The messenger

We shook hands. ‘It has been a long time,’ I said. It was a little weird. A decade ago, we had ate and drank together, cut classes together,  fought others together, proposed to the girls for each other… Now we were shaking hands. If we could forsee this scene 10 years back, we would have died of laughter.

In the restaurant, he breached on the subject. ‘She is in town,’ he said.

You fool. You thought he had come to see you for old times sake. You idiot.

‘She called me after so many years. She was crying,’ he continued. ‘It appears she has got into some problems with her husband.’

I stared through him. 

‘I need your help. I can’t involve directly. I need you to go and test the waters.’ 

Don’t you see? I don’t want any of this. 10 years back, your request would have made me happy like any other kid who has been asked to pass a love letter for his friend. Right now, I am only bothered about the mistake in tax return that my accountant made yesterday. Of course… I am also bothered about my potbelly. And also my receding hair line.

‘What do you exactly have in mind?,’ I asked. ‘Couples fight. They patch up. Don’t jump your guns here.’

Obviously he had already played out that one many times in his mind. He shook his head. ‘Don’t think so. And I thought it is a risk worth taking.’

For your information, I am the one taking the risk here you bastard.

‘You are going to get really embarrassed at the end of this.’ What I meant was, I am going to get really embarrassed at the end of this.

I will have to say yes I guess. Otherwise I am going to miss my ten o’clock tv show.

Photo by jurek d.


A bubble in the rain

The kid was on the verge of tears. The cold air continued to mumble in his ears. The scooter was going fast.

Tomorrow his school is going to open. His Christmas vacation is ending. He won’t get to play ‘home and school’ with his cousins now. He won’t be running to the corner shop every 5 minutes for the 5 paise confectionaries. He won’t be bragging about the martial prowess of his favourite film stars. But what really hurt him was the fact he will have to collect the valued half year exam papers on the opening day of school. And it can be a very unpleasant experience.

Suddenly it started to rain. B parked the scooter in front of a shop. The kid and his younger brother ran to the cover of a roof with B. It was then only B noticed the expression on the face of the kid. He smiled, ‘I know you are not happy.’ No marks for guessing, kid thought. ‘When there is a holiday, I will come to pick you both,’ B said. Kid knew B was trying to console him. But still he believed B. It felt better to believe. The three stood there. Stuck in a bubble of time. And also stuck in rain.

Around 20 years later, B would die. Leaving every one bewildered. But still that bubble has not burst… And that rain has not ended.

Photo by konaboy

Alcohol, age limit and Imran Khan’s PIL: Are we overdoing ‘freedom?’

Maharashtra has raised the legal drinking age to 25. Reactions have ranged from ‘strange’ and ‘absurd’ to downright ‘challenge to individual freedom’. Are these things so black and white? Most countries have used a cut off for legal drinking at around 21. And the advantages and disadvantages of raising it from 21 to 25 needs to be studied and debated. But the current insistence of the critics to lower it to 18 does not have much basis from a public health perspective.

First of all, raising age limit to control alcohol use and the related hazards is a strategy that has strong ‘evidence basis’ to support it. I am not talking ‘what I feel strongly…’ or ‘probably we can infer’ kind of facts seen in columns but hard evidence from methodologically robust studies. What is the nature of hazards  we are talking about?

Alcohol use is the third leading risk factor for poor health globally. It has been estimated in India that while the gains in terms of revenue from alcohol sales are Rs 216 billion every year, losses from adverse effects of alcohol  are estimated to be Rs 244 billion, apart from the immeasurable losses due to multiple and rollover effects of alcohol use. Needless to say, the available estimates are merely the tip of the iceberg. Now coming to youngsters, it has been shown that some one initiating alcohol use after first two decades of life have much lesser chances of developing adverse consequences or pathological patterns of drinking than who starts before. In countries where it has been debated whether drinking age should be lowered from 21, considerable amount of evidence shows that it may not be a good idea (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8). Continue reading

The way of the blade

He checked the bridge. No. Kalo was not there. Probably he has moved on to the metro stations.

It was his eighth day out of prison. He had made up his mind. He will have to go back to the blade. He didn’t want to. But he will have to. And he needed Kalo for that.

It is tough without an accomplice. Earlier he used to work with even three. One to create rush in the crowd near the station. One to distract the mark. And one to score and hand over the loot to the first one who would disappear at the station. The last step was crucial. A small detail which stood between many broken bones.

What does it change anyway; he thought. His mother didn’t even come out. His brother was standing on the portico, hands folded. ‘She don’t want to see you,’ he said. Not that it bothered him that much. She didn’t talk to him even before he went to jail. He was dead for her long time. He went hungry most of the days. He begged. To every one at sight. Even to other well to do beggars.

But what really bothered him was the crushes. Continue reading

Clumsy confessions

I told him that I am going that way to collect some books. I could easily drop him at the airport. No, No, its no trouble for me. Because I am going that way.

May be he guessed that I am lying. But he didn’t say anything. Yeah, I act funny some times. What is my problem in telling my friend that I will come with you to the airport so that I can still talk to you for another fifteen minutes?

He is anxious, I noted while driving. What is there to worry? Just hang on like a leech. Be the rock on which your adversity will smash on and disintegrate. What?…Okay, but so what? Even if you give up and come back, it doesn’t matter. Why we all do this that we do? Only because of peer pressure. To float our professional egos. But death makes everything inconsequential. Death is a great leveller. The fact that everything will end, regardless of what you do, what you become- it gives you immense freedom to live this moment the way you want.

Do this bit. Come back. Then start your real game. Continue reading

The 12th day


A girl laughed at a joke. An idealist fumed at some injustice. Some one started singing.
She isn’t there. Not yet. He felt all alone. Abandoned in the crowd.
He stood in the room. Watching all the people. Conversations. Idiosyncrasies. Provocations.
He knew what united all of them… Loneliness. They were all trying to pretend that these meetings somehow can substitute for life.
She used to say-‘The moment we lose faith in happy endings, we will stop coming here.’
Did she lose faith? He wondered. She hadn’t turned up for the last twelve days.
A friend winked at him. He ignored it. Someone was waving a big flag as if his life depended on it. Some one was writing a phone number on the wall in big red strokes. But nothing held his interest any more. Not even the new faces with pretty names.
The friend nudged him twice. He sat still. Finally the friend went away, fuming.
He felt old. The world was becoming too repetitive. Even the heart breaks are being compared with the severity of the older ones now. And the worst part is that he didn’t even know where she lived. ‘Not yet’- she used to say whenever he talked about it.
He got up and logged off from the chat room.
He thought-May be she would come tomorrow. May be tomorrow she would sit beside him with a mischievous smile. And would say- ‘Now tell me. Is thirteen lucky or unlucky?’

Photo by funkyfork