The art of wedding crashing

India wastes up to Rs 58000 crore of agriculture produce, that accounts for almost 40% of the total produce screams a statistic. And the remaining unwasted 60%, comes with sweet inflation attached to only get wasted in fat Indian weddings. In most weddings after the guests have left and the last member of the catering crew has grown thicker in the waist, there’s still food left. Not left over, but perfectly good food, enough to feed a needy slum to slavery. Wait…wait…the tone’s changing with the prologue. Almost got carried away there. Well this piece by any stretch isn’t  about waste management, vigilante justice or any kind of gentlemanly intention. Sorry if you got that impression.This is in fact a first person account of my shenanigans and the guilty pleasures I’ve derived over the years at the expense of several clueless couples.

I’ve always believed that most of us have a dormant side- by ‘us’ I’m referring to the movie buffs -that gets instigated by some movies. Though I’ve always been pretty good with numbers, I’ve never got that part of me tickled after Good Will Hunting. But there’s been this cheapskate within, waiting to be unleashed. Wedding Crashers was the Aladdin that got him out. It was a movie that glamourised the entire shindig of crashing weddings-celebration, music, food and women. And it has been one hell of a ride ever since. A continuous learning experience of sorts. Sometimes I’ve learnt about rituals. Sometimes about cuisines. And sometimes even discovered new things about myself, like the fact that my appetite improves incrementally in the sitting position than the standing one.

In a convoluted way, it’s an act of altruism where  you do your bit to make someone look good. The common complaint at the end of most weddings- in this part of the world – is of the turnout not matching the invited ball park number. This is where, we the uninvited lot step in, to cover up for the invited. By beefing up the headcount and filling the hall, we make the host feel and the event look good. It’s quite easy to spot the tribe, especially in the dining area. While the legit ones would eat quietly, the crashers like empty vessels would make more noise.They would be conspicuous by the number of times they ask for a starter or a refill of a gravy. They would often be found occupying corner positions in a row and munching with the desperation of a famine hit refugee. Check their faces in the wash, it would be plastered with a post coital relief. For it’s just not about relishing good food, but also the relief of not being caught in the act.

Crashing is a gift that keeps giving and can be therapeutic in more ways than one. Some times when you just don’t want to be alone, it becomes the perfectly crowded excuse to get lost. During month ends, it serves as a multi cuisine alternative to save on dinner spend. And if you get a tad shallow, you get to sport those expensive jackets in your wardrobe that have hitherto been cultivating cobwebs. While it is a prerequisite to be well dressed, attention is to be paid to not turn up overdressed. Never go wearing a crown to an uninvited coronation.

There are times you can always improvise like how I once threw a birthday treat at a respectable wedding reception. Or another time when I took a date to a midnight wedding. It’s up to you to have something in hand for the sake of effect while making an entrance , like a gift wrapped empty carton or a fancy envelope. I’ve always adhered to the “empty handed” school of thought myself, while a friend likes to carry an envelope with a limerick scribbled on the back side of a random invoice. Since it boils down to one’s cheap thrill, subjectivity of the modus operandi has to be respected when with a co-crasher.

With time, like with most habits, we tend to develop  an unique signature of completion. While the most common one in wedding crashing is leaving with a return gift, mine’s a little different. My ritual comes to its closure with a picture with the couple. I go up the stage when it’s crowded, wish them quickly and leave after getting a picture. The sheer thought of the bewildered look on the couple’s faces guessing my identity- while going through the photos -alone is priceless.

I would like to think of this as a batman kind of alter ego if you will, that responds to the crime of lavish weddings. Misplaced reasoning apart, most of us in our childhood couldn’t have resisted the lure of a low hanging mango in the compound nearby. We would’ve flicked a pebble and fled with the stolen fruit. It’s not like we couldn’t afford to buy one. Just the pleasure of the stolen mango is something else. As adults, some of us continue to preserve this child in us. I’m just one among them.

Twenty Sixteen- bookmarked chapters

Unlike last year which had things like floods to wax eloquently about survival instinct and the spirit of Chennai, albeit at a cost tad too high, this year has been quite tranquil as far as the city is concerned till December. It started with the news of the CM’s death, I thought that this would be the equivalent of last year’s floods in terms of being a logistical nightmare or at least cause a small amount of law and order ruckus, given our tendencies to vent emotions by taking to the streets. But to my utter surprise it was the most well behaved funeral mourning in recent times. So much so that the only breakage in the city  during this period came from households with mischievous kids or butterfingered adults.  Just when I thought that, it was pretty much the length and breadth of the excitement for the year, a cyclone tore its way into attention. If last year, the nature’s fury resembled overflowing water, this year it looked like howling wind.

Hmmm..since this is meant to be more about myself, enough about Chennai for now. Moving on to some developments in my life over the last dozen months or so.

Found a new god in Woody Allen to prostrate before. I figured how delicious sarcastic depictions of follies in human relations can get in the hands of a great auteur. Learnt the extent of leverage available to be drawn from seemingly commonplaces. Sad that Kamal had no releases this year. But Bhai made up for it with Sultan. Had a whale of a time in the theatres screaming to his shenanigans in baby ko base pasand hai.

On the writing front, the work on the manuscript seems to be never ending, but at least I now know how the skeleton looks. Writing feels therapeutic and almost flows like second nature. From being a cool thing to flaunt, it’s increasingly starting to feel like an expression of my ungarbed soul.

The nihilism within, which was lurking passively is slowly starting to percolate into words and action.  Even as a child I’ve always been selective about fashioning my inner circle, friend by friend. I’ve always known an acquaintance from a friend, courtesy from care. But off late I’m able to look through a person; through a conversation right at the intention underneath. Often than not what I see there is not what I heard or saw.   Probably I’m slowly tilting towards misanthropy, OD-ed on Woody Allen movies. But few things come close to the hilarity of people with 897 friends on Facebook making sincere attempts at sending wedding invitations to all “friends”, on the eve of their wedding. Probably a group of friends checking in from a restroom of a multiplex on the weekend of a popular release beats that. But the sunny side to all this social condescension is the predictability that it lends, bringing patience when dealing with people. When you know the where-they’re- headed-to part, the what-they’re-getting-at part starts to make sense.

Was almost on the verge of finding love, but backed out intimidated by the proximity.Felt guilty about kind of leading on a close one. Yup, did that hideous act of crushing someone’s heart. Earned myself truckloads of bad karma in the process. Towed the route of promiscuity for a brief detour to distract, to only find myself on the threshold of love, yet again. Somehow in the most unlikely of circumstances, either I’ve found love or been found by it. This time around, it started platonic to grow into something more significant, more passionate than any relationship I’ve found myself in. There’s something about corresponding in love; you express with words and find yourself getting entangled with each other over every anecdote exchanged, every thought provoked. It’s the purest form in my opinion, given the entirely nonphysical chemistry stimulated. All the more for someone like me who believes strongly in the physical expression of love or attraction.
Touch wood.

This year is the first time in the last decade I’ve not lifted a dumbbell or anything that resembled it for more than six months. I read somewhere about how a trainer stopped his training and diet for six months to see how much he could push his limit, to get back in shape in under three months. So gave it a shot and the results were beyond just physical. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to fit into my muscle fits and slim fits; but what I didn’t know was I wouldn’t fit into the cordiality of some people as well.
After this phase I can safely say, “Grow a few pounds thicker around your waist to figure the decent from the rest.
Now that the social experiment’s done, I’m in the process of getting back in shape by the end of year. This abandon of something as personal as gyming, did bring with it, its share of side effects. I stopped going to the temple I’ve been since the last twelve years. I let go off my faith, took a holiday from the display of gratitude. Here too, like fitness I was trying to push the ambit of my faith, to see as to what kind of a person I would turn into in the process. Through this phase I saw my compassion dry barren as I stopped caring for close ones beyond my comfort zone. My selfishness just shot up and I found myself high. Probably these were the things the stone statue and the sanctum sanctorum were keeping at bay without me being aware all these years.

And the biggest of them all, my baby sister got engaged this year. I tried my best to dissuade, but in vain. She’s not been in a relation of any kind all her life and the first one she’s going to get into comes with a promise of lasting a lifetime. I’m anxious and excited at the thought of her first adult endeavor. Since I’ve not known a life without her since childhood, the coming months without her are going to be interesting. Over the past few months have figured one thing; that I absolutely suck at this In-Law dynamic.
But if there’s a moment that’ll stay on with me, it’s that of seeing my grandpa breakdown into tears as she exchanged garlands with her fiance. He had held my mother as a cotyledon of life, then given her away in marriage and here he was seeing his grand daughter on the verge of marital bliss in his second childhood. Life had a come a full circle.
Probably Woody Allen wouldn’t endorse such thoughts, but people aren’t so bad after all.   Ditto about relationships.

That’s as far as I can remember from the top of my head. Let’s see how 2017 pans out.

 

Death by Ice cream

We were waiting for the check to come. The dinner was fabulous, like it always is at Ranjith. Don’t let the middle aged South Indian man’s name come in the middle of your judgement. It’s an oxymoron, in the sense that it continues to remain a relatively unexplored uptown restaurant in the heart of the city, despite creating such food.Victorian set up, cosy yellow lights, jazz music that trickles in the backdrop, tuxedo clad waiters with friendly candour- it’s almost right out of a Woody Allen movie. So, the evening was well spent till that point with tête-à-tête over some great food. Well, almost. My friend started making endearing facial gestures that resembled spasms, the meaning behind which I dreaded from the bottom of my heart. And you cant’t blame me for being disturbed, for he’s got a smile that resembles a hungry crocodile. It was that part of his weekend ritual where he starts to emotionally blackmail to accompany him to this dessert place, to achieve climax to the evening’s dinner.

Before going further, a little character sketch about him would help. He’s this kind of a person who likes to explore new places rather proudly. Good thing, right? Yeah, only till he starts becoming all Colombus about it. Then with the same self assigned authority goes on to sign off on the place’s authenticity. Next he starts recommending it to acquaintances as means to their salvation; not before condescending their existing tastes and preferences. When they check out these places, little do these poor souls realise that they’ve signed on to become unwilling guinea pigs to his social experimentation. At the end of which he would sign off on their tastes, based on their opinions about his. This dessert parlour called Amadora is one such pet laboratory of his. I’ve seen him judge people as unambitious and discourteous based on the fact that they didn’t quite take up to the chocolate mint ice cream, the way he would’ve liked them to.

In a nutshell, he judges more than he winks and opines more than he breathes.

So we both walk into this property located in a pristine locality; he with a pride of booking a Tesla and me with a reluctance reserved for a bad date. The guy at the counter recognises him excitedly, like a separated dog  and they go about ice creams on display like one acclaimed filmmaker to another for several minutes, before my friend starts to sample almost everything on the display than the fly on the glass.  How they do this with new found enthusiasm, week after week, with the flavours remaining constant is beyond my comprehension. And it’s not even like they’re in love.

My friend picks a pale white ice cream as an outcome of the quarter hour exchange with the shopkeeper. Then comes the worst part. He starts to remind me of the sucker I’m for chocolate with an anticipatory look, I’ve become familiar with by now; a cue for me to get something as well. I play the “miss my late grandma” card after playing the “I feel guilty about malnutrition in Somalia in these kind of places” card to little effect, but he just wouldn’t budge.

So I cave in.

I sample at least four different variants of chocolate before rejecting five. When almost on the verge of renouncing ice creams, my eyes fixate on an empty trey with a board that reads,”Nutella”. This can’t go wrong.
I ask for a sample of it and what I get in return instead from the over enthusiastic owner is a lecture on the unit economics behind the particular flavour, till I gently remind him about not intending to hold any stake in his gourmet boutique.
Offended by my curtness, my prodigal friend nudges me into picking a flavour compulsorily. With very little choice I pick what seemed to be the lesser devil among all, a Chocolate Sorbet that seemed bitter enough to be an imposition in school. Like this, between the two of us, we had ordered two scoops of underwhelming ice creams that only costed us a little less than our kidneys would’ve in an organ racket.

We perch on tall wooden stools that belonged in tacky bars, from where I resort to condescending patrons around the counter over death by sorbet. After all laughing at our misery was the best way to go about according to this thirteenth century Tamil poet with a knee long beard.It was fascinating to notice pretentious people discussing and deconstructing ice creams with a verve reserved to Michelangelo’s work; guessing the epiphanies which would’ve lead into creating these melting art forms. All this, while my friend was enjoying his five bean vanilla ice cream that tasted like cold horlicks- closed eyed like in a Beatles concert -from the other end of the table.

As I dared to venture a helping from my cup, I began to realise that these gelatin grenades were in fact the most military ones out there, for they almost never melted. What bends before their resilience is the spoon with which we try to excavate, as they remain intact on the tongue forever.

Finally, as we made our way out, my friend couldn’t stop drawing superlative parallels to the frozen malt beverage he had had, notwithstanding my face buried in the phone’s display. Noticing my lukewarm response to his desserted orgasm, the ritual of him condescending my gourmet preference ensued. I smiled to myself at the sight of a light at the end of the road, which was from a ice cream joint I quite liked. After all, like all good things, bad things come to an end as well.

Saturday, Shatabdi and stuff like that

It was ten to five as I woke up to the screech of my attention seeking alarm- late yet again- what with the rerun of Friends occupying hours of my sleep, night after night these days. So couldn’t do the things I was planning  to do, like a few hundred burpees or push ups to appear, stiffer and thinner in the right places to turn befitting to a white linen shirt I had bought. Screw you Chandler.
I had a train at six to catch and here I was dazed, far from ending my night’s stand with the bed. Mom and caffeine got me on my feet- barely so – as I reluctantly slid into the Uber summoned to take me to the railway station.

This particular cabbie had a twisted sense of humour if his playlist was anything to go by, which took me a while to figure out. He started with M.S.Subalakshmi going, ” Punarapi jananam, Punarapi maranam…“(One is born again, One dies again…) and I was overwhelmed by the serenity of the rendition.Well, who wouldn’t be at that time of the day.As I continued to linger a little longer in my reverie, it segued in the cryptic existentialism of the next song-“Ponna usuru vandhuruchi…“(Life that went, came back..). And the way he was manoeuvring with disdain through speed-breakers and sharp turns;  he seemed quite determined to visit the town southwards of life. And I was being dragged along like a rag doll, before I rained in his parade.
All it took was a choice few words about his lineage, a gentle reminder about the possibility of him having to face the firing end of his employment and voila, the song and the gear changed! The buildings and trees stopped appearing like blurry-fleeting images from the window. Well, nothing works like swear words in this part of the world. It’s not like he drove like he had the prime minister  behind, but at least I stopped being able to count the bumps on the road with my back till the station came.

As I stepped into the station, little did I know that there was still some ammunition left in the morning which had already expended the adrenaline of a bungee jump by then.

The friend who was travelling with me to Bangalore called up from the coach and cut the call with a wry instruction,”Come fast“.This reasonable person had booked the tickets, wouldn’t give me the coach number of the train and was reminding me to up the ante to a train with twenty other coaches.
Running in crowded places in Chennai can be quite a task at times -as daunting as running against a sliding sand dune. While the outgoing crowd doesn’t make space, the incoming one competes and hinders. Finally with a few minutes left, sanity prevailed over him as he texted the coach number.

As I wove my way to my seat, the next scheduled entertainment for the morning was staring at me. Apparently my friend couldn’t find seats together to book as it was a last minute plan. After a failed attempt at asking this person to exchange his seat, my friend had perched next to a fragile looking septuagenarian whose face had more wrinkles than the pashmina shawl around his neck. I was left high and dry with this person next to me, who had Dravid‘s first session determination plastered across his face with a tacky film magazine in hand. This hirsute wouldn’t relent to my request to switch seats as well, even if it meant depriving two friends of their company and me of some space in my own seat.Man, was he big. He held in him meat enough for an entire hamlet to feast upon.

Talking of feasts, I had a rendezvous with what Indian Railways’s idea of one was. It started with a trolley that waltzed its way into my coach, with infinite red trays arranged symmetrically. My mouth welled up with saliva at the sight of this elaborate red herring till I saw what the tray contained-A single Marie Biscuit packed to perfection!
Marie biscuit on a red tray is not hospitality, but hostility. This is one thing we’ve learnt to dodge consistently during tea times at home and have deployed as an effective weapon against out of town relatives who dropped in without prior notice. In short Marie is the Indian middle class’s silent “fuck-off”. And here it was deconstructed into as many headcounts and circulated like one of these compulsory ads on youtube, that one had to   encounter first before the video he really wanted to watch.

Before the “Marie”-scar could heal, the breakfast made its grand entrance.

If bad karma was edible, it would’ve pretty much looked like my meal that consisted of pongal that resembled idli spread across a  vaster geography, chutney that resembled sambar and sambar that resembled rasam. Little did I anticipate this when I hopefully answered,”Vegetarian” in binary to a question about my meal preference.
But there were people who dealt differently with their meal like the cute kid opposite me, who without a clue was putting to practise principles of mergers and acquisitions, albeit on a smaller scale as she combined the isolated omelette with the vacant bread that tasted like feet, when everyone around were going for jam. Smart girl steered clear from the evil trinity of pongal, chutney and sambar.

Relief came much later after the tables were cleared,  in the form of packaged juice which seemed to obviously have escaped the chef’s intervention.

Whatever sensory satisfaction couldn’t possibly be achieved through my mouth, I was attempting with the eyes. After all the Chennai-Bangalore route is quite the picturesque stretch. But how was fate going to let my redemption be such a low hanging fruit if the turn of events since daybreak were anything to go by. I was gorging on the green strokes of the creator’s artistry as the morning’s culinary fiasco was starting to dissolve from my memory,till a fateful forearm came in my viewing perimeter. The density of the forest outside the window became a redundant sight before its miniature manifestation in the  hairy hands of the person next to me. He had all of Anil Kapoor‘s body hair in his forearms alone. So long to the audacity to sight see.

My train called itself a “Super Fast Express“. Yeah, it continued to do so with another hundred kilometres to cover, twenty minutes past the scheduled time of arrival. It was like going through one of my worst nightmare in exaggerated slow motion, without being able to wake up. Rahman came to my rescue briefly, when the Railways didn’t. I thankfully had made a playlist full of his songs which helped me slip into a blissful sleep. I was musing on a million things -internal and external, like my defeated taste buds on the tired tongue, the limbs that had forgotten to stretch; courtesy of the encroachment from the seat nearby, the promises the trip held ahead, the pretty woman who was wearing a sari relevant from her grandmother’s era and whether I would go on live till seventy five.

I woke up to the sonorous screech of the train. Never had anything been more music to the ears. The train had finally arrived at Bangalore. People were bursting out in all directions like stock characters in monster movies. But I was in no particular hurry, for I wanted to take a moment to ensconce in the full expanse of my seat for once, without having to contend for a piece of the arm rest with an entire village next to me. That epiphany, I got a slight inkling of how the first few minutes of the fifteenth night of August must have felt like in 1947.

Something like true love

Who am I to describe love? A better question would be from where do I describe it?As an originator of my own stories or from the standpoint of a recipient or just as an undeserving person who’s hair was tousled by its zephyr. For so much has been told by so many, so many times in so many different ways. Like stories about encounters with God, there are a million first person accounts of how it felt to be hit by it, but very few have actually come eye to eye. Yet so many talk about having fallen under its endless wings, to put a halo around their togetherness. Every myth solidifies in stature to become a thing of faith with anecdotes and accounts woven . Love is no different.It finds its eternity in such fascinating stories. One such story came to my mind, that inspired me to yearn for this enigmatic emotion.


Twenty years earlier…


So she was a little short of twenty when her solicitous dad got her married off. Twenty wasn’t the only thing she was short of. She was yet to experience the feelings that came along with travel, relationships and work pressure; yet here she was, already staring at the threshold of matrimony on fast forward mode, thanks to a swift push of a button by her father.
Fair skinned, pleasant faced and well endowed- she was a single point leakage to the collective efficiency of her neighborhood men. Her husband was an average looking man; brown skinned with not a single striking feature. He was one of those generic people who could easily be lost in a crowded street.
As a very young kid, I didn’t make much of the marriage than the food that was served on the wedding night or the lopsidedness of their pairing.

Sixteen years earlier…

They begot a daughter, who was as respectable as adorable.A rare quality for a child of an impressionable age in our family, given the carefree(less) parenting style that usually prevailed. She no more looked like a pencil wrapped in a saree, maternity had made her a tad cherubic, but she was quite the looker still. By now, I was old enough to understand gentleman beyond their faces, her husband was one such person. He was no more the generic person from the wedding altar, he was a friendly man who I had grown up to become fond of.

Twelve years earlier…

They had moved into a new place when I saw them next. Their house felt like home; held together by something beyond brick and mortar in one congenial bond. Their daughter was old enough to understand stuff beyond arithmetics and alphabets. They now had a son who was yet to step out of from the clutches of gravity or gibberish. They were warm hosts, wonderful parents and a great couple. They couldn’t take their eyes of each other and I couldn’t off them. My relationship benchmark was forged back then, with their molds.

Five years earlier…

The next time when I visited them, she greeted me- her eyes incongruent to mine. Didn’t know till then that diabetes was capable of causing blindness . She used to write accounts for a handful of clients back then,she still does just like her dad. The vulnerability of blindness barely sunk into her, for he became her ersatz eyes and hands during that time. They worked together like one person, with him reading out from the bills and she reciting the accounting entries. The children had grown up into responsible adults, who took care of themselves and their parents with little fuss. Together they resembled a well oiled machine, with each of them dovetailing their needs to the larger cause of their family.

A few months earlier…

One afternoon, we got a call from her mom. She had met with a cardiac attack. Some thing cryptic about the way life operates; giving us more than we deserve, to only take more than it gave.
She had come out of her temporary blindness to resiliently firm up her family’s financial status, something that had eluded her father forever. She had made her children independent individuals who could take care of themselves, emotionally and financially. All of this, amidst the chaos from the periphery, provided by her folks and her pungent in-laws and her own dwindling health condition.

As I walked into her ward I saw him seated beside her. He was holding a magazine upside down, musing on her, as she lay asleep, pale and weak. Unperturbed by the raucous of the general ward or the gravitas of the circumstance, his face was the picture of calm in a storm.Over the years, She had lost her good looks, her youth, her father recently and yet he never left her side, through the thick and thin of life. I stood there embarrassed about claiming to have been in love a few times in my life. I still didn’t know what love was. But it definitely was a lot more deeper than a space created to decorate egos, held together by impressions made from first sight, coffee shop camaraderie and finding body warmth together under the fallacy of “making love”. Maybe it was about the inconvenient things that often go un-merchandised, like being unconditional, understanding and accomodative of each other like the two of them were.

It is surprising that the stories of eternal love,sacrifice and hope that we so often seek from the chapters of bestsellers,movies and history to stitch our torn souls, lie scattered around our own lives, waiting to be acknowledged.This is one such story from mine.

When the heart goes, “Dil Chahta Hai”

Posterity is the hallmark of a great work of art. It is the ability to endear to the same person with different relevance in different phases of his life, while being relevant enough to be passed from one generation to another to another, along with wealth,beliefs and ideologies.
Every piece of art worth its salt does capture one’s attention, in a few cases even the imagination, the relevance eventually dissolves along with efflux of time, with changing tastes and sensibilities acquainting one to newer things; weaving cobwebs over erstwhile preferences.
While most creations go through this circle to die a natural death, a rare few manage eternity,leaving behind an indelible impression as- a memorable anecdote, a bookmark to a chapter of life and eventually go on to become a part of popular culture.Dil Chahta Hai is one of those rare pieces of art.Earlier on in the movie there’s a scene in which Tara does a character study from his paintings, calling out Sid’s bluff, as he watches her bring down his wall brick by back, seeing right into his naked soul. That very moment, he finds an unlikely soulmate in this much elder woman with more than a few demons to slay herself. The entire sequence is held together by a soulful score that trickles down unhurriedly in tandem to the happenings, delicately leaving behind a watershed impression without endeavoring to impress. This scene segues into the blissful “Kaisi he yeh,rutu ki jisme…” song  with montages of Sid making a meticulous portrait of Tara.
A younger man falling for a complicated elder woman was rather an outrageous concept back then in my first viewing, when I was on the threshold of puberty. So I grazed around the fence and caught on to the other stuff that glittered, like Samir’s escapades, Aakash’s playfulness and obviously the”Koi kahe, kehta rahe” anthem.But after putting up a decade to my age, some beard to my face and a string of failed relationships, I exactly knew from where the slap fell on Aakash’s face. I had over the years, tiptoed to Sid’s side. I knew why the rift had to come form, Aakash was wrong and it was only fair that his comeuppance came in the form of unrequited love later.

DCH is not only the gold standards of friendship. but a celebration of life itself. It manages the tight rope of staying relatable, while setting its issues against the pristine backdrop of its wealthy protagonists. You’ll not find a single poor looking person or place in the entire film, but not once will you find it to be a vanity fare with prosaic issues.
It fascinates me as to how the film feels like a multilayered concentric circle, peeling away into a newer layer with every iteration, taking you on a trip different from the last time.

If Aakash’s deadpan sarcasm appealed to me the last time, this time around after my break-up I found myself tumbling along with him on the picturesque streets of Melbourne, as he straddled along like a headless chicken; heart pulled out to a solicitous Sonu Nigam going “Ab kaha jaun Mein, Kisko Samjaun mein?“;as the painful melody of the Tanhayee song was inundating both our lives with the vicious shadow of separation.
I didn’t like it when he jokingly lied to her about seeing the fat opera singer- just like me- he didn’t know when to stop joking. I totally understood the gravitas of his dramatic confession on the night of her wedding; for men like him who’ve hidden behind the artifice of humour all their life fall down rather clumsily when confronted with a moment of truth. I was glad that he was able to win her back, unlike me.

I exactly knew from where those tears rolled down his cheeks, as he apologized to Sid. For he had come a long way from ridiculing love to falling in it, to eventually acknowledging another man’s.

This time,it felt like a different movie than the last time,the epiphanies coming from over Aakash’s shoulders. It was all about getting to know him better.Next time around, it would probably be about just Samir alone and his misadventures with the opposite sex.

Spirit of Chennai- in flood & blood

Torrential rains to us till now have meant a motley set of dissimilar things depending on our stake- no drying clothes on terrace, no light pants on roads, no school or no open air events. The ‘us’ here refers largely to chennaites, though could interchangeably be used to describe the hoi polloi of most Indian cities in general. The farthest we’ve gone to despise rains has been when it’s disrupted an ongoing cricket match at a home venue, the single sacrilegious act an average Indian can’t tolerate.

‘Rain enough to flood or dry enough to famish, but never rain to dry a chance of a home venue match’, goes the popular indian sentiment.

As far as Chennai goes, it’s never rained on our parade. At least, not on the ones that really matter. Even on those fleeting occasions, the showers have only had prowess enough to fell elderly trees or make translucent white shirts obscene. If anything at all, the monsoon has evaded this part of the country year after year snobbishly.

She’s been this city, who’s always had a dispassionate third person account to an aftermath of a calamity or an insurgency in other cities, through news channels. Even when the tsunami had sprung a surprise at her on a generic Sunday morning a decade back, her fortress remained largely impermeable. Who knew good old red tapism with some clerical errors and a 50 cm downpour for a couple of days would bring her down like never before.

Call it providence or nepotism to north India; but both the forces of nature and fringe elements have hitherto been rather kind or should I say, indifferent to her, notwithstanding the opulence of her endowments or the diversity of her populace.

National attention has always come to her in rationed quantity as a scavenged leftover, taking a multi crore scam or a Kamal Hasan movie’s ban to scream into the national media’s ears for acknowledgement of her existence.

Blame it on phonetics or the font, colour or the culture; the north-south relation has always been a plummeting affair. Over the years, the tepidity has been subtly vented out through unsuspecting populist processes like caricaturing, stereotyping, ridiculing and mispronouncing with ersatz entitlement.

To an average north indian, anything south of the Vindhyas is Madras and every living being, Madrasi. This is one intriguing conundrum, that most North Indians marginalise a South Indian as a Madrasi (after the erstwhile name of Chennai) despite there being many other attention worthy South Indian cities than Chennai. Chennai to its credit has been behaving like an adolescent coming to terms with the extent of his faculties.

The spirit of Chennai has been a largely jingoistic concept founded on infantile credentials like CSK, Marina, Saravana Bhavan and Satyam. It’s always pitched itself as a middle-ground between cultural conservatism and cosmopolitan trappings.

Chennai has been this lackadaisical metro, content with its runner up status behind Delhi and Mumbai, disgruntled but surreptitiously so. It has all along taken respite in one-upmanship battles between Sambar vada and Vada Pav or  Bessy and Juhu, to keep its glory afloat, flimsily albeit.

It takes a heartbreak to make a man out of a boy. And it takes a disaster to consolidate the spirit of a land.

The rise of Japan after Hiroshima or Gujarat after earthquake being case in point.

The city for the first time succumbed to nature’s fury and tumbled to a standstill. Mobile towers short of fuel, floating cars, flooded roads, islanded houses, perennial power shut downs, vestigial electrical appliances  were apostles to nature’s cryptic mockery at human pursuit at building a utopian civilization, all of which came down in a tumbling manner like a deck of cards.

A natural calamity devours through the veil of urbanization; turning lands to naked strips reeking with primal ambitions of food, survival and shelter, in the process reducing concepts like GDP, gold prices, interest rates, loss of pay, year ends, audit, fitness, politics to redundancy of gibberish extent.

When pushed to a corner, the nemesis that doesn’t break us makes us stronger by its impetus.

Which is exactly what happened with the floods.

It brought together the residents to dovetail their aspirations to a common purpose of helping the city rise up on its feet again, giving it a personality of its own for the first time since its conjuring. They vicariously lived through the turmoil- limping, recovering and rising along with it; behaving similar to individually insignificant parts of a behemoth machinery, on their road to recovery.

By the time the national media arrived gratuitously like cops in the climax of an eighties movie , the nature’s fury had receded paving way for the city to pick itself up on its own without reaching out for help. This self sufficiency after one of its most cruel rendezvous with nature, was Chennai’s way of reiterating its autonomous jurisdiction to the national media which was content on making saleable vanity projects of sensitive news from rest of India.

The floods helped in forging the spirit of Chennai beyond a cliché, helping it come of age from a boisterous city content on flaunting and finger pointing to a self sufficient one with empathetic inhabitants, who would individually fall to make it infallible.

A city in general is defined by its characteristic infrastructural traits, the political ecosystem, sporting franchises representing it, flagship landmarks and primary goods that it produces. But it always takes a single occasion of unanimous display of ownership by its indigenous population, to come into its own; truly and tangibly.

In the coming days we might go back to signal hopping like apes in traffic, queue up outside liquor shops, curse the sun’s tyranny on humid days and wear yellow jerseys to CSK matches as a display of pseudo solidarity.

But we would never forget those dark days when we were there for each other with dogged resilience to see the light at the end of the tunnel together. Those dark days when we realised that Chennai meant more to us than just an address, an indelible identity to relish.