The problem of empty ink bottle…

Posted in kahania with tags , , , , , , on September 12, 2009 by Naveen Bagalkot

This is short story – about 500 words, mostly inspired from the stories of Manto, that I wrote as an entry for a competition (500 word limit) last year. I just have changed the title…

It was a chilly December morning, when I spotted the young man hurrying across the dew infested pathway. As soon as I saw him, my tired sleepless eyes lit up; could this man help me?! He was hunched up, both with the fear of the physical surroundings and the December chill, and was literarily running to get away to his home as fast as possible. Ignoring this I mustered some strength and glided along the grass, rustling some leaves as I reached him. I held his shoulders and turned him around.  The first thing I noticed was sweat, maybe from his running or maybe from the fear one feels coming across the foggy blurred images that a cemetery creates in an early December morning. The sweat was pouring down his forehead along his brow and almost dropping into his eyes. Yet he made no effort to wipe this off – he stood frozen with his glassy eyes poring deep burrows through mine.

“Relax young man,” I said, “I am here seeking your help. I got to tell you something and it’s very rare that someone comes along this area at this point of time. You see, I never used to sneak unto people and bother them like this before; I had my journal to talk to. Well, its still there with me and also the pen with a golden nib, which my daughter had gifted. I loved to write, you see. I still do, but I can’t anymore! I have run out of ink and the stationary guy doesn’t understand that I need some ink! This is my first problem. The second problem is what has made the first one even more traumatic!  I wanted to write in that journal of mine to get some relief from my predicament and my inability to do so is weighing down upon me heavier than the tombstone! Hence I had to tell this to someone and you are here…”

Even though I noticed him getting more frigid and trying to wrestle out from my grip, I continued, not wanting to lose this chance of lifting that burden. “I am a Parsi and used to live in the Rehman Street. And after the riots last year,” As soon as he heard the word ‘riots’, I could sense a stroke of brilliance shine through his frozen eyes.  Poor chap, must have lost someone in those times, or  rather, as my sinister mind told me, must have killed some. I held him tighter with my bony hands and whispered, “After the riots last year, those stupid fools at the municipality buried me in this Muslim cemetery…”

Kalagacchu kahani- the way of being…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 4, 2009 by Naveen Bagalkot

A buffalo always fires up my imagination! The drooping eyelids did me in I guess, or maybe the way the skin shimmers in sunlight just after the bath, I can really never tell. Lying in the cold comfort of the muddy waters under a warm sun, she always looks down upon at the madly hastening world in utter contempt. Contempt that, I suspect, arising from possessing a superior intellect. Slowly munching on the grass, in a way similar to Einstein turning thoughts about relativity in his mind, she must have attained what most of the scholars of the world desperately aim for. The intoxication of her mind from the grass, the cold waters hitting her thick skin and the heat from the sun above, must have made her realize the truths about the universe, which is the only explanation I can come up with the way she looks at her life. In fact it is this way of reflecting is what did me in. Her attitude, none a worry about the nitty-gritties of survival, munching on thoughts and ideas of a much higher calling and deciphering the secret of life itself, what a way of being! She is, for me, the epitome of coolness and of supreme intellect.

So she fires up my imagination, makes me want, not her, but to be like her. I have tried all that I could try as a person of a lower species in the pecking order of intellectual powers. When I was a kid, I used to lie on the grass below the sun, munching on the juicy stalk of the grass and hoping some truth will dawn upon me. To my despair, all that came out of this obsession was split teeth, sun burnt face and itchy legs. And then there is the kalagacchu. Every buffalo in the northern parts of Karnataka at the least, gets to savor on this, what I consider as the ultimate culinary experience. At the end of each day, all the vegetable skins, seeds, roots, the left over food, mostly parts that we humans of a weaker gastronomical tract think can not digest, are mixed up in a bucket of water and fed to the hungry buffalo as a multiple course dinner. As she lapped it all up making the potion touch all her taste buds through her mouth and the two stomachs, I could just imagine with fascination if the gurgling sound is emanating from a deep guttural satisfaction. I always used to think how wrong my papa can be when, in the ignorance that is a trait identifiable only in we humans, he used refer to a bad coffee or tea as kalagacchu. And then here, last week in a South Korean restaurant in Kobenhavn, I realized that not all humans are ignorant of the sublime delicacy of kalagacchu. Not the South Koreans at the least!

As I stared at the menu, realizing that what we thought as a Chinese restaurant was a Korean one,  my pent up aspirations of attaining a buffaloish nirvana, subconsciously forced me to order what was written in Danish as ‘oksekød suppe med ris’. With the ignorance that I have already given credit to the human species, I thought in anticipation that it would some beef curry with rice, with some pickles. As the petite waitress placed the bowl in front of me and as the wafting fragrance of the beef, innumerable vegetables, egg white and rice hit my nasal underlinings, “for what we are about to receive, thank you oh Lord!”, blurted out of my mouth almost 10 years after I passed out from my school! I slurped the heady concoction forcing myself to stop from gurgling in consideration for the person in front of me, which is one of the other trait identifiable only with we human species. As I reached the last of the drops of the boiled delicacy, which highlighted the actual taste of each ingredient by not adulterating it with spices and salt, I again had to stop myself from lifting the bowl and licking it off.

But then the supreme intoxicated form of the knowldege of the buffalo eluded me again! As I biked back to my ‘room with a corner window’, I realised that maybe it was due to the meat of the male version of the buffalo in the soup. Or maybe that the consideration that I showed to my fellow species was, in due consideration, the folly of the highest order. To attain the supreme state of being like her, I guess I will have to be born as her! But till then this naive ignorant human quest continues…

The Imp of the Pizzarse (sorry Edgar Allan Poe)

Posted in kahania with tags , , , , , , on June 3, 2009 by Naveen Bagalkot

It was a two week burst of sunshine, beautiful sunshine, the radiance of the ultimate energy source bursting the monotonous pastel of the gray clouds, gray buildings, and gray sweaters, with abundant speckles of white, blue, cyan, yellow,  green and crimson, that prompted the rise of the ‘Imp of the Perverse’ (my first experience of reading Edgar Allan Poe) in me. It was the onset of the spring and my advisor Tomas, being the natural Scandinavian that he is, was all bright eyes and floral to go out and explore the otherwise dark alleys around the university for satisfying our culinary desires. For two weeks, we both set on every noon, looking with the eyes of a seeker and a heart of an adventurer and found rich Lebanese, Italian, Pakistani, Iraqi palates. We ogled at the Kebabs, the durums, the shawarmas, the pizzas, the fried chickens and gave a serious exercise for the linings of our large intestines.

The reflection on what I had done to myself, my bank account and the large intestine, became clear when I had to request Tomas to push the early morning meetings to 10 due to “eccentric behavior of the large intestine and the recto-anal muscles”. Also the fact that I have an impending Big Fat Indian marriage steeled up my mind to stop seeking these gastronomical prostitutes and made up my mind to tell Tomas that “You are alone on this buddy. Sorry to hang you dry like this.” But as the Danish weather tried to go back to its usual bleakness, Tomas himself dropped out and saved me from betrayal and backstabbing.

It was then I started to realize the growing Imp of Perverse in me. What was just a zygote of want, it soon,  as the ivy of the poison, started to envelop me; its sinews growing strong around my legs, my hands and my head. And they all seem to grow out of the nerve tissue connecting my tongue and my brain. Especially that part of my tongue which had tasted the Arabic Pizza and that part of the brain which recognized the juiciness of the shwarma meat melting in the cheese with jalapenos on a freshly baked base. As Edgar, with the noose around his neck, realized how the Imp of Perverse has pushed him to passionately and proudly confess of a long forgotten murder that he so perfectly executed, I realized yesterday night that the Imp of Pizzarse had pushed me in this dark alley.

It was 11 in the night and I could read the sign “Pizza Palace – Durum, Pizza and Indisk” in the light of the dusk. But unlike Edgars Imp, my imp had to lose this time – the Pizzeria was closed. A wave of relief hit me and later as I tasted the first spoonful of the Dal khicdi that I cooked up in haste, I had found, albiet momentarily the antidote to the Imp of Pizzarse.

First day at my Thrid college

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on May 18, 2009 by Naveen Bagalkot

Everyone have their own fond memories of their first day at college. When me with my graying and balding head, weak eyesight, look back on the first day of my third college, all I can say that it was how it was during my previous two first days, almost…

I was welcomed by my advisor Tomas with a set of nice looking flowers, shown my office, where I was introduced to Elena, an Italian with whom I share my office and my advisor. Meeting her, little did I realise that she is going to be my knightess on a silver horse.. err..  bike twice in my life in Copenhagen (more on that in other story). Then there were a series of admin work – to get my ID card, my keys, my laptop, etc. Tomas accompanied me to all the admin places and saw to it that I got the stuff, which otherwise also I would have. Then we went for lunch, and this is where it was, what shall I say, different!

There was a huge spread of rows and rows of what I could see as fresh, cold vegetables, salads and fresh cold vagetables, salads. I just followed Tomas, took a plate, started stuffing it with vegetables, and as  I moved ahead in the line, could have a glimpse of the main course. Nearing the main course, as the row of people slowly trudged step by step, I felt the agony, pain and anticiaption of me moving towards my salvation! But then it turned out to be cold pork chops with boiled potatoes and suace, for all that anticipation of the Danish food. When it came to pay for the food, how I wished that we had something similar when I was in college for the first time, in Belgaum.

Two of my roomates were in constant strife over food. One, wanted food, large quantities of it, but cheap allowing for major adjustements with taste and quality. Other was the opposite stressing on the higher desire of human tongue over the need of the stomach. And the rest of us were caught up daily in this strife. I can only imagine how happy my friend would be, or for that matter even my younger brother would be, when they hear how my food is billed here at the university -its billed by weight! Yes, I just stuff my plate and keep it on a weighing machine, a weight of 500 grams of food, including salads, boiled eggs, boiled poatatoes and maincourse meat, will cost me 30 Kroners. I just kept laughing, imagining the things that my good friend or my brother woudl do hearing this story, all the way to the lunch table, prompting Tomas to ask me if the Danish cold has got to my mind…

Land! at last!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on May 18, 2009 by Naveen Bagalkot

My eyes take a longer to focus, especially as I force them open in the mornings, than the average accepted time for human eyes. As they focused on the screen of my mobile phone, which I keep just about 5 centimeters away from my eyes before sleeping, the clock read 6:00 am! Why such a prelude to mention this? Because, me getting up at 6 am is like the sunflowers blooming at night, like Kolkotta Knight Riders winning IPL, like no mobile polyphonic ringing going on during a movie, like… okay, I guess you get the drift. (but just after two days of waking up at 6, my body settled down to its inertia so much so as to set me on a path to become a legend in the university history, which by the way calls for a separate story).

This is my first day and  I thought to walk up to the university, which according to my memory of the google map that I had seen in India should be about 2 kms from my home. I had also written down the walking instructions with the street names, hoping to ask people if I get lost. I set out after a breakfast of toast and eggs, with myself submerged in 2 sweaters over a pullover, over a tshirt, and of course my back pack. It was as if I was walking into the world of the 8 art movies from India, of absolute silence of 20 minutes between dialogue, a world of slow gray melancholy. The wind was cold and started seeping into my system, driving this melancholy deep within me, I could see the gray hollowness of my own existence and this got even more grayer with the fact of not having idlis, wada, sambar and the watery coconut chutney of the pervasive Bangalore darshinis.

I followed what seemed to be the shortest possible way to the university but soon realised that I had missed a turn. The seafarer in me told me not to worry, I knew the name of the street from where I coudl see the university, I just had to ask people how to get to that street. I met a man hurrying over and asked him how to go to ‘Amagerbroggade’. He seemed hit by a tornado, but recovered himself enough to run away. The same set of reactions followed , till I started showing people the written name of the street. Turned out that the ‘g’ in the first half, the ‘r’, are silent and the last ‘e’ has to be pronounced! As I finally saw the twin glass blocks of the university, after about an hour and half (it takes 25 mintues to walk from my room to the university now) of seafaring adventure gone horribly worng,  I just about shouted “land ahoy! land ahoy!”

On the way (part 2)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 8, 2009 by Naveen Bagalkot

And it was not exactly fresh air, though treated and warm form the AC, when I was waiting in the lounge overlooking a row of planes under dark clouds sometime later. It didn’t look fresh outside also, with grey clouds hiding the gray buildings which had gray planes lining up in front of them, the gray vehicles going about what they go about when they prepare a plane for takeoff and the tiny worker humans in their grey uniform. Kind of reminded me of that song “I am blue (gray) da da.. and my girlfriend’s so blue (gray)…”

So I thought let me pick on some gray matter off this young researcher who had written a path breaking book in making things bright for the technology in everyday life. With my head bent and immersed in the book, I did feel a hunch, I do get these hunches some times and experience has told me to follow them, to look up and outside. Sun! Bright noon sun in all its glory! And the next thing is see is Lord Ganesh on this dirty cotton bag with “Ganesh Beedi” written over it in Hindi. My eyes trailed up to the owner of that bag who was sitting on the chair in front of me to find a beautiful female reading a book on India and the sunlight glowing her auburn hair and the red FabIndia Kurta. Well a fair girl, interested in India, illuminated by this sudden sunlight was indeed brightening to the eye and I guess gave an impetus to act to my brain, which I seldom do. There was this irresistible urge to talk to that girl and see whether what my dad had whispered before leaving made some sense. But then, more importantly I imagined myself discoursing about the wonders of India leaving the damsel with eyes filled with wonder, delight and anticipation – a sense of adventure.

But something, rather someone was giving a fierce fight in pulling me back from having an apparently wonderful time. The guy whose gray matter I had earlier decided to pick upon didnt like the idea of me leaving him mid course of his supposedly insightful, though boring lecture at all. And as usual he won! All hands down! Such a wonderful opportunity and gone down the drains of the airport of Frankfurt.  If things keep going this way, I will never be able to really put into test what my dad had whispered. But I got to live with it I guess as a PhD researcher… So back to appropriation and Social Computing without any socializing for me.

Foot Note: My dad had found an opportune time when I was alone, and it went some thing like this:

My Dad ( with a vey concerned knit eyebrow look): Navu, be careful over there.

Me: Chill dad, I am not going to get robbed or beaten! (well, looking back I was! Thats another kahani)

Dad: Nah, I am talking about… well… ummhh.. U know its a open society with free sex and all…

My mind (WoW!!!)

Me: Chill dad… I am committed to one person, for the rest of my life…

On the way (part1)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on April 8, 2009 by Naveen Bagalkot

As the plane from Bangalore landed in Frankfurt at about 8 am in the morning, I joined a huge wave of human beings jostling each other to move ahead. Most of them had their reasons, they were in a hurry to find their connecting plane in a new, huge airport and hopefully board it in time. Well I too had one; I had eaten twice in the plane and once before boarding and it was about time! Not surprising if you know me. It was not just the pressure in my bowels but also the sane advice of a very good chaddi dost that Frankfurt is the shittiest airport when it comes to the loos  (well, talking in a very literary sense,) and I better find one and hold onto that one till the whole stuff is out.

And talking about the loos, what a better place to be  welcomed and introduced to a slight glimpse of life for the next three years minimum than the loo? I guess the whole western world took “save water to save earth” campaign a bit too far, otherwise they would have at least some water running in the loos apart from the flush. I don’t know about you people, but for me without even a trickle of water running down that valley, its not bloody clean! So though I was kind of expecting it, but to actually face it was a challenge in itself. But, there is this emerging theory (well its not so emerging as people have been doing that for ages and its only now that we ignorant researchers have ‘discovered’ it,) that says that human beings are adept at manipulating their environments to suit their needs and aspirations and is termed as ‘appropriation’. I know most of you would say that’s ‘jugaad’! call it whatever, I discovered a whole new personal meaning to it on that day and was relieved that my three years in this firang land wont be as bad as it looked. For those of you who are planning to come to this part of the world and really worried about the lack of water, well here is the answer!! Just pull out large doses of tissues, wet them in the basin beside and wipe off happily!!! Clean as my ammas kitchen sink. If you find no basin beside, then you need to find your own ‘appropriation’ means and cant bank on my bouts of  creativity every time, as simple as that.Well that was some welcome, and the guy who cleaned the toilet must have thought, “Ah, here goes one more geeky and hairy Indian and let me just put a bit of extra air freshener here…”