Monthly Archives: September 2011

Eulogy to a Frank-fart-er

Statue of Agastya

Dear Son:

Have you ever come across a frank-FART-er? I always thought that the being was extinct. Indeed, if it did exist today, it would surely have qualified as the eighth wonder of our planet, don’t you think? Wait though my son, wait. It seems now that you and I, as well as other specimens of humanity whose footsteps have been guiding us, were utterly wrong in our convictions. Frank-FART-ers exist in profusion, or so at least the menus of a delicatessen or two are advertising in Kolkata. In large letters, capitalized that is. At the very entrance of the shops. You can’t miss them.

Come to think of it though, most of us might have been exposed to a somewhat lesser variety of the species, frank-FART-ers minus the boldness of it carried by the first five letters. They exist and perform with gay abandon in night trains as well as crowded buses, as evidenced by the diverse range of noises one’s ears are exposed to every now and then. And one can’t help wondering. Is there a technology that can decode these audio signals, or at least unravel the mysterious emotions they represent? Pride? Anger? Mockery? Pathos? Humility? Mind boggling you know, a bit like the inscrutable smile on Mona Lisa’s face.

Almost none of these musicians, mind you, have ever been accused of frankness. They remain as invisible to the naked eye as the mellifluous sound waves they produce. Yes, oh yes my child. I know you are as alert as a leopard in search of its prey. So you couldn’t have missed my hesitation at the very beginning of this paragraph. “Almost” said I. And if you scroll back upwards, you will notice further that I suggested that the animal was extinct. This means, doesn’t it, that there was a period in the history of mankind when it may well have existed. Dinosaur style.

But don’t you start googling in search of the creature. Neither historians nor archaeologists will offer you help in your quest. When your thirst for knowledge overpowers you, there is only one reference you should consult — the Mahabharata. That’s the ultimate source of history that historians always ignore. Fortunately, I am not a student of history, so I never fail to pay my due respects to this magnificent compendium.

And that is precisely the direction in which I ran the day I saw the advertisement at the delicatessen and burnt all the midnight oil at my disposal till I met with success. I am dying now to share with you my findings. The story of a magnificent frank-FART-er picked directly out of the pages of Krishnadwaipayan Vyas’ personal diary.

The f-f in question was the venerable Agastya, of whom I daresay you must have heard. I reckon he was one of the most powerful amongst the Hindu saints who found their place in the epic tale. His abilities manifested in the form of a great many miraculous events, but none as great as the one concerning the demon Illwal and his young brother Bataapi.

Whether this conjecture is correct or not, I can’t say. Vyas confirms though that Illwal made a somewhat questionable use of his faculty. And to go straight to the point, it appears that Illwal had once approached a Brahman with a strange request. He asked this B chap to grant him a boon that his son be as mighty as the King of Gods, viz. Lord Indra himself, armed with thunder, fury and the rest of the paraphernalia. The Brahman unfortunately refused. To tell the truth, the poor chap really had no other choice. First, he didn’t know Indra personally and could not therefore make someone he didn’t know resemble yet another guy he didn’t know either. Secondly, even if he tried to cater to Illwal’s whim, it is doubtful that Indra himself would be too happy to oblige. I mean, there was always this stray chance that the Lord would be transformed in the process to Illwal’s pampered child and be forced to remain in that state till the rest of eternity. That such possibilities are real enough will be revealed to you as you read through this tale.

So, the B refused and this Ill chap in turn was livid with anger. He decided to depopulate the earth of Brahmans. Towards this end, he began to invite all the Brahmans he could locate to his residence and serve them a variety of delicacies. Amongst them was a curry, made apparently out of goat meat. In reality though, he was using his magic to transform Bataapi into a goat. And it was this Bataapi cum goat that he was slaughtering to be cooked into a curry for the consumption of the unsuspecting invitees. No harm in this, since Bat boy could not die even when decimated, thanks to Ill boy’s sorcery.

Apparently, the preparation made out of Bataapi’s meat was real tasty and the Brahman’s lapped it up with relish. However, immediately after the feast was over, Illwal would call out for his brother in a heart rending baritone and as soon as he did so, the hapless Brahman’s stomach would explode and a smiling Batapi walk out unharmed from the mess.

There is a question that bothers me though at this point of the story. To the best of my understanding, few Brahmans outside Bengal are meat eaters. If so, do we conclude that Illwal was only after Bengali Brahmans? Unfair man, God’s so unfair to the Bongs. Or, does it suggest that Brahmans living in other parts of the country, being more intelligent, got wind of Illwal’s machinations and promptly converted to vegetarianism? Whichever, it’s worth researching whether the forefathers of today’s vegetarian Brahmans were vegetarians during V’deva’s times.

Serendipitously enough, it was around this time that Agastya was seen in the vicinity. It was easy enough for him to secure an invitation card for Illwal’s party and Illwal merrily went through the ritual. Agastya too ate up the meat to his fill. And then, just when he was about to lie down for a well-deserved siesta, Illwal strung up the Bataapi tune on his harp. In response, much to Illwal’s dismay, Bataapi failed to reappear. And what emerged instead was a hurricane of sorts directly from Agastya’s posterior, accompanied by great thunder and lightning.

Make no mistake. Agastya admitted with all the frankness at his possession that it was he who had broken wind, thereby earning for himself the well deserved title of an f-f. Illwal was almost blown away by the force of the turbulence, but managed to hold his ground with the last bit of strength left in him. And as he stared open mouthed at Agastya, the latter smiled a beatific smile and came out with his immortal statement in chaste Sanskrit — “Bataapih jeerna bhava!” Which, translated into simple English runs — ” Bataapi dear, be thou digested!” In other words, following the rules of Physics, Agastya demonstrated the truth of what scientists describe as the Law of Conservation of Energy. He had converted a breathing Bataapi into as unattractive a form of energy as a blighted f**t!! And Prevented Illwal from transforming his kid brother back to the energy mass he started out from. You see now why Lord Indra would have refused to undergo the requested change? If Bataapi could not be restored back to his original self, what guarantee did Indra himself have?

Having proceeded this far, there must clearly be a question or two that are bothering you. First, what is it that they are selling in Kolkata? Fossilized pieces of Agastyas may be? Not unlikely in fact, if the Vyas story was solely concerned with Brahmans in this region of India. I am dead sure that Brahmans from other parts of the country would want to wash their hands off any involvement with Illwal, unless there was a vegetarian version of Illwal’s magic. I have to carry out further research before I can throw more light on the matter.

But there is a second question that might trouble you too. Was it pure serendipity that made Agastya appear to perform his miracle? The answer is, as you might suspect, a clear no. Agastya too had his designs. And I being at my garrulous worst today, let me end up with a summary of that incident too.

Agastya had not arrived at Illwal’s door with philanthropic propensities at all. As a matter of fact, it was quite the other way around. It was Illwal’s philanthropy that he demanded. If Vyasdeva is to be trusted, then during one of his lonesome morning walks through the omnipresent forests of yore, the young Agastya received the shock of his life to discover, not one, but the entire dynasty of his forefathers, apes included I suppose, hanging upside down inside a freshly dug hole, located inches away from this lofty tree under which he had sat down to rest. And mind you, this was no circus show they were performing for their progeny’s entertainment. For, without exception, each one had a glum expression written clearly on his face. To tell you frankly, a sight as scary as this would have prompted me to run for my life. But the great Agastya was made of sterner stuff. He approached the hole in question and paid obeisance to each member of the mourning generations and requested them in all humility to explain what had caused them to suspend themselves in mournful gloom in such a supremely demanding athletic posture.

On being questioned, the ancestors could no longer control their emotions and shed an ocean of tears, thereby wiping out all traces of the hole they had occupied. Nevertheless, they managed to keep the conversation going. It’s best that we keep in abeyance questions regarding the technicalities surrounding this event, or else you will not get to hear the rest of the tale. Miracles those days were available a dime a dozen.

The progenitors, it appears, whimpered lugubriously much to the discomfort of the progeny that he was doing them much wrong by refusing to procreate and soon there would be no one left to solace them with the satisfying thought that they had done their bit in keeping God’s creativity alive and kicking. Agastya accepted his lapses without argument and set out on his way to fill up the lacuna.

Unfortunately though, there was a fly in the ointment. Agastya, despite his renunciation of worldly pleasures, suffered from a Pygmalion like weakness. No woman short of Miss Universe in person would satisfy him. He imagined therefore a wife who would be composed of the most scintillating features collected from all creatures ever created and prayed fervently for her arrival to cleanse him of the crime of non-procreation. Luckily for him, it was precisely around this time that the King of Vidarva was engaged in severe ascetic rituals in the hope of fathering the most flawless child on earth. Agastya’s wishes fitted the King’s as perfectly as pieces in a jigsaw puzzle and soon enough Lopamudra, Agastya’s wife to be, was born. There must have been quite an age difference between the groom and the bride, but Agastya bided his time keeping her under close observation, till Lopa was a nubile young woman. She had, needless to say, all the virtues Agastya had wished for and the marriage was arranged between the two, though Vyas tells us the King was not too happy to give away the apple of his eye to a middle aged forest roaming hermit with no more than a dubious career ahead of him. In other words, it was not exactly clear from Agastya’s looks if he would ascend to the status of a Hindu Pope.

But Lopamudra didn’t object, afraid perhaps of the consequences of her refusal, and followed her husband to his abode, which needless to say, was a bit of a demotion from her palatial habitat. Worse, Agastya insisted that she shed her princess’ attire and preserve her modesty in tattered clothes or deer skin at best. In my opinion, the chap was dying to see his wife in a bikini and used the tall excuse that a sage’s wife needed to live a life of sacrifice. Can’t be helped. Men dominated the world on the one hand and on the other, Agastya was known to possess superhuman abilities. One wouldn’t dare disobey his commands. So, Lopamudra accepted his dictates with little objection and went about bikini clad performing her household chores, cooking, sweeping the courtyard, washing dishes, massaging Agastya’s tired forest roaming limbs and, last but not least, keeping her bikini sets in order. And, as expected, seeing her regularly in this state, Agastya went all horny and remembered conveniently that he had promised to keep the clan flourishing.

Now, Lopamudra, whom we have so far perceived as an epitome of female acquiescence, was in reality a feminist at heart. She was, without a doubt, waiting for a chance to deal a brutal blow to her husband’s divine affectations. Her deer skinned bikini she claimed now was too holy a garment for her to wear to start the proceedings that Agastya was dying to start. In other words, she refused to be un-bikini-ed. She was a princess and if Agastya had to undress her, he would have to fetch her a princess’ garments as well as a matching bed to perform the ritual. Nothing less was acceptable to her. Agastya therefore had only two choices left before him. Either apply force, which was tantamount to raping, or meet her demands. The first alternative wouldn’t work of course, since this would not please his ancestors. So, Agastya, much to his regret agreed to meet Lopamudra’s demands.

He left her in her bikinis, which needless to say was not a particularly safe thing to do, and went in search of wealth from king to king, Srutava, Vradhnashwa, Trasadasyu and so on. (I don’t know how to pronounce these names, so you needn’t worry too much either.) But, to his massive disappointment, each of these kings told him that they were following IMF norms and practising strict fiscal discipline. Their incomes exactly equalled there expenditure and they didn’t have even an extra paisa to spare to buy Lopamudra her bridal bed and costly saree. They were obviously not telling the truth, being somewhat stingy it would seem. One wonders why Agastya didn’t approach his father in law too, but Vyas was once again silent on this issue. I have a feeling that that poor king had left for his heavenly abode soon after he heard about the clothing Agastya forced upon his poor daughter.

Srutava et al, however, were not totally unhelpful. They suggested that Agastya approach Illwal, who, by all accounts, was the richest chap around. I mean, he was the only king who had the means to buy a cot for you know what. I think deep down in their hearts, these balanced budget kings wanted to put Illwal in his place and were hoping to use Agastya for that ultimate purpose. So, as I said, the fact that Agastya landed up in Illwal’s palace was no coincidence. And what I did not inform you earlier, Illwal was so scared after Agastya’s stormy performance that he gave him all the stuff he needed to keep humanity growing.

What beats my imagination though is why Monsignor Agastya had to perform the diverse set of miracles to fetch a princely bed for Lopamudra. If he could digest Bataapi and convert him into thin air, he should surely have possessed the ability to manufacture a miserable bed out of the same thin air. But then, that’s the way Vyas wanted his characters to behave.

Does this story have moral though? I am afraid that it does and it applies to you my son. If you ever come across an apparition bearing the slightest resemblance to your father, hanging upside down, batman-style, in a poorly lit cave in your neighbourhood, you are well advised not to treat it as an optical illusion. Oh yes, I am fully aware that you live in the US. That unlike the renowned profs of Indian mythology, who were congenitally inclined to loiter about aimlessly in wooded hills and dales in search of convenient locations for launching Hubble telescopes in search of truant Gods and Goddesses, you teach in centrally heated, brightly lit classrooms to gum chewing, jeans clad kids with their legs stretched atop the nearest table or chair. Nonetheless, you are well advised to keep your eyes open, especially for cavernous confines, where a forefather or two, living or dead, might be lurking, in the aforementioned gymnastic state. Never neglect these hoary old acrobats, for they are doubtlessly trying to communicate with you, somewhat in the manner of Hamlet’s father’s spirit, when things were rotting in the state of Denmark.

Tons of love.

Baba

Metamorphosis a la Vyasdeva

My dear Srinivasan:

I waste a lot of time in idle thinking as you know. Especially about things that never happened. Yet, they could have happened all the same. The subject in question today refers to a somewhat mind boggling tale, picked up from the Anushasana Parva in the Mahabharata. It was Grandpa Vishma apparently who related the story to Yudhishthira.

There was a pious King called Vangasvana. He was childless and performed the Agnishtuta Yajna to please God Agni and the latter, having been amply appeased, granted not one, not two, not even three, but a hundred sons (mind you, no daughters) to the Rajarshi.

Now, it so happened that the Yajna in question was directed towards satisfying Lord Agni alone. And this fact pissed off no less a God than Indra himself. He was mad as hell. (See how mean and envious these Gods were? Always counting curses! So, to take it out on poor Vangasvana, he created a magic spell and made the chap lose his way. He was tired as hell and landed near a lake. He made his thirsty horse drink the water and took a plunge into the lake to cool himself off.

Wonder of wonders, he emerged from the lake changed into a female!! A result of Indra’s trick of course. According to the Mahabharata, her (his?) shame knew no bound, as would obviously be the case for any woman who finds herself in a state of total undress in the middle of nowhere in full view of no less a witness than a horse! Nonetheless, she returned back to the Palace. (Now don’t you get ideas. She found clothes to wear before she undertook her journey to the Palace. Women’s clothes I mean. Where did she find the stated clothes? I don’t know. Why can’t you stop asking silly questions man? They make me lose my concentration.) No one recognized him there of course, given that it was her they saw and not him, but they believed the story. Especially so since the once upon a time “he” announced that he was abdicating the throne, which the now transformed “she” had no bloody right to abdicate. But then, there were no lawyers around to point out the legal complications. She asked all his one hundred sons to rule in tandem. (I wonder how simple the latter act would be though. The UPA Government at Delhi has fewer than ten parties to share the throne amongst themselves and look what they are doing to one another with each passing day!!)

The sexually transformed Vangasvana disappeared thereafter inside the depth of a forest where a willing hermit was waiting in horny anticipation. They started to live together. (Nowadays, the forests are inhabited by the Maoists alone and I don’t know what could have happened if she turned into a Maoist. She could cause a worry or two for politicians in Delhi and West Bengal.

The hermit and VT (Vangasvana Transformed) began to live together. But living together usually involves a corollary. Sleeping together. The corollary it seems worked with a vengeance, for soon enough the voluptuous VT conceived. And, as was V’s wont, VT too produced exactly one hundred sons. (Sons again, no daughters. What an MCP world! Makes me sick.)

Well VT goes back now to her first litter of a hundred sons (Confusion again, her or his litter?) and tells them that the empire needs to be shared between all the two hundred kids!! (The lawyers are yelling and screaming now, I am sure.) More fragmentation. Which would probably have meant that each son ruled there onwards over a square inch of land. (But then this is India. Population over a billion. They were a mere two hundred, yet the signal was clear.) I think the children were somewhat dim-witted and failed to see the absurdity of the situation.

Trouble started needless to say. Not on account of the sons, for, as I said, they were not particularly well-endowed with grey cells. Actually, the same old Indra threw up a tantrum, lamenting to himself that in trying to get V into trouble, he had ended up making him happier. Quite clearly, the sons were living in peace and harmony, despite the number of kings in the kingdom exceeding the number of subjects.

Indra the vicious, now posed as a Brahmin (I know not why a Brahmin was called for by the way) and approached the sons. He poisoned the minds of the first hundred with the following piece of undeniable logic: “You are the sons of the erstwhile King. The newcomers are the fruits of a hermit’s loins. How can they lay claim to the throne?” (Or thrones may be. I am highly confused now, as you can guess.) How mean indeed. Especially so since I in the shape of a B (I mean I as in Indra, not as in “me” by the way) refrained from pointing out that half of them had sprung out of V’s sperms and the second out of VT’s ova!! Unless of course, he was himself an MC and thought sperms, like Brahmins, had a higher position in the social ladder than ova! (Idea, idea! What is a Brahmin? A Brahmin is just an MCS, a male chauvinist sperm!!)

No sooner was this said than the first batch took up arms against the second and destroyed one another. I mean all of them ceased to exist. The news reached VT, who wept an ocean of tears. I (not “me” recall) to save himself from being drowned, decided instead to soften his heart. Or, may be, drenched in saline water, his heart turned mushy.

Whatever the cause may have been, he rushed back to VT and told her (him? — so confusing man!) the reason underlying the miseries she was undergoing. VT immediately prostrated herself (?) at I’s feet asking for forgiveness. (He was clearly in trouble. If she went on crying, he would need to board Noah’s ark!) Her crime of course was that he had ignored the jealous God without meaning to. I, it appears, was not hard to please. No wonder. He was on the point of being drowned. He grinned happily, splitting his face neatly into two halves, equal to one another in all respects (as Euclid might have observed).

And now of course, he had to offer a boon or two. “I will grant you a wish?” he said, or the two halves of his face said, inspiring more fear I suspect (I = “me” this time) than relief in the heart of the damsel in distress. At the cost of repetition, it was the damsel who was in distress (not to speak of I too of course, not me this time), but not the king on horseback who had lost his way. There was a caveat though. “I will bring your sons back to life, but not all of them. Which ones do you wish to come alive, the sperm-wallas or the ovum-wallas?”

And you know what she replied? She said she wanted the ovum-wallas. I was puzzled as well as curious. “But why so,” he asked.

VT replied, “Dear Lord, women know how to love more than men. So, the love I showered on my ova generated sons was greater than the love I was able to spare the sperm chaps, especially when I was busy producing the sperms that fathered them.”

It seems Indra was delighted by the answer. (What was so delightful about it, I don’t know. This I chap seems to me to be pretty close to being mindless. But, may be, in the old days people enjoyed laughing a lot more than we do. As civilization progresses, frowns are overtaking smiles at an ever increasing rate. Curse counting is one of the most popular of pastimes in modern societies. Even Durbasa had probably giggled every now and then. I mean, I suspect so. I as in “me” this time by the way. I know this, because I cry most of the time, unless someone begins to tickle me. And then I can’t stop laughing. Lack of balance surely.) Coming back to the story, I brought all the two hundred alive. (I mean not I as in I, but as in … Come on chap. Why do you make me repeat? What a bore you are! Will you please let me finish the story before I forget it?) In instilling life into all the two hundred, the God I was offering a discount no doubt to ensure that people visited his temple more often. (We don’t know, by the way, if the sons immediately started killing each other again.)

Fret not my friend, I am almost near the end of my story. I (the other I of course) now asked VT, “Pray, tell me what your heart craves for. Your former sperm generating self or the current ovum filled existence?”

VT replied without the slightest hesitation that she wished to continue as VT and had no desire at all to be re-transformed into V.

Once again, I, full of inquisitiveness (too nosey don’t you think), wished her to explain her choice.

The answer was: “As far as conjugal satisfaction goes, it’s the woman who enjoys the act more than the man. So, I (i.e. VT) want to continue to be a woman.”

“Tathastu,” said the God incredulously and vanished. (Whether he transformed himself to a woman to test things out, no one has found out so far.)

That’s the end of the story.

But I have a question for Vyas though. And surely you don’t know the answer to this question. I wouldn’t have known even the question had I not been an economist. You see, economists make a lot of fuss over whether satisfaction is comparable. I mean, if you and I were to eat a mango each and declare that we both liked our mangoes, who on earth can decide which one amongst us

liked it more? Did you like your mango twice as much as I? Utility is not cardinal these theorists argue. You can’t compare two persons’ utilities. So, how seriously should VT’s preference for “sleeping” in the shape of a female rather than a male be taken?

On the other hand, come to think of it, may be she did have a point. After all it was the same person (?) who had enjoyed both ways of love making. And while Indra had changed her sex, he may have kept the part of the mind that registers sexual enjoyment unaltered!.

Garrulously yours,

I = ME

Ardhanarisvara — A Mobile Fantasy

Note: For the purpose of this composition, I have taken the liberty of borrowing the names of two of my closest friends. The first is Cheeniya (an affectionate form of Srinivasan) who lives in Chennai. The second is Kamal, who lives in Jaipur.
________________________________________


It was around 8 PM in the evening I think when I tiptoed into the bedroom and sat quietly on the bed next to my wife.
She was half reclining on pillows watching a movie on the TV. I didn’t wish to make a noisy entry, because she loves her movies and doesn’t want to be disturbed when she digests her staple diet. She didn’t notice me more than she notices a piece of furniture that’s long ceased to be functional, but cannot be disposed of in the absence of a willing buyer. It can be gifted away free of charge of course, but I do not know if she has begun entertaining such thoughts yet.

So, as I said, we sat next to one another, an idyllic picture of peaceful coexistence. She watching the TV and I striking a pose which, even if it reminds you of your grandfather’s termite ridden book-shelf, I would like to compare with Rodin’s Thinker. 

I don’t know if Rodin’s Thinker had ever had an opportunity to actually engage himself in thinking. But be assured that this was not the case with me. I was waiting in suspended animation for the inevitable commercial break. Finally, like all honest prayers, mine was answered, as a set of comely young women showed up on the screen, dying to kiss to death a man, wearing nothing but a pair of briefs and a perfume which apparently opened for him the door to the women’s restroom. I have no idea what the connection was between the briefs, the perfume, the women and the restroom. But I had better things to occupy myself with because I saw that my opportunity had finally arrived. I cleared my throat to attract attention. Not of the comely women on TV, but of the single one sitting outside the TV set, in my uneneviable company.

She reacted with a start, as any human would I suppose to hear a table or a book-shelf clear its throat.

“What are you up to?” she asked suspiciously. “You gave me a scare.”

“Well, I didn’t mean to. I have been sitting here for the last fifteen minutes … without startling you.”

“But you just did,” she said. You made an odd noise that reminded me of Hamlet’s father.”

Dear Reader, you have three choices now to visualize me. As a bookshelf, as Hamlet’s father and as Rodin’s Thinker. It’s the availability of choice that economists say improves the state of the society. But I am digressing. Let me go back to my wife’s remark, one that I bore with a patient shrug as Shylock might have observed. Unlike Shylock, however, my shrug didn’t belong to the unaccustomed category. Yet, I shrugged her remark off, because I had an ulterior motive that called for the wife’s help. I waited for a long moment as she went back to absorbing the advertisements in silent mode and then said as obsequiously as possible, “I need your help …,” my voice trailing off.

“Look, I am watching my favourite movie now. I can’t leave it to make you an omlette. Why are you such a glutton? You behave like those kids in Tom Brown’s School Days.”

“Oh no, don’t worry,” I interjected. “You can help me sitting where you are. There is very little exertion involved in this.”

“Well, what is it?” she asked somewhat sceptically. “Tell me quickly, the ad will soon be over.

“Will you please make me a phone call? I mean from your phone to mine? You don’t have to labour at all. I will dial my number on your phone for you and wait here to take the call on my phone,” I tried to sound as casual as possible.

She sat up straight now and stared at me in total disbelief. “I knew you were crazy, but since when did you turn into a stark lunatic?”

Actually, I don’t think I had lost my sanity. Being a computer buff, I was simply trying to test if my newly purchased bluetooth earphone was correctly paired to one of my many mobile phones. I had just finished pairing them sitting in my study and now I needed someone to call me up. So, I had travelled all the way from my study to the bedroom, somewhat in the manner of Hiuen Tsang in search of knowledge. And now, after reaching my destination, I was paying obeisance to my wife prior to asking her for a boon. The way you deal with the gods and goddesses you know.

But the goddess was not exactly in a mood to oblige. Instead she had expressed concern over the state of my mind. To make things clearer therefore I turned the other side of my face towards her to reveal the bluetooth earphone adorning my right ear. She was shell-shocked now and moved several inches away from me. the way normal persons avoid the psychologically violent. 

“Since when have you developed hearing problems? How come you never told me?” she was now almost accusing.

“I haven’t developed a hearing problem,” I tried to explain.

“Then why are you wearing a hearing aid? People without hearing problems don’t wear hearing aids, do they?”

“No they don’t,” said I. “Nor am I wearing a hearing aid, at least not the sort of hearing aid you have in mind. This is simply a bluetooth earphone …”

“What!” she exclaimed. “You are using a hearing device to cure a dental problem? You are not only mad, you are stupid and exasperating too. Haven’t you bothered me enough ever since that fateful night …”

I knew what was coming. So, I quickly intervened. “Trust me for once please.”

“No, I won’t. You are upto some mischief I am sure. Let me watch my movie in peace and why don’t you vanish into your lair and leave me alone.” With this ultimatum, she un-muted the TV and concentrated back on the movie. I in turn transformed back to The Thinker (or your grandpa’s bookshelf, if this latter personification appeals more to you) and began to wait in patience for the next break. During this interval, I admit that I ruminated over the total non-cooperation that woman-kind is capable of, or at least a section of it, whenever technology rears its head. On the other hand, I could not see that I had much of an alternative but to keep hoping that she would finally concede.

At the next break, I brought up the issue once more. “Will you please call me? I am dialling the number, so you really don’t have to do anything at all …”

“If I don’t have to do anything at all then what on earth are you bothering me about? I am sure you have something up your sleeve that will create chaos.”

“Well you do need to do something … but no real exertion is required for this … when my phone rings and I respond, you need to say ‘hello’ … that’s all you see! Easy, right.” She heard me without any trace of confidence on her face. But I struggled on. “That’s all you know. If I hear your ‘hello’ through my earphone then I should be satisfied that my mobile phone is correctly paired with my earphone.” I explained as well as I could. But she still looked unnerved.

“I have never heard of anything more ridiculous … speaking over the phone to someone who is located less than two feet away. This was not the purpose for which a phone was invented, do you realize that?”

“I do, I do. But this is just an experiment. If I can hear your voice through my earphone, then my love’s labour was not lost. It means I can then hear you from anywhere in the world.”

“Why can’t you call Cheeniya?” she asked gloomily. “Your great buddy should be willing to oblige you, or won’t he?”

“I am not sure. I had sent an sms to Cheeniya a few days ago asking him if I could call him and he didn’t reply. Probably his number has changed. He may have found other friends too and forgotten me.” I said this last bit with a trace of a sigh, this time conjuring up the Hamlet’s father image.

She almost giggled to hear this, I mean as much of a giggle as she is capable of producing, given that, like me, she is on the wrong side of the age that matters. “Oh, he didn’t reply did he? Good for you. See, people want to keep a safe distance from you even when they are a thousand miles away. No wonder. Try Kamal then.”

“No hope there. He is busy building a house for his bhavi. He could also be enjoying his whisky now. He is too intoxicated at the moment to follow anything I say. Why don’t you please help?” I was ready to prostrate before her now. But the ad was over once again and I metamorphosed back to the cupboard no one had any use for. Or that Thinker, if this helps you visualize. And waited again, patiently, as patiently in fact as most cupboards are used to waiting. And then, Vetal-Pratapaditya style, conversation resumed after a while.

I had no perfume on me, like that briefs clad much kissed young man, so instead of my wife chasing me, I had to chase her. I didn’t wait this time for a conversation. I simply dialed my number on her phone and passed it on to her. My phone began to ring and I quickly swithched on the bluetooth earphone. But the ringing phone did not stop ringing. I turned off the earphone and turned it on again as swiftly and as many times as I could. Without any result at all. My phone refused to budge. It kept on ringing with the dogged determination of sirens before air raids.

As I was desperately trying to make my phone stop misbehaving, I suddenly became aware that my wife was actually speaking through her phone. She was singing, “Hello … hello … hello …” into her phone with a gay abandon, reminding me of recurring decimals at school. Not a single one of those hellos was travelling down to my phone. I was hearing her as I would have heard her before phones were invented, or perhaps even before mankind had learnt the use of fire. By this time I had lost my patience altogether, forgetting my cupboard status I suppose. Of course, I was impatient with the phone, not with my wife. Unfortunately though, much in the fashion of a trasferred epithet, I directed the impatience to my wife. I began to yell at her, far too loudly for cupboards,. “Will you please stop hello-ing? I requested you for a single hello, just one you know, not a river bank breaching flood of them!”

She had every reason now to turn off her phone and refuse to converse with me any further, neither through a phone nor without the aid of one. I tried to coax and cajole. I tried to request her to understand my situation. The only thing she had to say was, “Call Cheeniya! And if he refuses, call yourself!”

I resumed now my Rodin pose again and began accessing my grey cells. And soon enough an idea struck me. I broke out of my petrified state and turned thoroughly dynamic, performing what I thought was a cha-cha but ended up with something precariously close to Atal Vihari Bajpayee’s walk exercise after his knees were replaced. Then, much to her astonishment, I patted my wife on her back and exited the bedroom, like Hiuen Tsang on his return journey to China.

The ultimate truth had dawned on me, thanks to my wife’s remark. I remembered that I had two ears and not one and both were in well-serviced condition. Back in my study, I called my mobile number from our landline, holding the landline handset against my left ear, while keeping my right ear firmly glued to the earphone. As soon as my mobile began to ring, I switched on the headphone and, yes God is kind, the mobile stopped ringing this time. I could see a clear signal on its screen that it was now bluetooth connected.

I whispered in my sweetest possible tone, “Hello …,” speaking into the land phone, attached to the left ear if you remember. And the earphone did definitely transmit this sweet nothing emerging out of the left half of my lips into my right ear.

To make sure that the right half of my face didn’t get to see the caller, I even put up my free right palm in front of my nose, thereby denying each half of my face the freedom to keep track of the other. The way a scientificlly minded Neanderthal man might have avoided experimental errors.  

“Hello,” I replied through the right half of my lips, in a lovelorn voice. “Where have you been so long dear?” I even added for the sake of variety.

“I was sitting right next to you dearie. Only you didn’t notice me,” left complained to right.

“Oh come on,” right said to left, “don’t be naughty. You think I was not watching? You were trying to woo that TV watching woman forgetting all about me. That is why I kept quiet. If you do that again, I’ll leave you for sure.”

“Please, no!” left said to right in alarm. “You are truly my best half. If your half leaves me, how will my part of the half survive?” At this point, the right palm had left its wall like post in nervousness and was frantically signalling a “PLEASE NO” to whoever was interested in its entreaties.

“It will, it will. Or else why should they have invented an Ardhanareesvara? I think that’s exactly what you were doing in the bedroom. Trying to turn yourself into an Ardhanarisvara. Only the “nari” didn’t comply. Rightly served. Anyway, I am calling off now. But I shall keep a watch over you. Be careful.”

I switched off the earphone at this point and sat staring at my new acquisition. Full of admiration of course. And then, mustering up all the courage I possessed, I called my wife’s number from my study, remembering to keep the bluetooth turned on. Soon enough, she answered the phone and I heard her “hello” loud and clear on my earphone. Not the recurring decimal anymore. I hello-ed back and quickly turned off the earphone.

If she thought that was a call from Hamlet’s father, she has not revealed her mind to me so far.

 

Ardhanarisvara from Karnataka