Sunday, June 10, 2007

French fries and hamburgers

It’s a beautiful morning in Boston city. Arun is busying towards his fast food joint ‘The Eldorado’. Today he is doing an extra shift. With New Year round the corner ‘The Eldorado’ is doing some extra business. Arun is pursuing a PhD in physics at the University in Boston. His supervisor is on leave so he has got some extra time for his eldorado. Well the owner is nice guy, and as it turned out this guys grandfather migrated to US. And he hails from the same village as Arun. Though Arun hardly remembers anything of his village from the back waters of Kerala so does the owner. When Arun came to America with his big American dream he never realized a sarcastic remark in his MSc years by his teacher Tanmoy Chatterjee or TC in short could hold the key to his eldorado. `French fries and Hamburger’ yes that’s what he said.

Arun grew up in conservative family. His father worked for MNC so money was not a problem for him but his father still insisted that he should learn to earn his own money. After all for his father having your own money earns you self respect in this world. So, one fine day he announced he wanted to be a scientist. Hearing this, his father was elated.

“Very good Arun, it is very nice that you have decided to become a scientist. I think if you do engineering from computer science from IIT Kanpur and then go to MIT for your further studies it would be excellent.” was his father’s first statement on hearing his good intentions.

“No no!” protested Arun. “You don’t get it; I want to be a physicist not an engineer”

These words fell on his father’s ears like a sound of a 19th century canon fired inches from his ears. He had no words to express his feelings it was like he had frozen with shock, gone deaf and turned blind.

“Dad! Dad!” Arun tried to shake his father out of his momentary state of astonishment. He couldn’t believe his only son didn’t want to be an engineer. When he was back to his senses what he said will puzzle Arun for the rest of his life.

“OK. If you want to be a knuckleheaded ape for the rest of your life I don’t have a problem but officially I don’t like the idea.”

But still against his father’s wishes he came to Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS) in New Delhi to join an elite program which went by the name MSc integrated. After grueling exams and interviews he was one of the eight people selected for the program. His first day at IAS was uneventful. The first class taken by Prof Tripathi, a guy in his fifties. The way he carried himself around looked like his existence was a burden on him. Then the very next class was taken by somebody who jumped around the class like a Chinese crazy ball. Then it occurred to him it is the IAS you should expect such varieties. But the most interesting part came only in his fourth year when he had to take a course under Prof Tanmoy Chatterjee.

In short he was known was TC or transfer certificate. You can fall in the bad books of any guy in the institute but not TC. He was a transfer certificate walking around the campus ready to hand himself out to anyone who happened to be in his bad books. So what was he teaching Arun? The theory of condensed matter. Well apart from the theory he was good at swearing at his students.

“You guys are ungrateful mere mortals who don’t know how to respect people.” This would come if you fail to wish him in the corridors of IAS. But the quote of the century was yet to come. It was near the end of his semester that Arun decided to appear for Graduate Record Examinations to get into graduate school in America.

One fine morning he hurried off to passport office for his passport application. He made a mental calculation to be back in two hours for TC’s class or he might end up getting a TC. But then there is always Murphy’s Law and Indian bureaucracy. Put together what you have is disaster. So the inevitable happened. It took Arun five hours running from pillar to post to submit his passport application. The consequence TC is probably cleaning his rifle by now to put Arun in front of his one man firing squad.

Come next day 10’o clock Arun seated his usual last bench. Enter TC with his sarcastic smile and a beaming face.

“Well, Well who do we have here? Ah! Mr. Arun. What a pleasant surprise. After all you have found time to come to my class? May I pray to your highness for your forgiveness on account of my audacity to enquire about your whereabouts during my class yesterday?” were the first few sentences that came out of the beaming round face of TC. Arun was dumbfounded by such overtures from TC and he kept mum.

“Answer me Arun!” barked TC at the top of his voice. “Do you know whose class it is? It is my class. TC’s class. Nobody is supposed to miss it. So kindly let me know where you were at the allotted hour?”

“Sir! I went to passport office”

“What for?” barked TC again.

“For selling onions and carrots. After all passport office is a place to sell onions and carrots.” thought Arun guessing probably TC does something else other than doing something for his passport at the passport office.

“To submit my passport application sir”

“Passport application? Are you going out somewhere this summer? I thought you were doing summer project with Prof Ayyar in summer.” enquired TC with suspicion.

“No sir, I am taking the GRE this year. For that I need the passport”

“Ah! I see! You are taking ‘the exam`. ‘The exam` to move to so called greener pastures probably in search of Holy Grail or something of that sort. But guess what, I know what most of you mere ungrateful mortals end up doing there. Sell hamburgers and French fries. Yes! that’s what you do” the words poured out of TC like a declaration from almighty God telling Arun his fate when he lands up at some grad school in America.

“Well! Since you have not missed a single class other than that of yesterday I will excuse you this time or you could have seen your American dreams jettisoned in a matter of minutes. Don’t worry in your last semester at IAS I will be taking your advanced course on condensed matter which for you guys is being made compulsory. So don’t miss a class or you might end up getting the beautiful english letter ‘F` meaning ‘fail` or in your case 'forget your dreams`.” declared TC. For the rest of the class TC was in a jubilant mood for he had released the floodgates of his dam of sarcasm which was overfull for want of victim.

But the class and the remarks were an eye opener for Arun. After all the McDonalds sell hamburgers and fries all over the world and make a filthy some of money each day. So there is nothing wrong in selling them if you can get rich by doing so. Probably this guy TC at the end of the day walks to a McDonald to buy fries and burgers for his son. And then the question popped in his mind

“If no body sold any burgers, how the hell we get to eat one?” making this mental note he was waiting eagerly for the end of the class. The end soon came and he rushed out of the class chasing TC and screaming at the top pf his voice

“Sir I have a question?” said Arun

“OK go ahead” said TC thinking he had disciplined the kid.

“Sir, if no one sold hamburgers and French fries how would we get to eat one? After all those mcbergers and mcfries are damn tasty.” declared Arun with confidence. He had completely forgotten that he was asking this to none other than TC.

“You will pay for this. Memorize the letter ‘F` from English alphabet” said a furious TC who had by then turned red like a piece of iron in the blacksmiths kiln.

At that moment terror stuck Arun, what the hell he had done, what was he thinking, he could see his American dreams down the filthiest drain. The semester was nearing its end, he might pass TC this time but what about next year?

That was almost four years back thought Arun speeding up to ‘The Eldorado’. Now he really sells fries and burgers in his free time and he makes enough to enjoy a little relaxed life. He looked towards the sky and thanked God for putting the thought in TC’s head about burgers and fries.

Well for what happened in the final year it’s anybody’s guess that he did not encounter the ‘F’ word. How did that happen is history? May be TC did not take the course or it was not made compulsory that’s for another time.

Disclaimer: This is a fiction any resemblance to anybody anywhere is purely coincidental

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The water tank on the top of my roof

The water tank on the top of my roof
Filled with water to the top
Proud to serve its own kingdom.
It was a bright sunny day four years back
When the first drops of water fell in his belly
New as it was built by an expert mason
It brimmed with joy
For it was going to serve the people below,
For years to come with fresh flowing water,
But things changed little too fast
Four years down the lane,
The tank has developed a crack,
The mason lied to him four years back,
He was told he was good for twenty years
But he is old in just four years.
Fresh flowing water seeping out to waste,
But still the tank tries to serve its best,
With whatever little it has left,
The beautiful water tank on the top of my roof is dying,
Because someone four years back was lying.

The water tank on the top of my roof,
Saddened by the lies remained aloof,
The zeal to serve long gone,
Filling the vacuum was hatred,
For everything that was even distantly mason,
Helpless it was being unable to move,
To strike a fear in the very heart of those,
Who could lie to him without a guilt,
The very same mason who had got him built,
The helplessness put in him a sense of despair,
But then he saw the sun,
Rising from the east setting in the west,
The world had changed in its life time,
From good to bad and bad to worse,
But it still rose in the east and set in the west.
Then he saw the moon,
Ever pleasant even in the darkest hours,
The beautiful water tank on the top of my roof threw away the rope,
Because in the sun and the moon he could see a ray of hope.

The water tank on the top of my roof,
Delighted by his new found hope,
Reasoned with all things mason,
Whatever came his way was destiny,
May be the mason made an extra cake,
May be the mason filled an extra rack,
Out of what was meant for the tank,
But could he enjoy the starlit nights
Or the sound of blowing air,
Or the chatter of falling rain drops,
Or the chirping of countless birds,
Or the majestic view of the vast fields,
That was there all for the tank at all times,
The treasures that the mason could not take,
The treasures that the mason could never make,
The treasures that the mason could never taste,
For he has blinded by his own excess,
The beautiful water tank on the top of my roof was smiling
Because its new found treasures were multiplying.
There do exist a water tank on the top of my roof which is four years old and it has cracked.......