Friday, April 21, 2006

Osmania Biscuit XII Part IV: The Ragnarok

Yuge atthavIs Vitevari Ubha, VAmAngi RakhumAi dise divya ShObha,
PundalikAnche Bheti parabrahmAhegA, charaNi vAhe BhImA uddharilE jaga,
Jaya Jaya deva jaya Panduranga, Hari Panduranga,
Rakhumayichya vallabha RAhichya vallabha pAve jivalagA,
jaya deva jaya deva.

There is a flourishing Maharashtrian community in Hyderabad, centering itself in the areas of Koti, Gowliguda chaman, and Sultan Bazaar-Badi chowdi (there is a huge Maharashtrian community in Kalyan nagar colony also, but this not the time to discuss that). And it does its bit to add to the colour, culture and splendourof Hyderabad (or 'Hydhravaad').

The above four lines are taken from Vitthala's aarthi. This is sung with full vigour at the very famous Janglee Vithoba Temple near Gowliguda chaman, the very mention of which reminds me of my cousin Seenu. He is about 5-6 years elder to me, and he is already a Judge (dont ask me what court and all). But before he became a judge, he was once a kid. He was born after his five elder sisters, and he was given a lot of attention and a lot more care. His mother was intensely protective and wary about his well-being. And so it was that he was not allowed to learn even cycle, because of the fear that he may fall down. Young Seenu was better than that. Every evening, he used to tell his mother that he was going to janglee Vithoba Temple, but he used to straight to the "Royal Cycle Taxi" just adjacent to the temple. He practised riding velocipede around the temple premised which acted as a velodrome. After an hour or so, he returned home duly with kunkuma on his forehead and a noticeably big MandAram flower in his ear.

But now, Lingam and Co. found themselves heading exactly to that same temple after getting down from the bus just before Imlibun (which, incidentally, is no longer the biggest bus-station in Asia. The latest one is at Koyambedu, Chennai) and walking along the narrow lanes of the Old city. Though they didnt know it, they were no longer followed by Satyam's men. But there was a more sinister force looking out for them, and unlike the previous case, these men were intent upon inflicting maximum damage to our party here. The Satyam-Killer Gang's Stand-by Members' Association (SKGSMA) did not take the insults of our hero Lingam lightly. They were ready to pursue these people till the end of the world if that is the case.Both the parties reached the temple, and sat down on the platform around the big tree there. Now, there was only one guy from SKGSMA who knew what Lingam looked like, and he was presently relieving himself at that chattakundi a little ahead of where Lingam and party lay.

A few minutes passed, and nothing happened. Presently, the guy who had seen Lingam returned chewing (and spitting) pAn. And he could recognised Lingam from afar and then...
Both the parties saw him,
Both the parties saw each others' faces,
Both the parties nodded, understanding the situation,

While Nagaraj and his wife sprang from the platform in order to run, Lingam just got down, stood up to this full height and clenched his fists. Now, the SKGSMA didnt expect any resistance... They were suddenly in doubt. Nagaraj's wife called out to him, but no reaction. And at that moment, some words escaped Nagaraj in a language he had never heard in his life--

"He is beginning to believe!".

Nagaraj's wife got terrified and both of them ran away, unable to comprehand what just happened. But there was no looking back for Lingam. This was the moment he had been waiting for throughout his life-- To face his archenemy.. none other than Obul Reddy. When they were seated near the tree, Lingam overheard some conversation that astounded him-- That he appeared for EAMCET, and he had got a good rank of 2347, and he was dearly looking for a paid seat in EEE dept. of CBIT. He was late only by 5 minutes but some ^%$*%&* snuk up from behind, and took away his dream.. something he had nurtured since the last 23 days and 47 hours. And so, the dormant volcano in Lingam's heart was suddenly smouldering, ready to burst any time. But he controlled his anger looking at his weak cousin and his wife. No. They wont be able to bear it.

But now, there is was staring menacingly at the three people about 15 paces in front him. Fear, was not an option. He gave a loud shout and started charging (in slow motion) towards them....

Here follows what actually happened because coincidentally (?), Lingam's Osmania Biscuit packet got finished, and he is really not that honest (or even believable) when he is not eating O.B. His version from this part on, is really incoherent and implausible.

So, there we are! Lingam is charging towards Obul and gang. The other two men plainly saw what was going to happen. The guy would charge, and blow away even a sturdy guy like Obul. They plainly looked at each other and vanished from the scene.

And there was Lingam still charging towards Obul. Plainly, Obul was a bit scared, because he was alone now, and he didnt know what Lingam was capable of, in hand-to-hand combat. But something unexpected happened just then. Lingam did not charge directly into Obul. He veered to the left a bit and ran away into the street behind Obul as fast as he ran up towards him. A nonplussed Obul looked here and there, and without thinking, his feet started working themselves up and he started running behind Lingam-- this time, he wont leave him!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Osmania Biscuit XII part III: The Escape

It was precisely during these tumultous times that Lingam visited MBNR. He quickly grasped the situation and resolved to resolve it. After giving it a lot of thought, he decided that it was not worth so much though, and he went straight to Satyam's Lair and demanded admittance, which, he was very ungraciously denied even with the yadav-yadav connection. There are very moments when Lingam had to endure insult, and this was one of them. Red-faced, Lingam returned home.

In the evening, he went with nagaraj and his friends to Munawwar Dhaba. He was still fuming with anger, which kept flaring up and spewing out-bursts of atrocities in MBNR, and he didnt mind liberally sprinkling it with expletives. Now, Munawwar Dhaba has its share of frequenters, and some of them were Satyam's informers. They were watching this "non-local" fellow uttering things that are best left unsaid against their don. Their patience hit the limit when Lingam called "Erra Satyam" nothing more than "PacchAbaddham." Oh they got the pun alright! The next day, they went and told all this to the two fiercest gundas of Satyam, and it was was reputed that Satyam imported them from "the land down under"-- ThondamAn and PAlathondamAn. Incidentally, both of them were twins. Since they didnt know any other language than tamizh (albeit, they knew a little bit of telugu because of their training in carnatic music), these people had a tough time explaing the insulting part of the pun by Lingam. And when they did understand the pun, they simply couldnt get what was so insulting about it. Apparently, the localites convinced them that it was a big deal in MBNR. So the twins shrugged and took up the case and went straight to Nagaraj's place to settle things.

Now, the previous night, there were others who had listened to Lingam's fiery words. One of them apparently followed them and he knocked the door. Nagaraj invited him in, and he said he could become a friend of his and Lingam's if they were willing to help him out. He told them that Satyam's men were at Munawwar and heard what he said. He also told them about the twins, who had all MBNR shaken up. They came to know afterwards that he wanted to utilise this schism between yadavs. Nagaraj was swayed a bit by this talk, but Lingam was totally against what he calls as "groupisms". He offered him, some of his choicest expletives, and drove him out. It turns out that the guy was one of the stand-by people being trained for a sinister purpose of murdering Satyam. He was not among the chosen six, but if something happens to any one of the six, he was one of them posed to take the place as a replacement. And so, Lingam incurred the wrath of the Anti-Satyam camp as well, and they wanted to teach him a lesson too.

Early in the morning, the ThondamAn, and PAlathondamAn turned up at Nagaraj's hourse and knocked the door, and asked him to come out. Now, since both of them are twins, there are some problems with twins when they are not giuded by Satyam on what to say:
1) Both of them talk at the same time,
2) Both of them say exactly opposite things.

Only when they talk to one-another, they say the exact same words to each other. Of course, both of them still talk at the same time. It seems it is a congenital disorder.

No wonder that it looked like some inane blabber. The only solace was that they were speaking in Tamizh, and no Telugu, so no one understood what they were saying (Some people from Andhra think that if one has "pAn" and talk, whatever one says will seem like Tamizh). Nevertheless, it was all in vain, as Lingam and Co had already vanished from their home before sun-rise. But the twins got the wind of their route and took off after them. Lingam and Co. were hard put to it, because the hunt was closer than expected, and so they went off the road into the wild. Finally, by the evening, the three reached Jadcherla, and got into a bus to Hyd.

The twins were close in pursuit, but they missed these people only by a few minutes. Suddenly, both of them said "We are getting aggravated" in a language they hardly knew. They pondered about what they said just then, and why they said it, but as usual, shrugged it off, and started singing an alapana in Gummakambhoji to pass time (This raga is said to have unordinary powers, though its potential is largely unutilised). They knew these people would go to Hyderabad, and were weighing their options when they were recalled by Satyam's men. They had more pressing problems at hand.

Meanwhile, Lingam, along with Nagaraj and Vaasuki, was on his way to Hyderabad, to safety he thought, but his fate had something totally different in store for him. Is it out of the frying pan, into the fire for Lingam?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Osmania Biscuit XII Part II: Sarpasatram

Nagaraj was a cousin and a close friend of Lingam's. He comes to Hyd quite often to meet Lingam. He was recently married with a girl named Vaasuki (you would think its a coincidence that their names match, but you just wait!) from MBNR. At that time, Nagraj was worried abt his wife. She was a govt. teacher, and she used to work in a Lambada Tanda called Rukkannapalli, near Solipuram, in what used to be called then as S.T.P.S. (Single Teacher Primary School), with only 1 student. Added to that were her descriptions of the clandestine meetings of the Lambadi folk in the dead of the night at the place she used to stay, with talk of mesmerism and practice of 'dark arts'. Life was tough (and scary!).

Finally Nagaraj decided that his wife had enough and badly needed a transfer to MBNR proper, though she deemed herself tough. And so began Nagaraj's trials-- from Z.P.P. (Zilla Praja Parishad) office to Distt. Collector's office to Secretariat in Hyderabad and so on. He was exhausted in 'both of the three'-- mind, body and soul... There was only 1 way left-- To approach Erra Satyam. He thought the Yadav-Yadav connection would help him, but Erra Satyam's men told him that he already had "nominated" a fellow he is rumoured to like a lot there... someone called Kondanna (but his friends affectionately called him "Anna-Konda") to the only vacant post in MBNR proper. A dissappointed Nagaraj came home and told his wife about Anna-Konda. She was not moved. She was optimistic that any one with a heart would listen to a tale of danger and woe and give way to reason. Besides, Anna-Konda was already posted in MBNR. And so they went to Anna-Konda's place, and Vaasuki's plans were almost hatched when in came Anna-Konda's wife Rudramaamba (But since she was very dark, people used to call her "Black-Mamba"). Now Vaasuki and Black-Mamba were neightbours at one time and had a really really ugly altercation over who stole whose water when the municipal water tanker came to their colony. Vaasuki had won at that time (unfairly some thought!), and the time had come for pay-back. So began the pandemonium that has been widely publicised as "Sarpasatram" (if you get it!).

The end, though, was certain. Black-Mamba was in no mood to give in. An enraged Vaasuki threatened Anna-konda couple with impending curses and disaster, and in return, the Black-Mamba retorted that nothing can happen when Erra Satyam is on their side. Logically, this was the end of the confrontation, and the Nagaraj-couple left the place, rather worried where this might lead to.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Osmania Biscuit XII part I: The Introduction


As I was preparing to study for the "slip test" the next day, the power went off. After about half an hour, our neighbours got it back, but not us.. it was always our phase that had the problem. After a while, we were getting nervous about it... we were thinking about calling dawood miyan, the aged technician who had acquired unimaginable fame in fixing house-wiring problems, when suddenly Lingam barged in (almost Kramer Style, because the door was already open... come to think of it, we never used to close the doors even when there was a mosquito problem) and told us the problem was with the whole phase and a large part of Sripuram and Prashanth nagar colonies had no power, and left again. We felt relieved at this news.

An hour passed. Then, suddenly it seemed power was back.. but no! only low voltage-- that characteristic slow poison that gets to ones nerves... one is never sure when the power would be back, though one indication is that just before it comes back to normal (that "just before" can range from 5 minutes to 57 minutes), the power goes off completely.

And so, there we were, with my grand-mother inquiring about a stout, short woman on the road and my mother telling her she was the one whose daughter had eloped with some mudaliar whose childhood friend worked with her collegue Nayab-un-nisa when she used to work in Chevella (It is close to the now famous Chilukur temple). My grandmother revelled at this information, and a halo of epiphany enveloped her and its light spread through the mists of the smoke spewed by the 'Mosquito repellant van', falling on the silhouette of a man walking toward us.. the man we know as Lingam Yadav.

He looked rather excited as if he had stepped on something hot. It seemed he had some valuable information with him and he seemd compelled to share it with me. As usual, I was generous, ready to accept any bit of information given to me. He said something, but it was inaudible because of the high-decibel noise of the Mosquito repellant van .

"they killed the fifth one also."
"Which fifth one?"
"Arre!! The fifth of the six killers of the famous don (and MLA) of MBNR (that's short for Mahaboobnagar) Erra Satyam!! I told you right?"
"Oh! yes, yes."
"So, only one of the six is remaining... I think I know who it is."

Apparently, Lingam had a more than a little to do with Erra Satyam and his killers, and he sat down to tell the whole tale, which is no doubt totally baseless, but then, he took out his Osmania Biscuit packet and started nibbling at one, which always means whatever he says is absolutely right. So we braced ourselves for yet another Lingam tale.

Friday, April 14, 2006


The Tomb:

Chinmay didnt have many friends in Bangalore. As it goes, it never did have many friends anywhere in the world. Presently, he lived alone in an outhouse hidden behind the owners' towering building of 3 stories. Scarcely did sunlight enter the house--he never called it one, he called it "The Tomb". Every night, after spending a cheerful wonderful day outside in his office and an extremely forgettable dinner, he crawled back to his tomb to die for the night. The next morning he would again rise to life and get going. He wryly remarked to himself that he seemed between the Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu (for whom the greatest of the tombs, 'The Great Pyramid of Giza' was built) and Phoenix.

The Curse:

He had not eaten anything since the late breakfast, in a nearby 'Sagar', a 'stand-and-eat' joint. On that Sunday, it had been raining heavily, as it had been every single day since the last 10 days, and his cold was only getting worse. There was no electricity, so there was nothing to do. It was almost dinner time and he wanted something hot to eat, perhaps some rasam. But no, he cant have rasam. His dysentery had come back. Anyway, he couldnt think of a restaurant that served rasam as he liked it. Some soothing like curd-rice may be? But no-- the cold, remember? Some hot soup perhaps? The bad memories of arthropods making their presence felt in that soup he had at the only other restaurant in the vicinity precipitated themselves again. The only alternative left was idli. He loved idli. In fact, he used to say that idli is one of the greatest culinary inventions ever. But the proposition that he was forced to eat idli made him feel heavy of heart and helpless. He had idli the afternoon before,the night before, and that day morning. His tastebuds yearned for something else. He had been cursed to eat only idli, as if providence was bent upon making him detest that lovely dish. He was very ill, and felt forlorn and forgotten in that tomb.

The rain abated. Chinmay slowly came out and started instinctively creeping towards the Sagar. Exactly on top of this Sagar was that restaurant where he had to undergo that ordeal of learning how arthropods swim in soup. He reached the joint and prepared himself for the impending torture. He looked at the eating joint and asked himself what had life come to! He wondered if there was somebody called God and whether that God was listening to his intellections, but then he realised that the Guy-Up-There,if there was one, had no other choice. He had to listen to every thought of every being in the universe. He wondered that when they said 'God made man in his image', what they really meant was that man was born into a life of compulsions just as God is bound by them. Perhaps He doesnt know any other way it would work.

The Mutiny:

"The greatest of the greatest lies in the smallest of the smallest" said an Indian ('dots, not feathers!') philosopher. He couldnt have been more right, for something within this weakend and burdened heart stirred. He remembered how every moment of the life had to be enjoyed. He looked at the bright points which suddenly started revealing themselves as the nebula of melancholy began to blown away by the strong breeze of elation and optimism-- he was still young, he had travelled a lot and seen much worse times, he was drawing a more than decent starting salary of 6.25 lacs p.a. It called for a celebration. He was visibly elated and... 'happy'!. None of that idli now-- perhaps some other time. He went for fried rice. He was ready to face the cruel world and let the nemesis know that he wasnt going down without a fight.

Very soon, he got his order ready-- there lay a gaudy plate full of grotesque looking fried rice in front of him, contrived no doubt by the sagar owner so that it looks like "rich-man's food" to those who have never even seen the rich eat. He still remembered how, at home, the simpler food was admired and respected on the contrary. After the first two spoonfuls, he realised that his verve that had reached its zenith was fast plummetting with the same speed. The great black cloud of lachrymosity was once again beginning to envelope him, though he tried fighting it... he kept uttering 6.25 forcefully from time to time to pep his spirits up, but it was plainly not working. The helplessness was becoming too much... he could not see any hope anywhere to hang on to, and in a wild impulse, he lifted his hand to fling the plate aside, but then he saw another man, having the same dish with a look of devouring passion. He even had that veg-manchuria for a side-dish. How can any person enjoy such food? There appeared a wild look in Chinmay's reddened eyes and a feeling of disgust in his heart. His face became grim with determination. He thrusted the spoon into the hill of rice, hauled it up, and shoved it right into his mouth, and started vigourously chewing and swallowing the food.. and then another load of rice, and then one more... He was laughing, cursing himself, wiping off tears, chewing and swallowing, cursing himself again , neglecting the gag-reflexes and the violent spasms of his body protesting against its violation, but he didnt stop till he finished what he paid for.

The 6.25:

On his way back,he heard some voices from a house a little way ahead. As he approached it, it was clear that a rebellious adolescent was furious with his parents for not yielding to his wishes. It seemed the kid never liked Khichdi without black pepper thrown in. In a fit of temper, the kid threw his share of Khichdi along with the plate outside the gate, right beside where Chinmay was standing. In the light of the street-lamp, Chinmay could plainly see the pristine simple home-made Khichdi, some of which rolled over the plate and into the mud. He gasped and froze. Finally, as life started returning to his body, the situation present him with a "moment of clarity". He knew what had to be done, and done quickly. He quickly got hold of a polythene cover bag lying on the road. Feigning to dust and clean it by blowing into it, he started gathering the food into the bag. He felt a sharp pain of remorse when he saw the amount of Khichdi that got thrown into the mud. Yet, whatever he got was more than enough for him.

He went on towards his house feeling triumphant at this sudden 'shift of fortunes'. Half way through, he felt something pricking his leg inside the shoe. He kept the packet down to see if anything was wrong with the shoe. Just as he had removed the shoe and was examining it under a street lamp a little way ahead, a haggard sickly pale dog sneaked up from behind and smelling the cover, took it and started running away with it. Chinmay gave out a yell of anguish. The way he saw it, that packet was his well earned booty, and there was no way he was going to give it up. There was no other option... he began running with one shoe on and the other in hand, shouting curses at the dog. The dog was gaining. He started hurling stones at it. One hit it square in the ribs and giving out a sharp yelp, the dog fell right into the flood-drain (which have actually become sewers now-a-days) on the edge of the road, along with the packet. He came to the spot and vainly saw his booty floating away from him.

At the same time, it started raining, again reminding him of his 6.25 lacs p.a. He started walking towards his Tomb, expressionless, hopefully to die for one last time, and never to wake up again.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Meru and Mandhatra

"In Harivamsham, there is a reference to the fight between Krishna and Jambuvantha comparing it to a fight between Meru (the mountain) and Mandhatra (the great Ikshvaku king venerated in Rig Veda). Can you tell me where this fight occurs in our mythology and where is it mentioned?" I asked him while he was leaving, deeming him very a knowledgeable person after his discourse on Indian Mythology and some anecdotes on his lengendary father.

"I dont think the author refers to a real fight between Meru and Mandhatra-- he only means a hypothetical fight--had that fight happened, it might have been of the same ferocity as that between Krishna and Jambuvantha". He replied. We were not convinced though.. but we let it be.

Once upon a time during my sojourn in Houston with the invincle Holy one of Medak (whom some people audaciously call by name), he took me along for an avadhanam session. Nagaphani Sarma was the avadhani. As a typical news-paper headline in the middle-page might put it, he "enthralled the crowds" by his avadhanam "snippets". He also performed a mini-avadhanam (not even ashta-avadhanam!)-- there were neither brilliant prucchakas, nor intelligent enough audience, but there was a lot of money! Also ,since I (one of the not-so-knowledgeable audience members) didnt know about the concept of "aprastuta prasangi", I blurted out "cant someone keep him quiet for a while?? the guy is trying to think!". And the elders smiled and told me about the concept "Oops!"

After that, Vishvanatha Pavani Sastry spent some time on the dais elucidating some interesting topics on Mythology, and narrating some anecdotes regarding his father Vishvanatha Satyanarayana (glorifying even his ego). He had come there to promote some of the lesser-known works and some republished limited editions of the critically acclaimed works of his father. I bought a 4$ book called "telugu samethalu" (Telugu Proverbs) from him which he signed for us.

As I was cruising through the channels on TV this weekend (I was at home), I saw a news item that Vishvanatha Pavani Sastry died suddenly due to heart failure on saturday (April 1st 2006) .