Tuesday, May 30, 2006

An Ordinary Life 7 - Sekar

"Splaaat!" Water hissed out of the hose pipe and shot out prematurely onto the hot earth. Sekar waited for the vapours of that delightful smell to reach his nose before he trained the pipe onto the lawns. Water sprung in an arch to wet the green grass, turning the dusty blades into a beautiful dark green. Sekar couldn't help thinking they looked rather celestial, beads of water crystal goblets settling gingerly on blades of fresh green grass.

His reverie was suddenly interrupted by the barking of dogs. Even as he threw the pipe onto the lawns and walked towards the imposing wrought-iron gate, he could hear Kranti the Gorkha raise his voice, shooing away a lady, dressed in tatters, from the gate.

Most of her features were unclear, caked with mud and dirt and a certain vacancy spread in her eyes. But it struck an instant chord in Sekar. "You are Kannamma, no?" he asked her. In her neurotic daze, the lady was not inclined to answer, but as he peered closely at her, Sekhar was convinced that it was Kannamma, the mother of driver Muniyandi. He had, long ago, seen a fading black and white picture of her, folded in four and tucked into her son's wallet. Some five years ago, the old woman had wandered away from home, her mental illness blurring reality in her head. Distraught, Muniyandi had launched a virtual manhunt, but drew blanks every where.

Now, lunging at the gate, the woman looked nothing like she did in her son's wallet picture. In fact, when Muniyandi turned up, he couldn't recognise her, until they had given her a bath.

As the water washed down the mud, her features, though altered by gauntness, began to show. Muniyandi was ecstatic, he gushed his thanks to Sekar, "If not for you, brother, she would have been lost to me forever. I am indebted to you, this birth and the next."

Sekar felt a tiny frisson of happiness explode in his brain. Perhaps, he thought, it's good to be gifted. But then, it was not often that he felt this way.

They say if a man is gifted, then he must also be unhappy. If they knew Sekar, they'd have found a sterling example in him.

* * *

As things were, however, they did not know Sekhar. In fact, few people unconnected with him were aware of the existence of Sekar or his singular talent. Unassuming and rather shy, Sekar could not care too much to talk about his unique gift. He was the kind of guy who would take the last seat in class, melt in a crowd or crouch into his own shadow. No, not a man to talk of himself.

* * *
The fact of the matter was simple. Or maybe, complex.

Sekar could remember every face that he had ever seen, E-V-E-R-Y face. This does not mean he remembered every face he had MET, but simply, every face his eyes had ever set upon. And at 21 years of age, he could no longer keep track of the numbers.

It was as if his brain was like an optical mark reader that operated at phenomenal speed, scanning, copying, storing information away in neat little folders in his well-ordered brain. So ordered, that he could, in a jiffy, recall any face and along with it, the associations at the moment of image capture.

Now, it also meant that along with a face, Sekhar could remember where and why he had seen the person in a sequence he would detail as if it were all unfurling for him again.

Sekar's unhappiness lay in the fact that his singular talent was a people one. In fact, his regular memory seemed rather dulled by his unique skill. His people memory was just that and no more: for instance, he had no head for numbers, formulas, theorems or even Tamil grammar. School was wasted on him and he stopped going when he had failed fifth standard twice. Sekar genuinely believed that if he did not measure up that way, he did not measure up at all, and that his gift was only a millstone around his neck.

And yet again, as he saw Muniyandi walking, an arm around his mother's shoulder, perhaps for the first time in his life, that unfamiliar frisson came back!

* * *


The shout pierced through his thoughts. Shaking his head, as if to shake off the thoughts he had been thinking, Sekar ran up the stairs to the hall where Rathnasamy Mudaliar sat on his large "Kerala" easy chair, his legs stretched out on the two long arms of the chair. Mudaliar was relaxing, so Sekar hesitated, "Aiyya...you called?" he whispered.

Mudaliar opened his eyes and wiped the pan juice before it dripped onto his chin, looking around for his spitoon. Sekhar moved it from behind the chair and pushed it where his employer could see it. Mudaliar spat, wiped his mouth with his special red towel and turned to Sekar. "Yesh," he said, the pan clogging his tongue, "what ish thish I hear," spat out again, and continued, " You could recognise that Kannamma even when her son could not?"

"Aiyya...the image was in my mind. I had seen her picture once..." he dragged.

"Ennada, are you concealing something from me?" Mudaliar raised his voice slightly.

"Aiyya, will I ever do that? This orphan will be on the streets now, if not for you.
It is just that I don't know how to explain it. It is a useless gift...Err...It is something I have been able to do even as a child...."

Mudaliar listened fascinated, even forgetting to wipe the betel juice off his lips. "With this talent, I've set you to digging up weeds! Shiva Shiva..." he chastised himself, as Sekar watched, scratching his head, perplexed.

* * *

On his tall perch, Sekar felt like a king. At least like a prince. Perhaps it was the crisp khaki that made him feel good, perhaps it was the binoculars, perhaps it was the elevation. Feeling important, he cocked the lenses to his eyes and swept through the crowds, scanning and filing away information into cubby holes in his brain.

Below, the sands were a swarming mass of black and grey. As they usually are on Kaanum Pongal day. Families wearing new clothes, eating cotton candy, chilli bajjis, flying paper kites, riding the merry-go round. The children were running around, harried parents chiding them to stay in sight. They would not have worried though, if they had known about the singular talent of the young man standing tall in the police outpost, keeping watch.

* * *

Certainly not the best of my efforts. But it was the best I could manage in a season of drought. :(
And of course, thanks, Sheky! :)


Monday, May 22, 2006

Pirates! Book Ahoy!

Fwd:, originally uploaded by errum.

I'm a little tired of politics and all that stuff that changes a nation.
And so I went and got myself a pirated book! To assuage any feelings of guilt, I bought Kaavya Vishwanathan. :)
Its rather peurile to say I'm fighting plagiarism with piracy, but hey, that's just what I've done!
And that piece in The Hindu on piracy today, well, the picture's my book!
* * *

Talking of pics, I've got some up in my photoblog, which is flailing from lack of visitors! :(

* * *

And all those who are p***** with anonymous pansy commentators, read this (via Shelob) and spread the message.


Thursday, May 18, 2006

Lok Paritran - Much ado?

I was waiting for it to become official. Which it is now: The Lok Paritran has split. It is, going by the version of the splinter group, a brahmin-non-brahmin split in the party.

The splinter group, headed by Anna Nagar candidate Rajamany, and comprising Ilanthirumaran and Ishrayel Maheshwar, have accused the original party of being "non-secular (read anti-non brahmin), arrogant, high handed and utterly non-transparent."

To be fair, I have to say the splinter group itself is not impressive: Rajamany raves a lot about small personal sleights to himself and the lack of media attention on a man who has won over 11,000 votes. ( It is relevant to mention here that one reason why such an insignificant, ranting man has secured so many votes is probably because he had Captain Vijayakanth's symbol (the drums) in Anna NAgar.) The others are rather angry, but incoherent when they talk of the 'corruption and autocratic attitude of the key members of the original training."

There are some elements, however, if you sift through their rants, that you believe must be answered by the Lok Paritran:

* Decisions have been taken in an ad hoc manner, by the top leadership of the party without consulting the so called STate Leaders (Rajamany, Ilanthirumaran, who claim they were deseated without participative consultation after the polls.
* When I met Tanmay Rajpurohit (national president), he said the organisation would distribute the funds it collected by way of donation among all its seven candidates. He also said candidates would have to pitch in with their own funds. Splinter group claims that no funds were given to them. All was spent in Mylapore.
* So far no accounts have been presented to the other STate members.
* Ilanthirumaran claims that volunteers were asked to campaign only in Mylapore and actually restrained from campaigning elsewhere.
* There is a website that is being bandied about claiming that Purohit is a fascist. I'm not too impressed with the website, it is another rant, unsubstantive and full of bile. Besides, we know that with blogspot, anyone can create a website to say anything he wants about people he does not like. YET, I think it is time for Purohit to respond, to clarify his ideology, clarify what people are calling his pro-brahmin stand. Individuals can afford to ignore vitriolic websites, people in public life cannot.
* Are there similar objections to the party leadership in any other part of the country?

However,unconnected with all the above, the fact that these budding 'leaders' were unable to keep their stock together, is indicative of their capacities. Would you want them to govern you? Participation is a method that leaders use to keep the group together - in politics, it is not democracy, but a tool of control.

The one reason I did think that the LP was a good idea this elections was because in a true spirit of democracy, I believed anyone attempting to make a difference must be given an even chance.

Like I said earlier, damn them if they don't deliver after the elections. But it seems we don't have to do any damning. They seem to be doing a fairly good job of it themselves. Talk about being self-destructive, eh?

On the flip side,it indeed augurs well for their political future that the party has split within months of its inception in the State! What say, Hari?


Saturday, May 06, 2006

Why Lok Paritran

Now that the cat is out in the newspaper, I can talk about Lok Paritran, without really endangering my job! :)
I seldom do this, but here is a link to my story on the Lok Paritran in The Hindu.
I was at their public meeting in Mylapore yesterday night and frankly, I was suprised at the crowd that had gathered there. In fact, it reminded me of college culturals, when the prizes are being announced.
Truth to tell, I'm sceptical of their chances this election season. Mylapore is where their focus is, but strangely, as it were this time, all the four candidates opposing DMK's Napoleon (S.Ve.Sekhar, Chandralekha, Americai Narayanan and Santhanagopalan) will be fighting for the same pool of votes: 'middle class, educated.'
However, like I keep telling numerous critics of the movement who have complained: "There has been too much publicity for a party that has done nothing!", it takes some to stand up and take the call. Espcially, when you can easily be doing something else.
As such, I think they should be given a chance. Damn them if they dont measure up eventually, but don't deny yourself the chance of finding an alternative in a State where the Dravidian parties have held sway for close to 40 years now!