Wednesday, December 26, 2012


Dear Friends.. I am sorry for yet another long break. I know.. I have been doing this quite a bit recently. Anyways.. am back with something interesting again! Okay... so tell me friends… What would be your idea for a lazy Sunday afternoon? I see a lot of hands. And I guess there are a lot of refreshing recipes for a relaxing weekend afternoon act. A good heavy meal, is it? It certainly helps if a Saravana Bhavan or a Punjabi dhaba is round the corner. But it will be even more special when a loved one cooks that heavenly meal for you or you make his/her afternoon special by becoming the master chef. Okay… I hear you are on diet. A movie perhaps! Check out the latest blockbuster that is showing in the multiplex nearby. Ahh.. Mixed reviews you say!

Hmmm… How about sitting back on that recliner and checking out anything the idiot box has to offer? Coziness and entertainment all at one place; with a refreshing dash of ginger tea and bliss is yours. Chaos in the living room, huh!! What to watch: Debate on economics or a movie or an Ekta Kapoor soap opera!  Gosh, can’t decide!! Okay okay.. stop that fight for the remote. Let me think of something else. Wait wait… don’t go to sleep! How about a long drive into the woods? What woods you ask? I hear someone yelling “Traffic”! Hmm.. This is getting tougher than I thought. How about a silent and pleasant walk then?  Did someone say cricket? Oh oh…There goes the afternoon for most of you now! I will leave you alone. You guys can fight in peace now!

Well these are all very viable options for lighting up a dull Sunday afternoon which were in my mind too. But the skies had other plans (literally). How is that you ask? Glad you did! It did start out as a dull, peaceful and serene Sunday morning as it went by in slow motion. A little bit of TV, some chit chat and coffee of course made it soothing and relaxing for me, mom and dad. And then it was lunch time as I debated the different options for lunch with mom. We settled on Pav Bhaji as the weather was in perfect synchrony for that and also because mom had never tried her hand at that before. So the chef hat and the apron were on as we went about the task at hand with enthusiasm and panache. And voila… Pav Bhaji was ready. Or so we thought!

But we had one small technical problem: there was no Pav. A quick trip to the grocery store solved that minor obstacle and lunch was upon us. Each one of us gulped down enough Pavs (not to mention the generous stuffing of Bhaji) that our eyes were fading out as we were ready to go into la-la-land. And that is when I just stepped out to the balcony to take a peek at what nature had in store that day. It was a fine day with the right mix of warmth and breeze, color and shade, blue sky embellished by cream clouds, birds chirping, squirrels fooling around (oh btw.. I do have to tell you something about squirrels but that would have to wait), cars (and men) giving Mother Nature a break, trees sveltely grooving to the winds and autumn leaves adorning the sidewalks. This abounding spectacle sent the idea of a nap cart-wheeling out of my mind.

Mom has always been an ardent admirer of nature herself and she joined me in the balcony as we listened to nature’s sweet chimes. And that was when we saw the sky’s white magic. It happened all of a sudden that we were left dumbstruck and pinched each other to ensure it was not a dream. Before you decide (for the umpteenth time) to kill me for holding you hostage with my impending suspense, let me let the cat out of the sky. The reason for our blissful commotion was that letters all of a sudden started appearing in the sky. Yes, you read it right. A magical invisible pen with the help of a precision stencil was etching out letters that were literally appearing out of thin air. We could recognize the letters but the words made no clear sense. And then in a minute or two everything disappeared. Now we were really curious about this mysterious turn of events. The afternoon nap was certainly out and we waited in anticipation of more wizardry from this mysterious wand. In other news, the curiosity bug had infected my dad as he too joined us in the balcony.

About 15 minutes had gone by and we were beginning to lose hope when a déjà vu happened. In another direction, in a different part of the sky, different letters made their appearance one by one to create new words but the one thing that remained the same was the fact that we couldn’t make out what the heck it meant. And then a minute later, it was all gone. Now I started speculating about these seemingly mysterious happenings and quickly made up a few preposterous theories. Was it some evil spirit’s handiwork? Were those writings somehow connected to some holy scripture? Was it warning us of some impending doom? I even thought about trying to research those words and try to find some patterns when my mom said that I was trying too much to be Sherlock Holmes (or Ramanugem rather).

In the meantime, another message had appeared in the sky teasing us with another riddle before fading away surreptitiously. Now we were proposing the theory of an alien attack (come on, we wanted to have some fun) and that over-abused prophecy of the world coming to an end in 2012. Seriously, an alien visit rather an alien attack would surely have been fun. But then, all good things have to come to an end. With some googling and research, I finally traced this to a Ryder cup gimmick. Now what is Ryder cup, you ask. It is a golf tournament between USA and Europe that happens every 2 years.

I know.. Golf is boring. Tell me about that! But this time it provided more fun even if it was unintentional. Apparently Europe made a historic comeback to retain the Ryder Cup. And I guess they had a little help from above. Well, not from that high up as you are thinking, but from at least above 50,000 feet. A European bookie hired a team of sky writers to create pro European tweets high above the country club where the tournament was going on, which by the way is in Chicago close to where I live. But to make them visible so far on the ground though, the planes have to make the writing really big. Each tweet was 400 meters high and 5 miles long and went on to break all skywriting records. That meant even people as far as 20 miles away could clearly see the writings on the sky and we were among the lucky ones.

Well… so ends the story of an intriguing Sunday afternoon. It was no Apocalypse but still a memorable and enthralling experience. For the first time I came to know about this concept called Sky Writing. It is the art of using an aircraft that is capable of expelling smoke, to fly in certain patterns to create writing readable by someone on the ground. Fascinating, isn’t it? Now this message could be anything, meaningful or less, advertisement, celebration or even a birthday wish or a marriage proposal. Now how many of you would want the heavens to broadcast your proposal to that special love of yours! I sure see a lot of hands again. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Sorry everyone for taking another long break! As usual my body and my brain have been lazing around. Ooops… I didn’t say that. Read that as: I have been busy with work! :P

But guess what…  I am back and I have a brand new cartoon character for you. How fantastic is that! So without much further ado here is “Amazing Alamu” for you. She is smart, intelligent, old, wise, kind, caring, carefree, talkative and above all very inquisitive and interestingly intriguing. Don’t worry. You will get to know her more. She is new to social media and her goal is to become tech savvy in no time. So here I leave you with one such “Techy” encounter!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Here is something I thought about, that is going to tickle and delight your heart and mind. Oh oh… no.. Don’t get too excited though as I am not going to tell you anything remotely new or ground-breaking. I am sure it is going to be déjà vu for most of you. (But wait wait.. don’t run away. Please read on! :P) Imagine asking your child to draw a tree. Ah.. I see some nostalgic smiles there. Well… what do you do? You give her a nice big sheet of paper, drawing pencils, crayons of different colors and even paint brushes and water colors if she is a pro.

Now I am sure your kid is not new to such an exercise but would nevertheless enjoy another opportunity to unleash her creativity. So the child goes about effortlessly outlining the tree as she has done several times in drawing classes at school. She carves out a broad trunk for the tree, designs the branches generously and then carefully and delicately fills them with leaves. Then she throws in some fruits and may be gets fancy with birds, squirrels and other potential inhabitants too. If she is a stickler for detail, she may even go underground chalking out the roots.

Then what does she do? Well… she turns towards the crayon box or water colors that have been lying there craving for her attention. It is time to add some color in the tree’s life. It is only very fitting as trees add so much color to our lives. She starts with the trunk and works her way up to the leaves. She picks her favorite color green and splatters it all over the leaves. Now she looks at the box: there are so many colors left, she thinks.

So she picks up her favorite maroon and starts pondering. After a bit of debating, she decides to color a few leaves with this new exciting color. She takes a look at it: Not bad, she thinks. The few specks of maroon have added to the beauty of the tree. Now she gets even more creative. She mixes yellow and orange to get the golden tinge. She adds some glitter to the tree by decorating some leaves in gold. She is not yet satisfied. She does some more blending and comes up with some purple, golden brown and dark red leaves as well. Now she looks at her work of art with great bliss. She seems quite pleased.

It is time for some “show-off”. She comes running to you to display her wizardry with the brush. You look at the tree and for a moment you are shocked. You were expecting a “green” tree fresh and full of foliage. Now here is your kid who has sort of made a rainbow out of the tree. But then it strikes you (hopefully; otherwise there is always Wikipedia) that there is a season called autumn, which we had once read about when we were in 1st or 2nd standard. Your child has unknowingly but ever so beautifully crystallized a tree that displays “Fall Foliage”. Isn’t that magical? That is why they say: “Children are God’s greatest gift to us”. They can see the purity and splendor of God’s creations better than us.

Now you might be wondering why in the first place I am writing all this. I don’t know either. This week I have been noticing the first glimpses of autumn and the gentle rustling and crumbling of the leaves as they sweep across me made me think about it. The trees around have been slowly but steadily becoming more and more colorful and against a grey sky on a rainy evening, they sure look poetic. And they keep distracting me. There was this simple question as to why all this happens in my mind that has kept me intrigued. By now, most of you would be aware of my intelligence quotient. So after having unsuccessfully raked my brains trying to understand the “Autumn leaf phenomenon”, I sought the help of none other than Professor Eisenkleiftovich! I know you guys would have missed him and his genius. He is busy with his research on “Martian sand” but promised to make a full fledged appearance soon.

So here is an excerpt from what he had to say about “Autumn leaves”. As usual he was a bit philosophical too.

“We always think (such a misplaced thought) that we are the only ones who can think. But it would come as a surprise to many of us to know that even plants have “Intelligence”. First of all, as we know, they not only produce food for themselves, but also for us. And by food for us I meant “Oxygen”. Leaves are nature’s food factories. Well, as you would know, “Photosynthesis” is a phenomenon wherein leaves use sunlight to turn water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and glucose. They keep the “glucose” for themselves and gift us the Oxygen.

Now every factory has a shutdown. As summer draws to a close and autumn comes by, the days become shorter and shorter and the trees know and sense that winter is coming. During winter there won’t be enough sunshine for photosynthesis and hence the trees will shut down and live off of stored food. Now a leaf is green because of chlorophyll and its abundance dominates and masks any other pigments present in the leaf and “Chlorophyll” is the “Photosynthesis” guy. So now since he is not needed, he slowly disappears from the leaves and other guys start showing up. And that’s when we start seeing the yellows, oranges, bright reds and purples. If you want to know more about the science, do visit the references and enlighten yourself.”

So that was Mr.Eisenkleiftovich for you guys giving me some “leaf” gyan. Now it is time for me to signoff on this lovely Friday afternoon as I leave office early to take my parents on an autumn “leaf peeping” tour in the evening.   

And I shall leave you with a lovely poetic welcome to Autumn by a dear fellow blogger Rahul. You can read it here: Welcome Autumn.

P.S: Did I mention to you that after I wrote the article “An Alternate Hypothesis to Einstein’s theory of relativity”, I got a post-card from the man himself! It read: “Nice try, fella!”


Saturday, October 20, 2012


It is a strange feeling to be a stranger at home. Navdeep had an eerie uneasiness that engulfed the vacuum of his mind as he and Suhana landed in Bangalore, a city whose lush greenery and verdant trees once shared every secret desire of his. Today it was just another city whose gardens appeased his heart no more. The inner connect had been lost for years, there was no nostalgia in the air and he no longer yearned for the petrichor. Had it not been for his ailing mother and the impending registration of his new house, Navdeep would have preferred to stay away from this epicenter of trouble, doubt, discomfort and dirt, out of his own guilt rather than intent. It is quite incredible how perspectives change when idealism of the mind and serenity of the heart are blitzed by the practicality of comfort and the brashness of wealth. But again, every time he set foot in the land of his fathers, his heart would get entangled in a quagmire of memories and would relive the magic of the past thereby forcing his mind to a perennial coma of confusion, doubt and desire. A strange conundrum is Life!
                    -------- ~~--~~--~~---------

Navdeep’s left eye waged an hour long battle to separate the intertwined lashes and lift the heavy eyelid to let some light in. It took some time for the photons to take shape and for his neurons to put them in perspective. He didn’t know where he was. He looked at an animated Suhana who seemed to be in a rampant fit. His mother’s eyes said a silent prayer and his dad held his hand so tight which made him feel the excruciating pain in every other part of his body. Suddenly he remembered something! He slid his hand to his left pocket. He found a crumbled 500 rupee note!

“Ayyanar…” he mumbled!
                    -------- ~~--~~--~~---------

 “Hello Sir. How have you been? It has been ages since I saw you.” Ayyanar had a forgotten innocence in his smile.
“I am okay. Can we do this quickly?” Navdeep was in no mood for niceties. He was already furious at his builder who didn’t consider it important enough to help him out personally. “How dare he send a helper instead!” he fumed inside. But seeing Ayyanar comforted him as he was a very nice and sincere chap and had helped Navdeep a lot, earlier during the construction of the house.

“Of course Sir. But you know the custom here. Taluk offices hardly work the way we want to. But you don’t worry Sir. I shall get everything done for you by today. Shall we leave?”

“In this?” Navdeep asked jokingly pointing at the rusty Kinetic Zing which stood laboriously as if it was on crutches. Ayyanar grinned sheepishly.
                    -------- ~~--~~--~~---------

“Are you giving me a Bangalore darshan, my friend? Where is this office?” yelled Navdeep.

Meanwhile Ayyanar was lost in wonderland as he was drooling over a gorgeous Katrina Kaif who was selling some trendy designer watch in a larger than life cutout. Ayyanar would have bought just about anything!

“You are going to kill me. Stop ogling at your Chikni Chameli and watch the road fellow!” Navdeep patted Ayyanar back to earth.
                 -------- ~~--~~--~~---------

The thought of Katrina Kaif brought a temporary smile in Navdeep’s face. But then reality came back to him again. “Where is Ayyanar?” he muttered again. There were blank faces all around but his mind was still numb to register anything. He couldn’t hear what his father was saying but he saw him shake his head!
                    -------- ~~--~~--~~---------

 “What do you mean you need 3 witnesses? Didn’t you talk to our builder and agree to everything? Now why this nautanki? And don’t give me the officer-on-leave crap. I am sure you can get a signature can’t you?” Ayyanar was at his animated best.

Navdeep dragged Ayyanar away to the next room. “Just give the money he asks for and get it done with”.

“I will Sir. But he is asking for 1500 rupees which is outrageous. He says he needs it for other people as well but I am damn sure he never gives anyone else a dime. That’s not fair”, Ayyanar argued very religiously.

“Fairness in bribery! Anyways this is your territory. I won’t and can’t interfere.” Navdeep thrust three 500 rupee notes and put his hands up as Ayyanar stormed back into the office again. He came back in half an hour with a devilish grin in his face.

“Here you go Sir. Your 500 rupees! That guy doesn’t even deserve the 1000. And I won’t give up your hard earned money so easily!” There was a sense of satisfaction in his tone which amazed Navdeep. It was strange to him that someone cared more for his money than he did. He felt that if anyone deserved the 500 rupees, it was Ayyanar.
                    -------- ~~--~~--~~---------

Navdeep’s eyes welled up in tears as reality slowly sunk in. His mind went blank and the image of Ayyanar froze in front of his eyes. He tore the 500 rupee note into pieces.
                    -------- ~~--~~--~~---------

 “See... Mission accomplished. As I had promised you! Now sit back and enjoy the view as Ms.Zing takes us home!” an enthusiastic Ayyanar was whistling.

“Yeah.. all credit to you Ayyanar. Thank you so much. Without you, nothing would have been possible. I would have been circling this office for days. Heyy… check that out. Your dream girl Katrina again! She looks even more beautiful sipping that mango juice over there!” Ayyanar almost instantaneously rotated his head to the direction Navdeep pointed. Then it happened!
                    -------- ~~--~~--~~---------

Navdeep gasped for his breath. Finally the one memory that will remain to haunt him for the rest of his life unfolded in front of his eyes.

“In this?” Navdeep asked jokingly pointing at the rusty Kinetic Zing which stood laboriously as if it was on crutches. 

Ayyanar grinned sheepishly. “Sir.. Don’t make fun of my Zing. It is my sweetheart. I love her more than Katrina Kaif. Here... take my helmet. You will feel safer!” Ayyanar pummeled the kick start as Navdeep casually inquired: “And what about you?”

Ayyanar smiled back innocently – for one last time!

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                                                                                   - A SHORT STORY BY RAJ

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Today morning was a breathtaking melancholy. There is this confounding paradox you experience when nature is at full bloom in front of you but you have limited time to breathe in its splendor. I was subject to this sweet agony. Clouds in various shades of grey decorated the skies. But they were not willing to part with their droplets as they clung on to them tightly. Rain was tantalizing one and all. One moment it looked to tear away from the clouds and splash us all with vengeance and the next moment its loyalties shifted once again. The sun appeared very shy as it hid behind the clouds and took an occasional peek with the naughtiness of a child. May be it was playing hide and seek with the rain. As it glanced through the broad shoulders of the grey clouds, its rays added more shade, slither and shimmer to the already moistly clouds. Everything under the sun glistened due to this early morning activity of the sky folk.

My morning drive to the office transformed itself into a grand odyssey through the gates of paradise that was graced by nature’s grand opera. I reverently thanked every traffic light on the way, prayed for a traffic jam and religiously tailed the slowest car on the road. I was a happy victim to the wrath and honks of several bustling men and women who were in a hurry to get to work. A guy who angrily passed me mouthed a few obscenities and was shocked to see my radiant smile in return. I guess he might even have thought that I might be a distant relation to Jesus or Buddha. Sorry to disappoint you my friend. Little did he know that the bloom of my smile sprang from Mother Nature’s symphony!     

And it just kept getting better as rain decided to make its grand entry. Winds started gushing around and the rustle of the leaves became music to my ears. There was a particularly enthralling scene I witnessed with bated breath. It was a visual of a water droplet fighting the battle of its life. It was clinging on with all its might to the shimmering glass as it was tossed left and right in a frantic pace. It started its slippery slide downward, was luckily held tight for a moment by another fellow droplet that was going through a similar struggle. The moment was short lived as the Good Samaritan couldn’t hold for long and both of them started their descent together. And then it happened… Flash… my car’s wiper came up like an axe to chop them into several pieces and dislodged them from the windshield into eternity! Poetic!

Nature seemed to be bombarding my eyes with its beauty. I just did not want the panorama to stop. And for the first time in a year, I felt that my office could have been a little farther. But then again, luck was on my side today as I hadn’t brought my lunch and gaily stepped out once again in the afternoon. The scenery had just gotten more heavenly. It looked the children of heaven were out on a picnic. The crayons and the paint brushes had come out and they had let their imagination run wild as they had shaped the clouds into so many breathtaking forms and shapes that I just could not stop gazing. I decided to shun my car and walk down. The graceful trees romanced the soothing wind in the perfect ballet. It was so magical that I don’t really remember what I ate for lunch.

And time took the incarnation of a snail post lunch. It took an eternity for the clock to strike 5 as I hurried out of work to immerse myself in the sea of beauty that lay outstretched outside. And no wonder nature’s last act was its best. The clouds had spread themselves far and wide through the vast expanse of the sky. Their somber grey had given way to a subtle and supple blue. The sun’s red was smeared in a gorgeously slender tinge which gave the evening sky a splendid shimmer. I watched the tinge slowly tail the fading sun to oblivion. With a heavy sigh, I retreated from my balcony with the satisfaction of witnessing a perfect day. Happiness is so simple!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


You all might be wondering (You see, I like to believe) where the hell I have been. I have been in a self-imposed exile of sorts. The reason might not be very difficult to guess. Recently I published a cartoon (sort of) which indulged in a (restrained!?) mockery of, let us say, politicians (See Here). And then a few days later, Aseem Trivedi happened. I, too, have a small contribution of cartons to mankind, and they are not exactly famous for their “educational content” or “political correctness”. Now you see why I have been lying low. I see some nodding heads, some bemused faces and a few sarcastic grins. Either ways, I do first want to register my heart felt agony at the treatment that is being meted out to him. These are really dark days. I am not such a brave heart. Hence I went into hiding. Well, for other people who were able to catch my bluff: okay, I agree I have been lazy too!

But this unprecedented harassing of Aseem Trivedi has made me think (err… I see you doubt my thinking abilities). But trust me, the signs are ominous. Inside sources (#$@?) tell me that CBI doesn’t have any work to do and has been given the commission to weed out innocent people like us who, if nothing, try to express our views in different ways and forms. Now I see worried faces. Don’t worry. I believe the CBI would exhibit the same trademark aptitude and adeptness as we have seen it employ so often in trying to track down innumerous corrupt politicians and dangerous criminals. Ah... Now I see some smiles reinforced!

By the way, before I forget, Manmohan Singh did send me a blank email as a silent protest to my cartoon. And how dare I question the caliber of Rahul Gandhi! In his defense, I received two resumes detailing his accomplishments (??!) and the myriad skills in his repertoire; one from the man himself and the other from his “MAA”. And well... you guessed it right. The two resumes didn’t have a thing in common.

Meanwhile, I have had another sensational revelation about the BJP. Though it has been attributing its “hostage politics” of stalling the parliament to “acting in the interests of the people”, I have come to know that the party members have taken a very addictive interest to a certain game called “Poker”. Not the Prince Harry one. That was “Strip Poker”, you silly! This is the U-certified version to suit our “culture”. So everyday these guys make quick work of the session and rush out to have their post-lunch game. And the stakes are so high that the ultimate winner would bag the “Prime Ministerial” nomination for the 2014 elections! Guess that might be their only chance to get a "consensus" candidate! 

Sorry for digressing! Where was I? Oh yeah, I have been exploring my options to defend myself in case anything eventful happens. Not that I don’t trust our CBI, but just in case. My future though, looks bleak. I had this ingenious idea of using Facebook to voice my views, express my concerns and garner some support, but Mr.C’mon man immediately burst my bubble. I recently published a cartoon featuring him and denouncing Facebook. Damn!! And Mr.Zuckerberg didn’t take my article “In your face” too lightly either. I could see that he had personally edited the codes (being an ex-software engineer helps as I can just make this stuff up) to “unlike” all the “likes” the post got on Facebook. You might see this as a cheap gimmick of mine to portray as if I actually got 100 likes instead of the 2 likes you see. But trust me; Mark even unliked my “like”! Now you must be wondering who among the two of us was more desperate! 

You can clearly see I am going nowhere. But don’t blame me. Just like the Indian Industrial output, the US employment data, the value of the Indian rupee, my creativity has also been on an all time low. During such a period of extensive creative drought, I tried my hand at different tactics to spur my brain and get the creative juices flowing but to no avail. Recently I tried writing a murder mystery with Mr.Ramanujem. I did manage to complete that and was feeling pretty comfortable about it until my mom came to play spoilsport. She managed to guess the killer after reading the first page, thus sending the story to the garbage can. My boss, on the other hand, started finding my budget numbers exceedingly mysterious. This made me realize that writing stories during office hours is not such a great idea. If you miraculously thought that I have started working now in office, be well informed that I have reverted back to Solitaire!

I guess both you and me have had a fairly strong dose of boredom by now. So I leave you at peace!
P.S: Oh… forgot to tell you. The title was just a spur of creativity. It doesn’t have any relation to what I intended to write. Any relevance you were able to find or infer is purely coincidental.

Monday, September 3, 2012


It has been a while since I wrote something after “A Truth’s destiny”. Sorry for taking a rather long break. But this hiatus was not a self imposed one. Sometimes creativity doesn’t listen to us. It is more like nature and we are at own peril to try and change its course. And being an ardent lover of nature and creativity, I decided not to interfere. We set ourselves certain standards and there are times when you feel that something is missing in your writing. I did go through this phase wherein I found all my writings incomplete and lacking in zest and life. And I have also been occupied with a lot of other things and so haven't found time to indulge in things close to my heart. But thankfully I have successfully restrained myself and have not subjected you to those works of mine which I would have second thoughts reading! I am also sorry for not having read quite a lot of your blogs. I plan to do that as well as soon as possible. 

Anyways… Thank God there is humor that acts as a much needed elixir in testing times. So amidst this drought of creativity, I still have some comic relief to offer. And thank heavens.. our politicians are there to lend me a helping hand in my efforts. Just imagine how sad our lives would be without them. So here I bring you a very short preview of things to come in Indian politics. It has already being touted as the battle to watch out for in the future. Clash of the Titans, if you would! Come 2014, and you may well be talking about this epic collision. Okay.. before you guys plan to kill me, I sadly break the suspense. It is none other than the Modi vs Gandhi war. I can hear a few chuckles already. For those who are not yet amused, you can see the first teaser below.

Now that we have seen a glimpse of the future, we can come back to the Present. The phrase “Status quo” has never had so much significance, thanks to this man. A man who I am sure will have difficulty recognizing his own voice (I can hear you say "If he has one"!). They say there is calm before a storm. And it has been a long and eerie calm. So I leave you with: “The Immovable Object!” Now please don’t ask me who is the “Irresistible Force”?

Monday, July 30, 2012


The compartment was fairly empty for a Saturday afternoon. She thought that it was probably not season yet for travel. But the thing she felt a little queer about was the guy sitting opposite to her. It had been an hour and he had not taken his eyes off the scenery his window was offering, not even to have a peek at a pretty girl sitting right in front.

“Anything particularly beautiful you are looking at?” He was taken aback by the hint of sarcasm in her voice.

“Nothing particular. But beautiful, yes!” He looked at her for the first time. Eyes so expressive and purposeful! She gave him the “care-to-explain-yourself” look.

He smiled. It was an innocent one. “Here, come this side and see for yourself.”

She came and sat by his side. The sight was perfect. They didn’t speak a word for a long time.  It was the sun’s last act of the day and the most beautiful one!

He spoke first. “What a spectacle! It actually looks like our train is chasing the sun down into those curvy mountains. He seems to be pretty tired after the day’s work and we are catching up on him. On his way, he stumbles upon those gorgeous trees which add their color to his light. What a delightful duet!”  

She soaked in the beauty that his eyes had just conjured. “My visualization was not so enthralling. What are you? A  writer? A poet?”

“No, someone less profound! I am a photographer.”

“Wow.. I could never be one!” There was a subtle pain in her voice.

They watched the sun as it disappeared into oblivion. “It rests to scorch another day.” She sighed as the last traces of the sun left their eyes.

He took a few beats to crystallize his thoughts. “For the last half an hour, we have seen the sun grow on us. Its golden shimmers accentuated the beauty and serenity of every animal, foliage and emotion they touched. As our train got tantalizingly close to the mountains, the sun was bigger, clearer and more meaningful than ever. And then he disappears leaving us to be consumed by the darkness. Does this mean anything to you?”

“I see you are poised to say something profound. Go on.”

“Well, profound or stupid, is for you to decide. It reminds me of the shallowness and the false hopes and promises that make up our lives. Don’t you share my melancholy?” He looked at her intriguingly.

She smiled playfully. “Not really. I think he dims his light for us to search for it within.”

“Now that is profound indeed. What are you, a philosopher?” He winked.

“Well, something more human. I am a painter.”

“I am sure having such expressive eyes helps! They can temporarily arrest nature’s splendor and you can immortalize it later on paper.” She gushed at his poetic compliment.

They were about to go back to their silence when he suddenly asked her a question she was hoping he wouldn’t. “Why did you say you couldn’t be a photographer?”

After being pensive for a while she opened up. “Because my dad was one!” This time he couldn’t see any emotion in her eyes. “And he was brilliant at it. The best! He took several pictures which were adored and celebrated. They brought him name and fame. But most of these photos were meant to portray a world that was not real. A world that was clinically enhanced; sprinkled with artificial beauty, fake emotions and non existent colors! The world as you want it to look like! A world of your dreams!” He did not interrupt her as emotions were slowly starting to erupt.

 “And then one day he took his best photograph. It just told a simple truth. It was a piece of art. Sometimes, that is the worst curse. It shows life in its purest and darkest shade. It is too much for one to take. It tells you a story you so hoped didn’t exist. And the story of this photo changed my dad. It made every other photo of his look inconsequential and meek. It was the last photograph he ever took!” She was still breathing heavily but had slowly managed to gain her composure back.

A stunned silence ensued. “It must have been a very potent picture!” He whispered softly.

“Sure it is!” She took out the photo from her bag and gave it to him. It was a breathtaking capture of a man was carrying his son on his shoulders. He looked at it intensely for a while and then handed it back to her. “It is priceless.” His eyes had a semblance of torture.

“What happened? I thought you would want to see that picture a little longer.” She could not understand the emotion he was going through.

He smiled contritely. “If you allow me, I will keep looking at this picture for the rest of my life.” She did not understand but didn’t want to press, fearing she might hurt a raw wound. But that had already been done.

“Well, you see, I don’t have a photo of my father and I never seem to like any of mine.” He said nonchalantly.

She was shuddering. “Is this…. You?”

He was gently caressing the man in the photo. “Yes. I am the unfortunate son of this man who did not have any reason to smile in his whole life but found every opportunity to do so. He spent his whole life with a heavy baggage on his slender shoulders. In the morning he would carry me to school. It was 10 kilometers from our village and he had to cross a dense forest barefooted. He would then chop wood in the forest the whole day. He would carry my little baby sister along with him to the forest. He made her a little cradle in the woods and the birds would sing her lullaby. In the evening he will carry the wood to the local timber house and sell it to them for a paltry price. He would then come to fetch me again. Those three hours on my father’s shoulders were my most precious moments of the day. He would tell me about every single sight, event and incident on the way. I started seeing the world through his eyes. I wish time had frozen at that very moment. But that was not to be. May be I was too much a burden for him to shoulder! Or may be, I was not destined to play with my baby sister!

A famous actress of that time adopted me from my father; for a good sum I guess. Thanks to your dad’s priceless photo that melted her heart. My father was happy that I was going to get a life that he could never give me. But I knew he cried and bled internally. I knew his heart would never be able to give me up. He wanted to carry me on his shoulders all his life. But life is cruel. It takes your soul and you can’t even cry!

Time slowly heals you. I started afresh. For 10 years, I lived a life of solitary luxury. I had everything. I even had love. My new mother was not the best but she took good care of me, though I never felt the mother in her! But I had nothing to complain until one day she had a son of her own. Now I was just a complication! So she got rid of me. To be fair, I was well taken care of. She put me in college and fixed a decent accommodation as well. So here I was, after being rooted out from my father’s heart and shoulders and planted in a place where I never fit in, alone, out in the world to find a soil again.

I had always looked for an inspiration, a calling to live or die for, and I found it through your dad. Strange it may seem, but he shaped my destiny! This unknown man, who immortalized my father in a frame of memory, who gave me new parents (for a while), a great house to live, a great school to study, gave my father and my sister the opportunity for a better life; he became my idol. He still is! That is why I am a photographer today!”  

His eyes were moist. So were hers! “You never tried to find your father again?”

“I wanted to. So many times. But then, what would I tell him? That I have been an orphan for 15 years! That I have everything I haven’t even asked for but not the one thing I have always longed for: his love. He would have imagined great things about his son. I do not intend to bring down the fond castles he has built in my memory. He will not be able to forgive himself. He has had enough agony for one lifetime already. Sometimes it is best to live in the truth we have come to believe in. I am happy to live with the belief that my father and sister are happy somewhere! I can’t take any other truth!” He was choking for words.

She caressed his shoulders soothingly. She had no words to console him. She knew that none were necessary. She put the photo on his lap. “You can keep the photo. I think it means much more to you!” He had no words to thank her. He knew none were necessary.

She moved away and took out her diary and started writing something. He looked at her eagerly.  

“It’s nothing. I just like to record memorable conversations.”

He smiled affectionately. “I am so glad you thought this one is memorable!” He was still looking at the photo. Tears were parting his eyes profusely. She finished her diary and went away to shed a tear of her own.

He glanced at her diary. Something inside him urged him to read it and he tried hard to battle that thought. A truth’s destiny hinged on his action!

Excerpt from her diary:
How can I tell you that this photograph means as much or more to me!

I wish I could tell you that I am your little sister. I wish I could ask you to sing me a lullaby.

How can I tell you how much our father loved us? How can I tell you that he would have never given you away if he was not dying? Yes. Dying slowly but surely!

I cannot tell you how many hours I have spent looking at this photo, touching and feeling the two of you.

How can I tell you that my father watched our father die in my arms and then took me in his arms? I cannot tell who I love the most, but both these men are our heroes!

And how can I bring my heart to tell you that both of them are no more! I have suffered the agony of watching them die: one of pain and the other of grief. How can I let you go through the same?

This photograph is our destiny. It is our doom. It broke us. It made us. I can’t allow it to break us again. I am just happy it brought us together, what if it was for just a moment! Sometimes it is best to live in the truth we have come to believe in!

                                                                                                                 A SHORT STORY BY RAJ

This post is part of the contest A picture can say a thousand words.. on

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


I recently had the great honor of meeting with the great Mr.C’mon man. He gave me his expert opinion (uncalled for as you should have guessed by now) on everything under the sun and beyond. He felt that I have been too serious and my writing reflects melancholy. I tried in vain for a little while explaining my sanity to him but he went off on rigmarole as to why he is the next Nostradamus which I found rather amusing. 

So I decided to share that interesting bit of comedy (or tragedy) with all of you! Enjoy!! A year ago, his prediction went to deaf ear, but today he has mastered the art of grabbing attention!

Friday, July 20, 2012


I am sure all of you are eagerly awaiting the commencement of the 2012 Summer Olympics. But I hope you have not missed our own version of the Presidential games which has been a roaring success over the last several months, thanks to the popular gimmicks, intriguing twists, spine-chilling maneuvers and daredevil stunts of our political gladiators. Please don’t ask me who the athletes to watch out for are! I reserve the right to not answer this preposterous question. For the benefit of some folks who are a little weak in (general) knowledge, I would like to highlight that there are in fact two contenders and not one. And Mamta Banerjee is not one of them!

Though our Presidential process is a fairly insignificant one and its impact is going to affect no one other than our Tourism Department, it has still lived up to the reputation of a tamasha! And what do I say about the sincerity and vigor with which our two crusaders have gone about their campaigns? Certainly in terms of the entertainment quotient, Sangma has an upper hand. He has shown time and again that he has got the moves. His dance performances have lent some flavor to the otherwise monotonous rat race. But he has got some competition from Pranab who has mastered a completely different dance form: dancing to the tunes of Sonia jii. Give the veteran some credit: after all there are so many exponents of this art and to stand out is no mean feat.

But when it comes to planning, no one beats Pranab daa. Right from the day his dream of being Prime Minister was squished, he has been meticulously and masterfully moving the pieces in anticipation of shifting base to Raisina Hill. Right from taking travel tips from Pratibha Patil to ensuring that he is already a President in university textbooks, he is running one hell of an organized campaign. I bet you can accredit two five year plans to this noble cause. I have insider information that even Mr.Obama is seeking his tips. I hope not on matters of Finance though.  And in my not so humble opinion, I think it would be of international interest if they consider a Rotation program in their tenures. Surely the Americans (and the world) would for once welcome a President who is fairly inactive while Mr.Obama can talk his way into the hearts of the Indian Public. Some loose “Change” would help too!

In this entire hullabaloo, the Governmental institutions have been kept on their toes. The Postal Service particularly has had to deal with an unusual surge in the letter traffic as the candidates are on a writing spree urging for support from all quarters. And with majority of those letters being directed to a Ms. Banerjee, a lot of people are wondering about the mysterious absence of an entity called the telephone in the whole process. A Mamta wing has been set up in West Bengal post offices to handle this emergency.  There is also a lot of bustle in jails these days as several inmates are shuttling in and out to wine and dine with the future President of India. If you thought jails were intended to be some form of punishment, you are in the wrong planet.

Be it reaffirming their solidarity or grabbing some brownie media points, the politicos and party allies are enjoying all the attention. Mulayam Singh Yadav has had his share of fun in the process, first by flirting with Mamta for a few hours in what would go down as one of the shortest flings in political history and then doing a sly volte-face showing his homely allegiance to Sonia Matay. Not to mention his latest gimmick, accidentally voting for Purno instead of Pranab. Oops! And there are others who take their team player roles a little too seriously. Mr.Karunanidhi for example keeps announcing his support for Pranab every other day on television, first cordially, then warmly, later resolutely and then officially.  Finally, the cat and mouse courtship drama of the Congress to woo Mamta had all the ingredients of a blockbuster reality show and it narrowly trumped the Paes-Bhupathi-Bopanna extravaganza.

Since there was never a buzz or anxiety (except for Mr.Sangma) around the outcome of the President’s race, the entire country had waited with bated breath as to which side Didi would sway. And boy, did she arrive in style or what! She rendered complete justice to a famous Rajnikanth punchline: “Late aa vandalam latest aa varuven”. Guess you won’t need a translation for that. But even the ever astute politician in Mamta missed the biggest trick that could have changed the landscape of Indian politics. Instead of choosing the poor old pawn Mr.Singh as one of her choices, she could have played the biggest political check mate by choosing the Rook(ie) Mr.Rahul Gandhi. By doing so, she would have had the once in a lifetime opportunity of confining the future of the masses permanently to the future. Now he has announced that he will soon assume a larger role. May our souls rest in pieces! Even a 1000 God Particles cannot save us now!

Friday, July 13, 2012


I have always believed that we get a sense of our real self when we are on the road. It may sound a little far fetched but I may not be too off to think that traffic is a strong signal to the values of our society. The roads have a cold blooded indifference and candor. They lay us bare. Our humanity, gentleness, rectitude, courtesy or the utter lack of all these is on public display and we feed off of one another. And over my lifetime, I have seen more souls than bodies bleed to death on these roads.

I don’t drive anymore. I prefer to get killed rather than committing suicide. Or is it the fear that someone else would get killed or worse might get to see a glimpse of the darkest corners of my heart? Whatever it may be, I take the auto everyday. Some bonds are strange to describe and trying to understand them defeats the whole purpose. Thankfully the auto driver doesn’t question why I give him the luxury of taking me anywhere he pleases to and I don’t wonder why he entertains me every time. We are both comfortable in our uncomfortable silence.

I try to detach myself from everything. Listlessness strangely keeps me sane. The roads are full of bustle and chaos but I merely watch it with a callous apathy.  A man on a bike, in an attempt to impress his pillion interest, zips past us miraculously bisecting the auto and a scooter, almost rams into an old man in a bicycle before his short tryst with the gutter. Alas, a sad predicament to a romantic endeavor. Another who is not acrobatic enough stays behind us and shows his grumpiness with a generous dose of his boisterous horn. The auto-driver is calm and unruffled by the hullabaloo around as he listens to something he calls “a song” that has a pitch to rip apart the jarring loudspeaker which has the potential to replace any hearing aid.

I see a huge car in the distance. Its shimmer tells me that it would have preferred to happily stay off the road in the pleasant confines of the showroom. Reminds me of a newly wed bride who would have rather stayed with her parents. A raw wound is touched. The road’s narrowness is no match for the car’s grandeur. There is a hefty man at the helm. He looks rich from the outside. But the narrowness of his mind is too much even for this road. He is coming right at us and bludgeons our ears with a thunderous honk. It is a one way street and he is on the wrong side. My blood threatens to evaporate.

A dude in a motor cycle comes whizzing from the right hand side and threatens to rewrite all laws of physics and human belief by trying to sneak through the microscopic gap between the car and auto. Physics prevails and he gets caught in the muddle like an arachnid trapped in a Venus flytrap. Everything stalls. Nothing but chaos ensues. In the world of fistfights and word barbs, I stand speechless and thoughtless as an insignificant alien. Meanwhile a miniscule kid in a cycle achieves what the biker dude couldn’t. He gingerly balances his right leg on the auto, provides thrust by pushing his left leg against the car, squeezes his frame through miraculously and accelerates by using his hands as oars against the two vehicles and launches himself through and out of this commotion. A child who was looking at this feat all the while breaks into rapture.

The auto driver gives in finally and backs off slowly in an attempt to create an incredible angle for the mammoth car to slither past him and the horde of vehicles that have accumulated like bees on honey. Seeing his opening, the biker dude vrooms into action as he starts his engine directly in fourth gear and in the process deposits soot on a few fuming faces around, dents the car, teeters off precariously and ultimately spears into a little school girl. A moment of stunned silence is followed by his cowardly flight into oblivion. The auto driver helps her up and nurses her wounds. Why am I so surprised that good men still exist? Perhaps I have been living with myself for too long. 

I am superstitious. I get out of the auto and walk away from the scene. I feel like I am leaving the world on a happy note. I walk aimlessly looking around, searching for something I will never get back. A tall gargantuan tree stands towering above all things living and otherwise. Its branches are spread out like tentacles engulfing infinity ready to suck the blood out of all humanity. I have always wondered how a tree can still look gorgeous without a single leaf on it. Barren beauty if I may. I think I know why it doesn’t have a single spot of green on it. Humans are not made with blood anymore. Why have I always felt that it is the lushness of our hearts that is on display as greenery on trees? Or is it anymore? I wonder if mankind has only aridity to offer.

I haven’t touched my brush. What will I paint when I can’t see the colors anymore? My eyes recognize them but the heart doesn’t feel their radiance. I wouldn’t mind if it was the other way around. I have poured my heart into my paintings so much that I don’t even have any red left to dip in. That my heart will be immortalized piece by piece but seen or understood by no one is another irony! I wish someone would burn all those paintings and mix it with my ash. Perhaps my heart would beat again! But do I want it to?

My legs have been leading my mind for several years now. I amble along. Aurobindo and Mother usher me into their shrine. The Ashram calms my senses for the moment. Everyone around seems to be in peace. The Tulasi leaves bring me to equilibrium. But why are they not sweet anymore? An old lady smiles at me. She knows I am beyond help. Yet she tries! I cry. Something I should have done long back! It doesn’t placate me. The burden is mine to shoulder!

I reach the end of the road. I look the sea in its eye. Its vastness once fueled my imagination. Today it reminds me of my inner vacuum. I stand in emptiness right in between a resolute Gandhi who is in his fervent stride and a tranquil Nehru who is welcoming him with open arms. I will never know if the architects envisioned this when sculpting but it has been my source of enlightenment and resolve for years. Why don’t they talk to me anymore?

I painted the sky blue. I painted the tree green. But I could not paint my life happy.   

                                                                                     - From the diary of a man who was happy once!

Monday, June 25, 2012


When I think about our country, there are several things that come to my mind. Be it our culture, heritage, food or history – we are unique and special in every way. But the one thing that stands out in my mind is our intellect! Creativity, knowledge and genius always abound in our land. Be it for the mathematical zero, our engineering genes, insane GMAT scores or a slightly overkill IT wizardry, our nerdiness is quite renowned across the globe. But then there comes the bewildering paradox. History doesn’t do justice to our intellectual legacy. Neither do we!

Ask a child to name a few scientists and (s)he will go Einstein, Newton, Edison and so on. Ask elder intellectuals and the list might find some additions like Darwin, Tesla, Madam Curie, Da Vinci and say a few more. Trust me, if someone manages to mention J.C. Bose, Ramanujam, C.V.Raman or Homi Bhabha then I would be over the moon. Rewind your memory to the science textbooks of your 10th or 12th standard and you will see my point. Did we read about Har Gobind Khorana’s Nobel Prize for cracking the genetic code? May be! May be not! Have you heard of “Boson” named after the legendary S.N.Bose? Probably not! How much mention was there about Vikram Sarabhai? Sure we find a snippet here and a citation there. But nothing beyond that!

My point is two fold. One: we don’t celebrate our scientists enough. Two: We don’t make them enough any more either! And for sure lack of potential or caliber is not the reason for the latter. We live in a land extraordinaire. Here we can find an entire spectrum of people ranging from extraordinarily brilliant, capable and sincere all the way down to extraordinarily numb, dumb and corrupt. This is one kind of diversity our country can live without. And in this vast jungle of herbs and weeds interspersed by beautiful trees and carnivorous pitchers, even the noblest of intentions and most cerebral of ideas can disappear without a trace caught in the quicksand of something we have always been famous for: “Officialdom”!

While there are several obstacles to science in our country including our current higher education system and the social perception of professional education (I intend to write about the lack of societal respect for science, arts and humanities later), the single most dominant force that has straggled science for ages is the ubiquitous and obnoxiously recalcitrant Indian bureaucracy and red tape. We all know about this perennial curse that continues to demoralize our spirits in many ways and in many fields but the maladies suffered by science at the hands of this demon are so prosaic and debilitating that the resulting casualties are countless!

Does the name Dr.Subhas Mukherjee (Mukhopadhyay) ring a bell? If it does, you are elite and if it doesn’t; then you are not alone! He is an unsung, forgotten hero who didn’t get anything he deserved and most certainly didn’t deserve anything he got! Dr.Subhas Mukhrjee was the creator of India’s first and world’s second test tube baby, a great mind and the inventor of a modern miracle, a concept that revolutionized the lives of millions of childless couples. This man’s remarkable vision created the first life outside the womb.

There were just 67 days between the births of the first test tube baby (Louise Brown – born 25th July 1978) pioneered by Robert G.Edwards and the second (Durga – 3rd October 1978) brought to life by Dr.Subhas Mukherjee. Both Subhas and Robert were great scientists, doctors and legends who independently gave the world “In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)”. But the similarities end there. Dr.Robert Edwards won the Nobel Prize for his achievement in 2010 while Dr.Subhas hanged himself to death in 1981. His suicide note read: "I can't wait everyday for a heart attack to kill me."

While Dr.Edwards’s efforts were quickly recognized and glorified by his country, an ‘expert committee’ was appointed by the Government of West Bengal under the medical association and he was tried like a convict. His crimes: he did the impossible with bare minimum apparatus; he didn’t get it cleared by pandering to the so-called experts and bureaucrats; he was righteous and not subservient. Hence, for these heinous crimes, he was awarded with social ostracization and bureaucratic reprimand which left a permanent scar in his heart. The committee denounced all his claims and achievements. He was denied leave to write a detailed report of his results and to attend a meeting in Japan to discuss his work. And he was further humiliated with a transfer to Institute of Ophthalmology as professor of electrophysiology. I don’t think a man can bear any more injustice and anguish. And his death has left a permanent scar on our society!

A few years later in 1986, T.C. Anand Kumar created Harsha, India’s first official test tube baby. And miraculously in 1997, he got to see the research documents and hand-written notes of Dr.Subhas. After meticulously scrutinizing and having discussions with Durga’s parents, he became certain that Subhas was indeed the architect of first human test tube baby in India. Dr.Anand Kumar’s commendable and selfless efforts restored his due place in India’s medical history in 2001 (20 long years later) when the Indian Council of Medical Research finally acknowledged his contributions. It takes a great man to give away greatness and glory of such magnitude to someone else. But the greatness of Dr.Anand Kumar further magnifies the apathy and graveness of the situation.  But for him, we wouldn’t even know of Dr.Subhas’s genius! I am borrowing Kamal Hasan’s funny lines from a movie to say something very serious: “A terrific scientist was made to look like a scientific terrorist for 20 years!”

Science has come a long way and certainly there have been improvements as it is slowly chipping away from the clutches of bureaucracy. But rosy days are still far off. Namita, Subhas’s wife, frail and bed-ridden still yearns for the day she will see an Institute named after her husband whose only sign yet is a dust covered plaque and a listing in some governmental file. While his own country has abandoned him, the world continues to discover and honor him in little ways that bring some solace to my aching heart. The international scientist community is slowly accepting Dr Subhas Mukhopadhyay's claim and recognizing India for producing the world's second test-tube baby. And Kanupriya Agarwal (alias Durga) is finally happy that some justice is being restored to her scientific father. This is just one of many instances and it has cost the nation a legend and a legend his life! I just hope I live to see the day when we give these greats their due respect and just let them change the world!

** Dr Mukhopadhyay's story was immortalised in the 1991 film Ek Doctor Ki Maut starring Pankaj Kapur and Shabana Azmi. (Watch it if you are interested)


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