Monday, 4 June 2007


I have been traveling a lot lately and have had no time to really write. Unfortunate, for I have so much to share yet no time to put it into words. I got around to reading a few blogs from those I like reading and was looking at a post by wildflower where she talks about how she likes observing people and this reminded me of something. Being an actor I do this almost unconsciously.

I wish to narrate an incident that occurred many years ago during my college days. I had got involved with a friend in doing business across Madhya Pradesh and this took me across the length and breadth of the state. Needless to say this involved a lot of traveling, and traveling in the best possible way as Gandhi had explained. The Indian Railways truly is a great learning arena. You meet and can observe all sorts here. I was on a journey from Jagdalpur an obscure town in the district of Bastar in the erstwhile large state of Madhya Pradesh before its division. My destination was Bhopal. This involved traveling from Jagdalpur to Raipur by bus and from there by train. I reached Raipur rather early for my connecting train that was due to depart past midnight and had to kill 3 hours. I decided to do this on the railway platform at the Raipur station.

What I am about to tell you might sound completely unbelievable but I assure you it is a true story. I am one who does not like to differentiate between people but the world has evolved such that people behave and appear different and this helps us identify each other among the 6 billion plus that we are. I would like to state my disclaimer at this point as the community I am preparing to speak about is truly one of India’s frontrunners and they have contributed much to society, probably more than any other. I have great regard for them, for their courage, zest for life, beauty and achievements among so much more. I am talking about the Sikhs.

I am a Malayalee and I have often heard the two communities clubbed together when people make statements like, ’cockroaches, Sikhs and Malayalees can be found anywhere on earth’. Now I take this as a compliment and I am sure my Sikh brethren too would. Through the rest of my post I shall refer to them as ‘Sardars’ as it sounds grander- incidentally Sardar is a term of respect for those of you who did not know loosely meaning ‘Chief’. Fortunately or unfortunately they, like Malayalees, are also the butt of numerous jokes probably due to jealousy arising out of their affluence and achievements – or so I thought. All this went through a process of rethinking that night.

At around 12 midnight (and I am not making this up, it really was 12 midnight), I saw a huge extended family of Sardars walk onto the railway platform to see someone off. The family included mothers, grandmothers, adolescents, men and cute children with their unique headgear. They were a very vocal group and the silence that had almost made me doze off had now been broken and I was on high alert. I went about my business of observing.

A few moments later I saw a child jumping excitedly next to a weighing machine – the typical one with a large multicolored wheel spinning in the glass encasing on top. He wanted to weigh himself. An elder, probably his father, walked up to him at which point the child stopped his commotion. The man asked him to stand on the scale and was about to insert a coin into the machine’s slot when the boy started screaming again. The boy wanted to insert the coin himself; a perfectly understandable emotion among children – they want to feel in charge. The father promptly gave the boy the coin. The boy tried to reach the slot but couldn’t as it was too high for him. The next thing that happened got me rattled and this is the point I had to reassess my views on ‘Sardar Jokes’. The man lifted the boy off the scale and asked him to insert the coin.


Saturday, 2 June 2007

Chinese Whispers

Its amazing how humans have this great capacity of spicing up real events to make it sound good when narrating an incident. The scouts game of ‘Chinese Whispers’ is a serious syndrome.

Last evening I got an sos call from a friend saying some guy on a scooter hit his car from behind and fell down hurt. I rushed to the spot to see a huge crowed gathered there. They had forced an auto to stop against his wishes, thrust the injured man on the passenger who was in the back seat and the unhappy auto driver was being verbally abused by a bunch of losers for whom this was an opportunity to feel important. Why? Nobody knows. That’s how the game is played. If you have ever watched baboons, this is the same reaction that is evoked when an injured baboon is lying on the floor and the rest are watching – complete noise with no one making sense. This is how emergency care is provided in our country.

For the vast majority, there are two simple traffic rules when two vehicles have an accident. The owner of the more expensive vehicle is at fault no matter what the scenario and of the people involved in the accident, the more aggressive and vocal of the two is right. Proficiency in abusive language is also a great advantage. If your vocabulary is better, then they usually withdraw the onslaught. In the midst of a group of uneducated empty heads trying to call shots, my friend had established some order. He was very proficient and aggressive.

There was not much time for me to interact and I had no idea what was happening or how bad the injury was. The injured man had some abrasions on his face and was moving. I got into the Auto and rushed to the nearest hospital. The pandemonium was so bad that the passenger in the auto asked me if I was the one who had knocked him down and that's when I realized they had no clue of what was happening either. A few moments later I got a strong whiff as if I was passing a brewery. The injured man was drunk out of his wits. He probably had a full bottle in him.

We reached the hospital with my friend in tow in his car. Trust me; what you see in the movies is all crap. No one rushes to you with a stretcher, no one hurries to check vital signs and honestly, no one cares. The doctor came to the auto visibly upset probably because I disturbed his meal and very calmly proclaimed that he could be suffering from a head injury. Since the hospital had no MRI machine, we had to take him to a place which could do a CT scan on him. Guess the doc was not in the mood to save lives.

At this point the passenger who was holding on to the injured man in the back seat somehow magically vanished and it was now my job to hold on to the injured man in the backseat on our ride to the next hospital. The DRUNK injured man (Capitals because he was really piss drunk) was half on top of me and my only thought at that moment was that this guy would puke all over me. His friggin breath was making me high. I could swear he had TWO bottles of the most potent brew in him now.

On reaching the next hospital the whole drama was repeated. After a long wait, the stretcher men arrived and I had to pick up this really heavy DRUNK injured man onto it. We wheeled him into the casualty ward and into the doctors’ chamber. (I haven’t misplaced the apostrophe. There were three doctors in there). After a five minutes wait the lead doctor had a look at him and to my surprise the first thing he did was ask the nurse to remove his gold chain, two gold rings and watch and seal it in a cover. He then tried to ask the DRUNK injured man his name to which the DRUNK injured man, now a bit sober, almost hit the doc. I asked the unmoved doctor if he is going to be fine. He looked at me bored and said, “In about two hours he will get up and go home and come back tomorrow to pester for his belongings”. That’s why the doc was more concerned about his jewelry. In the midst of him blabbering some technical words to another doctor who was registering the arrival of the DRUNK injured man, I heard a scream – poison case. The doc looked at me, still bored and said, “go home’. Just another day in his life I guess.

My friend and I left the hospital to go back to the spot as my car was there. The shops on the street had shut. The huge gathering of helping citizens I had seen hovering like flies over feces had disappeared. We saw the scooter parked on the side. A street dweller woman was guarding it. We wanted to somehow inform the DRUNK injured man’s family and so we walked up to the woman to ask if someone had come asking for him. This is what she had to say – “I was sitting on the roadside when I heard a loud crash. The owner of this bike was mowed down by a car. My son-in-law and others chased the car for a while but the car sped away. A group of good samaritans then rushed the poor man to the hospital”. And all this to the same guy who was there from start to finish. My friend and I looked at each other, walked back to our cars and went home to get a drink.

The whole episode had taken about one hour. A rather bland story had transformed into a Hollywood flick. Going back to what I said in the beginning, the scouts game of ‘Chinese Whispers’ is actually a serious syndrome. If this can happen in one hour, imagine what can happen in a few thousand years. Ponder. Mahabharata, Brahma-Astr, Pushpaka-Vimana, Bheema, Ramayana, Ram, Krishna, Ayyappa…. The list is endless.