Sunday, July 29, 2007

The world through little eyes ( Nadia's diary :2)

Didn’t do much this week in terms of evolution.Still rotting in the creep crawly stage.Get a bit depressed when I see dudes my age standing up ,some crazy geeks even walking.I’m going to try harder from today….er …tomorrow ( C’mon I don’t want to be labeled a type A personality like my crazy dad,besides if the whole idea behind this walking thing is transportation ,I do manage to get around anyway. What are papa’s and mama’s shoulders for anyway ?besides both those guys are badly in need of some exercise )

I learned to talk a bit .Mama and Papa haven’t yet learned to decipher my eloquent speech though. Talk about dumb parents. They still think I am just trying to act cute with my ga-gas and goo-goos. Geez guys…as far cute goes ,do I even have to try ??hee hee.

I’ve decided that I want to be a politician some day . I may even make a great president one day.Papa says that ,female presidents are the in-thing these days .Papa says that these politician characters can get away with anything including murder.I do manage to get away with quite a few things now (including murder ,if you include some bug families I’ve massacred by rolling on them )…but I suppose that’s coz I’m little.Things will change when I’m older.Already ,I’ve started getting generous mouthfuls from mama for silly things …like not doing ‘it ‘ in the potty.I’ve tried to warn mama that she should learn to control her hot temper ,god knows she may be contributing to that global warming stuff Mr.Bush et al rant about. Mama actually believes that pottyfying is the in thing…..some kind of style statement I think. Bullshit is what I say……. The other day we went to a super market..and guess what? Every half hour mama dearest was peeking into my diaper to see if I had pooped…..this in complete public view.Boy..embarrassing would be an understatement.I mean imagine how mama or papa would have felt if I kept on peeking into their diapers to see if they’ve pooped??!

Another thing I hate is when those old aunties and uncles ,zoom into my little face and debate earnestly on the issue of who I resemble more – Mama or Papa.” Ooh she has papa’s nose” or “Aah she has Mama’s eyes.Honestly ,dudes ,they make me feel like some kind of cloned hybrid animal… that chimera something guy those greek idiots mention in their crazy stories..I mean ,gimme a break..don’t I have a bit of individuality.Besides both Mama and Papa look funny ( to put it very mildly and with a lot of effort not to sound disrespectful )

Anyway…will be back with more important issues affecting the baby community.Hasta la vista baby!

(nadia is my 9 month old daughter...just waiting to be a teen)

Learning French the ‘patient’ way!

The hospital I work in happens to have quite a few patients these days from Burundi.
Duh??Yep ..that was my enlightened response too when I first heard that name.Burundi is a quaint little country in central Africa ,an erstwhile French colony.The primary language out there is called ‘Kirundi’ with most people being fluent in French ,which is their second language.The other day I met Mr.D from Bujumbara ,the capital of Burundi ,an affable kind of guy,a gentle 6 feet giant with a rather chronic skin affliction. Now my French is about as good as his Malayalam ,both of which collectively would be only slightly better than George Bush’s IQ.So as far as understatements go, we had a teeny weeny problem . So Mr D enters my cubicle ,with something between a quarter smile and a half smile on his otherwise pleasant face.
‘Bon jour, Monsieur Doctor !’ (Why can’t these crazy Frenchies write it as ‘Bonshu missue’ if that is what they are going to enunciate anyway ?)

‘Bon jour’ Me already reaching the limits of my excellence in the French language skills department.
‘What problemo ?’ Me reinforcing my idiocy with my obvious lack of knowledge of French ( and Italian )
Mr D apparently having an higher IQ gets the broad idea
‘J'ai ceci démanger partout le corps’ he replies earnestly

I smile in reply ,hoping falsely that my newly scaled teeth will deflect attention from my ignorance of French.

‘Ne parlez-vous pas anglais ? ’Mr D starts sounding a bit disappointed in me.

C’mon man …I mean I don’t even sport a French beard and I definitely don’t fancy French fries.

I finally break the bad news to poor Mr D.
‘No speak French ..u speak English?’

Mr D shrugs his broad shoulders in with a resigned expression on his face ,and continues to explain his problem in sign language
‘J'ai ceci démanger partout le corps’ he says again ,this time using his long spindly fingers to carry out a mono-act of a man scratching away to glory.

Now I get the idea.I mean an itch is an itch no matter which part of the world you’re in.Now I display my newly scaled teeth in sincere and undisguised happiness.I have always felt that Dermatologists experience a kind of perverse pleasure in seeing an itchy homo sapien.Of course the itching specimen also does feel a kind of guilty pleasure I suppose.As some famous person once elaborated “ Better by far than all the world’s riches …to rub where it aches and to scratch where it itches !”

Anyway ,after the scratch act ,I give Mr D the standard dermatological examination ……to put it simply I give him a good look all over.( A senior professor of mine once gave me a a brief talk on the basic difference between a physician and the dermatologist.Give a physician a case, and he or she will take a history for 15 minutes ,do a detailed general examination and a thorough systemic examination ,the whole show taking the better part of the hour.At the end he/she will announce grandly that he /she has no definite diagnosis ,but that there are definitely at least half a dozen potential differential diagnoses which may or may not be proved or disproved with the help of further investigations.The dermatologist on the other hand reaches the same conclusion…….by just looking at the patient’s lesions for half a minute !)

At the end of my meticulous clinical examination ,I explain to Mr D in sign language that he’ll require a few tests ,including a biopsy.Mr D is apparently a bit apprehensive.Not surprising because I do tend to overact when I’m performing with sign language….I had the distinct impression that Mr D winced when I indicated blood tests with the gesture of a needle jabbing my hand.To Mr D it probably looked like I was going to stab him with a 6 inch bowie knife.
Anyway Mr D leaves my cubicle with my precious advice to return with the reports of the tests.
He turns at the door and says “Je vous verrai en trois jours. Au revoir doctor”

“Yes.Sure..same to you ”I fumble …..not having a clue what I was replying to .It did sound a bit like Shwarzenegger ominously saying ‘I’ll be back’

Three days later Mr D returns with an expectant smile on his face and the customary “Bon jour doctor” on his lips.

“Bon jour monsieur” I paused for the effect and then absolutely startled him with “Vos essais en laboratoire sont tous normaux. Rien à s'inquiéter. Je te donnerai quelques médecines et vous devriez être meilleur en quelques jours”
(Roughly translated :Your laboratory tests are all normal.Nothing to worry.I'll give you some medicines and you should be better in a few days)
Boy!The expression on Mr D’s face was like one of those master-card ads ,there really are some things money can’t buy!
We continued to converse in French…very much at a snails pace, but very much in French all the same.
( Mr D did notice that I was getting distracted by the computer on my desk every other minute )

To cut a long story short .Mr D responded well to his treatment and went home a happy and less itchy human being .One thing he still hasn’t recovered from is the shock of hearing me speak in French .We still communicate by e-mail once a while and he continues to query once in a while regarding the secret of my instant French.Someday I hope to tell him the truth.

(For all of you who’re also wondering …check out the google language tools right on the google home page.Just type in anything you want in English and get instant translations in over a dozen languages )

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The beggar

I saw her every day.Always in the same spot ,sitting on her haunches ,one thin wrinkled hand holding on to the loose end of her tattered sari and the other cupped around her closest friend ,her begging bowl.I doubt if she herself had any clue regarding her age.She looked about sixty…her eyes looked older.I had been seeing her sitting on the side of the railway track near the Edapally railway station with an interestingly expressionless face.Every morning she would be there at 8:30 AM…she seemed more punctual than most of the people punching in at the place I work.She would have vanished by 6:00 pm when I returned from work.One day after almost a year of seeing her daily I went up and talked to her.She seemed shocked to see someone offering her a voice instead of the customary 50 paise or 1 Rupee coin.She recovered quickly and her wizened face contorted into what I assumed was a smile.We got talking….understandably uncomfortable with the conversation at first.
“Ammachi….where do you live”I enquired as naturally as I could
Her reply was predominantly in the form of hazy gestures and even hazier mumbles vaguely indicating that she had some kind of a dwelling about half a kilometer from her begging spot.
“ Have you had any food today ?Are you hungry?”Like a magician I produced a packet of biscuits from my bag with a flourish and offered it to her.I hoped to god that I wasn’t sounding condescending at any point.She gave me a curious look for a moment ,the kind of look you reserve for your psychotic acquaintances whom you can’t walk away from.She hesitantly rested her bowl on the stone laden track and then extended her hand to me.I gave her the packet.For a brief while we just stared through each other.Soon she was rummaging into her heavily soiled cloth sack Now it was her turn to act magician and pull out a rabbit. The rabbit,this time was in the form of a couple of torn lottery tickets ,that looked like a train might have run over them The pieces were still miraculously together.With a soft almost a smile like pursing of her lips ,she offered me one of the tickets. I couldn’t figure out if she was just offering me the ticket as a gift or whether she expected me to pay for them.With my obsession for political correctness I pulled out my purse from my back pocket and picked out 20 bucks.
“No..No…this is for money”She simply refused to give me a chance to display any magnanimity.
Now I felt really bad …I mean considering that a pack of biscuits cost 10 rupees ,she wasn’t getting a very good bargain.She might have been marginally better off financially if I hadn’t intruded on her well set morning routine.I decided to make it up to her over the coming days.
We said good byes as uncomfortably and formally as fresh acquaintances could.As I strolled across the track I scrutinized the lottery ticket in my hand.I looked back to see her back to her begging in right earnest.She used to sit precariously close to the track.I though I’ll mention this point to her the next time I see her.
‘Kerala Bhagyakuri – 1st prize 10 lakhs’.As usual the ticket was embedded with a photograph of a sad looking maruti car ,which was the bonus prize for the lucky winner.The date of the draw was a week later.It had been ages since I had bought a lottery ticket.I had no illusions regarding my fortunes in such matters.At the same time I couldn’t help but think how the old lady could afford buying not one but two lottery tickets when she was never sure if she would have enough for her next meal.I intended to ask her next day…maybe advise her not to spend her meager income on such games of chance.

The next day she smiled as I approached her.Without much of a prelude I offered her a pack of biscuits.This time she took it without any hesitation and she didn’t offer me anything in return.In the brief conversation we had that day I broached the issue of wasteful expenditure.Some where in the middle of my sermon ,her face twisted back to one of those ‘Are you crazy son?’ looks and then back to her mona lisa smile.
“ I save every month for two tickets” she explained her economic policy in a slow deliberate manner ,with a gravity akin to our finance ministers during the budget sessions. “ I have been doing the same thing for the last 6 years” as though that justified doing it again.
“And I suppose you’ve made millions” I asked sarcastically …and regretted it immediately
Her face seemed suddenly covered by dark clouds.She sat pensively for a moment “No ..I do get a 10 or 20 Rupees once a while. ..maybe someday I’ll get the big prize”

“What’ll you do with 10 lakhs ?I enquired ,a bit of sarcasm still coating my words.

“10 lakhs ?Who wants 10 lakhs?I just want some money to put a tin roof over my house ….it gets very difficult during the monsoons” the lines on her face seemed to reflect the misery in her thoughts .

The lump in my throat was getting uncomfortably larger.I resolved to act good Samaritan and help her get a roof over her head.The next I forcefully accompanied her to her hut by the railway track ,half a kilometer down the track.She was visibly flustered at first when invited myself over ,her discomfort faded by the time we reached By then the discomfort was all mine.I couldn’t imagine how she could live here.The ‘house’ was basically a few distorted bamboo poles unhappily tied together with a extensively patch worked piece of blue tarpaulin acting as an excuse for a roof.It seemed a pretty exclusive locality though ,with no immediate neighbours in site.She didn’t invite me in ,primarily because there wasn’t enough room for two adult humans in there.She offered me half a semi-ripe banana as a formality ,which I gracefully declined.After hardly 5 minutes of extremely small talk I bade goodbye.I had seen what I wanted to.I estimated that the tin roof of her dreams would hardly cost a thousand bucks.I made up my mind to get her the same by the end of the week.I didn’t know how she would react to my planned act of charity .I imagined that she would be bashfully overjoyed.No matter what people say ,I think there is nothing wrong in gloating a bit over a good deed.To make matters slightly exciting ,the monsoons were slated to hit Kerala in a couple of days .Of course considering the accuracy of our met department, I assumed we were good for a couple of weeks at least.

On a Friday morning ,two days later ,I was back to work when my lazy eyes fell on a folded ‘Mathrubhumi ‘ newspaper on my secretaries desk.I sifted through the pages filled with dirty politicians and their dirtier deeds to arrive at my target the results of the draw for the ‘Kerala Bhagyakuri’ lottery.I had memorized my ticket number.As is our natural tendency my eyes searched from above to below,from the bumper of 10 lakhs to the measly 10 rupee consolation prizes.Somewhere in the middle my mind froze.I rushed to my room and picked up the tattered ticket from the side pocket of my bag and crosschecked ,my heart pounding in anticipation.There it was ..the same numbers ,exactly the same numbers …the ticket had won ten thousand bucks.In the flurry of emotions that stampeded over my mind ,there was a momentary pinch of selfishness ,which tried to coax me into holding on to the money…but I got over it ..great soul that I was.I just couldn’t wait to tell her the news.
As the clock struck six ,I rushed out with the golden ticket in my hand.I didn’t notice the darks clouds in the sky that had ominously started casting their shadows ,waiting for their pregnant bellies to rupture.By the time I reached the edge of the railway track a light drizzle had started.As I reached near her begging spot , I noticed her begging bowl sitting desolately on the edge of the track.It was strange for her to be around here at this time.My eyes panned about searching for her vainly. I ran as fast as I could and reached her hut in a little less than 5 minutes. It was raining heavily by now.I was completely out of breath by the time I pulled the tarpaulin sheets to peek into the place she called home.

She was inside ,drenched in the rain ,holding a piece of paper in her hand and a dazed look on her face.Besides her lay a worn out sheet of the ‘Mathrubhumi’ newspaper.
She gave me a cursory glance and then went back to her zombie act.
“I…I was worried …I saw your begging bowl there..on the track”
“hmmm” A grunt and a sigh “ Yes..I forgot to take it ,I came back in a hurry”
I waited for her to continue
“The lottery ….the result…”She was almost incoherent as she gesture towards the newspaper sheet.

I didn’t know whether this was the right time to break the news.She was obviously quite upset at having another unsuccessful attempt on the Kerala state lottery.With as much of dramatism I could muster I handed over the ticket in my hand and closed her palms over it.
“ Your ticket won…ten thousand can get a new roof and maybe a new house altogether”

After another extended period of muteness ,she started sobbing ,gently at first to shift into full force in matter of seconds.I gave her a light hug and a pat on her back and got up deciding to leave her to savour her tears of joy in solitude.

I never saw her again.She wasn’t there at the railway track the next day. I went to her place in the evening and her place had vanished .No bamboo poles ,no tarpaulin.In the following days I did think of her often.I wondered what she would have done with her ten grand.Wondering why she didn’t even thank me for my generousness.

It was two weeks later that I happened to see a tiny newspaper snippet in a local newspaper about a beggar who had won two prizes in a single lottery draw.One for ten thousand rupees and one for 10 lakhs.

Friend or foe?

The bed room door was half open.He entered…his heart beating heavily.He saw the monster staring straight at him….with a morose ,remorseless look.He was here in his own house.Sajith didn’t know how to react.What do guys normally do when you’re face to face with the guy who killed your wife ?

He looked around 35 ,standing erect to his full 6 feet height ,piercing black eyes underlined by dark circles of sleeplessness…guilt?His unkempt hair and two day old stubble competing unsuccessfully with the shabbiness of his clothes.Black polo shirt ,blue jeans.His gleaming ,brand new rolex wirst watch stood out in sharp relief.Casual ,stylish ,unwashed ,uncaring.What kind of monster was this?


He thought of Nisha ,his wife.His late wife.Now rotting away beneath 50 feet of river water.He had seen her being stabbed to death by this monster.He had watched her breath sagging helplessly.

The monster was still staring at him.Was he armed?Sajith thought he could make out the faint outline of a knife in his left pant pocket.Was it the same knife that killed his wife ?He felt a queer little chill crawling through his spine.

Sajith thought of Nisha.His beautiful wife.Famous TV anchorperson.Pretty ,intelligent ,successful…the works.He felt a vague ache in the depths of his heart.
But then didn’t Nisha deserve what she got?Sajith thought of her haughty nature.She had no respect for anyone including himself.Things had soured so much after six years of marriage.Then there was her affair.He never really found out who the guy was .Was this monster her lover?or one among many of her lovers?There were times when he wanted to kill her himself ,though he never had the guts.He realized that this was partly why he did nothing to save his wife ,in spite of seeing her die in front of him.

He thought of the insurance policy he had taken out in Nisha’s name a couple of months ago.He would be rich ..a widower ,but a rich one.Maybe the police would suspect him in Nisha’s disappearance….but they would never find her body ,the monster had taken care of that.

They continued to exchange stares in silence.One thing became clear…one of them had to die.Sajith’s hand slowly inched towards the Smith and Wesson lying snuggly in his right pant pocket.The monster’s eyes didn’t budge .In one fluid stroke Sajith took his gun and pointed it at the monster.A crooked smile forming on his face.

‘Bang ,Bang….you’re dead’ Sajith ejaculated ,animatedly jerking the gun in his hand.

The reflection in his bedroom mirror returned his twisted grin.