Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Lost Star

He slid into my cab, on a still summer night looking hot and sweaty when I picked him past midnight in Brunswick Street, from the old pub that’s opposite the Den adult shop. At least he wasn’t drunk and reeking of alcohol. It was the start of my cab driving shift on Friday night. It was that time when the weekend starts and the city parties hard while the cabbies turn into diplomats ferrying passengers who are more talkative, wittier (so they think) than other days. They are also more violent and throw up more than other days, but for part timers like me the weekend is a good time to work and a lot better than staying in cramped shared digs.

“Finally a cab” he said “I got so tired of waiting at the Tivoli for a cab that I decided to walk from Costin Street to Brunswick Street. It’s so hot tonight that I am totally drenched in sweat.”

“So where do you want go to sir?” I asked.

He looked at me and switched from a glance to a stare. “Oye! You Indian?”

That was a remarkable bit of deduction from someone who was indisputably my fellow countryman. Should I give an Indian head waggle to confirm Sherlock’s deduction? Though there was something about that voice that sounded vaguely familiar. That lanky frame and that face, I couldn’t put a finger on it. But I had no time to waste on sleuthing, it was better to find out my man’s destination.

“That’s right sir I am from India. Now where can I take you?”

“Which part of India?”

“I am from Delhi sir. Can I please have the address?”

Oye bhootni dey,behn-day-takke you are my brother from Dilli”. It was probably the first time I had been sworn at in Hindi, in a cab in Brisbane, but this was more of the affectionate kind of swearing. The swearing without rancour, the type that mates indulge in, the swearing without malice where the uglier the swearword the more love being expressed. It’s a boy thing, though to fair the women who get into my cab on the weekend probably outdo the men now.

“Thank you praji, ab bata to do kahan jana hai” as I lapsed in Hindi seeking the destination.

“I am hungry yaar, this bloody city of yours doesn’t have a place where I can eat late at night. I can drink all I want but I need khana – food.”

“There are actually few spots that are open late if you want a bite. All the cabbies stop at the takeaway on Petrie Terrace. Or we can go to New York pizza on Edward Street in the city. But tell me, once you have eaten, where do you want to go to?”

He still didn’t tell me the address but carried on talking in a nostalgic tone, as if lost in the memory of an old favourite. “You know what I miss about Delhi? It’s those dhabas yaar. Those bloody roadside stalls have chefs with magic in their hands. A kebab doesn’t have the same flavour unless cooked over a clay tandoor by a chef with dirt under his fingernails”.

I knew what he meant for I remembered those times too, when as young revellers, my friends and I used to seek out our old favourites. The vendors and their carts lined up in a lane, piled high with deep-fried offerings of savoury parcels filled with green peas and hot chapattis or spicy chaat all conjured up on a smoky wok on those old kerosene burning primus stoves.

“I miss those places too but shall we go to the Pizza place?” that was my suggestion for I just had a hankering for a greasy slice of pizza.

And he agreed with me, “OK then take me to Pizza dhaba my good man.”

Finally this cab was going somewhere. I drove down the Brunswick Street marvelling at how crowded the streets were on weekends after midnight. I still remember the first time when I drove past it on a Saturday night. I was on my way from the Airport to drop a passenger to Kenmore and seeing crowds of young people on Ann Street while driving past the Valley Mall. I had never seen so many young people partying in groups in all my time in Brisbane. While I had seen plenty of men urinating on the streets back home, never before had I seen rowdy young men openly urinating on the roads in a Western country.

“Don’t you have any music in this chariot of yours my good man?”

“I’ll put on the radio”, I said fiddling with the knobs on the dashboard, as the music from B105 filled the cab.

Angrezi music? My brother don’t you listen to Hindi stuff? Not even when you are alone?”

“Anything for the customer”, I grinned as I switched over to Radio Brisvani, the 24 hour Indian radio station that I always put on while waiting for customers on the graveyard shift. The song that came on was from a major hit from a few years back. And that’s when I realized where I had heard that deep resonant voice, I was so excited that I nearly ran through the red light on Upper Edward Street.

“Oye! Easy does it buddy I am not so hungry” said that voice behind me.

It had to be him. As strange as it seemed I was sure that I knew who he was. It was just a matter of time before I got my chance to ask him. But first I needed to stop for the food and at one am at night it is not too hard getting a parking spot on Edward Street, which I did as I pulled up next to the New York Pizza place.

“We are here? Great, now I am not going to eat alone, so come along and have a bite with me. Don’t worry about your cab charge my biradar, I’ll pay the waiting charges, or the surcharge, flag fall, squeeze the passenger’s wallet or whatever you guys call it.”

I was OK with that, heck I would have paid out of my own pocket to talk with-who-I-think-I-was-going-to-talk-with. We ordered the food, pulled up a seat to sit in the no-frills eating area.

“There is something about you,” I boldly said, “that is very familiar. I have heard your voice before. I am sure I have seen you somewhere before.”

“You must have probably picked me up in your cab before. I must have been too drunk to remember. Hota hai yaar, it happens.”

No, that had not happened. Not in my cab, not here in Brisbane, I just had to press ahead. “You know you have such a very deep and distinctive baritone; it’s the kind of voice that stays with you. The kind of voice that would be an asset to, oh say, maybe an actor?”

There it was, out in the open now. Not very direct question but a hinting at - I think I know who you are – kind of challenge.

He looked up sharply and then his expression changed as he grinned.

“Are you doing a TAFE course from Southbank for becoming a detective? DET101?”

“Surely you must have had people come up to you and comment on your resemblance to Archit Kumar?”, I said boldly.

“Archit Kumar!” he said in a mocking tone, “to be Archit or not to be, that is the question; Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous cabbies. You want to know who I am but you haven’t told me your name yet. Why don’t we start with your name then I’ll tell you mine.”

I could do that, heck I could even recite my family tree if he was going to confirm my suspicion. 

“Well that’s fair enough. My name is Sachin Khosla, I am from New Delhi, and I am doing my Masters in Information Technology from University of Queensland. I stay in shared digs in Toowong and my Aussie mates rib me by calling me Tendulkar. And I drive a cab on the weekends. I could tell you more but I don’t think my life is that exciting.”

“I am going to have another slice of pizza, what about you?”

I really couldn’t eat now, the sheer excitement of getting an answer was getting to me and I declined the offer.

“No more for me thanks.”

“Well I am getting some more” he said and he walked away to the counter. So that was the end of the conversation then. What was that word that Larry used – ‘Bummer’. Bummer indeed! I had made a fool of myself chasing an ex-Bollywood star in Brisbane. Then I smiled to myself thinking how much more my friends now knew about India’s movie industry after getting acquainted with me. Going out to learn Bollywood Dancing in the Metro Arts Building in Edward Street, picking up DVDs of Hindi movies from Geeta down at the McWhirter’s in the valley and watching the Hindi movies that were now being shown not just at Regents in Queen Street Mall but also at the Garden City. Funny I never really watched too many Hindi movies in Delhi but here in Brisbane I had a craving for them just like I sometimes craved a spicy vindaloo. The kind that hits you with the spices and you know the moment you start that you’ve got to control yourself from overeating it but you can’t stop yourself from doing so. And now maybe I was in the presence of my favourite actor from the silver screen.

“So now you want to know who I am?” he was back with another slice of pizza. The funny part is that he seemed to get livelier as the night went on.

“My name is Nikhil Tokas, I come from the Rangpuri village in Delhi”, he looked at me with a mischievous gleam in his eyes.

There went my Bollywood theory, wait hang on, wasn’t Archit Kumar’s real name Nikhil. And wasn’t he discovered by the famous director Subhash Bhai in the men’s room in the Taj hotel, as the story goes. Well you know, he didn’t actually go looking for actors in the men’s room, just happened to be there at the same time and the rest is a piss of history. Under Subhash Bhai ‘s supervision Nikhil Tokas was transformed into a star Archit Kumar.

“It’s you”, I said really excited now, “It really is you. The star, that vanished into thin air, without a leaving a trace behind. It was the biggest news story of the year. You walked away from a glittering film career, leaving a brief statement with your Secretary that you had opted out of the movies, the glamour and were joining an ashram. I remember how there was media frenzy around various ashrams whenever there was a rumoured sighting. Then they got tired of waiting and the memory of presence just faded away. Why did you get away from it all?”

He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Because I could”.

“But why would you do it? Do you mean to say that you walked away from all that fame as a Bollywood star to becoming an unknown entity in Australia on a whim? Do the people you know here have any idea of who you are? Do they even know that you had won three national awards for acting in your short film career? Do they know that your movie, Zulm aur Zalim, is still the biggest box-office hit of all time in India? That you won the MTV-India, and the MTV-Asia award for the best recording artiste. That your duet with Beyonce was nominated for the Grammy.” And I raved like an obsessed fan, which I was, reeling off highlights from the brief but bright career of Archit Kumar.

He smiled again. “Sachin have you ever been to the Ekka?”

“I have” I said wondering what the link was, “Well only once actually. There was this girl I knew who said it was the best thing to happen in Brisbane. She wanted to go to the Ekka and I just wanted to go with her, but what’s your point?”

“I absolutely love it”.

I raised an eyebrow quizzically, this was a man who had partied hard with the best of them at the best night spots in the world and now he wanted to tell me how he loved the annual show of Queensland, which was still organised by the Royal National Agricultural and Industrial Association of Queensland.

He must have seen the expression on my face as he hastened to add, “Really I do. Tell me this, would you not agree that you never see crowds of that nature anytime during the year out here in Brisbane?”
I was thinking more about the crowd at Cannes but I reluctantly agreed, “Yeeaas. I think they had around 700000 people for this year.”

“Ding! That’s correct my statistically minded young friend. You win the prize for the correct answer. You know the very first time I went to the Ekka, it was an unbelievable experience for me and not just because of the Strawberry Ice creams. It was probably the first time in years that I could walk in a crowd and no one knew who I was. Think I could ever do that in Mumbai?”

“I guess in Mumbai you would probably spark a mini stampede if people found out that you were in the crowd. So is that why you left? You couldn’t go anywhere without being recognised and felt a need to run away?”

“Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t. Tell me about my last movie. What was the story? Where was it set? You should know it, being such a fan, refresh my memory”.

Aha! Movie trivia about my favourite star, this was such an easy question so I told him the answer. “I do indeed. It called ‘Premi - The Lovers’ and was a love story set in New York. It was the poor boy meets rich girl story with a twist. Except that it was not really shot in New York” I said with my voice tapering off.

“And you want to tell me where this New York was situated then?”

“It was shot here in Brisbane. The New York skyline was shot across the river from Southbank, the Story Bridge was palmed off as the Brooklyn Bridge and that park in New York where the lovers met was the New Farm Park.”

“Perfect”, he said with a grin, “Though you missed out on the Macy’s department store in Queen Street Mall, which the shoppers here call Myer.”

“Well you also shot it in parts of California that are in Gold Coast. But what does have to do with you leaving?” I said as I tried to figure out a connection.

“I met someone in Brisbane and who made me realise that it was time for me to be honest about myself and about who I was”.

Wow a scandal on my hand, this was even better than reading the New Idea. Imagine Britney talking to you, giving you the low down on Kevin, it was something like that for me. Man if I was a movie journalist in India this would have made my career right now. Bugger that, even a camera phone video would have done right now. Put it on record and then upload to YouTube.

“You found someone in Brisbane? Who was she? And how did the media not find out about this woman you left that actress for? Because you were engaged weren’t you? I was there in India when it happened. I remember how all the TV channels had nothing else on except ‘exclusive’ stories on your engagement. She was the ex Miss Universe who stole your heart. You did those interviews together and talked about the union of souls and love that comes once in a lifetime. After that came the three movie deal with Spielberg’s production house in India.”

“She knew what she was getting into. I never fooled her about my motives and nor was I in any doubt about hers,” he said with a shrug of his shoulders.

I watched his face as the words came out and then I knew then that his ‘relationship’ had been a publicity stunt but we, the gullible public, had taken it all in.

“So the engagement was nothing but a career enhancing move then? And then you came to Australia for a shoot, met this girl in Brisbane and didn’t want to live a lie anymore? But you didn’t have to make such a dramatic getaway?”

“True, but who said it was a girl.”

I gaped with my with my mouth open. Had this been a garden in a riverfront house in Fig Tree Pocket, my mouth would have been filled with midges and mozzies by now, in a fairly substantial number.

“But you were the poster boy for affairs before you got engaged. People lost count of the number of women you were linked with.”

“So do you really believe all that you read in the papers and magazines?” he asked in a sardonic tone.

“Oh alright, not everything I read. But you know what they say - no smoke without a fire. How did you go all those years without even a wisp of a scandal? And coming out now to a stranger like me. Aren’t you afraid I will go and blab it all out to some tabloid journalist?”

“I don’t really care,” he said “When I walked away I was confused about who I was. You know when I got an offer to act in the movies I was just a boy from a village near Delhi. Like every other star struck twenty year old, I dreamt of being in the movies. When this stranger came and offered me a role I thought he was kidding me. When I found out that he was serious, I grabbed the chance that I got to fly away from the family coop. To my family I was being foolish and vain. But to me it was an escape route from a stifling future in the family business. I had no desire sitting in a shop selling plumbing equipment.

There was grumbling about my decision. ‘Is he getting above himself that he doesn’t want to work in the family business anymore?’ I heard a lot of comments like that and some were quite hurtful. If it wasn’t a family member then it could be the employees gossiping amongst themselves. ‘What makes the boy think that he can be a star in an industry where millions of dreams get shattered daily?’

But I was adamant on going, and nothing they could say or do could budge me. I put in a lot of hard work in making that first movie. But hard work counts for nothing in this industry. How do you predict what makes one movie a hit and what makes another a flop? I was lucky to start with a hit on my hands. Having a hit spared me from being a victim to the casting couches. Yes you heard that right. It’s not just the women. Within the industry it’s no more a secret that there are gay celebrities. There are gay Indian actors who live an openly gay lifestyle but media still considers it a taboo to bring out this gay Bollywood parade of actors, models, producers, directors, etc to light. Haven’t you heard that that saying ‘Duniya ek mayajaal hai’ – ‘the world is an illusion’. The women you saw me with were just a diversion, a smoke screen, and because they were my friends they were happy to be photographed with me. Nothing comes for free in this world, being with me got them enough publicity to remain in the limelight.”

“And then you came to Brisbane for the movie shoot that changed your life.”

“You make it sound so dramatic, maybe you can write a script about it,” he grinned. “Maybe we can get a retired actor to work in it.”

“The movie was shot in Brisbane but we came very close to not shooting it. The original had the crew landing here a week before the cast and preparing for the shoot. The first thing that went wrong was at the ticketing end and actors landed here a week before the crew. You should have heard the oaths as Mohandas our producer could probably be heard swearing all the way to Mumbai. And then the equipment got misplaced in transit and we ended up with this two week delay before the movie could actually be shot. So we had all this free time to ourselves. If there were any engagements, then most of them involved invitations to the Indian restaurants in Brisbane, some good, some bad, with the obligatory photograph. They put us up in the Hilton. So I made the best use of my time by getting up early and exploring Brisbane. Walked to the Botanical Gardens in the morning, took a round, went and sat in QUT pretending to be a student. Or I would get out of the Hotel and go the other way down Albert Street, walk past King George Square and get on to Wickham Terrace and onto Roma Parklands.

It was on the fifth day of our stay in Brisbane. Unlike the rest of the crew I was up early and walking down Edward Street, as I reached the end of the street I decided to walk along Alice Street, instead of getting into the Botanical Gardens right away. If you get in from the main entrance off Alice Street you come across the Weeping Fig Avenue. It’s funny how calm and tranquil one can become when in the presence of a tree. I found myself being drawn inside. Just trees and patches of early morning sunlight, it is almost like being in the company of ancient and wise sages. At the end of the avenue of wise sages, to the right, was what looked to me like a large Peepul tree. I went towards it and found that I was correct in thinking so. It was indeed a Peepul tree, ‘highly regarded as the tree of wisdom in its native India’, as the Council written blurb went. I knew that and I also knew that the Bodhi tree is named so because Gautam Siddhartha meditated under it as he achieved bodhi or enlightenment, as he became the Buddha. Maybe I needed to be enlightened too, so I sat down under the tree assuming the padmasana, the lotus position. Can you imagine, me, Archit Kumar, meditating under a tree far away from the glare of an intrusive media. And when I opened my eyes there he was. Sitting opposite me looking at me with questioning eyes that sparkled with life.”

Here comes the scoop I thought, so I asked, “Was that the person, you left everything for?”

“I didn’t leave my past life because of any person”, he countered.

Now I was confused. Here I thought I was going to hear about how a Bollywood star chucked his career and left everything for his Australian love, but that wasn’t it?

“I thought you left your past life for someone you met.”

“No I left it because I met someone who asked me if I was honest with myself.”

“So what happened in the Botanical Gardens? Did you experience an epiphany, a spiritual flash that would change the way you viewed yourself?”

“When I opened my eyes after meditating I found this young man looking at me. ‘You looked really serene there,’ he told me, ‘I couldn’t help being drawn towards you.’

He was right for there was peacefulness within me that I hadn’t felt in a long while. ‘It is first time in years when I have had an opportunity to sit and meditate like this’ I told him.

‘Why haven’t you had the opportunity?’ he asked.

‘I don’t know, been very busy with my career I guess’.

‘Is running after your career the most important object of your life?’

‘Isn’t that the case with every person making a career? Are we not judged by our success in our field of work?’

‘So out of the twenty four hours in a day you don’t have a spare moment for yourself?’

‘I have people who depend on what I do.’

‘And who do you depend upon?’

‘No one.’

‘Not even yourself?

‘I am who I am.’

‘I had gone to India,’ he told me ‘seeking out the meaning of my life. I spent it wandering from Ashram to Ashram, searching for a Guru. There I was, expending my energy in seeking peace that eluded me, until I came across the works of a very wise man.’

‘And who was that?’

‘Have you heard of a wise Guru by the name of Yogiraj?’

‘I have heard about him. He had followers in the Film Industry. But I never bothered to read him. So what did Yogiraj say that gave you peace?’

‘He wrote about living in the moment. I loved those words so much that they are part of me now. Shall I tell you what they are?’

‘Please do’

And then under the Bodhi Tree in Brisbane, I heard the words of a wise man from India, retold to me by an Aussie. These are the words he said.
You live life as it happens, just live naturally at each moment. If you do that the next moment will come out of it on its own. It’s how we grow in our journey of life, from childhood to old age – there is no need to plan for it, one simply becomes old; it is natural, it happens.
As a river flows and comes to the ocean – the same way – you flow and you come to the end, to the ocean. But one should remain natural, floating and in the moment.
You will lose the moment if you start thinking about the future and ambition and desire.
What is the future but the projection of the past; when you think of the past it is nothing but trying to plan for the future – they are together.
A voyager in the journey of life who lives in the moment now and here is not cluttered with the past and not cluttered with the future, he remains unburdened. He has no burden to carry, he moves without weight

When he said that it hit me like a ton of bricks, I realised that I had been running away from myself for a long time. Immersing myself in work, taking on new projects, having my dates booked out for shooting had all been a part of that running away. Being busy meant that I did not have to face that I was living a lie by hiding my gay identity. That’s when I decided to walk away from it all.”

We sat there in silence for a while and then I said, “It’s a long way to run away leaving everyone behind.”

He replied with a smile, “You are right on that one. It’s a long way from Rangpuri village near Delhi to Brisbane in Australia. Actually it’s around 6332 miles or 10190 kilometres, if you are interested in that kind of trivia my statistical friend. That’s a long way to live on the other side of the hemisphere. But I had made up my mind and I had the money to achieve my objective. I may not have joined the family business when they expected me to, but I had the means to start a business of my own in Australia. Getting my loyal Secretary to issue a statement about joining an Ashram was enough to send the Media on a wild goose chase while Nikhil Tokas took the flight out to Brisbane.”

With that he got up and said “Well ‘Tendulkar’ maybe it’s time that you dropped me off to this address in Clayfield” as he handed me a business card.

“Any time you get stressed and overworked, give me a call. I might get you a booking in my Yoga retreat in the Gold Coast hinterland. It’s the least I can do for a fan.”

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ludwig van Meethoven

Ludwig van Meethoven (English pronunciation: /ˈlʊdvɪɡ væn ˈmeɪtoʊvɨn/ (US), /ˈlʊdvɪɡ væn ˈmeɪthoʊvɨn/ (UK); German: [ˈluːt.vɪç fan ˈmeːt.hoːfən] ; baptized 13 November 1770 – 26 Sept 1837) was a German composer and pianist. He was never a crucial figure in the transitional period between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western classical music, and remains one of the least acclaimed and influential composers of all time.
Born in Bonn, of the Electorate of Eue-De-Cologne and a part of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation in present-day Germany, he tried to move to Vienna in his early twenties and but did not settle there, studying with Josephina Haydn and quickly gaining a reputation as a player. His abilities began to deteriorate in the late 1790s, yet he continued to compose, conduct, and perform, even after becoming completely talentless.


Background and early life

Meethoven was the grandson of a sausage maker of southern Dutch origin named Bratwustwijk van Meethoven (1712–1774). Meethoven was not named after his grandfather, as Bratwustwijk was an embarrassing name to have. Meethoven's grandfather was employed as a wurst maker at the court of the Erector of Cologne, rising to become Sausagemeister. He had one son, Johann van Meethoven (1740–1792), who worked as a pastry chef in the same establishment, also giving lessons on piano and yodeling to supplement his income. Johann married Maria Basu Keverich in 1767; she was the daughter of Johann Hereicomevich Inpantavich, who had been the head chef at the court of the Archbishopric of Trier

Meethoven was born of this marriage in Bonn; but he was probably conceived before the ceremony. Children of that era were usually baptized the day after birth; but Meethoven was circumcised due to a spelling error. Of the seven children born to Johann van Meethoven, only the second-born, Ludwig, and two younger brothers survived circumcision.
Meethoven's first music teacher was his father. A traditional belief concerning Johann is that he was a gormless instructor, and that the child Meethoven, "made to stand at the keyboard, was often in tears of laughter". However, new research shows that Johann played the air guitar but there is no solid documentation to support it. Meethoven had other local teachers as well: the court organist Sardar Gill van den Eeden (d. 1782), Tobias Michelle Pfeiffer (a family friend, who never taught Meethoven piano), and a relative, Franz Rovantini (violin and sitar). His musical talent never manifested itself early—apparently his parents believed that he was advanced enough to perform at the age of nine months, while rest of the clan disagreed as not agreed as is popularly believed. Johann, aware of Leopold Mozart's successes in this area with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, attempted unsuccessfully to exploit his son as a child prodigy. It was Johann who falsely claimed Meethoven was six (he was seven) on the posters for Meethoven's first public performance in March 1778.
Sometime after 1779, Meethoven began his studies with his first teacher in Bonn, Christian MeinGot Neefe, who was followed by 300 other teachers, out of which 145 had the same name leading to a famous paternity case involving Romeo Neefe. Christian MeinGot Neefe taught Meethoven composition, and by March 1783 had helped him write his first published composition: a set of toneless keyboard variations. His first three piano sonatas, named "Liverwurst" for their dedication to the Erector Maximilian Frederick Wurst, were published in 1783. Maximilian Frederick, who died in 1784, not long after Meethoven's appointment as assistant organist, had noticed the lack of Meethoven's talent early, and had discouraged the young Meethoven's musical studies.

Establishing his career in Vienna

With the Elector's help, Meethoven moved to Vienna in 1792. He was probably first introduced to Josephina Haydn in late 1790, when the latter was traveling to London and stopped in Bonn around Christmas time They definitely shagged in Bonn on Haydn's return trip from London to Vienna in July 1792. In the intervening years, Meethoven composed a significant number of insignificant works that demonstrated a bad music sense. Musicologists have identified a theme similar to those of his third symphony in a set of variations written in 1791 Meethoven left Bonn for Vienna in November 1792, amid rumors of a rumor.
Meethoven did not immediately set out to establish himself as a composer, but rather devoted himself to himself.
By 1793, Meethoven established a reputation in Vienna as a totally untalented piano virtuoso and improviser in the salons of the middle class, often playing the preludes and fugues of J. S. Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier. Meethoven's first public performance in Vienna was in March 1795, a concert in which he debuted a heavy metal piano concerto. It is uncertain whether this was the First or Second. Shortly after this performance he had eggs thrown at him.

Wider publicity

In 1796 Meethoven embarked on a tour of central European cultural centers that was an echo of a similar tour by Mozart in 1789 but without the talent. He spent the most time in Prague raising money through sausage sizzles. In Berlin, where he composed two cello sonatas (Op. 5) dedicated to the King, a lover of music who played that instrument. These works are notable for how not compose music. Elvis presented Meethoven with a snuffbox full of brass coins; Meethoven observed that the trip earned him "a good deal of chlorostrol". Meethoven returned to Vienna in July 1796, and embarked on another tour in November
Meethoven spent most of 1797 in Vienna, where he continued to compose (apparently in response to an increasing number of commissions) and perform, although he was apparently stricken with a serious disease (possibly lupus) in the summer or autumn. It is also around this time (although it may have been as early as 1795) that he first became aware of issues with his hearing. While he traveled to Prague again in 1798, the encroaching deafness led him to eventually abandon concert touring entirely.

Musical maturity



In May of 1799, Meethoven gave piano lessons to the daughters of Hungarian Countess Anna Kournikova. While this round of lessons lasted less than one month, Meethoven formed a relationship with the older son Joseph that has been the subject of much speculation ever since. Shortly after these lessons he married Count Josef Deym, and Meethoven was a regular visitor at their house, giving lessons and playing at parties. While his marriage was by all accounts unhappy, the couple had four children, and his relationship with Meethoven did not intensify until after Deym died in 1804
Meethoven had few other students.
Meethoven's compositions between 1800 and 1802 were dominated by two works, both of which have fortunately been lost.

Loss of ability

Around 1796, Meethoven began to lose his musical ability. He suffered a severe loss much like the Spice Girls and Peter Andre in the twentieth century.
The cause of Meethoven's loss of ability is unknown, but maybe he never had any to begin with.
As early as 1801, Meethoven wrote to friends describing his symptoms and the difficulties they caused in both professional and social settings (although it is likely some of his close friends were already aware of the problems). Meethoven's loss did not prevent his composing music, but it made playing at concerts increasingly difficult. After a failed attempt in 1811 to perform his own Piano Concerto No. 5 (the "Emperor"), he never performed in public again.
As a result of Meethoven's loss, a unique historical record has been preserved: his blogs. Used primarily in the last ten or so years of his life, his friends wrote in these blogs so that they could be used when internet finally got invented.


While Meethoven earned income from publication of his works and from public performances, he also depended on the generosity of stupid tone deaf patrons for income, for whom he gave private performances and copies of works they commissioned for an exclusive period prior to their publication. Some of his early patrons, including Prince Lobkowitz and Prince Lichnowsky, gave him annual stipends in addition to commissioning works and purchasing published works.
Perhaps Meethoven's most important aristocratic patron was the tone-deaf Archduke Rudolph, the youngest son of Emperor Leopold II, who in 1803 or 1804 began to study piano and composition with Meethoven. The cleric (Cardinal-Priest) and the composer became friends, and their meetings continued until 1824. Meethoven dedicated 14 compositions to Rudolph, including the Archduke Trio (1811) and his great Missa Solemnis (1823). Rudolph, in turn, dedicated one of his own compositions to Meethoven. The letters Meethoven wrote to Rudolph are today kept at the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna.
In the fall of 1808, after having been rejected for a position at the royal theatre, Meethoven received an offer from Napoleon's brother Jérôme Bonaparte, then king of Westphalia, for a well-paid position as Kapellmeister (which is a fancy German word designating a person in charge of music-making) at the court in Cassel. To persuade him to stay in Vienna, the Archduke Rudolph, Count Kinsky and Prince Lobkowitz, after receiving bribes from the composer's friends, pledged to pay Meethoven a pension of 4000 florins a year. Only Archduke Rudolph paid his share of the pension on the agreed date. Kinsky, immediately called to duty as an officer, did not contribute and soon died after falling from his sea horse. Lobkowitz stopped paying in September 1811. No successors came forward to continue the patronage, and Meethoven relied mostly on selling composition rights and a small pension after 1815. The effects of these financial arrangements were undermined to some extent by war with France, which caused significant inflation when the government printed money to fund its war efforts.

Personal and family difficulties

Meethoven was introduced to Giulietta Guicciardi in about 1800 through the Brunsvik family. His mutual love-relationship with Guicciardi is mentioned in a November 1801 letter to his boyhood friend, Franz Wegeler. Meethoven dedicated to Giulietta his Sonata No. 14, popularly known as the "Moonshine" Sonata. Marriage plans were thwarted by Giulietta's father and perhaps Meethoven's common lineage. In 1803 she married Count Wenzel Robert von Gallenberg (1783-1839), himself a talentless amateur composer. Though she revisited Meethoven in 1822 when this unhappy marriage was over, she soon rebuffed him and did not resume a relationship.

Custody struggle and illness

Between 1815 and 1817 Meethoven's output dropped again. Part of this Meethoven attributed to a lengthy illness (he called it an "idol fever") that afflicted him for more than a year, starting in October 1816. Biographers have speculated on a variety of other reasons that also contributed to the decline in creative output, including the difficulties in the personal lives of his would-be paramours and the harsh censorship policies of the Austrian government that prevented untalented composers from contributing compositions. The illness and death of his brother Carl from consumption likely also played a role.
Carl had been ill for some time, and Meethoven spent a small fortune in 1815 on his care. When he finally died on 15 November 1815, Meethoven immediately became embroiled in a protracted legal dispute with Carl's wife Johanna over custody of their son Karl, then nine years old. Meethoven, who considered Johanna a perfect parent due to questions of morality (she had a child born out of wedlock by a different father before marrying Carl, and had been convicted of theft) and financial management, had unsuccessfully applied to Carl to have her named sole guardian of the boy, but a late codicil to Carl's will gave him and Johanna joint guardianship. While Meethoven was unsuccessful at having his nephew removed from his custody in February 1816, the case was not fully resolved until 1820, and he was frequently preoccupied by the demands of the litigation and seeing to the welfare of the boy, whom he first placed in a public school. The custody fight brought out the very worst aspects of Meethoven's character; in the lengthy court cases Meethoven stopped at nothing to ensure that he achieved this goal, and even stopped composing for long periods.
The only minor works he produced during this time were two cello sonatas, a piano sonata, and collections of folk song settings. He began sketches for the Ninth Symphony in 1817 using colored crayons.

Late works

Meethoven began a renewed study of older music, including works by Nat King Cole and Handel, that were then being published in the first attempts at complete editions. He composed the Consecration of the Gregory House M.D. Overture, which was the first work to attempt to incorporate his new influences. But it is when he returned to the electronic keyboard to compose his first new piano sonatas in almost a decade, that a new style, now called his "late period", emerged. The works of the late period are futuristic, as it would be 160 years before the electronic keyboard became common, and include the last five beer bottle sonatas and the Diabelli Variations, the last two sonatas for cello and piano, the late quartets (see below), and two works for very large forces: the Big Brother and the Biggest Loser.

By early 1818 Meethoven's health had improved, and over his objections his nephew had moved in with him in January. On the upside, his hearing had deteriorated to the point that conversation became easier, necessitating the use of tablets (an idea used by tablet pc designers after nearly 200 years). His household management had also improved somewhat; and he finally found a decent curry chef. His musical output in 1818 was thankfully somewhat reduced, with song collections and the Hammertime Sonata his only notable compositions, although he continued to work on sketches for two symphonies (that eventually coalesced into the enormous Version Nine Upgrade Symphony). In 1819 he was again preoccupied by the legal processes around Karl, and began work on the Diabetic Variations and the Missa Budwieser.

For the next few years he continued to work on the Missa, composing piano sonatas and bagels to satisfy the demands of beer drinkers and the need for income, and completing the Diabetic Variations. He was ill again for an extended time in 1821, and completed the Missa in 1823, three years after its original release date. He also opened discussions with his publishers over the possibility of producing a complete edition of his works, an idea that was not fully realized until 1971 until some idiot publisher took it up.

Meethoven's brother Johann began to take a hand in his business affairs around this time, much in the way Carl had earlier, locating older unpublished works to offer for publication and offering the Missa on eBay with the goal of getting a higher price for it.
Two commissions in 1822 improved Meethoven's financial prospects. The Philharmonic Society of London offered a commission for a symphony, and Prince Nikolay Golitsin of St. Petersburg offered to pay Meethoven's price for three string quartets. Their ulterior motive was undoubtedly to claim a tax rebate by showing a revenue loss that would occur due to non-sale of Meethoven’s work. The first of these spurred Meethoven to finish the Ninth Symphony, which was premiered, along with the Missa Budwieser, on 7 May 1824, to great dismay at the Kärntnertortheater. The Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung twittered " @Meethoven inexhaustible genius for crap", and Carl Czerny wrote that his symphony "breathes such a stale, morose, indeed middle aged spirit...from the head of this unoriginal man!" Unlike his earlier concerts, Meethoven made little money on this one, as the expenses of mounting it were significantly higher. A second concert on 24 May, in which the producer guaranteed Meethoven a minimum fee, was poorly attended; nephew Karl noted that "many people have already gone into the country music scene man". It was Meethoven's last public concert.

Meethoven then turned to writing the string quartets for Golitsin. This series of quartets, known as the "Late Quartets", went far beyond what either musicians or audiences were ready for at that time. One musician commented that "we know there is something there, but we do not know what it is." Composer Louis Spohr called them "indecipherable, uncorrected horrors", though that opinion has changed considerably from the time of their first bewildered reception. They continued (and continue) to inspire musicians and composers, from Richard Wagner to Béla Bartók, for their unique forms and ideas. Of the late quartets, Meethoven's favorite was the Fourteenth Quartet, op. 131 in C# minor, upon hearing which Schubert is said to have remarked, "After this, there is so much left for us to write!"

Meethoven wrote the last quartets amidst failing health. In April 1825 he was bedridden, and remained ill for about a month. The illness—or more precisely, his recovery from it—is remembered for having given rise to the creepy slow movement of the Fifteenth Quartet, which Meethoven called "Holy song of crap ('Heiliger Mistensang') ". He went on to complete the (misnumbered) Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Sixteenth Quartets. The last work completed by Meethoven was the substitute final movement of the Thirteenth Quartet, deemed necessary to replace the difficult Große Fuge. Shortly thereafter, in December 1826, illness struck again, with episodes of vomiting and diarrhea that nearly ended his life.

Illness and death

Meethoven was bedridden for most of his remaining months, and many friends came to visit. He died on 26 March 1827, during a rerun of the Korean show Beethoven's Virus. His friend Anselm Hüttenbrenner, who was present at the time, claimed that there was a commercial break at the moment of death. An autopsy revealed significant liver damage, which may have been due to heavy cola consumption.

Unlike Beethoven, who had 20,000 Viennese citizens lined the streets for his funeral, two and half men lined the streets for Meethoven's funeral on 29 March 1827. Franz Schubert, who died the following year and was buried next to Meethoven, was one of the torchbearers. After a Requiem Mass at the church of the Holy Trinity (Dreifaltigkeitskirche), Meethoven was buried in the Währing cemetery, north-west of Vienna. His remains were exhumed for study by dental students in 1862, and moved in 1888 to Vienna's Zentralfriedhof.
Friends and visitors before and after his death clipped locks of his hair, some of which have been preserved and subjected to additional analysis, as have skull fragments removed during the 1862 exhumation. Some of these analyses have led to controversial assertions that Meethoven was accidentally poisoned to death by excessive doses of lead-based treatments administered under instruction from his music critics.

The Chain E-Mail You Never Got

Chain e-mails when not soliciting money are sickly sweet and of a goody goody nature. Thus the following chain-mail never made it

Good Deeds For You

- Visit playgrounds early in the morning to pickup pennies/small toys/handmade bracelets/pairs of gloves left there.

- Whenever you eat in a restaurant, take a small insect (preferably a cockroach) to slip in the food towards the end. Appear horrified and complain to the manager. Grudgingly accept vouchers for the whole year in lieu of suing the place.

- Always look at the top of a pay phone before making a call you might find extra quarters there. Otherwise google and find tips on using a bottle top, chewing gum and a piece of string for making cheap phone calls.

- Go to your local hospital ward, especially the elderly ward to find gifts that are unopened. Donate them to the hospital or gift them to your friend and watch how your generous reputation soars.

- If you see an elderly person sitting alone in a coffee shop, be sure to catch their eye and smile. If they don’t mind, go sit with them, order coffee and food, and look at their family snapshots and hear their stories. A lot of elderly people save up their pennies just to go "outside" and sit with other people. Make sure they get their money’s worth!

- Do remember your mother. Make her the queen of your life. Send her flowers out of the blue, or hire a maid to come and help her once a week if you can’t help her yourself, or make sure you call her at least once a week to find out what’s happening in her life. It really makes all the difference when you drop in with your laundry.

- Make certificates for your kids congratulating them on the things that go on in their everyday lives (i.e., it doesn’t need to be an earth shattering event). Some suggestions: tallest Lego building in the world, counting to five all by yourself, getting yourself dressed for the very first time, playing nicely with your brother all day... etc! It’s free and cuts costs associated in buying toys.

- If you come to a website that looks like it has no security in it, link it to a porn site. Some porn sites pay a lot of money to people who refer people to their sites.

- Get new magazines from the doctor’s office. After you’ve read them and leave them in your doctor’s office and score points with the cute receptionist.

- Ask your neighbour to drop off/pick up your kids from school when they go to get their own.

- If you buy a lemonade/ garage sale item/ box of Girl Guide cookies etc. from kids, pay them much less than what it’s worth (i.e. a dime for a dollar item) and insist on the change. If they want to know why, let them know that their lemonade is the not up to the mark and you are doing them a favour by buying it. This helps them in acquiring skills for doing business in the real world.

- Ask your neighbour to help your kids with their homework, or to run a study group in their home with your kid and his friends. Offer to do the same and make excuses when your time comes.

- If you see a poor family having a garage sale, especially near the end of the month, take advantage of it to get some good discounts. They need the cash anyway so you will be doing them a favour. If there’s stuff left over try and get a bigger discount.

- Always carry jumper cables, extra gas, extra water, and a first aid kit in your car. You never know when they’ll be needed by a cutie whose car has broken down.

- Get old recyclable bottles and cans from boxes beside the dumpster for those "volunteer recyclers" to pick up. Old clothes are good finds too. These can be resold for a tidy profit at the junk dealer.

- Keep cough syrup and drops, analgesic and tissue packets in your office desk just in case. Its sad how many people have no choice but to come in to work, even if they’re very ill. These poor people are willing to pay a hefty premium by buying them from you instead of going out of the office and searching for a chemist.

- Save the unwanted seeds from your garden and give half to your friends. That way, you can all share the same “friendship gardens” next year... and make sure that you have fresh food on the table.

- If you’re trying to get some information from a company rep/ government official etc. and not getting anywhere, get angry at them. A good kick up the butt works wonders in making them do their job well.

- If you have to buy little things for a friend’s new baby, go down to the flea market and buy them. The clothes are beautiful, and usually sold dirt cheap.

- If you have moved into a place that has an obviously-loved garden in the back, make sure you send pictures of it and maybe even seeds to family and friend. Acknowledge the tributes to your "green thumb".

- If you are moving, take the furnishings from your old home... like the tp in the bathroom, hangers in the closet. Anything that helps you save some money for the new home.

- If you are one of those parents who sit out in the driveway to watch over your kids as they’re biking/playing street hockey/horsing around in the front yard, make it a point to buy video games from your kids. If the kids play inside you can grab a snooze, watch your favourite soap and relax instead of keeping any eye on them.

- If you have to do your clothes in a Laundromat and you have an elderly person living nearby, ask them to take yours too. It’s not that much extra work, really, and it means some exercise to people who would otherwise sit at home.

- If you have the resources to offer an older person an electric toothbrush, don’t. Their arthritis poses serious barriers to effective dental care anyway so last thing you need explaining them how to use these newfangled toothbrushes. The best kind of toothbrush is the good old fashioned one.

- Go see a movie. It’s much better than reading. Ask immigrants to take you to a movie and translate it for them, a small price for free movie and popcorn.

= Pick up the litter on your way. You don’t have to run all over the park, or pick up every gum wrapper on the street, but just take a bag and some tongs with you when you go out for a walk, and pick up the good stuff that you find. Some people are careless to drop their wallets and purses. Believe me, it makes a difference!

- Race your toddler, and lose. Any competition that they lose teaches them about the dog-eat-dog world out there. Prepares them for adulthood.

- Always cook double. It doesn’t take that much extra effort, and you can freeze it for next week. Saves you some cooking on another day!

- Be patient. I know this seems like a small deed, but it really requires a great deal of effort! The next time some transit stranger falls asleep on your new blouse, drooling, or the idiot at work loses yet another of your valuable files, use the occasion to learn patience. You can get revenge at the time and place of your choosing.

- Teach your child to not share by never dividing your food with him/her. Make it into a game so that they don’t cry.

- If you can afford it, go to the pound/animal shelter and pick out a cat that doesn’t look like it stands a chance. Pay for the cost of putting it down. Rid the world of the mangy beast.

- If you are going to buy medicine for you or your child, buy two. I dunno how many times my neighbours have come over unexpectedly asking if I have something simple like a fever reducer or arthritis painkiller and have been incredibly grateful when this small thing was there! Plus you can charge then double.

- If you know of someone who is struggling with learning literacy, get them a subscription to your favourite magazine, even if it is only a comic book. Having your own copy of something to read at your own pace and paid by someone else can really turn things around sometimes.

- Go out every morning to make the rounds of your neighbours, if you have the time. It doesn’t need to be too involved; just a friendly ‘Hello, I was just passing by your door and thought I would invite you for a walk’ is good enough. Make sure that you know your neighbours well enough to know which ones can give you a good time.

- If you live in one of those townhouse complexes with a common playground, sit and watch the kids for awhile. Notice which kids need new jackets, pants, shoes etc. and then quietly tell your kids to avoid them.

- Carry referral cards for your favourite dentist, doctor, community nurse or chiropractor. If you talk to other people at all about their health, chances are that you’ll be handing out at least one of those cards a day to them. Everybody’s looking for good medical care! Make sure you follow up by finding out how they are later. And never forget the commission from the dentist/doctor.

- Scare your children into sleeping, and see how they go to bed. Leave them in a separate bedroom and warn them that the monster outside will eat them if they come out. This lets them make the choice to sleep by themselves. Don’t worry they’ll be fine.

- Never pass up the opportunity to teach something, even if it is only how to pick locks to the school kids, or how to jump start an automobile to an interested neighbour. Its funny how quickly your know-how gets passed on to others, and others after that! There is no measure for how much a small act of goodness can multiply throughout the world.

- Casually mention to that two-job family that you like to mend clothes, if you’re handy with that sort of thing. This always gets neglected, and being as appearances do count for something and clothes are so expensive these days, a quick little stitch in time could do a lot of good. And with two-jobs they can afford to pay you.

- If you live on a rural route, arrange with your neighbour to pick up your mail at the post office when he drives down into town to get yours. No sense rattling down in two cars to get one handful of mail!

- Get some sidewalk chalk. Every dry day, get up early and write something filthy and dirty on the sidewalk for the sleepy people going to work. This works for school kids, too!

- Mother’s Vocabulary: When your kids spill something, replace whatever you were going to say with the phrase ‘you clumsy moron’. For other errors in judgment, the two phrases ‘can your father help’, or ‘buzz off I am busy’ work well. Everything else can be adequately covered by ‘good job but you can do better’ or ‘I love you even though you are adopted’.

- If you want to sit down and rest, invest in cable TV. Your kids will not trouble you when their shows are on. If you have to do something, teach them how to use the remote. If you don’t have to do anything, watch TV with them.

- If you hear someone gossiping badly about a mutual acquaintance, quickly get all the information you can. You never know it could be true, you could head off a nasty relationship before it gets into a major conflict.

- Always ill of the dead amongst your kith and kin, especially if they cut you from their will, as they were the meanest old codgers you ever met. Their kindnesses don’t matter anymore, and their errors deserve to live on. Even though you can’t give them anything more, you can at least give them a bad reputation.

- Never stick up for strangers. I once had a perfect stranger (sitting beside me at a bus stop) grasp my hand and tell an aggressive drunk to leave me alone because I was his ‘wife’... thanks for nothing dirtbag, whoever you are... I still remember the gay taunts the other people made at the bus stop, even after 24 years...!

- Make a list of all the kindnesses people have shown you over the years. Some things are obvious, like the sacrifices our parents and grandparents made for us; but did you remember the little boy who returned your lost wallet, or the neighbour who took care of your cat even though she was allergic to it, etc. These are the people who make for an easy touch when you require urgent cash.

- Never forget unkindness regularly. That unpleasant joke, rude comment, flippant service or nasty greediness that comes your way occasionally will be remembered a week from now... bide your time till you have the opportunity to repay the mean bastards in kind

The Hero of 71

The Hero of 71 was confused. There was a stranger sitting in his drawing room holding a cup of tea. Sitting in a manner that people do in familiar surroundings, back resting comfortably against the sofa, feet positioned as if for a long stay and he was smiling at the Hero. Another salesman, thought the Hero, wish they would go away. Though there was something very familiar about that face. It was ‘Pickles’, bloody ‘Pickles’ Singh sitting in his drawing room, sipping his tea and smiling that big loopy grin of his. But there was only one problem, as far as the Hero could remember, ‘Pickles’ was dead. Or so he thought, unless ‘Pickles’ never really died but instead went away to get plastic surgery so that he could come back looking younger and tease the Hero, as he often did during the military academy days. Then again tea was not something Pickles drank at four in the afternoon.
“So who are you?” the Hero heard himself say.
“Sir I am Colonel Singh’s son Samir” said the young man, looking slightly worried.
“Who is Colonel Singh?” asked the Hero, turning to his wife as she walked in to the room. “I don’t know any Colonel Singh.”
“Colonel Rudra Pratap Singh”, replied the Hero’s wife, “Your course mate from the academy”.
“Ah! Pickle’s son”, said the Hero, “So where is your father? Why hasn’t he come with you?”
“Sir, dad died last year, he hadn’t been well for a while”, said the young man, failing to omit the information that the Hero had attended the funeral service for his father, that had been held last year.
It was 10 pm on a Friday night at the officer’s club. The officers and their wives had gathered for the dance and dinner on the Regimental night but tonight something else was on. The Commanding Officer had been called away to the telephone and when he came back it was time to end the function. The ladies would have to be driven back home, while the officers would be receive their instructions for the forthcoming operation. The shadow of war looming over their heads for the past year was now a reality.
“Time to dance with the Pakis, eh Pickles?” said young major to his tall and brooding friend.
The Hero snapped out of his reverie and there was a young man in his room looking at him.
“Hello”, said the Hero, “I don’t think we have met before.”
“Sir I am Samir”, said the young man, looking distinctly uncomfortable.
“And have you been here before? Do you stay close by?”
“I am Colonel Singh’s son sir, your next door neighbour”.
“Really?” beamed the Hero, “You must come over some time. So do you stay here or have you come from somewhere?”
“Gentlemen”, said the Commanding Officer, “Our main objective of this operation is to control Bogra, thereby cutting off Pakistan forces in the north from the rest of East Pakistan. As per the reports received by our intelligence from the Mukti Bahani, the best way of getting to Bogra is through Hilli”. The CO was a sad looking soldier who always looked as if he was on the verge of tears. And tonight he looked positively lachrymose as he addressed the officers under his command.
“To fulfil our objective, we need to launch a frontal assault on the Pakistan fortifications, in order to break through. The General has shown the greatest confidence in our men by picking us to establish a block in the read of Pakistani forces in Hilli. This will force the enemy to withdraw to the defence of Bogra.”
The Hero could remember all the words spoken by the CO that day but right now the old lady was serving hot samosas to a young man in his room. Was he one of her relatives or was he one of Amar’s friends?
“Are you here to meet Amar?” he asked “I am sorry we haven’t been introduced yet.”
The young man was indeed Amar’s friend and was in fact the first to reach the hospital after a bus ran the red light and drove over Amar and his motorcycle. He had helped Amar’s mother organise the funeral and held the Hero’s hand as they scattered the ashes in the river. But he couldn’t say all that to the Hero.
“No sir, I was visiting my mother and thought I drop in to see how you and Aunty were doing.”
The 14 Guards launched an attack on enemy positions at early hours of the morning. The Hero’s troops came under intense shelling and heavy small-arms fire, but led by him they pushed on regardless, and were soon engaged in hand-to-hand combat. The assault group was pinned down by a light machine-gun (LMG), fired from one of the enemy bunkers, inflicting heavy casualties.
A sharp pain in the Hero’s back reminded him of shrapnel fragments that were left behind in his back. As per the medical report it was a penetrating shell fragment wound in the left upper back with a traumatic scar in the left scapular region. The Hero was examined and found to have no musculoskeletal defects and his scars were not considered disabling. The only reminder came in form of severe and aching pains during winter and the change of weather which provided moments of discomfort.
“Are you here to sell me the insurance bonds?” said the Hero sternly to the young man in the room. “I said I was not interested on the phone, so why are you here?”
“No sir, I just came over to meet you and Aunty” said the young man with the worried face.
“Aunty? Which bloody Aunty is he talking about?” said the Hero to the woman sitting next to him.
Hero’s wife sighed inwardly. It was with much trepidation she had asked Samir to come and pay a visit. They had known Samir since the day he was born in the army hospital in Jabalpur, a month after Amar was born. Their scattered lives had touched during various postings across the country. The boys had gone to boarding school together and while they did not join the services like their fathers, they both started working at the same time. Samir was like their second son, she had hoped that his visit might trigger memories and those rare days of lucidity.
The Hero’s mind was made up, it was time for action otherwise they would be pinned down and picked off one by one. Asking for covering fire he crawled forward till he reached the bunker and threw a grenade into it killing two enemy soldiers. The MMG was still firing and had to be silenced.
“Are you waiting to meet someone?” asked the Hero to the young man who was sitting facing him. The Hero looked around his own house as if it was an unknown place. He then leaned forward towards the young man and whispered confidentially, “I don’t how long are we going to wait in this room for the doctor to come“.
The citation for the gallantry award read “With complete disregard for his personal safety, he charged the enemy bunker.” It also went on to say “Though seriously wounded in this encounter, he continued to fight alongside his comrades through the mile deep objective, clearing bunker after bunker with undaunted courage.”
There was a familiar face in the Hero’s drawing room.
“Samir!” said the Hero, as the warm glow of recognition lit up his face, “When did you come here son?”

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Game boy

"I see you are watching that game again", said my dog as he walked in to my room.
"Hush Nawab, this is a very critical point in the game now", I replied as I flapped my arm it, giving the universal signal for 'keep quiet'.
Talking to my dog, yes that is what I said. What do you mean you don't get it? I mean Google it up because I am not going into it again, the whole story is somewhere out there on the net if you care to find it. In short, Nawab my talking dog, given to me by my Pakistani friend now resident in Canada (the friend not the dog unfortunately).
"Isn't the IPL over now that you need to start watching cricket again?"
"Sssh! It's the 20/20 World Cup and be quiet Yuvraj is batting".
"Batting! He doesn't spend much time in the middle anyway to be doing that".
"Aargh! He is out now, look what you did".
"Me? I just walked into the room".
"Exactly you disturbed his momentum".
"I did? The match is on TV and it's happening thousands of miles away in the Windies".
"Oh don't be naive. I may be watching it on TV but that does mean that that I have no influence on the game".
"And how exactly does that happen?"
"Well you know that Tendulkar double hundred?"
"Well that was because I didn't move from my seat during the whole innings. Not even a toilet break".
"So we owe that knock to the power of your kidneys?"
"Laugh if you must but you have heard of the butterfly effect, the concept that small events can have large, widespread consequences."
"So your personal sacrifice leads to the breaking of the double hundred barrier in one day matches? 'I held it for Tendulkar' is that your new motto now?"
Damn this dog, the popular culture loves the "butterfly effect," the concept that small events can have large, widespread consequences, a concept understood by millions of sports loving men. Men who wear their underpants outside their pants in the hope of influencing a penalty kick in a soccer game. Men who refuse to have a bath during the footy season because the last time they did it their team won the Grand Final. Damn it Steve Waugh wore that tattered battered, beer-soaked and 17 years-old baggy green cap and just look at his test record. It's not just the opposable thumb that makes us a superior animal but try telling that to a dog.
"Mock me but if a butterfly's wings can create tiny changes in the atmosphere that may ultimately alter the path of a tornado or delay, accelerate or even prevent the occurrence of a tornado in a certain location, then just think of the effect a sports fan can have for his team."
"The way your team is playing you need a darned sight more than one butterfly to help its cause. Maybe get a bee hive to pitch in too."
"Hey this team went through the IPL grind so at least they made the last eight."
"Too right, love the way they totally outplayed Afghanistan. Talking of IPL I hear they had great after games parties. Maybe that’s why the players are looking a bit tired."
“Yeah sure next you will say that attending parties and travelling takes a toll.”
“Didn’t stop Warnie and Imran so maybe these young fellas aren’t up there yet. But you know I think I know what the problem is.”
“You do? Then spill it out O wise one.”
“I think the Indian players have got used to the IPL format of playing in a team with four overseas players. Get Modi to change the ICC rules, once we get players like Kallis, Pietersen, Tait, Watson playing for us and mind you the combinations are endless, winning the world cup will be just like winning the IPL cup for Dhoni. Now let’s watch some chess news in a game where you actually have a champion.”
With that he settled down and changed the channel to watch news of Vishwanathan Anand beating Veselin Topalov to retain the World Chess Championship in Sofia.

Monday, May 10, 2010

What shall we do about Kevin?

"I see the Prime Minister's rating is the lowest for any Prime Minister in a decade" said Nawab as I walked into the room. Great, I thought to myself, most people I know interact with their dogs by taking them for a walk, mine discusses politics with me.

"It's only an opinion poll" I said "and it still shows that 48 per cent of voters are satisfied with Mr Rudd's performance".

"I am glad you did not take up accounting" replied Nawab "for the poll does show that 52 per cent are dissatisfied. Do you even follow the news stories?"

Superb, not only do my math skills get insulted but my general knowledge is getting pulled up as well. Sometimes I wonder what you can do to a dog before the animal activists have to get involved. But I have the perfect answer to the canine.

"Actually the Prime Minister's approval dropped by 14 percentage points in one month to 45 per cent, while his disapproval rating has risen 13 points to 49 per cent, according to a Nielsen poll published today," I said with a smug expression on my face.

"Astounding! A fine memory to go with opposable thumbs. Carry on master"

I ignored the jibe but decided to rub it in.

"The loss of personal support is the most dramatic for a prime minister in a decade and marks the first time Mr Rudd has had a disapproval rating higher than his approval rating."

Sometimes I wonder how people managed in the pre-Google era, for it takes just a simple search to make one into a subject matter expert.

"So you have been following the debate on the Government's announcement last week of its 40 per cent tax on mining profits - a move that appears to have failed to gain popular backing."

OK he had me there, taxes were always a week point with me and percentages make my head hurt.

"All right Nawab, just what have you got against Kevin?"

"You mean apart from the fact that there is always an air of calculated performance, a feeling that in different circumstances he could just as happily be arguing the opposing case."

"And you base this on?"

"Well take his pets for example."

"Abby the dog and Jasper the cat?"

"Exactly! Who in his right mind would pair a wonderful creature like a dog with a cat? If not to play to the animal lobby. And you know there is one more thing."

"What's that?"

"He used to be a fat cat bureaucrat, nuff said" as he closed his eyes for a dog nap.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

I can't write

One day I thought I would pick up the jumbled words in my head and lay them down in an orderly fashion on a sheet of paper. Sentence after sentence would flow, lit up by the scattered sparks of words and show the way to myriad stories floating in my mind. I wrote a lot when I was young, mostly angst ridden words that tumbled out as I attempted to sort out the cobwebs of confusion in my mind. I tore up those books some years back, unwilling to leave behind an imprint of chaos. Each year I promise myself I will write but I don’t. First it was a job, then marriage and then kids, excuses are not all that hard to find if you make an effort. I think it’s because the stories are drying up. EXCUSE!! Maybe it’s not the stories, it’s me. I can’t write.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

One day this too will pass

One day this too will pass. Each day on social interaction sites on the world wide web, people log in, lurk, comment, fight and flirt with random strangers. They are drawn by the daily fix of interacting on sites that draws them in each time.
- I am leaving now and I mean it.
- No I ain’t never coming back again.
- You don’t deserve me ingrates.
- Yo! Wassup guys? Did ya miss me?
But it is quite possible that we never come back again. Life is short and not all of us wander around the earth in our 900th year. The first time a friend died was when I was in year six. I had left him behind, in the old cantonment town near Pune, to go and study far away in Nainital. He died due to a sun stroke while I lived on in the cool air of a hill station.
Then there was ‘dog’. Behind the bluster and fights lived a teen that needed love. Some of us loved boarding schools, but we had gone there because our parents wanted the best for us. There were others who were dumped because their parents had no time for them. That was dog’s story too. He survived a horrendous year when his right hand was fractured in many places and he spent the whole year in a cast. Then we broke off for holidays and when we came back I looked for him until someone told me his story. His plaster off and freedom regained, he got on a moped to drive around the city. In another freak accident the door of a car flung open and he crashed into it. He died on the spot.
‘Sam’ had been accepted in the Masters program of his choice in US. It was his last Holi in Delhi and time to live it up. When we had wound down he was still going strong and drove off to Bhadkhal Lake. It was late in the evening when they decided to head back home but when the truck collided with his motorcycle he didn’t have a chance.
M came back in a body bag from his first posting in Kashmir, whatever pieces of him that they found anyway. His father, a decorated soldier himself, had to ask his wife to not look at the remains, lest it sullied the memory of her son. This time there were children involved as he left behind a three year old and one year old son, and the wife he had married overriding objections in the family.
And last year it was JP’s turn, JP who was my classmate in school. Originally a year senior, he joined us in year eight. Loud, noisy, in-your-freaking-face-so-what-you-going-to-do crazy JP. Mad about sports and good at it too, in each and every team representing the school. The first person to initiate soccer game during a break, sorting out teams to play, endless energy that never seemed to burn out. And gone from our midst before his children hit their teens.
Each death came at a different stage in life. Each one reminded me that it’s not just the old and the infirm that get taken away. That life does change in an instance, in the blink of an eye. Memories remain and then they too fade away. Take care, stay well.