Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Please forgive me

It's the most difficult thing in the world to write your own friend's obituary, but it's even worse to report it in a clinical fashion as befitting a news correspondent.

For nothing I write will ever do justice to the Minal Panchal I knew but lost touch with a few years ago...but whenever I think of her, what comes to mind is an exceptionally sharp sense of humour and a keen sense of observation...and both helped the two of us as we worked all night and sweated over drawing sheets and architectural models.

I can see Minal slumped over our morning tea and breakfast in the Rizvi College canteen where we both studied architecture (but she completed it successfully, I didn't), the wry look on her face that proved her skepticism about all things unscientific, her curiously high pitched laughter at trivial things, the way she dreamed and sketched silently even in the middle of a noisy classroom...

A science student from Mithibai College (batch of 1996) who hated Mathematics with a passion ("because I can't figure out permutations and trigonometry, yaar") and who carried her dislike for the subject into structural mechanics in our graduation years...the only times she would really perk up was when anyone suggested a break when she was bored, or when she spoke of her older sister Kavita. To this day, I wonder at how much the two sisters were more like one soul in two bodies; each knew exactly what the other was up to during the day. Or night.

I quit architecture in 2002 and lost touch with her completely. Her and everyone else in class. Which is why there's nobody I can call and ask for her whereabouts. Her home in Borivli is locked; it turns out her mum has been staying with her ever since she went to Blacksburg to pursue a masters in September last year.

And because I wasn't talking to her lately, I hesitated a hundred times over when I pondered getting in touch with her on Orkut. I'd looked for her and found her immediately, but a foolish sense of pride over bygone fights and the kind of reluctance that doesn't want you to make a fool of yourself, stopped me even from scrapping her.

I realise now that it was a huge mistake. I should have at least scribbled a line. At the most, she wouldn't have replied. But the silence of a rebuff kind of takes the edge off the silence of an unasked question...

Now it's too late and illogical to mourn the death of an attractive, tall and ambitious architect who had unspecified dreams which she shared with nobody but only the closest of pals...I don't know how much, if at all, she'd changed after graduating, but I get the feeling that she was too mature, too well-formed in character to change much. Oh yes, she loved the good things in life - calorie-rich sandwiches, enough money to buy whatever she wanted to, intelligent and good looking boys...but this same girl also liked to keep life simple and uncomplicated.

I'm still trying to figure out why I'm so shattered by the death of a girl who was non-existent in my life for the last four years. Maybe it's true what they say about some connections being forever. How else do I explain why random thoughts pass through my mind at this moment when I'm writing about her...the colour blue...8B sketching pencils...her lovely parents...the many nights of laughing and falling asleep over unfinished architectural homework at her place or mine...

Minal will always remain in my mind from now on...she who loved Frank Lloyd Wright and hence The Fountainhead...she who always spoke her mind impartially, about anyone...she who liked all things weird. I don't know if I'm more sorry for the mother who would grieve for her younger daughter in a foreign country, or the scores of friends who have been scrapping her incessantly for news of her whereabouts. Her phone is unreachable, she's still on the missing persons list, but everyone knows she's gone.

Damn. I don't even have the nerve to leave a condolence scrap for her. I'm so sorry, Minal...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Somebody...anybody. Just help.

So it was that by the time I reached office this morning, I knew this was to be one of those days. You know, the kind of day when there are a gazillion stories on every beat and you can't afford to miss a single one because it's just too hot to be roasted by the boss.

Anyway. So we started the day's work with a mountain of stories piling up and the mind already putting them all into different filing cabinets ("Okay, first the Assembly reports. No, first, the TADA proceedings. But wait, even the Mahajan trial is on...but wait, first the Assembly reports") and then just about to sit down to put the day in some kind of order, when Jaan messages me with the very cheerful news that 7/11 accused Rizwan Dawre has the Interpol breathing down his neck with a Red Corner notice.

Phooeey. I really think filing cabinets suck.

So back it was to finding out what the bloody man did in the first place, to getting an irate K P Raghuvanshi to give me details over the phone ("Arre madam, I am addressing media persons in a few minutes...", "Ji sir, but I won't be there so could I know what you're telling them anyway?") and then piecing together the happy news that Dawre was the chap with the hawala transactions and a big donation for a chunk of the operation. Tsk tsk, bad boy, Rizwan.

And was just getting that in order and sending it when MB decides to make his presence felt by messaging me to keep a tab on Dilip Walse Patil who was to make earth-shattering announcements over the ULCA affair. Yeah, like I'm like some Grade A chutiya who knows nothing. Okay fine, I'm a Grade A chutiya who knows very little, but there's no need to rub my face in it.

But that was not to happen for some time, so I spent some moments making sense of the May 9 date for the Sanjay Dutt verdict. The other 69 who raised a ruckus over parity with Dutt and so on, would also have their orders passed that day. So that means nobody's playing till May 9. In which case, MB will be out gallivanting on this Friday, April 20 ("It's my anniversary", blush blush) so that should indicate that yours truly will be the Friday scapegoat floundering while all the news beats get together and discuss strategies to beat me over the head for one complete day.

And by the end of today, 10 bucks says I will be out of this place with a very pronounced 'sutta na mila' expression on my face and thinking longingly of Saturday when the stupidity is suspended for one whole day. But today is just Monday and the entire week is still to go...


Friday, April 6, 2007

Jaalim ka jod de makaan...

One of the strangest things to happen after I started work in such a volatile profession, is that instead of getting jumpier than I already was, I settled down.

And also from being the kind of person who gets bored to bits with any person after about 30 minutes of his company (30 minutes is a highly optimistic and conservative estimate), I am actually looking forward to more and more time with one person alone. One person with the dimpled smiles and the puppy noises and the declarations of "I'm not Cleopatra, alright!"

Talk about contradiction in terms.

Okay, so maybe there is such a thing as destiny. And maybe there is such a thing as fate that dictates whose paths will cross yours and when. Maybe if I had continued with the architecture madness, I may have been around a different set of people and circumstances. Maybe I would have still been single, or worse, hitched to some silly boy (not that I'm not hitched to one right now, hyuk hyuk!).

Or maybe I wouldn't ever have known that an entirely different world exists out there - that people are actually not as complex as they seem, or that it's okay if you can't change the world and that hard work not always leads to positive results.

And I would have definitely passed by the many tests of resilience and patience and discoveries and loud laughter and the feeling that for once, there is something I can actually do passably. Architecture only made me feel stupid and like I was two-year-old autistic child.

And I would have never met this dufus (read duphoos) who needs to mentally prepare himself for an hour before each bath, or who keeps me waiting at every railway station he can think of and have a novel excuse ready, or who tries every trick in the book to get me to spill the beans on something I don't want to talk about.

And this is also the same boy who buys me half of Inorbit because it's my birthday and tells me to 'Ja Mar!' every time I rag him about going to another boy. What he doesn't get is there is no other boy, man or beast I would ever go to.

Not because I love him a lot, because I don't. Not because I think he's the best boy in the world, because he's okay-types. It's because my every thought and action starts and ends with him, but curiously, not to the extent that I can't think without him around.

Okay, so maybe I love him a lot and he's not just okay-types. Just don't tell him I said that or I wouldn't hear the end of it.

Sunday, April 1, 2007


If this is funny, I think I'll laugh...

Since today is Fool's Day (which means all newspaper editors are celebrating their birthdays from dusk to dawn), this is a great chance to bring out the child in you. Bring it out in print. Bring it out unashamedly and throw in a disclaimer at the end: Happy April Fool's Day!

Hence we have imaginative gems splashed everywhere. Sania Mirza sets knitting world record. Mermaids spotted. Viveik, Salman to attend Ash's wedding. Ash-Abhishek not to wed after all. Sachin's Ferrari to be taken back.

This is not just Fool's Day for the media. This is I-was-born-hopelessly-foolish Fool's Day. Cheers!!

I mean, check out the humour-metre, people. When Home Minister for State Siddharam Metre declares that he will get Google Earth banished from Maharashtra, nobody even smiles. When Rakhi Sawant launches a cricket programme outrageously (and aptly) titled 'Rakhi's Bouncers', poor Paras Tomar goes blue in the face trying to point out the intended pun, but no business results.

Point of the matter being, that when potentially funny situations that beg to be written about with a witty pen do create themselves, fools such as us are looking the other way. And then we think we're being funnier than dammit when we poke fun at celebrities on April 1.

Who needs celebs, when we, the fourth estate, comprise such a big pack of jokers that the world could laugh all year round? Why were such fools like Malavika Sangghvi, Khalid Mohamed, all of Times Response, Santosh Andhale and Avirook Sen born if not to keep us giggling and chuckling over our morning cup of tea?

It's such a wonderful word, Fool. It was invented expressly for the media. Said anyhow and anywhere, spoken with affection or exasperation, shouted out loud or just allowed to drift across the mind when listening to the boss speak, Fool is a word that encapsulates all the relevant emotions in one simple, musical and forceful word. Try it --

U FOOL, I've already filed it.
Oh God, my editor is such a fool.
What a fool. Reporter hai ya mazaak?!
No, I won't file it like that, because I'm not a fool.

What's more, we (fools) look forward to Fools Day with a manic delight because at least some 'funny' news can be written about that saves us the trouble for looking at real news instead. I notice nobody's written a thing about the numerous budget proposals that come into effect in Maharashtra from today, April 1.

Still wondering what Fool's Paradise looks like?