May 23, 2009

Smile please !!!

What do you do when the person who taught you to walk , walks away from the world in front of your eyes ?

What do you do when your best friend walks away with the one you loved the most ?

What do you do when your last respite , your gang of friends , break up all of a sudden ?

What do you do when you meet with an accident which almost took your life and leaves you with a scarred face ?

What do you do when your marks go plummeting and you start thinking you are a loser?

What do you do when all of this happen at the same time ?

What do you when you don't have a single soul whom you can call and say " my life is fucked " ?

What do you do when in spite of all this you are supposed to make people laugh while you are crying within ?


Give up ......

That's precisely what I did 4 years back .

Sometimes life seems to be so cruel that it keeps delivering blows one after the other . I fell down . And it hurt . While I tried to stand up . There was yet another blow . Much stronger and more painful . I still tried to stand . But only to be put down by yet another blow . I didn't know what to do . I was lost . Someone told me "never love someone with all your heart . It hurts " .. I laughed . But now everything had changed . It really hurt . And for once I couldn't rebuff it since I knew the pain . Days passed with the strange loneliness and the stone like heart getting even more harder .

It was yet another day in the february of 2005 , when floyd was playing from the speakers at the corner of my room . And slowly as I got lost in the music , I looked out through the balcony , staring at my orphaned dust coated unicorn , which looked like a lost soul searching for an oasis in the middle of the desert .

A year back it meant the whole life to me . I still remember the way I used to clean , one speck of dust and I would be vigorously rubbing it with all might immediately till it shone at par with the rest of the bike. One scratch and I would have sleepless nights as if someone had hurt me . A small sound from the bike and I would make the life of the mechanic , hell .The feelings of joy that I got the first time I gave the throttle ,the silent vroom sound it made when it started , The feeling of owning a bike , the proud trips across the city roads ,the bends we made together ...priceless ..." Honey I am not going to forget you after all I still do love you " I thought to myself trying to push aside the loneliness which had engulfed me .

A few minutes later , it was us , taking a ride through the roads of heaven or so it felt . The sun shone brightly , the traffic snared and we slowly beat each and every vehicle consoling each other and the much needed hope seemed to be coming from each other . We screeched to a halt as the lights had gone red .

I adjusted my coolers and casually glanced across . The heart beats stopped for a second . A waft of cool breeze scurried across the hot afternoon and swept across me . Standing at the front of the signal right across me on the other side was someone in a red scooty . A churidhar which was a combination of blue and white , lovely brown eyes , curved eyebrows , a flawless perfection which took the form of her face , the silky black hair that seemed to flow and a cute crooked nose . Well that was the nearest , I ever will get to see God . She casually kept playing with her hair as my heart fluttered .. I prayed that she should take her left since I was going that way and that would mean I could savor her beauty for a few more precious minutes . The signal turned green for her . I waited with bated breath . She slowly gave the throttle and the angel just went past me . And as unlucky as I could get , she took her right . But while she passed across me , she turned maybe for a second or lesser than that , and she gave a smile . Must have been the mildest version of a smile but still she gave smile . I fell in love instantaneously . Slowly she faded as the distance between us grew and she merged with the traffic . "honk" a loud noice brought me back to life and I gave my throttle and slowly crossed the signal taking the right , exactly the opposite road she had taken .

Well ,though , this was probably the shortest love story I ever had or would probably not qualify for a story but it taught me one important thing . I still could love . I could love with the same passion and intensity though it was just for a minute . Hope was back again . There still was more to life beyond what I was seeing . And though the entire world I personally knew had given up on me , a smile from mysterious stranger had brought me back to life . How strange , but how true ....

Sometimes even the smallest of gestures from a stranger can completely change your life . So whatever be the problems in our life never forget to smile . You never know who might be falling in love with your smile . And irrespective of whether you are black , white , ugly , fat, lean , tall , short or anything else , the remedy is not in a fairness cream or a weight loss medicine , its much more cheaper and easily available . Its in your smile . Just a simple , straight-from-the-heart smile and you are the most beautiful person on the world . And you never know whose life you might just be changing .

So , keep smiling , come what may...

It's been 4 years and I still search for her everytime I cross the signal ...and maybe one fine day........(smiles...)

May 19, 2009

Before-the-exam moments !!!

"Oh shit , I still have got 4 more unit's to complete and still just one more day to go " , the perspiration started showing on my otherwise stoic face . I looked at the clock - the hour hand seemed to be in a hurry because three hours had just passed by and I was still stuck with the weird diagram of an electrical circuit . Though I don't believe in mythological stories , I believe the art of turning pages while studying for an exam would come closest to the current version of Akshaya Pathiram . They simply , keep on coming . And no wonder my mind thinks of all these weird comparisons before an exam ...

"watha , u bloody motherfucker 'induction motor ' " I swore at the diagram in my textbook. I was fed up . I dont care the f*** , how u rotate , how u start or about anything else you do . Strange as it is , I guess the lone piece of induction motor hanging above me heard it, as it stopped suddenly . Holy shit , the current had gone ( courtesy arcot veeraswamy , our electricity minister ) . Another hour passed by as I stood by my balcony and went on a killer spree killing each and every mosquito which came in my way with the electric bat . And each time , I killed one , the spark would come and my young brother ashwin would clap . I gave a wicked laugh relishing the killing spree . "That one has escaped " my brother pointed to one notorious mosquito which tried escaping from me . I chased it . "Daaaaaaaaaai " I ran behind it . "aaaaaaahhhhh" a loud sound of someone crashing on the floor came . "loose "( a moment of truth in pain is what I would call it !!!) my brother ajith yelled out before giving me a kick . "Aaaaaahhh" now it was my turn . Suddenly there was a big spark . The lights turned on and the same-under-curse induction motor starts revolving . "Aaaahhaaaaaa" we shouted in unison as the breeze from the khaitan fan gave us a welcome relief from the heat .Simply put , "aaaaaaaaaa" vilirunthu "aaaahaaaaaaa varai ... ( By this time you must be shouting "aaaaaa" after reading such a P.J , else if you are a ardent follower of tamil movies especially the vijaykanth genre , it would be "DAIIIIIIII , mariyathaya come to the topic ")

Coming back to the so-called story ,the four units still remained . I again took the heavy weights in the form of my books with a deep "sigh" , to the extent, that would have made it obvious to my mom sitting in the next room that I didnt brush my teeth . But it was fine ,as long as she didn't find out that ,I hadn't taken my bath . Oh No , its 11 . Its the "Kadalai Time " ( the only time when I am punctual ). the cell phone buzzed with the obvious name flashing on the tiny screen . Machan , please dont waste time else definite "govinda !!! govinda !!! " - the inner voice spoke . "Cha , silly fellow " I told and suppressed him .

"Oye , I've got lots to study . so we will wind up in ten minutes and another help , You got to wake me up at 4 in the morning ," I told her slightly terrified about the repercussions ."Sure da" she replied . She had agreed . I still couldn't believe it was her . Man , I can never understand these girls . After what looked like a few minutes , she spoke few words which froze the skin under my blood ."Oye , I guess you have saved me the trouble of waking you up at 4. Its already 3 . 30 " My entire body became numb .It just seemed as if we just started . Well thats the magic which only girls can perform and in my case it was much easier . Words struggled to come out of my mouth , felt as if someone had stuck a fresh , round piece of dung into my mouth and on top of it was drilling it with a rod ( honestly not only the mouth rather at a part which ends my digestion process) . I quickly said goodbye and the numbness in my body slowly moved towards my brain and soon I was fast asleep .

"Wake up ," I saw the unclear round face of my mom and after a ninety degree turn I saw yet another round face showing 10.30 . "Oh shit " ( not the literal meaning , and the timing was just a coincidence ) I jumped on the bed . And in five minutes I was ready for the last phase of the battle . The pages turned , the books interchanged and as always the head spun .

The climax was nearing . It was a losing battle . Amazingly , the clock struck 5 . Well whats-your-bloody-hurry look sprang up my face when I stared at the clock, as always cursing it . "OK its not working " I thought to myself .Now for the final savior . I took the savior as delicately as I could in my palms , my eyes gleamed with evil pride and wickedness . The dull pages of the torn previous year anna univ question booklet cast its shadow covering my entire pupil . The battle is not yet over . We Fight till we die - a chorus rang through my head as the inner me had gathered a crowd . 15 questions and thats it . And the rest shall be put to ' rest ' . The marathon began and finally ended with the books getting piled over my face as I got buried amongst them slowly at midnight.

The next day dawned and a few hours later , when I was just about to enter the exam hall ,

"god , help me get above 90" a poor padips girl was praying .
I gave an Ayoo-what-a-pity smile .( didnt know whom to pity )
I murmured something to myself . Curious huh . Well here it goes - " vantha malai pona may***" ( sorry wont be able to translate . anyway let me try, "If it clicks its a mountain else its hair gone "... late realization I shouldn't have translated I grinned and entered .

Well the rest they say is history . Honestly , how much ever we loathe exams , when played back in the memory they always are special and enjoyable. The fun and the moments they provide us are worth every bit of the effort .Everyone has their own Before-the-exam traumas and debacles , but finally after all the struggles , the joy of seeing that '"pass " on your mark sheet .. truly priceless....I hope you ppl reading this would be reminded of your 'before exam moments' except for the rare case that you belong to the padips category ( who knows even they might have some stories . Its a funny world with funny ppl . U never know ). And I am sure each of you have an interesting story and would probably be smiling thinking of those lovely days . Well , do stay in the same mood and keep smiling while I return soon .

P.S: I did pass the exam . ahem ahem .... Just pass !!!!

May 16, 2009

WTF is the subprime crisis ??

Just like every MBA aspirant I too went through a period where I really wanted to know "What the fuck is this sub prime crisis which led to this mess "....After a long search through numerous articles written by famous economists I understood that "an asshole like me would me would never understand the crisis...But nevertheless not wanting to give up I mixed up a few fundas from here and there and present to you the simplest explanation of the subprime crisis hopefully ... Though I dont take credits for this article , its dedicated to all assholes like me who always wondered "WTF is the subprime crisis"

Not only in India even in the US, buying a house is considered to be one of the best investments one can make. This is particularly true because the government, as part of long standing policy, encourages people to own their own homes by allowing tax-deductions on mortgage interest payments. This means if you took a loan to buy a house and are making monthly payments towards the mortgage as well as towards property taxes, the government puts some of that money back into your pocket by allowing you to deduct a percentage of those expenses from your federal taxable income. In other words, a certain portion of your house-ownership cost is written off by the government from your tax bill.

Since the US government does not consider providing any such relief to people who rent , the financial incentive to own a home is that much greater.
And The housing boom was obvious . For the last few years, prices of houses were skyrocketing in the US driven by ever-increasing demand. So much so that people, many many of them in fact, started thinking like Mr. Ramaswamy below:
"Hey this house is worth $500,000. In a year it will be $600,000. So if I can sell it then, I can get a 20% return on investment. "
Of course there is a small problem. Ramaswamy's net worth, in terms of his savings, are $10,000 (2% of the house's cost). And just to make things worse, he has a bad credit history having defaulted on his credit card bills a few times. In order to make the very basic minimum down-payment for the house (usually 20% of the cost), he needs $100,000 i.e. $90,000 more straight away.

He goes to the bank.

Now in normal situations, the loan officer would look at Ramaswamy's bank statement and his credit history and show him the door telling Ramaswamy politely that he just does not have the equity to make such an expensive purchase.
However these are not normal times.
What happens is that on seeing Ramaswamy's loan application, the loan manager smiles, shakes Ramaswamy's hand and provides him the loan on his down-payment. Yes the full $90,000. Plus the loan manager also provides as loan the rest of the house cost (i.e. loans him an additional $400,000) enabling Ramaswamy to take possession of the house right away with zero-down.

So what does Ramaswamy provide as collateral? Nothing.

The only catch is that in exchange for the high (and unreasonable) risk the bank is taking on giving this loan , it expects a very high rate of interest from Ramaswamy. This transaction between Ramaswamy and the banker (let his name be Kanduvaddi kandaswamy) is what is known, as "subprime lending". Kanduvaddi kandaswamy is happy because he is going to get a lot of money as interest for his investment (albeit more than a bit risky), which, in turn, is going to translate to a higher commission for him.
And Ramaswamy is only too glad to get any loan.

As he tells his worried brother Madaswamy "Don't worry about the high rate of interest. In a year, we will recovered our money and quite a bit more. So no problem."
And so this came to pass that thousands of such "sub-prime" loans are written by greedy creditors out to make a fast buck on the high interest rates and then accepted (often many loans at once), with glee, by equally greedy common citizens who think, based on advice given by "pundits", that the housing market would be the golden goose that would keep on giving year after year.

The Federal National Mortgage Association, nicknamed Fannie Mae, and the Federal Home Mortgage Corporation, nicknamed Freddie Mac, are special private corporations that have strong government ties. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were started by the US government so that they may provide credit to the banks (i.e. the primary lenders who loan money to people to buy houses). This was to enable primary lenders to provide more mortgages to common people and thus promote home ownership.

In short a "periya thalai" ( the godfather )

Let me explain how I think this works (the actual process I guess is a bit more involved). Say I buy a house for $500,000.. The total amount I have to pay back to my bank at the end of thirty years (my mortgage period) is $600,000 distributed over monthly payments. The bank however has to pay the seller of the house $500,000 right away and then wait for 30 years before they have their full principal and interest back. In other words, the money would be "stuck" for that period of time.
This is where Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac come in. They go to the bank and if they believe that the bank has followed sound lending practices, they buy the mortgage from the bank for say $520,000. Which means that the bank gets its $500,000 back immediately along with $20,000 interest without having to wait for years. It has thus not only made a profit but it has recovered its principal leaving it free to re-invest this amount into another mortgage.

Now Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac will be the party responsible for collecting on the $600,000. Since the mortgage was bought for $520,000, at the end of the mortgage period it will have made a $80,000 profit.

Now where did Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae get this $520,000? Why doesn't it worry about the fact that its money will be stuck for 30 years? That is because Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae sell what are known as mortgage-backed securities to investors.
Just like an index fund allows an investor to invest in a bouquet of companies with the spread of companies reducing his risk of betting his money all on one horse, a mortgage-backed security (MBS) allows an investor to own stakes in a large number of different kinds of mortgages.
So when Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae make the $80,000 profit on its $520,000 investment, it can keep a percentage of the $80,000 as its commission and passes on the rest as dividend to the MBS-holders i.e. all those who made an investment in that particular mortgage.
Now as is evident, higher the rates of interest are on the mortgages that form an MBS, more are the payouts to the investors in that MBS. With financial experts betting on the housing market to grow and with the consistently high returns on such securities, the prices of MBSs appreciated greatly with investment banks, institutional investors like pension funds and hedge funds all rushing in for a piece of the action. And added to the fact that securities issued by Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae had an implicit backing of the federal government (i.e it was "expected" that the government would cover the investment in case of financial downturns) and one can understand the craze for Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae MBSs.

Now were Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae head honchos well-aware of the shaky foundations of the MBSs they were peddling? You bet they were. But then why should Ramaswamy and Kanduvaddi kandaswamy be the only greedy ones when Peelamedu pavadai , the big boss of Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae is also in the game? Buoyed by the high returns on MBSs, the management of Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae helped themselves to obscene bonuses and vulgar pay-increases.

Of course, in the midst of all the excesses, they conveniently forgot that they were to use their profits to buying more mortgages, increase capital flow in the housing market and thus push down mortgage interest rates.

Money as they say does strange things to memory.
In the lucrative business of buying mortgages, Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae were not the only players in the town, though they were the largest. Different kind of financial institutions like insurance companies and even normal banks were falling over themselves in order to buy sub-prime mortgages from the primary lenders and sell them as part of their investment products. Yes those very loans that had been given to credit-unworthy people like Ramaswamy who had no assets to cover the huge amounts of money they had taken out.

Something was bound to give. With a financial disaster of a war, rising national debt, falling dollar, job losses and out of control oil prices, those people who had taken multiple mortgages out on their $10,000 bank account no longer had the money to make the high monthly payments.
The buyers they had predicted would buy their houses at a premium—well suddenly they were no where to be found.
So thousands and thousands of home-owners just threw up their hands and declared bankruptcy. Houses were foreclosed and seized. People were evicted.
But then the question remained: who would buy these seized homes?

No one. Cause people had no money—a state technically called "Govinda govinda". Banks, once they realized that the housing bubble had popped, had tightened their lending policies (too late guys) and so loans were no longer easily available. Houses stayed on the market forever. Their prices nose-dived.
And mortgage-owners were left holding non-performing, fast deprecating assets on which they had to pay property tax in order to keep holding onto them till a buyer could be found.

Remember that $600,000 payment Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae needed in order to pay the dividends to the MBS holders and also take their commission, the expectation of which had forced MBSs to stratospheric levels ?
Well the news was that there was no $600,000 coming..

MBSs , once bought at high premiums, had started losing their value rapidly.
Disaster was now at the gates. For banks who had invested in mortgages themselves. For Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae. For people who had bought MBSs. For anyone who had guaranteed a mortgage or bought one. In short, ruin for most of the economy as black suit bankers sat on a mountain of useless MBSs that was often not worth the piece of paper written on.

Was that all?
I made one gross oversimplification in my preceding narrative. (Well more than one. But bear with me.)
When greedy banker Kanduvaddi kandaswamy gave the loan to Ramaswamy, he told him that Ramaswamy will get the loan only if he takes out an insurance on his mortgage so that if in the (unlikely) case that Ramaswamy cannot make good on his financial commitment, the insurance company will pay the remaining amount on the mortgage. Ramaswamy now has to make monthly payments for his mortgage insurance (over and above his mortgage payments) but Ramaswamy doesnt care. Cause he has the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The fact that the mortgage is insured is also good for Kanduvaddi Kandaswamy as he has covered his bases, should someone ask him what kind of risk mitigation steps he has taken.

Now let's consider the situation from the point of view of the insurance company. Jambulingam , the big chief, suddenly gets all these house-buyers who want mortgage insurance and are ready to pay a nice premium for them. Ibu thinks to himself :" This is good. With the way the housing market is, there is not much chance of the house buyer going bankrupt–he will always be able to sell his house and make a lot of money. So no chance of him defaulting. Let me keep on selling these insurance products."
And so he keeps selling. Because his company is well-known, the insurance-buyers never ask him "Do you have assets to cover all your insurance liabilities?"After all, when we buy car insurance from Geico or Progressive, do we ever stop to ask them if they actually have the money to pay $25,000 for damages, if I total someone else's car? No we do not.
And so insurance companies kept on making out these insurances far beyond their covering capacity. The premiums were like "free money", insuring (as one expert opined) cars in a country where there were no car crashes. Why just housing? Companies started insuring any kind of big loan with the guarantee of coughing up the cash should the loaner default. Just like mortgage-backed securities, these "I shall pay up when you cannot" instruments (technically called credit default swaps) were being bought and sold on the market at high premiums and companies who were dealing in them were raking in the profits.
What that meant was Jambulingam, the insurance guy , would sell the rights to collect premium from Ramaswamy to the others , say muttal mani and loose mohan would in turn sell that credit default swap to someone else. The market for credit default swaps were red hot —AIG, one of the biggest names in insurance had $78 billion worth of swaps !

Again, all this was fine till the day the housing market went boom. Thousands of people began to default on their loans. All the cars in that crash-free world had just run into each other. The insurance companies and the buyers of credit default swaps, needless to say, did not have the cash to cover the claims. With the housing market going down, different other kind of business deals started going sour. Even more debt insurance claims were made. And the more they were made, the deeper the owners of credit default swaps sank into the swamp.
Then of course there were the investment banks—the Bears and Sterns and the Lehmans of the world. They had their proverbial finger in each of these superhigh yield pies be it the mortgage-backed securities or the credit default swap markets. As a result of years of high-paying lobbying initiatives, the investment banks had made sure that they operated under the minimum of controls and oversight, freeing them to take unreasonable risks while investing.
Initially it all went according to plan. Even better than the plan as a matter of fact. The more they raised the stakes and the more outrageous the risks they took, more money they got.
Income forecasts were manipulated by taking into account the so-called "value" of the credit default swaps whereas in reality it was nothing but "funny money" that existed only in an optimistic future, a tomorrow that would ultimately never come. And with such rosy forecasts and on the back of its great current "performance", Wall Street paid out record performance bonuses across the board.

Till of course disaster struck. The MBSs sunk to junk and people started calling in the credit default swaps. The banks did not have enough assets to cover even a fraction of its liability.
When angry Rajnikantha says with this one rupee I will become a millionare in sivaji it sounds macho and cool. Now when investment banks are shown to have followed that same principle, it's quite horrifying. To put it mildly. No wonder then that investor confidence and their overall credit-worthiness suffered.
The only way for the Lehman’s and the Bears and Sterns to be able to survive would have been to raise money from the market and use it to discharge their obligations. But the credit market had frozen up. No financial entity in Wall Street was trusting anyone else with their resources. Starved of its cash flows, an investment bank like Lehman Brothers that had survived the Great Depression and two World Wars went belly-up. So did Bear Sterns before it was acquired.
AIG and Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae were in danger of coming to their knees but since they were considered too critical to fail , they were given federal life-lines through infusion of tax money to keep them afloat.
Two of the biggest banks–Washington Mutual and Wachovia were not so lucky and was taken over by other corporations.
And most importantly, the High End Girlfriend Index, the true indicator of the value of Wall Street fat cats, collapsed spectacularly.

The face of the financial world had changed within a few weeks.

May 14, 2009

Memories of love

"Dad what's this " his son called out to him referring to an old diary that he had discovered while playing in the store room . "Nothing da ...Its papa's old diary ...You go and play now"...
He dusted the cobwebs that had settled over the cover. It was not just the diary alone that the cobwebs had settled , the painful truth dawned on him ... And he slowly opened it with a heavy heart ...

December 31 ,1970

Dear diary ,
The chill winds of december kissed through the lonely streets , the deserted alleys , the roads , the open windows of the homes and finally a small place behind the old motor room . Far and away from the vagaries and madness of the city there she was , standing close to me . For the first time , I felt her breath . Her hot breath fought with the cold zephyr for a little space on my small , round face. Never before had I stood so close to her . I could smell the mesmerizing fragrance of talc from her . "Ouch , Sandya you are too close I guess ," I whispered .But she wasn't listening rather she was busy looking elsewhere as if waiting for someone to come. Suddenly I heard a few footsteps coming near . She came closer .The footsteps were those of ajay as he was the catcher in the game of hide and seek . There was hardly any place to stand for one , leave alone two .She pressed herself against my body as she struggled not to be seen outside . A drop of sweat from my forehead fell on her cheeks . "Sshhh" she whispered as she pressed herself harder against my body . I felt a weird weakening feel in my heart as if someone was pulling it from inside . The footsteps got louder . Her breathing got faster and I could feel it getting hotter with each and every breath . She came closer than the word 'closest' would ever signify . Wondered , if anything could ever come between us . Didn't know why ,I slowly kept my hands around her and embraced her gently . I closed my eyes . She must have said something . Strangely I couldn't hear . The moment of eternity was blessed by the fragrance of the rusty old motor and her's combined together .Slowly the footsteps faded . I opened my eyes . I saw her eyes closed and face pressed against my heart as if she was listening to each and every unspoken word it had to say . And I slowly realized that she had her arms around me . The strange music of silence was playing in the background . I savored the moment which whispered the incomprehensible secrets of love to us . Though we were too young to understand what it meant, we knew it was divine . The tranquility extended for a time which strangely seemed to have set the seconds hand of the clock in the reverse direction . We both stood there as 'us' for the first time . The chill wind blew again ...

November 16th , 1984 ,

Dear diary,
The azure sky met the deep blue sea over the extending horizon . The sky looked brighter than usual maybe it had a premonition that today was a special day . I smiled at the thought . The unusually silent waves smoothly merged with the clouds , painting a picture perfect back-drop . Standing amidst the beautiful backdrop , were two young hearts savoring the beauty of nature and wondering where these simple joys had been hidden all these days . As the waves made various patterns , a chill breeze came sailing and shook the strands of hair covering her forehead. She looked beautiful . Her eyes spoke the strange language of love . The sound of the waves , the ubiquitous smell of beach and the glittering sands which shone in the sun added to the grandiose of the moment . I stood there silently contemplating about a future with 'my sandya ' . I looked at her . She smiled . Or did she . I wasn't sure . I held her hands . My fingers could feel the moisture in her palms . It was cold and the smoothness of the palms were enhanced by the moisture . My fingers played around , while my heart kept slipping an inch downwards with each and every touch. There were unknown sensations playing around my entire body as my mind had become numb . I looked into her eyes . She was smiling and this time I was sure because the smile was from her eyes. "I love you ," The wind made my whisper even more feeble giving it the much needed romantic tone . A cold wave sweetly kissed our feet making it wet . She kept looking at me . And with each and every passing second the tranquility and numbness transcended to a different plane .I felt the grip on her fingers tighten softly . Through the moisture laden eyes , she whispered something . A cold wave blew , and the the waves again kissed our feet . "I love you , too " the melancholic tone from her sweet lips kept echoing through the abandoned boats , the never ending sea , the light house , the sandy shores , the sea shells and the azure skies which engulfed us . The artist called 'fate' , was painting this colorful picture called 'love ' on the canvass of our 'lives ' . The chill wind blew again..........

May 2, 1986,

Dear diary ,
The vision was blurred . I couldn't see anything . There was a storm brewing inside me . And strangely on the outside , an enigmatic silence seemed to engulf me. And vaguely I could see the letter 'S' magnifying in and out of proportion . And just like the seamless flow of the river , the letters kept magnifying one after the other . . Sandya . The name slowly seemed to be appearing as the tear drop slowly strolled across the name on her wedding card .

The entire world had stopped for a second . I knew this day would come . But how ever much you prepare yourself , this moment shatters all the strength you had . My Sandya would never be mine . Did I say 'my Sandya' . A nauseating smell of alcohol came from the glass in front of me . "My sandya " I thought as I gulped the entire glass without remorse .

It still pained . Not like the usual pain when you fell on the ground and bruised your knees . This time the bruise wasn't seen . But I felt it . No amount of alcohol seemed to be soothing it . Instead it seemed to get more agonizing . "I love you " I heard her say, what seemed just to be yesterday . But today its all vanished with the cruel veil of fate uncovering itself on my life ....

I am a proud man . But today I fail . The tears rolled down . I didnt want them to stop . A lump formed across my throat , and as my mouth was drying up I gasped for air . "I love you ...but why did you do this to me", my motionless , ghostly white face whispered to the unknown . The chill breeze blew , yet again, but for the last time.......


Its been 20 years since ....He never got the answer . He slowly closed the diary .A drop of tear made a blot on the otherwise dusty cover .

"Dad , sandya is beating me ..Tell her to stop plz " his son called out to him complaining about his elder daughter .

You heard it right...

Few memories never fade into oblivion .........

May 12, 2009

Those lovely train journeys

"S12 seat no 3 ," I reminded myself as the train came to a screeching halt unsettling the dust above the tracks . "Ah , there it is ," I heaved a sigh of relief as I settled down at the window seat . It was a tiring day . I had come to pune for a b school interview and was on my way back home . And it was extremely tiring because I had the interview in the morning and had to rush to the station in order to make it in time . Finally , its back to good old chennai , and since my interview had gone extremely well, the three letter word-MBA dreams had just started . And do I get a better place than a window seat at a 2nd class coach .

Well the first thing that any 23 year old guy traveling in a train would do is to look around for the 'birds'. As always , I was unlucky . The same old question popped up " fucking , why doesn't it happen to me " .... Right across me were an aged couple , must be in their 70's I guess . And just eaves dropping a bit , I figured out that they were going to tirupati . "lord venkat , You have again let me down " I mumbled . Beside me were two foreign tourists as always with a huge bag double their size , a torn banyan and a hawai slipper ( we call ppl with the same outfit of our origin a different name ...but its always different when it is them ) and a talked a version of english which made me doubt as to whether the version we had was really "English " ( When I was young I used to marvel when my bestfriend told me that even beggars in England could speak English while we were struggling with our english lessons...silly me) ...the one opposite me was vacant and so were the 2 side berths . "Maybe lord venkat still has something in his mind ...Your games are special and incomprehensible to humans " I thought with a tone resembling that of my granny .

'"Excuse me," a young lady spoke as I lifted my leg resembling a ' just-stamped-fresh-cowdung' pose while she pushed in a huge bag under my seat . Aha , though she would be rated as average , I decided not to complain as something was better than nothing . Sometimes I really am a contended guy . And the young lady , went outside and started speaking with an older one . "Ma , don't worry ..I am safe out here . Will definitely come there next month . I have kept the food under your seat and don't forget to take your tablets " . So now I understood lord venkats plan . It was her mom who was the passenger and not the one whom I wanted .Well , I take back my words , I am definitely not the contended one ...

And now occupying the vacant side berth , were an old lady , a newly married couple( I guessed by her prominent "thaali") and a young guy in his 20's . The old lady whom I guess was the mother was pale and I could see her mumbling something to her daughter . The other guy who had torn pants , and a worn out shirt was her brother . They had come to see off the newly married couple . They must have been from a very poor family , which was evident from the dress they wore . Hidden beneath the ruggedness of his face , I could see the pain of missing someone and though I didn't understand a single word of what he spoke , I knew that he loved his sister . And their conversation was held in a manner that I thought at any moment someone would break down and cry . But everyone sat still , with plethora of emotions hidden under their faces . I looked at them slowly realizing that true love indeed was not just reserved for the movies . More than the words that were audible , their eyes spoke a language which was not audible but could only be felt . And somehow even I could feel it .

A few minutes later the whistle went . The mother and brother gave a look which somehow , strangely was a mixture of both happiness and sadness. They got down from the train while the other mother who had come with her daughter took her seat before me ." brindha , take your meals properly ...and call me daily take care of my daughter she is like a child " the old lady spoke in a choking voice through the grills straining her voice so that it would reach her daughter sitting at the side berth...soon the words were replaced by her sobs ...."Ma ,I miss you " the gal waved a tata while her eyes were trying to deceive the tears which were held back...

The train started ... and the guy started running along with the train trying to catch a glimpse of her sister for every extra second was priceless . He came running and soon before he lost his race with the speed of the train he shouted " I love you ma" ...and finally the rugged face broke down . I sat still as I saw him disappear amongst the crowd . The gal started sobbing and lay on her husbands thighs as he consoled her . A drop of tear eluded the misty eyes of the lady who was sitting in front of me , thinking about her daughter . The pain of missing loved ones is very harsh , indeed . In a world ruled by money , there is still an inevitable place for love , and right in front of me were the people who make the journey called life worthwhile all along. We all miss a few loved ones and in case we are lucky enough , few people will miss us too . I was missing someone too...

I just kept staring and didn't know why even I had been deeply moved . Well , sometimes even those who are noway related to us , affect us . Today was such a day .

"India is a beautiful country and Indian people are lovely " I heard the foreigner speak....
Very true , we are lovely people indeed ( and sometimes very emotional too) ......

Well , these train journeys , how much ever mundane they may be , nevertheless they are always beautiful .They always have a surprise in store for us . A bunch of foreigners all set to explore our countryside, an old couple who had seen everything in life and were in search of moksha in the temples of India , a young couple all set to start a new life with an iota of hope and the joy-of-love gleaming through their moist eyes , a mother who was missing her daughter , and at last a young guy with dreams of becoming a manager someday ....The eclectic mix of people and emotions always adds to the aura and liveliness of these journeys..

These are not just simple train journeys . They are more like the journey of life . The journeys are the same for all of us ...But however the stories are different ...For few its about missing their loved ones , for few its about adventure , for some its a routine way of life ,and for some it carries hope of a new life ....

Nevertheless , with each and every journey starts a new dream , a new hope and a new destiny...Keep traveling and keep enjoying these simple pleasures that our evergreen Indian railways has to offer us ...

May 11, 2009

Life is beautiful

We meet a lot of people in our day today lives . Most of them vanish without a trace ...but however a few , leave indelible traces in our hearts . Well this one is exactly about someone like that ...

For the past one year there has just been one thought that has dominated me the most . When do I resign ??? The reason , I hated my work . To be more precise , I loathed it . Kept dreaming about the day when I would leave this dreaded work and do something I liked .This was not just me but there are many more who belong to this category .But what did I love doing . I didn't know . I Read a lot of self help books which told "Find what u love doing the most and pursue it as your career " . As easy as that . But unfortunately for me , all my passions seemed to have a time line attached to it.. Started with the love of books , and as time passed by lost interest in it and wanted to be a badminton player but soon got lost amidst the competition for survival in my 12th board exams ...later on it was photography , roaming around , bikes , mba and what not ....and now its blogging..God knows how long.."the search is still on and someday , maybe ,I would truly find out what I love.... " I thought. So being disoriented and unsatisfied at the workplace was natural .

My work required me to travel a lot . This time I was in Edappal , a small village in Kerela . I lazed off my bed , fighting with the urge to get more sleep I hurried to my workplace . I had a pleasant surprise . Amidst the old banking people , there was a guy of my age meddling with the computers . I said "What are you doing ?"....." Sir ..I was called for repairing the computer ," ...Since my computer always gave me troubles I thought would learn a trick or two from this guy . "Dont call me , sir me arun ...and how do I call u? "..."Oh k sir ...sorry ..err...arun...I am Abdul kalam..." . Hmmm , does that strike a chord .

Thus began one of the most enlightening friendship that I have ever had . Since I had hardly any work , I started talking to him about what I knew the most , girls . And soon the topics covered politics , the staffs out there , his workplace etc. He was one of the most enthusiastic and fun loving guy that I had ever known . We also had our bird watching sessions in the evening . Truly Gods own country , I blushed in my heart . He told me about how he was a big fan of "Lal ettan" ( mohan lal , the great actor of Mollywood ) and how he used to save money to watch his movies . He described the funny moments he had when he used to go for servicing computers . Truly the knowledge base of old people when it comes to computers can form a new classification under Khushwants Singhs humour books .

But however behind his smiles there was a lot of sadness and struggles which he never showed out . Later on, I got to know from one of the staffs , that he worked 7 days a week , for a salary which was barely enough for him, leave alone supporting his family consisting of his mother and two sisters . His father was a factory worker in Dubai ( The only respite for most of the mallus ) whose earnings he supplemented . His home didn't have electricity for the past six months since they were required to pay 25k for the erection of an electric post .He would need minimum 3 more months to get back the electricity connection . Well this was the face of the other India .But not once , did he complain , blame the government or lament about his low paying job ... An ac room , a decent home , a handsome salary , a bike , a movie twice a week , coffees at coffee day and what not , and there I was , still unhappy and complaining . And here was someone who hadn't seen a tube light for 6 months leave alone an A.C ...And still he had no worries . He had dreams to make it big someday . He wanted to open a computer retail shop one day and wanted his sisters to study and didn't want them to drop out just like how he did due to money constraints .

I took him out for dinner that day to a restaurant and though he was reluctant I forced him to eat heartily . And I sincerely believe , no human has the right to say "No , thanks " to a tandoori chicken leg piece . Though he was much younger to me he had taught me the most important lesson of my life . Life was indeed beautiful as long as you had the dreams and the strength to pursue them . Whatever be your current situation , there are always million things to cherish and be happy . And there are people who are less fortunate than us and the true happiness lies in doing something for them .I have decided that whatever happens , I am going to enjoy and cherish life irrespective of what it has to give me .After all you get to live just once and there are better things to do than complaining ...And truly , Life does seem beautiful . Well , Abdul as of now , except for this leg piece there is not much that I can do for you .
But someday , in the near future , I would definitely see u as a successful businessman and definitely I would do any help within my reach to see you there.

And then came the strange thought...

Maybe the name Abdul Kalam wasn't just a coincidence....

May 8, 2009

Those li'l things in life !!!

"One of the greatest matches in the history of world wrestling federation is about to unfold in front of your eyes - JOHN CENA vs BIG SHOW "...

"Its a do or die match for me ...I somehow got to beat the menacing and unbeatable CENA ," I thought to myself as I was preparing for my bout .

"You will definitely lose .Do you want to quit before the match .This is your last chance ," my seven year old brother gave me a stern warning with a cute-baleful look ( obviously the irony coz it comes from a seven year old and if you dont trust me look at the pic).
Well , it was the yet-another-eventful-weekend where both me and my bro were getting ready for our championship match . It had become a regular ritual .

The JOHN CENA was obviously my invincible bro -
age : 7
matches played :6
matches won : 6
Chest : Hardly covers the rib cage
biceps : 10 cms to be precise
abs : got a round lovely single pack
hates : school ,homework , environmental science , books , me ( i.e Batista , Big show , undertaker...keeps changing every week ) , milk ...
likes : video games , cartoon network , spiderman , superman and all the various versions of 'whatever-mans' , ice creams , wwf , John Cena , trying his newly learned stunts against the poor 'me' ...

Well his name was always the same while mine used to change every week . This week I was supposed to be BIG SHOW ( Partly because of my increase in weight recently ,thanks to the sacrifice from the delicious race of 'KOZHI' Aka 'CHICKENS ') ...

And the referee , none other than the sweetest person in the world - my mom.

This time it was an 'I QUIT' match ( for those who have grown old and lost touch with the once-upon-a-time-wwf-craze an I QUIT match is a match where the the one who says "I quit" first is the loser ...)

With the winamp player thumping the theme music of John Cena, my bro enters the room looks around towards the four walls , raises his arms dreaming about the 1 lakh plus crowd cheering him . And finally he gets into the ring (i.e my bed which has witnessed all the violence and glories of the previous weeks ).

"Daaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiii" he shouts and pounces on me. the fight has begun . He gives me a punch and then a kick . My mom shouts " Come on , John " ( You called him JOHN wonder u deserve a special applause for ur enthusiasm )...

As always I give in . But I should not give him an easy win for JOHN CENA is supposed to win after a tough fight ( or else his pride would be affected ) . So as usual I block some of his blows and push him down on the bed and press him on the bed . He remains helpless for a few seconds after which a deafening "aaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrgghhhhhhhh , " sound rocks my entire flat .( NO wonder the downstairs mama is not a fan of JOHN Just like how the heroes in our movies suddenly get a spurt of anger on seeing their sister being molested by the goon and break the shackles with a 'aaa' sound my bro suddenly gains power and breaks my grip...he again gives me a kick . The look on his face . Priceless. I wouldnt mind a million kicks for that happiness .

Now I lay back on the bed acting unconscious . But usually the routine is he would ask me for a defeat and he would be declared a winner . But this time , strangely even after a few seconds nothin seemed to be happening . So I secretly opened my eyes and turned back . I saw my bro a few feet above me hanging on my window pane . Oh no . "Daiiiiiii , here I come ," he jumped from there . "AAAAAAAAAAAhhhhh" ...he landed on my back .... and that really hurt ( Ada pavi I thought to myself wondering where the referee had gone ..."kula vilakku " I heard a distant voice from the living I knew where the referee was ( Kula vilakku is the name of the never ending serial which was partly responsible for my broken back that day .....)

"I quit " I shouted ....

John cena aka ashwin stood there , with a priceless expression of ecstasy written all over his face. He had won against the BIG SHOW . He raised his hands and shouted "I won ..." and started jumping . He was the champion and that was his 7 th consecutive victory . He was invincible . The moment of joy , his laughter and his proud look , just made my back pain vanish. These are moments which have been lost in the facades of the complicated process of growing up . We have long forgotten , the art of dreaming that is bestowed in plenty with these innocent minds , those little joys which your credit card could never buy , those joys of winning , the naive confidence that you could 'do' and 'be' whatever you wanted ..... .Well thanks a lot for reminding me of these little but most important things in life . I love you bro . Hope you too dont get lost like 'us'..

And I realised that ,
sometimes the true joy of winning is found in losing too....

May 6, 2009

The Birthday surprise !!!

"Machan , tomorrow is her birthday and I am planning to give her a surprise " I spoke over the phone to dinesh . "Great da. enjoy machan " he replied ..."Well...err...I am going to her place now da and I want you to come with me " I reluctantly asked ..."WTF machan...Its 10 p.m da . are you crazy ??""No da . I am damn serious .....".I tried convincing him..After a lot of if's and but's I finally convinced dinesh . Phew , a good start I thought to myself .

He came in his activa and we started out on our journey at 11 . "Dai ...think again..I guess its too risky ..What if someone sees you or her parents wake up ", Dinesh kept asking the unanswerable question ..Well to be honest I was very afraid . I could not even imagine the consequences but however the thrill and the feel of surprising her somehow overcame the fear. "Whatever happens we are going machan "......

11.45 p.m
Standing in the adjacent street "now whats the plan " I asked ..
"Fucker , we come until here and you ask whats the plan ..."
"I mean I need to go ..But I need some reassurance da...Just act as if we are brave machan .."
Till this point it was all fine but after coming there I really wanted to piss in my pants ..the heart beats had just started beating at the rate that any doctor from the tamil movies would have exclaimed "Its a medical miracle "...

"Ok wait here ..I shall call her now and then take your activa , ride it till her gate , and then give her the gift and return...simple " ...Well how I wished it was as easy as that ...

"Hi "I called her on the phone ..

"Idiot , you are too early its not yet 12 "
As if i didn't know ...."umm...well , I will be there at your gates at 12...So just come out " I tried faking a voice which knew no fear...But however my legs were shaking ( body strong ...ana basement weaku)

"wtf " ...strangely everyone scolded me the same way..."u gone nuts ...what if ...."she said ...and after 5 minutes of bashing " K ...I will come " .....( and that's the spirit honey)

"Ooooooooo....." I gave dinesh a hi five and took his bike( In case if he ever reads it he will be a happy guy coz I called it a bike ...)

"All the best da...and before you go I am really afraid of the dogs ...I cant stand here. tell me some way out "

"Ada pavi .." I cursed him ...2 minutes later there was a poor , innocent guy with a stone as huge as his head in his arms for protection against the so called evils of the street dogs and the one and only me getting ready for the action . I prayed to god that no one should come by this street for they would seriously mistake dinesh to be the "mystery-stone-killer" ...

Finally gathering my guts , I started . For once even the activa engine sound seemed to be deafening . I had just slowly given the throttle but before I even realised I was in front of her gate . I switched the engine off . But still there was some sound similar to the engine . Oh , shit ..It was my heart. I guess my blood was on a race course track inside my arteries . I gave her the coveted call and whispered "come down "...

I just looked around . There was absolute darkness except for the lone street lamp at the corner of the street . Thankfully the dogs were not there or dinesh must be engaging them in the next street I thought . Saw a shadow moving across the window panes . I took a deep breath .

I got off the bike and went near her gate and stood casually as if nothing was going to happen.

And suddenly "grrr" a voice echoed .The murphys law was working (IF something can go wrong it definitely will )...grrr ...brrr...bow bow ...a dog started barking from inside the gate .But she never warned me about the dog . Oh fuck... The lights turned on...not just at her home but even at the neighbours place . I jumped to my activa . It didnt start...Oh fuck , Please start (I even called you a bike ). .."Watchman ...Catch him " a voice shouted . Oh GOD ..."Please save me "I prayed . The activa started but not before a strong hand had come over my shoulders.... a few hours later ...inside the K4 police station "Sir , I am from a decent family . Inspector Balram , please trust me . I didn't come to steal .I just came to ...."

"Oye ..Idiot " a voice whispered ... I thought inspector Balram had a gruff voice looking at his huge physique ..But somehow strangely it sounded very sweet ...

"Oye idiot ...u alive " he again asked ...suddenly I got into my senses it was not he , it was she . I was still at the gates before I had started dreaming . Thankfully there was no MR inspector Balram , It was her , standing near the gate . She looked very beautiful ..Sleepy eyes , unkempt hair, a pink night dress , a milky white face which glowed under the moonlight and a mesmerizing smile - well , I had lost my heart yet again . Felt the same way , when I had first seen her in college three years back . "Ooops ...Happy birthday honey ...and you look damn beautiful ," I shook her soft hands . Aaaha . Feeling her palms in the midnight was certainly worth the effort ...Before I again get dreamy , I gave her the gift and said "Oye , happy birthday once again ...and will meet you tomorrow in a much better way " ....

"Thank you dumbo ...really sweet of you !!! " , She again gave her cute smile and vanished ...ha ha ....mission successful ... and what a birthday surprise !!! .. Time for me to vanish as well ....see you in the next post ...

P.S : Dinesh was safe ...To be honest the dogs were safe...