5.29.2005

50 Cubic Centimetres - A Love Story

The reason why novelists with bulging foreheads, expensive bifocal spectacle frames (with inexpensive, non-scratch-proof fibre lenses) are abandoning novels and writing motion picture screenplays is because the latter are so infinitely simple and pleasant.

If this narrative, for instance, were a film-drama, the operator would have wound a reel that would have flashed the words PROFOUND SHOCK on the screen, with a BflatMajor 7th Chord in the background on the lower octaves of a grand piano. Not a synth one, mind you, but a trusty, old, massive and a true-sounding piano that is capable of sounding the Twelve Notes in Six Octaves. For a brief moment, the audience would have seen the face of Anil in close-up, with his mouth wide open, and his eyes in a poigant about-to-tear emotion. If the director of the movie wanted some fast-cash, Anil might have posed in the Classic-Horror-Pose - eyes wide open, trying to scream but cannot, with palm upturned and covering his mouth - but you would have got the message all right - that Anil was in profound shock. He would have also registered the following emotions in sequence: Discovery, then Dismay. The whole thing would have been over in an instant.

The written words need more elaboration.

It will be difficult to describe what Anil went through when he saw the poor 50cc Engine toiling under the weight of an Elephant that was driving the vehicle. If it were a normal moment, Anil might have laughed at the thought of this elephant-man walking on road, but the present situation did not permit it. It might not be an over-statement if I mention that Anil was beyond any action for a while as the assault on the 50cc engine opened before his senses. After the Discovery and Dismay mentioned in the previous paragraph, it was the turn of Anger to take their place. Anger would be then followed by Fury, which will the bellow into a Rage that will then call for Revenge on the weasel-faced worm with the body of a elephant that was torturing the 50cc. Presently, it was Anger that woke up Anil from his shock-induced trance.

'Poor Engine!', he muttered to himself. 'All creatures that inflict pain on engines by action or inaction should be shot, burnt at the stake and the remains must be thrown to the Eagles on hill tops!' he exclaimed under the influence of Anger.

'What better task does one man have in this world than to Dust his bike Daily, Water-wash it Weekly, Service the vehicle Monthly and the change the Engine-Oil Bi-monthly? Is this not the certain path to salvation, peace and moksha? Won't the gates of heaven be kept open to the man who performs these activities with the passion that drives his engine? What is the world coming to, these days? Tsch, Tsch!', he went on further.

'Is there no justice left in the world? How can these people be so callous to the cries of this engine? Doesn't anyone have a heart to take this 500cc on and console it? I need to do something!'. His mind was thinking at the speed of light now. 'E is equal to mc^2', his mind went and 'Engines are equal to my love', his heart went on a parallel track. Anyone looking at Anil could well see that Fury was slowly sneaking behind Anger, to push it out and take its place. Fury was furtively lurking behind, you could easily see.

Rummaging through his wallet for his well-thumbed telephone-index, he was trying to see if he had the contact number of the local Police Station. To his deepest regret, he realized that he did not. His razor-sharp mind immediately refined its search-string, and he with a start started looking for the number of the local Traffic Police Station. Once again to his infinite sadness and deepest regret, chagrin, dismay and the host of emotions that accompany, he understood that he did not have the number. He made an indelible mental note to have these numbers at his disposal in the future. His belief in the world of men (prior to this 50cc incident, that is) that people would automatically take care of their vehicles, especially bikes, had taken a stupendous tumble, and never looked like getting up; and Fury was no longer being stealthy. It now flaunted its presence with consummate confidence and paraded inside the innards of Anil's heart, that, not surprisingly was beating like a 350cc Royal Enfield at 80Kmph.

He was suddenly aware of his 3G flip-mobile phone ringing. The beautiful sound of the Ducati at 3000 rpm that he had set for the ringtone tried to compete with Fury was swelling inside him, and for a moment Anil forgot everything, as he always does when he hears the healthy purr of a well-kept Engine. Providence, or Luck as most people call it, inserted its head at the most unexpected moment as it usually does at this point of time. The 50cc Engine coughed, sneezed, coughed again and uttered a final splutter before it died out. It was a poigant moment. Not even the ringtone could shake Anil now. Fury now ran with its tail between its hind legs as Anil's eyes conveyed this implications of outrageous murderous assault to his aforementioned razor-sharp brain. Rage had risen like Alexander taking over the world and for all purposes looked like out-performing Fury or Anger by Olympic standards.

It is said that the Eye of the Hurricane is always Calm. For hurricane-eye seekers, it is a fantastic silence that awaits them when they reach it. The air is full of anticipation of something important about to happen imminently. Such was the atmosphere around Anil now. One could plainly see that he had reached a higher level of existence, a higher plane of conscience, a place where purpose reigned supreme. Anil was determined to bring to justice the lowest, meanest, basest form of life (whom according to now ranked lower than a single-celled paramoecium) that had brought the 50cc to cough and splutter. A shiver ran down his spine and a shudder followed its wake at the thought of the 50cc, that further strengthened his already steely resolve.

(The reader should well be aware that all these happened within a time period before you could have said 'Ah! A CBZ there!' and followed its smokeless exhaust. That is the difficulty in writing. One cannot capture the true emotions in just a frame as in the movies, and therefore, one tends to be lengthy if he is to portray the scene in all its entirety. Ah, but we deviate from the theme.)

He answered his phone with the tone of a man who is about to kill. He did not need a Double-Zero license like James Bond. He already had a LMV license that enabled him to ride his CBZ with pride and honesty, and that was enough for him. He was not simply going to remain a mute spectator to the murder of a 50cc. In the higher planes where he was roaming like a King now, he was the Police,the Law and Order, Justice and the Magistrate too.

"Hello!"

"Maga, Srivatsan here. Where are you da?"

"I am about to award punishment to the worm (It is difficult to hiss when a word doesn't not contain a 's', but somehow Anil managed to hiss the word 'worm' here) that killed a 50cc engine before my very eyes. Would you like to be a witness to this act of Justice Srivatsan? Will you stand by me and tell this soul-less world that I am right in my decision? Will you help me draft laws that will forbid any such morbid mishaps in the future that I foresee? Come on man, say something! Be a man!"

Srivatsan, the shrewd fellow that he is, realized that something was very amiss, and if he did not intervene, Anil was going to get into trouble. Big Trouble. He knew that Anil became very passionate when it came to engines, and has seen the love with which Anil's eyes have shone on the mere mention of the work 'Engine' or 'Bike'. He had spent many a memorable moment with Anil talking on Engines, lovingly describing the looks of a Honda CBR 750 or a Harley-Davidson Fat Boy. Something serious must have happened before Anil's very eyes that must have shook him to this level, and Srivatsan knew that it was not just a undusted chrome body of a Bullet Thunderbird or a white-smoking exhaust.

"Anil! Calm down! What has happened Maga? First, tell me where you are."

"Worms that curl inside a rotten apple. Lices that roam on a filthy pig. Fleas that bite street dogs. Whoever gave these amoebas license to drive a MotorBike? Kaliyug Srivatsan, We are in true Kaliyug!"

Srivatsan realized that things are getting out of hand. Phone, rather. It was sheer instinct, he thought, that made him call Anil at this moment. 'God is there, you see, though some don't acknowledge his presence', thought Srivatsan.

"Maga, we are in this together. Where are you know? Let me join you ... maybe I can give some tips to you!"

"You are a True Friend, Srivatsan, Fate has been nice to give me a friend who likes engines. I am at the Bazaar Junction, very before the Honda Showroom that has a few Unicorns on display. It is my customary religious practice to pay a daily visit to the Honda CBR 750 poster that adorns the outer wall of this showroom, and before my very eyes, this ... this ... creature killed a 50cc engine. Why, he is kicking it now, trying to bring it back to life. Oh! How it spluttered, Oh!'

"Just hang on Anil, I will get the President of Engine Cruelty Prevention committee (ECPC) with me. You are the General Secretary, aren't you? I bet you carry the Rule Book of the ECPC with you all times ... why don't you try and find the sections under which we can arrest this fellow?"

"Oh yes ... Srivatsan, it is at these moments that one needs people like you nearby. It will give me TREMENDOUS peace to leaf through the ECPC rule book. And by the way, make it snappy. I cannot tolerate the sight of that engine being kicked for more than 5 minutes."

"Yes Maga, I fully understand your plight ... I'll be there, as they say, in a jiffy."

Within minutes, Srivatsan reached the corner of action. Anil was looking ill and pale. His eyes did not blink, and were constantly watching the 50cc. The hands that held the ECPC rule book was crumpling it to the size of a ping-pong ball. Sweat drenched his shirt, as if to show the effort he was exerting to restrain his Fury. His right eyebrow was quivering like a (50Hz) sine-wave, and that one single act showed how deeply moved he was. 'This is time for immediate action!', Srivatsan said to himself.

'Srivatsan! You are here. What took you so long?' Anil pointed to the engine with shaking hands. 'See that? See that? How can I tolerate this kind of treatment? You tell me da, how can I? Lemme get my hands on that fellow ... grrrrr ....'

'Anil!'

'Grrrrr....'

'ANIL!'

'GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR....'

'ANIL! ANIL!' Srivatsan was shouting at the top of his voice now. 'Calm down ... this is not the time for venting your anger ... Yes, Yes, don't look at me like that ... I understand that the owner of the bike needs to be skinned alive, salted, and should be roasted in the Madras Agni summer, but listen. LISTEN! If you love engines so much, is it now your duty to check whether that this 50cc is alive? Is not giving first-aid to that hurt engine more important than choking that fellow's windpipe? Tell me man, tell me!'

That small speech seemed to have its impact. Anil looked wounded.

'Oh yes, I forgot all about the engine. Maga, it spluttered! Oh, that sound! I think it is going to haunt me all my life!'

'Let's first check whether the engine is alive. Saving it from that brute should be our first duty. Revenge comes later.'

'Yes, you are right. Oh yes, by the Torque-of-the-Mighty-Crankshaft that turns this world around its axis, you are right. Let's go.'

Srivatsan heaved a sigh of relief. With Anger, Fury, Rage all under control (for the moment atleast), Anil was back to normal. And when Anil is back to normal, no one can match him tackling wrong-doers and crime committers. Especially if they happen to be committing crimes against unsuspecting 50cc engines.

Anil took centerstage. He approached the elephant trying to kick-start the 50cc (much reminding Srivatsan Arnold Schwarzenegger approaching the Mercury Man in T2) and asked him in a very, very polite tone.

'Sir, may I know what you are upto?'. It is dangerous when Anil asks you a question politely. Very dangerous. Too bad, the fellow did not know this.

'Oh dash these engines, switching off every now and then. I serviced this iron behemoth just 5 months back, and again its giving me trouble. I suppose that's why people buy cars these days. Infernal engines, nothing makes them work. Why, a cycle would have served me better!' he exclaimed.

'Can I please look into that engine sir? I am an expert of sorts, and I think I can find out what is wrong with it.'

'Oh! Thank goodness! If you make can make that alloy-junk work for just another 15 minutes, you can take it for yourself free of cost. I just need to travel to the Railway Station. I was planning to throw that blasted thing to the junk-yard anyway.'

'I would be pleased sir, to drop you at the Railway sation. My friend here would be equally pleased to, too.'

'You will? God Bless You!'

'Srivatsan, can you drop this gentleman at the Railway Station? Please, for me?'

'Of course, Anil. Sir, this way please.'

With the offender off from his sight, Anil tenderly looked the 50cc bike. 'You poor, poor thing! Will you beat again for me? Will you let me listen to your mellifluous sound once more? Or will you disappoint me and never rise again?'

Love was pouring out from Anil like water from the Jog falls. His eyes were streaming and his hands caressed the engine's every joint with fondness and affection. He put the bike on its center-stand and his feelings for the 50cc increased further. The stand was standing at an angle of approx. 145 degrees from Normal, and once again Anil felt white-hot anger suffusing his blood. 'What a beast he must have been, to sit on the bike with its stand on? Cha, if only I had seen him then!' he exclaimed.

Providence, which had intruded this story once before, made its appearance once again at this point. Anil's eyes noticed the fuel-gauge. It indicated that there was no petrol. Immediately, a frenzied excitement caught up on Anil. He started searching for something here, there and everywhere.

'Can it be true, can it be true? Oh God, if it is true, I will offer you an Engine-Oil abishekam!'
Anil saw a dip-stick beckoning him from the tool-box of the vehicle. He took it from its resting place, opened the fuel-tank of the bike abd inserted the dip-stick and took it out before you could say 'Whoosh!'

'HUUUUUUURRRRRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY! HA HA HA HA! Can it be true? Can it be true? God, please don't disappoint me now!' With these words, he opened his spare bottle of petrol and poured it into the fuel tank.

Srivatsan had come back, and was watching Anil with interest. He saw what Anil was doing, and took in the situation instantly. Anil was suspecting that the previous-owner had failed to fuel the bike and he was trying to see whether this was true. What a scene, folks, what A scene!

Anil looked at Srivatsan and asked an unspoken question. His eyebrows asked, rather.

'?'. (To make sure that you understand it too, I say it out explicitly. 'Shall I start the engine?')

'???' went Anil's eyebrows. ('Shall I? Shall I? Shall I?')

'!!!' went Srivatsan's eyebrows. ('Go on! Go on! Go on!')

'Vrooom .... Vroooom .... Vroooooooooooommmmmmmmmmmmm ....
bbbbburuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr .....
' (that was the engine speaking, after Anil started it)

'!!!' went Anil's eyebrows now. ('Yes! It lives! It lives!')

'!!!' went Srivatsan's eyebrows. ('Great work, Maga! You did it! I am proud of you!')

'!' went Anil's eybrows. ('Ah!')

So dear readers, that was the story of 50 Cubic Centimeters. Romantic, wasn't it?

Of roaches and PLs ...

One of my friends, I-2 Shrini, woke up today, one yet-another bright happy afternoon, from his noon-shift siesta. He was grumblingly being nice about having been asked to spend his time in my company (forcefully, though - I2 had some issues today, and his PL, in a true PL's spirit, had called Shrini out of his afternoon XXX-2 plans to Office).

Being a true Madarolan to the blood, we waved his access card in front of the card reader to go out. I need to get to the ENT specialist soon - I somehow hear the words 'Tihar', 'Andaman' too frequently these days - especially when there are only two guys around, including myself. Suddenly, my Panasonic KX-T2375 rings, deeply making me wish that I had a hammer at hand. A 10 pound Ball Peen variety. I switch on the speaker, and hear Shrini's voice.

'Dei, come here da ... save me.'

'Yo, where are you? Inside some alien spacecraft? You just went to the London I guess, hehe'

'Aiyeeeee, hey, come fast da, I am neck deep in cockroaches here.'

'Wow man, you must be happy I guess .... I've heard that they make excellent post-slumber crunchaway. Lucky you!'

'I think these cockroaches are better. Oh no, therez one flying! Aw! Nooooooooooo ....'

Connection dies.

Me the philanthropist I am, immediately rush to the scene of action. (After setting my internal messenger status to 'Away', Refreshing the ticket count, and Noting down my out-time, ofcourse). Time seemed to run twice as fast. Must be the magic effect of action!

I searched around for Shrini and saw that he was there, about to faint. He weakly pointed a forefinger across, and I followed its shivering path. I saw about 20 dead cockroaches on the backside of the door. (Note to all female readers: No shrieking with your upturned palms across your mouth, please!)

My journalistic instincts took over and I rushed instantly to the site of cockroach genocide. It was a moving spectacle. I felt my bowels move. The roaches were face up. Eyes shut. Mouth slightly ajar. Their heads turned 20 degrees to the left with tongue hanging. I made white chalk out-lines of their bodies like they did on Minnale. And stuck POLICE DO NOT CROSS tape to ensure they do not wither away into nothingness.

Then, I proceeded to tell their moms that they didn’t suffer. If Shrini were to be mad, this ghastly site wouldn’t have unnerved him at all. In fact, he would have gone about with his daily normal routines, forgetting the visual entirely.

But unfortunately, unlike me, Shrini is sane. And, in such a situation, his sanity instincts came to the fore. Shrini shrieked so hard, passing alien spaceships light years away pick up signals of life and the pain associated with it.

Some place … somewhere… a poet was born.

I took Shrini out for a breather, and suggested we have a cuppa. His eyes bulged at me uttering something so sensible, and actually welcomed the idea. We went to the F&H in the B Block, and took our daily quota of caffeine. We sat on the sidewalk, and I started blowing air into my cup as usual. Shrini was too deeply frightened to think about anything else, or to comment as he normally does on my temperature sensitiveness. He must haven been shaken to the core (but not stirred), really.

I must tell you about the efficient house keeping staff we have in our office, from Sweep Tech. And I must admit, I feel very powerful when I dial the emergency number and bellow, “Hello Sweep Tech, we have a situation. Coffee spill on Level 2. Emergency assistance required.”

Five specially trained SWAT Sweep Techs swoop (you may unwind your tongue now) down from a helicopter to the spillage. One tries to keep the crowd at bay. While the other carefully draws chalk marking around the coffee spill. The third picks a sample of the coffee with a tear dropper and sends it to the lab for analysis. The fourth takes down statement from witnesses. And the fifth reads out my rights and gives me a cent to call my lawyer.

When the same staff is told to water our client-presented bamboo shoot plant, not only do they diligently water it, clean it and wipe it. But also talk to it. Touch it. Read bedtime stories to it. Sometimes, they even take Planty for a long stroll on the beach hand-in-hand and together walk into the sunset. Awwww....

On a different note, there are times when I wonder if I tie a rope around Planty’s neck… and lynch him to the office ceiling… will people believe the plant committed suicide?

I promised Shrini that I'd call Sweep Tech and ask them to take care of the situation. Don't fear, I'm here, I said, and he beamed at me. Why, at times like these, one needs a friend (?) like you, though you are mad, he said. The coffee seemed to have revitalized him, for he was slowly getting back to being himself. He started cursing his PL, especially after he saw an SMS from a XXX-2 watching friend, who also happened to take his place and ticket. He started kicking the grass, complaining that he hated coming to office on sundays. What about Mondays, I asked. He kicked me promptly too.

We returned to our seats. I was not expecting any more trouble today. One dead cockroach in Shrini's front pocket is not much of a trouble, is it?

:)

Hello, World.