Smokers Die Younger

It was exquisite.

Soft beams of light seeped in through the frosted glass, like water dripping from a corporation-tap. Reflecting on the milky-white tiles of the bathroom, the light strayed about the four congested walls in infinite loops of Brownian motion, making the bathroom fittings seem gothic in a bohemian glow. He wasn’t sure whether it was Brownian motion or not; physics was his Achilles ’ heel – precisely why the physics professor at the IIT coaching class chucked him out, four years ago. He smiled at the thought – he had come a long way since then.

“Why’re you smiling dude?”

Sujoy’s voice echoed – floating through the psychedelic notes of Floyd.

Pink Floyd is sex.

Being a virgin, he couldn’t be sure – but if his more experienced friends were to be trusted, yes it is. The songs did something to men (and women), or, why else would two (perfectly heterosexual) friends light up in their toilets?

Why else would he, of all people, decide to light up, at all?

CC Credits: Pratheesh Prakash

If there was anything about the world that he hated – it was the cigarette. He could stand alcohol – he hated the smell, but drunk dudes were fun. He didn’t mind those of his friends that smoked up, they went on to win quizzes and debates, despite acting weird at times. He even got himself to forgive his pedophile of his friend, who proudly publicized his ‘conquest’ of the teenaged cousin, amid glory – he would probably rot in hell. But the cigarette…

Heck, no.

It all started when he first caught his dad in the act. He was a toddler, back then and thought his father was doing some magic trick by ‘eating fire’. Confident of repeating his dad’s amazing feat – he tried ‘eating’ a rolled-up newspaper with the other end on fire. He didn’t get himself singed thanks to a vigilant mom who went on to counsel her child, rather unparliamentarily. At the end of a passionate ‘one to one’ – the child emerged with tears in his eyes, countless cane-marks on his thighs and a hatred for the ‘tiny burning cylinder’.

As he grew up, he learned how deadly ‘the burning cylinder’ was and realized how badly his father was addicted to it. The last thing he wanted was to lose his father to gruesome mouth/blood cancer . He even devised an ingenious way to force his father into kicking the habit. The very next day, his mom scampered onto the terrace, having heard his father breaking into a vicious coughing spree. He smugly looked on as his mom rubbed his teary-eyed father’s back;  tobacco when ingested with chilli powder gives interesting results, indeed.

From then on, his dad made it a point not to leave his Wills packets unattended.

Time sailed on, and life changed for the smartass pre-teen who now grew into a young man caught in a time-warp. Life just wasn’t happy-go-lucky any more. He flunked life’s tests, the same way he flunked despicably in exam. By the time he was 21, he had gotten himself beaten-up, was abandoned, lost his lady love and had gotten himself killed nearly-twice. Yet – he stayed himself clear of the ‘sutta’, which now even had a tribute-song of the same name to boot, all set to lure him.

At the end of the day, Pink Floyd won, where ‘Zeest  – the band’ lost.

Lip service from Sujoy didn’t hurt. There’s just one life (Sujoy was Christian and didn’t subscribe to rebirth) – why waste it depriving oneself of the many pleasures and possibilities it offers? Some pleasures may slow down life’s timer, but old-age is pain. Be a man.  Die in pleasure. Die happy. Die young.

Sujoy’s logic was undeniable.

He felt his body shiver as realization drove deep in. He had been through enough already. He had successfully repelled plenty of the worldly-vices (but fell prey to many others). Yet, life double-crossed him. Now the ball was in his court. His arms trembled – he even felt the world around him vibrate in resonance. Heck, he could even hear a buzz that grew louder in intensity with time – must be the resonance in action, he thought. The vein on his forehead twitched. Rivulets of sweat soiled his shirt. He stretched open his right arm (which was now trembling flailing incessantly). Revealing one of his classy smiles reserved for special occasions, Sujoy gingerly placed the Davidoff on our dude’s palm.

Davidoff Lights – It was slender and long. With great difficulty, he maneuvered his thumb, ring finger and little finger to push the cigarette between his index finger and the middle finger. He had half a mind to throw that despicable killing machine down and crush it with his feet. But…

“I… I gotto pee.”

The Forrest Gump moment.

“Be my guest.”

Sujoy ushered him into a ‘palatial’ restroom. Slamming the door behind him, our friend rushed inside. Opening the toilet seat, he lifted his right hand high in the air, and aimed the cigarette at the pot…

He had played the role of Chandrasekhar Azad in a school tableau – where he aimed a (fake) revolver at a group of attacking police officers. The cigarette was the sole bullet in our Azad’s revolver  – and a white ‘pot’ of cops silently returned the stare. Back then, the ten-second tableaux won him the first place, but that day, he ‘enacted’ the scene for good ten-minutes. Then, like Azad, he drove his ‘bullet’ into his head.

Into his mouth, rather.

A concerned Sujoy, forced the door open to see the newly-christened Azad gaze blankly back – donning an unlit cigarette between his lips.

Sujoy flashed his ‘classy smile’ the second time, that day.

Soon, Sujoy’s Nokia 5130 Xpressmusic acquired position beside the shaving mirror – duly playing ‘High Hopes’ from Floyd. He shoved a bucket aside and sat on a chair brought from the dining room, while his friend made himself comfortable on the toilet seat. Sujoy conjured a lighter from nowhere and flicked it. The reddish-orange flame swayed like a belly dancer on trip.

“Let’s light up together, shall we?” Sujoy winked. Our friend bent down with Sujoy, aiming his cigarette to the flame. “Carefully man, A forest fire’s the last thing I want,” Sujoy took a dig his friend’s perennially-unkempt hair. Our man barely noticed the snide comment. His eyes were transfixed at the tip of his cigarette – which now made contact with the flame. The edge of the cigarette smouldered in an eerie glow. Tobacco and nicotine burned.

A moment late to notice Sujoy withdraw his lit cigarette, our friend pulled his head back. He looked up at Sujay, who seemed to be sucking the cigarette like a kid enjoying his frooti. A couple of seconds later, he withdrew the cigarette from his mouth and blew out a long trail of smoke. Having inhaled some of the smoke, he coughed badly – he loathed the very smell of cigarette smoke – it always made him cough. He wondered how it would be when he had the real thing.

Noticing his friend eyeing him quizzically, Sujay played teacher. “Look, first inhale through your mouth, as if the cigarette were a straw,” he took a drag. After blowing a (longer) trail of smoke, he clarified: “Then, inhale through your nose – the smoke has to get to the lungs. Otherwise, you’d be ‘mouthfagging’ which is the smoker’s equivalent of masturbation. You don’t wanna do that, do you? Now blow out the smoke, like what I just did. Try!”

Now our dude nearly had a heart-attack – he was so sure he had one, cause he hadn’t seen his heart beat this fast till date. Nevertheless, he mustered all courage, and took a deep drag at the cigarette, closing his eyes, half expecting himself to collapse due to a long bout of coughs. Having trapped the ‘smoke’ inside him, he opened his eyes.

“Now, inhale,” our friend followed Sujoy’s instructions and took a deep breath. He was so sure he’d cough away for the rest of the day, just because of this single drag.

Turns out that he didn’t.

As he inhaled, he felt something happen to him – a peculiar sensation took hold of his head. It wasn’t a bad feeling. On the contrary, he felt real good – a ‘ring of pleasure’ formed around his forehead, around his eyebrows. He felt slightly dizzy and elated.

Our buddy had the first ‘high’ of his life.

“Dude, you’re a bag of surprises – I expected you to lay writhing on the floor. But, look at you right on the first drag itself! Awesome man!  ‘High’-five,” the Barney fan in Sujoy lifted his left palm, but never got the return five.

Meanwhile our friend took another drag. And another. And another. As soon as this cigarette got over, he lit up another one.  He went on to smoke six cigarettes in a row, until he felt like vomiting – he felt as if some virus had infected his entire system, starting from his throat. He stood up, only to find that he couldn’t balance himself properly – he felt so ‘high’ that he thought his head hit the ceiling, only to realize the pointlessness of that PJ he just made up and smile involuntarily.

The sick feeling was at its peak, as he dumped his sixth cigarette into the closet. He thought he’d vomit any moment – smoking was indeed a bad idea. The high felt good, but the ‘hangover’ wasn’t quite appealing. He drunk six glasses of water, and had his second breakfast for the day from Sujoy’s place. Only then did the tendency to puke pass.

As he bade good bye to Sujoy, he renewed his pact  – he wouldn’t touch another cigarette for the rest of his life. Ever.


The protagonist of this story died of lung cancer, thirty six years later. He was a chain smoker, known to smoke at least three packets a day. He’s survived today  by his wife and two children. The man spent the last few years of his life in deep agony. Yet, he regularly used to sneak away for a secret puff. “I won’t touch another cigarette,ever,” he promised to his wife moments before he passed away.

The staff nurse found two packets of cigarettes and a lighter from the man’s clothes, later that day.

Narration Personal Story

The Pigeon

My blissful sleep was rudely disturbed by the ear-piercing “chirp” of the calling bell. My bedroom’s upstairs, and located right adjacent to the calling bells. Yep, you heard (or rather read) it right – ‘B-E-L-L-S’. There are a total of three calling bells at my place, two of which are ‘strategically’ placed above my bedroom-door. There’s this obnoxiously-loud bell that chirps (well, literally, if the sound(noise) emanated a cuckoo is “chirp”) at a few hundred decibels. Now, our chirping bell has its switch at the staircase and it successfully serves its purpose – to rudely shake me up from my slumber! 😐 The bell is the last arrow in mom’s quiver to get me downstairs. She’d press the switch for minutes on end, until my tympanum explodes to smithereens. Needless to say,  the arrow was spot-on.

Exasperated at having missed-out my afternoon-nap, I grouchily hobbled down to mom. It was about five thirty in the evening; my tummy grumbled and mouth watered as my biological clock sounded its alarm. Coffee time! The mental reverie of expected evening snacks brought me back to the high. Only to be thoroughly disappointed – we’d run out of milk and I was instructed to go get milk from the friendly-neighborhood grocer. Worse, mom wouldn’t pay me! If I wanted coffee, I’d have to get milk with my own money – mom rambled on about responsibility. I shrugged; Mom wins hands-down. 😐 I fished a hundred rupee note out of my jeans pocket and trudged out in pursuit of my evening snack.

I didn’t quite notice it until I opened the door. I was too preoccupied with my thoughts to bother. But then, it was so obvious, and I did notice it, albeit late:

A pigeon rested atop our Maruti! :O

Quite a sight, it was. A pigeon is not the first thing you expect to see on top of your car, especially when you’re still hung over with a two-hour nap. (Inception? I momentarily searched for my totem! 😛 ) It wasn’t one of those pretty-pigeons that you see in period movies. Mostly dark, its wings and beak were the only white parts of its body. Cliche talks about snow-white pigeons that delivered letters proclaiming love. But cliches were a far cry for our friend; she could barely fly. Dark pupils stared at me from its orange eyeballs, as it hobbled atop the car to catch a glimpse of me. The pigeon wasn’t magnificent, but it had its elegance.

Unable to suppress my awe, I gingerly moved towards the car. The pigeon had noticed my presence, and it moved away from me with quick, stuttering jumps. But I was too fast for it. I rested my body on the Maruti’s side-glass and reached out to the pigeon with both arms. The bird made no move to flutter its wings. Curiously enough, it ceased the unsteady hobble and paused the stuttering motion. It stood still and stared at my eyes, as I stared back. I gradually edged my hand forward and patted the tiny bird on its head. It didn’t move a feather, evidently hurt. It looked tired and it could certainly not fly. I reached out further and reached the pigeon with my palm, gradually lifting it. It was shuddering now, rocking its tired claws hither-thither. A part of it wanted to fly away, it was probably scared of me – for all it new, I could well be a predator. Sensing its fear, I eased the grip and moved slowly to my veranda, and rested it upon the concrete-granite platform by the side. I removed my hands from the bird. It still didn’t move a muscle. With its innocent eyes examining the red-granite floor and the plants behind it, it peered around the new environs. It walked about in tiny steps, nay, jumps. The bird seemed to trust me with its life, its body made no rapid movements. It looked calm, and there was no visible external damage to be seen. I first assumed that its wings must’ve been clipped or something, but no – the pigeon was about to fall as it missed a step near the edge of the platform – it fluttered its wings in full bloom and got itself back to position. I was both intrigued and endeared. 🙂

Taking care not to disturb the bird out of its idyll, I rushed into the kitchen and brought mom out to the veranda.Incensed that I hadn’t purchased the milk, she didn’t believe me at first, but I cajoled her out, and made her see the pigeon for herself. She was a tad too endeared than I was. The motherly affection took over; before I knew it, she was back with a few grains of rice which were carefully doled out to the birdie. But our chic was gracious enough not to accept the offering; it moved away from the grains, the tiny tummy was probably full. In the meantime, neighbours were informed and soon my verandah was a makeshift-menagerie. Dad,  who announced his arrival from work with a groan, dog tired, dumped his files to join the commotion. The pigeon was a mini-miracle that couldn’t be missed.

Soon, speculations were high in the air. How (or why) did the bird came over? Why isn’t the bird eating?  Is its tummy full? Why is it greyish-black and not white?  All questions were left unanswered. Some consensus was conjured-up on the arrival-reason though. The ‘injured-hurt’ theory (dad used some logic to put his point forward) won hands-down, beating ‘divine intervention’ (mom’s idea) and joblessness (yours truly). Neighbours were equally ecstatic about our visitor. They took turns to touch and caress the bird. The kids were super-excited – Aravind, a third grader, pulled its wings, scaring our bird into a momentary frenzy, in turn making its captor cry. It took a chocolate to pause the tears of the little ornithologist; he maintained the theory that the bird ‘bit’ him despite the lack of visual proof. The bird peered back at us, inwardly smiling at all the hullabaloo.

It was 7 PM, when the neighbours had left and I finally went out and bought the milk, an hour and a half out of schedule; not that I was complaining. I was pleasantly surprised when I returned, The bird-that-would-not-eat was now belligerently-pecking at the grains it once ignored! It was still seated atop the veranda-platform. I tiptoed close to it and watched. No sooner did I approach it, the incessant pecking halted, and the bird turned to me. So birds value their privacy! Interesting. I shrugged, delivered the groceries, and ran back to the drawing-room window to check  Li’l Ms. Pigeon out.  As expected, she was eating to her heart’s content in our absence. 🙂 I called my parents and showed them the phenomenon.

All of us were beginning to love our uninvited guest who was turning out to be a bag of surprises. 🙂

After some brainstorming, we decided to allocate a safe shelter for our new tenant. The verandah-slab, on which she was still perched, wasn’t exactly safe for an immobile bird. We reached a consensus on building a temporary shelter for our bird. Now, there’s an attic (more of an plastic-roofed terrace guarded by metallic-grills) at my place. We decided to lodge the pigeon there. Dad brushed up his engineering knowledge and conjured up a makeshift-home from an old computer monitor cover. Mom gently grabbed the bird and took it to the terrace. Suprisingly, the bird cozied up to my mom, not showing the slightest attempt of protest. I smiled.  🙂 A pitcher of water, and more rice grains were brought, and the ‘shelter’ was affixed on the sunshade within the attic. Our little pigeon had her own home, complete with a tiny door. Yes, she could go out and grab some fresh air if she so wanted.  The pigeon seemed to love its new home – it resumed pecking the tiny grains, gobbling up water from the tiny pitcher, fully aware of our presence, this time. We were all happy. The pigeon was here to stay. The three of us dispersed. Dad returned to his laptop and files, mom rushed back to her cooking and I returned to facebook.

After dinner, I thought I’d pay our buddy a visit. I simply couldn’t get enough of her! 🙂 I’ve always wanted a pet, but refusal was all I got whenever the request was made. 🙁 When I was in the eighth grade, my uncle had gifted us an Alsatian pup, and it was an offer my dad couldn’t refuse. I was overjoyed! 🙂 But the days of joy didn’t last – good ol’ Robin died a tragic death. 🙁 Since then, I’ve been craving for a pet. Perhaps the li’l pigeon was God’s gift. The more I thought about it, the more joyous I became. Even though the pigeon wasn’t exactly ‘adopted’ as the ‘resident pet’, I had already done the honors in my mind. I actually was on the lookout for a good name for my good old pigeon.

With an involuntary smile pasted on my face, I opened the door to the attic and stepped out. I didn’t switch on the light, it was bright enough – full moon day. Besides, the light might actually disturb her meal, for, the flurouscent lamp was adjacent to her shelter.

“Chinnu kutti!” – I called out to the pigeon. No, that wasn’t a name I’d fixed – ‘Chinna’ in Malayalam/tamil means ‘small’. And our PYB (Pretty Young Bird), was tiny and small. So…


A muffled ‘thud’ and a scamper.

Must be one of those coconuts – our attic is dangerously close to a coconut tree, and the roof routinely-suffers from the fall of stray coconuts.

I moved towards the sunshade. Curiously enough, the ‘shelter’ was missing from the sunshade. Duh! Did dad remove it or what? Dad has this fetish of ‘arranging proper things at proper places’ and he wasn’t exactly enamored about the sunshade being our bird’s abode. He was the one who suggested it in the first place, cause he couldn’t stand bird-crap on our marble floors, but he didn’t feel it was right too. He must’ve shifted the ‘shelter’ to someplace else. I decided to find out on my own. I got back into the hall that led to the attic and switched on the lights and returned, humming a mock-James Bond tune. Investigation time!

I paused on my tracks as I stepped into the attic. Before I knew it, I’d stopped humming too. My fists loosened, my eyes dilated as my heart started beating faster.

Something terrible had happened.

The makeshift-shelter lay collapsed on the attic-floor, along with the steel pitcher. Water was splayed across the floor, along with grains of rice. Tiny black and white feathers were spread out in different parts of the floor. There was a long, oval shaped, red stain on the floor, formed by droplets of blood, fresh-smeared.

The pigeon was missing.

My heart missed a beat. Panicking was not an option, though – it was quite obvious and there’s no turning back. The ‘thud’ noise was that of an escaping animal (a cat probably). The bird was too weak to retaliate, and…

Fate, it seems, is not without  a sense of irony. 😐

I slowly trudged downstairs with trembling arms, to break the news to my parents…  What else could I do? 🙁


True story. Down to the last detail.  🙁

Fun Life

The Inheritance of Loss 2.0

This post is cross-posted from the Tata Jagriti Yatra blog. I’d written the post during the yatra, and it was published in the blog, back then. Looking back at my archives, I thought this post is worth publishing. 🙂 You may find the original post here. There’s another post of the same name in this blog – a post that dates four years back. Even it’s on the same lines. 🙂 You might want to check it out here.

I’m no stud. Plagiarizing the title of Kiran Desai’s booker-winning piece wouldn’t make me one either. I’m that random guy you’d find on every other sleepy, small-town in India. I’d be sitting next to you on the public bus, sipping tea (aptly paid by a couple of borrowed one rupee coins) by a chawl, or even aimlessly roaming about on a crowded city road. “Another brick in the wall.” as you (a.k.a. ‘the stud’) might put it. You’re welcome; your gratitude for my praise is duly accepted and acknowledged. And before you brush my compliment off, dismissing me with the ‘brick-wall’ figure of speech, let me shed some more piece of info, buddy. I’m a tad different. I’ve this not one among these regular red bricks you see piled up by construction sites. I’ve a distinct shade of orange.

It took me a nation-wide train journey to fully comprehend the implications of my difference – A journey, which not only made me bankrupt and awakened me to the point of enlightenment. Bankrupt, because the organizers snubbed out my humble pleas for sponsorship and I had to bust my life’s savings for it. Enlightened, because even though I’m penniless, I’ve found my calling, and I’ve learned hundred times more than what they teach you at those B-schools.

Apologies for the digression and the hyperbole – but then again, you might’ve had an insight into the nuances of my simple mind. And allow me to get back to where I started off – the booker winning book’s title. I plagiarized the title because it was the phrase that made the most sense to me, given the chaotic circumstances. With your due permission, I shall elaborate on what actually transpired.

Okay, so to cut the human excreta, this train journey which instilled high hopes in me, not to mention romanticized notions of the country, was marked by the four letter word L-O-S-S. Materialistically speaking, I lost more than what I gained. Did you hear the song about a raspy-voiced guy singing about the things he’d lost in the past seven days? If not, shame on you. Feed yourself some staple food from your country’s watched movie industry, st-ude (st-ude = stud + dude, for further references). And since it’s been exactly seven days into this ‘Yatra’ and I’m sort-of maniacally-obsessed by the song, being the random movie-obsessed guy that I am, I thought I’d make the fact public, just like the raspy-voiced guy.

It all started on day 1, with an irreparable tear on my brand new Alen Solly shirt. Obnoxious optimism (with due regards to Mark Twain), made me attribute the primal loss to bad karma. With the smile back on my face, I leaped onto the train and set off. Then on, virtually, there was no looking back. Each day meant the loss of a new item. My favourite Nokia 3110c, my toothbrush, an unopened Reebok tee, an IIM Bangalore watch, my towel (lost to laundry), countless pens, medicines, and God-alone-knows-what. When I say the list is endless, it actually is.

It’s bad. Or rather, it’s *insert-expletive-here*. Each day, you wake up to check your purses, bags, and pockets, only to realize that you’ve another lost item. And the panic starts. You feel the trepidation in your arms, which is surprisingly infectious. Your arms, legs and your entire body, in that order, feel this blitzkrieg of adrenaline. And then, you start foraging. Your mind’s eye rushes through your memoirs of the past couple of (awake) hours, tracking your (invisible) footprints. And then, like the Na’avi from Avatar (watch the movie, if you haven’t), you leap off in pursuit. You overturn all the bags, books, blankets, soiled socks, stinky towels, and every other thing that blocks your line of sight. At first, your roommates are empathetic and willingly join-in. But with time, they realize that this is cest la vie for you. And then, you’re at the butt of ridicule. Progressively, you disappear into the ambiance as a lone maverick being, showing proof of your existence by making periodic appearances at the announcement desk beseeching the announcement of your latest loss.

If serious doubts about my optimist claim have started cropping up in your mind by now, chill. The sole reason why I never stop my search is because I know I’d find my stuff someday, somewhere. And yeah, I’ve already found most of them. Yet, each day beckons to a new loss, and I’d have to balance the pursuit of loss with the pursuit of inspiration, which I admit, is quite tasking. Yet, it’s no daunting task.

‘Cause if a brick like me can multitask, so can a stud like you! ☺

If you find some of the items that I’ve mentioned anywhere around (not necessarily in the train), do give me a buzz. I’d certainly appreciate it, not just verbally.

Bottom Line

I actually ended up finding everything I lost on train, while plenty of others didn’t. 😛

College Fun Life

What’s in a name?

A name’s the most primary identification mark of any person. It’s one of the only entities about us that’s both intensely personal and unabashedly public. It’s something you take pride in (not always, but in general) and hold closest to your heart – and it’s also that piece of info about yourself that you’d willingly share with almost every other person you acquaint with. Your name says a lot about you; it signifies your caste, your religion and even your persona: Often “You are what your name means!” 😛 (Okay, that’s an inaccurate hypothesis and I’ll elaborate why).


Now, all of us aren’t exactly in love with our names, are we? Many change names in the course of their lives. The reasons being social (change of religion, marriage), astrological (Think Numerlogy and astrology), or even personal (sheer hatred of your weird name). But our names have been lovingly bestowed upon us by our parents, and changing your name would mean, changing our identity altogether, won’t it? And in these days of inane red-tape, a name-change would mean countless forms, corrections, modifications and what not! Changing what you’re called, just once, can be such a pain in the ass, right?

How would you feel if you you had a new name each day? 😛

Here’s an anecdote. Rewind 54 years.

1956. Picture a village in Rural Kerala. A kid is born into a fading aristocratic Nair family. Now, the once-prosperous Tharavaadu is in the throes of total destruction, thanks to economic mismanagement and a profusion of Legal Troubles. This kid is born as the youngest in a family of 8. Now, this family has a huge disparity in terms of ages, best explained by the fact that the kid’s oldest brother got married when the kid was one year old! 😐 Way back in the ’50s, being the youngest kid wasn’t as cool as it is right now. The kid’s parents were too busy managing his seven siblings and their own troubles,  to give him a second look. His mother didn’t have enough time to even breastfeed the kid. What’s worse, the kid did not have a name, even when he was two years old! 😐 😐 He was too small an entity to be considered, when the landlord father of his was losing acres of land and his imported Ford to a slew of court-cases!! Heights of bad parenting, if you ask me.

By the time the kid was three years old, the family was impoverished, more or less. Most of the property was in dispute – the sole lifeline of the family was a ten acre rice-field, and some cattle. The kid-who-had-no-name wasn’t even encouraged to eat three meals a day, let alone go to school. He had no issues with the lackadaisical attitude of his parents, however. Too mature for his age, he learned to mingle with neighbourhood kids and enjoyed his life, blissfully unaware of the troubles around him.

One day, a group of middle-aged men and women marched into the Tharavaadu. They were greeted by the kid’s mom with trembling arms. Were they officials from the court, all set to attach the only property they had? They coterie of well dressed people turned out to be teachers from the local Government school. Apparently, the school was about to be closed down due to lack of attendance, and there was an DEO (District Education Officer)-inspection due. The teachers were hunting for kids to substitute  ‘real’ children so that the school wouldn’t get decommissioned; their jobs were at stake. While the teachers were explaining their predicament to a now-relieved mom, our kid marched into the courtyard, clad in a loincloth-style knicker, happily playing with a discarded cycle tyre – his only toy. As soon as he entered, this lady teacher pounced upon him immediately, the way a lioness would perch upon a zebra, and bribed him with a bunch of toffees. That was the first time the kid tasted a toffee, and boy, he loved it! 😛 Within a few minutes, a deal was fixed. The kid would attend school whenever an inspector came to school, and he’d get free meals as a gift. The kid was too satiated to relent – milk, countless toffees and nourished WHO-sponsored meals were a welcome relief from his daily-porridge.

The very next day, he set off to school donning the new ‘uniform’ the guests had bestowed him with. Walking four kilometers, criss-crossing rivers and jumping fences, the kid finally reached his destination. Tired he was, but sweet promises of delicious milk and meals kept him going. No sooner had the kid reached school, he was ushered in by a peon, and was rushed to the lady teacher from yesterday. She had a bunch of kids of various shapes and sizes beside her. The teacher smiled at him, and examined a list. Then she gently told him:

“Monte peru innu Mohandas ennu aanu ketto? Aa inspector attendance edukkumbo ‘Mohandas’ ennu vilikkum. Appo kai pokkanam ketto. Ennittu namukku kazhikkaame?”

(Your name today, is Mohandas. That inspector will take attendance and he’ll call ‘Mohandas’. Raise your hands then. After he leaves, you can have your lunch. “)

The kid happily nodded. 🙂

Soon the inspector was in class, and called out the names. He must have been astonished as to how tiny a kid Mohandas was – he did frown at seeing a seven year old who was more of a three year old, but he let it pass and moved on to the next person. ‘Mohandas’ rushed after class to have a satiating meal. He loved his school!

Then on, the kid was a sure-pick whenever inspectors attended class. Each time, he’d be attending a new class, sporting a new name. “Vijaya Kumar”, “Raghavan”, “Krishna Kumar”, “Rajeev Pillai”, “Shekhar Nair”, “Peter Simon”, “Adel Aziz” – he’d gotten used to being referred to with new names. As the kid was six years old, he’d attended all classes and division from the first grade to the fourth grade – and he enjoyed it! Soon, he’d deliberately attend classes, seating himself in different classes each day, choosing a new name for himself; the school was perennially-underpopulated, so no one really cared. The teachers loved him, he’d saved their asses plenty of times, and the kid was too good a student for his age. He was doted upon, and got to drink plenty of WHO-certified milk, subsidized by the U.N. The kid was fat and healthy as he turned 11 – a far cry from the impoverished, knicker-clad three year old. With time, the kid developed a strong penchant for studies. He loved science and math – and he excelled in the latter, thanks to a Mathematics exponent of a brother who enjoyed passing on lessons to his sibling.

Years passed, and the kid had reached tenth grade (fifth form, as it was called, back then). He still had no definite name, but his ‘names’ were narrowed down to five or six, maybe. The date came to register for the SSLC Board Exams. The kid went to the teacher in charge of examinations – who was new to the school. When he approached the teacher, she asked the kid for his name. Now, that question was quite a googly for our buddy, no one had asked him what his name was, till then (apart from the occasional visiting government inspector, of course)! 😐 He was referred to by his classmates by whatever nickname they chose for him, and he never really bothered about it till date. The realization stuck him hard! He did not have a name to himself! For the first time, the school’s most brilliant student could not blurt out an answer to a question posed by a teacher.

Noticing his silence, the teacher looked up from her register and quipped:

“Oh, I know you! You’re Ramesh Babu! 🙂 I taught you the other day at class. Sorry, I forgot you.”

That was the name he’d assumed during the previous inspection; this teacher was taking the class whilst the inspector came over. She did seem to have a good memory.

Before the kid could answer, the teacher wrote down ‘Ramesh Babu’, onto the register. The kid finally got himself a name.

The kid’s mom was about to return his hall-ticket back to the post man citing the absence of a ‘Ramesh babu’ in the family, when the kid rushed and grabbed it from the postman. He wrote the SSLC exams and passed them with flying colours. He did well for his Pre-Degree and went on to be an Electrical Engineer at a reputed Engineering College. After working in different companies all across the country, Ramesh joined Kerala State Electricity Board as an Assistant Engineer. His quest for knowledge spurred him to take an MBA while he was working. Now he’s a Chief Engineer at KSEB – widely respected and honoured, even by the Hon. Minister of Electricity, in Kerala.

The kid who had no name happens to be my father. 🙂

Bottom Line:

“Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony”.

– Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne), The Matrix Reloaded.