Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Bomb cyclones to Banana breads

Did I ever tell you the story of how the bomb cyclone in the east coast helped me bake banana bread? Confused? Let me explain. 

So I was sitting on my couch on a very cold winter afternoon, wondering when the temperature would rise above 0° C. I took my phone to check the weather predictions for the next few days - and voila , it lead me to banana bread. 

[Something I realized about "Googling" or "looking up stuff" on the internet - It is kind of similar to your train of thought, but, you're not exactly thinking.]

Anyway, the weather predictions got me reading about the bomb cyclone in the east coast and the winter pattern for the year, which in turn lead me to a suggested post which was titled, " 7 skin care tips for winter". 

[This is a very catchy title these days. People don't just open any link. Believe me , they're lazy like that. If it's called "skin care tips", they'd just skip it. But if you numbered it , say, 7 or 9 - they open it, like it & share it. What's with the number anyway?! It's not even a whole number like 10 or 20. Somehow an "odd" number of tips makes it authentic or believable! Just try typing a random odd number along with the word "tips" and you'd be amazed by the search suggestions in Google. I tried "23 tips" and I found stuff like " 23 tips.... to save iPhone battery, for parents taking selfies, on how to deal with an insecure boyfriend, for drinking more water...etc " Ok, who on earth needs 23 tips to drink water?!] 

As I was genuinely reading about the skin care tips for winter, I came across the benefits of Aloe Vera gel. I wondered if I should get a small indoor plant. I looked up the prize and started looking for pots too. It then struck me that we neither have a balcony nor a window sill to place a planter box. Now this leads to me a whole new world of  'n' number of trains of thoughts, a.k.a links, a.k.a. I browsed for planters which could be stuck to the window. 

[Once you're logged into Amazon, it's like the whole world is watching you. There is no escape. It is like the snake that tempts you with an apple, or an Apple watch, in this case. They know what you like and what you've bought. They even know the things that you secretly wish you bought. Damn it, they even know what you are going to like in the future! ] 

My browsing history in Amazon suggested me to buy the 8" loaf pan that I've been eyeing for a long time. I ended up buying one in Walmart months ago. Still it made me wonder if the one in Amazon was cheaper/better. I was considering for a moment to buy another one- which made me realize that I haven't baked a single loaf of bread since I bought the pan. This lead to guilt, which lead to determination and resolution and this ultimately lead me to Martha Stewart's Banana bread recipe.

Did you see what happened there? Bomb Cyclone > Winter > Skin care> Aloe vera > Planter > Amazon > Loaf pan > Banana bread! Tada! You can link anything to anyone for that matter. Eg: 21 best movies on Netflix right now (not 20, 21) > Series > Orange is the new black > Orange > Donald Trump! Tada! 

On a serious note, I really miss exploring my mind with endless thoughts - having real conversations with friends jumping from one random topic to another. These browsing sessions are limiting the expanse of our imagination. My train of thought didn't lead me from bomb cyclone to banana bread - I was literally pulled into the train and shoved out of the compartment, into a station that I wasn't prepared to get down! I followed the links, not my thoughts.

We don't talk anymore. It has been reduced to mere posts, comments, reactions and emoticons. Posts about ourselves, our photographs, our accomplishments, our opinions on every other issue in the world - we can't seem to stop talking about ourselves on social media. Are we becoming more and more self absorbed? 

Imagine how absurd the kind of  things we post on social media would sound, if we were to do so in real life? Imagine shouting from your roof top to 500 people about how you just had hot chocolate and how you're "feeling amazed" or try talking to your friend in broken phrases like #sunset #beach #drive. It sounds hilarious and crazy. But that's exactly what we're doing. I think it's time we took a step back and shift the spotlight away from us. Try a social media detox. Talk to a friend if you haven't in a long time. Don't write or text. Call. Hear their voice. Have real fun conversations about dreams, books, music, movies, travel, science, technology, anything. 

If you're my friend and haven't heard my voice in more than two months, say hi, I'll call you or you call me and I will tell you how to bake banana bread.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

“That my friends, is magic”

They say magic isn’t real. I know differently. I still remember sitting in awe with my brother watching the famous magician of our town, Chinna mantravati. He was named so because he was short, and well, he was a magician. Every year Appa would take us to his show and make us sit only in the fourth or fifth row. We were too scared to sit in the front as I was somehow sure that he would pick me as the volunteer and make me disappear forever. My brother and I were terrified whenever he said, “Any volunteers?”. We would crouch and lower our heads as much as possible.
Chinna mantravati’s most famous magic trick was him walking on knives. He always saved it for the last. The entire crowd would wait with bated breath for that exact moment. He usually took around two minutes to complete his walk, back and forth. And for that entire time, there was pin drop silence. He would get down from the row of knives and with his bowed head, would finish the show by saying, “That my friends, is magic”.  I remember sitting still with my mouth wide open when he said that at the end of each show.
My brother imitated Chinna mantravati at home and made me believe for a long time that he knew magic as well. He would lock me in the spooky, dark little store room of our house with just candlelight and made things disappear. He took small rubber bands, pens, key chains, spoons, old toys and made them disappear. I never asked him why I had to close my eyes every time he performed the trick, though. I was only six years old.
But, I’m not talking about walking on knives or making spoons disappear. I’m talking about the other kind of magic. The kind of magic that, you don’t get to see, but feel. Like the time in my university hostel, when Jan and I would wake up every day at the exact time screaming at each other – “That’s unbelievable!!” We were researching telepathy and synchronicity then. We were sure we felt something.
It was during my stint with the local NGO, that I experienced one such incident. I was given the task of collecting clothes and distributing it to certain old age homes and orphanages. I always gave them away to the manager of the organisation, and so, I never was in direct contact with those children or elderly. It was the Christmas Eve of 2004 and one of our friends suggested that we buy new clothes for Christmas and give away to the homeless people on the road. We dressed up as Santa and drove around the city in the middle of the night placing new clothes near the homeless people on the roads and platforms. They were mostly asleep except for one little girl who asked us, “Do you have food, as well? Amma slept without eating you know” It hit me then that clothes were fine, only if the stomach was filled. We gave her some money and the next day we distributed as much food packets as we could. It was a beautiful Christmas. One of the best in many years – until the next day.
The day after Christmas, somewhere in an island in Indonesia, originated an earthquake, that brought the worst to the lives of many. Tsunami had struck our city. There was confusion and panic everywhere. Nobody knew what a tsunami was, until then. People were talking about waves going as high as 100ft. It all sounded very terrifying. We gathered at our office and worked out plans to help as many people as we could. The damage was still not very evident but we knew that whatever happened was along the beach and we needed to get there immediately with supplies. I was in charge of collecting and delivering food. I had a hard time arranging transportation and by the time I collected food packets from various centres and managed to reach the beach front, it was almost late afternoon.
The beach front was completely flooded dotted with overturned vehicles and uprooted trees. Bodies were still being washed to the shore by waves. It was a scene we had never imagined we would witness in our lives. Everything was damaged and broken. Things and lives. The atmosphere was filled with an eerie silence. It was as though people had lost the will to talk.
There were make shift rehabilitation spaces, filled with people who had lost everything but their lives. We started distributing food packets to the people ignoring the horror that was in front of us. As I was giving away the food packets, I noticed a little girl sitting alone. I knew her, as she was wearing the dress we had bought for Christmas. She had lost her family to the sea. I went and sat next to her. I was searching for words to tell her but just ended up saying, “Hey”
“So, you brought me food today? I haven’t eaten anything you know”, she said without looking at me. There was blankness in her eyes. She looked so different than she did a day before. I gave her the food and sat next to her quietly until she finished eating. She sat staring blankly again. What could I possibly say to make her feel better? “It’s all right. You’ll be fine” or “Don’t worry, it’s all for the best” or “Be brave, you’ll get through this”?  I couldn’t say any of those, as I knew it wasn’t all right and she wasn’t going to be fine and, she would probably not understand any of this, as she was just a kid.
“Hey look! Do you see these pink and green rubber bands?”, I told her removing the rubber bands that held the food packets intact.  She looked at me for the first time and replied, “Yeah. What about them?”. “Well. I can make them disappear”, I said. “No, you cannot!”, she said with disbelief.  “Oh, I can. Go on. Close your eyes and when you open them, they’ll be gone”, I spoke in that hypnotizing magician tone that my brother used when I was this little girl’s age. I demonstrated that silly trick exactly like my brother. When she opened her eyes, she shrieked with excitement, “It’s gone!”. She looked at me, her eyes glittering with amusement, not blank anymore, and her mouth wide open.
At that moment, I realised something. It was not walking on knives or making spoons disappear. It was those pair of glittering eyes filled with excitement, despite it being one of the most disastrous days in the history of the world. “How did you do it?!”, she squeaked again. I looked at her ecstatic face and smiled, as a little voice inside my head said with pride, “That my friends, is magic!”

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

The Black Box

The blonde looked pretty good for a dead girl. I stood there in shock staring at the still and lifeless body. This was a familiar route and for the first time I have stopped my car for such a situation. There were no cars around. A million thoughts rushed through my head. Should I call the police? Should I touch her? Should I check her purse? Should I check her car? I should call the police- that is exactly what any good samaritan who stop their car on a crime scene would do, I thought. The bullet mark on her head was very disturbing. I decided to check her car first.

Just as I was about to open the door, I heard a cell phone ring. My heart started racing. How would I inform her death? I have never done that before in my life. Telling their loved one that they have lost someone dear to them – it must be the hardest thing to do in the world. I reached to her purse hurriedly, as I averted my sight from her bloody face. I took the phone hoping it would not display the name “Mom” or “Dad”. To my relief, it was a private number. 

I waited for the person on the other end to speak. “Is it done?”, said a very calm and deep male voice. I waited for a few more seconds. “I said- is it done? Did you give it?”. The voice was still calm but it was getting more aggressive. It sent shivers down my spine and I immediately muttered, “um..there is a problem”. There was a pause and I could hear sudden movements on the other end.

“Who is this? What’s going on?”, he was getting worried. “Uh.. Sir ,look I was just passing by this road and found this female dead on the road. She has been shot.. SHOT! On the .. on the head.. I have stopped my car.. I don’t know what to do? Do you know her? Can you come here right now?”, as I paused to catch my breath, I realised how horrifying the situation was.

There was no reply on the other side for a while. I could heard the caller talking with another man. I couldn’t make out what they were talking exactly, as everything sounded muffled. The tone, however, suggested disbelief and anger. “Can you look if there is a black box inside her car?”, the caller came back on. Something was wrong. He did not ask if I saw her getting shot or if she was really dead or anything concerning her. He did not sound concerned at all. Black box?! Something was very very wrong.

I didn’t want to give him the impression that I was becoming suspicious. I ran towards her car and started looking for the box. There was no sign of any box on the seat, in the trunk or on the dashboard. “Did you find it?”, the caller was getting impatient. “I’m still looking”, I was getting annoyed with his tone now. I gave up searching and in one final attempt, reached under the front seat and my fingers finally met the box. I pulled it out. It was a black box, more like a shoe box and quite heavy. I was hesitant to open the box. “What happened? Did you find it?!”, the caller screamed right into my ears. “No. I looked everywhere. There is no box.” I did not know why I said that.

“What?! Are you sure? Did you look everywhere? What about the trunk?”

“Yes I checked everywhere, there is no box”, I lied as I stood staring at the box in my hand.

“DAMMIT! They took it.. they took the box from her. I told you we should’ve been more careful. You knew how important it was. I should’ve gone with the box myself. Now look.. I..” The call got disconnected as the caller continued shouting at the other man.

I had to think and act fast. I took the box to my car and started driving away from the dead body. I stamped my foot hard on the accelerator and drove as fast as I could. What did I just do? I felt the adrenaline rush within me. Why am I enjoying this? I looked at the rear-view mirror to check if there was anyone following me, and I noticed something weird about my reflection - there was a smile across my face. There is a dead girl who I just abandoned and now I’m almost a criminal running away with a black box, and here I am, smiling! The thought that nobody knows about this and the fact that I managed to cheat the guy on the phone gave me a thrill. I drove for miles outside the city thinking about what could be inside the black box. Drugs? Diamonds? Stacks of cash? Or maybe even highly confidential government or military files. Whatever it was, it was definitely something very important. It was either going to make me rich or powerful or powerful and rich. I chuckled at the thought. I was surprised at my behaviour. Maybe this was going to change my life forever.

After driving for more than three hours, I pulled over my car and checked into a small motel. I had the odd sensation of being followed.  I locked myself in and made sure I secured all the windows. I took a hot shower to soothe my tired body and finally fell on the bed. I stared at the black box on the table. Not yet. Not when I’m this tired and confused. I fought the urge to call the police and don’t remember when I slept.

It was a sunny morning. I got up with excitement and immediately pounced towards the box. I was clearer now and felt like somehow, I earned this. This was it. This was the moment that is going to change my life. My fingers were shaking as I started opening the box. I carefully removed the lid and placed it aside. Inside the box, in a neatly stacked fashion, I found clay bricks.

Miles away in another motel, a woman sank to her couch smoking her final cigarette. She switched on the TV and started packing her bag. She brushed her blonde hair away from her face as she placed the gold biscuits in her bag. She puffed her cigarette as the news reporter on the TV continued: “… And in other local news – the Police are looking for the miscreants responsible for staging a fake murder scene on the highways last night”

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Silence speaks

Considering everything that had happened, the last person I expected to see when I walked into the room was her father. The flash lights from the camera made the room appear as if it was amidst a thunderstorm. Her father stood in front of the press teary eyed. 
“I’m sure the Lord will show us a way and I’m hopeful that she is fine and well. With all your prayers, I’m looking forward to the day she will come back to us”, he was saying to the press. Fine and well. Well, she was - a few days ago, until I cut the steel through her throat. I leaned against the wall in the corner of the room and watched the drama unfold.

She has been reported missing for five days now. #PrayforSara had become a Twitter trend. It’s funny how the social media reacts to sensational news. Their “Sherlockian” guesses crack me up. One such investigative theory was that she was the adopted daughter of the President, and she was forcefully sent to Nepal to avoid the truth from being let out! Why don’t people come up with the simplest guess? Cold blooded murder. Girl stabbed by her lover. That would make a great headline. 

“Do you think Sara is still alive?”, asked one of the reporters. Of course, not. Her blood dripped through my very hands. It flowed down her throat, dripping down her curly brown hair, the beautiful curly hair that I loved, tracing its shape and finally falling on my hands. I still remember the smell of her blood. She should have known. I’m sure she knew. I have been stalking her for over a year. Of course, she must have known. Yet she decided to stalk someone else, instead. That tall, dark and handsome colleague of hers. I was doubtful of him from the very beginning. But - I loved her. Was it really love?

I still remember that warm afternoon, I stalked her and found her sitting at one of my favourite cafes. She was sitting alone with a book, smiling to herself. As her long slender fingers turned the pages over, she gave me a quick glance and I knew for sure that the smile, that came after, was not for the book. That night I dreamt of a life together with her, raising a family, having kids. She was the reason I felt alive every day. 

There was a sudden hustle among the press now. Her father let out a huge cry. Cameras flashed again. Uh-oh, I guess they’ve found the body. It must be in a bad shape by now, under the bridge where I left her. I was afraid of being engulfed with guilt and regret when I stood next to her, five days ago, watching her lifeless body. I’m surprised I wasn’t. How can someone kill a person? Let alone after having loved them? Am I a psychopath? Maybe. But something in me tells that she deserved it. 

I felt she deserved it, when I closed her mouth from behind and slit her throat. I felt she deserved it when I thought about the day her colleague left her home late in the night. How could she? Even after knowing that I’ve been after her for a long time, even after exchanging those smiles and knowing glances, even after “coincidentally” meeting at the same spot for months? She deserved it. 

The crowd was settling down. I decided to move across the room and exit the building. I got to know what I wanted to. Although I didn’t expect to see her father today along with the investigative officers, I was kind of relieved that it finally happened. As I moved across the room, a voice called out to me, “Oh! You’re the last person I expected to see now”. It was her father. My legs froze. I stood still. I felt paralysed. I slowly turned around.

“Um..I didn’t know you knew me, Sir”, I managed to start talking. “They just found Sara”, her father leaned on my shoulders and wept like a child. He composed himself, and wiping away his tears, continued, “Of course, I know you. Sara has told all about you. I hope you have met her few times?”

I panicked. What is he doing? Is this some sort of trick to get the truth out? “Uh.. we might have happened to be in the same place, quite often, Sir. It was the reason why she was very familiar to me and why I even started following this case. It has been very unfortunate. I’m really sorry for your loss”, I tried to sound as genuine as possible. 

“Well, I guess she mustn’t have told you then. You didn’t happen to be in the same place. She was stalking you. For months, actually. She liked you a lot, my son. She has told me about you and even sent pictures of you. I was hoping she would have talked to you. Oh dear. I guess she really liked playing the stalking game with you. Didn’t you really not talk with her, ever?”

“No. We… we… didn’t get to... talk ” 
 eople come up with the most simplest guess? Cold blooded murder. Lover kills r murders woman ftruth from being let out! Why d
I slowly moved away as the reporters surrounded her father. I ran across the hallway and entered the restroom. I put my hands into my coat pocket and took out her blood stained mobile phone swiftly. I switched it on and opened WhatsApp with my shivering hands. And there I found, in her conversation with her father, along with two heart smileys, a picture of myself sipping coffee at my favourite café.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Iraivi - my review

*spoilers ahead*

After a very long time I felt like watching a KB movie . Take a bow Karthik subburaj for choosing such scripts and not compromising. Iraivi is not a film that glorifies women. It instead , very subtly , brings out the otherwise ignored , but very important, emotions of women . It talks about "emotional freedom" . It talks about how even the basis of life - happiness , is dependent on men, for the women in our society. Agreed, there are some hiccups in the way the movie travels, like the two unnecessary songs. BUT, when was the last time in TC we saw a movie based on such complicated emotions and relationships? When was the last time we saw a drunkard but loving husband? When was the last time we saw an important female character in the movie say "let's just f*ck" ? When was the last time we saw a hero bashing men with lines like "evalo kevalamana piravi la nama" ? For these, and for some wonderful dialogues like , "enaku kalyanam aiduchu , kozhantha iruku aana ena idhu varaikum yaarum love panathu illa" and "mazhai la nenaiyalama? Vendam, nenanjiruvom", go watch Iraivi! :)

Friday, 30 January 2015


"வங்கக் கடலில் ஏற்பட்டுள்ள குறைந்தக் காற்றழுத்தத் தாழ்வு மண்டலத்தால் அடுத்த 48 மணி நேரத்திற்கு கன மழை எதிர்ப்பார்க்கலாம் என்று சென்னை வானிலை ஆராய்ச்சி மையம் தெரிவித்துள்ளது" 

சலிப்புடன் டிவியை அணைத்தேன். இந்த நாள் இப்படித் தொடங்கும் என்று நான் எதிர்பார்க்கவில்லை.

மழை. இந்தப்  பாழாய் போன மழை இப்போது தான் வரும். வெளியே இருட்டி இருந்தது. இடி இடித்தது. காற்றில் ஈர பதம். எனக்குக் காய்ச்சல் வந்துவிடும் போல இருந்தது. இந்த நாள் எல்லாமே சரியாக நடக்கும் என்று கனவுக் கண்டேன். இந்த ஒரு நாள் தான். இனி எப்போ இந்த மாதிரி வாய்ப்பு கிடைக்கும். நாளை காலை அவள் வந்து விடுவாள். 

"அத்தை நான் பக்கதுல கடைக்குப் போய்ட்டு வரேன்"
"எந்தக் கடை?"
"இங்க தான் பக்கதுல.. காபிப் பொடி வாங்கனும்" (அப்படியே லைப்ரரி ..கொஞ்சம் பார்க்கில் நடை.. பக்கதுல சூடா சோளம்...ஆஹா..)
"பக்கத்துல தானே? சரி நானும் வரேன்"

ஒவ்வொரு முறை நான் தனியே செல்ல முயற்சிக்கும் போதெல்லாம் இப்படி "சரி நானும் வரேன்" இல் மாட்டிக்  கொண்டு விடுவேன். ஆனால் இன்று எப்படி ஓர் அறிய வாய்ப்பு . எவ்வளவு நாள் இதற்காக நான் காத்துக் கொண்டிருந்தேன். என்னவெல்லாம் யோசித்து வைத்தேன். 

"அம்மா ரொம்ப நாளா திருச்செந்தூர் போகணும்னு சொல்லிட்டே இருக்காங்க.. இந்த சனிக்கிழமை போய்ட்டு வந்துரலாம்.. அடுத்த நாள் காலைல வந்துரலாம்.. என்ன?"
(இந்த வாய்ப்பு வாழ்வில் மிக அரிதாக வரும். நழுவ விட்டு விடாதே. என்ன செய்யலாம்.யோசி.)
"சனிக்கிழமை யா?"
"இல்லைங்க .. அன்னைக்கு என்னால கோவிலுக்கு வர முடியாது"
"ஓ .."
"பச்.. என்ன பண்றது.. சரி.. நீங்களும் அத்தையும் போய்ட்டு வாங்க..நானும் கொஞ்சம் வீட்டுல ரெஸ்ட் எடுக்குறேன்"
இப்படியெல்லாம் பொய் சொல்லி இந்த நாள் எப்போ வரும் என்று காத்துக் கொண்டிருந்தேன். வெளியே சென்று பால்கனியில் நின்றேன். மழை விடாமல் பெய்துக் கொண்டிருந்தது. சாலை எங்கும் நீர் தேங்கி சாக்கடைகள் நிரம்பி வழிந்துக்கொண்டிருந்தது.

காலைல எழுந்ததும் தலைக்குக் குளிச்சிட்டு புது சாரி கட்டிக்கிட்டு..முதல் ல கோவிலுக்கு போகணும். அப்புறம் ரமணா மெஸ் ல டிபன். மசாலா தோசையும் காபி யும். அப்புறம் லைப்ரரி. மதியான சாப்பாடு கிருஷ்ணா கபே. அப்புறம் மாட்டினி ஷோ. சாயங்காலம் ரொம்ப தூரம் நடக்கணும். எங்கயாவது. நடந்துக் கொண்டே இருக்கணும்.தெப்பகுளம் போகணும். படியில உட்காரணும். மீனுக்குப் பொரி போடணும். இருட்டில தெப்பகுளம் எவ்வளவு அழகாக இருக்கும். நைட் கூட வெளியில சாப்டுக்கலாம். சமைக்கவே வேண்டாம். பாத்திரம் கழுவ வேண்டாம். வீட்டுக்கு வந்ததும் விடிய விடிய இளையராஜா பாட்டுக் கேட்டுட்டே புக் படிச்சுட்டே தூங்கணும்.

இந்த நாளின் ஒவ்வொரு நொடியும் ஒவ்வொரு நிமிடமும் நான் அல்டிமேட் ஸ்டாரை போல செதுக்கி வைத்திருந்தேன். ஆனால் இந்த மழை என் ஆசையில் மண்ணை வாரி போட்டு விட்டது. சமைக்கவும் பிடிக்கவில்லை. அழுக்குத் துணி மூட்டையாய் இருந்தது. துணி துவைத்தாலும் மழையில் காயாது. பால்கனியில் நின்று மழையை வெறித்துப் பார்த்துக் கொண்டே இருந்தேன். இந்தக் காற்றுழுத்தத் தாழ்வு மண்டலம் இன்றைகுக் தான் வரவேண்டுமா. சே. 

கீழே ரோட்டில் பள்ளிக்கு ரெயின்கோட் மாட்டிக்கொண்டு இரண்டு சின்ன குழந்தைகள் பள்ளிக்கு சென்றுக் கொண்டிருந்தார்கள். 

"ஹேய்.. அது அழுக்குத் தண்ணீ ..அதுல கால் வச்சா ஷு டர்ட்டி ஆகும்.. அம்மா திட்டுவா " ஒற்றை குடுமிப் போட்ட வாண்டு அதட்டியது.
"போடி..இத இப்டீ ஷு இருக்குல..அத.. தண்ணிக்குள்ள விட்டு கால வெளீல வெச்சு நடக்குறப்போ பாரேன்..தண்ணி புளுக் புளுக்னு வெளில வரும்.. நடக்குறப்போ சத்தம் கேட்குது பாரு.. சூப்பரா இருக்கும்" ரெட்டை குடுமியின் குரலில் அத்தனை உற்சாகம். தண்ணியில் குதித்து குதித்து சென்றது. 

வீட்டைப் பூட்டி விட்டுக் கிளம்பினேன். மழை எவ்வளவு அழகு என்பதை  எப்படி மறந்து போனேன்?!

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Man of the match

“Shit. Shit.Shit. I cannot afford to lose this client too. The presentation should be ready in half an hour for me to review and tell the guys to wrap it up as quickly as possible ANDDDD what I need RIGHT NOW is coffee”, he spoke without pausing for a breath.
“ Sir”
“Yes. Coffee. Black. Please tell Rana to get it right now. I have a splitting headache”
“Sir Rana has gone out”
“What about the machine?”
“Sir..uh.. umm.. it is yet to be serviced..”
“This place is a mess, filled with people who are unfit to do ANYTHING! Including the coffee machine and myself” He yelled and fell back in his chair.

He signalled his secretary to go who stood there blinking, unsure of how to react.
He felt as if his head was bursting. Just then he saw Rana hurrying inside the office with a bag of groceries.

“Sir..Black coffee sir..In a minute sir” He rushed to the pantry.

Vinit always felt restless without Rana by his side. Rana was a lanky 18 year old, who has been with him for over three years and took care of everything in the office. Vinit finally felt a sense of relief as soon as he saw Rana. He told himself, “Rana is here. Coffee would be here soon too. Everything is going to be alright”
He was going over his files, when his mobile screen lit up with the smiling face of his 13 year old son, Arjun.

“Pa! I’m waiting near the gate” he almost squeaked at the other end.
“Gate? Which gate? Why?”
“PAPAAA! Near your office gate. You said you’ll drop me today for my cricket coaching class. We have to leave now.. Pa I have taken my new bat too.. Pa.. also I..”
“Uh..Oh shit. Aju.. I’ll call you in a minute, just wait right there”

He didn’t even listen to what his son was saying. He disconnected the call and dialled his ex-wife’s number.
“Listen. Can you drop Aju today?”
“What? Today is your turn. Do you think I’m sitting jobless here? What will Aju think? You can’t even...”
He was not in the mood for this. Not today. Not now. He cut her off and dialled his son’s number again.

“Aju. Stay right there. I’ll send Rana to drop you. So sorry. I really wanted to come Aju. Papa has a meeting now. I’ll come next week, I promise”
There was a restless one minute long silence, filled with Aju’s disappointment and Vinit’s guilt.
“I’m sorry”
“Papa. You know what.. it’s ok. You are very busy. In fact let Rana drop me every week. You’ll come for the match though, won’t you?”
“Oh! Of course! How will I miss your first match?”
“Al right papa. Bye”

As Rana left office to drop Arjun, Vinit went back to work, sipping his black coffee.

“You know I thought Pa will come at least today”
“It’s ok. I can come every week with you”
“Ya.. Ok”
Arjun was sulking. He just kept staring at the vehicles pass by. Rana wasn’t sure what to talk either, and finally after a lot of thought, said, “Hey! You got a new bat?”
“yaaa.. See? MRF”, Arjun’s face gleamed with pride. His mood changed in a jiffy.
“Wow! Just like Sachin”
“Yes yes. Wish I could hit some reverse sweeps with this one”, Aju swung his bat in air.

Rana sat in the ground the entire evening, till the practice session got over. He dropped Arjun back to his mother’s place and came back to Vinit’s office. People were just leaving. He washed the tea cups in the pantry, switched off the lights, locked the office and went back to his house.
Rana continued accompanying Aju for the following weeks. His match day was nearing.

Aju walked back from the pitch and fell on the ground near Rana.
“You timed it wrongly”, Rana said.
“Ya I know. Wasn’t it an easy catch? Shit”
“It’s ok. You are getting better. You ran better today”
“I thought so too. At least I wasn’t run out like last week”
“You have improved a lot”
“Coach thinks I’m more of a bowler. He says I’m not a hitter”
“Your coach knows nothing”, Rana waved his hand in the air.
They both laughed out loud, and started walking towards the car.

The session was interrupted next week, due to rain. Rana and Aju sat inside the indoor auditorium.
“Hey do you want to practice with me?”
“Me?” Rana laughed
“Ya. Come on”
Aju bowled to Rana. He swung his bat all around and fell on the ground. The boys laughed.
“I can only watch cricket. I can’t play” Rana defended himself. Aju laughed.
“Ok try one more”
As he ran to bowl again, he slipped and fell down. Rana ran over to him.
“Are you ok?”
“I think I’ve sprained my ankle”, Aju said wincing with pain.
“These shoes..see they aren’t meant for indoors” Rana took off Aju’s shoes and started examining them. “Don’t worry... you’ll be fine. Come let’s go home”

It was a week before the match.
“How did I play today?”, Aju said wiping his face. His shirt was drenched with sweat and mud.
“Decent strike rate. Good running between the wickets. And what a nicely timed boundary in the 3rd over!!”
“Ya. But only one”
“But it was the best of all the shots played today”
“Do you think they’ll let me open?”
“I thought the guy with the weird hairstyle was good. Isn’t he?”
“Who? Sri? So even you think only he is good enough to open?!” Aju looked cross.
Rana laughed out loud. “I was kidding. I hope they let you open too”
“Al right. Come let’s go. Hey! Will you come for the match?”
“I don’t know”
“Ok. Papa said he’ll come for sure”
“I’m sure he will”

It was the day of the match. A very busy day, as usual at Vinit’s office. There were meetings, phone calls, clients, along with the usual black coffee served by Rana.
“Rana? Can you get me those old files which we have stacked in the store?”
Rana turned and started walking towards the store room without a word, like a robot.
“Are you not well?”
“Yes sir, fever. I was wondering if I can take the day off”
“Oh.. But this needs to be done today at any cost. You can take off tomorrow morning”

Rana continued with his work in the store room and Vinit went back to his. It was around 6pm, when his ex-wife called.
“I did not want to call you but I want you to face Aju and his disappointed face. The match will be over in ten minutes. I called to tell you that, you just missed your son’s special evening, in which he needed you the most” She spoke sternly without a pause and disconnected the call.

He felt horrible. He threw his phone, as he was so angry with himself for being so careless and forgetful. He took his car keys and rushed to the stadium. He would’ve almost killed many people and dogs on the way.
The presentation ceremony was going on and just as he entered, he heard the lines , “...and the for the brilliant match saving knock of 65 runs and for fetching 3 wickets, the man of the match award goes to Arjun”, followed by a loud cheer and a thundering applause from the crowd.

Vinit was trying to meet Aju’s eyes after the ceremony. He couldn’t. He finally knelt before him in the parking lot.
“Papa is really sorry. I don’t have any excuse. I’m really sorry Aju”
“You know papa has so many meetings..and..”
“Papa, it’s ok. Let’s go home”
“Shall we go to Dominos? We should celebrate! Huh Man of the match?”, Vinit tried to cheer him up after they reached home.
“No I’m sleepy. Good night pa”, Aju walked into his room and fell on his bed.

Aju did not speak to Vinit for almost a week. Vinit was very depressed and filled with guilt. He was unable to concentrate in his work. People at work started talking about Vinit and his unusual behaviour.

It was practice session again from the next week and as usual Rana went to pick up Aju. Neither of them spoke on the way. Rana broke the silence.
“So how was the match? Won’t you tell?”
“It was ok”
“Just ok?”
“I’m sorry. I know you are still upset about your father not coming for the match. But you should know that he is feeling very bad and sorry about it. He is not himself at work. He looks very sad all the time. Won’t you forgive him? Won’t you talk with him?”
“Rana! Noooo.. I know papa won’t come for the match. But why didn’t YOU?”

There was a brief moment of silence between them. Rana’s face changed from concerned to surprise to a delighted smile, in those few seconds.  Rana stopped the car and turned around to face Aju, and told him in a whisper.

“You know I lied that I had fever and tried taking the day off”, he giggled, and then continued apologetically, “but, your father didn’t let me.. i’m sorry.. please tell me everything about the match”
“I was the man of the match can you believe?? You should have been there you know! And guess what? I hit a reverse sweep just like Sachin, in Bala’s over”
“Wow! In Bala’s over?!”
“yaaa .. he was shocked too .. he thought he was too good for me..aha.. and andddd I took 3 wickets... You know that Rohan? He was clean bowled in my first ball.. Rana you should have seen it”
“Hahaa.. See I’m getting goosepimples.. Wish I had seen it live”
“Ya.. you missed it”