Thursday, May 24, 2007

'Milk-eaters' of Kumar's

Sunday mornings are dear to me as I can catch up with those extra hours of sleep. But that Sunday was a little different, a little peculiar. I woke up to a shrill cry from the neighbourhood. It was a female voice. So many emotions were bundled in that single cry. I could sense loss, pain, agony, astonishment, betrayal! Some lady was duped, cheated or had lost something very dear to her... something had been snatched away from her against her will or something evil had befallen...

Startled as I was, I scampered out of my bed. Fearing the worst, I rushed to the door. With apprehension, I pulled it a little & peeked thru' the gap. I could see a visibly shaken lady looking down and lamenting. It was Kumar-aunty, our neighbour. Her glass bangles looked intact & hence I assumed that her man was alright. So was it her kid?... God! A chill went down my spine at this thought as I stepped out to check what the matter was.

'Plop', sounded my foot as I stepped out. I realized that unexpectedly I had stepped into a pool of... er... milk. It took me seconds to realize what the situation was. A healthy pack of milk, that the milkman had left at their door-step, had been strangulated at it's neck. It had laid unattended in that devoured condition for quite sometime now & had no hope of survival. My first impulse was to draw a chalk border around the mutilated body of the milk-pack, but then I decided not to interfere with the crime-scene. The sharp canine marks all over it clearly indicated that it was the work of a seasoned ruthless murderer. A killer was on the prowl!

The Kumar kid had to go without milk that day. Three days later, the killer struck again! It was as though it was playing games with the Kumar family & was enjoying every bit of it. This time the Sharma's lent a consoling shoulder. They also claimed to have seen the beast earlier. It had looked old to them. Was that the reason for it to have turned into a 'milk-eater'; now that it could hunt no longer & was incapable of fending for itself? Whatever the reasons, every attempt to spot it so far has been futile. It's always been a step ahead.

Various attempts have been made to track it down but this perpetrator of crime is still at large. Kumar uncle had been glued for an hour to the eye-hole of their door for 4 consecutive mornings with a fat stick in his hand. It was on the 5th day that terror struck again... and Kumar uncle was branded a late-comer at his office. Cages with mice placed strategically at their door have been swept empty without a snap! Small white paw marks made by dried milk can be distinctly seen going down the staircase. There appears to be no fear in those pug marks but just a whiff of arrogant confidence from a sadist serial 'milk-eater'. Aunty claims to have glimpsed a shining green pair of eyes at the dawn of one fateful morning, but uncle is convinced that it was just an illusion. The Kumar's are a haunted lot!

We have no idea of how it looks. We don't even know if it's one or many... We just know that they strike with no warning. Mysterious is their modus operandi & fatal is their blow. Rarely has any pack of milk survived their attack. The kid in the Kumar family has thinned a little and a frantic search is on for the all elusive... 'milk-eaters' of Kumar's.

Acknowledgements -
Painting Illustration - "Utah raptor" ?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Morse code...

Was watching this documentary on Discovery, regarding 'Morse-code' & I wondered how we humans have always had an urge and a need to communicate.
My mind then slipped into thinking on the how's of accomplishing this, had we no speech or hearing.

I pondered over whether it was possible to maintain a meaningful relationship with someone, if we never communicated. After all, how important are words?
This answerless query lingered in my mind for long, till today when I stumbled upon my answer.

Today was a typical dull sunday morning when weeks of postponing had finally obligated my visit to the barber. It's the same salon I've visited for years... a nameless one-room of an excuse for a salon. Had it not possessed those peculiar 'adjustable' barber's chairs, it would have been mistaken for an empty room with mirrors. It's called Kasim-bhai's den, aptly after the owner of the shop, who's a stout middle-aged man with red hair & mouth always stuffed with betel.

The place is crowded on Sunday's. Not because he's an accomplished 'scissor-hands', but due to the loyalty of customers like me, who hate travelling distances for something as meagre as... er... cutting hair. Men are more accepting of their destinities in this regard. Those who don't, make it to the movies. Rest of us realize that the mane is gonna wane, anyways.

Men, unlike women, aren't fussy about who cut's their hair. I've always believed that women have a million ways to style their hair for the simple reason that they can communicate with their stylists. That's not the case with us. More often than not, our barbers aren't in a position to talk due to the heavy stuff of tobacco under their lower lip.

Kasim-bhai acknowledges my arrival with a nod & points his eyebrows to the empty 'waiting-seat', I need to occupy till my turn comes. This excruciatingly boring wait is slightly eased only by the dim tunes of a radio and a handful of glossy magazines lying at a hand's reach. They are Bollywood gossip magazines that are 3 years old. These dog-eared magazines with loosened pages indicate the vast number of bored fingers that have flipped them!

I'm bored with going thru' mine & also a little embarrased at often turning the magazine to the angle that best appreciates the photographer's view ;).
I look up only to see Kasim-bhai looking directly at me. The vacant barber's seat next to him indicates that i'm the chosen one! I proudly occupy the throne & am wrapped with the holy cloak! He looks at me thru' the mirror & raises his eyebrows. "Medium", I reply. It's the same answer I give to the local 'Bhel'-walla when he raises his eyebrows at me. Most male choices can be summed up with just this one word (except at bars & permit rooms, where the answer is invariably "large")!

A snip-snip here & a snip-snip there and it's all done. I look up to check why Kasim has paused, only to see him holding a smaller mirror behind my head.
I can barely see the reflected back of my head, as I'm not wearing my glasses, but nevertheless, nod with approval. A quick head-massage follows wherein at one point, he holds my chin with one hand & with the other placed on top of my head, raises his eyebrows at me thru' the mirror again. He's asking for permission to turn my neck with a jerk, apparently to relieve its muscles. Faint-hearted like me say 'NO!' while others go ahead.

Swish-swash... my neck is powdered & brushed, I pay the bill & I'm out! Light & fresh!

Throughout the process, I realized that not a word was uttered by the barber and yet so much was communicated!

Enterprises invest so heavily on improving communication amongst its employees & relationships go sour due to the lack of it!
Girls walk out on their love interests for he could never muster courage enough to utter those 3 words...
We are flooded with magazines, newspapers, channels & sms'es all eager to reach out to us & communicate...
Advertisements & bill-boards yell at us like hawkers on streets.
Unsolicited advice, heartless sympathy, unasked opinions all do influence us, some time or the other.

Communication is vital, life-saving at times. But all the yada-yada that goes under its name can be overwhelming. The din is too deafening for us to hear the delicate tune.
Amidst all this din, what we often fail to appreciate is our own thoughts, our own feelings, our identity.
What we often fail to hear is the silent "dhuk-dhuk... dhuk-dhuk" morse-code of our own hearts!

Acknowledgments -
Painting illustration - 'The Barber' - Nikolaos Gysis (1842-1901)