Saturday, July 30, 2005

Chiriyo Chiri....

CAUTION...this is painfully long. My bud Arun, has paid a glowing tribute to our college life through his blog. He has written so well I have wondered what way I could here it comes. A compilation of all the anecdotes I remember that happened in those four funny years on a semester-by-semester break-up. Like old wine, many of these jokes get better and better and so worth remembering for a lifetime! I wish I could do justice to each of these incidents...each of our savages had their own style of talking, their own way of exclaiming and emoting and the comic timing that resulted from our amazing cameraderie which grew with each semester wuz just a treat and a pain in the ass for the classmates and teachers who spent 4 years of their life with us.Thank You guys for all the times you made me laugh day-in and day-out from Nov'98 to May'02 and for every moment I think abt you all that never fails to bring a wry smile to my face and evokes such sweet remembrances of life in Trivandrum that I will forever miss.

Sabu Sir is teaching abt cell phones during his Basic Electronics class. Shan takes out his fathers old first generation gamandan cellphone flashes it at Sabu Sir and said to the poor, dumbstruck man, "Sir, saarinte notes vechundaakkiya cell phone aanu….pakshe work cheyyunnilla".

Viswan at the first day, first show screening of Usthad says ‘Enthaade aarkum ore ulsaham illaaathe, lalettante padam alle”…and shouts “Bolo, Bhaaaratha Mohanlal Ki Jai”….the locals and fans association members who made the bulk of the crowd started laughing at us!!!

Sheenu on loosing her black hero pen writes on the blackboard:
"LOST: Sheenu's Black Hero" to which an overjoyed Sooraj Thankappan who calls himself “Born in Africa…Lost in India” shouts out : "Yehhhhhhh"!!!Can never forget Sheenu scrambling desperately for the blackboard to rub off all she wrote.

We planned to spend the day at Neyyar Dam and everyone except for me wuz able to bunk class saying some reason or the other…fretting at my misfortune I jump out of the class throught the back windows onto the sunshade while the sir had turned towards the blackboard…finally find an empty classroom…to get off the sunshade and search all over campus for my mates…somebody tells me that having not seen me the trip wuz cancelled and the guys had headed back to the class…having nothing to do I walk into class and at the door the sir stares at me as though he wuz seeing a ghost…only a few minutes back he had looked at me…thankfully he didn’t check the attendance register!

During workshop class, Jessen asked by Foundry instructor to hand him a cleaner very intelligently gives him a rag of cotton wool. The cleaner actually happened to be a steel rod much unlike its name to jessen’s dismay, the sir's disgust and our unbridled laughter.

During S-3 excursion we were passing through a junction just outside Ooty. Shinoj put his head outside the bus and was greeted by faces of some thamizhan locals.As it comes naturally to him, he wagged his middle finger at the unsuspecting guys. Just 10 metres on, the bus screeched to a halt due to traffic. We all waited breathlessly for the locals to come at us. Luckily the bus took off and we all put our heads out again. Guess what the name of the place was: Moonchikkal Junction!!!

During Logic Systems Design class Manoj Sir hauls up a noisy Shan and asks him: If you want a GATE(IC chip) at a shop how should u ask for it: Shan without any qualms answers: "I want a GATE".

Our last DMS class with Sreenivasan Sir,we all shouted,"Sir,Wish you a Happy Onam and a Happy Married Life" to which he replied ”Same to you all also" only to walk out of the class chammufied by our laughter at his gaffe.

There was a convent adjacent to Viswan’s house and Arun Hari wuz waiting for him to come and leaning against the wall having nothing better to do starts enticing a cat on the convent property with meows and other sounds. Suddenly a nun who wuz taking a shower in an outside bathroom on the property comes out and stares at Arun…fearing she had misunderstood him….he runs for his life leaving his bike behind!

We planned a trip to Veli beach and as we went to buy the booze viswan obstinately declares there is a bar at Veli and we neednt take the trouble of buying in advance. Believing his words we reach Veli….guess wht the bar he referred to said…COOL BAR…selling soft drinks!!! Eduthitte thalli avane…

That same trip while walking on the beach Shan has a sudden desire to ride one of the horses there. He pays the guy, gets on the horse and tugs at the reins…the horse ambles ahead at a slow pace…shan turns to the guy and asks….”enthe anna, oru speed illaathe ee kuthirakke”….and the owner cracks his whip sending the horse racing ahead….shan is taken aback and is fearful….struggling to keep his balance grabs the kuthira’s mane which made it even more mad and it starts galloping faster…we fell over each other laughing with shan shouting out….”anna enne rekshikke”!!!

The savages were hanging outside one of our earliest joints, the LMS hostel compund wall by the junction. Suddenly anoop alerts the group that the warden is around and lower our voices….kiran as always busy on two things at the same time remarks…”aaraada ee warden”. He intended to ask it in the proper way but in the bonhomie that our group imparts it took a menacing “aaraada ee warden” tone. The warden overheard that, walked upto kiran and said in an equally menacing tone, “njaanaada ee warden”. Kiran wuz almost on his knees trying to apologize to the unheeding man while we didn’t know whether to laugh or to help Anoop and Kevin carry out their stuff if they got thrown out.

Chakka walks into CafĂ© Magnet and tells the waiter…”10 barotta, 2 chilli gobis”…immediately the waiter asks “parcel aano sir” to which an embarrassed kiran replies in the negative.

This is my favorite Kevin goal. We took a hotel room at Kovalam once, and viswan while signing the register pens his name in there as Shaju Cherian. Kevin watching him intently immediately asks aloud ‘eda nee Viswanath Prasad alle?”. The receptionist having seen bigger thappaana’s than us thankfully ignored it…. Its strange really how a brilliant guy like him can be absolutely absent-minded at times.

Viswan is caught by his dad for drinking and he gets into trouble big time! Next day we spent an anxious time at college waiting for our heads to burst as his parents decide to conduct a Shatrusamhara Pooja to destroy all the evils afflicting their aruma santhanam!

The guys are cutting class and playing cards at kevins lodge room. Kevin goes out, reappers and folding his fingers into a concave shape indicating a snake says “porathe oru aana”…and then makes a noise “meow”. the guys run out to see wht it is and all they see is the elephant and no sign of any cat or snake!

This is an unbelievable Kevin goal. We have to submit lab records at the end of the semester and all the guys are busy copying from the gals. After all the donkey’s work is done we start working on the Index page with the date and the name of the experiment done. Kevin writes all the names first and in one stretch starts filling in the dates.He goes 3/16/2001, 3/23/2001,3/30/2001,3/37/2001, 3/44/2001 and 3/51/2001!!! One of the gals helping us out peeks over his shoulder and catches the blunder! Kevin’s unforgettably typical squeak…"Oh Njyo"!!!!!!

One day in class we get an emergency request for blood donation. Only Viswan’s and Anoop’s blood type matched and they headed out. On returning they said it was for a close relative of Seeja Teacher, enfant terrible to us. Sometime soon after, all the savages got hauled up in class by her for alambs…Immediately Anoop and Viswan start rubbing their hands in agony where the blood wuz taken….an embarrassed Seeja Teacher tells the two of them to sit while the rest of us remained standing for the rest of the class fuming at the two of them and baying for their blood.

Viswan and Arun decide to start working out at Power Gym at Palayam. Chakka frantically tells them Power is not good, and it’s a fucked up place and Viswan and Arun decide not to go. Next morning however they change their mind and the first sight they see at the gym…Kiran struggling with dumbbells!!!...and on seeing them gives the most chammufied look ever. We later found out he had been at it for more than a month while all the time claiming he wuz headed for some naturopathy treatment for weight loss.

Jayasudha Teacher realized one day that guys were bunking class while she wuz teaching. She says, "Aarokkeya chaadi poyothe enne njan kandupidikkum"...and she looks to the nice, studious folks in the class for assistance. Krishnakumar, our rank-holder's response leaves her stunned..."teacher, namukke dummy itte nokaam"!!!

Viswan asked by Rajeev,SFI leader to join in a fight against some
ABVP guys tells him,Eda njan innale gym il randu dumbbell
pokkiyappazhathekku biceps sprain cheythu.che,sorry
eda, allengil.........

The convent adjacent to Viswan’s house had begun to double up as a Ladies Hostel too and suddenly every evening all the guys wud arrive after class to play cricket with a punctuality that seemed odd. Everybody was playing their best shots, bowling bouncers, taking sharp catches amidst taking a peak back at the gals spying on us from their rooms which seemed all too suspicious to Viswan’s watchman who ensured another interesting pastime got nipped in the bud.

In S-4 Viswan(Viswanath Prasad) had bought a thin, frail dog and called him Dexter. It wuz fun watching him trying to train the dog who all he did was bark and eat. In two years time Dexter had become a fat, huge dog while Viswan had lost a lot of weight. We started joking all the food cooked in his home wuz meant for Dexter and that he wuz almost like a brother to Viswan now and we started calling Dexter, Dexter Prasad.

(Courtesy:Arun Hari) Place: sandy/kevins house in pappanamcode. lunch time.and the servant there prepares some real good food...and there are 4-5 ppl apart from sandy/kevin who stay the food is meant for its lunch time and our dear chakka decides to dig in on a light snack...apparently he likes the food so much that he takes helping after helping....all the while, sandy is looking with horror at the carnage...and cant say anything as chakka is understandably enjoying himself without realising other hungry ppl will come in a short whileand beat up poor sandy n kevin for missing goes the killer punch...chakka goes upto sandy (very seriously) and says...."ninte ee jolikkari kollamallodey....adipoli food...njanoru karyam cheyyam...i will give a fixed amount of money additional and she can cook for me also"...that was the last straw on poor sandy's back...he shoots back with desperation and suppressed anger...."EE veettil oru kalame ollu"!!!!.....and we all burst at our seams laughing.

Exam time. I walk past kevin shoving away a branch of a small tree under which we were all huddled. The branch recoils and hits Kevin who is deep in last-minute study and thinking somebody hits him turns around and shouts “eda patti” and grabs hold of the person who hit him…and is shocked to see the branch in his hands wondering how it cud ever do that to him!!!

We were out all night plastering the walls of trivandrum with our dishaa’ 02 posters. By 4 am we were famished and drove all around the city trying to find a thattukada. We rejoiced upon stumbling upon one at pattom and what followed was a plunder. Dosa upon dosa, countless omlettes and beef were dispatched away in minutes. The owner told us ningal ellaam theerthu but kiran so engrossed in eating never heard that and asks..”ineem enthe onde anna”…and the guy shot back “ineem ee kadayum koode olle”! Man I never laughed that loud at 4:30 in the morning.

Kevin was told to book tickets for our train journey to Bangalore to appear for an MBA entrance exam. On the appointed day our guys board the train at thampanoor…everyone is as usual in high spirits…on boarding the train chakka is more gregarious than normal and says…”ningal enne thettidharikkalle…apparthe compartmentil neena cherian(ex-vj-suryatv) onde…we are acquaintances…ningalude koode ethra neram irikkaan pattum enne ariyilla”…and on making the way to their seats finds a man perched there…chakka immediately…”plaze daant misunderstand…this is our seat” and the man a bit shaken at this 100+ kg guy talking like this to him says meekly…”ithente seat aanu…enikke ticket onde”. Chakka not in a mood to let it go throws his ticket towards the man who carefully looks at it and then fighting hard to suppress a smile of victory tells chakka to look at the date more carefully. Instead of jan 14 kevin had taken the tickets for feb 14 and there wuz an exam to be written!!! Somehow the guys frantically manage to find space on a bus headed to blore and the guys were angrily waiting to give an earful to Kevin who wuz to board at the kollam railway station and calls him up…explaining to him his abadham amidst therivilis and their plan to travel by bus…they totally loose their composure when an unrepentant Kevin says…”enikke businte middle seat thanne venam”!!!

P.S - Long back when we were bidding farewell to college I wrote an autograph for every person who studied with me during those four glorious years. A character sketch of the many protagonists who lighted up this post can be found here in alphabetic order.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Prithviraj Phenomenon...

When Prithviraj burst upon the malayalam film scene I was finally ready to make the transition away from being a hard-core though disillusioned mohanlal fan and embrace an actor who I thought would signal the arrival of a new generation into our filmdom. Unfortunately very few fellow malayalis thought like me i think...seeing average movies of the superstars like Thaskaraveeran, Mambazhakalam,Sethuramayyar and Balettan run to packed houses and huge initials makes me think when the malayali resistance to change set in. The sad part is a promising actor is losing his way and a burnt-out, jaded generation of directors and scriptwriters with nothing new to offer in terms of content and story refuse to bow out and make way for the younger lot to force their way in...even more symbolic of the rot that has set in is the dirty politics our esteemed filmakers, actors and producers played to ease prithvi out of the industry when he took a courageous yet lonely principled stance against the AMMA...politics has seeped so deep into our psyche and retarded our government, society, culture and now even our movies.

I wonder if another period like the 80's when a new breed of directors and scriptwriters like fazil, priyadarshan, sibi malayil, venu nagavally, lohithadas and sreenivasan along with actors like lal and mammooty emerged taking malayalam cinema to a totally new high - a phase where the offbeat merged with the commercial leading to a stage where many good movies wud release on the same friday and some failed to make a mark at the box office but got noticed later on when their cassettes came out. The irony of the situation is my friends here have watched almost 15 of Prithvi's 20 old movie career while my pals back home wudnt even bother visiting a theater to watch his films and with every movie of his we see here, our appreciation for the 23 year old lad just increases...after mammooty, lal and suresh gopi we finally have an actor who has the intelligence, sophistication and looks to become a star.I havent seen his best two films to date, Akale and Deyvanamathil but his performances in kana kandein, sathyam, swapnakoode, nandanam and chakram were miles ahead of whatever repetitive acting our ageing superstars seem to keep dishing out and fooling audiences with.

His story has parallels with that of another star-son, Abhishek Bachchan who finally delivered after 14 flops in a row...the difference being bollywood today has a wealth of enormously talented young technicians while our industry is faced with a shrinking audience, intellectually bankrupt filmakers, producers who suicidally patronize the star-system and the onslaught of well-packaged movies from hollywood, bollywood and tollywood. Tamil movies which we once mocked at is having an unchallenged run at the kerala box office - with such well-crafted movies like autograph, kadal, saamy, anniyan, kadal kondein and so many more they are definitely worth a watch rather than the run-of-the-mill fare dished out to us. Its just not in heroes...where will the next actors to replace thilakan, nedumudi, sreenivasan and oduvil come from... i guess so long as challenging roles dont arise actors of their greatness wont be needed...cinema's overwhelming popularity and the onslaught of prime-time television has killed a once prospering arena which fed malayalam cinema with countless Movies like nandanam, kazcha and udayananu thaaram have become a once in a year affair for a people who grew up watching padmarajan, bharathan, fazil, hariharan, sathyan anthikad, priyadarshan, joshi and i.v.sasi films battle it out in the marquees at the same time. Are these the sparks flying off the dying embers of a once globally acclaimed industry or the nadir before the next renaissance? I guess time will tell...

P.S - Yesterday night we went for Kochirajavu(if u can imagine dileep as rajnikant in baasha...that sums up most of the movie!!!)...surrounded the achayan who brings mal movies to the theater here(u cud say almost gheraoed) and pleaded with him to get the new Prithvi movie, The Police(we saw the trailers and technically the film looked as breath-taking as Company and Anniyan!) to show...his major worry wuz that most of the ppl here moved to the us from kerala when the two M's were in their prime and as such bringing a jayaram, dileep or prithvi movie burns his fingers...but he's agreed to take one more chance provided we can show him where the sympathies of LA's young mallu crowd lies!

Monday, July 18, 2005

Go India, Go...

Manmohan Singh landed in Washington today, receiving a royal welcome the US today reserves for only a handful of world leaders. In the course of just 15 years India has graduated from being labelled pretenders,pharisees and inconsequential as a result of our dalliance with non-alignment to occupying a place of prestige and respect from world leaders all over despite no significant change in our opinions. The only difference is today we are an economic power. Just think abt it...the scientist who pioneered India's defense and nuclear research and the economist who architected India's face changing reforms is our president and premier.

Today its just not economics that draws the US closer to India. The US is slipping as a super-power...the first battle it lost was failing to rein in its multi-national conglomerates which moved to china to further their profits though the selling market was still the what China did to US in the manufacturing sector India has become the hot destination for all these same MNC's, albeit in the IT and services sector. Soon more Indians rather than Americans will work in IBM and GE, for long symbols of overwhelming american economic supremacy. America's trade deficit with China has ballooned to the extent they have postponed repayment by dangling securities at the chinks who slowly but steadily have started acquiring companies in the us heartland...recently they topped the bids for a california based oil company and brazenly declared their intention of exporting the american gas to China while gas prices shoot over the roof in petrol-hungry Cal.

Bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, stumbling with the domestic economy, allies from the cold-war NATO era who have lost their bite and influence in global forums, an increasingly powerful China which went to the extent of ordering the US to cut down its fiscal deficit America's vision of a long-term unipolar world doesnt look feasible anymore. I expect any day now to see China and the US clashing headlong on some economic, political, military or diplomatic issue to signal the start of the next cold war. Then it will be neither the NATO, nor the EU...that will play centerstage....but a strong, economically and democratically vibrant neighbor to China called India will be the swing state...whoever we take sides with will win...for sure. Of course the danger to us is such called CPM which even collected money for their chinese brethren during the 1962 Sino-Indian War...and who brazenly accuses Manmohan of selling Indian interests...and its a pity God's Own Country send 19 MP's to parliament to work against Mother India!!!

Indian diplomacy turned the tide in 1998 following Vajpayee's bold conduction of the Pokharan blasts and came of age by the outright rejection of foriegn aid in last years Tsunami. No more a developing country, no more a Third World Country...I find the phrase, "the other Asian Power" being used continually to refer to us here in newspapers and television...I think its just a matter of time before we get addressed as a world power...the permanent Security Council seat we now ask for will soon come seeking us...if it doesnt let us dismiss the United Nations as a forum of imperialists who lost their teeth a long time back. As for our friendly neigbour, Pakistan - they seem to have lost their zest to keep pace with us...having failed on the battlegrounds they lost another fight in the warzone of the future when their bpo firms mainly call centers suffered indescribably from a two-day telecommunications failure...they will become a power the epicenter of world terrorism...a failed state ruled by a federation of militant organizations and self-styled mullahs...who will export labor(read terrorists) to other countries...blast a few bombs here and there...and maybe scare a few innocent people for a few days! Let us travel more on our buses and trains and bikes rather than our cars...importing oil is killing all the benefits we reap elsewhere...let us educate all our kids and in a better way...let us forget our fascination with our religions and castes...let us preserve our trees, water and our air for future generations...for India, greatness is ours for the taking...we are right there people...we are almost there...may god and good reason go with that we get brilliant and upright men for our leaders, for an economy that will only keep growing and growing and most importantly for a people who will ask what they can do for the country and not what the country can do for them!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

A Rock that crumbles...

In the history of Kerala an entity that has survived the ravages of time and remained afloat despite the changing political winds has been the Church. From the time of the travancore-cochin kings to the british through to our UDF-LDF netas they have time and again asked for and recieved largesse beyond their rights and needs. The success of the church spurred on the birth and growth of other socio-religious organizations like the Muslim League, NSS and SNDP but money, power, lack of cohesion and alienation from the people they claim to represent have left them discredited. Today the Church is in danger of falling into the same trap their peers struggle to come out of.

What made the Church and its institutions grow phenomally was their passionate commitment to providing education at all levels, medical care without overkill and men and women who dedicated their life to the service of humanity. With liberalization the Church lost a level of protection that it took for granted earlier...private schools began cropping up causing a loss of students, private hospitals that grew at a meteoric pace despite naked hankering for profits and with that the church realized they had to be competitive now. That was fine but they forgot the basic tenets of their ministry. A case in point, they rushed into starting self-financing medical and engineering colleges but on finding the cash-flow needed to sustain them not enough(maybe make a profit too!!) led them to pressuring the govt to root out merit seats which i believe gave the sfi a cause to agitate last week. I wudnt praise the sfi bcoz their leaders were the ones who started all this mess in the first place!

When I see some archibishops sitting on gold plated chairs that look like thrones at public functions and their palatial residences and swanky cars it amuses me how these men could call themselves modern-day representatives of the man who made a humble yet triumphant entry into jerusalem on a donkey. I dont know...maybe it makes them stand apart...maybe it gives them an aura...maybe they think all these trappings makes people respect them...for me the very thought of their inability to relate with us jars. Anways all i know is every man who can justify his actions doesnt see himself as doing any wrong for all wht other people may think. Maybe the church is going through a period of transition...maybe it is going thru the same phase of decadence that the vatican once went thru...for me now some of the church leaders in kerala looks like more like executives of a multi-national corporation with all their lobbying and business acumen than men of god. I know this post is an insult to many bishops and priests...some very close to my family and I know them to be good men...hope that when they become the "arch"s they pursue a path more concordant with wht jesus and the many saints that followed him took.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

To Pappa, With Love...

At 15, he had a police case filed against him by illegal tenants when he tried to evict them from his dad's property.
At 22, he was a College Union Chairman and inspirational leader to an entire generation of college and school going students in idukki district.
At 27, he was a first rank holder in MA sociology.
At 32, he had a Ph.D and a degree in law.
At 45, he had travelled to 30 countries and even met Pope John Paul in private.
At 50, he became a Professor of Sociology.
At 55, his peers count him among the foremost social scientists in the country and had travelled close to 50 countries.
He is my dad.

I have long thought I have written so much about me in my blogs yet so little about the man whom my subconscious mind keeps prodding to emulate whenever I am ready to pack my bags off to certain self-destruction. Ironically things could have been my boyhood all I could sense was relatives making silent comparisons between us both and the unworthy, under-achieving son I was set to end up as. The inferiority complex that threatened to submerge my life in mediocrity, later relaxed its hold on me...i made peace with what my dad is and who i am. We may be as different as chalk and cheese...he is a go-getter while I am a get-n-then-goer, he is pushy where i am laidback, he is reasonable where i am steely and stubborn...but today our respect for each other is mutual...i admire all he achieved despite innumerable odds...while he is proud that the kid who nobody every gave a chance got this far.

Pops, today is your birthday and I thought i owe this one to u. You may not have been daddy-cool, you may not have ever kept your promise to play badminton with me when i wuz small, you may not play 28 with us like mom does, you may have beat the shit out of me at times(of course deservedly) but thank you so much for thrusting a newspaper into the hands of a six year old that kick-started his intellectual growth, for all the pushing and shoving that got me a seat in loyola which made all the difference in my life, it may have been hard to pin you down to trivandrum for more than a few weeks and to india for more than a few months but thanks for all the early morning rides to tuition centers and the evening ones to the public library, for the christmas eve you spent without sleep at my medical college general ward bedside(a bike hit!) as we dodged moota bites in tandem and for all the nudging, pushing, threatening, encouraging and scolding you indulged in to get me to break out of the shell of introvertion i forced myself into(hope the devil that broke out of the coccon didnt disappoint you!). Pops, sorry for all the times I rebelled, all the times I walked out on you, all the times I made you cry...I know I have been a most difficult child to raise...but you did it! What I have become is yours and mummy's victory over all the demons in me...what i may become will entirely be my ascendency or defeat over them.

And here's wht I love you most for...from the man I looked up in awe to you became the dad who wud good-naturedly shrug away our jokes abt u, from the dad to whom I cud bring myself to talk to only when mom was broke the ice between us with all the man-to-man, father-to-son conversations we had, that made me realize that beyond the dream castle i had built in my mind for a good life, a life of fun, frolic, happiness and great friends, there was work to be done to sustain all that you had struggled to give us in life. Pops, I have rarely seen you turn away a person seeking help, despite the needs of our family you have always been there for your parents and a dad, husband, son, brother, teacher and leader of men you make me proud, but with a grudge...the weight of your legacy rests heavily on my shoulders, it doesnt choke me anymore but scares me to return back to India and I decide to keep slogging away one more day on an alien soil which is slowly but steadily chipping away at my roots. Even if I have never or ever will get around to telling you this in your face... you are the best and I am the luckiest to have been born your son.

P.S: It must have been heavy-duty stuff for all the people visiting my blog......this one was just for you...I have never given you a birthday I thought I'd write you one this year! Happy Birthday, Pappa.

Friday, July 08, 2005

The Lighter Side of American Life...

Its not often we get to laugh a lot in America but when things happens it becomes the stuff of folklore for us. Dunno how funny these will turn out in writing but when these incidents came to light we laughed days on end abt them.

Mithun calls up Jacob, our Loyola classmate who is an executive at Asian Paints one day and says, "Is this Jacob? I want to place a large order". Jaru licks his lips in anticipation and tells him to go on. "Well, I want some kummayam to whitewash the White House"...leaving the first of our IIMians flummoxed!

Muthu is an expert at telling tall tales...he punctuates it with wild gesticulaions, eyes that light up like a thousand suns, a flair for talking that wud make a sreekantan nair of asianet's nammal thammil fame proud...for years he has given our batch wholesome entertainment of the highest order...and once he visted viswan at new york and there he held his audience of other mallus speechless in rapt attention with his stories. That was when he told them of his friend who had come onsite and was arrested by the FBI for taking fotos of the american embassy in Washington D.C. Unfortunately for him one of the guys was sharp enuf and asked,"americayil evidayaada american embassy"! and they were all like "eeshwara ivan ithreyum neram nammalode paranjathellaam odukkathe vedikalaayirunnallo"!

Muthu did an internship last summer for a chain of Burger King stores in Chicago to suggest cost-cutting measures and on the first day his manager suggested he sit in the store to observe their operations. Having nothing better to do he starts munching on french fries cooked for the customers...after watching this for an hour a malayali working there comes to him and says..."ithaanalle cost cutting"!

One day in between my job search I tell muthu I am goin to apply for a teaching job at the LA County School. "Dey, nee veruthe nadakkunna paavam karamban payyanmaarude thokkine paniyondaakale"...i had turned to him in search of support but his cruel reply made sure a glorious career in teaching got cut short even b4 it started.

Viswan was visiting california for our xmas vacations in 2002. it wuz nitetime and we were walking like in india...our bodies grazing, an occasional arm thrown over the shoulder and like. A homeless kallu passes by us...then turns around and remarks.....'hey u guys gay???"....we were embarassed and moved apart....we thought that wuz the end of it but his next line totally floored us... "brothers u dont know what ur missing"!

Viswan is on a flight and an airhostess accidentally trips and falls on him. She apologizes profusely to which the demo mannan's reply was..."No worries...It was my pleasure".

Back home for our summer vacation in 2003...first thing viswan who reached a few days earlier did when i arrived was give a call to my home. As soon as he hears the hello on the other end he lets out a blood-curling "Aliyaaaaa".My dad had answered the fone...all he said was "hold cheyye, aliyane njan ippam fone kodukkkaam" leaving viswan chammufied.

Abhijith did his schooling in england before moving to kerala. His malayalam is weaker than the rest and one day one of our guys at usc kept making fun of him continuously. Not being able to take it any further Abhi says, "Dude,either on the ashaan's chest, or outside the kalari"!

We always take the liberty of talking malayalam in public since noone around understands.But once at the indian theater we were at the restroom during the interval of a malayalam film. My leak done and abt to leave mathew asks me "theateril keruvano" to which i inopportunely said "illa illa cinema thodangeete kerunnolle...chicks okke veleela" only to see almost a dozen heads pop up to take a look at the culprits. everyone around were mallus! i ran out leaving mathew still peeing away, helplessly and embarassed, amidst uncles who chuckled at his discomfiture.

A usc senior got caught for jaywalking at midnight...and rather than keeping quiet tells the LAPD officer..."Is this the only crime happening here"...and the officer promptly pulls out his ledger and writes him a ticket for $100 and tells him..."I wuz just abt to let u off when u opened ur mouth!"

Abhi also racked up a ticket for jaywalking and he calls his mom and mournfully tells her,"amma, enikke jaywalkingine ticket kitti". Immediately she asks..."athenthada, avide aanungalude koode nadakkunnathu illegal aano?".Either the poor aunty had heard it as gaywalking or as we frequently tell him even she has her doubts abt Abhi!

Once I called my mom, and excitedly tells her I got an interview coming up with Boeing. She immediately asks, "Etha mone, Boeing Boeing aano?"

Mathew and I were doing an assignment at the library. I get a drawing wrong and turns to the gori next to me, "Excuse me, do you have a rubber"...She shouts out "WHAT??!!" leaving me frozen for a few seconds and mathew jumps right in and says, "he meant do you have an eraser" and apologizes.Dang...I wish I had watched American Desi earlier.

Pappanabhan's full name is ananthapadmanabhan karthikeyan sulekha. All the situations a name like that cud do in a country like this is just outright hilarious.
-Once he applied for a credit card and it had only enuf space for his middle and last name and coz of that the credit card got rejected.
-On doing an immigration verification the INS had no record of his entry into the US bcoz the computer wouldnt allow more than 30 characters.
-Making calls to call-centers is the worst part.Pronouncing his name doesnt work and so he has to spell each letter out. Once I went to take a shower and he took my cellfone promising to make a quick support call. Half an hour later I got out, and there he was still spelling out his name and all parties concerned in the call are at their wits end as they got alphabets wrong somewhere in the middle and were still trying to sort out the mess that I didnt know whether to be angry at his wasting my daytime minutes or to laugh out at the comic interaction btw the hapless puppy and the frustrated gal on the other end. Every customer support call he makes is preceded by a short prayer to have it routed to india!
Finally he arrived at a solution for his name bug...started calling himself Andy Padman!

Mathew and me took a break from studies and headed out for our first baseball match. usc wuz playing stanford. we didnt know much abt the game and were totally lost. suddenly a usc batter struck a powerful shot and started running. mathew wuz up in a second and lustily cheering. i decided to do my bit and whistled. Suddenly we realized the crowd had turned towards us and wuz giving hostile glares....we hadnt noticed that a catch was taken...filled with shame and fear of an adi, we ran for our life.

A professor is holding forte in class.Suddenly we hear one of our classmates,a desi call him sir. The professors response wuz unforgettable..."I have not yet been knighted by the English Queen, so until that day comes you can address me as Professor or by my first name"!

Coming to the the Tokyo International Airport I realized I had a Japanese version of my name....everywhere kept being called Mr.Kattakama.

Once, mathew was working early mornings at his campus job office when he heard a gal scream. he ran to her side and starts comforting the hot babe but she shakes him off and points in the direction of the corridor and tells him to catch the thief who took her money.Our chivalrous hero confidently moved to the corridor and he sees the assailant,a 6'5" hefty kallu walking away coolly.The guy turns back and stares menacingly at mathaichan.The gal yells at mathew "catch him, catch him"...mathew takes a few hesitant steps towards the man...and slowly tells him without the gori hearing..."run away, please run away".Luckily for him the guy starts running and the gal thanks him for being a "big help"!

vikas my usc roomie had this habit of talking on the fone to his bhayya at nite on the road in front of our apt. our area wuz notorious for crimes as we were close to the LA ghettos. one day a kallu crept up beside him on a cycle tapped him on his shoulder and rasped..."gimme all ur money or i will shoot u"...having only his dear fone and nothing else...all he cud plead wuz...'u want my money...u want my money??" and gave the kallu the last thing he wud ever expect from a desi....a resounding kick on his balls! the kallu left his cycle behind and ran for his life. that day on vikas became a symbol of pride and courage among our desi community while vikas shivers to think wht wud have happened if the guy really had a gun on him as he had boasted!!!

Anyways most of us are past the fresh of the boat stage and there are fewer anecdotes to recite each time we all meet up...all our guys are slowly getting smug and comfortable with life in america...its true whether in movies or in life...the best comedy happens when we are in the struggling phase. Tomorrow viswan is coming to LA for the weekend, we meet after 6 months...deyvame enthokke prashnangalilaanontho chenne chadaan pokunna ineem!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The USC Mallu Saga Rolls On...

I was a confused freshman in search of my identity in the Fall of 2002 when it struck me...that i was too hard-boiled a mallu to find the same passion and bonding in anything non-keralite. Soon some paradoxes started happening...though i used to listen to all kinds of songs earlier i started finding my space in malayalam songs, i started watching malayalam films with a fervor i found hard to understand, and i haunted every nook and corner of the world wide web in search of malayalam and kerala sites to reconnect with my roots.The only thing missing wuz the mallu himself...i searched as best as i cud within the 1000-strong usc desi community for HIM but came a cropper... until a miracle happened. A guy named Ben George, came to know of someone frantically searching for his nest and rang me up...we talked on and on...traced our ways back...towards trivandrum, things like mallu movies, booze, then he to medical college and me to engineering and then...and then...and then...he to Loyola...I dont exactly remember if my heart let out a cry of joy or a cry of relief... If I keep finding the word Loyola in these blogs often its bcoz of these kinds of effects the school keeps having on me even years since my passing out....he wuz of the '89 batch and the school leader too then which sort of stifled my enthusiasm...i wondered how i cud relate with a man almost 7 years older to me but when we met it wuz like we had known each other for so long...there were jokes, tales of loyola...past and present...he wuz all i had fantasized in my mind wud be the aura of a loyola senior...the beginnings of a brotherhood for me at usc were made that day by him...many other mallus who wud make my life here in LA so enjoyable walked in to to his apt then...there was Philip who graduated the year before and wuz working, Arun who graduated that year and wuz from TKM, Doney ,a 1987 batch loyolite who wuz a film major and Sanju whose wife and child were back in india but found succor from the seperation with his family in our company!!

That night was so spirited we ended up playing football at a nearby park. Ben and all the mallu men I met and wud keep meeting at USC had ensured that LA wud be my home away from home for the next many they cooked for me, took me to the kerala theater, indian stores, ganamelas and LA's "glitzy" places. For them I wuz like the fresh blood who had to keep the ball they had set in motion...rolling and when I look back I think I succeeded in that. Soon Mathew from best bud at usc and a pal i am eternally grateful to for all his influences in my life...from his fruitless attempts to introduce me to the clubbing scene and the crucial ones like forcing me to keep focussing on my MS and the job at the USC Film School, Pappanabhan my Loyola classmate and Sujith from Kanjirapally were part of our circle and then the inevitable happened...the seniors Ben, Philip, Doney and Sujith got married...Philip's and Sujith's bachelors parties were so outrageous...we still talk abt it with bated breath...(I force upon myself much to everyones chagrin the DJ duty at all events...coz i believe i am the sole purveyor of all adipoli malayalam songs!!), Arun left for Dubai, Mathew moved away from USC, I left for San seemed we were done. But our progeny were evolving slowly all this while. Rajay and juniors at SCT, Puppy and Abru...both Loyolites from CET, Rohit,Abhijith and Adel from TKM, Sujith and Sunil from REC all came along and they led the second mallu wave at usc. This was a big surprise for me in the relocation back to I was looking forward all the while to re-establish ties with my old gang but ended up bonding with these juniors.

Soon I found myself slipping away to their apt after my sis went to sleep, unmindful of having to go work next morning, racked up the late hours chattering away or watching movies which they download by the dozens daily. There is erosion in our ranks again...Puppy left, Rajay and Abru leave in a week and last friday, they gave us their grand farewell treat, lots of goodies to eat and drink and another night of fun and frolic...It was an amazing time...the whole apartment complex came out to see us have fun...mallu ishtyle. But from past history I am now sure there will always be another Mallu coming in for everyone that leaves...whose jokes wud leave us peeing in our pants and will drink to the last drop and yet be game for another song-and-dance. It all makes me wonder... wht I am doing here so far away from home...wht I realize is it doesnt take much to become an american but it takes a lot to preserve the mallu and the desi in long as I am single all I pray is good friends like them keep falling across all over me.

Thought I'd take this opportunity to push in my top 20 mallu party songs in no particular order...mind you I am the DJ and get bashed regularly if the songs dont make the these songs are farely competent!!!
1) Anthikadapurathu - Chamayam
2) Kuttanadan - Kazcha
3) Varuthantoppam - Akashathile Paravakal
4) Chingamasam - Meesa Madhavan
5) Sundari - Aye Auto
6) Kashturi - Vishnu Lokam
7) Nee Arinjo MeleMaanathe - Kandu Kandarinju
8) Raavin Poonthen - Naaduvazhikal
9) Shaanthamee Raatriyil - Johnny Walker
10) Vaaleduthal - Meesa Madhavan
11) Rakshasi - Nammal
12) Kabaddi Kabaddi - Nammal Thammil
13) Kadalinakkare - Chemmeen
14) Thakilu Pukilu - Ravanaprabhu
15) Pazhani Mala - Narasimham
16) Orayiram Kinaakalal - Ramji Rao Speaking
17) Onnam Ragam Padi - Thoovanathumbikal
18) Manthrikochamma Varunnunde - Godfather
19) Parumala Cheruvile - Sphadikam
20) Ambalakkara Thechikaavile - Black