Friday, October 31, 2008

Slump Is Here, Shit's Hit The Ceiling

There is no running away from the slump. Wherever you are it is going to get you! Early morning newspaper articles, lunch time discussions, cricket commentary, chat with your parents/girlfriend/boss/receptionist, clients - you name it and the slump has cast it's shadow.

It has replaced weather as the ice breaker during meetings and also toppled the 'ISI Hand' as the number one reason for anything untoward happening in India (according to Mamata Banerjee it's still the CPM which retains the top spot though).

Will I lose my job? Will they slash my salary? Do I need to pay for my own food/phone bill/internet bill? Should I die? are various questions on all our minds, and we are sharing little titbits with our friends and colleagues about the dreadful cost cutting measures taking place in the office next to us, and how ours may just be the next.

People are postponing marriages and cancelling honeymoons. There are houses here, there, everywhere but not a brave soul to check them out, forget buy. Shift in sales from high end cigarettes/beer/chocolates/pirated DVDs to the next and the one below levels are taking place.

Some drastic steps taken are as follows -
  • Some firms are cutting down on the number of times their premises are cleaned.
  • Executives, in large IT companies, who could earlier get cab drops as and when needed for working overtime, are now finding that they need at least three other peers to get a ride back home.
  • Some companies are discouraging use of colour printers and round-the-clock use of air conditioners.
But, the award for the most radical measure taken to tackle the slump goes to -

"A leading Indian pharma company has already done away with toilet paper at its offices ..."

(Read original article here)

Now that's when they say the shit has hit the ceiling, or floor, or wherever.

P.S: This article shows it's now hit the dogs too.

While The Tea Brewed

Another story I had written during my college days. Read this article, and was reminded of the story.

“I will be back in fifteen minutes mum, just checking out if school is closed due to the strike”, Allan called out to his mother. His mother was well aware of the situation in Manipur and had no doubt in her mind about the effects of a strike called by one of the separatist groups.

“No use going out today, you will not even be allowed to cross the Keishing grocery shop. Anyway if you want to then go out on your bike while I am preparing your breakfast”, Mrs. Robinson told her 18-year-old son.

Actually the football season was on and Allan being the school football captain did not want to miss out on any bit of practice before the inter school tournament starting the next week. He saw his mother get into the kitchen with a large loaf of bread and the tealeaves container. His mom always prepared his favourite English breakfast of toast with eggs and ham and bacon with a steaming cup of tea whenever Allan didn’t have school.

The long winding road to St. Thomas School was splattered with poodles of water left behind because of the uncharacteristic winter monsoons to have hit this part of the country. The hills looked even more beautiful through the thick fog and the chill overhanging from the skies made it almost unbearable. But Allan loved winters and more so when others were back home shivering under the covers. He could not understand whether it was the abnormal cold or the strike called that had left the road thoroughly deserted.

The tea continued to brew in the Robinson household.

Mr. Keishing of the local grocery shop too had kept his shop closed. That was sign enough that the school was closed because ‘The Mountain’s Grocer’ was the last establishment to close down irrespective of what was happening across the country. Having just been out for less than five minutes Allan was not yet ready to go back so he took the road towards the other side of the town, not the one that went towards his school, but the one towards the hills.

Mrs. Robinson started buttering the toasts while the kettle let out smoke from its snout.

The scenery was breathtaking. Even after spending all his life in the same area, Allan still found the hills as alluring as he had the first time he saw them. The water flowing gently from the streams along the hill slopes had something about them that was missing in any water he had ever tasted.

He stopped his bike by the roadside and slurped from the free flowing stream. A jackass flew noisily over him. It was then that he realized that there was deathly silence that day. ‘Can’t be due to the strike’, he thought because these were a common occurrence in the strife torn state.

The bacon was being fried while the kitchen was full of the aroma of the tea.

Allan had always been against the violent protests, that Manipur had been infamous for the past many decades. The political parties wanted a separate country to be carved out for them. Their claim was that the entire northeast is meted out step-motherly treatment by the Indian government. Besides as they don’t share much in common with what is generally accepted to be India, so no use continuing the strained relation. All sorts of mainstream Indian entertainment were banned in the state. Cable operators were shot dead if they beamed any channel with Hindi content. Cricket, the sporting religion of the country, was strictly banned in the schools and colleges and none of the kids dared to play it on the streets like in other parts of India. The situation had become very volatile over the past few years and all residents who had come over from other states had gone back or where in the process of going back to their native places.

Allan had grown up with a cosmopolitan mix of friends, but now that most of them had left he felt very lonely. There weren’t enough means of keeping in touch with them. Though they had all given their phone numbers and e-dressess to him, the activists made sure that proper communication channels did not reach the area. Of course the central government was also to be blamed for this problem, but the regional parties just made things that much harder. He thought about the lovely times he had spent with his friends cycling down the hilly roads. Today he was alone.

The breakfast was ready. Mrs. Robinson brought down the kettle from the burner.

The wails of the siren pierced the still winter air. The military jeeps always brought a pall of gloom all over. Allan was a true peace lover and believed listening to one another’s point of view with an open mind could solve all problems. Besides he was a strict advocate of non-violence, earning him the epithet of ‘Gandhiji’ among his friends. Though none of them had a very clear idea about who Gandhiji was. This was because the schoolbooks there were not allowed to have anything to do with the freedom struggle. Allan was as much against the violent separatists as he was against the heartless military that did not think twice about perpetrating the cruelest of actions on the protestors. Thus Allan thought that it would be safer to go back home because everyone out there was wary of the military.

Mrs. Robinson was waiting for his son’s return while sipping from her cup of tea.

The bends and curves of the hilly road flew past him as he pedaled back home. Not for long though. Midway from his home the army jeep screeched to a halt right in front of his bike.

Allan’s mother dropped a couple of sugar cubes in her tea.

“Sergeant, we have got hold of one of those who blew up the town hall”, the man holding Allan by his throat shouted to the waiting jeep. The man addressed to as the sergeant slapped Allan hard on his face. Blood trickled down his nose.

Drops of tea dripped from the biscuit that Mrs. Robinson dipped into her cup.

“We’ll teach you a lesson for the hard time you are giving the country. The town hall was a heritage building and blowing it up for some selfish narrow reasons is abominable. Didn’t the thought of sacrificing so many innocent lives cross your minds even once?” the sergeant thundered.

“But..but…sir I was just checking whether we were having school or not. I don’t even know that there has been some trouble uptown. I just left my home on my bike and was going back home now. See this is my school identity card” Allan told the sergeant producing his St. Thomas identity card. The sergeant simply threw it into one of the poodles of water. “ Bloody fakes”, he muttered under his breath.

The drops of tea had formed poodles on Mrs. Robinson’s saucer.

Allan had held on to his tears for so long, but no more. He started sobbing. Every time he visualized his mother waiting for him with his breakfast he felt that much more terrible. He thought about telling the officers about finding out whether he was telling the truth by taking them to his home. No he wouldn’t do that. He had heard of many incidents where the military picked up members of his friend’s families for no rhyme or reason but on mere suspicion. He could not bear to see these men ransack his home and take his mother and ten-year-old brother away. He thought about facing the situation himself. Allan tightly clutched the cross hanging around his neck.

His mother was getting quite worried by now. She unintentionally held on to her cross.

Mr. Robinson returned at around five in the evening to find his wife and younger son in a hysterical state. He had heard about the bombing of the town hall and so he thought maybe they had become unduly frightened because of it. Somehow his wife narrated the day’s events to him. He at once realized that there was something sinister involved with the entire episode. A quick cup of tea and he was away trying to find out all he could. He returned much later during the evening. The only bit of news was that an army jeep had been heard in the area during the day. Other than that the day had passed peacefully in their locality and the place near his son’s school. The news of the army jeep was exactly what they had feared. The army had become very active and boys of his age were the prime targets. That’s because such boys were the ones who actually were taking part in the anti-social activities and spreading fear by violent acts such as the bombing of the town hall. Allan’s parents were in a state of shock and fear.

“The state-wide strike in Manipur has gone off peacefully with the sole exception of bombing of a town hall in a southern town of the state”, the TV report went on but no one in the Robinson household cared to listen.

The Robinson’s spent a sleepless night without any news of their elder son. Even young George was in no mood for dinner. They just kept praying all through the night between many cups of tea. The tea reminded Mrs. Robinson of the morning when she last saw her son leave on his bike and it just made her worse.

Finally the next morning Allan’s father went to the town police station and lodged a formal complaint about his missing son. The behaviour of the officers was enough for Mr. Robinson to realize the futility of his efforts. He had only one option left to him, but that was one that he fervently hoped he wouldn’t have to resort to. Allan’s mother was dead against it but towards the afternoon she too relented and Mr. Robinson asked their maid servant, Hochi to call her husband.

Hochi was married to Lechhen Tungep, an extremist rebel. They had earlier tried to reason with him to leave his violent ways but to no avail. Today Lechhen was their last hope. His knowledge about the whole area was legendary and many a times the police had arrested him, but he wasn’t such an easy fish to remain in their hands. If there was anything that happened in their town then Lechhen would be the first person to know about it.

Lechhen came to their house at around five in the evening, smelling of the marijuana that he dealt in. Mrs. Robinson never much liked having him around the house but today he was the person she wanted to see the most. She offered Lechhen a steaming cup of tea and called out to Mr. Robinson to come and meet him.

After hearing about the whole incident in silence Lechhen looked up at them. His eyes were blood red, maybe because of the marijuana or Allan’s story, no one could tell for sure.

“ They have not been kind to Master Allan. The officer’s duties are on the line because of the blast at the town hall and so they have stepped up operations across the town. They are picking up our youth without warrants. I have to look into this as quickly as possible”, Lechhen murmured under his breath and left without any further conversation. Mrs. Robinson returned to the drawing room with a cup of tea for Lechhen but found her husband alone, sitting with his hands on his head.

Close to midnight the whole town heard explosive sounds coming from the densely populated areas in the center of the town. The police station went up in smoke and only bits and pieces of the place could be found the next day. The number of policemen on duty that night was unknown but what was certain is that what remained of them was not enough to ascertain their identities. State wide emergency was called and the Robinson’s received a note that all efforts would be made in similar fashion to find out about Master Allan. Signed Lechhen Tungep.

Mr. Robinson could never forgive himself for instigating the mass violence. He went to their bedroom. Knelt down before the framed picture of the Virgin Mary with her son and wept inconsolably. He too was a firm believer in non-violence but the past few days had left him totally shattered. All his beliefs and convictions came crumbling down in front of him. While at other times he thought this was a true test of his beliefs. What one does when faced with a personal loss is how one can be judged. He wanted to get out of the whole situation.

All the major dailies carried pictures of the bombed out police station in their middle pages with short articles about the situation in the state. The Prime Minister expressed grief and prayed for the families of the deceased police officers while announcing relief measures of Rupees five lakh per family. The Manipuri Chief Minister spoke about the matter in harsh tones and promised that the miscreants will be brought to book. In the midst of this one little Allan Robinson’s name was lost in oblivion. The state government in fact invited the home minister over for tea to discuss the issue.

There were many more incidents of violence across the state and Hochi informed the Robinson’s that Lechhen did not return since the day of the police station blast. Unlike the Robinson’s, Hochi still had an air of optimism about her.

Allan looked as if all life had been drawn from him. Lechhen stood by his side smiling and looking at the expression on the faces of the dumbstruck parents. Mrs. Robinson could not speak. She could not move. Mr. Robinson broke down. He couldn’t take it any more. At times pleasure can be painful. To this family of devout Christians Lechhen was the Savior in a human form. Allan slipped down to the floor. He was too tired to be up on his feet. Lechhen had a twinkle in his eyes. He had never felt so happy before. So much so that he did not realize that he had lost his left hand thumb a few hours back.

They all entered the house and Allan was taken to his room. His mother turned on the geyser for the water to warm for Allan’s bath. He put on his favourite night clothes and after having a most refreshing bath he joined his parents and Lechhen in the drawing room. As he was quite shaken by the events of the past few days, Lechhen volunteered with the details of his return.

He told them that the entire plan of blowing up the police station was to divert the attention of the police and army towards fresh incidents and thus the security in the prisons was slackened a bit. As he had source in almost every place where they kept prisoners, he soon found out about Allan’s exact location. Allan had been kept with many of his own men, convicted of various valiant acts of the ‘freedom struggle’. Since bombs were going off all over the town so security was quite slack in the detention camp. The rest was full of the details of the operation.

Mrs. Robinson was all ears while hugging onto her son at the same time. But Allan’s father was in deep thought. He was no longer sure whether violence was all that despicable. He would be lying to himself if he said that he wasn’t happy to see his son again, knowing fully well the methods involved for the reunion to take place. Being fully aware of the number of lives lost in the process and some innocent ones included. He was just ecstatic to have his son back and to him Lechhen was a hero, so what if he took so many lives and spread terror.

Allan went to sleep on the sofa. Lechhen continued giving details of the evening while Mrs. Robinson went into the kitchen to get some refreshments for Lechhen. Mr. Robinson sat there in his drawing room, lost in his thoughts about what’s right and what’s wrong while the tea brewed.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

My Big, Fat, Ugly Sidekick

Posting this story I wrote during my final year of college. Most of the incidents are true and the main character is based upon a friend.

“Oh God! Maybe you zombies don’t require any sleep, but normal humans like me do. Good night”, I mumbled from under the sheet at the knock on my door. As it was I had missed my class that started at six in the morning, why not take a well deserved break and sleep till nine, I rationalized.

“Umm…hmmm...well its fifteen minutes past ten and I thought maybe you could help me with the room. Very sorry for having disturbed you. I hope I did not offend you”, the strange voice replied.

I was ready to be thrown out of the hostel. Surely the superintendent had come to know of my truancy and he was standing outside my door, mocking me. I jumped up from bed and opened the door, prepared to face the music. I wasn’t ready for what I saw.

A large gentleman was standing in front of room no. 131 right opposite my 138 and he could only partially be seen over the pile of luggage he had brought. The almost six foot man had a close to a hundred kilos on him with untidy curly locks hanging well below his neck. His appearance and his manner of speech made him fit the bill perfectly- that of the gentle giant!

“Hello! I am Saumyadeep Hembrom. I am in third year in this college. I am from New Delhi, as in my parents have shifted there recently and so I came to the hostel in the middle of the year. I hope I haven’t caused you too much inconvenience by disturbing your sleep. Maybe this could help you lift your spirits”, he produced a huge bar of chocolate with a similarly huge and sweet smile. What was happening with me? A hostelite offering me that huge bar? A tenth of it from anybody else and we would have thought he had become too benevolent. I shook his outstretched right hand while taking the chocolate bar from the other.

“Thank You. By the way I am Vishal Lakhotia. Third year B.Com Honours. Strange we never met before. This room has been locked for God knows how long and chances are those keys that the manager gave to you won’t work”, I said while starting off on the chocolate.

“Try out one of these keys, your lock is bound to open by them”, Aslam Bhai joined the conversation and handed over his huge bunch of keys to Saumyadeep. He was here, there everywhere and one could never be sure from where Aslam Bhai would emerge. He was the sweeper cum man-in-charge of the hostel. He also had the notorious image of being a spy of the superintendent, though the hostelites were clearly divided over this issue.

“Thank you so much. Hey this one worked, now I can enter the room. If you two are not very busy then I would request you two to join me in my room. It would be a privilege to have you”, Saumyadeep said these words as if it was the normal way of speaking. Aslam Bhai cited some reasons and left and I was left with no choice but to enter the gentle giant’s room.

“I am so sorry for the mess the room is in, all I can offer at the moment is the chair and if you care for this”, this time a large packet of potato chips was handed over. I just couldn’t say no to this majestic treatment I was being given. Saumyadeep started unpacking the huge suitcases full of the best-known brands of clothes and shoes and piled them neatly in the cupboard without a door. Within twenty minutes the room was in a livable condition and I understood that my snacks expenses would be reduced to less then half while this guy lives right opposite me. The only problem was that he was a chimney and I just couldn’t stand slaves to the stick.

“What the hell is going on buddy? A fresher and smoking in front of a super senior, what manners you ruffian? Aha Navy Cut? I love that brand. May I?” Rahul Deka was standing at the door and that was his introduction with Saumyadeep. With the remaining five Navy Cuts in his pockets Rahul listened to Saumyadeep’s tale of shifting to the hostel at the middle of the term, that too in third year. He seemed to like him instantly, though his facial expressions made it clear that he didn’t much care for Mr. Hembrom’s manners. It was too much for someone who thought that my ‘please’s and thank yous’ were too much of formality!

“Thank you so much for giving me company. I don’t think I will be able to thank you enough. By the way I feeling starved and I am sure so are you. Can I take you out for lunch? It will help me know the whereabouts of the place better. That is if it will not hamper any of your plans?” Saumyadeep asked in his usual circuitous and excessively polite way.

“This item seems like a godsend! Lets honour him a little more by giving him company for lunch. What Say?” Rahul whispered into my ears. I couldn’t agree with him more.

Till that day Seven Heavens had been a restaurant we had passed innumerable times but never even thought of entering because of the figures on the right hand side of the menu card. That lunch confirmed Rahul’s hunch, there was definitely something wrong with the guy, otherwise a hostelite doesn’t spend eight hundred bucks on a lunch for no reason. In case he was the son of a millionaire then it baffled us as to why he was staying in the hostel. He could just as well buy one of the huge Kolkata apartments. Anyway this was an interesting specimen and more of him was surely to come.

By evening time when everyone had come back from classes the news of this new creature had circulated across the three floors and Rahul and I had to give detailed accounts of our encounter with The Saumyadeep Hembrom. Sumanta Paul and Arindam Kundu were actually a bit disgusted with the stories and they went ahead to meet the man himself. They took me along to introduce them to him. His door opened and he stood there with that same disarming smile and a cigarette stick in hand.

“Please do come in. It’s such a pleasure to have you come to my little room. As Vishal might have told you I am very new to the hostel, though not to the college. In fact this is my first experience of hostel life and going by the first few hours it’s very nice. You all seem to be such nice people and I’m feeling privileged to share the hostel and the next few months with you.” We had seated ourselves on his bed by the time he finished his opening statement. He made himself look very comfortable in the hard and cracked steel chair.

Sumanta had lost all the enthusiasm with which he had come to give the fresher a lesson or two. On the other hand they Arindam and Sumanta gave their introductions in a most polite manner. Saumyadeep’s manner was infectious. Everyone was becoming nice and courteous after meeting him. So much so that Arindam even apologized profusely to me for having put my pen in his pocket purely by mistake. After that there were many hostelites who were brought to meet this new fellow dweller and all of them came in and left the room as different individuals. Rahul and I couldn’t help but laugh at our friends who underwent such drastic changes on entering that room.

At around twelve thirty that night the list of people in Joe Thomas’ room read as follows: Rahul, Sumanta, Arindam, Ananta Ghosh, Dibyadeep Gharui, Sujit Das Bayen, Samir Ghosh, Dipanjan Saha, Tamaghna Saha, Suvagata Das, Sourav Goswami, Jayanta Ghosh and yours truly. All of us with only one question to be discussed, what has struck the hostel?

I volunteered with “It’s not the Tsunami” and was immediately drowned by waves of “Shut up Vishal. It’s serious.” The tension on the faces was palpable. I couldn’t help laughing out loud. The comic situation suddenly struck and I tried to explain how we were breaking our heads over a trivial issue. No sooner had I finished than there was a soft knock on the door with the words following, “May I please come in?”

Joe had had enough. He opened the door and said plainly “In case you are finished with this holier than thou act of yours, can we all come back to normalcy. I am not taking this thing one moment more. You stop behaving like a demi-god. Do you get me?”

The look on Saumyadeep’s face was dumbstruck. He somehow managed to say, “I am so terribly sorry if I have hurt anybody’s sentiments over here. It was not the least of my intentions to do so. I thought that a bit of knowing each other on my first day would perhaps help in strengthening the ties. I think unknowingly I have committed some grave crime and I am really very sorry for that. Do let me know how I can apologize enough for whatever I have done.” He was about to leave when the entire room burst out laughing. He looked around and looked even more surprised than he did a while before. Joe got up and gave a hug. “Sorry mate didn’t mean to hurt. Anyway if you are like this then so be it. Just chill it. Come join us.” That was his formal entry into our group and he didn’t take more than five minutes to become an integral member of it. The smokers had a whale of a time with him around, because he never allowed anyone to smoke their own sticks. He always was so full of Navy Cuts and the others used to the half priced and wood fillings endowed Wills Flake just didn’t know how to say no. No such luck for us non-smokers that is. This guilt consciousness drove Saumyadeep to stacking enough packets of Lays Lites. Now we forgot what ‘no’ was.

As time passed we two became really close. The fact that he was my immediate neighbour might have had something to do with it. But he became a habit. The long hours we spend together helped us know and understand each other a lot more. Unlike what I had originally thought to be, even his life had ups and downs and wasn’t a bed of roses as was the general impression.
He had dropped a year in school because of illness. In fact he also had to forego a trip to Ireland representing his school. Being selected among the five from a reputed school to go to another country and then to lose it all and a year due to illness is really tragic. He wasn’t exceptionally good at academics, though the reason for that eluded me. Saumyadeep was intelligent without doubt and the quality I adored most about him was that he could think. He went deep into anything he put his mind to. So why were his grades not up to the mark is one mystery that I haven’t solved so far. Humble that he was he just said, “I am not as intelligent as you all, simple. I think I have got what I deserved. Besides these marks aren’t exactly the be-all and end-alls of our lives, are they?”

He became something more than a friend to us. Something like a father figure, someone whom we could go to in case of an emergency because he was the one to keep a cool head. Saumyadeep became so much a part of us that his occasional absence was well felt. The overall feel with him around was that of a sort of sense of security. The avuncular character suited him just fine. It helped that he looked much older than what he really was.

It is not as if he was flawless. Spending an awful lot of time with him brought out those aspects too. The greatest flaw was he was a spendthrift. No denying this. Indeed he was very generous and loved to share but spendthrift he was and that too of the highest order. It so became that soon we started refusing his treats and even his cigarettes were not accepted any more. It was like his money became ‘bad money’ to use that economic term. Another big drawback was that Saumyadeep was one of the laziest persons I had ever come across. And that is saying something since it comes from someone who doesn’t mind sleeping till ten in the morning. The biggest problem with him was that he lived in a Utopian world of his own, where there were solutions to all problems but put them to the real world and it will come tumbling down like a house of cards. He had this habit of ‘trying’ to be different. That was irritating at times because it made him so predictable. Any question put forward to our group would have the usual different answer from Saumyadeep. Another of his habits was framing questions out of nowhere and putting them to our group. After everyone gave their answers (though not everyone could bear it after some time!) he changed the question slightly to suit his answer and then would go ahead with the most unlikely answer. But it’s these very eccentricities and quirks that I remember and miss so much.

“You are fat man, I mean really really fat.” I teased Saumyadeep and Samir and Dipanjan nodded their consent. Saumyadeep stood in front of his mirror with his tummy firmly pulled back. He looked slightly depressed. “ On second thoughts you are not just fat but ugly too.” I went on, trying my best to keep a straight face and sound serious. “Well sir if you think so, then so be it. I won’t disagree with someone of your stature”. That was Saumyadeep at his irritating best. “ Well well now that you seem to agree to everything I say, I have a name for you,’ My Big Fat Ugly Sidekick’. What say?” At this Samir and Dipanjan couldn’t contain their laughter anymore. The name was so catchy that it just stuck. Though I didn’t intend to call him by that name but that sounded so close that I still remember him by that name at times.

Sanjeev Toppo looked totally amused at something that had happened. On further inquiries we learnt that Saumyadeep had bought some snacks for the two of them, which was actually good enough for six people. But Saumyadeep being Saumyadeep did not throw the rest away or bring it back to the hostel. His logic being we get enough to eat. So he walked the whole length of Park Street to find some hungry should. Finally he managed to hand over the food to some workers who in fact took the gift with a certain degree of suspicion, as this is not what they are generally used to.

“Enough is enough.” Rahul firmly declared. “Time to get to our books. C’mon the exams are knocking on the door. We have less than two weeks time for our sent ups. In case we mess it up, then good luck to us another year in this hostel, but this time without our batch mates.” The clear desperation in his voice reflected in the faces of the others assembled. Arindam for no reason started talking about the unfortunate few who had not been sent up for the university exams in the previous years. Sumanta tried to life the spirits by reminding us that after all we were in one of the best colleges in the country and we should stop worrying about such silly things as being sent up for the university exams. The next thing he did was to go and lock himself in his room with the books! This was that time of the year when the untouched books were handled with great care and all the little hints dropped by the professors were taken as clues to a detective case and those particular chapters were accorded much more respect.

“Tell me something, what do we gain by all this studies? Aren’t we supposed to be studying to gain an overall knowledge and be better human beings? If that were so then why do we need to mug up these texts and puke it out in the exam hall? Is this how we will become better humans?” Saumyadeep threw the question open to the entire gathering. Winking at each other we slowly made our ways to our own rooms. But I am very sure that question did make us think for sometime.

“ Why is the profit and loss account called the P ‘and’ L account and not the P ‘or’ L account? You can never have a profit as well as a loss in the same year can you?” Saumyadeep’s voice came wafting into my room. Frankly at two in the morning and loads of backlog to be cleared I had no intention of answering him. I feigned to be asleep. Actually that question kept pricking me. Having studied accounts for five years I did not know the answer to such a simple question. Cursing myself went to sleep.

Early next morning I put the question to Sujit but even wasn’t able to answer me. I took it to the head of the accounts department. All I was told was “ Don’t put your mind to useless matters. There are certain things, which you must know and that’s that. Don’t ask useless questions.” Coming from one of the authorities of accounting in India that left me thoroughly disappointed. All I could tell Saumyadeep at the dining hall during lunch was that perhaps some questions are more important than the others.

Now with the exams just a mere week away our friend Navin Cherobin made some ‘setting’ with the mess staff and we could go in and have our lunch and dinner at our convenient timings, so that it didn’t hamper our study routine. None of us could realise how he got such a lot of things by ‘setting’ but somehow he managed it beautifully. The only one who didn’t avail of this new liberty was obviously the one and only Mr. Hembrom. Firstly he couldn’t even think about breaking the rules and secondly he didn’t have much of a study routine.
“Do you realise how important these exams are?” Joe asked Saumyadeep with a somewhat concerned and frustrated air.

“I am perfectly aware of the consequences of not performing well in this examination. Somehow I am not feeling like putting in all the effort at mugging these books. I think there is something terribly wrong with the system.”

The answer infuriated Sumanta and Joe so much that they just slammed his door and went off muttering under their breath. I was left alone in the room and the only thing he said was, “ It feels very nice to have friends who are so concerned about your well being”.

“ This place is smelling like a loo and the papers and cigarette packets littered around is reminding me of the municipal vats.” Coming from Dibyadeep that was strange because he was a soft-spoken boy and the pressure of the exams and the very dirty look of the corridor was the cause of the outburst. It didn’t make matters any better that his room was next to the toilets!"

“ You are right Dibyada, Aslam bhai has become very slack in his duties. High time we complained to the superintendent. Besides I haven’t seen him for quite some time, maybe he is up to some part time job or something”, Ananta quipped.

The first paper went fine. It was a repeat of last years and as that was all that we had done, some of us were expecting to max it! That boost made it easier to go through the next two, and finally it was just the fourth and last paper to go. After that we would be going back home for the long three-month study leave. It was just the question of one night. What was more, even Saumyadeep was making a sincere effort to do well because he had done decently well in the other three. At midnight we assembled at Jayanta’s room. This would be the last of such meetings for quite some time to come. People were getting emotional.

“ Okay guys, its one in the morning and we have to sit for our exams at that blasted hour six because of the college rules. I guess its better we make a move, the rest of the senti stuff for tomorrow.” Rahul was at his practical best and good because otherwise many of us would have missed the test the next morning.

“YIPEEE! Its over ! What a simple paper, man! Shouldn’t have burnt my midnight oil for that sitter”, I exclaimed coming down the stairs. At the breakfast table there was an overall sense of joy and relief mixed with slight sorrow because of the impending seperation.

“ By the way have you seen my big fat ugly sidekick?” I asked in jest. “ Fatty must be happy now that he will be sent for his university exams.”

“Good that you reminded me. You know what his seat was right next to mine and he didn’t come for the exam today.” Sujit Das Bayen remarked.

“WHAT????” a gasp went across the room.

“ Yes he was not there and I don’t think he took his test in any other room, because our college is very strict about these silly things” Sujit completed.

The mood was changed in an instant from that of relief to one of anger, plain anger.

“What does he think he is? That irresponsible hulk should give some thoughts to his parents who send him here to complete his graduation. Now if he really didn’t take the test its impossible that he’ll be sent up for the final exams. That rascal should be taught a lesson”. Sumanta was furious.
Saumyadeep’s room was locked from the outside. Someone came running and announced that Hembrom was going away. He had his backs and was at the main gate, waiting for a taxi. We went running and found him just in time. The taxi, which he had hailed, was asked to go away after paying ten rupees to the driver, who was grumbling about the wait.

Nobody knew what to say, but yes all of us were very very annoyed with him. He just smiled and waited.

“ I had been thinking about saying this for a long time but no I must”. Arindam burst out. “ This superior air with which you roam about is not going to take you anywhere in life. Frankly speaking I think its nothing but some form of a mental disease that you didn’t appear for the final paper.”

“ There’s a limit to everything but your idiosyncrasies have crossed all that. What do you think you proved by missing your tests?” Samir questioned.

Saumyadeep was absolutely quiet. Just then a taxi halted near the gate and Aslam Bhai’s wife got down from it. Saumyadeep went forward and helped Aslam Bhai to his feet. He looked terribly pale and sick. He paid their taxi fare and Aslam Bhai’s wife started weeping. She held Saumyadeep’s hands and spoke at length though not very clear due to the sobbing.

“ I don’t know how to thank you Sahib. Had it not been for you I don’t know what I would have done. At five thirty in the morning there was nobody I could go to and besides I don’t know anything of the city as I am very new to it. God send you to me then. I hope you didn’t miss much because of the trouble you took. I promise you I’ll return the entire amount you spend at the hospital, within a few months. I don’t know what to say but I will pray to Allah that he should look after you. You are his chosen son.”

Aslam Bhai just held Saumyadeep’s hand and tears rolled down his cheeks.

Saumyadeep called out to the passing cab. We helped him with the luggage. None of us said one word more. We just came back to the hostel, packed our bags and left for our homes. Some of us broke down while hugging each other, though we all knew that was not because of going back home.

I haven’t heard from my big fat ugly sidekick ever since.

Why Can't I Blog

Every time I sit down with a rigid determination to blog, I start losing thoughts. The same thoughts which prompts me to come to this place to post, start thinning out and becoming invisible, much like the Cheshire cat. A sentence here, an image there, maybe one witty line somewhere, that's it. All of a sudden I don't have anything to say, share or write. I am thoughtless, idea less and opinion less. And it's not a writer's/blogger's block as now it has been happening for three years. And it is not that I cannot/do not write. I write copious amounts and am unwell-known for my verbosity. I write emails which are so long that people leave them unread. I participate in all email threads regarding lost water bottles in some other office or the effects Tata Nano has had on Real Estate advertising. I write down my candid feedback on the always neglected feedback forms in restaurant and flights. I type out my feelings in surveys, passed on by my MBA-learning friends, which talk about what are the changes I want to see in the ladies' wrist watch segment. I also write 300 letter text messages and thus send two texts when one can do.

I have tried to force myself to write over the past few posts, but it's too laborious a process with no satisfaction, and the labour shows in the writing.

I think, just a hunch, this is because, on the blog I don't write for myself. I always, always end up thinking about who will read? What will they think? How many visitors will I see in my Analytics report? Where do they come from? What do they want to read about? And those usual questions bothering a lot of bloggers.

I will try and get over it. And the first step will be by publishing this post:) I would have never put this up earlier. And in case you are reading this I think I have overcome the first hurdle. Hope to finally find the joy of blogging:)

The Kill

It was a potent mix of some cold blooded planning and a little insanity laced execution. It all happened in front of my eyes, well, ears to be precise. And yes, you don't need to snigger and say "It's one of those I-killed-a-mosquito stories in the garb of drama", because it isn't. I am going to talk about the murder of a rat, a big bad mouse, a bandicoot, a ferocious rodent.

The floor was scaterred with pieces of white, gooey, poisonous balls enticing the rodent for days. Being the smart rat that it was, it deftly gave the Last Supper a miss for days and instead went for my earphones, internet cable and some pieces of chicken from our dinner.

That evening I came back home to find the fat rat on my bedroom floor. But what was strange was that it didn't move. It was nibbling on a piece of the white poison. Step one was over. Now all was left was the kill.

And that's where my roommate and the protagonist of the story enters. The last time a rat was killed in the house he played the role of the mastermind and the dirty job was done by another friend. This time around keeping my sensitive constitution in mind he took up planning, preparing and execution responsibilities upon himself.

Perched upon my bed, with the animal in a corner of the room, he took his position. So did I. Locking him inside, I sat on a sofa in the drawing room, legs folded. I didn't want to know or hear what was going on, so put my fingers to my ears and kept shouting "Dead? Is it dead?" Roommate sent a blood curdling shout in a while "This is too much man!"

The next I saw was an exhausted roommate plonking into the sofa. He had murder written all over him. The look of a first time killer. We went into lengthy discussions about the differences between killings reptiles, insects and a mammals (like the rat just murdered). We sighed. I don't know why I did so. He recapped every moment of the project. How the cricket bat hit the animal's head and how it squealed, but didn't die. And that's when the devil entered the roommate as he now was at the other end of a bloody bat which was pressing down a half dead animal. He shut off his mind and pressed it harder. Another squeal, some squelching of blood and death.

The rest of the story was about sliding the dead animal into a bucket and throwing it into the bushes behind our garden. The roommate never looked back to see where the body fell. We came back to the house to find a tail hanging from the pelmet. Murder, he smiled.