Saturday, March 1, 2014

Why do men roar?

My dining choices are frequently dictated by weather rather than cravings or hunger. For instance, three consecutive rainy nights = time for some piping hot sambhar. The accompaniments are inconsequential. Idlis, vadas, some fancy pants dosa (the entry that startled me was an Italian dosa. What can possibly be Italian about a dosa? Is it slathered with extra virgin olive oil and sautéed with garlic and porcini mushrooms and served by an exotic young man with a glass of Chianti the color of rasam? And while we’re at it, I also spotted a rava gnocchi on the menu! Go figure.), it doesn't matter.

I stuck to the basics this evening and ordered a couple of flabby idlis. The sambhar and I got a little friendly and seconds later, I realized I was entertaining it on my jeans. I rushed to the back of the restaurant where the restrooms were at.

The basin area was like a contemporary powder room replete with a rectangular colored glass sink, an artsy mirror above it and an enormous floor vase that showed off decorative floral stems. The area was made semi-private with a bamboo wall separator on one side and an actual wall on the other. Of course, I only saw this later.

When I was a few feet away from turning towards the basin area, I heard a roar. It was riotous, turbulent and disorderly. And prolonged. It must have lasted for a good few seconds, something that a lion would kick off with his head on one side and it would last till he did a complete, slo-mo, head roll. It hit a few high and low notes as well. I winced. A Shere Khan checking itself out in the mirror? Hangover had come to life in a South Indian joint? I shushed that silly voice and took that impending next step to see it for myself, when a man, perhaps in his early 30s, clad in a black tee and jeans, emerged from area.

He didn't seem like someone who'd do something seemingly private in a public place and then not worry about running into a woman right after. Which is to say that he appeared visibly embarrassed. Our eyes met for a brief, honest moment. Was that you, I asked him non-verbally. And what kind of a roar was that? A I’m-so-cool-I-gotta-flex-my-muscles-every-chance-I-get roar? A yeah-baby-I-finished-that-two-feet-dosa-all-by-myself-and-didn’t-even-burp roar? A I’m-going-to-show-that-disrespectful-son-of-a-gun-waiter-his-place roar? The man gave me a silent acknowledgement of that act. Uh gosh I didn't realize someone would hear me. Please don't tell anyone, he replied wordlessly, hands clasped, his eyebrows as far north as they'd go.

I didn't think it was possible to go from wild to timid that quickly.

I narrated the episode to the spouse who was much too stuck on the filter coffee at the table to process any information. So he shrugged it off. Then oddly enough, he tried to cover it up by suggesting I must have overheard a dog bark or something. It was sly and a deliberate attempt to make me forget about it. As if I'd stumbled upon a closely guarded male secret.

Is this common practice? 

My 4-year old nephew frequently roars in response to a question, even walks on all fours, but that's because he watches Discovery Channel all day, wears striped pants and genuinely believes he'll turn into a lion if he roared enough. What is a grown man's excuse?

Blog ressurrection

I suspect my blog is Hindu. That's the only reason I can imagine behind it dying an organic death countless times and soon enough, reincarnating itself.

It's been a new year, my need to ramble has been stronger than ever and the pool of handful of people who lend me an ear via various social media outlets is soon drying up. A kind soul reminded me of the blog and poof here I am again.

But not without a commitment.

Dear blog,

I solemnly swear that I am up to no good, just like Ms. Rowling claims to be, except there’s perhaps a grain of truth in my version. In any case, since we’re past pretentions and promises, let me just be candid and affirm that I’ll try to think of you at least a couple of times a day, when I run into amusing people and situations, when I'm working those grey cells and even when I’m cheating on you with your arch nemesis, Twitter. I will do my best to not abandon you this time around. And above all, I assure you I will not think of you as dispensable, consciously or otherwise.

After all, you were the reason (I wanted to say vehicle, but that’d be objectifying you) I became a writer.

Thank you for loving me back.


An Unlikely Accomplice

An excerpt from An Unlikely Accomplice, my short story in a new anthology, The Turning Point.

A strange mix of citrusy fragrance infused with phenyl and medication made Brigadier Khanna’s nostrils twitch and woke him up from the fangs of endless slumber. Something prevented his right eyelid from opening and it wasn’t just the pounding headache. It felt like a paperweight balancing on his eyeball. He attempted to lift his right hand to yank out whatever was mounting pressure on his eye when he felt a whiplash, as if his wrist were chained to something. With a half open eye, he tried to bring the blurred ceiling back into focus. Clean. White. Exempt from dangling fans. There was no hint of chipping paint on it. There were no destructive sounds of violence from the distance. No loud shrills from victims being tortured. No stench of urine, sweat or blood. He knew it right away. It wasn’t what he’d suspected in his subconscious state. There hadn’t been a war. No war. No prisoner of war. No such luck. He’d die a war virgin.

Corporate poker

An excerpt from my second novel, Powerplay.

Vivek took in the magnificent view of the grounds in the stadium, as he sat waiting for everyone to assemble in the swanky conference room he had been ushered in to a few minutes ago. Harsh sat beside him, shooting off mails to his Madrid office. Vivek could sense he was tense. For his own part, he felt a slight tingle of anxiety running in his veins. There had been no indication of anything, whatsoever, from Krishnan or anyone else from the team, but just a taciturn message asking them to meet. Up until then, he had had to field calls and follow-up on e-mails from their global partnerships group, that was pushing him for sponsorship deals.
As Krishnan walked in with his array of C-level executives, Vivek noted that his demeanour was as austere as before. A quick introduction around the room was the only time spent in trivial formalities. “Tell me Harsh, why the sudden interest in sports? Your background shows anything but,” he began without preamble. There was nothing like a planned interrogation to get the adrenalin pumping for Vivek. His mind sprung to complete attention.
“I have a number of retail ventures. I see a scenario where the sports market is ripe to take a cue from the retail industry,” Harsh responded candidly, leaning into the plush chair; his attitude remarkably nonchalant. “Owning a sports team will allow me to diversify a bit and also push into the entertainment peripherals, which is a natural fit for my . . .” he carried on verbalising his justification, as Vivek enthusiastically nodded in agreement. “And frankly I am a huge cricket buff. I’ve wanted to own a franchise for a long time. The timing is right. And I like the game of high risks.”
“That’s all very good, but frankly I fail to see the compelling reason.” Krishnan furthered his grilling process.
“Allow me,” Vivek interjected, the compulsive pitcher that he was. “Retail is all about segmentation, targeted marketing, statistics, analysis, and low margins. I see the cricket franchises all fat and happy with their star players and crowd frenzy, with no interest in doing more than the bare minimum to sell their tickets. No offense, gentlemen. I am certain that we could completely change the way sports teams are run by using our advanced analytics capabilities. It’ll allow us to not only avoid overpaying for talent, but also to make sure we get the highest possible price for each ticket that we sell.”
“But from beach towels to cricket, it’s more than diversification.” Krishnan didn’t seem in a mood to yield. Or reveal, for that matter.
Harsh chuckled. Everyone in the room did, too. Vivek suspected the beach towel story would be with Harsh for as long as he shall live. It was how he had made his first dime, after all.
“Here’s the problem,” Krishnan argued. “That price tag isn’t going down well with anyone here. Thirteen hundred is far lower than what other teams are selling for. We could talk about a stake for you instead of complete ownership, if you’re open to it.”
Far lower than other teams, yes, but, it’s more than what your team is worth, buddy. Did no one tell you that the going rate for your team isn’t a penny above twelve hundred? Vivek mentally ticked him off, as Harsh responded to this. “In the interest of saving everyone’s time and being completely transparent, let me just say that it’s not something I’m interested in. It’s all or nothing.”
There was silence in the room. From behind the glass, while taking a sip of water, Vivek’s gaze fixated firmly on Krishnan, assessing if he really needed any further convincing.
More heated-discussions later, Krishnan wound his way to the subject of sponsorships, again. Vivek knew without a doubt that Harsh was not even a bit interested in sponsoring players’ underwears or shoes or socks or whatever the hell they were trying to get funding for. And he knew Krishnan had a fair idea of that. So then, why was he continuing this ridiculous streak of pushing them for sponsorships? Vivek studied him: his face was expressionless; his tone, tedious; and his frame, flaccid. But his eyes shone with trickery. Gotcha!

Vivek let the corporate poker kick-start. Things would get messy from now on; he knew that much from experience. But what he hadn’t counted on was how ungentlemanly the discussion pertaining to the gentleman’s game was going to get.