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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Movie Review : Premam

Title : Premam
Language : Malayalam
Year : 2015
Director : Alphonse Puthren
Genre : Romance
Lead Role : Nivin Pauly, Anupama Parameswaran, Sai Pallavi, Madonna Sebastian

Premam is the malayalam word for love, and the movie simply justifies the title. Premam traces the life of George, and his love affairs of varying shades right from his school days to his wedding years after. 

The young director has been creative with his work, and there were many refreshing elements on screen. There are a few gags for maintaining a light mood, and songs and dances in the background of exquisite visuals spice things up. And the result is a blockbuster opening for the movie.

Actor Nivin Pauly is achieving kind of a cult status among the film buffs, particularly so in the case with the young audience. That is probably because most roles chosen by him belong to that category which could be identified by majority of the youth. Excessive sequences of drinking and smoking by the protagonist and his friends off put the reviewer a bit.

To sum up, Premam entertains, not necessarily inspires.



Saturday, May 30, 2015

Oh my God!



Dear Jesus,

How are you, my friend?  Received the letter you sent me the other day. Well, how are things down there? I hope everything is okay, though I’m quite sure it is not a walk on the cake. Do not worry friend, the case is not much different here.

Apparently people have become more demanding of late. It is really tiring to constantly hear their persistent requests, demanding one thing or another. No matter how much they already have, they simply need something more. Of course, the demand ranges from health, wealth, fame, to more materialistic ones like physical looks, good looking partners, cars, and houses, so on and on. It is always good to dream of a better life. But, what they forget often are that dreaming and praying for their goals is not just enough. When would they realize that they need to wake up and work for it, too? Hadn’t I told you about that college kid who did not believe in us? Right before his final exams, I saw him praying for an easy test. It really surprised me. How easily do people change their values? Since he had prepared well, he easily passed his exams.

I remember what you mentioned in your previous letter, about the unbearable heat in the church thanks to a thousand candles being lighted simultaneously. If it is any consolation, lamps or diyas with oil and burning wicks are not any cooler. Whenever people have to get something done, they offer a thousand lamps and then hope for some miracles. First, they propagate stories about our magical powers. Then they wish for such divine interventions, and do not give us rest until their demands are met. On the other hand, most of them fail to even acknowledge us during their happy times. The heights of irony, I must say!

Speaking of irony, I am really saddened by how intolerant our disciples have turned into. We spent our entire lives spreading messages of love and peace, and today most blood is shed in our names. As you said, this could be due to the lack of proper education. And contrary to popular perception, I believe religions are actually doing more harm than good to people. They preach that we are omnipotent, yet they build our shrines and confine us inside the four walls there. All people are equal before us, yet I do not know why they feel the need of a mediator to talk to us. What is most alarming is the extent to which some people believe whatever being spoken in the name of religion! Recently I came across a horrifying experience where a two year old girl was buried alive by her own family. Her parents claimed her to an avatar of god. I do not know how to explain all that!!

Very well, there is no much use whining over it, right? Like all those billions out there, let us too hope of a better tomorrow.

God bless us.
Yours Lovingly,
Krishna.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Chennai Tidbits

‘2/14, Salvation Army Guest House, Doveton St, Chennai’ this address followed by a ten digit phone number was all that I had of Mr. Nageshwar Rao, who was to become my roommate in my new 'home' that Chennai was. Vipin Das is my name, an employee of All India Radio, and I had been transferred from New Delhi to Chennai only a few days ago.

So there I was, just outside the Chennai Central, drained and haggard after the grueling train journey that gifted me two sleepless nights. I approached an auto-rickshaw with baggage in my hands, and showed him the address I had. He asked me to get in, and I was traveling through the South Indian metro, a first time in my life. It was only six in the morning, and the city was just waking up. Some young professionals, probably long distance commuters, security guards, newspaper boys on cycle, trucks and light traffic were all I could see on road. I took out that card and dialed Mr. Rao. No response. Maybe he was still sleeping. After all, it was only six.

Sidharth Menon, my friend and an IT professional, had given this contact to me. He and Mr. Rao used to be roommates until Sidharth relocated to Bengaluru two months ago. In fact, he had talked to the manager and had booked the room for me in advance. According to Sidhu, Rao is a professor at some college here. He teaches psychology, and is doing some research on human minds and the sort. A strange and practical man, this was how Sidharth described Mr. Rao. I did not care as long as he paid his share of rent on time.

In five minutes, I reached the guest house. After paying the `rikshaw-wala`, I went up to the security at the gate, and using the Tamil I knew, told him who I was and why I had come there. He opened the gate and offered to take my bag, and led me to 2/14. The room was on the first floor. He stopped in front of the door, and pressed the calling bell. No response came. He repeated, this time a tad longer. After a whole minute, the door was opened. I had expected a middle aged and bald headed man, angry at being disturbed from his sleep. But, I was in for a surprise. The man in front of me was bald headed. And he was angry. Though not for being disturbed from his sleep, but for being disturbed from his work. The time was not even six-thirty, but Mr. Nageshwar Rao stood before me, dressed formally in a white full sleeve shirt and black trousers, as if he were ready to go out then. I wondered why a college professor should be up so early. Nevertheless, he let me in and closed the door. Presumably, he was at his desk writing something. His research papers maybe. The room was just of the size I expected, and it had two cots and two tables in it. Rao offered me a chair. We sat facing each other.

Rao: Nageshwar Rao. Professor at Trinity College. Sidharth had mentioned about you. Friend of his, I suppose?


Me: Yeah. We are friends from school. And neighbors too. After school, he went for that software thing and I opted for media.

Rao: I should have stayed with you today, but as it is, I got some really important work to do. Sorry, Mr. Das.

Me: You can call me Vipin, sir. And it’s all right. I could manage. Does it have anything to do with your research?

Rao: Excuse me?

Me: You just mentioned about some important work right? Were you referring to your research?

Rao: Has Sidharth told you all about my research as well! Yes, it’s related to that. Now I must actually be leaving. I would return only by night. You take rest. We could have supper together.

Without waiting for my reply, he got up, picked his bag, and started to the door. Then he stopped, turned back, and said: ‘I am particular about one thing, Mr. Das. Please do not tamper with my belongings. I wish to maintain certain privacy with that.’ Saying this, he left. By now, I knew my roommate was of a strange nature. Anyway I was in no mood to ponder over all that. In one moment, I fell on the couch and in the next, sleep conquered me.

Period.

That awkward moment when you wake up after a long and deep sleep, and you have no idea where on the planet Earth you are. Well, I was exactly in such a situation then. The clock on the wall proclaimed that the time was three-thirty. That meant I slept for nine long hours. It did not surprise me. The time was too late for a lunch, and quite early for an evening tea. Hence I decided to explore the metro. After a quick bath, I dressed and went out. I planned to catch the bus, but later decided against it. Walking on foot is the best option if you have no particular destination in mind and you like to get the feel of a place. I wandered aimlessly across the busy streets. Quite soon, I came to the conclusion that Chennai was like other Indian metros like Mumbai or Delhi. Sky-breakers, shopping malls, ice-cream joints, outlets of biggies like Levi’s, KFC, Café Coffee Day all could be seen here too. Only changes I found were street names like Vadapalani replacing Vasant Vihar, pao-bajji stalls giving way to idli-vada, a Suriya or a Vijay standing tall instead of a Shahrukh or a Salman, and ‘Pokkiri Pongal’ heard more on the streets more than ‘Chikni Chameli’. Leaving that, the larger image remained the same. And that included crawling traffic, unhygienic streets, stray dogs, hawkers, playing children, overcrowded buses and jobless youth burning their lungs out.

After two hundred minutes of pointless wandering, I tired myself and returned to my room. Mr. Rao had not returned yet. I sat there, plenty of time in hand and nothing to do in particular. This was the most enduring situation in life. Seconds would pass like minutes, minutes like hours. Hours like…well, it goes on.

I had a look at the professor’s study, and a diary smiled back. It appeared that he had this demanding hobby of recording a day’s events in a notebook. I myself had tried my hand at diary-writing 2-3 times before, and gave up on all those occasions. The quintessential urge of an Indian to peep into others’ private lives propelled me to take a look at his writings.

The papers inside told me that Mr. Rao was a regular diary-writer. He had a not so familiar style of calligraphy, with a left sway to his fonts. After tossing the pages, I would have closed the book and left had I not found something strange in it. I took the book again and rechecked. The last entry was made against the date January 14th.  This was really strange. For, 14th of January was today! How on Earth could anyone write a day’s diary in the morning? I decided to read what was written. After going through that, I was in such a state that cannot be explained in words. The usage ‘butterflies in stomach’ wouldn’t suffice. Anyway, I am putting down his note for the day here for your sake.

Jan 14                                                                                                            Wednesday
Hello,
            Today I woke up at four. After a bath and subsequent prayers, I went to Vasu’s stall for my routine black tea. Then I had to finish two more points in my thesis. After doing with it, I dressed for the day and as I was about to leave, my new roommate, Mr. Vipin Das, checked in. after a brisk chat, I left for work. I reached Adayar at ten and met Mr. Sethupathy and Vinayak there. Vinayak approved my papers though Mr. Sethupathy called for certain fine-tuning in the demonstration side. The afternoon was spent in the university-seminars and conferences, until five. On my way back, I bought two packets of curd rice and appalams from the Doveton Café and reached my room at eight. Mr. Das was there. Soon I found out that he had played with my diary. An altercation followed, and in the fit of a rage, I stabbed him to death. After disposing the body in the unused well in the compound nearby, I retired to bed after a meal of curd rice and appalam.
Good Night Diary.




INCREDULOUS!! For one instance, I thought I had gone mad. I dared one more look at it. Yes, this was exactly what was written here. I pinched me hard, but nothing changed. I looked out through the window and like hell I saw an unused well in the compound nearby. This was crazy. Could psychologists predict what was to happen and that too with this precision? And could anyone kill a person just because that person read his diary? The worst part of it was that Mr. Das, the victim of the rage burst, was the poor me. I looked at my wrist watch. It was 7:50. That meant Mr. Rao would arrive any moment. Now, hours seemed like minutes, and minutes like seconds.

Just as the clock tolled eight, the professor arrived. I felt my heart in my mouth. He kept his research papers on his study, and the other packet, which had the logo of Doveton Café, on the other table.

‘Oh! How are you, young man?’ Mr. Rao asked me. He seemed normal.

‘Quite fine, sir.’ I said, though in reality I was far from fine.

And then nobody spoke for a while. Mr. Rao changed into a banyan and lungi, and told me he would come back after his bath. Just as I was thinking everything was okay, he stopped and asked me, ‘I suppose not, but have you played with any of my belongings?’

‘Hmm. I’m sorry, sir…’ I began, ‘I saw that diary of yours and just checked it out. Didn’t read a word, just tossed the pages…’

‘You did! Oh you son of a…’ and then what followed was some of the incredible and terrible profanities that make you feel you are the most hated creature that ever existed.

After the verbal onslaught, Mr. Rao went to the wardrobe and pulled out a dagger.

‘Sir, you cannot do this!’ I shouted, ‘you cannot simply stab me and dispose my body in that well there.’

‘You swore!’ He shouted back. ‘So you lied to me that you did not read what I had written!! Morons like you have no right to live.’ Saying this, he raised the dagger in air, as if to finish me off.

I saw the blade rushing towards me, and…

Period.

‘It’s alright, Mr. Das. You just blacked out.’

I heard the voice, but could not recognize the source. I tried opening my eyes, and instead of the insides of an unused well, where I should have found myself, I was comfortably seated on my couch. Mr. Nageshwar Rao sat beside me, with a cup of steaming coffee in his hands.

‘Please take the coffee.’ He said. ‘it would help calm your nerves.’

‘Where am I?’ I blurted.

‘You are perfectly alright, my young man. It was one of my demonstrations, and you proved me right. Thank You.’

‘I don’t get it.’

‘You will understand everything. Let me tell you a point or two about human minds. We always tend to do things that we have been advised against doing. And, with a smart trick, our minds can be forced into believing things, which otherwise defy our logic. That’s why ghosts and spirits still roam freely in our villages. In this case, you started believing that I could actually foresee future. These were my demonstrations. Am not I correct?’

I said nothing, and sat there thinking. A clearer picture of the day’s happenings emerged. I could only exclaim at the marvel of the professor’s plans.

‘But, why did you have to demonstrate all these to me?’  I asked.

‘Money.’  His reply was sharp. ‘The college would pay me ten grands extra if the university approved of my research on the predict-abilities of human mind. I was behind this for the last six months. My mentor, Dr. Jagdish Sethupathy wanted a real demonstration to drive my point home. I could not think of a better opportunity, Mr. Das. Sorry for the troubles.’

That seemed logical. I pointed to that diary, ‘so that was my bait, huh?’

‘Should I explain everything?’ the professor’s eye twinkled.

I reciprocated a smile.

That night we retired after a hearty meal of curd rice and appalam.


***

If you enjoyed it, do check out its sequel :

Monday, May 25, 2015

Movie Review : Nee-Na

Title : Nee-Na
Language : Malayalam
Year : 2015
Director : Lal Jose
Genre : Drama
Watch trailer on Youtube
Lead Role : Deepti Sati, Vijay Babu, Ann Augustine

After watching this latest offering from veteran director Lal Jose, my friend described it as soulful. Having watched it today, I am unable to find a more fitting word. As the tagline says, Neena is the tale of two women - NEEna and NAlini.

Corporate head Vinay Panikkar, his spouse Nalini Panikkar and Neena forms the crux of the story. Neena is not your usual girl next door. She is intelligent, talented and good looking, while a social misfit and emotionally drained woman at the same time. Her lifestyle and choice of friends are quite unorthodox, and her interactions with the Panikkar family is portrayed in the movie.

Nee-na is an aesthetically rich movie, with most frames simply visually exquisite. Cinematographer Jomon T John did a good work, and the beautiful locations eased his task. The movie's slow pace and a quiet denouement does not dampen the viewers.

The background score by Bijibal and songs by Nikhil J Menon are soothing, and they linger in our minds as Neena does.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Movie Review : Dum Laga Ke Haisha

Title : Dum Laga Ke Haisha
Language : Hindi
Year : 2015
Director : Sharat Katariya
Genre : Comedy, Drama, Romance
Lead Role : Ayushmann Khurrana, Sanjay Mishra, Bhumi Padnekar

Before getting into the plot, this is a Bollywood movie which lets you laugh and enjoy yourselves out. We have our protagonist Prem, who is a high school dropout, presently assisting  his father run their audio store. He is a character with whom the viewer could connect easily. Like most of us, Prem has some notions about who should life partner be. But life has other plans as usual.

Succumbing to pressure from family, he is forced into an arranged marriage. He dislikes his bride Sandhya, primarily because she is a bit fat, but also due to her superior educational qualifications. Soon tones of discord arise between them. Prem fears he has been a complete loser in his life, and the rest of the story is better watched than read. Ayushmann has really impressed as Prem. He is to stay in the industry for long. So has Ms. Bhumi, who seemed the perfect casting for the role. The background score by Italian composer Andrea Guerra was simply too good. The makers almost succeeded in making the predictable climax quite convincing.

Dum Laga Ke Haisha is a local slang used while pulling heavy loads. If you are looking for a philosophical discourse, one could say that the title refers to the many obstacles we face in our lives and all. Anyway, it is sad to miss a beautiful movie as this.



I am waiting

“22:15”

The 24 hour time display of my Samsung Corby assured me that ‘Malabar Express’ would arrive at the Kottayam Railway station any minute. With quick, hard touches, I opened the message inbox for the fourteenth time in the last twenty minutes.  The last message I received was the one wishing me Good night.  A classmate of mine had sent it half an hour ago.  He knew I was going home, which happens to be at Thrissur, and that I was boarding the late night train as I missed 5.30’s Chennai Mail.  Yet, he wished me a ‘good’ night.  And, I had obliged him with a curt thanks.  But, I checked and rechecked my inbox not to estimate the sincerity of his message.  In fact, I have been eagerly waiting for another SMS from another of my classmates.  To be more precise, from one of my girl classmates (is there such a usage like ‘girl classmate’? I don’t know.  But I don’t care because there are things of more value of which I have no knowledge).  I have been waiting for her message for the last two weeks, but it simply did not come.

Attention please: train no.6629 Malabar Express from Trivandrum to Mangalore via Kottayam is arriving on platform No.1

The railway announcement brought me back.  I collected my bags, and approached a nearby stall.

Tea or coffee, sir?” the boy asked. 

 “Could I get a Mirinda?”

We sell only tea and coffee, sir.  And the cool bar is already closed.  The demand for colas is down in these rainy months, especially at cold nights” he said.

The words ‘cold night’ raised my temper.  The external chill did not touch me   Inside, I was melting.  It has been so for the last few days.  I think I knew why.

The train announced its entry with a loud, long whistle.  Instantly, I   turned my head.  The sight of a moving train makes me sick.  As it slowed down, I gradually opened my eyes.  As expected, the seats were full in most compartments.  But, I did not worry as I had a sleeper ticket.
I picked my two bags, and walked towards the door.  A middle aged couple was alighting, and I waited.  Boarding a train is not that easy, especially if you have heavy bags in each of your hands and there is none to lend you a hand.  Anyway, I managed, and started walking to my seat number.

Most of my co-passengers were already fast asleep and the lights were turned off.  After some initial hiccups, I found my seat.  Fortunately, the middle birth had not been occupied; else it would have been difficult for me to sit down straight.

I kept my baggage beneath my seat, and prepared to lay down when a message knocked at my inbox.  In a second, I opened it.  To my disappointment, it was a facebook notification telling me that somebody had liked my latest status.  At least someone liked what I said.  I felt good.  But, the message did not come.  And, I am waiting for it.

Or should I?’  I was confused.  If the message did not come for me, should I send her one instead?  I did not know.  Someone had to do.  I touched open the create message tab from the menu, and started typing some pre rehearsed lines.

How can you do it? My mind kept asking me.  She had to start, and then I could reply…

I deleted whatever I had typed, and put the phone in my shirt pocket.  I closed my eyelids and waited patiently for sleep to conquer me.
Fifteen minutes later, I knew that even sleep did not bother about my existence.  I got up, and with my emotional mind conquering the practical one, checked my inbox one more time.  No new messages.

Quietly, I turned on the lamp and took out Chetan Bhagat’s ‘One night at the call center’ from my bag.  I had just started the novel today after noon.  I stopped as I encountered a line in page 25.  It went as follows, ‘It is strange, but ever since we broke up, I find it difficult to talk to her.  Even though I must think of her thirty times a day…

I stopped reading and started thinking.  How could authors always hit the bull’s eye when it comes to human sentiments? May be its just that the protagonist change, the situation change or the language change, but the theme remains, as I was about to resume reading, a voice from above addressed me.

Don’t you know it’s past eleven? Switch off the lights”.

I looked up, but did not see the person.  From the voice I could tell the person is not a guy.  A lady, apparently in her 20s…

Er... Sorry.  Actually I did not feel like sleeping.  So I thought I would read.  Does the light disturb you? You got the upper berth right?’’ I replied.

Am I the only one sleeping here? Do others have to suffer due to your insomnia? And you have been acting very restless! Why did you not send that message after typing?’’

What? How do you know that?” I was startled.

You know what! Me got a pair of eyes. When I look down, I see things.”  The voice replied candidly.

I was surprised to hear that somebody, and that a girl, was watching my actions for last hour or so.

Why do you care? Please do not disturb me. I am having a rough night, a rough fortnight exactly.   Here, I am turning off the lights.  Go and sleep.’’ 

And I turned off the lights.  She did not reply.  Left with no alternatives, I quietly closed my eyes and waited.  But, I just could not sleep.  I tossed side to side, but each second I know I was awake.  I withheld my urge to check the inbox.  Minutes passed like hours.

‘‘You seem really down.  Could we talk a bit?’’ the voice re-surfaced.

Who are you? What do you want? Leave me alone’’ I was too exhausted to spark off a conversation.

‘‘Come on.  Actually I too don’t feel like sleeping.  We could just chat.  You know sharing sorrows would halve them.’’

‘‘It’s of no use.  You cannot change anything.  And, in fact I deserve this.  I brought this plight up on myself.’’

I waited for two minutes, but she did not reply.  Probably she was testing me.  Something from within urged me to go on.

‘‘Are you listening?’’ I inquired.

‘‘I am all ears. Continue’’.

Well. I am Muhammed Anwar, a second year B.Tech student of Electronics Communication department of the Govt. Engineering College, Kottayam.  All was fine until our juniors joined the college, a month ago.’’

I paused. I was not sure if to tell the rest of the story of my life or not.

"Pray continue’’ she pressurized me. 

Yeah.  It’s my nature to befriend others rather quickly.  You would see more than 500 friends in my Facebook profile, but I swear I have not seen half of them.

Don’t talk in circles.  Come to the point.”  The voice interpreted me.

One day, while I was on my way to the college office for a scholarship issue, I saw two of my friends bullying a junior girl. She was almost in tears”.

Was she beautiful?

Cannot say she is beautiful.  But not bad either. Average, let us say.  Anyway I could not bear that sight.  I went towards them, and taking cue from the look on my face, my classmates quietly withdrew.  That is how we met each other.  She thanked me profusely, for I was her savior.  Our friendship grew”.

I kept quiet for a minute.  A small lump had found in my throat, and I waited for the ‘clear’ signal.

Tell me more about the girl.” He voice said.

Hm. Her name is Ashley, Ashley Thomas.  And she is from the Civil Engg. Department."
A Christian?” the voice asked with a fright, as if I had just announced that I was the master mind of the 26/11 Mumbai blast case.

Yeah.” I continued, “Native of Kottarakkara, Kollam.  We began meeting regularly at the college canteen, reading room or near football ground. The more I talked to her, the more I was drawn to her personality.  Her vision about life, human relations and almost everything enchanted me.  To put it simply, I began to feel whatever Aamir Khan described about love in 3 Idiots.  And...

And what?

And one fine day, I poured out my heart to her.

“Just like that? It was a bit quick right?

Like what?” I was disgusted. “Excuse me I did not know there was a time table to express one’s feelings.

Oh! I did not mean to offend you.  Tell me what happened then?

She was shocked to hear all that, and tears started flooding her eyes.  I could not bear the sight, and I walked away.  Since then, there has not been any communication between us.  It has been two weeks.

A dreadful silence engulfed as my voice had gone down while explaining those hard moments.  Neither of us spoke for a while.

So…what next?"  She asked.

I don’t know.  Maybe I could convince her.

And then?

Then what? I could marry her and live happily.

Do you think it is that easy?” she pressed.

I was not sure what to say.

I don’t know”. I replied.

Do not tell me you don’t know.  It is your life.

That is what puzzles me, it is my life.  Why should she interfere? Yet I wanted the chat to go on.

Well, it is not that easy.” I admitted.

I have to show her my sincerity right. But, for that the conversation must resume.  Right now I don’t have the guts to face her.  A message /call is easy, but how can I send her one? She has to send me one first.

But, what about your family, your parents, would they agree?

No chance.” that I was sure.  I belonged to an orthodox Muslim community, and even dreaming of an inter-religion marriage was a sin.

What would happen in the girl’s house?” the voice asked me.

I don’t think they would agree either” my voice sank.

Then what do you suppose to do?

I hesitated for a while, and spoke up.

May be we could elope, and settle somewhere happily.

Happily?” the voice continued, as if taunting me. “Your plan of deserting your own parents who brought you up these many years with such affection and lead a married life, and you think you would be happy?

Hearing this, my temper rose.  I did not want to continue with the conversation.

Please don’t advice me! You talk like this simply because you have never been in love.  True love is divine.” I retorted.

What is love, Anwar? Does it happen only between a man and a woman? What about the love of parents to their child? Is it something less than divine?

I was speechless.  She continued, “And what if this girl Ashley had not joined your college? You would not have known her.  Yet, both of you would lead parallel, happy lives right?

I think she had a point there.  If she had not taken admission in my college, how could I have known her?  And then, I would not have led a gloomy life just because I had not met her.  But, that was not the case.  Ashley was in my college.  And I know her.  I was about to talk, but the voice from above continued.

And how could you tell I have never experienced the true love, Anwar? I have experienced it, both head and tail of the love coin.

You did!” I was surprised. “Please tell me about it.

Alright.  For your information, my name is Neha, a member of a high caste Hindu Brahmin family based in Thiruvananthapuram, and I work in an IT firm at Kozhikode.  Well, I had my schooling from a reputed school at Pattom, Trivandrum.  That’s where I encountered the foretold experience.

Hold on!” I said. "I too had my 10plus2 from Pattom. From Kendriya Vidyalaya”. Of course, it was a point less statement in the context, but she picked it up.

Didn’t you tell me your home is at Thrissur?” she asked.

Yeah. But we stayed at Pattom for two years thanks to my father’s ever transferable job.  He is the General Manager of State Bank of India, now at Thrissur.  Hey, leave it. Continue with your story.

O.K. I belong to that genre of students generally tagged as ‘bookworms’.  I must admit it was true to an extent.  I did not have many friends in my class.  But, one of my classmates occupied a special place in my heart.  I do not know why, but he always came into my dreams.”

Did he too love you?” I asked.

I don’t know.  I never asked him.

What? You never? Oh! He belonged to some other caste right!

Worse.  He was not even a Hindu.  Actually he was a Muslim.  The days passed and never did I mention my love towards him.  Well, clock ticks as always, and I have moved on.  Today, I do not feel the same kind of attachment I felt towards him years ago.  In fact, I do not know what has become of him.”  She continued after a pause. “What I am trying to tell you are that time heals everything.  We must not be selfish in our lives.  We must think of others who are close to us as well”
For a second, I did not know what to say.

But do you think that two persons cannot marry and live together just because they happened to take birth in different communities? It’s weird, right.  They say there is only one God.  Yet, a man who worships God as Jesus cannot marry a woman worshiping God as Krishna.  What a system is this!

It is how the world is.” She told me, “Its rules were laid long before our birth.  I do not say it is the best pattern, but we are helpless.  Can you convince the six point something billion population of the Earth to believe in a single God so that the problems of multi religions die down?

I would rather climb Mt.Everest that do what you said.

That is it.  We cannot change anything overnight.  It is just as it is.  I am sorry for you.  But, please understand and move on.

We turned silent again. Tears knocked at my eyes.  I wept.  I think she is correct.  The system may not be good but we don’t have a choice.  I checked my watch.  It was past one.  The train would Thrissur shortly.

Again silence gloomed.  I hate it.  As of to break the silence spread, I spoke, “Yeah. I think you are not wrong, although it is all crap.  Well, it was a nice time together.  Thanks.

My pleasure.  Hope to meet you again someday”. She replied.

So what is your number?” I blurted.

What?

I did not know why she said that wh-word then.  Either she did not hear me, or she was surprised at me asking her phone number. 

I asked your cell number, Neha” I said, this time with less confidence.

But why? Why do you need my number?

I wished I had not asked.

I felt it nice talking to you.  You were talking sense and I thought we could maintain a good relationship” . I knew my plan A flopped. 

She remained silent for a minute.

You see I don’t give numbers to strangers.  But you do one thing.  Give your number instead.  If I feel you could be a good friend, I would call you.” she presented her plan B.

I found her reply amusing.  Even after discussing with me her first crush, something about which even her parents have no idea about, she calls me a stranger.  And what‘s so special with girls’ numbers? Could boys give their number to anyone passing by? I felt the system was in real, bad shape.
Thinking so, I told her my ten digit phone number, hoping she would call some day.

It was when the train slowed down I realized that we almost reached Thrissur station.  I bid her ‘bye’, ‘good night’, ‘take care’ and other cheesy words before I took my baggage and climbed out of the train. As I walked towards the exit, a bag in each hand, something kept ringing in my mind. The ‘voice’ I spoke to. It sounded strangely familiar. I just could not pin point the source…


coutrsey: my dear sis Krishna


                                                            +1 week

My vacation a.k.a ‘sem-break’ had become one week old, and I was at the Ravikrishna Film Theater to watch Zoya Akhtar’s ‘Zindagi na Milegi Dobara’. 
The movie had just begun, and I was just getting into it when all of a sudden my phone blared Delhi Belly sponsored ‘NakkadwaleyDisco..’ loudly.  Yes, the ‘penchar’ song was my ringtone, ever since my heart was punctured.

Now, I hate it when I am disturbed while watching a movie. Everything else could wait when it came to movies. I just disconnected the call without caring to look at the caller’s name.

But it seemed the caller too was determined. When the song started puncturing me again, I checked who was dying to hear from me.

The phone listed the caller as ‘chinnu’, and on seeing it, I felt my heart in my mouth.

Chinnu’ was how I addressed Ashley. I could not believe this. I had lost hope that she would call me, but now there she was, persistently calling me even as I disconnected once. I was dying to hear from her. Even Farhan Akhtar could wait when it came to Chinnu. In a dash, I was out of the cinema hall.

Hello.

I am Ashley.

Like hell I knew it.

Hi! Ashley. How are the holidays?” I managed, thinking of no better start.

Fine”.

And how were the exams?

“All fine Anwar” she said.

And then..?

Nothing. I thought it was pretty long back we talked, so I just wanted to check out on you. All is well, right?

I am sorry, Chinnu.

She did not say anything, but I could hear her sobs. Two gentle teardrops came all the way down to my lips. I continued,
You know I was blind then. Now, I see light. I know it cannot happen. So let us be friends.

And then I told her something about how the system went and how we had to abide by it although it was nonsense. She might have thought I was nuts, but anyway she was relieved it was all over. I too was relieved. The call had finally come, after waiting for twenty days. I had missed core part of the movie, but I did not care.

On my way back, my mind asked me if I was completely happy. I was not sure. Of course, I was happy Ashley had called. But, I was also waiting for another call, though not as strongly as this. I expected Neha to call me and we could be friends, just friends, mind you. So far, she had not called. But her voice still felt vaguely familiar. I was sure I had heard it before, but do not know where. And I know it certainly is not Ashley’s.

                                                              +1 month

That day I woke up to the incessant ringing of my phone. Cursing the unknown caller, I picked up my phone. It was Eldo, my old buddy from school.

"Hello! Why do you disturb me so early in the morning!"

But his reply sent a chill down my spine. He told me that our classmate Athira Subramanian, had just passed away.  My whole body felt numb. But my brain would simply not accept the fact that one of my classmates was no more. Not that I really cared for her while at school.  She was not a great friend of mine.  In fact I don’t clearly remember her face either.  But I did not expect any of my friends would die this soon. Cardiac arrest was the culprit.

I put my phone aside, and logged in to my facebook account.  My old mates at KV, Pattom had already started paying homage to the deceased soul.  I did not know if I could click the like button.  What would that mean?

Searching further, I found one of my friends had uploaded a video, featuring Athira reciting a poem in some competition at school.

I chose the play button and listened.  She recited well, getting us involved too much into it. ‘Lord Ullin’s Daughter’ by P.B.Shelley was the poem.  At the end of it, I knew I was ready to burst though I did not know if it was because the Scottish Lech had taken Lord Ullin’s daughter and her chieftain, or if it was because the voice who recited it was no more.  

Then, it occurred to me. I know it was absurd. Yet I played the video once more. Now I was more perplexed. I don’t know why, but this voice seemed …..er, familiar. It was, obviously. But I started comparing the voice of my late classmate to that I heard in the train.

Yes it seemed strangely coincident. A thousand questions ran over me. Could it be? Could both these voices be of the same person? I tried to reason out. “Neha” was that girl’s name, so she had said. But, she just said that. She did not show me any identity card with her name. Neha worked in an IT firm in Kozhikode. Athira was a second year B.Tech student at NIT – Calicut.  The common factor Kozhikode even startled me. 

Besides, ‘Neha’ had just told me she worked at a firm. How could I be sure? I had not seen her face. Or was it that she did not want me to see her face? I asked for her phone number, but she instead took mine. Perhaps it was that her number already existed in my contact list, listed as ‘Athira’, and she did not want to give away.

My head began to spin.  Could it be so? I kept telling me it was not, but a voice within me told I may be wrong.  If she indeed was Athira, that would mean that the Muslim class mate to whom she had a ‘soft corner’ was none other than me. For, there were no other Muslims in our class.  She had told me she studied at a reputed school at Pattom.  Kendriya Vidyalayas do belong to the top bracket schools in the country, and the one at Pattom were I, that is we, studied is one of the best.

I closed my eyes.  I was too tired to think.  An image of a full moon appeared in my mind.  It always does, whenever I feel down.  I started praying, this time the most sincerely I have ever done. I wished all this was just my imagination.   I cannot bear to think it was Athira I talked to and she had a liking to me.  I hope Neha would call me one fine day and declare we could be good friends.  One call from her, and it could end my misery. Would it come? 

I am waiting.