Sunday, November 4, 2012

Confessions of an ITwallah - Green day at the office

On an ever gloomy and lugubrious Monday morning, with the steps heavier than a Japanese sumo wrestler, I drag myself to my cubicle and recline into the chair. With increasing years of my work experience, these Monday blues are getting more and more horrible. Just as I set my Laptop up and switch it on, Rashmi approaches her desk

"Goooood Morrrninggg..."
She says in an enthusiastic voice.
"Good Morning." I say coldly
She almost screams once again, compelling me to finally look at her.

She is wearing some traditional attire, I don's understand what they call it. She has put on a rather heavy make up making her look uglier than usual. She looks at me expectantly. I smile earnestly and throw her a compliment she is dying to get.

"Looking lovely today."
She blushes and says thanks.

And in a moment, she frowns, looks irritated and once again shouts at me.
"What's this Chaitanya, why are you not wearing anything green and traditional? why this usual formal apparel."

I wince for a brief, then look at my usual carefully ironed clothes, don't find anything wrong, look at her once again carefully, and finally realize that she is clad from head to top in green , lipstick is the only exception. But, I fail to understand the affinity for this particular color.

"Green? Why?", I ask innocently.

"Ohh no, don't you even remember what we discussed on Friday among the team?"

Friday?, I try to stretch my memory. The only thing, I remember about Friday is that I had worked till 11 o' clock in the evening ,testing one issue in live and Rashmi had left early citing the reason of her great grandmother's poor health.

"Sorry, but no.", I sound even more innocent this time.
"Check your inbox, the mail by DHAMAKA group.",

Ahh, DHAMAKA group! Now it seems like I am getting it. This is that usual group in our company which organizes the events like dance, music, Rangoli, cubicle decoration kind of competitions, some meaningless social events, some kind of theme days or traditional day competitions. I haven't told anyone about this but I have a rule in my mailbox which sends all such mails which are of least interest to me into Deleted Items and I clear the folder once in a month.

Out of curiosity, I check my deleted items for 'that' mail. I see some colorful message which announces a celebration of colors of India festival, and as a part of that, the first day was announced Green day with traditional wear and cubicle decoration competition with Green color as the theme. Three best teams would be chosen and there were attractive prizes to be had such as Free meal passes and free breakfast for three days in Office canteen etc. As I despise these kinds of activities, I don't read too much into it and try to somehow push myself to work. I hear Rashmi's blabbering voice complaining about my disinterest and concern that because of me, the team will not fetch that coveted prize.

Just as I finish giving updates to Chhagan (our manager) about Friday's issue and my heroics of working late in the day, I see the hot chic in the opposite cubicle setting herself in. As always, Chhagan doesn't even appreciate me nor says a thank you. I hang up without being bothered and sheepishly stare at her in a constant state of awe. She is wearing a bright green sari. She meticulously flaunts her vital features. The smell of her imported perfume drives my nostrils crazy. She says hi to Rashmi, but doesn't even look at me. After giving compliments to each other they start gossiping about the lady who cleans ladies wash rooms.

After a while, I see Amit , wearing green sherwani and bringing cubicle decoration items. Now, I understand that for this very reason, he had taken 100 Rs. from me on Friday. Amit always takes interests in such girly ventures so much so that I have started doubting that he is Gay.

He comes in asks me
"Man, what's green about you today?"
I silently point at the Green dust bin in the corner. He seems perplexed, and continues with decoration with the help of Rashmi. I see an abundance of Green everywhere on the floor, Green Clothes, Green posters, Green cubicles blah, blah, blah.

In the Lunch, they serve palak paneer in the canteen going with today's theme. Palak is something I truly abhor.Whilst that irritating taste of palak lingers in my mouth, some of Rashmi's friends show up. All of them are dressed in Green and heavily made up. They want to go outside and click a snap together. As Amit is busy in decoration, Rashmi requests me to be a photographer. I look at her friends. Although some of them are actually good looking, I don't see myself wanting to sleep with any one them. I say that I am busy with something important and refuse. Rashmi calls me a 'Grinch' for it and seeks someone else and goes out.

Thankfully, I have a two hours training session and I sneak away. In stead of concentrating on the session, I get distracted by the lady trainer's looks. She's also made up a little more today and looking sexier than usual.

By the time I finish the training, it is almost the time to leave. Today, not being a really busy day in terms of work, I find myself being able to catch 6 o' clock bus. I hear Rashmi speaking to someone in a worried voice about tomorrow's theme being White and she does not have anything white in color to wear. She seems so genuinely worried as if Pakistan has launched nuclear war against India.

I pack all my stuff in my Laptop bag, bring the utmost innocence on my face and ask Rashmi sincerely,
"If you don't mind, may I give you an advice that can solve your problem for tomorrow?"

"Of course Chaitanya, don't be so formal.", She maintains a fake smile.

With all the innocence in the world, I say,
"You can get your hair painted White tomorrow.", and I burst out in a wicked and a sadistic laughter and before Rashmi throws whatever she catches at me, I run away outside leaving her fuming in rage...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Silent Waters

It was eight in the morning and I was back from my grueling Gym work out. Well, I am Mr. Vivek Deshpande, I am a little over 45 now, father of two, a caring Son of aging parents, a loving husband and a very efficient Executive vice president in a reputed MNC. After a really humble beginning, I had reached this position owing to my hard work, my parent's blessings and of course by the grace of almighty. Whenever I look back, I feel obliged to hardships my Mother and Father had been through while raising me.

I parked my Audi outside a newly purchased two storied Row house in Baner. We had recently shifted there from Kothrud. I always make it a point to have breakfast with Aai and Baba as I never have a fixed schedule for dinner, so that's the only time I get to spend with them during a weekday. We sat across the table, Rekha was being helped by maid whilst serving thali peeths, my favorite Maharashtrian delicacy. I looked at Rekha. She has been a real loving wife and a caring daughter in law. I remembered my initial days of struggle, and how she always stood by me. Without her support, I imagined, these days of luxury would not have been possible. I considered myself lucky for having her as a companion.

Just as I was busy chewing a big piece of delicious thali peeth along with ground nut chutney, my mobile phone rang. Usually, I prefer to switch my mobile off during this time, but somehow I forgot. It was Ganesh. Ganesh is one of very few school friends of mine whom I had been in touch with. He had made it big in a scrap business in Pune.

"Yes Ganesh, tell me."
"Arey Vivek, I am in a little hurry, so will tell you a bit fast. This Saturday, we have organised a reunion of our School batch. And, nothing doing, you are going to join us no matter how busy you are!"

This was typical of Ganesh and I knew he wasn't going to listen to any of my excuses.

"Arey, reunion? what's special?"
"Mr. Vice president, you might have forgotten, but we were in 10th standard once. We are commemorating thirty years of passing out. We will have a small function and a kind of get to gather. As I told you at the beginning itself, you must be there."

"But Ganesh.."

And he disconnected. Ok, I said to myself. This weekend did not have anything in store, so I decided to make it to the function.

Thinking of School, 10th standard, batch-mates made my mind race thirty years back. My father was in a Government job, so as a child I experienced shifting from this village to that village, from one town to another . Therefore, I never had a stable school. It was in a small town called Sangli about 150 miles to the South of Pune, it seemed as if we had settled down a bit. From my sixth standard on wards, we were staying in Sangli and I ,thankfully had one stable school to boast of till 10th. My school was a typical conservative Marathi Medium school with quite a name in that area. It was a co-ed school , however hardly six to seven girls used to be there in a class of fifty.My father had rented two rooms in an old Wada just next to the school. As far as I remember, we paid a meager rent of Rs. 15 or something. I really enjoyed the school and the surroundings. My school was just beside the banks of river Krishna. We had a real big playground. We played Cricket with friends for hours, bunked school in between, climbed tamarind trees around, sometimes swam in the river. Those were really alluring times when money was never a thing that really mattered in our lives.

I didn't even realize when the 10th standard exams came and went by. It was a long vacation afterwards. Most of my friends had gone somewhere or the other. We too had planned to go to my Uncle's home, but my father was suspecting a possibility of another transfer order this time round, hence we had stayed back.

I vividly remember that day. Just as a fun, I decided to go to School and see how empty classrooms would look. I was standing in front of the Gate looking at the statue of Shivaji Maharaj.

"What are you doing here?"

I looked back. She was standing, wide-eyed. I was quite surprised to see her in a completely different avatar.

She was wearing a bright pink Punjabi dress which I had never seen here before in. In the class, I had always remembered her in the school uniform of green and white frock, two ponies tied behind with a ribbon. There was hardly anything in her that made any heads turn. But, today I found her quite pretty. Her face was glowing. She had a plump figure, and the tight punjabi dress that she was wearing was accentuating her curves. Those pair of ponies seemed to have vanished, and their place was taken by carefully pinned henna colored hair.

I was stunned to say the least when she spoke to me. I had never spoken to her in five years, forget her,
such shy boys that we were and such was the conservative aura of our school, neither I nor any of my friends, I believed had ever talked to a girl.

"I just wanted to visit school once.." I barely managed to speak

She laughed and said,
"They won't allow you in, today it's a cleaning day. And what's this, why are you staring at me like this?"
I was embarrassed at being caught.

"aahh, you.. look.... so.. so.. "
"Yes?"
"So.. different.." Ohh, I managed to bring something out of my mouth. Actually, I badly wanted to say Beautiful instead of different, but somehow, it didn't come out.

"I know" She blushed and asked me,
"Should we go to Riverside then?"

I was too preoccupied by her presence to say anything. I just followed her through narrow lanes of old town. Sangli wasn't so urbanized back then. Most of the people would know each other by name. Even though it was merely a 500 meters walk to river, I was just praying that no one should see both of us together ,otherwise it would make a big news in the by-lanes around my home.

We went and sat on the banks. The wide river bed of Krishna was adorning the the limits of the city, Her waters were not as polluted those days are they are now.The lush green trees, and sugarcane fields were decorating the banks on the other side. The cool breeze that blew made her hair fly around. I just sat, quiet ,throwing pebbles in the waters. I was secretly trying to peep and get a glimpse of hers. It seemed as if a great silence presided between us. The quiet, deep, serene and pristine waters of Krishna were running as deep as our emotions. Just as the Sun set, I looked deep into her eyes, my heart was beating 100 times faster than usual. I had never been in vicinity of a female this way before. With my hand trembling, I touched her soft, milky white cheeks, and it sent shivers of shock through my body. Her cheeks turned dark red, I felt embarrassed and immediately withdrew. She was taken aback. She suddenly stood up and said,

"It's late now, I think I should go."

I sat there like a statue.

"Aren't you coming along. Your Aai must be worrying for you."
"No, will stay here for a while. You carry on."
"Ok, bye, don't be too late."
She waved a hand and smiled. That was the sweetest smile I had ever witnessed in my life.

I sat there, don't know for how long throwing countless pebbles into river. It was all so so different and so so appealing to me. It felt like I was in a different world, a world of dreams, a world of fantasy. With these dreamy eyes, I went home. I thought, it would be a good deal of scolding from both Aai and Baba for being late. Instead, I found them doing busy doing packing.

"What's the matter", I asked

"It's pack up time now, I have been transferred to Pune." Baba broke the news.

From that moment on wards, I was busy packing, running around and helping at home. No less than in a week, we had shifted to a newer, bigger city. It took us quite a while to get to terms with Pune. In between, I missed her, but there was no time to keep thinking about her. When I had gone to collect my 10th results to Sangli, she was nowhere to be seen.

Times just went by. Baba somehow managed to avoid any further transfers citing the reason of his poor health. This meant we were to stay in Pune for good. My college, Engineering, new friends, various jobs, stays abroad, marriage with Rekha, two kids, promotions in jobs, more than one factor contributed towards burying the memories of that one special evening somewhere in the corners of heart. But today, when Ganesh talked of this re-union, they all came to surface as if I was 15 just yesterday.

It was Saturday, and I landed in Sangli. I was at re-union just for one reason. The School had a specious tall building now. Classrooms were a lot more specious. Those worn out, dilapidated wooden benches were replaced by a solid steel coated, there were glass boards in every classroom, with special chalks to write. The change was so apparent that every classroom actually had a working ceiling fan. And yes, the Wada that  we stayed in was no more there next to school. Its place was taken up by an ultra modern society with a Swimming Pool and a Club House.

The function was good. There were some entertainment programmes, a few speeches by now retired teachers. Almost everyone of the batch had turned out. Ganesh had done a good job as organizer. But my eyes were searching only one person. And to my surprise, there she was, sitting with other girls, ohh sorry they were all ladies by now. She was wearing a pink Sari. Calling her fat would have been an understatement . She was almost round. She wore expensive jewelry. What stood out though was that big Mangal sutra that she constantly kept playing with.She seemed to have done the latest fashioned hairdo. Like that evening, those two ponytails were nowhere to be seen. Two big dangling golden earrings were caressing her big bulging white cheeks. And suddenly our eyes met and seemed like time was still. She showed no reaction and looked elsewhere.

After the delicious lunch, as all of us were enjoying a quiet time, I excused myself from the company of Ganesh, and headed to her. She was sitting in one corner, quiet.

"Hi. May I join you?" I asked earnestly.
"Ohh, hi Vivek. So you can speak too. I thought you were mute or what?.", She said mischievously.
"So, let's speak from where we had left. Should we go to riverside again?".

The moment I asked this, there was a brief silence and we both broke into laughter all at once. Both of us knew that it wasn't possible now. Much water had flown now. The waters of Krishna now, were not as clean and innocent as they were then.

The silence prevailed for a while, and I broke it to her surprise.

"I must say you are still so beautiful, but a lot fatter now."
She nodded.
"Yes, that's what my husband keeps saying. He urges me to go to gym."
"Ohh really? Tell me about life, where are you, what do you do?"
"Well Vivek, I was married off quite early. Owing to my looks, my parents found a real good family. My husband is an IAS officer. So, since then, I have been enjoying travelling all over the country, being a home maker.I have two kids, both of them in college, one is doing his post graduation and the other one in his final year. What about you? what do you do now a days? Did you get married or not?"

She was all questions suddenly about me.

"Yes yes. I work in a private company. I too got married, but not as early as you did. I am a father of two, both still in school and I have been in Pune since we passed out 10th and doing good by the grace of God"
"Well, I am happy for you. Is your wife beautiful?"
I wasn't expecting this question.
"Yes she is. But not as beautiful as you are.", today, I did not want to disappoint her.
She just chuckled with same innocence as the one like before 30 years.

We barely had anything to talk more. And, suddenly, her mobile phone rang. She spoke for a moment and said.

"Vivek, I must go now, the driver is waiting for me outside. My husband is posted at Kolhapur now a days and I must leave to reach by evening."
"It's Ok, it was more than nice meeting you. Hopefully next time, we can sit at riverside once again."
She didn't reply.

As a courtesy, I went outside to see her off. There was an ambassador, with an Indian Government board on top of it waiting for her. The driver came out opened door for her. She slid her heavy body in and closed the door and the engines roared.

Just as I was about to turn back, she looked outside the window, waved her hand and widened her lips to smile at me. And that was the sweetest smile I had ever experience in my life after thirty long long years!!!

-Chaitanya Kulkarni





Saturday, September 1, 2012

Confessions of an ITwallah

I have stuffed myself with horrible pohas that Company's canteen has to offer.I have had a fight with Bus driver for playing noisy songs aloud and have threatened him to complain today. I have settled myself in my dingy cubicle. I am at my recalcitrant best while staring at black Unix screen. A new chic in the front row just comes in. The moment she comes in, what hits me is the strong smell of her imported perfume. Just as she sits down, trying to pin her hair, she looks damn hot. While she bends to take out some branded face wash from her drawer, I spread my eyes wide open.

"Don't dare Mr. Kulkarni." , I get deflected by a murmuring voice of Rashmi. She sits next to me and always enjoys spoiling my party

"Her boy friend is a real Stud."

"How do you know?", The moment I ask this question, I curse myself for it.
Rashmi adjusts her specs, looks at me as if she's looking at a dead rat and starts preaching

"Beta, we call this as Wash Room bonding. We don't go there just for answering nature's call. Therein, we exchange views, share news, get to know about latest sales and offers, we find out about relationships,marriages and break-ups ..."

I cut her short and ask slyly
"Is it bonding or gossip?"
"Whatever. I just wanted to alert you about her boyfriend, a 6'3" stud, works in the next building."
"Let him be, anyway no matter how much I look at her, she would never stare at me that's for sure."
"Hmm, that's right too, not even the ugliest girl on the floor gives you a second look." and she bursts out in her quintessential wicked smile.
I am sick of her insinuations.I imagine her like a witch as they would portray in the 90's cartoon serials. I have a real strong urge to tell here how ugly she looks with her braces on and thick specs while she smiles, instead I give her an apathetic look and immerse myself into executing my Test cases.

My phone rings after an hour. It must be Chhagan, I think and pick it up.('Chhagan' is an honorific we have conferred to our manager. In fact, some of the team members call him 'Chutiya', but I prefer Chhagan. Sounds more decent). He needs some updates from me. He goes over everything twice taking longer pauses that even Mr. Vajpayee would take, asks some idiotic queries and extends an hardly ten minutes conversation to half an hour. I answer each and every question patiently. Finally the ordeal ends and I feel like a monkey is off my shoulders.

It's just ten more minutes and he calls up again. He asks same set of questions saying I wasn't quite clear last time. He really has got an uncanny knack of irritating people to the core.  This time, I feel like losing my patience and actually want to call him Chutiya. Instead, I re-phrase myself and explain things once again patiently. He seems satisfied, still doesn't even say Thank you and disconnects. I keep wondering that I am mastering the skill of hiding my emotions.

We are in a queue in canteen, all standing like beggars for subsidized food as if they are serving nectar instead of water. Somehow we get through. Canteenwalah does not have change as always, he promises to return next time.Finding a place in crowded canteen is a task in itself. One of our team members does this job lucidly today by reserving a table for us.Everyone around me is cribbing for the quality of food, I too join them and make a resolution to bring food from home.

A walk after the lunch provides a little respite. Now, it's a time for a design walk-through meeting. We struggle to get the projector in the conference room working. We call an IT guy and he takes another twenty minutes to make it functional. Whenever these Business analysts and Designers speak, I feel they are talking in an alien language. I always doubt that everyone except me understands everything in the meeting. Hence I just keep nodding. In the Question-Answers session, I don't clearly remember but I ask something, someone says it's a good question, I have no idea why? They give some cryptic answers, I pretend to have understood everything. We thank each other and depart.

Just as I am reading a 'Be careful' forward mail from a friend, Swati, one of Rashmi's many friends shows up. I hastily close the mail window.She' s not all that bad looking, today she seems to have put on a little more make up. A friend of mine secretly admires her and always requests me to introduce him to her. Rashmi asks her what's special today. She blushes and breaks a news of her engagement. Rashmi suddenly gives her a tight hug. I feel as if my eyes will go moist at their bonding. Swati shows her to be's photo. Rashmi gives a WOW reaction and hands over the photo to me as well. He looks like a South Indian film's villain to me. I congratulate Swati feeling sorry for that friend of mine. Rashmi and Swati head towards washroom. After returning, Rashmi asks me,
"Yuck!!, did you just see how he looked? Must be some African breed."
I just admire her for her switch on and off skill, but don't feel like commenting anything.

Suddenly, I see a mail from my client manager Luka dotovasky appreciating for my weekend working two months back. I feel like replying to him and telling that I am still struggling to get weekend allowance from finance department. In stead, I just send a thank you note.

By now, it's almost 5:30, buses leave at six. Rashmi has already buzzed off. I carefully draft end of day status mail. Spell check in outlook sometimes is very time consuming, every minute counts now. Finally, mail is sent.  I pack everything with a speed of Jet and set off. Thankfully, I get a seat in the bus. I look out of window, It's setting down nicely, a faint shade of rainbow garlands the sky, and the bus takes off. This time, driver has played Jagjit Singh's gazals. He looks at me and smiles. I give him an approving look and with the blowing wind and soothing sounds I just doze off.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

मेंदीच्या पानावर - ४

स्थळ - एका आय टी कंपनीचे ऑफिस, शॅंपेन, इल्लिनॉइ, यु. एस. ए.

बाहेर सुरेख स्नो फॉल चालू होता, बाहेरच्या हाडे गोठविणाऱ्या थंडीत, ऑफिस मधली ऊब हवीहवीशी वाटत होती. मी आणि रमेश ग्रीन टी चे कप्स घेवून, खिडकीजवळच्या टेबल वर बसलो.

"मग काय मनिष राव,झालं ना शिफ्टींग व्यवस्थित ह्या वीकेंडला? "
नेहमीप्रमाणे रमेशनेच सुरुवात केली.

"हो, झालं ठीकठाक, अजून थोडं सामान लावणं बाकी आहे, आज संध्याकाळी जावून आवरतो. "

"काही मदत लागल्यास नक्की फोन कर. "

"ओह, ऑफ कोर्स, थँक्स"

आणि मी खिडकीतून, बाहेरच्या पार्क मधील गोठलेल्या लेककडे ट्रान्समध्ये गेल्यासारखा एकटक बघत बसलो.

ह्या वीकेंडलाच मी अगदी अडगळीची खोली शोभेल अश्या डॉर्मिटरी रूम मधून एका ऑफिस जवळच्या स्वस्त पण प्रशस्त अशा स्टुडिओ अपार्टमेंटमध्ये शिफ्ट झालो होतो.

आज उगाचच मन कितीही अडवलं तरी आठवणींच्या मागं पळत होतं. आज एक वर्षाच्या प्रोबेशन नंतर पर्मनंट होवून एक आठवडा झाला होता. युनिवर्सिटीतील मित्रांना बीअर पार्टी साठी एक कारण आणि आयता बकरा सापडला होता. पण मी मात्र उगाचच उदास होतो. अगदी आपला सातशे चा स्कोअर होवून सुद्धा सचिनच जर शून्यावर आऊट झाला तर कसं वाटेल तसंच काहीसं वाटत होतं.

उण्यापुऱ्या तीन वर्षांमागं माझी पहिली नोकरी सोडून केवळ बाबांच्या आग्रहाखातर मी एम. एस. करायला म्हणून शॅंपेन मध्ये आलो. परवडत नसताना सुद्धा, बँकेकडून त्यांनी कसंबसं कर्ज मंजूर करून घेतलं होतं. एकदा का मुलगा परदेशात शिकायला गेला की गंगेत घोडं न्हालं अशीच काहीशी त्यांनी समजूत करून घेतली होती, त्यांच्या कुठल्याश्या साहेबाचा मुलगा ऑस्ट्रेलिया का रशिया कुठून तरी एम. एस. झाला होता, तेव्हापासून हे खुळ त्यांच्या डोक्यात शिरलं होतं.एका सरकारी कचेरीत दुय्यम पोस्ट वर नोकरी करत करत स्वतः अगदी चिंध्या झालेली बनियन त्यांनी वर्षानुवर्षं वापरली, पण मुलांच्या शिक्षणात काहीही कमी पडू द्यायचं नाही हे व्रत पाळलं. फाटकी चप्पल आणि जुनाट हर्क्युलस ची सायकल वापरली, पण कुठलाही क्लास आणि कॉलेजच्या फीस देण्यात कधी कसूर केला नाही. सुदैवाने आई सुद्धा नोकरी करत असल्याने खाण्या पिण्याची ददात कधी आम्हाला पडली नाही.

माझं इंजिनिअरिंग संपवून मी कॅंपस इंटरव्यू मधूनच एका मोठया आय. टी. कंपनीत जॉब करायला सुरूवात केली होती. आता तरी आई बाबाना चार सुखाचे दिवस दिसतील असं वाटत होतं, पण बाबांचं समाधान तेवढ्यानं होणार नव्हतं, मला यु. एस. मधूनच एम. एस. करून आणायचा चंग बांधला होता. लहानपणापासून कधी एक शब्द त्यांना मी उलटं बोललो नाही की कधी कुठला हट्ट केला नाही, त्यांचे कष्ट अगदी जवळून पाहत आलो होतो, बाबांचं मन मला कधीच मोडवलं नाही. झक मारत बऱ्यापैकी मार्कांनी जी. आर. ई पास झालो, काही निवडक युनिवर्सिटीजना अर्ज पाठवले, आणि शेवटी युनिवर्सिटी ऑफ इल्लिनॉइ ला अस्मादिकांची वर्णी लागली. मी नेहमीप्रमाणेच तटस्थ होतो, पण बाबांचा आनंद मात्र थेट पर्वेतीवरून सिंहगडावर पोचला होता. अगदी, माझे ऍप्लिकेशन्स ते व्हीसा इंटरव्यू ते तिकीट बूकिंग एखाद्या नव्या नवरीच्या उत्साहाने त्यांनी हातात घेतले होते. हो-नाही करता करता शेवटी तो दिवस उजाडला. मला मुंबईत एअर पोर्ट वर सोडायला फक्त बाबाच आले होते. तू उगाच तिथे रडून तमाशा करशील असं बोलून त्यांनी आईला यायला मनाई केली होती, खरं कारण होतं की त्यांना तिच्या तिकीटाचे पैसे वाचवायचे होते.तरीही आमच्या मातोश्रींनी घरून निघताना माझ्या हाताला धरून थोडा इमोशनल कार्यक्रम केलाच. तेव्हा, "मुलगा अमेरिकेत शिकायला निघालाय, तिसऱ्या महायुद्धावर नाही पाठवत आहे त्याला, सोडा आता" असं म्हणत मला बाबांनी अक्षरशः ओढून नेलं. एअर पोर्ट वर चेकिंग ला निघण्यापूर्वी त्यांच्या पाया पडणार एवढ्यात त्यांनी मला कडकडून मिठी मारली. "खूप शिक, खूप मोठा हो. " येवढंच बोलून मला निरोप दिला. त्यांच्या चेहऱ्यावरचा आनंद आणि समाधान पुरेपूर डोळ्यांत साठवत मी आत शिरलो.

शॅंपेन च्या युनिवर्सिटी मध्ये माझा दिनक्रम सुरू झाला. राहण्याची व्यवस्था माझ्या एजन्सीने आधीच करून ठेवली होती. युनिवर्सिटी हॉस्टेल खूप महाग असल्याने एक डॉर्मिटरीवजा शेअरिंग बेसिस वरचा मोठा हॉल मिळाला होता. एका हॉल मध्ये तीन जण. एक मायक्रोवेव्ह, छोटंसं फ्रिज आणि गॅस शेगडी तिघांमध्ये वापरायला दिलेली होती. माझ्याबरोबरचे दोघे देखील माझ्यासारखेच मध्यमवर्गीय घरामधले. एक तामिळ नाडूचा तर दुसरा बिहारी.मूळचाच लाजरा बुजरा असणारा मी , नवीन देशात, नवीन शहरात अजूनच बुजून गेलो आणि त्यातून ही मरणाची थंडी , पुण्यातल्या थंडीने काकडून जाणारा मी, ह्या असल्या थंडीने भंजाळूनच गेलो. त्यातून अगदी वेगवेगळ्या देशांतून आलेले स्टुडंटस, विशेषतः चीन, कोरिया, थायलंड ह्या तत्सम देशांतले आणि त्यांचे अगम्य ऍक्सेंटस, सततच्या असाईनमेंटस, एक ना अनेक गोष्टी. पण हळूहळू मी माझ्याही नकळत त्या वातावरणात रूळत गेलो. शॅंपेनअगदी छोटंसंच पण सुंदर आणि टुमदार शहर होतं. आखीव-रेखीव रस्ते, शिस्तीत जाणारी वाहनं, मधूनच दिसणारी छोटी छोटी पार्क्स,त्यातली छोटी तळी, त्यांत पोहणारी बदकं, हिरवळीवर खेळणारी लहान मुलं, मोकळ्या जागांवर पद्धतशीरपणे वाढवलेलं गवत, नावालाही न दिसणारी पुसटशीही  धूळ , माझ्यासारख्या रुक्ष माणसालाही ह्या गोष्टी भुरळ घालत.शॅंपेन मध्ये दोन इंडियन शॉप्स सुद्धा होते. तिथूनच आम्ही वीकेंडला खरेदी करायचो. घरी कधी साधा चहा सुद्धा न केलेला मी आता उत्तम स्वैपाक करायला शिकलो , अगदी पनीर टिक्का मसाला पासून मोर कोळंबू पर्यंत काहीही. एक-दोन दा रूम पार्टनर्स च्या आग्रहाखातर पब मध्येही गेलो, पण दारूला स्पर्श करायची हिंमत मात्र कधी झालीनाही. मी युनिवर्सिटी कॅंपस मध्येच एका पिझ्झा शॉप मध्ये पार्ट टाईम जॉब मिळवला,ताशी सात डॉलर मिळणार होते.त्यातून वरचा  खर्च भागणार होता. आता बाबांवर आणखी भार टाकायची माझी इच्छा नव्हती.बघता बघता सहा सात महिने कसे भुर्रकन उडून गेले कळलं सुद्धा नाही. माझी पहिल्या सेमिस्टर ची परीक्षा तोंडावर आली होती. रूमवर सगळीकडे पसाऱ्यात प्रत्येक जण पुस्तकात डोकं खुपसून बसला होता. 

सकाळी एक वाजता त्या स्मशान शांततेचा भंग करत कुणाचा तरी मोबाईल कोकलायला लागला.
"अबे मनिष साले, तेरा फोन बज राहा है, उठा ले."
मी वैतागून फोन उचलला.

"हेलो, कोण मनिष का? "

"हा, बोला"

"अरे मी बाळूमामा बोलतोय. "

ऑ, बाळूमामा आणि आता? 

"हं बोल, काय विशेष? "

"अरे, एक वाईट बातमी आहे. "

वाईट बातमी? माझं ब्लड प्रेशर वाढायला लागलं.

"काय? " मी दबक्या आवाजात विचारलं.

"अरे, म्हणजे, भाऊजी, म्हणजे तुझे बाबा गेले.. "
एखाद्या सुंदर घाटातून गाडी नेताना अचानक एखाद्या खोल दरीतच जावून कोसळावी असं काहीसं वाटलं.

"क क काय? काय बोलतोयेस तू? अरे, काल तर मी त्यांच्याशी बोललो. "

"अरे हो, पण काल रात्रीच त्यांना ऍक्सिडेंट झाला, एका ट्रकने त्यांच्या सायकलला ठोकलं आणि ते ट्र्कखाली आले.... "

माझ्या हातून फोन गळून पडला आणि मी अक्षरशः कोसळलोच.

"अबे, क्या हुवा? "
"वाट हॅपंड म्यान? "

माझ्या डोळ्यांपुढे फक्त आणि फक्त अंधारच नाचत होता.सोमूने, म्हणजे माझ्या बिहारी रूममेटने प्रसंगावधान दाखवून फोन उचलला, आणि कानाला लावला. तो बराच वेळ ऐकत होता.शेवटी फोन बंद केल्यावर, डोळ्यांच्या ओल्या कडा पुसत त्याने कन्ननला खूण केली, दोघे बाजूला जावून अगदी हळू आवाजात काहीतरी पुटपुटले आणि बाहेर आले. कन्ननने पाणी आणून दिले.

शक्य तितका तटस्थ चेहरा करून सोमू बोलला.
"देख भय्ये, तेरे मामजीने तो तुझे बता ही दिया था की क्या हुवा. मै हमेशा के डायलॉग नही मारूंगा. बस्स तुझे ये मेसेज देने केलिये बोला था की, ऍक्सिडेंट के बाद बॉडी की हालत बहुत खराब हो गयी थी, इसिलिये पोस्ट मॉर्टम के बाद जल्दी से अंतिमसंस्कार कर दिया. आंटीजी शॉक मे थी पर फिलहाल ठीक है. अभी तुझे यही पे रुकने के लिये कहा है. तेरा अभी उधर जाना कुछसेन्स नही करता. "

"पर.. "

"अभी पर वर कुछ नही, जल्दीसे लाईटस ऑफ कर के सो जा. कल आंटीजीसे बात कर ले. "

मी एखाद्या मशीन सारखा फक्त इन्स्ट्रक्शन्स फॉलो करत होतो, विचार करायची क्षमताच जणू खलास झाली होती. अशाच अवस्थेत मी उघड्या डोळ्यांनीच झोपी गेलो.दुसऱ्या दिवशी अगदी उसनं अवसान एकवटून आईला फोन लावला, पण तिच्याशी बोलायची हिंमतच होत नव्हती, पण तिचा खंबीर आवाज ऐकून मी चाटच पडलो. तिनेच माझी समजूत काढायला सुरूवात केली आणि निक्षून बजावलं की तू सगळं टाकून इथे परत आलास तर ह्यांना ते कधीच आवडणार नाही. एकंदरीतच तिने येवढं धैर्य कुठून एकवटलं होतं देवच जाणे. मी जास्त काहीच बोलू शकलो नाही. धाकटा गौरव ही बोलला. तो मात्र ओक्साबोक्शी रडत होता. त्याला समजावून, थोडंसं दटावून शांत केलं आणि आईची काळजी घे सांगून फोन बंद केला.डोक्यांत सतरा चिंता आणि डोळ्यांत गोठलेले अश्रू घेवून त्या क्षणापासून खऱ्या अर्थाने माझा प्रवास सुरू झाला.

मी पिझ्झा शॉपमध्ये डबल शिफ्ट स्टार्ट केली, वीकेंडस ना एका लोकल ग्रोसरी स्टोअर मध्ये एका पाकिस्तानी मित्राच्या ओळखीने दिवसभर बिलं फ़ाडायच्या कामाला लागलो. सकाळी पिझ्झा शॉप ची शिफ्टस,दुपारी लेक्चर्स, असाईनमेंटस, संध्याकाळी परत पिझ्झा शॉप,आणि रात्री अभ्यास. वीकेंडला ग्रोसरी शॉप आणि अभ्यास. एखाद्या यंत्राप्रमाणं मी स्वतःला अक्षरशः साच्यात फिट करून घेतलं. मधूनच भुकेची आठवण झाली, तर डॉलर ट्री मधून आणलेलं कसलंसं चायनीज तोंडात कोंबायचो. कधी कधी आई फोनवर म्हणायची सुद्धा की लोकांना काय रे बाबा अमेरिका म्हणजे नुसता पैसा दिसतो, पण कष्ट थोडीच दिसतात. कधीही मित्रांबरोबर नंतर ना पब ला गेलो ना कितीही आग्रह केला तरी कुठल्या पिकनिक ला गेलो. सोमू तर नंतर नंतर मला संन्यासी म्हणूनच हाक मारू लागला. ह्या सगळ्या वातावरणात, मी प्रत्येक सेमिस्टर मात्र चांगल्या मार्कांनी पास झालो, पण २ वर्षांत एकदाही भारतात गेलो नाही. तिकीटाचे पैसे घालवण्यापेक्षा, सुटीत तिथेच राहून काही दिवस फुल टाईम जॉब केला. आणि अशातच एका जॉब फेअर मध्ये, एका फुटकळ इंटरव्यू नंतर ह्या कंपनीचे ऑफर लेटर हातात पडले. पण इथेही एक गोम होतीच, एक वर्षाचे प्रोबेशन होते. बाकी, कुठल्याही कंपनीच्या पॅनेलिस्ट ना माझं तोंड आवडलं नाही, त्यामुळे निमूटपणे ती ऑफर स्वीकारली. कन्नन आणि सोमूला पण जॉब मिळाले, पण ते दोघेही शॅंपेन मधून बाहेर जाणार होते. शँपेन मध्येच राहायला मिळणे ही एकच जमेची बाजू माझ्या नोकरीबाबत होती. दोघांनाही अगदी जड मनाने निरोप देवून मी ही रूम सोडली आणि शेजारच्याच सिंगल रूम मध्ये शिफ्ट झालो. मला एखादे स्टुदिओ अपार्टमेंट परवडत असून सुद्धा तिथे जायचे नव्हते, अजून शिक्षणासाठी घेतलेले कर्ज फेडायला पैसे साठवायचे होते आणि प्रोबेशन संपून पर्मनंट होईपर्यंत मला कुठलीही रिस्क घ्यायची नव्हती. याचाच अजून एक अर्थ म्हणजे भारतात जाणे अजून एका वर्षासाठी लांबणीवर पडणार होते. आईने दोन तीनदा येण्याबद्दल विचारले होते, पण तिनेसुद्धा नंतर फारसा आग्रह केला नाही. मी ह्या एक वर्षांत अगदी कुत्र्यासारखे काम केले, क्लायंट कदून अगदी स्तुतिसुमने उधळून घेण्यासाठी जीवाचे रान केले. पैसे वाचवण्याच्या बाबतीत तर शब्दशः चिंधीगिरी केली. क्वचितच बस किंवा टॅक्सीने ऑफिसला गेलो. जेवणाच्या नावाखाली बऱ्याचदा सिझर सॅलड वर भागवून नेले. तिकडे भारतात आईची नोकरी चालू होती आणि गौरव सुद्धा शिक्षण संपवून नोकरीला लागला होता त्यामुळे त्यांची काळजी मिटली होती. हे वर्ष सुद्धा कसं सरलं नाही, आणि शेवटी तो मच अवेटेड मेल मेलबॉक्स मध्ये येवून पोचला. मी पर्मनंट झालो होतो आणि एक ग्रेड वर सुद्धा चढलो होतो. आमच्या इटालियन मॅनेजर ने केबीन मध्ये बोलवून खास अभिनंदन केले. त्यानंतर दोन दिवसांनी मी मित्रांच्या आणि आईच्या आग्रहापुढे हार मानून स्टुडिओ अपार्टमेंट रेंट वर घेवून टाकले होते.

आज तसं पाहायला गेल्यास लौकिक अर्थानं आनंदाचाच दिवस होता, पण सारखा सारखा आज बाबांचा चेहरा डोळ्यांसमोर येत होता. ज्यांच्यासाठी हा अट्टहास केला तेच आज नाहीत, एखाद्य क्रूर थट्टेसारखं काहीसं वाटत होतं. माझ्या डोळ्यातलं पाणी तर तीन वर्षांमागंच सुकून गेलं होतं, फक्त शून्यात पाहण्याशिवाय ते काहीच करत नसत कधी कधी.

"अरे, कुठं हरवलास? काय विचार करतोयेस", वैतागून रमेश ने हटकलं.

"अं, काही नाही, अरे एक मेल टाकायचीय चल. "

"ओक्के"

मी परत डेस्क वर जावून मॉनिटर मध्ये डोकं खुपसून बसलो.
(क्रमशः)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

पाकीट


"मित्राते फाटकं पाकीट कधी बदलतोयेस आता? "
"काय रे , काय सिल्वर ज्युबिली साजरी करायलयंस का काय त्या पाकीटाची? "
"काय, गिनीज बुकात नोंद करायची आहे का काय? "
"तुझा वाढदिवस कधी आहे तेवढा सांग बाबा, आम्ही सगळे एक छानसं पाकीटच गिफ्ट देतो"
"वाट मॅन, कुच अँटीक वालेट है क्या वो? "
"काय, लक्की पाकीट वाटतं?"
"अरे त्यातल्या पैशांचं सोड, तुझं लायसन्स, पॅन कार्ड, डेबिट कार्ड वगैरे त्यातून कधी पडलं तर केवढ्यात पडेल ते. कंजूष कुठचा"

माझ्या त्या कळकट्ट, जीर्ण आणि अगदी हॅवेल्स फॅन च्या जाहिरातीतील गलितगात्र झालेल्या राजेश खन्नासारख्या वाटणाऱ्या त्या प्रागैतिहासिक पाकिटाकडे पाहून एक ना अनेक जणांनी हे उद्गार अगणित वेळा काढले असतील.
तसं त्यात खोटं काही नव्हतंच म्हणा ना. बाहेरून उसवत आलेले धागे, आतले अगदी चिंध्या झालेले कप्पे, त्यात मधूनच डोकावणाऱ्या नोटा,काही बिनकामाच्या पावत्या, आणि माझ्यापेक्षाही भयानक दिसणारे माझे फोटो मिरवणारी ओळख कार्डं,भस्सकन ते खिशातून बाहेर काढले की समोरच्याला एकदम अंगावर आल्यासारखे होत असे.

जुन्या काळी पोस्टात खर्डॅघाशी करत करत घरात खाणाऱ्या दहा बारा तोंडांना पोसता पोसता मेटाकुटीला आलेल्या कारकूना सारखी
त्याची अवस्था झाली होती. पण मी मात्र एखाद्या हठयोग्याप्रमाणे कशालाच दाद देत नव्हतो. सगळयांच्या कॉमेंटस केवळ हसण्यावारी नेत, अगदी महाराणा प्रतापांच्या चेतकाप्रमाणे, ते मरणासन्न पाकीट मी खिशाशी बाळगून होतो.

तर, नुकतीच आमच्या टीम मध्ये, पुण्यातील एका नामांकीत मॉल्स ची कुपन्स वाटली होती. हो-नाही करत, शेवटी ह्या वीकांताला त्या मॉलमध्ये शिरलो. तसा अशा ठिकाणी खरेदीचा काहीच अनुभव गाठीशी नसल्याने मी भावाला बरोबर घेवून गेलो होतो.  मोठा आणि चकचकीत हॉल,सगळीकडे अगदी पद्धतशीरपणे मांडलेल्या विविध ब्रँडेड वस्तू, अगदी ब्रेसलेट,शूज पासून ते शेरवानी पर्यंत सगळाच माल डोळे फिरविणाऱ्या किंमती नाचवत उभा होता.

"अरे, हे पाकीट पाहा, छान दिसतंय. ", माझा भाऊ एका पाकिटांच्या स्टँडकडे बोट दाखवत म्हणाला.
"हम्म, पण माझ्याकडे पाकीट आहे की ऑलरेडी"
"नाही, ते काही कामाचं नाही. हे घेवून टाक, सातशे रुपयांना आहे फक्त, डिस्काउंट मिळून अजून स्वस्तात पडेल. "
सातशे रुपये?? मी विचार करू लागलो की सातशे रुपये एका वेळेस कधी मी पाकिटात तरी ठेवतो का?
पण नाही, ह्यावेळेस का कुणास ठाऊक, माझा विरोध पूर्णपणे गळून पडला आणि मी मुकाट्याने ते इटालिअन का कसल्या लेदरचे पाकीट विकत घेतलेच.

"आता, ते जुनं पाकीट दे फेकून. " भावाने पुस्ती जोडली.
मी नुसतंच हम्म करत बिल देवून टाकले.

घरी आल्यावर, त्या जुनाट पाकिटातून सामान काढताना मात्र हात चांगलाच जड झाला. माझं मन आपोआप सहा वर्षे मागं गेलं. मला आठवतं, कसंबसं इंजिनिअरिंग संपवून मी नुकताच नोकरीला लागलो होतो. नोकरीचा पहिलाच महिना चालू होता, त्यामुळे साहजिकच पहिला पगार वगैरे काही झालेला नव्हता. रोज, मी आईकडून, फक्त पी एम टी च्या तिकिटाइतके पैसे घेत असे. जेवणासाठी डबा घरून नेत असल्याने त्या पैशांचा प्रश्न सुटला होता. जाताना बस ने जाई, पण येताना ३-४ किलोमीटर चालत येत असे, तेवढेच पैसे वाचायचे. आता रोज तिकिटाचे पैसे घेतल्यानंतर ते पैसे ठेवायला अजून एखादं पाकीट घेणं म्हणजे त्या काळात खरोखर आमच्यासाठी चैन होती. मी खिशात नुसतेच पैसे ठेवायला घाबरायचो, कारण चुकून खिसा फाटका निघाला तर काय? पण त्यावरही मी एक उपाय शोधून काढला. माझा एक मामा नेहमी, घरातील रिकामी दुधाची पिशवी स्वच्छ धुवून, वाळवून, त्यात पैसे ठेवत असे. मीसुद्धा तेच सुरू केलं. मी कात्रज दुधाच्या रिकाम्या पिशवीतून पैसे नेवू लागलो.

एकदा माझ्या एका मित्राने मला असे पिशवीतून पैसे काढताना बघितलं. माझी परिस्थिती काही त्याच्यापासून लपलेली नव्हती. त्यानं माझी अडचण ओळखली आणि हळूच म्हणाला की, संध्याकाळी चल माझ्याबरोबर, तुला चांगलं पाकीट मिळवून देतो. मी त्याच्याकडून पैसे अजिबात घेणार नाही हे तर नक्की होतं. मी त्याला स्पष्ट सांगितलं की, बाबा रे, रोज चे बस चे पैसे वाचवून माझ्याकडे फक्त तीस रुपये साठलेले आहेत, आणि तेवढ्यात पाकीट मिळणार आहे का? तेव्हा, अरे तीस काय तुला तीन रुपयांत मिळवून देतो असं त्यानं छातीवर हात ठोकत सांगितलं.

संध्याकाळी, तो मला, कर्वे रोडवर, एसएनडीटी च्या ब्रिज खालच्या फूटपाथवर घेवून गेला. तिथे एक म्हातारा बऱ्याच गोष्टी विकत बसला होता, त्यांत पाकिटं सुद्धा होती.

"मामा, ते पाकीट कितीला दिलं? " मित्रानं विचारलं.
"तीस रुपये. ", गुटख्याची पिंक बाजूला टाकत म्हातारा बोलला.
"काय मामा, काय सांगता, पंधरा रुपये देतो बघा. "
"नाय वो, तेवडी खरेदी बी नाय. "
"असं नाही, बघा पंधरा रुपये देतो, नक्की सांगा"
"बरं चला, पंचवीस द्या. "
"नाही, पंधरा लास्ट".
"हे बगा, वीस लाष्ट, मी आता निगालोय घरी म्हनून देतो, घ्यायाचं असंल तर घ्या नायतर नाय. " म्हातारं आता चांगलंच वैतागलं होतं.
मित्राने मला खूण केली. मी वीस रुपये काढून दिले आणि ते पाकीट घेतलं. मित्रानंच दुधाच्या पिशवीतून पैसे काढून पाकिटात कोंबले आणि मला परत केलं. कृतज्ञता, येवढाच भाव माझ्या चेहऱ्यावर होता.
"थँक यू. " इतकंच कसंबसं माझ्या तोंडून निघून गेलं.
"अरे चल, मोठा आला, उद्या त्याच पाकिटातून पैसे काढून पार्टी घेणार आहे तुझ्याकडून. "

आणि, तेव्हापासून ते पाकीट अगदी इमाने इतबारे मला साथ देत राहिले. कधी कधी वस्तू नुसत्या वस्तू न राहता तुमच्याही नकळत तुमच्या अस्तित्वाचा भाग बनून जातात. खरेतर पाकीट ही एक क्षुल्लक वस्तू वाटू शकते, पण माझ्यासाठी ते पाकीट एक मोठं थँक्स होतं, त्या जुन्या दिवसांना ज्यांनी नुसतंच जगण्याचं बळंच नाही दिलं तर, हे सुद्धा शिकवलं की कशीही परिस्थिती असली तरी आनंदानं आणि समाधानानं जगण्यासाठी मन मोठं असावं लागतं, खिसा नाही. ते पाकीट एक रिमाइंडर होतं, ज्यानं यशाच्या, सुखाच्या अनेक प्रसंगांत कधी उतू मातू दिलं नाही, की अगदी अनेक अपयशांच्या, दुःखाच्या प्रसंगात खचू दिलं नाही. ते पाकीट म्हणजे एक मोठं सॉरी आहे माझ्या त्या मित्राला ज्याच्याशी मी पहिली कंपनी सोडल्यानंतर फारसा टच मध्ये राहू शकलो नाही. खरं तर त्या पाकिटात पैसे, कार्डं असं काही ठेवलंच नव्हतं कधी, ठेवल्या होत्या त्या फक्त आणि फक्त पैशांत कधीच किंमत न करत्या येण्याजोग्या आठवणी...


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Crossword, me and she..


For an unusually hot and dry July evening, amidst clear skies, I set off for my usual weekend visit to Crossword. With most of my friends now having been married, or settled abroad, or busy with their respective girl friends, or a bit too out of touch that they are not even a single phone call away, this crossword window shopping has been a favorite pass time of mine since last numerous weekends.

The security person with his bulging belly gave a blank apathetic look to me. I somehow have started fearing that these guys will one day throw me out for continuous peep INS and no purchase.

Nevertheless, the fully blowing air conditioner inside provided much needed respite from outside heat. There were a handful of people around meticulously flipping through pages. I adjusted my thick glassed specs and advanced towards a new arrivals section, and started looking for some eye catching stuff. And suddenly, I was disturbed with an elated but equally soft voice.

“Chaitanya, is that you?”

There she was, almost after four years, wearing a bright red top and jeans, hair let loose on shoulders, and smiling as effervescently as ever. Last time, I remembered seeing her when our entire project team in my first organization had bid her an adieu when she had got married to an US settled geek and was leaving for good.  I must accept the very news of she getting betrothed had broken many hearts on the floor. I guarantee she had given many raging hormones in our team , a lot of sleepless nights. I remember many guys on the floor trying to be extra friendly with me just because she used to sit opposite to me and work in my team although I had hardly seen her working. After all it was highly difficult for her to find time from constant blabbering on mobile phone. One killer smile to manager and she was all set to go home by 6 P.M. bus and nerds like me were always there to work extra time and yet get spanked by client, lead and manager.

“Ohh my my, Aarti. Indeed a surprise madam!” I exclaimed.

“Ohm gosh, look at you, you haven’t changed at all”

“But, you have changed and changed for better and prettier.”

I wasn’t lying at all. Although she seemed to have put up a little more weight and obsequious fat around her waist, she looked a lot fairer than what I remembered her. Her complexion was close to flawless. The faint lipstick was enhancing her thin lips. The three years of stay in west had done her features a world of good.

“Forget about me, I must say you haven’t changed a bit. Still, that lazy stubble, under-grown moustaches, uncombed hair, thick framed specs and almost de-colored T-shirt”

Well, I knew I was as ugly now as I was at birth. I did not need her to remind me that again.

I gave her a helpless smile.

“Tell me, how’s life? how come you are in Pune?”

“Well, Rahul had a couple of dealings to crack here in Pune. We also hadn’t taken vacation for a year; you know being a vice president, it demands a lot from him. So, decided to club our India visit and here we are. You know they allowed both of us business class, cool, no?”

Well, well, I guess, I spotted where it was going to now, VP, doing dealings for his company, travelling by business class, what’s next?

“What do you do now a days, tell me”

I stressed the word ‘you ‘a bit more.

“I am enjoying being a Home maker now. I badly want to work but Rahul just doesn’t want me to. He says that he earns more than enough that he can feed a poor African island so why do I need to go for a job hunt”
Yes, he was right, I thought. I didn’t know about any poor African island but whichever place she would go to work must be rendered impoverished as she hardly knew what was meant by actually working.

“That’s good no, just enjoy the life then...”

“Nawww, it’s boring at times. Anyway, good that I met you, just needed to tell you that we have bought a specious 3 BHK in Baner. Rahul wants to sell it off, he says now the prices are at the highest. Can you help and find if any one of you colleagues or friends are interested. Rahul said for a genuine buyer, he can reduce the price upto 1 crore, but yes buyer has be genuine.”

I started counting how many zeros would be there in 1 crore.. I imagined prospective buyers to be either scorpio chaps or local politicians. And, what the hell was I supposed to do here. I am not a property  broker.

“Hey chaitanya, what are you thinking?”

“ohh yes, I will post an ad in my company’s portal”

“That’s so nice of you”

Then she continued about how lovely the weather is there in US, how good the roads are and how pathetic Pune has become since she left. How Rahul hates it here in India, how hard he worked to get there at this position, how much he loved to drive his Audi, how he enjoyed baseball game on weekends, on and on and on..

By that time I had started imagining Rahul as a combination of Bill gates, Dheerubhai Ambani and Super Man.

To much of my rescue, my mobile phone rang, I had never loved to hear the ringtone more than I loved this time.

“Yes, I am coming in next 15 mins”, I disconnected.

Aarati was giving me a questioning look.

“Mom’s phone, she’s waiting for dinner” I said.

“No need to clarify. No wonder that you will get only Mom’s calls. Come on Chaitanya, go and get a girlfriend for yourself.”

Now, this was a lot more than humiliation. Since last 20 minutes, I had got enough reminders of how miserable my very own life is here and she was just relentless in repeating the blows.
As she was once again about to comment on my appearance, once again our very old friend cell phone came to my help. This time it was hers.

She delicately took her iphone 4 out of purse,and chuckled..
“ohh, Rahul’s phone”

“Hi honey”
Her voice was actually oozing honey. I could not stop myself from staring at her immaculate lips.

“ohh yes darling, I am on my way, just caught up with an old friend in crossword. Arey, don’t worry baba, I am not staying here forever, will be there in a flash. Bye, love you”

“Well chaitanya, it was great seeing you after so long. Will catch up with you on FB later. But, please remember about our flat in Baner.  I have to leave now, Rahul gets worried too much about me. bye, see ya”

“Bye Aarti”

She gave her killer smile and turned back.

Phew, I heaved a sigh of relief and something interesting caught my eye. There was a book called ‘LOSER – Life Of a Software Engineer’. Curiously, I picked it up and flipped some pages. One page gave the comparison between quintessential poor Software Rameshs and ever aristocratic software Richas. I read one or two lines and burst out in a laughter. I guess, I never needed to find out who the Ramesh was and who the Richa was!!!!


Monday, May 14, 2012

फेसबूकावरील जाहिराती

सध्या फेसबुक हे झपाट्याने खालील गोष्टींच्या जाहिरातींचे सुलभ आणि स्वस्त माध्यम बनू पाहत आहे
-तुमची पाहिलीवहीली प्रदेश वारी

-लंडन आय, सिअर्स टावर, टाईम्स स्क्वेअर अशा तत्सम प्रागैतिहासिक वास्तू ओढून ताणून फ्रेम मध्ये घेवून तुमच्याच नव्या कोऱ्या डिजिटल कॅमेर्याने (ह्याचा उल्लेख मात्र हवाच हं)काढलेला तुमचा राजबिंडा फोटो

-तुमचा Montessori मधील खत्रूड शिक्षकाबरोबरचा ग्रुप फोटो, आणि आपण तेव्हासुद्धा आजच्या इतकेच बावळट दिसतो हे बघून मिळालेले डझनभर लाईक्स

 -तुमची रायगड, सिंहगड, लोहगड, जमल्यास पर्वती, टेम्बलाई, वेताळ बाबा टेकडी चढाई

-तुमच्या ऑन साईट वाल्या rented किचन मध्ये भगीरथ प्रयत्नाने बनविलेली वांगे पोहे, कांदे खिचडी पासून अगदी नेपाळी गाडीवाल्याच्या तोंडात मारेल अशी चायनीज पाव भाजी

 -तुमच्या लग्नात कसाबसा कोल्हापूरी फेटा चढवून ,कडक इस्त्री करून घातलेला आणि नंतर कधीही उन्ह न पाहणारा ब्लेझर अथवा तुमची कांजीवरम, बनारसी, इंदोरी, चंदेरी, खांदेरी साडी/शालू (चूक भूल देणे घेणे)

 -तुमचे मौजे काश्मीर, शिमला बुद्रुक, गेला बाजार स्वित्झर्लंड खुर्द मध्ये साजरे केलेले हनिमून आणि तेथे गाढव सदृश प्राण्यावर स्वार होवून काढून घेतलेले फोटो

-तुमच्या पाल्याने लंगडी पळती, शिवा शिवी,दोरीच्या उद्या इ. मध्ये मिळविलेले उत्तेजनार्थ बक्षिस

-तुम्ही रणरणत्या उन्हात, अशक्य उकाड्यात , किमान एक लाखांच्या गर्दीत बसून पाहिलेली आयपीएल ची लुटुपुटूची म्याच

-र ला र आणि ठ ला ठ जुळवून केलेली एखादी प्रबोधक ,शृंगारिक किंवा विरह चारोळी

-झालंच तर, तुमची अलिबाग, दिवेआगर वगैरे ट्रीप, तुमचा (पाळीव) कुत्रा/कुत्री, मांजर/बोका, सरडा/सरडी, ग्राम्पंचायात एरियात नुकताच पझेशन मिळालेला लक्झुरीयस फ्लयाट, सोसायटीचा गणेशोत्सव, कुठल्याश्या सुमार नाट्य अभिनेत्याबरोबरचा फोटो, घरात नव्याने बसविलेला कमोड वाला संडास इ. इ. इ. बास्स,आज इतकेच,जाणकारांनी अधिक प्रकाश टाकावा ही नम्र विनंती