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BREAKTHROUGH: Start Cutting!

Well, my tri-monthly epileptic fit, to which I have given a name, namely ‘social convulsion’ seems to be nearing its end, life for at least the next three months ahead is predicted to pass under ‘normalcy’….and at junctures like these I am inclined too see my idiosyncrasies more rationally and, of course, as most would expect, sarcastically. 

Painful as it is, I will still go ahead and elaborate on these social convulsions that I have come to observe, I go through every other while. I can write about it now, because I think, I might have cracked the mystery behind this enigmatic behavior of mine. It was totally unintentional and quite accidental too, but in any case it cleared a lot of things. To start off, if one gets down to it, one can make sense out of pure non-sense too. I will illustrate how. 

There comes a state, when my patience quotient suddenly dries out. Amounting frustration reaches its zenith and the beautiful life I am living suddenly becomes ugly and unbearable. There is not enough patience to utter a greeting, there is not even enough for a kind gesture or expression. I am a human being in its ugliest form, at its meanest behavior. Mother, Grandmother, Brother, Sister, Friend, Foe, Acquaintance, Colleague, Liftman, Watchman, Bus Conductor, Over-sized Public Transport Users, Harmless Senseless Pedestrians, Impatient Beeping Motorists….a person from any walk of life, is not spared. Everyone gets a piece of it. This offensive, rude, blunt and disparaging plague is contagious and affects everybody. Phone calls won’t be answered, Missed calls wont be returned, meetings wont be attended, appointments wont be kept, guests wont be let in, answers wont be given, questions wont be encouraged…..work will be done and no explanations will be given. But this unreasonable behavior is not quite unreasonable, for the simple reason that it is always instigated. 

Now I feel like the incredible Hulk! 

This time I was called a hypocrite. A manipulative one. By someone who claims to be caring and close. Enough reason to spark off the convulsion and the plague to spread. I tried very hard to contain it but it eventually overtook me, and everyone who came in contact. Well, almost. I managed normalcy at work place with the help of certain foolish acts. Maintained normalcy with the ‘gang’ by doing a disappearing act for almost a week. It was only me on the move and at home, so no problems there….except for the self consuming fury part. Tried to remain normal with people I care about, and that’s where I think I failed. Always do.
Basically in a situation like this I am back to hating my own self. The very idea of me starts to seem hypocritical. Word and action seem to become incoherent and contradictory. For example, I say I don’t like talking on the phone, but then I do talk for quite a long time, each time. I say I am a believer but I don’t pray. I say I care, but it doesn’t show.
But that’s not how it really is. I don’t like talking on the phone, but when I am on it, I feel a sense of duty to entertain the caller lest I should be labeled a ‘bore’ again, though it happens anyway. It feels like an obligation, you cannot say bye first, you cannot cut the line first. That’s impolite. ‘I am only talking since then, you are not saying anything….’, all my efforts are to avoid hearing this. Have to eventually.
I am a believer but I don’t pray. Because I also believe that praying is not a physical act, it’s a spiritual one, and if my soul doesn’t drive me to it, then my body won’t either.
I say I care, but it doesn’t show. Because it is not meant to be shown. It is meant to be felt, and if people cannot feel it, then, they are simply expecting me to be like the many others. Pretentious. 

Anyhow, getting back to the understanding of the enigma…there were two particular situations, two particular people, two particular comments and two particular incidents. That’s all it took. 

First with the first set. Situation is a discussion at work place on my ‘phone’ problems which are seeming very phoney. Whether I should rid myself of the landline, buy a cell phone, keep the landline and buy the cell phone, not give away the number, don’t keep either…and all possible permutations and combinations. When no solution seems to occur I remark that my ‘phone habits’ are bad. That whenever I attend a call, it usually goes onto to be a long one. One colleague nods in affirmation, probably out of experience, but the other says something which sticks in my head. ‘So don’t make one long call, make many small ones!’ I knew it was a practical solution, because it had occurred to me too sometime earlier, and I had the example of that colleague in front of me! Well, that discussion ended and I didn’t think about it until the second incident happened. And this is where the first incident needs to be mentioned. 

It’s a Sunday. I sleep late Saturday night, trying hard to overcome the fit. At 0630HRS the phone rings. I have no bearing on my location, time, date or day, usually the case when you are awakened from deep sleep. I get up, my head is spinning and with eyes half shut I stumble on to the telephone, take a peek at the number calling, recognize it and pick it up. It’s the oldest surviving acquaintance I have in India. He inquires what I was doing and that’s when I look at the time in the telephone. Its six thirty in the morning and I answer, 

‘just got up.’ 

He goes, ‘I hope I didn’t disturb you?’ to which I answer stupidly, ‘no, no, I have to get ready for office anyway now.’ 

‘Ok, you are going today?’ 

Sanity returns. 

‘oh, it’s a Sunday today….no, no I don’t have to go.’ Now I remember the convulsion I am in and the temper starts to rise. Keeping calm I inquire, 

‘what are you doing up so early, I suppose you haven’t slept all night?’ 

‘No man, didn’t…..in fact I just came out to buy some breakfast, and meanwhile I thought I will check on you.’ Meanwhile my eyes are still half shut, my head is still spinning and I am half bent on the table with my elbow resting on it. 

Memory returns. 

I hadn’t ‘reported’ to the ground the evening before and I was quite sure why he had called and what was to follow and how long I will have to stand in that position. 

They had an amazing time, played 7 a side on full ground, one whole hour under flood lights, why didn’t I come? Guess what the teams were..he, he, he, he and he on one side and he, he, he, he, and he on the other, oh ya, he and he too and he came late…guess who scored the first goal of the ground, he did, 3-3 draw, he and he fought in the middle of the game, he fell and we thought he died………….I don’t remember the half of it. I was dutifully replying with hmm’s and ahan’s until as suddenly as the whole description had started it ended with, 

‘Ok man, my parcel is ready, I will go and sleep after eating. Will you also sleep now? Allah Hafiz.’ 

Khuda Hafiz. Eyes wide open now, fists formed and waiting for any harmable object to come in sight (this is only fancied, never really happens). I loiter around for a while, re-start the computer for kicks, open and close folders, play and stop songs, log in and log out of my e-mail, finally shut it down and go back to sleep. I don’t pick up any of his calls for the rest of the day. 

The second set. Situation was a bit badly situated. I had been trying to call a special someone and not able to reach. In between, I attend a call by mistake, because the caller used a number I didn’t know and now I was stuck for about an hour. As soon as I manage to get off the call, that someone calls back and talks in a somewhat irritated tone (because of my engaged line). 

‘what can I do? I was trying to end the conversation but couldn’t.’ I was saying in my defense to which came the simplest, most obvious and truthful reply, 

‘you could cut a conversation if you wanted to.’ 

‘I could?’ 

Could I, of course I could! I have a reputation of rudeness! If there is anybody who can, it’s me! This is where the second incident comes into play. This is where it all rationalized. 

Same Sunday evening. I haven’t spoken to anybody all day. Ignored about 10 calls from 4 different people…cleaned, bathed, washed, read Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf and Syeda Imam’s The Untold Charminar, saw a movie called No Country for Old Men and didn’t understand a word of it. Its 1030HRS now and I have to leave for Grandma’s place. Already didn’t go for dinner making a false excuse and already late for a 10:30 reaching. Take Mein Kampf in hand, put a 5 rupee coin in my pocket and set out. Reach downstairs, see the lights of the Café still on and pop in for a cup of standard irani chai. Of all the objects in the Café my eyes rest on the face of the Imam Saheb of our locality mosque. Now ‘we’ have a history of violence (not physical), and ignorance is out of question. So I Salaamed, was offered a seat, so sat, inquired, so answered, telephone number asked, so given (this is the peak of irony) and then Imam Saheb’s company opens mouth, never to shut it. 

‘What work do you do in office?’ 

‘I am an architect.’ 

‘Did you finish your engineering?’ 

‘Yes,’ I say with a hopeless expression. 

‘From which College?’ 

‘CSIIT, Secunderabad.’ 


‘There is a college in Secunderabad called CSIIT.’ 


Then it started. I was supposed to acknowledge that computer science is in demand now. That engineering has value only out of state. That only the famous names can survive in the business. I was also to acknowledge certain Saeed bhais and Anjum bhais, even if I didn’t know them. I did my best by keeping the most expressionless face my features allowed. Rest of the events have to be portrayed in the exact genuine way that they happened, otherwise they would lose their genuine effect. 

‘acha, yeh bolo G+2 building ke caalum pe kitne floors daal sakte? Apne Saeed Bhai mereko diye design. 220 gaz (sq.yards) ki zameen pe pachchees (25) caalumaan (columns) diye uno. Samjhe aap. 220 gaz ki zameen pe pachchees caalumaan diye. Aath Aath (eight, eight) feet ke gap pe pachchees caalumaan diye uno. Acha, uske uppar se pilinth beamaan(plinth beams) bhi diye. Abh, apan kahan dete pilinth beam…kachche muqaam (wet place) jahaan pe matti loose rehti, wahan pe. Pilinth beam bole to samajhre na aap. Do caalumoon ke beech mein ek caalum soya hua hai. Aur apni dewaar uske uppar khadi hui hai!’ At this Imam Saheb remarks, 

‘oh, mazbooth hai foundation phir toh!’ then both join in affirmation and look at me. I nod, just as I am expected to. 

‘toh iske uppar aur ek floor nai daal sakte bolre uno. Design unoich diye aur dekhe bhi uno banaate waqt. Meztri bolra aur do daal sakte bolke. Abh usko maloom na, field experience se. aap ka kya khayaal hai?’ he rests his case with an air of accomplishment and expectation. 

‘Foundation ke uppar depend karta.’ I say calmly. 

‘adekho, 220 gaz zameen pe uno pachchees caalumaan diye. Aath, Aath feet ke gap pe 9” by 12” ke caalumaan uthaaye. Abh koi bhi building main 10’ dete gap. Nai?’

‘abh yeh caalum dekho (pointing to the ceramic tile clad caalum of the café), kitni duur hai! Usme mere khayaal se uno 6mm se 10mm ke rodaan bithaaye. Pachchees caaluman hai….(pause)….. Daal sakte aur ek floor? Aap kya bolte iske baare mein, kya karna?’ 

‘architect jo bolra who karo.’ I replied calmly again, finishing my tea. Though the gentlemen still seems to be just warming up. 

‘main unko poocha second floor daal sakte kya bolke to uno bole main iski ijaazat nai de sakta. 220 gaz zameen pe pachchees caalumaan hai. (after a thoughtful pause) Asal mein, main unko char hazaar diya khaali, aur baaki ka kaam kisi aur se karaliya. Aath hazaar dene ka tha unko. Main kya kara, unse details leleke aur ek engineer se kaam karaliya. Une naya tha, usko do hazaar diya main.’ 

This is precisely where I get cranky. I hope it shows on my face, but it doesn’t and so he continues. 

‘abh main Saeed Bhai ke paas jaake unko karo bola to mere khayaal se uno second floor daal sakte bolenge,’ he continued giving a wicked smile, exposing his gutka red teeth and glancing over to the Imam Saheb, who returns a silent smile, I suspect somewhat disapprovingly, avoiding eye contact with me. But that gentleman’s smile sent a spark through my mind. I established the connection then and there, in that nanosecond. The workplace comment, the phone conversation comment, the morning incident and what I was going through at the moment…all flashed in my mind in series. 

I could cut a conversation if I wanted to! 

‘Mere baazu ki zameen hai. 160 gaz pe uno Aath caalumaan uthaaye. Mere paas 220 gaz pe pachchees caalumaan hai, to G+2 nai daal sakte kya? Acha, uno foundation kaisa diye…(this is where he gets physical in his elaborate explanation)…taper rehta na…char feet ka gadda (pit) khod ke do feet ka taper diye. Baarish hone se paani aagaya tha to gadda bada hogaya. Toh aur material daalna pada. Baarish se faida hogaya mereku. Foundation aur mazbooth hogaya, toh nai daal sakte kya second floor?’ Imam Saheb jumps in, 

‘aap abhi designing shurro nai kare shayad office mein?’ 

‘nai, waisa nai hai.’ I am at the edge of my reasonable behavior. 

‘phir aapke khayaal se daal sakte ya nai?’ 

‘kaisa bolon main? Dekhna padta jaake.’ 

‘acha, dekhna padta?’ 

‘haan phir,’ I manage matter of factly. 

Return to annoyance. 

‘acha, uno jab second floor daalenge na, to slab pe weight kum denge. Samajhre aap….adekho jab first floor slab dete na…..’ I flip the book in my hand, turn my wrist to have a look at the watch, I get up before I can see the time. While the gentleman’s words decelerate and start to fade to syllables I stretch my hand towards Imam Saheb for a shake and facing him say, 

‘mujhe nani ke paas jaana hai, late horon.’ 

After his shake, I stretch my hand towards the gentleman who takes it saying, ‘bore marra kya..’ Pointlessly trying to be polite I respond with ‘nai, nai’, wave again at Imam Saheb, turn around and leave in great speed. 

I didn’t look up and kept up the pace till I had walked quarter of the distance. And then it started to rain. After getting a little wet, I took shelter on a building porch by the petrol station and wondered if God was punishing me for my rudeness. I had a book in my hand for which I had plans, and didn’t want it to get wet or soiled. 

There I stood for a while watching the rain in the darkness and thinking if I was really such a self-contradicting person. Could I really manage to be the two extremes of the same quality? Be the depths of rudeness and the heights of politeness at the same time. Because I remember earnestly gulping down a tomato soup, something I had never taken in my entire life, just because of a waiter, whom I didn’t want to offend unnecessarily. And I also remember abandoning a colleague at a terminal when she was new to the place, just because I was annoyed by her ‘nakhras’ of not travelling by an empty bus to the office to reach on time. The tomato soup wasn’t bad at all, and the colleague reached the office before me and never complained. This is absolutely out of sync with a person who is so obsessed with the idea of ‘balance’ in the universe. 

Certain thing is that this is ‘No Country for Pushovers’. You don’t have to take any crap if you don’t want to. And that is where I conclude, I fail. Every crap event adds a bit of it’s frustration into my convulsion folder, and when the memory is full, it is deleted during the one week or so that I am ‘unavailable’. Once empty, the entire process repeats again.

The inference is that you can never be too polite or too rude. And you can never be too self-explanatory. You gotta let God be your judge and draw the line. Cut when you have to and don’t when you don’t. Maintain your sanity that way and thank Him for creating some wonderful human beings.

Written 2008, after two such 'happenings' within six months.