Monday, December 20, 2004
The Magic - It never stops
His mind swept over the psychic and temporal axes at a scorching pace, the right hemisphere on the former and the left on the latter, searching for a discontinuity. Nothing. The supra-dimensional axial equations were perfect and the workmanship flawless. He tried probing the spatial axes. But unlike the other 95 and 1/2 psycho-temporal dimensions that individually enveloped the multiverse, the eighth one was exclusive to one universe - the most elusive and exalted of them all. Spatial gateways did not exist. His synapses delved into the deepest sumps of nervous energy in the quest for a solution.
The creature smiled. He would just transform the axes.
The conics collapsed. The differential equations fell. Dimensional lines of force warped. Current dimension – 34. 32. 27. 23. 19. 18. 12. 9. And the cosmic lock to the eight psycho-temporal dimension was opened.
He staggered in disbelief.
Where once were great mines and unrivalled smithies, which gave birth to everything, nothing but unadulterated darkness prevailed. Gone were the roaring furnaces and the shimmering lights of those who had constructed the multiverse. Gone was the deep forest that had once girdled and guarded the spring of life. Gone were the proud hills and the shy valleys. Gone was everything that the eighth psycho-temporal dimension ever stood for. Across the 95 and ½ occurrences of the multiverse and the 96 and 1/2 occurrences of that exalted universe, there had been only one place to claim sanctuary. And it did not exist anymore.
There was something he wanted to see.
He moved towards the centre of gravity. All that remained there was the stump of a sacred tree, withered and dead. There was only a brief flicker in his eyes. Out came the sword. He hacked away at the stump with the frenzy of a madman till he succeeded in cutting off a large portion.
He headed for the carpentry shop R3. The tools were rusted and decayed. He turned to the furnace W2. Its fires had long been extinguished. He laughed hysterically. He cut half of the wood he had and carved it out with his sword. It was a perfect design. With the other half, he re-lit that ancient forge. He thrust a broken ladle filled with magnetite into it. And he drew the hot metal pouring out into wires and pellets. He bit the wires into size and smashed the pellets into shape by chewing on them.
He was there for long, in front of the fire, floating in nothingness. His blade was broken. As were a few more things. His eyes blazed as he looked around, He mated wood and metal in a mad burst of passion till the act was complete. And it was born.
He picked it up with quivering hands. Somewhere deep inside, a path of least resistance was established between the creature and the newborn. High voltage current flowed through his fingers, The newborn cried out, its voice resonating across those fabled walls, ripping through dimensional corridors. The creature never stopped till the once-holy ground was stained red by his bleeding hands.
It was the end of an era. It was the beginning of another.
One way or another, the magic never stops.
The creature laughed madly again.
Management Class : Meandering thoughts of a fickle mind
Saturday, December 18, 2004
The Clash of the Titans
For long they walked together.
One was a champion of ethics - a true champion who'd live by his word and die by the sword. He would fight to the end for what he believed in. He was a messiah who would defend and protect those reeling under tyranny, oppression and mire. His allegiances were not to individuals or organizations but to high ideals and cosmic truths.
The other was a fanatic of Pink Floyd and The Who. He had no ethics. He would not strive to understand the deeper malaise that afflicted his soul. He would see the grass on the other side of the fence and think that it was greener, and go green with envy. He would spurn the messiah who would show him the light. He was Shrek.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and thence the twain parted.
This is it. This is the clash of the titans.
Only one man will remain standing.
I. A Tug of War Contest
a) Shrek pulls and then swirls the rope around like a hammer-thrower. Mental Baba is sent flying into outer space.
b) Mental Baba bribes the judges and wins.
c) The tensile strength of the rope is unable to withstand the compressive pull of Mental Baba's little finger.
d) The rope turns into a snake. Shrek runs for his life.
II. A Golgappa-eating Contest
a) Mental Baba destroys Shrek.
b) Mental Baba routs Shrek.
c) Ends inconclusively as both of them are admitted to the hospital for emergency stomach surgery.
d) The golgappas disappear mysteriously just before the start of the contest.
III. A Pink Floyd Contest
a) Mental Baba says, "Pink who?"
b) Shrek pounds Mental Baba into mincemeat.
c) Mental Baba just falls asleep.
e) Shrek has 'High Hopes' of winning.
IV. A Prose-writing Contest
a) Shrek hammers the living daylights out of Mental Baba.
b) Mental Baba hammers the hell out of Shrek.
c) Freddie appears out of nowhere and hammers them both.
d) Mental Baba is disqualified for using profanities.
V. A Line-maraoing Contest
a) Shrek wins hands down.
b) Shrek wins pants down.
c) Shrek wins.
d) Shrek wins again.
VI. An Ethics Championship //Now we're talking
a) Mental Baba displays his gold medal proudly to the cheering masses.
b) Shrek, green with envy, steals Mental Baba's medal.
c) Mental Baba is disqualified for unethical practices.
d) Shrek is crowned 'Ethics Champion' by Thee Cee Esss .
VII. A Mathematics Contest
a) Mental Baba blows Shrek away.
b) Freddie tries to make an unsolicited entry again. This time he is thrashed soundly by Mental Baba.
c) Shrek runs for his life.
d) Laloo leaks the question papers to Mental Baba.
VIII. A Dance Contest
a) Shrek does superb breakdance in St. Peter's Basilica. St. Peter's Basilica mysteriously comes crashing down.
b) Mental Baba tries a back flip and is admitted to hospital for emergency spinal surgery.
c) Mental Baba does the moonwalk.
d) Shrek does St.Vitus's dance.
IX. A Cooking Contest
a) Shrek at work. Food poisoning alarm sounded.
b) Mental Baba cheats yet again – outsources to Sanjeev Kapoor.
c) RKHS wins. Both Shrek and Mental Baba pass out.
d) Mental Baba finally manages to make Maggi – what an achievement.
X. A NatGeo Genius Contest
a) Mental Baba steamrollers Shrek.
b) Shrek is disqualified for making a pass at the presenter.
c) Shrek stuns Mental Baba in the upset of the century.
d) Mental Baba fails to identify the nationality of the Cayman Islands.
XI. A Biking Contest
a) Shrek steals Mental Baba's spark plugs. Yet he loses.
b) Ends inconclusively as both crash and are admitted to hospital for emergency neurosurgery.
c) Shrek arrives on a Harley-Davidson. Mental Baba flees.
d) Mental Baba on his machine and Shrek on his favourite cow go one-on-one.
XII. A Basketball Contest
a) Mental Baba shoots a three-pointer from half-court. The Pistons sign him up.
b) Shrek slams in a dunk right over Mental Baba's head. Nobody signs him up.
c) Shaq faints on watching Mental Baba and Shrek in action.
d) They play with a spiked iron ball. Both are admitted to hospital for emergency facial reconstructive surgery.
XIII. A Wear-a-saree Contest
a) Mental Baba runs for his life.
b) Shrek runs for his life.
c) HRH runs away with the saree.
d) HRH again. This time he's back for the blouse.
XIV. An Extreme Programming Contest
a) Shrek's program does not compile.
b) Mental Baba's program does not comply.
c) Mental Baba writes a program that prints 'Hello World'. He wins.
d) Shrek smashes the computer.
XV. A Debate on Sachin Tendulkar
a) Mental Baba shows up in a three-piece Scabal and pummels Shrek into submission.
b) Shrek shows up in swimming trunks and loses ignominiously.
c) KD interjects with some useless questions on some useless topic. He is promptly evicted from the auditorium.
d) News of Sachin slamming another double ton trickles in. Shrek runs for his life.
XVI. A Swimming Contest
a) Mental Baba runs for his life.
b) Mental Baba is rescued by Geena Lee Nolin.
c) Mental Baba is rescued by Pamela Anderson.
d) Mental Baba is rescued by Carmen Electra.
XVII. A Booze Contest
a) Mental Baba laughs all the way to the bar.
b) Shrek forfeits.
c) Mental Baba and Shrek get into a nasty brawl.
d) Mental Baba is shell-shocked as Shrek beats him by four pegs.
XVIII. A Shooting Contest
a) Mental Baba wins with his eyes blindfolded.
b) Shrek shoots his toes by mistake.
c) There's no way Mental Baba can lose this.
d) Shrek shoots Mental Baba by cold calculated design.
XIX. An Ultimatix Contest
a) Shrek flattens Mental Baba without breaking into sweat.
b) Mental Baba runs for his life.
c) Shrek disappears mysteriously.
d) "User authentication failed." The contest is called off.
XX. A Money-minting Contest
a) Mental Baba joins a certain global top 10 company which pays extremely high salaries.
b) Shrek tries to loot the RBI vaults and fails miserably. He is arrested and sent to Tihar Jail.
c) Know what, Richie Rich was inspired by Shrek.
d) For once, Mental Baba is stumped.
If there's anything missing, bring it on.
There is no scoring scale. The people go by their own intuition. And they decide the victor of this epic battle.
I know that they will make the right choice. I know that the masses will rally behind the ethics champion.
Only one man will be left standing.
Management Class : Meandering thoughts of a fickle mind
Friday, December 10, 2004
Romancing the Roads
November 28, 5:15 am, The Ashram.
I was rudely jolted out of my sleep by the unrelenting alarm. If there's anything I hate, it's being woken up early. But there I was, up on my feet in a jiffy. I raced to the terrace where I saw a feeble sun trying to break through the dark sky. I knew it would be a great day.
November 28, 5:50 am, The Ashram.
Lonely planeteers, backpackers, hitchhikers, explorers, seekers - brothers-in-arms characterised by the same restlessness and instability and lunacy. And then there are the pilgrims - a special part of this special fraternity. In search of coherence and meaning, with a firm convinction that it does exist (unlike the seekers), pilgrims don't require much except for :
# A pen and some paper
# A machine (bike/SUV/boat/airplane/helicopter/snowmobile/dune-buggy/hovercraft)
# A digicam
# An iPod
But most pilgrims are an impoverished lot. Boats and digicams and iPods are beyond their wildest dreams. I want to be a pilgrim anyway.
November 28, 6:30 am, The Ashram.
I did not plan to take any accessories along. Not even a backpack. Just a pen, a piece of paper, my mobile and a borrowed camera. There was no place in my pockets for the chain. Tried putting it under the seat,but it clanked jarringly. I then tried to wrap it around my knee. Very grunge. But I don't care two hoots for grunge and it was bugging me. So I just left it behind.
Final check. Brakes. Lights. Horn. Pressure. Oil. Fuel. And the papers. And, oh yes, I managed cram the Hindu down below the dome.
My Pulsar growled menacingly. I was on my way.
"Hungry Like The Wolf"
November 28, 6:55 am, Korathur.
Soon my stomach was growling as well. Not the way my liver and my project management do, but I had to stop for some grub nonetheless. Four great vadas and two okayish idlis - all for Rs. 12 - were enough to appease it.
November 28, 7:15 am, somewhere on NH-5.
I was out of the 100 ft road now and onto NH-5. I love NH-5. I love it because it goes to two of my favourite places - Kharagpur and Visakhapatnam. Later, I got a third reason to love it. The road was great but traffic and cattle spoilt the ride. And hell, the milestones were all in Tamil. Finally, my eyes lit up as I spotted a clear stretch ahead. My bike roared in glee as I opened him up. 70...80...90...a wobble...80...90...95...another wobble...80...damn the crosswinds. I shook my head and backed off.
"The Long and Winding Road"
November 28, 7:30 am, off the highway.
There's no point in biking on the highway if your speedometer does not hit the three figure mark. I had crossed the toll gate, about 30 km from my den, but I still hadn't done it. I was miffed. Maybe it wasn't going to be such a great day after all. About four kilometres from the toll gate, I turned right for the road that leads to Ponneri town. It was
a 7 km drive through farmland and an industrial cluster that took me to Ponneri. Ponneri is an uninspiring dustbowl of a town. I didn't even feel like stopping there so I continued on my way to Pulicat village or Pazhaverkadu (as it is popularly known), which was about 18 km away. The road deteriorated into a wavy ribbon of potholes and unmarked
"The Sound of Silence"
November 28, 7:40 am, still en route .
The first of them literally had me take off like a rocket. It wrecked my bike's suspension as well as mine.I decided to stop for a while, stretch my suspended back, back into animation, and then take a walk around. I trudged into a nearby paddy field. I could smell the lagoon, taste the moisture in the air and feel the breeze behind me. All that I could see was a sea of green and not a soul in sight. And I heard a sweet melody - the greatest of all melodies - silence.
"Here I Am"
November 28, 8:10 am, Pulicat waterfront.
It took me precisely an hour and forty minutes to travel about 60 kilometres. But I had a couple of pitstops, without which, it could have been done in an hour. Contrary to public perception, Pulicat isn't really that far from Chennai. Lake Pulicat is the second largest lagoon in India, the largest being Lake Chilka in Orissa. It is a remarkable one at that. There are numerous islands,some of which are a second home to migratory waterfowl that come all the way from the Tundra and the Taiga. One of the islands houses the heavily-guarded Sriharikota Launch Centre.The village of Pulicat, though, is a ramshackle undeveloped place. There's no tourist infrastructure whatsoever (which is good) but no local entrepreneurship (which is bad). There was not one tourist out there. In fact, all along the road, including the highway,I had seen lots of people on bikes but not a single biker.
There I was - looking like Michael Rosenbaum - standing in front of the lake. And then, my bike and I were mobbed by a horde of boatsmen. It was like a school of piranhas swarming all over a piece of meat. I was almost driven bonkers by the way they clawed and pawed at my bike, and hardsold their boat rides. I was sure that the apple of my eyes and I would be parted forever if I left him there, chain or no chain. I tried looking for a police station where I could park him but failed to locate one. I just had to do by driving up the road and parking him in the busy little market. I put a twenty into a shopkeeper's hand and asked him to keep an eye over my baby.
"Sunshine On My Shoulders"
November 28, 8:40 am, my own houseboat.
I walked back to the waterfront with a badly-crumpled Hindu in my hand. I took a path along the shore for a while before settling down in what seemed to be a derelict boat. The warm sun was beating down on my face but I didn't mind it one bit. I just took my shirt off, lay back and read the Sunday Hindu. It was cool.
The Pulicat is amazingly shallow. I could see people about 100-150 m into the lagoon, standing in waist-deep water and fishing.And I actually saw a bullock-cart coming right through the water from the lighthouse island right opposite to the main wharf. I don't know whether the bullocks were swimming or walking but the very sight was unbelievable. And I missed that photo opportunity.Damn me. It's the sort of place where even non-swimmers may frolic about and play a game of water-polo or something.
I started to dream. "I must down to the seas again...to the lonely sea and the sky"..."I chatter chatter as I flow...for men may come and men may go"..."Blow bugle blow...set the wild echoes flying"...". Tried to write a bit. Did write a bit. Maybe some other day.
"Don't Look Back In Anger"
November 28, 9:35 am, on the lakeside trail.
By the way, there's a regular boat service to the lighthouse island which is pretty cheap - all of Rs. 5. They overload the boats but I don't think anybody's ever drowned in the Pulicat. These boats are of an ancient stock but most of them do tend to have an outboard motor. I wasn't too keen on heading across the channel because a) the island looked pretty nondescript and b) they didn't allow people up the lighthouse.
They told me that there was a ruined Dutch chapel and a cemetery on some island nearby. And that most of the important and biologically-rich islands were far away, about 2-3 hours by water, in the jurisdiction of gultland. Basically what I understood was that bird-watchers ought to approach the lake from the Andhra side. But since I don't watch birds, both the ones that fly and the ones that don't, it didn't really matter to me.
But what mattered was riding the lake.I remember how I tipped the guy at the Idukki dam (during my training at Trivandrum) a full hundred bucks in order to have all sorts of spectacular turns and leaps during our ride. And I remember asking him afterwards how much the boat cost. A simple fibre-glass shell with a basic Yamaha engine - three and half lakhs. Wow! Maybe someday.
A whistlestop trip around a couple of nearby islands costs Rs. 400 per boat. Each boat can seat 20 (at least that's what they say). Trips deep into the Pulicat, may cost Rs.1500-Rs 5000, depending on the distance. It's not expensive by any standards as long as there's a quorum at hand. I was tempted to shell out Rs. 400 but a look at my wallet reminded me of the pauper that I was.
I was angry. I never rode the backwaters of the Pulicat. For those who want to, perhaps, it's a better idea to go to Sullurpeta across the border and throw in a trip to Tada as well.
"Coming Back To Life"
November 28, 10:10 am, on my way back.
I walked back to the market, hoping I wouldn't be greeted by anything to worsen my mood. I wasn't. I took him down to the waterfront again, put on my goggles and said to the Pulicat, "I'll be back."
My spirits returned as I felt the reassuring growl of my faithful companion and the nonchalant whistle of the wind. And what more, I actually spotted a wine shop tucked away around a corner. Sore temptation. I'm not much of a beer-guzzler but a cold beer under the hot sun is just the thing. I can solve differential equations when I'm drunk but
it's better to stay dry while riding. This time I was more careful with the nasty speedbreakers. Branched into a couple of smaller roads, hoping that they'd lead me somewhere around the lakefront, but they were false leads. I guess there are no motorable road with a view in that part of the Pulicat at least.
"Born To Be Wild"
November 28, 11:05 am, NH-5/Ponneri road junction.
It was time to have some liquids. Mirinda suits me just fine.
But it was too early to go back. I would have made it back to my den in 45 minutes at the most.
No. I had to do something. I decided to head for gultland and breathe in its free air. I had no idea how far it was but I knew it couldn't be too far. I mounted my steed and set off in the other direction, away from Chennai. NH-5 took my breath away. This stretch was even better than the one before. And it sure is safer than ECR where they don't even have dividers. The traffic was minimal but wind played a spoilsport again. It was difficult to control him even at a measly 60 Ks. It was bloody irritating but there was nothing else that I could do. We just crawled along the highway.
I don't know what did the trick - a bend in the road or the wind's sympathy. I set him up as I felt the wind die down a bit. With eager anticipation, I opened the throttle. 60...70...80...a wobble...70...80...not again...70...a big one. This was freaking me off. I backed off again and tried again after a while. No change in the results.
A red film exploded over my eyes. Chuck it.
I opened him up yet again. 60...70...80...a wobble...90...another one...95...wobble...100...105...wobble...110.
I wish I could have seen myself. When one wears a skull of impenetrable crapium (the densest element known), I guess anything's possible. What the hell are winds and wobbles? And I went 'Woooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!'
- a la Ric Flair. And I found my third reason to fall in love with NH-5.
I think I could have gone faster but that's the fastest my machine can go.
I don't remember how many times I broke the three figure mark thereafter. But the first one was the best one.
I'm in really bad shape and I had been riding for 120 kilometres. My back was hurting so I decided to turn back, without crossing over into gultland. I took a U-turn a few kilometres after Gummidipindi town, about 25 kilometres from the NH-5/Ponneri junction. And what an awesome return trip it was. I simply thundered away with a frighteningly high speed-consistency that I didn't know that I had. Overtaking at 100+ was something I had never done before but I just lost count of the number of times that I did it that day. I believe it was my graduation day.
November 28, 11:50 am, beyond the toll gate, towards Chennai.
I slowed down to a snail's pace and brought my machine to a stop by the side of the road. I took a deep breath and took off my goggles. And I just sat there on the ground, panting and out of breath, flushed and red, with my heart pounding and my eyes streaming. No, I wasn't crying. They always water at high speeds. Myriad thoughts flooded in and out of my mind as I looked at my hands that were still vibrating.
One of my friends had recently remarked that solo biking, and indeed solo travelling, was an exercise in soul purification. I don't know if there's a soul but I felt unfettered and unbound. It was magical. It was ecstasy. It was rapture. Somethings just have to be done. Instinctively.I would do it again. And again. And again. And again.
I just sat there for some time, absorbing the blue and the gold above, the brown below and the green all around. I felt part of the universe.
"On My Way Home"
November 28, 12:30 pm, the same spot.
Did I mention that I had spotted a few solitary bikers on the highway in the meantime? Perhaps they were late risers. None of them had pillions. They were all lone rangers, meandering like the lazy river, raging like the mountain stream. Perhaps they were
pilgrims. It felt good to see them. Brothers-in-arms. One guy, a big fellow on a black Karizma, actually smiled and did a 'half-salute'. It was really great. I wish I could have reciprocated but I still have a few things to learn.
I cruised back to Chennai at 60 Ks, feeling on top of the world. I looked around for a dhaba to satiate my taste buds but there was not one to be found. But I knew where to find one. As I headed into the heart of Anna Nagar, I turned right at the roundtana
and made for the Dhaba Express. Home territory. The lunch buffet. Wow! What a day!
November 28, 2:00 pm, The Ashram.
I patted him lovingly. "Well done,boy! Go to sleep." And so did I. I had sweet dreams.
Biking on NH-5 : 10/10
Biking off NH-5, towards Pulicat : 5/10
Pulicat village : 2/10
Lake Pulicat (extrapolated) : 9/10
Mental Baba's prescription : Bike all the way to Sullurpeta/Tada and then head for Lake Pulicat.
//STATUTORY WARNING : High speed biking may be injurious to health.
Management Class : Unravelogues
Sunday, December 05, 2004
The Golgappa Wars
PLEASE ENTER YOUR COSMIC QUERY : The Golgappa Wars
Aeons ago, in an ordinary galaxy far far away, lived an extraordinary megalomaniac known as Mental Baba. They said that he was the greatest ever to have walked on the third rock from the sun (star id #285410478821). They wrote him eulogies and odes. In fact, one of them just springs to mind -
"Oh Doc! Oh Doc! Oh Doc!
The way you walk!
The way you talk!
Oh Doc! Oh Doc! Oh Doc!"
(In hi-fi rap, Mental Baba = Doc. If extremely unlikely that you'll understand this if you're not hi-fi.)
They gave him aromatic massages and vada-pav. They did his laundry and answered his fan mail. Then one day everything changed.
Those were turbulent times. Golgappas, the mainstay of inter-universal trade, had been arrogantly monopolised by the Universe K9 in the fifty-third psycho-temporal dimension. The inhabitants of K9, a homogenously oversized race called 'Canis Furrialis', had invented gigantic black holes, the sole purpose of which was to suck golgappas from other universes in different dimensions. They were on an unstoppable roll. They liked golgappas. And they liked not paying for them even more.
Now, coming back to the day when everything changed. Mental Baba had just woken up from a well-earned siesta. He ambled across to the neighbourhood thelagadi and asked for his favourite golgappas. No sooner had Mental Baba picked the first one up, than a bolt from the blue arrested the process of his hand depositing the golgappa into his mouth. Mental Baba shook his sagacious head in disbelief as he surveyed the carnage around him. There was not one golgappa left! Mental Baba howled in mad fury. They still say “Hell hath no fury like Mental Baba’s palate scorned.” The third rock from the sun shuddered as Vesuvius and Krakatoa erupted. Finally Mental Baba controlled his rage and swore a terrible oath to vanquish those who had dared the unthinkable.
These tidings soon reached the Universe D3 in the twentieth psycho-temporal dimension, where the only battle fleet to have escaped annihilation at the paws of the K9 army, was licking its wounds. Great lords and powerful warriors were sitting morose and despondent at yet another failure to breach the defences of K9. The Jedi were there. So were the Time Lords. Homer Simpson and Krusty were also present. Everybody cheered wildly at the prospect of Mental Baba taking on K9 single-handedly .
Mental Baba’s lineage and prowess was legendary. He was the last of the Immortals. He could straddle the multiverse in its dimensional entirety that included all of the ninety-six and half psycho-temporal dimensions (the ninety-seventh dimension could, unfortunately, never be completed as the cheques towards the contractor’s fees had bounced). He was invincible and had never been defeated in battle. And most of all, he was golgappa-deprived and hopping mad. This time, it seemed that K9 had bitten off more than it could chew.
Hysterical female screams resounded across the multiverse as live television feed showed Mental Baba stride purposefully towards K9 in the fifty-third psycho-temporal dimension, to the tune of Queen’s ‘Princes of the Universe’, with his long mane blowing, his black cloak billowing, his mighty sword unsheathed and reflecting the light of millions of stars, his eyes bloodshot and his stomach growling.
YOUR ACCOUNT WITH COSMOPAEDIA COSMICA HAS EXPIRED. PLEASE RECHARGE TO CONTINUE.
// In addition to megalomania, Mental Baba also suffers from sudden attacks of whims and fancies.
// The Golgappa Wars will not continue
Management Class : Meandering thoughts of a fickle mind
Saturday, December 04, 2004
At least that’s what Binu always told me. Binu – our servant and my trusted sidekick. He was a local who knew the entire area like the back of his hand. Well, almost. The forest preferred to keep some of its secrets.
Fourteen year old daredevils do not like secrets. Amit bhaiyya was one such character. He was my hero. He had also once busted my left eyebrow open with a vicious bouncer.
Summer vacation was on. Things were pretty boring. Most of the gang had split for the hols. The remaining few were gathered at my place for a matinee show. Binu had been sent to fetch ‘Mr. India’ but he had returned with the spine-chilling title ‘Kabrastan’. Nobody was amused except for Amit bhaiyya. Fifteen minutes into the movie and half of the kids had vamoosed. The others (including me) were cowering behind the sofa. Only Binu, Amit bhaiyya and my dog Arrow seemed to be watching hideous creatures splash blood and gore all over the television screen. Fortunately, my mother came to our rescue and had them turn it off.
Binu then proceeded to entertain us for the rest of the evening by digging deep into his treasure trove of lore. He was a raconteur par excellence who had us utterly spellbound. Everything was going fine until Amit bhaiyya innocuously asked him, “Binu! Woh DVC waale kabrastan ke bare main bataon na.” A clouded look came over Binu’s face as he said, “Nahi. Nahi. Who sab bachon ke liye nahi hai. Sunny dar jayega aur humko daant padega.” Amit bhaiyya turned to me and hissed, “Darpok Sunny! Theher main Prerna ko batata hoon!” This jibe saw me go beetroot-red and also provoked hearty laughter all around.
‘Darpok Sunny’ thus being taken care of, Binu started off with the macabre tale of the ‘DVC kabrastan’ that had once been buried deep in the bowels of the Saranda. I will do away with the embellishments that were so inimitably put forth by Binu and attempt to convey the matter in a nutshell.
Many years back, before I was even born, there had been a graveyard in the forest, right on the outskirts of Noamundi. As most graveyards were and still are, this was reputed to be haunted by ghouls and spooks of all shapes and sizes. In its case, however, the reputation had assumed formidable proportions on account of numerous unsolved cases gathering dust in the local police station. In fact, according to old-timers, it was not an uncommon occurrence to find a severed human head the day after Ammavasya. Everybody, including the police, washed their hands of the business and gave the graveyard a wide berth. This was until a certain Col. Sinha was contracted by the Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) to erect a major grid station at the very spot that the graveyard stood. Locals, ostensibly, were aghast at the idea but the DVC’s top brass were adamant. There was a lot of money involved and the topography was just perfect. So in came the Colonel, all gung-ho and irreverent, with his bulldozers. Before anybody could bat an eyelid, the demolition crew had razed everything to the ground and packed up. The Colonel didn't have too much time to celebrate though - he was found with his guts sprayed all over one of his own bulldozers.
It was not a pretty sight. The SP threw up and the entire Singhbhum district administration was thrown into a tizzy. The power and mining lobbies were stopped dead in their tracks. Although the graveyard was reduced to rubble and dust, there was not one man alive who would even touch it with a barge pole. So it lay there, undisturbed, until the forest reclaimed its own. The Colonel’s death was never explained and the grid station was never built at the site. It was relocated to a place about four kilometres away, but not before the consecration of a twin temple dedicated to Kali and Shiva. The DVC mandir, as it is popularly known, still stands sentinel over the area today.
The legend of the DVC kabrastan grew dim over the years. Perhaps it was because of the emergence of new hotspots like the abandoned slime dam and the dilapidated ‘Manager’s Office’. Most attributed it to the presence of the temple. Whatever the reason, it had started to fade from popular memory. But it always remained a forbidden place.
It was with great thrill and rapt attention that I listened to the dark history of the DVC kabrastan. Even Amit bhaiyya gulped nervously at the end of it. It was a red-letter day that would lead to events culminating in horror. But little did I realise it then.
Ever since Amit bhaiyya had heard the complete story, he had become totally obsessed with it. He had gone off his rocker. Some great man had once said that there is a very thin line dividing foolishness and bravery. But I never thought that Amit bhaiyya would surpass himself and put that idiom to the test.
It had been two weeks since Binu had unwittingly brainwashed the hare-brained Amit bhaiyya. I was rolling in some flowerbeds, struggling to retrieve my prized ‘crazy’ ball from a boisterous Arrow’s mouth, when Amit bhaiyya’s head popped up over the garden wall. He just happened to be my neighbour too. He whispered, “Oye Sunny! Jaldi aa! Aaj phod-phad machne waala hai!” Sensing excitement in the air, I wasted no time in joining him across the wall. I found that two of his comrades-in-arms, Vikas bhaiyya and Amarendra bhaiyya were already there. Not every eleven-year-old could hang out with fourteen-year-old bhaiyyas but being Amit bhaiyya’s favourite came with its own privileges – and pitfalls.
My head reeled and I staggered. I wished to disappear in a puff of smoke when I understood the intentions of the trio. The lunatics were actually planning to pay a visit to the DVC kabrastan. I mean, hello, was the DVC kabrastan supposed to be neighbourhood Pizza Hut or something? This was the sort of place that would make hardened criminals quake in their boots and cry like babies. Who did this guy think he was – Tom Sawyer or Indiana Jones? They even had all sorts of paraphernalia ready for the expedition – torches, Vikas bhaiyya’s airgun and ‘bhuti’ from the DVC mandir in addition to other odds and ends. The icing on the cake was that they actually wanted to do it at night - that very night by sneaking out of their houses, jumping the security perimeter of the township and cycling for about seven kilometres in the deathly darkness of the Saranda.
And I was being handed an invitation. It was like being invited to dinner with, or rather, be dinner for disembodied phantoms and headless zombies. I desperately tried to worm my way out of it. “Mummy dantegi.” “Bhoot ayega.” “Dar lagta hai.” “Andhera hoga.” “Cycle theek nahi hai.” But each and every time I met the stern and disapproving gaze of Amit bhaiyya. “Look here Sunny, it’s not Ammavasya. Nothing will happen. Don’t be chicken.” But I guess I was chicken. That is why I was unceremoniously tossed backed over the wall with a dire threat to keep my big mouth shut: “Spill the beans and I’ll spill your teeth.”
That night I did not sleep. I kept my eyes peeled for any sort of activity along the back path. There was nothing. Maybe they had finally shrugged off the crazy idea. At the stroke of eleven, however, a shadowy form on a bicycle went furtively by.
The Thing to be continued...
Management Class : Tall Tales