Anbu's Grandpa loves his place so much that he had never left it for many years then. Not even to visit Anbu's place. Though it pretty much isolated Anbu from any cricket-playing population of his liking, his Grandpa’s is a nice, little farmhouse; somewhere in between the coffee plantations and the wide green meadows, on the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats, in Kodagu district. His Grandpa is a photographer, by passion, if not by profession. At his age, he still goes on those lonely hikes across Nagarhole, to capture wild animals. In his photographs, that is. And, he never really finds those lonely hikes, lonely. Apart from clicking amazing photographs, his Grandpa does all the work at his place by himself – cooking, cleaning, gardening, and what not. But, on that occasion, his grandson wanted him to play cricket.
Anbu was at his Grandpa’s place, to spend a good part of his summer vacations. He was dropped there, by his parents, as they had their own plans; and, who cares, really, for those of the little one? He was missing all the cricket that had been going on back at his place. What’s worse, he feared he'd be out of form when he returned. Yes, Anbu takes his cricket seriously. As seriously as the best cricketer in the world would take his, or even more. So, then, he had pledged to somehow make his Grandpa play cricket with him. He contemplated for a while, as to how to approach him. But then, he couldn't give it much thought for the kind of mood he was in. He had decided to take him head on.
“You just keep clicking these photographs all the time. Don’t you get bored? Come, let’s go and play cricket“, said Anbu, in a loud and stern tone.
His Grandpa turned to look at him, observed him for a second, got back to looking through the lens, and said - “I shall join, sometime. But, I don’t get bored of this”, without even looking at him anymore.
“Really? It should be quite boring, when compared to playing cricket”, stated Anbu., in haste, and then bit his tongue, realizing he spoke too loose.
“What makes you say so? Amazing, don’t you think, are photographs?”, asked his Grandpa, now looking at him.
“They sure are. But, I think I like the movies more. You should make movies atleast, instead”, Anbu replied, looking right back at him.
“I see. May be, you should tell me why you like the movies more“, his Grandpa enquired.
“Because, there’s some action in the movies. Fights, dances and all”, said Anbu, and he meant it, as well.
“True. But, I don’t know. Photographs have something quite unique, something mystic, about their beauty“, said his Grandpa, placing the camera on the rock beside him, to tie his shoe lace.
“What is it, Grandpa? Don’t tell me you don’t know! You have been clicking photographs since I don’t know when! “, enquired Anbu, drifting from disregard, to indifference, to curiosity, within no time. He’s a kid, after all.
His Grandpa laughed out, and, as he shook quite a bit while laughing, he couldn’t finish tying the lace properly. He just moved onto answering the curious kid. What, other than a curious kid asking him about something he is most passionate about, could excite an old man more? “Well, I really don’t know. But, if you insist, it’s probably about, umm, you know, freezing a moment”, he said, and paused. “Forever”, he added, looking into Anbu's eyes, with a twinkle in his.
“Motion pictures, as you say, are more encompassing when it comes to mirroring the world, as they have the dimension of time. But, photographs are snapshots of brief, little moments. May be the beauty is in that brevity”, he said, and paused to gather his thoughts. “Much like life in real, motion pictures have a beginning and an end. Whereas, photographs are little moments eternalized. And yet, each such little moment is, you know, complete in itself”, he explained, all animatedly.
“I don’t get what you are saying!” interrupted Anbu, with a puzzled look.
His Grandpa pondered for a while, as to how to explain all that to the kid. And, he did find a way. “Alright. Let’s talk cricket. Every ball bowled has a result, right? Be it a six, a dot or a wicket”, he asked.
“Yes”, Anbu said, and nodded slowly wondering where he was getting at.
“So, every ball is complete in itself, though it’s just a brief part of the match. And, do you run out of balls in your test matches? No. You run out of time. Similarly, I don’t think I will ever run out of moments, worth capturing. Yes, eventually, I will run out of time”, said his Grandpa, as his gaze got fixed, on nothing in specific.
Anbu vaguely understood what he meant. “Please don’t say all that Grandpa. Ok, forget all that. I’m beginning to like this. Can you teach me how to click good photographs? “, asked Anbu, more out of the urge to distract his Grandpa’s thoughts from where they were heading to.
That worked, as well. “You should start by asking, yourself, what are your “good photographs”. For me, photographs that excite you, surprise you, the ones that make you smile, ones that make you cry, or bring about some such genuine emotions, are all good photographs. And, how do you click such good photographs? Such photographs are more about the moments that are captured, right? So, we can become good photographers only by chance, when we get to be at the right place for the right moments? Not really. We become good photographers by exhibiting patience and readiness, I feel. We should wait patiently for those right moments, and when they come by, we should be ready to capture them in the most enchanting of ways. That's what I feel”, said his Grandpa, and smiled; running his wrinkled fingers through Anbu's dark, silky hair.
“That could be tough – waiting patiently, being ready and all“, Anbu reflected.
“That’s the challenge, right? That’s the game. It’s very much like your batting, and, may be, slip-fielding, isn’t it? “, his Grandpa remarked, and started walking away.
Anbu sat with his legs folded, thighs drawn to his chest and his chin resting on his knees, on the footsteps at the entrance of the farmhouse. He re-ran the whole conversation in his head, as the cuckoos' calls echoed around him. After a while, he ran in the direction his Grandpa walked. “Grandpa!”, he shouted across, as he spotted him. His Grandpa stopped and turned. Anbu walked up to him, bent down, tied his lace, looked up into his eyes, and asked - “Can I come with you?”, his eyes agleam with fresh and genuine enthusiasm. His Grandpa acted quickly enough, to eternalize that expression.
Anbu accompanied his Grandpa in many of his photography-hikes, thenceforth, during the time he spent there. And, he returned to his place, as a better cricketer.
That next summer, to his parents' surprise, his Grandpa visited Anbu's place. Soon after he came, he unpacked a new cricket bat, and showed it to Anbu. "Wow! Is this for me?", asked Anbu, holding the gorgeous piece of willow in his hands, being more excited than he had ever been. "No", replied his Grandpa. "It's for me".
Anbu opened the window, as Malvika watched on worriedly. They are on their way to Honnavara, Anbu's hometown. Malvika is new to this part of the country. She's going to spend a few days of her end-semester vacations at Anbu's place. The bus has halted somewhere near Sagara, for an early-morning tea/toilet break. It's freezing cold outside, especially by Malvika's standards, as it has always been towards the end of December, in this part of Karnataka. The cold air, that suddenly hit their faces, as the window was opened, literally sent chills down Malvika's spine. She got goose-bumps. On the other hand, the cold air gave Anbu a warm feeling. She's a child of this chilled air, after all, that envelops the gorgeous Western Ghats. She's feeling home already. She got goose-bumps, too, albeit for a different reason.
The fog outside is pretty thick, and hence the bus-driver has decided to extend what was supposed to be a ten-minute break. Malvika forced Anbu to close the window. But, she realized, yet again, how tough it is to be Anbu's friend. Anbu forced her to go out to have tea. Opposites, pretty much, are these two. A very stubborn and impulsive character, Anbu is known to be, in contrast to Malvika, who is quite balanced and well-composed, in general.
The tea there is made out of locally grown tea leaves, Anbu informed Malvika. Malvika thoroughly enjoyed the steaming hot, and what she thought was the best she ever had, tea, while Anbu had to have a barely warm cup of tea, as she was busy telling Malvika what the most interesting things about her homeland are, which she can look forward to.
As they got engrossed in the moment, sitting on the swaying wooden bench at the tea-stall, enjoying the beauty of the fog-filled, lush-green surroundings, the lingering taste and the refreshing odour of the tea, the final bit of warmth left in the tea-cups, and a conversation about wonderful things, a small kid, who looked like he could barely push through the thick fog, walked up to them, asking them if they would want to buy a newspaper. Anbu never reads newspapers. Malvika, though, checked what newspapers he's selling. The kid smiled, until she told him she's looking for an English newspaper, which he does not have. Malvika cannot read Kannada. The kid soon disappeared into thick fog again.
The driver got back into the bus. He started the engine and honked, signalling the passengers to get back on. All the passengers got into the bus soon, except Anbu and Malvika. Finally, they too, quite reluctantly, made a move. They returned the tea cups to the vendor. "Yeshtu amma?", enquired Anbu. Eight rupees, she was told. Anbu gave her the three two-rupee coins and two one-rupee coins she had with her. As they turned to walk towards the bus, Anbu spotted a jack-fruit vendor close by there, faintly visible through the fog. The driver started moving the bus, slowly, to bring it on to the main road. Anbu ran across to the jack-fruit vendor. She found out that its the kuzha type of jack-fruit - her favourite. After some keen examination, she chose pieces worth twenty-rupees. They made the bus wait for ten-minutes already, and the driver's fuming for that. Malvika briskly pulled out the required change and paid the vendor, and, with that, they ran out of coins and notes of denomination less than hundred, she thought. They quickly ran across, got into the bus, and occupied their seats. Within a moment, Anbu opened the window again, to have another glance at the lovely place, before leaving.
The kid, the one who was selling newspapers, is back there. He is standing at the tea-stall, looking for someone. As soon as he spotted Anbu, she understood whom he is looking for - herself! He ran upto their window. "Madam! Engliss Pyapaar!", he shouted across to them, and even before they realized, he rolled the newspaper and threw it into the window of the moving bus. "Driver anna! Ondu nimisha", he screamed across to the driver. It shocked Malvika, that that kid could shout so loud. The driver looked back at them, and his expression read "what now?".
"3 rupees madam" the kid said, and started wiping the sweat on his forehead. Yes, he's sweating in that weather. He had to do a bit of running to get the engliss pyapaar for them. Anbu understood that. She also observed that the kid considered the job done. He counted the three rupees in his earnings for the day. He's not even looking at Anbu and Malvika anymore. He's looking around, for more buyers. His mind's thinking of the next task already.
"Change ..", Malvika began to signal to the kid, that they don't have change, and held the newspaper out of the window. By then, Anbu already pulled out three rupees from her coin collection, which she is carrying with her, to deposit in the bigger repository she has back home. These are special currency coins released in India, commemorating various special occasions. Anbu has had a hobby of collecting those, right since her childhood. And, Malvika knows how serious she is about it. During their initial days at hostel, there were occasions when both of them ran out of money, and Anbu went to sleep hungry, and, even worse, made Malvika do that too, when she could have used a few of those coins to buy some food. Since then, Malvika has stopped considering those coins as usable currency. Hence, what Anbu has just done, came as a big surprise to her. Those coins were too valuable for her, to buy something else using them, she thought. But, for Anbu, those three one-rupee coins had never been as valuable when she had them with her, as they have become once she gave them away to that kid. She felt quite good about that.
Malvika began to wonder if Anbu has changed a bit in a semester's time. Three and half years of hostel-life ahead. Seven home-coming occasions. Malvika has begun to look forward to those, already. The bus whizzed past the little kid. Malvika couldn't get a final glimpse she wished to get, of him. She then looked at Anbu. Anbu, too, looked at Mavika, and smiled, very faintly, but with her eyes lit up. She couldn't make eye contact with her anymore, at that moment. She rested her head on Malvika's shoulder, holding her hand tight. Malvika let the window be open. And, their journey continued.
Just when Triple H was about to smash Undertaker’s head, with the hammer, someone from behind closed my eyes with his/her palms. It was something I was dying to see and thanks to this clichéd act of announcing one’s presence as a surprise to another, I missed it. It made me angry. Furiously angry, I should say, like I almost considered being Triple H and that person to be Undertaker. But, the moment I realized who it was, I had to beam like I really was pleasantly surprised and follow the usual ritual of throwing some sweet-sounding greetings at them and giving those repeated hi5s and prolonged hugs, before I got back to watching television. I am asked to do so. My care-taker tells me they are the ones who helped us a bit, might help us ahead, and, most importantly, ‘can’ help us. So, we are asked to market ourselves by advertising our sweetness, obedience, innocence and the likes, that way. Some of these people come to us whenever they are free, to play with us and feel good, and sometimes I felt like telling them I was not. But, I couldn’t take that risk. Apparently, I’m too less privileged to do so.
And then the “occasion” types - these neighbors who come down whenever there is some birthday or some such thing of their kids and some once-in-a-year-philanthropists who turn up only around the Xmas time every year. We are supposed to sing the birthday song for those kids, loud and in a laudatory tone, or probably sing and dance to the Xmas-in-the-air songs, praising Lord Jesus and cursing the Satan, for the other set of people. They give us candies and other such stuff, that’s their investment, God’s blessings, the returns, and we, the medium, the market - to use a more discomforting word. I would have been pleased had the kid been my friend, who joins me at play, etc, and gives me that candy for he/she wants to give it to me, or had those Xmas visitors visited a bit more often and not just to repair their goodness-accounts maintained by Santa. I mean, I don’t quite know who that kid is and he/she doesn’t know who I am, though we are each other's neighbors! They don’t distribute candies in some random school, to some well-privileged kids, do they? That gives me a feeling I am being used, merely as that medium.
Also, by these people who run this place, I feel. A well funded religion theirs is, enabled to win people to practice it, I suspect, and we are easy pickings, I feel. I’m a believer, practicing their religion, as they kindly chose to take care of me - that’s the obligation, the deal. They preach religious stuff, day in and day out, through a thousand sermons and prayers. All that never interests me, as much as WWE and Tamil movies do. But, I don’t have a choice, like in most other cases. What’s worse is, I can’t watch the “super-hit” Tamil movies’ Sunday premieres on television, as we are made to sing at the Church during that time, probably only because it looks nice and cute to everyone there. That makes me angry, but I’m scared to be angry for I fear I’m sinning that way and will end up on Satan’s side – “the losing side” – though I’m quite doubtful about all such things they teach me. So, I atleast act I’m not.
Overall, I’m a good actor, am I not? Tamil movie superstar, I wish to be. Wonder if someone can help at that. Anyways, Triple H won. I'm happy for now.
Don't look at me that way. I'm not born mad, darn bad or something. No, I am not!
Yes, I do scream, at the top of my voice, for this, that and everything. But, I do it particularly well only when I'm exceedingly frustrated, amongst other times when I do it for the fun of it or some silly thing of that stupid sort. Yes, it is kind of a matter of fact or the nature's lame and lousy law that I live with and, yet, I get psyched, that not that genuinely beautiful woman sitting next to you, nor the perfumed pervert sitting next to her, and not any ugly swan down the lake, nor any cute little pig nearby the gutter, none of you give a damn about me. As if I care, but, its just a way how I can make you feel my presence, though I quite hate you guys being scared of me to look cute to your girlfriends or acting brave for them when you are actually scared of me.
And please ask your girlfriends to stop feeding me the food they are supposed to have. It is cliched, and not cute anymore. I would make a sincere request to you all, to not even imagine of pitying me. I don't expect any warmth from your bloody breed-- the warm-blooded bodies with cold-blooded minds. You please be bothered about the warmth and wars amongst yourselves, in the first-place. And, yes, I can win my own food, the hard way that I've learnt, or die hungry instead, though I still do run behind your semi and super luxury cars, and I know that irritates you, like hell. But, that is how my screwed up head's wired, making me think anything that is running away from me is my Goddamn prey. But, its ridiculously easy for you to ignore my innocence, isn't it? You throw stones at me, and give bones to your belt-wearing bitch. Kindly continue doing that, sir.
I should admit, it indeed gives me an extraordinary pleasure when you are really scared of me, though. Go pray, for you ought to play prey to my ego, now on. And, shy off, you better, now. Another dirty look or a fuckless stone my way, I'm going to bite your ass off you, you son of a woman!