Sunday, 31 May 2015

My week at home

My parents, brother and grandmother departed for Kashmir on Saturday, May 23, 2015. I dropped them off at the airport and brought back a very thirsty Outlander. The petrol meter showed that the car would stop at any moment and I kept constantly throwing glances at the fuel indicator. Not that that would've helped, I was just anxious. After all, who can push a car as big as that to the nearest petrol station? :P
I managed to get the car home and also park it, albeit a little skewed! (Parking that behemoth was a task in itself!) But who cares? I had the house to myself for the next 9 days. Nobody to tell me to take it out and park it straight again! Anyway, day 1 was boring. Visited a friend and got back home after a while. I had never been home alone for so long. I'd always have mom or grandma calling me up an hour or two after I had gone out, asking me when I'd be back home.
Dusk enveloped the house and after a game or two of DoTA (I played a LOT of DoTA these 9 days), I went downstairs to sleep. But sleep eluded me. I kept tossing and turning (No, I was not missing them. Please. It was nothing that cheesy.) for about 2 hours and finally managed to sleep only by midnight.
Day 2. Sunday. My cousin Janani said we could go out for dinner. I was really looking forward to that. Saturday evening and the subsequent morning really showed me how boring solitude could be. Almost all my friends were out of town and the ones who were in Chennai had exams. FML. So I tried passing the time watching TV, playing DoTA, reading the news, pretty much anything that wouldn't have me glancing at the clock every 2 minutes. And so Sunday went by and I went out for dinner. Dinner was a treat. Animal Kingdom was a good restaurant. The only problem was that they overfed me on the "appetizers" so much that I couldn't even taste the buffet spread. We visited the beach after that and then went our ways.
Day 3. The week starts. I had to wake up early, make my own lunch, bathe and then leave for my internship. Lunch was a quick Nutella sandwich and after I got back, I tried experimenting with some cuisine my mom taught me. Rava upma. I knew the recipe but I had never tried it out under supervision. So this was going to be my first attempt. The rava managed to stick to the burner of the stove, I forgot to boil the water properly before adding it to the pan, I added too many "odachakadala" (I don't know what that is in English). Basically, I had the this-is-my-first-time-in-the-kitchen dinner.
The rest of the week went by. I bunked 2 days of internship because I contracted a fever. Home was boring. I played DoTA. And when I got bored of playing DoTA, I watched TV. And when that got boring I tried sleeping. But I'm not really a during-the-day sleeper. At least not all the time. So I did the dishes, took out the trash and did some household chores. This is one thing I'm proud of. My mom was on my case about how they're going to come back home and find the whole place in a mess, or worse, burgled. I'm proud to say I managed to keep the roof, the walls around this house and everything inside, intact. I even put the clothes in the wash and hung them out to dry on my own.
It may seem like I'm making a lot out of nothing. So many people do this everyday; day in, day out. But it was a big deal for me. I don't know how much of detergent to add. I don't know when to take the clothes from the clothes line. I don't know how to run a house. At least, I'd never done it on my own. Not until this week.
Days went by and the weekend was upon me. On Friday, I decided I'd had enough of being home alone and bored to death. So I packed a set of clothes, grabbed my computer and headed to Porur, to my Perima's place. Stayed there for a day. Saturday I visited Janani, watched a movie in the evening and even went for a night drive. Sunday morning I visited my maternal grandma and got back home by around 5pm.
My dad had called a while earlier asking if I could pick them up from the airport at 7pm. I had exhausted all the money my grandma left me and, if you'd remember, the Outlander was absolutely dry. I hadn't even taken it out the last 9 days so the petrol must have dried up, even the few milliliters that were left. So I told him I couldn't.
But after I got home, I decided I didn't want to give the impression that I wasn't doing anything at home. So I washed both the cars, swept the dust off the floor from the kitchen and the living room, I took out all the trash, unlocked the rooms that they'd left locked and basically made the house family-ready from bachelor-lives-here.
After I was done with all this, it was almost 6pm.
An idea struck me, why can't I pick them up? I still have cash in the bank. I could actually surprise them at the airport! I sent my dad a message saying I'd pick them up, grabbed whatever money was left at home (5 bucks), got my wallet (70 bucks) and figured I could withdraw some more at the petrol station and started my dad's car.
I stopped the car at the petrol station and grabbed my wallet, got out of the car, and sprinted to the ATM. Sprinted because there was a blue Wagon R behind me waiting in line for fueling up. I didn't want to keep them stuck behind a parked car in the queue. But lo! My ATM card decided that this was the time to spaz out! The ATM said my card was invalid. After spewing a few of my choicest expletives at the mute machine, I sprinted back to my car, started off and backed out of the petrol station. Nobody was giving me 80 bucks worth of petrol. And even if they did, I couldn't go to the airport and back with just a liter in the tank.
I got the car out and eased it onto LB Road. I spotted an ATM outside the BSNL office opposite the petrol station. "Yes! I can withdraw cash there and then get back here. Refuel. And still catch them in time, at the airport." Everything was going fine.
I parked the car at the side of the road and got out. I reached for my wallet and... "Where's my wallet?"
I searched. Frantic. Under the driver's seat. In the glove compartment. In the back seat. I even checked the boot, although that part of the car hadn't been opened for 9 days. I checked and checked. Cursing myself all the time. I locked the car and ran (literally) back to the petrol station. I asked the dude over there if he'd seen a black wallet lying on the floor. He hadn't, he said. I went over to the ATM that refused my card. Not there. I went to the manager's room and asked him if anybody had given him a lost and found wallet. Nope. Nobody had.
I sprinted back to the car, hoping I'd find it now. I was just tensed. I needed to relax and search. It wasn't at the station. So it had to be in the car. I ran back to the car, across the road. Some guy on a bike screamed at me asking if I was blind. Whatever. I don't care dude. I need my wallet NOW!
Another frantic search yielded no different result. My wallet was miraculously missing. I'm still dumbstruck by that fact. I had it IN MY HAND!
Anyway, I shot my dad a message saying, "Plan changed. I can't pick you up. Sorry" and drove back home. Cursing myself and looking around the car alternately.
I'm still sweating from the activity as I write this post. I'm waiting for my family to get home so I can tell me dad I lost my wallet. Let's see what happens! :/

Update: I found my wallet. Seems I forgot to check under the backseat. I think I must have gotten into the car and I must have THROWN it back into the car! :P

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

An Open Letter to the Indian Politician

Hello there! I'm Vishvak but in your eyes I'm probably just a statistic, a caste or another vote. I don't have a name. I don't have a life outside the booth the put at the end of my street every 5 years as far as you are concerned. To you, I am the indelible mark they put on my finger.

Someone introduced you to politics. It had to be a family member, a friend. Maybe another politician friend. But when you stepped foot into the very epicenter of democracy and found out that it's a whole load of pandemonium out there, what did you do? You became another chaotic fanatic of electoral politics. The run-of-the-mill cliché. Your average politician.

The founding fathers of our nation saw fit to declare India a democratic nation. They gave us freedom of speech and now they're putting us in jail for "sedition". They gave us freedom to practice any religion or none at all and now we have hooligans like Shiv Sena and the RSS. They gave us freedom of expression and they now say love doesn't count.

We all know this. And we all learn to live in this democracy of hypocrisy. But do the politicians really know what they're doing to the country? It recently hit me that almost any major problem in India can be boiled down to one weed in the garden - politicians.

Instead of going for theatre classes if these people had picked up their democratic politics books at school they'd be ashamed of themselves. But wait, you don't need to be educated to run a country. You just need to know how to fool and coax people into voting for you.

Oh and let's get this straight. When you win an election, it doesn't mean that the people in your constituency love you and adore the "work" that you've done for them. It just means we hate the others more than we hate you. The others have probably robbed us of a few more thousand rupees per head than you have.

I was recently engaged in a discussion with my friend here. What good has democracy done us? When you look at countries like North Korea, I would say I pick democracy any day. I can at least complain about my problems when I have some. This blog wouldn't exist if India wasn't a democracy. I am grateful for that. But if development of the country was the only indicator, historically speaking, countries under dictatorships have made many more successes than have democratic societies.

So which do we pick? Freedom (Which I believe is a farce because we think we have freedom while we actually don't. But that's a completely different discussion) or development? Let's put the discussion up for debate in the Lok Sabha shall we?

Your time starts now:
First minute - some minister stands up and reads out the problem statement in a single baritone putting 40% of the house to sleep.
Second minute - another minister has a problem with the way the Prime Minister talked about corruption in some other country on some other day in some other context.
Third minute - some political party has a problem with the way the session is conducted and decided to walk out or worse, storm into the well of the house.
Fourth minute - Speaker realizes they've changed course from the original discussion and tries to veer back to the topic.
Fifth minute - MPs continue to shout and the house descends into utter chaos.
Sixth minute - To control the idiots, the speaker calls for a recess.

And so it goes on. Day after day. Week after week. Every month. Every year. It's been going on for 68 years now. It's all a joke. Over 500 jokers. All of them come together to run the biggest joke in the world. Who are you trying to fool? Us? The Indian public has long since lost hopes. We know that politicians and elected members of Parliament will not be our salvagers. Putting that into perspective, if the Indian metaphor was a sailboat, we've not moved an inch from where we were a few decades back. That's because we have 2 sails on the boat that face opposite directions.

That's one more stupid thing you politicians do (The other stupid things needn't be listed out here I suppose. I hope you're not stupid enough as to not know whether you're being a nitwit at Parliament or not). You guys scream, throw mics, hurl abuses and basically allow for absolutely no civilized discussion in the house. Whoever named those people sitting in the house, facing the ruling MPs "The Opposition" probably meant it as a light-hearted nomenclature because well, they sit facing the ruling party (or parties).

You guys went and misunderstood this to mean that you MUST oppose everything they say. The function of the opposition, if you didn't already know, is to play Devil's Advocate. Engage the Parliament in a healthy discussion. Figure out what needs to be done with the best interests of the people in mind. What we have now is:

Ruling party MP: "I would like to put forth to the house a new..."
Opposition MP: (screaming) "Down with it!"

Just because they don't fly the same flag in front of their cars.

A friend of mine wrote a play called "India Gate" that was a satirical take on the condition of politics in India. He discussed, among other things, the mentality of politicians in India. Upon election, they set out to erase everything the previous government did - good or bad. Then they set about looking for some scam to make money from. Then there is the covering up phase where they set about hiding all their clandestine activities from the media and the public.
The last year is used up for spending a portion of the money they made during their tenure, in bribing officials and voters.

We all talk about change. About how we need a cataclysmic paradigm shift. I think we need this also in our understanding of politics. Look at Andhra Pradesh (or whatever they call the 2 states these days). I'm quoting their state's state of affairs because their politics makes me feel bad for being an Indian every single time.

Anyway, if any of you politicians, whether elected, seeking power, or ousted from power, are reading this, keep in mind that you're doing nobody a favour by making fools of ourselves. The Parliament is supposed to be filled with the most distinguished personas in the country. You have achieved that, albeit in a different way. You have distinguished yourselves as the one job profile that can never be trusted, can never be relied upon, can never run a country.

Show them you can change. But well, if you still need some money to change the electric fence around your house, go ahead. You don't have my vote. At least I still have that right.