The Hitchhiker’s Starter Guide

Look here

Look there

Every distraction a priority

Feel the wind

In your hair

Smell the fragrance

And the atrocities

In the air

Listen to the call of the birds

From the clear skies and dustbins

Gawk at the local wildlife

Being chased away by the local not-so-wild life

Sir, rooms?

No

Sir, shrooms?

Also no.

Well, maybe?

Nope, don’t trust that smile

Follow your instinct

Sir, taxi?

Hell no

Navigate the road much taken

The happy honkers going bonkers

The screams of multitudes

Coloured with every hue on the emotional palette

Against the backdrop of indifference

Don’t try a Blitzkrieg

Take it slow

Go with the flow

You can always come back

Skillfully avoid eye contact

With all people

Walkers, hawkers

Or God forbid

Talkers

 

 

 

Sleep

Mind fights the body, trying not to sleep

Eyes itching and twitching, trying not to weep

Limbs aching in protest, quickly losing all hope

Sitting down for ‘just a moment’ is a slippery slope

My daily dose of sleep, it’s either too much or not enough

I wake up feeling tired, body sore and hair rough

Going through the motions, following the wretched pied Piper

All I want is a balance between the comatose and the hyper

Consistently unhealthy lifestyles

Far too much of autopilot

No real sense of direction

Greying all the reds and violets

Distraction

maxresdefault

 

I can’t get anything done

I’m too caught up having fun

Letting my mind wander

Just a little bit yonder

 

I can’t focus on any task

It’s just too much of an ask

To expect sustained concentration

For any duration

Longer than a moment

 

The slightest noise, and I look up

To find the source, far or close

The slightest motion, and I turn

I can’t concentrate, I never learn

 

Five minutes of work and I’m exhausted

Taking time for a long “little break”

Forgetting what’s at stake

Till I’m either fresh or being accosted

 

I never can get anything done

Letting my mind wander

Just a little bit yonder

I can’t finish what I’ve –

(brb)

Theni Diaries #1

A couple of months ago, I started traveling to Theni on one-day official trips twice a month. At first I couldn’t do without my laptop. I had to take it everywhere with me – to the school where I was to take classes, to the restaurant/mess where I dined and of course, to the room where I was staying. I couldn’t sit still in the room once my classes were done. I had to watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones or some movie. I had to watch TV if I forgot to get the external Hard Disk. Or, I had to take a nap. I felt like I needed to make my trips more worthwhile and fulfilling in terms of how I spent my time after finishing the classes.

Last week, I made a conscious decision to travel without my laptop and without being glued to my phone. While I didn’t bring my laptop, I couldn’t stay away from my phone for long – it was a new phone and I was itching to try out the camera on whatever landscapes I could capture from the bus. I boarded the bus right on time at 20:25 from Adyar, Chennai. Since I couldn’t find time to pack or have dinner before this, I gobbled down the odd assortment of food items I brought with me – a packet of fried crisps, a banana and a sweet lime. Then I lay down, resisting the urge to pick up my phone and surf social media like a zombie. I looked out of the window. I read random shop names, kept spotting eateries where I wished I’d had dinner and was keeping a lookout for a dustbin near enough to attempt a moving dump of the banana and sweet lime peels that I had stuffed into the now empty packet of crisps. After a while, I gave up the idea of dumping the trash while still on the bus, lay down and closed my eyes.

A clear view of the night sky greeted me when I opened my eyes and looked out of the window again. It was a brilliant sight. When was the last time you slept on a bed with a view of the sky? Especially inside a moving bus, it looked even more enchanting. I was lying down facing the opposite side of the direction of motion of the bus, which had a very interesting effect on my view of the sky. I felt like I was on a rotating bed and the view was changing drastically with each turn. The clouds were moving across the moon with roughly the same speed as the bus, so it seemed like the clouds were shielding the moon from my view. What was fascinating was the colour of the sky – I had to look carefully to differentiate the clouds from clear skies. I urge you to spend some time one night, observing the night sky instead of being glued to your gadget of choice.

After a while, I took out my phone, wondering if I could capture the essence of what I had been staring at for the past fifteen minutes. I managed to click one decent picture, but it doesn’t even come close to the level of detail the eye can observe.

img_20160815_213637

I tried to drift off to sleep, but I was prevented from doing so by an annoying senior-ish citizen occupying the lower berth right opposite to mine. You know the type of people who sneeze with that loud, unnecessary pre-sneeze shout, which is more powerful than the sneeze? Yes, that man was the very same kind. Each sneeze was seamlessly followed up with the quintessential Tamilian habit of saying “Appa!” as a universal exclamatory expression. The sneeze itself wasn’t annoying – the pre-sneeze and post-sneeze rituals were what irked me. Perhaps some graphs might help you understand this.

sneeze-analysis

sneeze-analysis-2

I was trying my best to ignore the sneezefest when the conductor came down the aisle, tapped my shoulder and said – switch on the TV, I’ve put a movie. Now, I don’t remember reading anywhere in the RedBus terms and conditions that if a conductor puts on a movie, I am obligated to watch it. I was about to dumb this down for him and politely decline this humble request order, when the conductor pulled a Batman on me and vanished as soon as I turned around.

I wanted to lay back down but now I was suddenly curious about which movie he had put on. I switched on the TV and was greeted to some of the most innovative dialogues I have ever read (I am not versed well enough in Tamil to watch a movie without reading the subtitles). The one I can never forget is – “Is mother’s milk coke to you?”

I HAD to post that on Facebook. I couldn’t resist. I tried to wait for an equally epic line but in vain, although I did manage to click a picture of another interesting song subtitle.

img_20160815_220849

I was woken up a while later, somewhere on the highway, for a restroom break while the bus fueled up. I took the opportunity to finally dump the trash that was now beginning to smell.

I went back to the bus and thought that was it – no more waking up till the morning. Well, wrong, since I was woken up several times by the compound sneezes and the random “Appa!” exclamations whenever that uncle stretched his limbs or adjusted his sleeping position. Also, the bus made another stop for tea/coffee at 3 am. The driver probably needed the coffee desperately to stay up for the remaining drive – or maybe he could have the “Appa!” alarm – I wouldn’t mind dragging that uncle next to the driver’s seat so he could keep the driver awake.

Tea at 3 am on a highway is a special experience. Especially if it’s a full moon and the restaurant/cafe has an interesting name.

img_20160816_031805

The bus started soon enough, but had to halt when they realised someone was missing. There’s always that one idiot who doesn’t understand that 10 minutes means 10 minutes. After enjoying watching that guy chase the bus for a good 20 meters, wishing it was that uncle and that he would get left behind, I went back to a good night’s – “Appa!” – (sigh) sleep.

I woke up in the morning and, having slept reasonably well, attempted to take a few photos of the fields. Theni is a town surrounded by fields of all shapes, crops and sizes. The morning’s weather was extremely pleasant. Cool winds messed up my hair and made me look like a wannabe punk rock band member. But I did’t care. I never wake up before 8 in the city. Here I’m actually wide awake and full of energy at 5:45 am. The weather was that good.

My destination arrived soon and I went about the usual business of checking into a small hotel, freshening up and leaving for the school. I took care of the actual reason that brought me to Theni – finished all the classes – and headed back to the hotel room to take a short nap before going out exploring. I had been trying to identify things I could do and places I could visit in Theni instead of just staying in a room till dinner time – I could do that in the city. So I had planned on visiting Vaigai Dam, which didn’t seem too far from the town.

After the nap, I packed up and left for the bus stand to ask where I could get the bus. It turned out there was no direct bus to the dam and I would have to change buses twice to get there. So I did just that. Travelling in these inter-town buses is a noisy affair. The music would be blaring right on top of your head as you stand in the aisle and keep making way for others to go past you from both directions, during which your stuffed-till-it-bursts-at-the-seams backpack would be a huge hindrance. Travelling isn’t really travelling without this customary experience.

In the third bus, a man overheard me buying a ticket to the dam and asked me to let him know when to get down since he was going there for the first time. So I told him that I was, too, but hopefully the map should be accurate and in any case, I had already asked the conductor to give me a shout when it was time to get down. The conductor turned out to be useless, so I thanked my GPS and internet for saving me the trouble of getting down too early or too late.

Getting down from these buses is yet another experience – you have to be near the door and politely tell each member of the human beehive that you’re getting down at the next stop. Then the door-guardian bees will step of the bus and hardly leave you enough space to get down and out of the way before they attempt to climb back onto the bus while it has already started. There is a very Indian pleasure in chasing and climbing a bus for the first few metres it moves after every stop. Perhaps Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’s train chase scene inspired these millions to emulate the same model with local trains and buses – or maybe the other way round? We’ll never know.

Anyway, I crossed the road and decided to rehydrate myself with a helping of tender coconut water (elaneer) at the cozy looking stall on the corner. I realised, only after having noisily sipped the very last drop of elaneer, that I didn’t have enough change and neither did the stall owner lady. The man from the bus offered to pay for me. After pretending to decently refuse for a few seconds, I graciously accepted the offer.

I waited for the man and his friend to finish their elaneer, watching the chickens and chicks run about and peck at the ground. Then we walked down the road, making small talk till we reached the damn dam entrance. This time the man and his friend had exhausted their change on the coconuts, so I paid for their entry tickets. What goes around comes around.

I looked at my watch and realised I had barely five minutes to look at the place before heading back. I had to check out of the room, have dinner and be ready at the boarding point for the 8 pm bus back to Chennai. I was now regretting having taken a nap.

So I quickly bade goodbye to those guys and went to the bridge over the river, in front of the dam. I took a few pictures and even a selfie – I had until now hated selfies, but apparently I don’t mind them anymore. The bridge had a very nice view of the river.

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I wished I could stay longer, but  it was time to leave. I reluctantly started walking back to the bus stop.

I walked, trotted and then almost broke into a run. I didn’t have much time to spare – I had to get back to the room, check out, have dinner and reach the boarding point with no room for delays. I grew anxious as I waited ten minutes for the bus, but breathed easy when a share auto finally came my way.

On the way back, I observed all the fields and the yet relatively unspoilt towns around them. The weather was just right – cool, breezy and not at all humid. The weather could remain this pleasant as long as these towns didn’t explode in population and construction. It’s funny how humans bring about so much destruction in the name of construction. I started thinking about how people lived in earlier days, without electricity and internet – and how technology has actually made us regress our quality of life in the wake of its own progress.

I reached the room, checked out and had dinner in a real hurry. Only when I reached the bus boarding point, I relaxed. I lay down in the bus and flicked through all the photos i had taken, inwardly smiling and congratulating myself for the first time I had “travelled solo”. I was glad I didn’t bring my laptop, glad that I took the initiative to explore the place.

It was a day well spent, but I wished it had been longer. I still had an itch to visit Vaigai dam in its entirety. That, howeveer, is a story for another time.

Till then, in case I don’t see you – good afternoon, good evening, good night.

 

 

 

 


Stuff You See in and Around Chennai

You must have come across plenty of weird and funny things in your city. Chennai is no different – from typos in billboards to the downright absurd.

Here’s a random list of weird things I’ve seen/heard about in and around Chennai recently.

Frends Fries

Seen on a fast food stall on Besant Avenue Road, near the Royal Enfield Showroom. Don’t bring your frends here..unless you’re ok with cannibalism.

frends fries

I wouldn’t eat that

 

Plastic Surgery

Seen on OMR. It made me stop in my tracks and stare at this amazing sight.

plastic surgery

Two breasts, please.

 

Cocks

cocks

Cause there’s never enough dicks in the world, right?

Sperm

http://www.wonobo.com/explore/chennai/9.701649046950318E7_6.222767170070877E7_245.54495978403133_-5.800000000000001

sperm

So there used to be this place called Sperm that my friends told me about. I heard it’s closed now, but I have proof that it used to exist. You can read about the store and the story behind its name here.

This store should have been right next to Cocks. Pity there isn’t a shop called Pussy next to it. Then maybe they could have had a Babyoye shop nearby. Or maybe not, if the guy below was around.

So much protection

protection

He’s REALLY in the mood.

Pizza Hunt

Seen on OMR near Appollo hospital. The delivery bikes say “let the hunt begin.” I don’t get it. So basically, they ride the bikes hunting for pizzas to serve the customers? Maybe they hunt the chickens first? Or maybe it’s a subtle hint that they don’t serve pizzas there –  after all, the sign says Fried chicken, burger, pasta, wraps. Pizza? Keep hunting for it.

Or maybe, just maybe, they want the customers to feel the stone age thrill of hunting for their own food! That seems like fun!

pizza hunt

Cause you don’t just buy a pizza, you hunt for it.

They’ve all but copied Pizza Hut. Their imagination falls short a little with that, though. Ring any bells?

happy bell

other bells

I suggest they add some more

Jurassic Park Stop sign

Seen on an auto just outside Music Academy.

stop

I wondered why he chose Jurassic Park. Stop – Dinosaur crossing? Stop – this auto is really old? Maybe this autowala is a genius. What a way to spread awareness of damage to the environment by burning fossil fuels!

Shavitha Shavies Shopping Bazaar

This wasn’t in Chennai, but still.

shavitha

I’m just thankful they didn’t name it Shavitha Shoppies Shaving Bazaar

Bar sign

Somewhere near Mylapore.

bar sign

Happy hours indeed.

 

Re-Starting

It’s a sad thing. I suddenly stopped writing this blog one day, thinking I’ll resume once I get free time. Days turned into weeks, weeks into months. I lost the habit. Soon I forgot about the blog – it got buried somewhere in the recesses of my memories. After a while, I did start sharing things that I found interesting and funny – on Facebook and Instagram, though. While those platforms do have their positives, namely: speed, accessibility and reach, it’s just not the same as blogging. As I type these words, I feel the resurgence of a lost type of satisfaction.

Habits are hard to form but easy to lose. They’re even more difficult to restart once they’re lost. Like any plant, they die for want of regular nourishment and sunlight. Restarting is a tough stage in any activity. You do it once after a long time, you feel good, but then some distraction comes along and ruins the momentum. It’s a struggle between willpower and laziness; between willing and wishing, between doing and waiting.

Waiting is the easiest thing to do – there’s a plethora of excuses one can use – a lot of people even believe their own excuses. However, if you really think about your reasons for waiting, you’ll understand that more often than not, your excuses are exactly what they are: excuses. Excuses are for those who fail; or those who set themselves up for failure. If you really want to get something done, you have to stop waiting and make time to start. It is a great shame that I took this blog from a justified name – daily write up, to a proverbial dust-covered artifact in a museum. So this is me re-starting my blog.

I kind of feel like The Revenant.

I’ll be writing one post everyday – it could be just one word or it could be a thousand. One thing is for sure, though – the words won’t stop coming.

Cheers.

 

Progress Report – New Year Resolutions

It’s been quite a while since my last post. I’ve been immersing myself in theatre and enjoying every moment of it. More on that in a later post. For now, I want to look at the progress of my New Year Resolutions.

Half the year has gone by. Let’s see where I stand for each resolution.

1. Have more fun

Definitely on track with this one.

2. Gain 10 kilos and develop a fit body by December 31st 2015 (biting nails in anticipation)

This was a bad joke. Moving on….

3. Go to at least one event per month – plays, live performances, etc. (This does not include movies)

A little behind on this one. The events I have attended so far:

  1. Moulin Rouge – Feb
  2. The Pundits – Feb
  3. Short and Sweet Bangalore: Diagnosi, Bobby’s Brain, Keeping Annabelle, The Kill, Wish, Murder in the Title, Salaam Namaste, Dog Bites Man, About Me, Whatzapped Us? – May
  4. The Unseen – May
  5. Bonding with Ruskin – June
  6. The Pundits – June

4. Stop wasting time watching TV and practise guitar/ write/ do something useful instead

Kind of on track. I hardly watch any TV nowadays, but waste quite a lot of time on the PC. Although, I have taken up proper guitar classes since february, pencil sketching and more recently, theatre. In fact, I’ve quit my job to pursue theatre. I am writing scripts and acting in small shows for kids nowadays.

5. Read at least 12 books by the end of the year (I’m currently behind schedule for this one).

Yep. Lagging behind on this one. The books I’ve read this year are very few:

  • The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night Time – Mark Haddon
  • Lord of the Flies – William Golding
  • Jaya – Devdutt Pattanaik
  • The 7 Secrets of Shiva (still reading)
  • To Kill a Mockingbird (Still reading)

6. Join professional classes for guitar and mridangam…. and maybe piano/keyboard too.

Only guitar so far. I have a lot on my plate, so may not join any other.

7. Get at least one article published in some newspaper by the end of the year.

No article, no newspaper either, but I have written a short story which is set to be published in an anthology.

8. Participate in at least one play by the end of the year.

Done!

So, more or less on track except for the weight bit (might have gone backwards for that one :/)

Still, I have five more months to fulfil all these resolutions. Let’s wait and see!

Experiencing The Spotlight Initiative 2015

Narrator: It all started two months ago. I’d just quit my job. I badly needed a break, and I happened to be very interested in doing something creative with my time. I had already taken to sketching, guitar lessons and writing my blog during the last weeks at work, but somehow, the sudden freedom to do anything with my time was overwhelming and anti-climactic. I did go on a four day trip to Bangalore, but after that, I hardly did anything at home – apart from watching TV, playing games and being a waste of space and oxygen, of course.

I found out something about a theatre workshop, and decided to sign up for it. Funnily enough, I had quit my job for “going into the theatre field”, even before I had heard of the Spotlight Initiative. Fate, it seems, had planned this all along. As Paulo Coelho once wrote: When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. 

So I signed up for Crea-Shakthi’s Spotlight Initiative 2015. It seemed too good to be true – just 800 bucks? I went ahead and if I may say so, it’s the best 800 bucks I ever spent in my life. I was simultaneously dreading and looking forward to it. Looking forward – obviously, since it was going to be a lot of fun, and dreading – since I’m a perpetual social misfit and I find it extremely hard to make new friends.

Fade In

Narrator: At last, it was May 15 – the first day. I reached the place – Vidya Sagar – easily, since I’d been there once before. There was a small crowd of people scattered in different groups- the group closest to me was mostly girls and a guy who was very innocently introducing himself to everybody – Teja.

Teja: Hi, my name is Teja, what is your name?

(more introductions followed)

Narrator: I later found out that he had Asperger’s or something (still not sure). It was at that point that it struck me – this guy is supposed to be medically affected, which supposedly causes social awkwardness, but there he was, easily the most polite person you’d ever meet in your life. So what’s my excuse for being socially awkward? I don’t have an answer.

Anyway, after waiting for a while, the Crea-Shakthi team arrived and we all went inside the school and were briefed on what would happen. Then we were left to introduce ourselves to each other. I reluctantly went about it, asking people’s names and forgetting them within an eye’s blink. After a while of doing that, we were split up into two groups and had various Ice-breaker sessions.

Those were fun – there was this game called Quick Gun Murugan, where the directors would point at one person who would sit down immediately and the people immediately on each side of him/her would have to quickly tell each others’ names. The slower one to do that would have to squat in the centre of the circle. I was pretty quick – to fail (cue comic sound). The circle steadily filled up with squatters complaining to/about Der Squat Master.

Squat Master George: Guys, squat! No talking. Heels on the floor. If you don’t, it will hurt, da…(smiling throughout)

Another game we played was boat, elephant and gun. The person who was pointed at would react by becoming the front of a boat, the trunk of an elephant or being shot in the head – and the people beside him/her would become the oars, ears or mourners respectively.

Then we played something called Big, Bigger, Biggest. One action/emotion to be shown in increasing levels of intensity. That was quite fun as well. One guy found himself as the the only guy and he slyly slapped his butt, expecting the girls to imitate, only harder. Instead, he got his butt kicked. Literally. Well, he asked for it. 😀

The next activity was building a scene – one person would be given a character and would start a scene, and one by one, others would come in and adapt to that scene after interpreting it. Sometimes, we got it right, sometimes we got it wrong.

Afterwards, we did an activity -I forget the name – where small groups of us had to imitate inanimate objects of various rooms of a house, in a way that the others would be able to guess what room we were depicting. I was in a group depicting a bathroom. I was the wash basin. From what I remember, this activity was supposed to improve/ focus on our body language.

After all this, we were again divided into groups to perform a 2 minute scene. Each group got a director and the scene was supposed to be a silent scene (with a reason for the silence). In my group, the director was Gobu. I was a lone bank robber and the other four were hostages. I was supposed to load all the money in a bunch of bags while the hostages tried to shuffle out the door. It went well, mostly. I did a little improv on stage when I felt it was dragging too long and wasn’t getting enough laughs – I got frustrated and mimed shooting myself. There was a slight problem – there wasn’t any reason for me to be silent in the whole thing.

That was the end of the first day.

Fade out.

Fade in.

Narrator: Over the next few days, we started the sessions by doing random walking and variations such as walking on fire, ice, sludge, water etc. There were also some energy exchange excercises, mirroring, and trust falls. And the voice excercises – man, I sucked at those, and still do. I can’t go beyond level 7 without using a bit of throat. For a brief while, I think I managed, but I never quite learnt to be loud enough without using my throat. The physical excercises were pretty tough since they required flexibility and not many of us were flexible enough. We as a group are pretty out of shape. Most of us were muttering under our breath at the disposal of the short tempered Fitness Fiend.

Fitness Fiend Chandini: GUYS! Shut the fuck up! Blah blah blah……fucking…blah blah …for fuck’s sake…blah blah..fuck..blah…(you get the gist – I lost count of how many times she said fuck on that day)

There were other games – Pip,pop, boing, build a story, Jack and Jill, Goldspot etc. that we played from time to time.

I tried to socialize a bit. It was a disaster. I felt like an old man, especially when talking to the girls.

Nobody believed I was 24.

506800

During the first week, each day we’d have a person conducting a workshop half the time and during the remaining time, there would be voice and physical excercises, after which we would put up 2 minute performances in groups at the end.

We had workshops by Dushyant (cue claps)- on Creashakthi’s background and stage grammar, body language etc., Actor Ashok Selvan (cue claps)- general Q&A on acting for stage and screen, Victor Paulraj (cue claps)- stage and lighting design, Victor Jayaraj (cue claps)- mime, Vaidhya (cue claps)- acting. All those workshops were really informative and helpful.

Fade out.

Fade in.

Narrator: Next came the splitting – we were split into two productions. (NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO not cool! This is Divide and Rule all over again!)

I found out that I was to be a part of the Friday production. Then we were all asked to read lines from the scripts so the directors could choose their actors for casting.

Fade out.

Fade in.

Narrator: It was time to announce the cast for each director. I was cast into 3 plays. Woohoo!

We started reading our lines with each director in turn. People could barely hear me. I had to speak-

Sukanya: LOUDER!

Narrator: (whispers) OK!

Sukanya: (not amused) That wasn’t loud.

Narrator:    save

Chandini: You have to be louder…

Narrator:    save

George: Louder, da…

Narrator:    save

And so it went. The hours turned into days and days turned into weeks. I started to get the hang of it and gradually became a little bit louder. People were starting to get all irritable. Rehearsals weren’t going so well some days and sometimes, scripts themselves were revised. It was a nervy few weeks. People weren’t showing up sometimes and rehearsals were cancelled for certain plays some days due to lack of actors. The initial weeks of continuous fun seemed long gone. There was a bit of fun with the breaks, the random chatting, the tea kadai and RSS everyday.

There was the occasional great run through, though. When Chandini of all people walks over to you with a wide smile and gives you a hug after a run through, you know you’ve done well. When you get to know her a bit, she’s quite different from the first impression you get of her (loud mouthed). She’s quite fun when not losing her temper :).

Adorable George always has a smile on his face, no matter how a run through goes. As Sukanya says, he’s one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Such patience!

And Sukanya, well, she has her way of explaining small details, getting you into the character and making sure you have fun doing that. She’s very receptive to suggestions too.

I enjoyed working with all three directors. (No flattery, guys, I swear)

The last week was pretty much a mixed bag – some good runthroughs, some not so good. We started rehearsing with the props. A lot of things felt different with the props as compared to miming the props.

The tickets sales were inching forward at snail’s pace for both the productions, which was a mood-killer. We were all trying our best to get as many people to buy tickets as possible. It looked more and more likely that we’d have to resign ourselves to perform to a sparsely filled hall.

Anyway, when we rehearsed with the musicians for the first time, it was such a different experience. The plays were just taken to a different dimension. Those guys had an amazing effect on the production. It was a whole new level of fun.

Then, a day before the show, we went to the venue – THE Museum Theatre! I was nervous as soon as I entered. What a huge dome! I wondered how I could possibly project my voice adequately over there.

There wasn’t much time to sit and wonder about that, though. Soon we started the whole runthrough with the 27th production guys watching. It went reasonably well, with a few confusions still remaining. Then we sat down to watch the 27th production guys perform. Watching them perform on that stage for the first time was really great. We now had a rough idea of how it would look.

Fade out.

Fade in.

Narrator: Show Day had finally arrived. I wasn’t nervous. I was pretty chilled out. I found that quite odd. I reached the venue and nothing much happened for a while. The tech runthrough started quite late and we wondered if we’d ever finish it. Tempers were running high and sweat was flowing. The dreaded hour inched closer….

Finally the tech runthrough was done. Only an hour to show…

We were handed sandwiches (nothing like those wonderful RSS ones, though) and instructed to change into our costumes. The audience had started coming in. Nervousness creeped up on me. I wondered how many of the 550 seats would be filled.

Then, we huddled backstage, each director giving a mini speech for encouragement and inspiration. All of a sudden, Smarabh enters the circle.

Smarabh: Guys, guys, oooonly 450 seats are filled.

Realisation dawned on us all.

Chorus: WOOOHOOOOOO!!!!!

Oh fuck…shhhhh! Guys, don’t shout.

A few inspiring speeches later, we all chanted on the count of three: (Some tamil chant which I don’t quite understand –  maeera pochu)!

It was time. The announcements started, the intro music started playing.

My entire body was tingling. I began worrying that I might black out on stage.

The music stopped. So did my heart. Or did it start beating faster? I don’t really remember. The lights faded in. My cue to enter. Here goes…

I entered the stage and unleashed the scene with full energy. All the while, my body was tingling with nervousness. I may have rushed with my lines a bit. But it was ok. I finished the scene and went back behind the wings. I’ve never been more relieved in my life. The tingling had finally dissipated. I felt normal again.

It all went by so quickly. I wished everyone before and after they went on stage. Hugs were exchanged all around. It was all overwhelmingly emotional – the thrill of performing, the sadness of it finally ending. I finished my scenes in all the plays and finally it was the last scene – and the curtain call. I didn’t want to leave the stage. But we all had to.

There was chaos backstage – people had left stuff, I was missing part of my personal prop and my goddamn slippers. Twenty minutes later, I finally found them after one of the lights guys told me where to look. When I finally went outside, my invitees had already left. All except one friend. I spoke to him for a while, then went home. My show was finally over.

Fade out.

Fade in.

Narrator: The next day was so exhausting, with all the ushering duties and other stuff for the 27th show.

Then there was the storm of the Pundits. Crowd control was a nightmare, with a spot of rain causing chaos for a while. After a long, long while, everyone was finally in. I missed the first performer completely and part of the second performer’s bit, but I was able to watch the rest of it. What a crowd! There was no breathing space. The Pundits + Kanan Gill effect, I suppose. Overload.

The noise of laughter and applause was deafening. It was an amazing day.

And then, it was all finally over. I don’t know what to do with my time now. I thought I’d start writing in my blog again, but ended up writing about spotlight. Sigh…

save

Thank you, Crea-Shakthi, Pundits and all Spotlight participants, for an incredible one and a half months!

BLACKOUT.

Decoding a Face

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I decided to try sketching a portrait again, now that I had gotten better at drawing. I started observing the photo, trying to get the minute details right. I drew and re-drew the eye seven times before I was satisfied. Same goes for the nose. I either made it too long or too curved or too short. The hair was a nightmare. Revisiting every little thing on the paper takes focus and patience. Re-drawing is a vital part of sketching. Just like rewriting is a vital part of writing.

Anyway, I focused and drew the portrait until I finished (or thought I did) in about 2 hours, which I hear is very quick. At that point it didn’t look like this, though. It was pretty good, but not quite there. A friend told me to use a darker pencil. And so I did. A few adjustments here and there, and it was finished!

However, apparently the muse wanted a happier expression, so I got to work again. Initially I was at a loss as to how to turn the expression into a slight smile. The thing is, I can’t really draw without looking. I had copied the photo exactly, and the girl wasn’t smiling in the photo. So I experimented, trying to decode the face, imagining how it would look when smiling: what areas to shade, how deep to shade them, what the gradient should be like, etc. It took a few rounds of trial and error. I finally managed to get a satisfactory half-smile. At last, I lay my pencil down.

Presenting: Girl staring out of a window.

The Acidic Truth

The constable shook the guard’s hand. “Okay, Mr. Anand. First of all I’m sorry for your loss. I heard about your son drowning last week.”

“Yes. He fell into a well. I had gone to my village after the funeral.”

“Yes, your neighbours told us that when we came to talk to you about that nasty incident at the juice stall last week. Thanks for coming to the station. We really need to talk to you because you’re the only one who witnessed the whole thing. Can you tell us what you saw?,” said the constable, notebook and pen ready.

“Of course. It all started on Tuesday. It was blazing hot and extremely humid. I remember cursing myself for working as a security guard at an ATM outlet where the air conditioner never worked. I mean, why couldn’t I have worked as a cashier at a supermarket? I wouldn’t have had to sit out in the sun. I could have -”

“Mr. Anand, I know you are frustrated about some things but I need you to stop talking about your job. Please tell me only what you saw.”

“That day was as boring as any other. I had to sit and guard the damn place all day. I couldn’t even put on a pair of earphones and enjoy some music! Somehow I was supposed to stay awake and alert all the time without having anything to do. I’d read the paper, of course, scouring the pages for all the raunchy movie posters, reading all the sports pages and ranting about political drama to Javed, the neighbouring juice stall owner.”

“Mr. Anand, please..don’t waste my time any more with your ramblings!”

“Okay, okay. That day I saw an exceptionally beautiful college girl sit casually on the only bench outside the stall.
I peeked at her-”

“Was it this girl?”, the constable asked, waving a photograph at the security guard.
He stared at it for a few seconds. A sad expression formed on his face.

“Yes. I peeked at her behind- I mean – from behind my newspaper and felt appalled at what she was wearing. Kids…they all dress like pimps and whores nowadays, I tell you.”

“Tell me what the girl was doing.”

“Right. I folded and dropped the paper aside and took off my hat, wiping the sweat off my balding head.”

The constable took off his hat and rubbed his balding head in frustration.

“As I put my hat back on, I saw this scrawny, awkward little boy peeking at the girl from the far corner of the juice stall. A stalker, it seemed. He was very nervous and looked desperate, with hungry eyes. He looked around frantically, at which point I hid my face behind the newspaper again.”

“He slowly approached her, adjusting his hair. When she turned, he trembled with shyness and waved his hand awkwardly. This is how their conversation went-

“Errr…Hi.”
“Oh it’s you…hmph.. What are you doing here?”
“Er..nothing, really.”
“Did you follow me?!”
“No!”
“Then?”
“Um..I was just going to the ATM over there.”
“Then go?”
“..”
“What are you waiting for?”
“Okay fine. Tina, I came here to ask you out..”
“Oh god.. No! Why?”
“Please.. Just one date? If you still don’t like me then I’ll stop, I swear -“
“Aman, how many times do I have to say it? NO! I don’t want to go out with you! You’re NOT MY TYPE! Go away!””

“The boy’s face fell. He was almost in tears. He said, “Ok.””

“He dragged his feet out of the shop and disappeared around the corner. The girl was furious. She was on her feet, breathing heavily. Javed came and served her the milkshake. She sat down and began sipping on it.”

“After a while, a rich brat turned the corner on his loud, expensive looking bike and skidded to a halt in front of the juice shop.”

“This guy?” asked the constable, brandishing another photo.

“Yes. Definitely him. The bastard splashed rainwater all over my uniform!”

“What did he say to the girl?”

“Not much. This is what they said-

“Hey, beautiful.”
“Heyyyy!”

“The girl ran up to him and gave him a hug. Sheesh.. Don’t youngsters have any shame today? Hugging in broad daylight.. this is not some western country, this is India!”

“Oh, stop with the moral lectures! I didn’t ask for your opinion. Tell me what happened after that.”

“What else? She hopped on his bike and he rode her like anything! Full speed!”

The constable stared at the guard for a moment, then noted the events down.

“Then what happened?”

“Then I saw that scrawny little boy.. what’s his name? Yes, Aman. I saw him watch the bike speed away. Nothing more that day. Next day I saw that girl sitting at the juice stall again. She was dressed like a slut.. Bloody kids.. Anyway, Javed went to his warehouse to get more fruits. Then a guy came and stopped near the juice stall.”

“The rich guy?” asked the constable.

“No. This boy was poor and good-for-nothing. He whistled at the girl and started eve-teasing her. First she ignored him. That didn’t stop him. Then she told him to get lost. He started verbally abusing her. When he wouldn’t shut up after five minutes, she took off one of her high heeled shoes and threatened to hit him with it.”

“And then?” asked the constable. He noticed the guard become agitated while recounting this particular event. His manner had changed.

“And then…” The guard paused, letting out a sigh. “And then he took out a bottle from his pocket, opened the cap and threw its contents at her face.”

The guard had become very quiet. He had dropped his eye contact with the constable.

“OK. What happened next?”

“The girl was in shock at first. Then the burning sensation made her writhe in pain and she fell to the ground. That Aman came in a bike, took the other boy and raced off before anyone could react. Javed came running. He and I splashed water on the girl’s face as quickly as we could. There wasn’t enough water in the stall as the daily supply hadn’t arrived. So I stayed back watching the stall and the ATM while Javed went from store to store asking for water as they ran to the hospital nearby- it was only a hundred meters away.”

“OK. What did you do next?”

“Once Javed came back, he told me the doctors weren’t able to prevent permanent damage. The girl was scarred for life.”

“And what did you do?”

“My shift was over. I went home.”

“Mr. Anand, your record of the events matches with what Tina and Javed said. I just need to ask you one more thing. We drew a sketch of the boy who threw the acid based on Tina’s description.” The constable held out the sketch.

“Is this the boy?”

“Yes”, Anand said quietly. He seemed very uneasy.

The constable became suspicious.
“Do you recognize him?”

Anand’s lips quivered and he stayed silent.

“Mr. Anand, do you recognize him?!”

Anand’s face turned into an ugly grimace. He burst into tears, sobbing uncontrollably.

“Yes!”

“Who is he?”

“He’s my son! I kept slapping and pushing him when I got home that evening! I was so angry, I kept shouting at him about the acid! I didn’t mean to push him into that well! He drowned… bastard! He’s been nothing but trouble since he was born! I…I didn’t mean.. I didn’t…”

Anand wailed as he was handcuffed and dragged away.