck is the Stone Age?

And you know something else? We make an effort. Yes, you read it right. Our accent may not be great, but at least we make an effort to speak another language. I’ve been in Hyderabad for four years, and now I can understand Telugu, and speak a bit of it. And that too without any accent. A friend of mine, who’s married to a Telugu guy, speaks Telugu as fluently as she speaks Malayalam. How many of you non-mallus, working or settled in Kerala, have made an effort to learn Malayalam? I can bet not many. Because you claim it’s very difficult. Which is true.

Wait a sec! Now I get it! THAT’s why you make fun of our English!! Because you just can’t get the hang of our language! You’re just plain jealous. :)

I started out ranting, but feel much better now. Yes, I’ve cracked the code.

Next time anyone asks me how come I ‘don’t have mother-tongue influence’, I’ll ask in return “Why do YOU have a bad accent?” Or if that person doesn’t have an accent, I’ll ask them the same question in return, “How come YOU don’t have an accent?”

It’s time for some revenge. Bleddy!

July 27, 2011

The 10 day 'You' Challenge- Ten Secrets

I decided to take up the 10-day You Challenge that I’ve seen on many other blogs. It looks like fun. Plus, I get to talk about myself a lot. And that’s like, my second most favourite thing in the world (the first is correcting others’ grammar). I'll try as much as possible to post everyday for the next ten days.


So here is Day 1.

10 secrets.


These are more like revelations than secrets.


1) I talk to myself a lot. It’s a great pastime, and an even greater stress-reliever. Sometimes, I play out entire dialogues between me and someone else in my head that I may not carry out in real life. This gives me a chance to win the argument no matter what. (Did I hear someone say ‘coward’?)

2) I will get up from bed in the morning only if the time is a multiple of 5. If I wake up and see that the time is 7:33, I’ll lie there in bed for two more minutes and get up only by 7:35. I’ll start looking at the time at 7:03, think of waking up two minutes later, but lie down for four more minutes. So I’ll think, ok, now it’s 7:07, I’ll get up after three minutes. This little game will go on till I finally get up only by around 8:30. This could also be remotely related to the fact that I just hate waking up in the morning. Please tell me that you also do it. I don’t want to be the lone freak in the circus. :/

3) I can’t stand it when people tell me “I know you”, irrespective of whether they’ve known me for 20 years or two days. Even if you do know me like the back of your hand, keep it to yourself. Don’t tell me. Because I take comfort in the fact that only I know myself the best. And if you come to judge me after knowing me for just a few days, then I will for sure bite your head off. Especially if it turns out that you’re right.

4) I don’t read self-help books, or any of those motivational books. I’m somehow not comfortable with the idea of someone else telling me how I can improve my life. If I can’t figure at least that much out, then I’m just sad.


5) I hate cats. Hate them hate them hate them. HATE THEM.


6) Even if you’re crying to me about a very serious issue, I will stop you and correct you if your grammar or pronunciation goes wrong. I’m sorry. It’s like a disease.


7) I have a very low threshold for pain. The physical kind. I will try to act very brave and crack jokes, but inside, I’m already having visions of me dying any moment and everyone crying over me and exclaiming what a nice person I was(ahem) and asking God “WHY GOD WHY?! WHY HER?!”


8) I drink all aerated drinks flat. I don’t like the fizz and the gas that it gives. The first thing I do when I buy a bottle of one of those drinks is to shake it hard till the fizz goes. The moment I lift a bottle to shake it, my friends lift their hands to hit me- literally. Now they buy a separate bottle for me, or give it to me only after they’ve had their share to drink. Bullies. Hmpphh.


9) If I watch a scary or gory movie, or one of those forwards that show pictures of a girl whose face got burnt in a car crash or how Japanese pickle foetuses, I cannot sleep the whole night. Or the next few nights. Even if I’ve forgotten about it, I will somehow conjure up the images again, and there goes my sleep.

10) I’m NOT a 4:00 AM friend. Not even a 2:00 AM or 3:00 AM one. In fact, I’m a 10:00 AM to 12:00 AM friend. If you call me when I’m sleeping, I won’t pick up, mainly because I won’t hear the phone (in all probability, if my phone rings, I will imagine that I’m hearing the song in my dream. This has happened so many times, where I’ve sung along to “Sweet child of mine” and crooned “Iktara” in my dreams, only to wake up and see 5 missed calls). If you call again, I will bite your head off, unless you called with an emergency. If you call me before ten in the morning, I will blame you for making me late to get to office. The timings include afternoons on weekends as well. Please take accurate notes.


There. Day 1 done. Nine more to go.
**************
Meanwhile, the Ramzan month is coming up. The season of Eat Pray Love. The muslims fast and PRAY, and the rest of us just LOVE to EAT the haleem. I know exactly where my money is going to go next month. All those in Hyderabad, let’s pig out, shall we?! And those not in Hyderabad, come over! :)

(Pic from Google Images)

July 24, 2011

The sun shone a little brighter

There are good days, and then there are days when you feel everything is right in the world.

Two of my fellow bloggers- DawnZhang and Vineeth- left me completely overwhelmed by writing about me in their blog. I just don't know what else to say except a big THANK YOU.

And a big thank you to everyone and anyone who follows my blog, encouraging and enjoying the senseless sense and sensible nonsense that I dish out. Also thanks to those who have previously mentioned me in their blogs, like Priyanka and Ashwin. I owe you guys, big time. I honestly didn't know what I was capable of until others started telling me about it.

Too much of mush?

Ya, sometimes this side of me comes out to say hello to the world too. :)

I had a good weekend. Was staying at my uncle's place. All I've been doing all weekend is eat. Eat, eat and then eat some more. Watched Chalo Dilli and enjoyed it thoroughly. Hats off to Vinay Pathak. Seriously dude, you are something else altogether.

Alright, I'm off to bed now. Only to wake up to Perpetually Crappy Monday.

Did you have a good weekend as well?

July 23, 2011

All type of Atyaachaar.

Idea!!

The solution for every damn problem is here!

(No no, not Idea 3G re. Uff!!)

It’s.. wait for it..

A reality show!

You have gudu-gudu in your tummy? Not to worry. We will help you. Just write in to us, and we will help you, on our show “Televisional Atyaachaar.”

First we will set up hidden cameras in your bathroom, living room, kitchen etc, and place underwear- I mean, undercover agents yeverywhere. On your terrace, under the overhead water-tank, will be the olinju-nokkal room. From there, we will monitor everything.

On day 1 of Mission ‘Why tummy gudu-gudu doing’, our cameras will keep an eye on your bathroom activities. How many times do you go to the bathroom, how long do you spend in there each time, what sounds you make, etc. If we see that you sing while doing potty, then we will note down those songs and do a detailed analysis. For eg:- if you sang “ Aao na aao na" from Kyon..ho gaya na?, then that means you’re not having a good day. If you sang “Where do you go, my lovely” by that englees band, then that means in full flow it is going off.

Day two, we will monitor kitchen activities. What is being cooked, what are the ingredients, how much mirchi your mummy puts in your sabji, how clean your kitchen is, etc. We will then call a Kitchen Expert Lady to give her opinion. “You see, the kitchen is facing north, but the gas stove is facing north-west. I believe that is what is causing the problem. If the gas is placed 45 degree to the south and 56.3 degree to the west, then the problem can be solved.”

Finally, after all the investigations and monitoring and olinju-nokkals and expert opinions, there will be a final confrontation. Everyone will sit together and discuss why your tummy is doing what it is doing. And this is the point where our surprise guest comes in! That longer-haired actor whose movie Kolabaathakam- Rendu is releasing next week. He will come and give the film actor’s angle to the whole thing. And then magically, everything falls into place!! You happy, your tummy happy, and yeverbody full happies! Do you notice the glow on your mummy’s and daddy’s and little chutki’s face? Full love is coming.

Then you thank Channel B for helping you. Oh, look at the tears glistening in your eyes... goes so well with the melodramatic background score. Wave, beta, wave. Wave to the camera.. Har pal yahaan, jee bhar jiyo, jo hain sama, kal ho na ho...

COMING UP NEXT WEEK!

The search for Your Colony’s Next Top Kaamwaali Bai!

Stay tuned!!!

**********

After-effects of watching “Love kiya tho darna kya" on Channel V. Wow, what a wonder! NOT.



Olinju-nokkal - literally means, to hide and see. Also known as spying.
Kolabaathakam- murder
Rendu- two.

July 18, 2011

The Mermaids and Mermen

Dedicated to all the drunkards out there, especially, my drunken friends.

Have you noticed that there are many kinds of drunk people out there? Let me tell you.

1) The emotional ones.
After two pegs, they become sappy and emotional. They start recollecting the old times, how good life was back then, and most of all, they say ‘I love you’ to everyone and anyone. They might even say ‘I love you’ to the guy who delivered food. Trust me, it’s a treat to have them around.

2) The debaters
They might be quiet as a mouse when sober, but when drunk, they have to debate about everything under the sun. The budget, Indo-Pak, Katrina Kaif’s accent, who has a better ass- Kareena or Priyanka, etc. You get the picture. If you’re drinking with them, be careful not to get too vocal, they might just throw a glass at you or break a beer bottle on your head.

3) The singers/musicians.
The hidden/ aspiring singer in them comes out after a couple of drinks. And the ones who are already singers and musucians go full-throttle. Then it’s a night-long gaanamela. Trust me, it’s fun, whether they sing well or not.

4) The sobbers
They cry. They just cry. For reasons known, unknown, unfathomable- they cry. For things lost, for things unattainable, for actions regretted, for words spoken wrongly, for a speck of dust on the floor, for power-cut, for water-shortage, for a dress that doesn’t fit anymore. All they need is a patient ear. And a box of tissues.

5) The phone-callers
Once they’re drunk, they simply HAVE to call someone. Even if it is at 2 in the morning, they have to call and talk to someone. And these guys will not have the faintest memory of what they spoke the last night in the morning. They will check their call log, see that they made a call, and will call the person and ask them what they spoke. More often than not, it will be something very very embarrassing.

6) The gigglers/ Happy high-ers.
They giggle at everything. Even the saddest of PJ’s will set off a giggle-fit, and it’s hard to stop them. They’re nice to have in the group because they break any sort of tension the debaters might cause. They’re generally very happy once drunk and have a smile plastered on their faces all throughout.

7) The Dhinchaks.
They simply have to dance to Bollywood dhin-chak numbers once they’re drunk. And that too at full volume.

8) The intellectual ones.
They start quoting Nietzsche and Whatsisname. Sometimes, they might be quoting themselves, but make it sound as though some great philosopher said it. And they will suddenly remember theories that they had learnt in university. Slight pain-in-the-you-know-where to have them around if you are not the kind who wants to listen to intellectual nonsense when the original plan was to unwind after a long hard week.

9) The ramblers
They just go off the tangent. They’ll start at Point A, go to Point K, and end up in Point Y, never to return to Point A. They might not even need an audience.

10) The brats.
They become absolutely difficult to have around. They’ll sulk, they’ll cry, they pout, they’ll demand for booze at three in the morning, and will make a scene if you don’t get it for them. The brattiness is cute initially, but after a while, you’ll just want to give them one on their ass and tell them to shove it.

And then there are those who think they’ve lost their nose. :)

What kind are you? And how many other kinds do you think there are?

July 14, 2011

The answer, my friend...

How many deaths will it take till he knows, that too many people have died.
The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind, the answer is..


Blowing in the wind…” Shreya crooned tunelessly along with Bob Dylan. Dylan always soothed her frayed nerves at the end of a long day. Plus, that guy always made so much sense.

She was just back from office, battling the insane crowds of the Mumbai local trains. It had been two years since she was living in Mumbai, but she still hadn’t gotten used to the trains. They couldn’t afford a car yet. Akash had just got a promotion, and a raise, so hopefully, she wouldn’t have to take the trains again, and he wouldn’t have to travel by bus. She could finally put an end to her parents complaining all along that she had taken a wrong decision by marrying Akash, but when love comes calling, you don’t look at jobs and bank balances. It doesn’t matter whether the guy is a millionaire or not. It doesn’t matter that he had to struggle from a very young age when his father met with an unexpected death, leaving him and his mother to fend for themselves. But his mother had been a strong woman. She, who had been a housewife all along, found a job, worked hard, and brought him up. And she had passed on that hard-working and sincere streak to him. How could she agree to get married to some guy just because he was in the U.S and had a green card, when she was in love with a gem of a person like Akash? She had fought, long and hard, and finally, grudgingly, her parents had relented. The barbs still came now and then. But she was happy. Akash kept her happy.

“I’m home. What time will you get here, baby?” She texted him.

“On my way. Should be there in about forty-five minutes. I have a surprise for you. :)” Came his quick reply.

“Ooh!! What surprise??!!”

“If I tell you, it will no longer be a surprise, you monkey. :)”

“Hmmpph! Fine. Get here soon. :)”

“Love you. :)”

“Ya ya. We’ll see after I see the surprise. :p “

Today was their anniversary… One blissful year of being married to each other. And they had decided to celebrate at home. A nice quiet evening, just the two of them. They had wanted to throw a party for their friends, but cancelled it because they didn’t want to waste that much of money. They could always have a party next year, right?

She got to preparing dinner. She had moved on from cooking only pasta for dinner every day, and was experimenting with food these days. This was the perfect opportunity. She had spent hours online, looking for recipes and zeroing in on the perfect dinner. “We’ll have our own little candle-light dinner, right here at home”, she had said to him. She bought everything, plus some fine wine and new lingerie. She wanted to make it special for him…

***************

It was 9:00 PM. “Where is he? He told me at 7:30 that he’ll be home in 45 minutes”. She had made dinner, showered, and got dressed in her new dress, all set for her man.

“Where are you?? it’s 9:00 already!” She texted him.

She sat down on the couch and switched on the T.V. No reply from him yet. This was unusual. He always replied promptly. She started flipping through the channels, not finding anything interesting in any of them.

Fifteen minutes later, still no reply. She tried calling. “All lines on this route are busy”, the IVR lady told her indifferently.

She stopped at the news channel. Breaking News.

“Blasts in Mumbai. City in chaos.”

“Blasts in three locations. Death toll rises.”

“First blast happened at 7:45 PM. The rest followed within ten minutes.”

“20 dead, 150 injured.”

For a second, the world seemed to go still around her. “Oh my god… oh my god… OH MY GOD!”

*************

Akash couldn’t wait to get home and see the look on Shreya’s face when he gave her the keys to their brand new silver colour Maruti Swift. “She’s going to be SO excited!” He had left office early, gone to the showroom, and picked up the car. He had managed to keep it a secret from her for the past few weeks, just so that he could see her face light up when she saw the car. Just the way she had lit up his life…

On the way, he decided to pick up some flowers for her. Asters. Her favourite.
He parked his car in the busy marketplace where his regular flower-guy had a shop. He had been buying her asters from there since a year and a half now, ever since they met. Initially, that was all he could afford to get her. But now, it had become a ritual.

As he got out of the car, two guys passed by in a bike and threw a suitcase onto the road.

BOOM!!

****************

“The Prime Minister strongly condemns the blasts. Pakistan Minister tweets his condolences.”

“We will trace the culprits. Terrorism is an enemy to the human race.”

“Casualty not much. Only 20 dead.”

Only 20? Only?

Her husband had become just another blast statistic…

If only they knew, how much even one casualty can affect a life…

She opened the last message he had sent her. "Love you. :)"

Only 20, they say…

****************

Keep your loved ones close… Tell them how much they mean to you…

Who knows when they'll be gone...

July 13, 2011

Pink Chaddi

I don't know why I suddenly remembered this today. And I laughed just as much as I did when I heard about it the first time.

I think I can put this under a 'Heights' category.

Heights of typo errors while you're sms-ing with the 'Prediction On'.

The movie 'Pink Panther' had just released. My Best Friend 1, a guy, messaged Best Friend 2, a girl:-

" I want to see Pink Panties."

Attention to detail, see? He even specified the colour. :D

July 11, 2011

The 123432nd review of Delhi Belly- or something like that.

Ok, I know it’s been more than a week since the movie’s released, almost the entire country (that is tolerant of swear words) has watched it, and millions of reviews have been written about it.

So I figured, one more review won't hurt, right?

Alright, on to the review.

Before I start, I have to make two things clear:-
1) I tend to judge how good a movie is based on how many times I would want to watch it again and again.
2) I don’t say a movie is bad just because the rest of the world said it’s awesome and I just want to call attention to myself by saying something ‘different’ and ‘intellectual’. But then again, if I've heard too many people say that a movie is awesome, then I tend to lower my expectations rather than keep it high. That way, I don't get disappointed any which way.

That said, I have watched Band Baaja Baarat about ten times and 3 Idiots around 5 times.

I’m not sure whether I would want to watch Delhi Belly again. But I liked the movie.

(I’m not making sense to even myself now. Weekend-hangover. Pardon me.)

I liked the movie in bits and parts. I liked the comedy. I liked the casting. The fast-paced screenplay kept us engaged without too many frills. It's a crisp 95 minutes with no interval [ I missed my popcorn and flat Pepsi :( ]. The music and background score is mind blowing. It’s not an entirely new theme. We’ve had hundreds of movies with packages being mis-delivered. But ya, never in the history of India Cinema, was SHIT ever delivered to a gangster!

And that’s where the movie works I guess. It took some old wine, poured it into a new shit-filled bottle, and topped it up liberally with abuses.




The movie is bold, to say the least (Aamir himself asked for an ‘A’ certificate). The characters use abuses in almost every sentence, they talk about blowjobs and oral sex, give a literal definition of ‘fuck’, and are pretty much real life-y.
The performances are good, with Kunaal Roy Kapoor neatly stealing the show, along with Poorna Jagannath and Vijay Raaz. Imran Khan is good, but honestly, I liked him better in 'Jaane Tu..". Somehow, a cigarette looks totally wrong in his hands, and swearing doesn't suit him. Vir Das has done a good job, especially in the Disco Fighter avatar (the song 'Jaa Chudail'). They’ve shown Delhi in all its splendor, be it the dirty, almost-in-ruins apartment that the guys live in, or the upper-class society that Shehnaz Treasurywala represents.

Scenes to watch out for:-
1) Vijay Raaz neatly pouring out the shit onto a velvet cloth. (I swear, I retched at this scene. But it is brilliantly executed.)

2) Vijay Raaz’s crony knocking on the hotel room and saying “Sir, loondry (laundry)”.

3) A hole forming in the ceiling of the guys’ apartment when the fan falls off and the leg of a dancer upstairs gets stuck in it. The ceiling eventually collapses totally.
Etc...

But after a point, the abuses start to get on your nerves. Girls who are touchy about swear words and stuff, stay away from it. (I, for one, have been conditioned over the years by many of my guy friends to adjust to swear words. My ears have burnt, boiled, rotted, fallen off and regrown). Don’t go expecting fine cinema. It’s crass, bold, blunt and unapologetic. There isn't even a single beeped out word. It definitely ain’t for a family audience. Don’t even think about going along with your parents for it.

It’s a fun film, a good stress-buster. It's got some holding-your-tummy-because-you're-laughing-so-much-it-hurts moments, some where you'll squirm in your seats, some where you'll cringe (like where they push a stick of explosive up a guy's ass and light it), and some I've-seen-that-a-million-times-before ones (wearing a burqa as a disguise). And it's got the classic Aamir "I'm different and so is my cinema" Khan stamp.

I would give it an 8/10.

How did you like the movie?

July 6, 2011

Where is the health, minister?

In current news, the whole nation is up in arms against our dear Health Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, for stating that homosexuality is unnatural and a disease. People are tweeting their protest, putting up status messages calling him a fool, creating events saying “Get well Soon, Health Minister”, celebrities are giving quotes left, right and centre about how he is wrong in saying something like this, and how sexuality is each individual’s preference.

I agree with all of this.

But aren’t we forgetting something vital?

This is the very same guy who said that people should start watching television in order to exercise birth control (sheer genius, this one). This is the same guy who said that one small girl was solely responsible for spreading the swine flu in Pune in 2009. He is also the same guy who advocated smoking on screen, saying that cinema hardly influences people in real life.

See what I’m trying to say?

Clearly, he’s been missing his 15 seconds of fame and wanted to be back in the limelight. Maybe he figured, “What nonsense!! Enough of this Ramdev drama! Everyone’s talking only about him! I HAVE to turn the attention on to me. Now… What should I say this time that’ll put me in the spotlight for a few days? Birth control, check. Smoking on screen, check. Swine flu, check. Hmmm.. Eureka!!! Homosexuality!!!”

In a few days, he’ll issue a public apology, and then, just like the other matters did, this will also fade into oblivion.

Till he comes out with his next gem.

Actually, I’m kinda waiting to see what he’s gonna come up with next.

That’s all in today’s news. This is Spaceman Spiff signing off. Have a good day. *smiles intellectually and looks into the laptop importantly*

July 5, 2011

Go(l)d's Own Country.

So in other news, Kerala goes on to prove that it is indeed Gold’s Own Country. One lakh crores worth of gold and precious stones uncovered from an underground vault of Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple, making the temple the richest in the world. And there’s still one more vault left to unlock. As one of my friends remarked, “I wonder which princess’ dowry that was.”

While the rest of the country, and the world, is shell-shocked at the news, you’ll probably hear your next door neighbour ungil saying “Oh pinne! Ithokke swarnam aano? Njan enta molku ethra swarnama sthreedhanam aayittu kodutthennu ariyaavo?! Ithokke verum pullu!” (“Oh puh-lease!! This is gold?! do you know how much of gold I gave my daughter as dowry?! All this is just grass!!” If you’re a mallu, you’ll get the grass-connection.)

I used to wonder where this Malayali obsession for gold started. I think now we all know.

Sree Ananthapadmanabha Swamy ki jai!!!

July 4, 2011

If only...

September 2006.

I was having my Onam vacation in college, so Amma and I decided to pay a visit to Dad, who was in Surat at that time.

It’s a nice place. Surat. Mom and I enjoyed visiting Acha a few times there. His quarters in the BSNL colony was HUGE. Three bedrooms, a huge hall, a nice balcony, a lovely fire-staircase at the back of flat. Good neighbours, nice climate, a colourful Navrathri festival.. All in all, it was a great vacation.

So far.

I met a lot of people during Acha’s tenure at Surat. A lot of his office friends from different parts of the country.

But one that stands out is Vinay Bhaiyya. Acha’s driver.

In his early thirties, Vinay Bhaiyya was a rotund, good-natured man, always with a smile to offer. He never spoke too much, only when spoken to. He was always there when Acha or we needed him, without so much as a grumble. He would tell Acha that he’ll take me and Amma shopping during the day-time. He used to persistently invite us to his house to meet his wife. He had been married only two-three years. He was so happy when finally we paid a visit to his house. They treated us royally. He even got his sister, who owned a tailoring shop, to take me and Amma around the markets in Surat so that we could get a good deal while shopping. Everyone in his family knew us well, because we treated him more as family than just a driver.

It was finally time for Amma and me to return to TVM. My sister had come down to Surat from Mumbai for a few days of family time as well. The plan was to catch the Rajdhani Express from Baroda. The train departed from Baroda at 10:40 PM. So Acha suggested that we go by road till Baroda, since it’ll be a bit of extra earning for Vinay Bhaiyya also. We were to leave from Surat by around 4:30 in the evening. Surat-Baroda is a 5 hours journey by road.

Somehow by the time we left, it was 5. There were many last-minute visitors who had come to say bye to me and Amma. We knew we were a bit late, but nevertheless, confident of making it in time.

We set off in the Maruti Omni. We seemed to be doing well on time. Mom and I were excited that we were finally getting to travel in Rajdhani Express, a long-cherished dream of ours. I was dreaming of the luxurious seats, the yummy food, etc… My sister was to take a train to Mumbai from Baroda the same night, at 10:45.

At around 9, we stopped on the way for dinner. A small little dhaba. We told Vinay Bhaiyya also to have dinner. He sat at the table next to us and ate.

We set of at 9:30 again, Vinay Bhaiyya assuring us that we were pretty much on time and had nothing to worry about. Even when there was traffic block on the highway due to trucks, he kept assuring us that we will be on time.

By around 10, we started to get a little apprehensive. Dad, who was sitting in the front seat, kept asking him how much longer it would take. He kept assuring that we were almost there. He had started to drive at an insane speed by then. The traffic went past in a blur. I felt as though we were in one of those race-cars. Our worry was no longer whether we would reach the station on time. It was whether we would reach the station alive or not.

By 10:30, dad asked him whether we would reach the station at all. He said “Bus pahunch gaye sir. Aage hi hai.” ( We’ve almost reached sir. It’s just a little ahead).

We did reach. At 10:38 PM. We could hear the train’s departure being announced. And just as it happens, our train was not on the platform we had arrived on (Murphy’s Law at work in full force). We had to climb the foot-bridge. Vinay Bhaiyya brought the Omni to a screeching halt in front of the station, grabbed a few bags himself, and then we all ran. We ran. Mom and I had quite a lot of luggage, so it was no easy task. When we finally reached the other platform, we were told that the train had just left.

My Rajdhani dreams came crashing down.

Then dad and Chechi ran to another platform to see if she’ll get her train at least. Well, Lady Luck just didn’t want to favour us that day. Both of them came back, dejected, exhausted, out-of-breath.

Dad told us to wait where we were, while he went and cancelled our tickets. Vinay Bhaiyya said he would go keep our luggage in the van and wait there, as he hadn’t parked the van properly.

All of us were still in a daze. We had never missed a train before, after all.
Finally, by around 11:15, we decided to drive back to Surat, and then travel again after a few days. The four of us trudged to the entrance of the station, where our car was parked. We couldn’t find Vinay Bhaiyya anywhere, though. We tried calling him, he wasn’t answering his phone.

He finally appeared after a few minutes, panting, struggling to talk. When we asked him where he’d been, he said he went to get medicine. We noticed that he looked a bit pale. He had been complaining of indigestion for a few days. We then suggested that we stay the night somewhere in Baroda, and return to Surat the next day morning. But he assured that he was alright, could drive, and that we can start right away. My sister offered to sit in front, so that my dad could relax in the back seat. We told Vinay Bhaiyya that we’ll stop for chai somewhere, and then start off.

It was around 11:45 by now. We had barely gone a kilometer from the station. The roads were quite empty by then. Suddenly, Vinay Bhaiyya collapsed to the side, onto my sister, in the middle of the road. But not before he had switched off the ignition, and my sister quickly pulled the hand brake. We panicked. His head was lolling from side to side, and he was unconscious, his breathing a loud rattle. We stopped a young couple who was going by on a scooter, and luckily the guy happened to be a doctor. He said we have to take him to the hospital immediately. He and I ran to a clinic across the road and got the on-duty RMO. By the time we got back, a huge crowd had gathered on the road, and they had somehow managed to put him in an auto. My dad was in no state to drive. The RMO said that we have to rush him to the nearest hospital, about two kilometres away. One of the on-lookers offered to drive mom, chechi and me to the hospital, while dad went in the auto with Vinay Bhaiyya and a few others who had gathered.

By the time we reached the hospital, they had already taken him inside. My dad was hysterical. One of the few times I’ve seen him so. Vinay Bhaiyya was taken inside in a stretcher. But the doctor didn’t need to even take him inside the ward to examine him.

He was dead. On arrival.

Cause: Massive heart-attack.

A man of 32, died of heart-attack. Apparently, he had major blocks in his heart, and he mistook the discomfort that gave to be indigestion.

It was like a nightmare. A scene out of a movie. It’s the sort of thing that you think happens to others.

Dad called up his family and informed them. He signed the autopsy papers, went with the attendants when they took the body to the mortuary… and finally, we all went to a hotel for the night. It was about 3 AM by then.

None of us slept that night. All we could see was his body slouching over to the side in the car. Over and over again. We all wished it was a bad dream, but that’s not how life is, is it? We were ridden with guilt. He was with us, and this happened… if only…

The next morning, when we reached the hospital, we saw his wife sitting in the courtyard, crying inconsolably. All we could do was hug her. A widow at 29.

We returned to Surat the same day. There was a memorial service at his house after a few days that we attended. All eyes were on us. They were greatful that we were there till his last moment. They were full of questions as to what happened. His wife even innocently asked us if he had said anything about her in those last few moments.

It’s been a few years now. Like they say, time slowly fades away memories from your mind. Life resumed as normal for us.

But what about him? His family? His young widow? The unmarried younger sister who he was responsible for marrying off? What about all his unpaid debts? What about his mortgage? Till dad left Surat in 2008, he used to go over once-in-a-while, help them financially, and generally keep enquiring. All of us felt terribly guilty for what had happened.

And as goes with human nature, our life became full of if only’s.… if only we had left half an hour earlier.. if only we had not wasted time in idle chit-chat with the neighbours at the last minute. If only we had finished packing earlier. If only we had taken ten minutes less with our dinner.

We could’ve saved the rotund, good-natured driver, who was always ready with a smile. Who spoke only when spoken to. Who heartily invited us to his home. Who came with dad at 3 in the morning to the station to pick us up. Who had had the presence of mind to switch off the ignition before collapsing, because he didn’t want his Sir and family to be in danger.

If only…

But ya, life goes on. With time, we might completely forget about him. I don’t even know why I suddenly remembered him today.

That’s why I wrote this down here. Because I never want to forget him or that night. It may not have affected our life the way it affected his family. But we were part of it. We saw him die right in front of our eyes. And even though we have no contact with his family in distant Surat now, every time they remember his death, they will automatically remember us too. And every time we remember our visit to Surat, mom and I will remember this incident.

And I wanted to share it with everyone. I know it’s an insanely long post. But he deserves at least this much, don’t you think? After all, he lost his life trying to get us to the station in time…