Friday, September 17, 2010

The Final Insult: Short Story

Disclaimer: This story is fictitious based on certain true incidents.

Comments/Criticism is most welcome.

All men are equal, but some are more equal than others.

Larsen Gangte was born in the easternmost part of the country, the land of dawn lit mountains, Arunachal Pradesh. A piece of neglected landscape which draws attention of daily newspapers in the country only when there are disputes with China. Born to a local administrative officer with the State Govt. and a housewife along with three other siblings, Larsen’s life has always been a struggle. But one thing Larsen’s father didn’t fail to impart into the soul of Larsen was the pride of being an Indian. Larsen’s father never made him realize that they represent only 3.8% of Indian electorate and are represented by a meager 25 members in a house of 547, more importantly he failed to educate him about the preferential treatment he would be meted out once in open world.

Getting a decent education was such a difficult thing there that Larsen automatically began to be interested in sports. Larsen’s father was a big fan the hockey sensation Dhyan Chand. Every night Larsen slept listening to the stories of the golden period of Indian hockey and how Indian hockey team is the only one in the whole world to win 8 gold medals. The story of the finals of Olympic final in 1932 at Los Angles where India beat United States 24-1, Dhyan Chand scoring 8 goals is the favorite for Larsen. Along with these stories Larsen could sense the disappointment in his father for not being able to play hockey. It was then that Larsen decided that he has to play hockey for India one day.

But being from one of the most backward and neglected corner of the country never helped. He joined a boarding school in Delhi to continue his education so that he can also start playing hockey. Though the family had very limited income, it somehow managed to pay for these expenses. Larsen never dreamt of the kind of reception he would get in Delhi. He was looked up as a complete stranger. His limited knowledge of Hindi didn’t help either. He soon became the fun element of the class. Regularly being referred as a “chinki” and being looked upon as a foreigner became a part and parcel. Larsen though remained focused on his goal. He became the captain of his school captain and was one of the finest players in Delhi.

When he was 18, he went for selection to Indian team. Players from all over the country came for selection along with the selectors from their respective state. Poor Larsen was the only one who had no backing, but managed to get selected solely based on his merit.

His entire family travelled from Arunachal Pradesh to see the first match Larsen would play, but the captain of the team made sure that the players from his own state and from the same region were in the playing eleven and Larsen was made a reserve player.

Indian team travelled to Australia for the world cup that year. Coincidentally Indian cricket team was also in Australia at that time. It is at that time Larsen realized the kind of importance Indian hockey players have in this country. The hockey players were given a meager amount of $ 14 as daily allowance during this trip. Larsen saw cricket players pocketing easily in excess of 100 crores each year from contracts from BCCI and the advertisers, even though it was not the national game for the country. Displaying a large heart, the Indian hockey team’s players told reporters that they would go ahead and play on their own expenses in the World Cup if the apex body, Hockey India, was out of money. The only concern for them was that there was no assurance for the clearance of their dues in the future as well. After a tough fight and media pressure, hockey players managed to get match fees of 25000 INR per match.

Against all odds, Indian team managed to perform well in the world cup and Larsen was the key player. He gained popularity and acceptance among all members of the team and for the first time in his life, he felt that he belonged to the group. Indian team managed to finish 3rd in the world cup which was a proud moment for the entire country. Indian Govt. announced cash prize of 25 lakh for each player who was the part of the team.

Larsen and his family’s joys knew no bounds. Finally their prayers were answered and finally Larsen was a hero. The team and Larsen were given a hero’s welcome to India. Larsen became a national hero. All news channel with camera crews reached Larsen’s place in Arunachal Pradesh. Larsen was all over the nation.

However, a rude shock awaited Larsen and his family when he returned to his home. Something happened which even his father had not anticipated in dreams.

Even before a victorious Larsen could reach home, a letter asking him to send the copy of his passport to prove that he is indeed a citizen of India to claim the prize money of 25 lakh reached his home. Apparently, some doubts were raised because it was discovered that the ancestors of Larsen were from China who migrated to India almost 2000-3000 years back. It was Larsen’s father who received the letter. All his dreams that his son was finally accepted all over shattered in a single moment. He tore the letter and decided to let Larsen still have his dreams. As for Larsen, he never knew of THE FINAL INSULT and he kept waiting for the prize money to reach him which never did.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Story: The Hidden ME

Note: The characters and the events are fictitious and are purely imaginary.
Comments and suggestions are most welcome.
It took six hours of strenuous exercise from the internationally famed make up man and six long hours of boredom in my busy life for me to hide my identity and to bring out the “hidden me” out. I was advised by my security experts to keep the whole exercise a secret, hence no one other than my family knew. As was planned I sneaked through the back gate of my large office to join the crowd out and got mixed with the crowd as I slipped out of my official residence, the CM’s residence. The fact that my own main security at the main gate was not able to identify me meant I had passed the litmus test and I set out to live the life of a common man, the hidden me.
I had made plans of visiting the college I graduated from. They say college life shapes the personality of an individual. During my last visit there, all I was allowed was to light the kuthuvilakku and spend only twenty minutes in the college as per my security expert’s advice. Today was going to be different.
I went and stood in the appropriate bus stop for the bus to come. As it was peak hours a crowded bus came, I somehow managed to sneak in and got down at my college stop. Now it was a walk through the kilometer long stretch into the college. Lost in my nostalgia I started walking, only to be stopped by the security at the gate. “ID Card”. I told him I am an old student and wanted to make a donation, he showed me the direction and let me go. I was experiencing a strange freedom, there were no red siren cars leading and following me, there were no security experts guiding me, there were no PA’s making way for me and the red carpet welcome was missing, I was on my own after a really long time. I went straight to the college canteen to have my favorite elaichi tea. Then I decided on taking a stroll around the campus. The trees under which we used to chat all day long were no longer there, instead stood new dept blocks. The stage where I gave my first speech very nervously was decorated and changed beyond recognition. The classroom benches where we used to sit were occupied by fresh students. It seemed all had changed, till I reached the hostel.
I went up to the first floor to the room no. 121, where I spent the first year of my college life. There in a corner of a shelf, were inscribed two names, “Vetri” and “Sankaran”. It was then that I remembered about Vetrivelan. My roommate for the first year, the topper of the college in the first year, who had to drop out of the college as he had no funds to finance his education. All our efforts to pool in money and make him continue the studies were able to sustain only for the first year. After which he had miraculously vanished and became untraceable.
With a heavy heart, I finally went into the college office to give donation to the college. I was given the donation form. Inside the office room was a board showing the gold medalist of each year. There my name was inscribed in Bold letters for the year 1980, Sankaran S. There was a big banner near to this board on my last visit bearing my name being alumni of this college and that too a gold medalist. But today for some reason I was seeing the name Vetrivelan on the gold medalist board. The “hidden me” had identified that it was Vetrivelan who truly deserved to be the gold medalist had he been born into a wealthy family. Suddenly all the events which happened more than 30 years back ran in front of my eyes.
Then I looked into the donation form. It had various options where I could donate. I chose “Student Funds”, which would finance the poor students who cannot manage the steep fees and filled in the amount. Then there was a space asking for the name. I had to give a name to the “hidden me”. I had not thought of it still now. For obvious reasons I could not give my original name. After thinking for a while, I wrote the name “Vetrivelan”. The “hidden me” got a name.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Back to school! Never the same

The June sun was beating down hard, rain had not yet started this year which is very strange for this part of the tropical world. Looking at the ruins of what once stood out majestically in the city center, I was thinking who is to be blamed. The memories of the school just before the summer break came to my mind in a flash. The promises made, the good bye waved, the smiles, the sound of the children shouting, the ever notorious Vincent of 5th ‘A’ playing pranks, children sharing their lunch with each other ,all were missing. Instead what stood was ruins, ruins after a severe battle, battle fought with guns and bombs at a place where the only noise used to be the children shouting amidst the birds chirping in the beautiful setting the school was in. Now silence ruled at the Siddhartha Primary School in North Sri Lanka.

While leaving the school on the evening of April 24, 2009, I had the happiness of meeting with my family on the other side of the country. I could see the smiles on the faces of all the children, who were all going on the much awaited summer vacation. With new hopes of returning to a new class, a higher class when they come back from vacation, the students, like me left the school for the day, not knowing that they will never be back to the same school.

It was during May when intense fight broke out in the country between the warring group and the Govt. The Govt. which got information about terrorists being hidden in this very school and scared of the guerilla warfare used by the warring group decided to do air strikes. May 7th, 2009 was the ill fated date for this school and today June 21st 2009, the usual re-opening date for the school, there is a deafening silence.

But there is no such silence inside my brain. There are umpteen number of question. When children of two different groups can study sitting side by side, why that is the grownups fight over the language? When Vincent from the warring group can be the school topper in Sinhalese, the Govt.’s official language why is there so much noise on which language to be used? Why did the warring group not think even once before taking shelter in a school which was used by their children to build their future and why the Govt. force did not think even for a second before demolishing the only school in the 20 km radius completely? In a land where Buddha and his teachings is a household thing, why is that the grownups have chosen comfortably to ignore the teachings of the great preacher?

Being a Sinhalese teacher in the primary school in an area dominated by the warring group I had this proud feeling of teaching a new language to the children and learning a new culture altogether.

I am thinking what does “Back to school” mean to the students who were studying in this school, will it mean walking through dense forests for 20 kms! Or will they also leave this area forever! Back to school for me is in a different school in a different area teaching the same thing to a different set of students. But “back to school” will never be the same for me, ever!

My Tryst with the "Red" Shirt

I know I have not been blogging here off late. But I am back, this time I am attempting to write short stories. Hope you like them.

Note: The below is completely a work of fiction written solely for the purpose of humour. The views expressed and actions performed are no way endorsed by me. J

It is indeed surprising how the surprises of life come from all unexpected corners and change the life forever. I had never expected a “red shirt” to come to me in such unexpected fashion and change my life forever. For the record, I despise the color red for a shirt.

Knock! Knock! Knock! Was it the noise from inside my head or on the door of hostel room no.490 in the final year hostel in the erstwhile Govt. College in the state? Looking into my wrist watch from the corner of my eye, it read 8.40 AM. I had no mood to go to college at 9 on this morning after the rendezvous with half a bottle of VAT 69 the previous night. I decided to end one of the knocking and opened the door to find my dear friend Venkat at the door.

Venkat: Hey Senthil, Still sleeping man? We have placement at nine, don’t you remember, International Business Solutions (IBS) man, the last of the software companies….

Me: Yea man, I will be there, what time is the written?

Venkat: PPT is at 9, written is at 10, but PPT is………..

I banged the door shut to catch up with my sleep for one more hour. Twenty minutes to reach college is a luxury by my college standards.

At sharp 10 AM, I entered the hall where the written was supposed to be conducted and managed to find a place to sit, but the knocking in my head failed to subsidize.

Guess I had too much yesterday.

The written was a usual affair, I tried my best to concentrate and complete the written. Once done with the written, I sped through the crowd to my way to get rid of the headache. And as was expected, fell asleep.

Knock! Knock! Knock! Damn, who is it now? I looked at the watch, it was close to 1 PM, the usual lunch time and fortunately I could hear only one knock, the one on the door. I opened to see my savior of the day, Venkat standing at the door.

Venkat: Man, you have cleared the written man, congrats man and your interview is at 7 PM, mine is at 8:30 PM.

Damn, how can that happen, I was only in half of my senses while writing the exam, how could I qualify.

Venkat: The cut off was 20 out of 40 and you just sneaked through with 20 man, how lucky.

I managed to smile at the irony of the situation.

I ran into my closet to find if I had formal clothes for the interview, but could not find any. I had given all of them to dhobi (washerman) as I had not anticipated IBS to come out hunting for people. I called up dhobi on his mobile to find out, it was not reachable.

Damn all the cell phone networks!

As usual, I turned to my savior, my friend Venkat, he had only one shirt, which he needed and hence, he gave me his new red shirt. A “red shirt” for placement is really not a great idea, but from the position I was in, I couldn’t demand for an Einsteinian idea.

I was looked at as if I was from the other planet in the campus that day with my red shirt, cream color pant and black shoes.

Finally, my turn for the interview came. As I entered I found a bespectacled man, who looked as if he was having a stomach problem and a pretty lady with a familiar face in the interview panel. The lady was wearing a black color salwar and had a strand of her hairs falling on her face.

What was I doing?

I recomposed myself, and went in and wished them, Good Evening Madam, Good Evening Sir.

Ladies first.

I got nods from them and was shown a seat to be seated. Handing over my resume to them, I waited for the ordeal. After a brief introduction from them, (The lady’s name was Rashmi) I was asked to introduce myself.

First question from the man: Why are your marks just above average? Managing just about 75%? Though I see, you scored well in the first year.

Actually, the first year into this college, we were put into a jail; second year was August 15thfor us.

Me: In the first year, I studied sincerely, Second year onwards I lost interest in the engineering syllabus, found it to be quite boring and monotonous. I tried doing things which are more creative and challenging.

Rashmi: Oh! Is it? Interesting, what creative things have you been doing? That’s an unexpected bouncer.

Me: Well, I have been researching on the topic I would do project and I have been helping my project guide in his thesis for his PhD.

Was it the question from lady, or the traces of VAT 69 inside me which is doing the magic?

Man: Tell me about your final year project.

After explaining at length about the project for about ten minutes using various animated hand movements, I settled down to look at their reactions. Rashmi seemed interested. The man looked at me as if I had spoken in a language he hardly understood.

Rashmi: Why are you wearing a red shirt for the interview, don’t you think it is not a formal wear?

Venkat, I want to kill you man!

Me: Ma’am I think the real thing you are looking for in people is their skills and the inner personality rather than the outer personality. And I love the color red. I believe it gives me immense confidence, which is more essential for me in this interview rather than appearing in a formal dress.

Now I was sure, it had nothing to do with VAT 69 and it was indeed the lady.

They exchanged glances; I realized the man indeed understood English.

Man: Looks like you are the only one who understood the pre-placement talk. Good.

Wow! I had scored a six of the bouncer.

Man: Final question, why IBS?

Well, because no other software company took me quoting low marks. I goofed up my previous interviews. I don’t want to do all this exercise for another company coming in future and software jobs are the high paid ones, not the core ones.

Me: Sir, IBS is a dream company to many. I believe it has the right platform and it surely will provide the opportunity for a non-computer science background guy to outshine himself and I firmly believe only IBS can satisfy my thirst for the non-monotonous job. I see immense growth in the company and I want to grow with the company.

Again they exchanged glances and I could not believe my eyes. The man smiled. He shook my hands and then Rashmi and I was asked to leave and wait for the results.

As soon as the results were announced and my name featured in the list of candidates selected, I went straight to Venkat, to get the red shirt forever from him.

It cost me two bottles of Chivas Regal and umpteen number of reference in front of the whole world, of me getting job because of his “red shirt”.

I still look at “The red shirt” lying in my closet once in a while to give me the confidence.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Chetan Bhagat Vs 3 idiots team: The controversy

The controversy involving the makers of 3 idiots and the author of the book five point someone Chetan Bhagat has been going round for quite a while. Before I take a stand on the issue, it is better to have a look at what has transpired. So, here goes the story.

3 idiots is one of the biggest hits of the year and is touted to become one of the biggest hits of all time. It is apparently loosely based Chetan Bhagat’s five point someone. According to the director and makers of the movie, only 5% of the movie is based on the novel and the rest has been penned by the writers of the movie. HoIver, those who have seen the movie including me feel a lot has been taken from the novel and it is definitely higher than 5%.

If one looks at the business side of the whole episode, the makers of the movie claim to have bought the copyrights of the novel before making the movie. But what Chetan Bhagat’s complaint is not about the percentage of inspiring from the book. He is claiming that he hasn’t been given proper credits for the story of the movie. The makers hoIver claim that as per the agreement he was given the payment and also the bonus promised if the movie turns out to be hit.

As per the copyright laws, one can use the product he or she has brought the copyrights for, but there is no clause about giving credit to the author. It is purely based on one’s ethics about giving credit for the original work. Hence, I feel the makers of the movie should have given more credit to CB for the story department. Having said this, CB took more than 3 or 4 days after the premiere show to vent out his anger and that too he claims was started only when he started getting fan mails to his inbox.

I feel it is irresponsible on the part of CB to not have raised this before , during the filming of the movie and discussing about sharing credits during the agreement phase itself. Also, if I look at the fact that CB is a MBA from the country’s top engineering college, it is disheartening that he himself has not taken the copyright laws seriously and not ensure proper justice for himself. This tends to show the way Indian look at the copyright laws. Overall, I feel 3 idiots team have done injustice to CB, but CB himself could have avoided that. It is high time , the media and the film industry become more professional and take copyright laws and its agreements seriously like Hollywood does.

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