It can be sunny this season too

A week can make a lot of difference during the rainy season. For some reason last week decided it was in love with me. A push up at work with some encouraging upgrades, and some amazing miscellaneous happenings really made it a week to remember.

The Schneider Electric Software India Training Champion Awards were announced and out of the blue my name came up for the “Training Champion” Award. Now, this is no run of the mill award in the company’s scheme of things and while I was wondering where this came from, HR comes up and informs me that the “Promotions through infographics” session I conducted a while back got the best feedback results and combined with the fact of being one of the training community leaders for marketing, I was giving this award.

And that was not all. Our Software Development Center in Bangalore organised the Chess Championships and guess who win’s six matches in a row and the cup! While three of these matches really stressed me out, the rest were a breeze (yes, I am in a boastful mood). I always go in with the Sicilian Defence, something my Dad taught me as a kid. The first person I called on winning this championship was my Dad. I told him how I used the Sicilian Defence in every match and I could sense through his voice the pride he felt in me winning. There can be no greater appreciation in this world than that from a parent or loved one. Thank you Dad.

The good run refused to stop here. A weekend corporate football tournament saw us reach the semi’s and though we were knocked out via tie-breaker to the eventual champions, I had my moment in the sun in the quarter finals as I blocked all the three penalties in the shootout. However, I now have a terrible shoulder and I hope the pain subsides soon. I can’t stand going to the hospital again.

So there it is, my week of happy madness. Tomorrow is a new day and I can’t wait to see what the coming days and month’s bring up.

The final derby

And another football season comes to a close. Hold on, one more tournament to go next week and then we are done. Following a year of mixed fortunes, our Schneider Electric football team will be playing the final cup of the year – The Diego Cup, in honour of the great Diego Maradona. Besides being my favourite footballer, I hope to take some of Maradona’s aggressivess and maniacal risks into this tournament to ensure we finish this year on a high.

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At the Schneider Electric annual day – Best team and winners

The year began with a bang. Winning the Schneider Electric intra-cup was a great start to the year and I won my first ever personal football award – The Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament. It was an unforgettable final where a rag tag team taking part for the first time knocked out the two time winners. We were bruised severely at the end of the tournament. Muscle catches, leg cramps, broken fingers and a teammate broke his leg. But it was worth it – completely.

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Blues Cup Winners

The Blues Cup was another comprehensive win where we beat a tricky IBM team in the final. However these wins were followed by a couple of runners up trophies and then a whole lot of knockouts as we cleared the league phase hurdles but got stuck at the quarters and semi-final stage. Mid-year we lost one of our key players to an accident – a loss we feel professionally and being a close friend – personally. Our team has chugged on and has shown a fighting spirit and camaraderie that has kept us afloat. We have emerged as a team to beat in the corporate leagues – a feat we are proud of and hope to keep emulating and winning in games to come. Here’s to a good end to the football season and 2016.

 

Mangalore Haunted Stories Episode 1 – The Lane of No Return

(The following is a mixture of fact and fiction… mostly fact)

It was the darkest of nights and the cold rain pounded the pavement… Oh fuck it! Whom am I kidding? Mangalore never has the Arctic darkness nor the chill of the British moors. So here goes.

The Cheshire Home Road near Kankanady now lies in the midst of the hustle and bustle of traffic crossing from Valencia and Jeppu to the Falnir. With cars occupying every inch of tar on the road and beyond there is no way that one would imagine the Cheshire Home to be what it was 30 and more years back. Some say there are remnants from that past. Here is a true tale I have to get off my chest.

1986 was a lonely year. For some reason that year had the most holidays and school was scarce, at least for me. My health too added to my school woes as I missed a lot of classes, but there was hope. Aunt Tina had this membership of a cul-de-sac of a library that had some of the most amazing books on the planet – at least they were amazing for this 9 year-old. Every week, she would religiously take me down to the library. It was just three stops away by bus. The Standard Circulating Library near Vas Bakery was a treasure-house of fables of some of the most popular and exotic authors. I stuck to popular, picking out Tintin and Asterix and the latest Commando comic consignments. We would then pack some meat puffs from Vas Bakery and take the bus back to Valencia. All this in good time.

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Photo Courtesy: Dark Road by Sophia-T

Now it so happened that one evening we were down at the library later than usual and by the time we checked out it was 7 PM. In those days Mangalore shut down by 7 PM, latest 7:30 PM. We hurried down to the bus stop. I clutched my set of comics and had to run to catch up with Aunt Tina. Bus No. 5 was our bus and fortunately we got to the Balmatta bus stop in time to grab one of the last buses down to our part of the city. The evening humid air and the quick run along with the buzzing malarial mosquitoes made it quite a challenge to sit still in the still night air.

No. 5 buses are notorious. One – they are notorious for knocking down all and sundry in their path. Two – they had a reputation for breaking down. Probably some bones or ligaments of those they ran over may have got stuck somewhere between the axle and the brake liners. Whatever it was, they weren’t the most reliable modes of transport in this part of the world. But they happened to be the only one.

As we approached Bendoorwell Circle and Kankanady market, we all heard the first strains of something going wrong in the bus. There were creaks, then jerks, then a shudder till the bus stopped short of Kankanady market. The final shudder made me bump my head against the metal headrest in front of me. Damn! that hurt. The peeved conductor began running around like a headless chicken while people tried to collect back their fare from the stalled bus. Aunt and I slipped off. Our home was around a kilometre from where the bus stalled. It would be hard in this weather, but we could walk back and survive this ordeal.

And so we walked. Walked past the Kankanady post office – a tiny landmark whom the next door hospital authorities were trying to evict as it was their property. We passed the Fr. Muller Hospital – Mangalore’s pride in healthcare and the joint where all those of unsound mind found solace in (I am not being rude, but that was how the hospital was considered in those days). There used to be horror stories coming out of the psychiatric ward there. Tales of possession – incurable even with the most modern methods in the field, clashes between the exorcists and the psychiatrists and tales of blood curdling experiments ran through the Mangalorean grapevine. We never knew what was true, but we sure as hell avoided the hospital except for the inoculations.

The hospital premises was followed by a dark stretch of road with gloomy, leafy trees lying still like crouching giants ready to pounce. And there to the left of this stretch was the Cheshire Home lane. This narrow stretch of road was to the left of the main road. Leonard Cheshire had visited this place some time in the past and the home was a silent place for the aged at the end of the road. The Cheshire Home lane sloped downwards and with no streetlights it was dark as hell. Actually the K.E.B. (Karnataka Electricity Board for the uninitiated, now MESCOM) did install a light pole somewhere in the middle of the road, but the tube light had long fused into oblivion.

As we passed this lane the quietness of the main road was even more pronounced. There was no traffic, the only soul was someone in the distance but he/she too faded into the night as we walked on. The Cloistered Carmel convent was on the other side of teh road, home to the Cloistered nuns who never stepped out of the premises. The Gothic structure remained hidden in the darkness with only the spires piercing the sky that shone the last light from the sun. It was now well past 7:30 and darkness had fallen. We had nearly passed the lane when we heard an anguished cry from the depths of the lane. It was a sort of wail, loud, blood curdling and angry at the same time. It hurt, it raised the hairs on our skin and it sure as hell was unnatural. We have heard cries from the horror classics, be it Bram Stoker or Edgar Allen Poe, but the reality of horror struck home here in the darkness. We froze.

My one hand clutched the comics tightly while my other hand held Aunt Tina’s. She was shivering and you can imagine my plight. We were now at the top of the lane and even though the main road beckoned us, fearful curiosity made us peer down the road. We looked and we looked through the darkness. Nothing.

And then we heard it – a scuffling as if something was making it’s way to the top of the lane. It stopped and then it began again, faster this time. We couldn’t move. And then through the darkness we could make out a silhouette. It wasn’t even a silhouette, it was like a piece of the darkness moving around. As it moved towards the top of the lane, it began screaming a string of obscenities. To my young mind I could pick out only a couple of words that I could interpret, the rest was just a high pitched stream. Aunt Tina finally found here feet, she grabbed my hand tightly and ran as we heard the whoosh of the movements of that unholy body moving towards us.

We ran on the main road, ran till we reached the front gate of grandma’s house. Ran into the verandah and collapsed on the rattan chairs there. “That was Miriam”, Aunt Tina finally gasped. “Who?” I was not in a position to gauge anything from this encounter. All I had was gratefulness that we managed to evade the monster down that lane. “Miriam, she used to be an inmate of the hospital adjacent to the lane.” And then I learnt about the closed ward in Fr. Muller hospital. A ward that was home to some of the most violent patients under psychiatric care. You could hear their cries and screams throughout the day and Miriam was the most troubled of the lot. One night she managed to pry open the window bars using the metal headrest from her bed and jumped from the 5th floor ward. Some say she fell into the adjacent Cheshire Home Lane from where her room faced. However, no one found her. There was no doubt that her survival was left to the imagination. The only trace of her existence to this day remains the silhouette of that creature screaming after dark down that lane. No one ever knows where she goes during the day time nor how she sustains herself, but people swear it’s her out there in the night.

These days, the area is crowded with hawkers and traffic. The hustle and bustle continues well into the night. And the psychiatric wards no more face the lane. But people who have made the lane their home do say that on some summer nights you can hear the anguished scream and the scampering around of something desperate. It claws through their gardens and destroys fences. And no one has seen this entity.

Cheers to the class of 2004!

It’s 10 years since we passed out from Manipal Institute of Communication. During that time our institute has even gone through a name change. And though we call each other names, we still bring in the smiles when it comes to saying cheese. Though a bulk of our class ply their trade in Bangalore, occasions like this are far and few in between where most of the class catches up. We did meet up in Biere Club and as always there were laughs, drinks and stories going around the table. One of our classmates was moving to Amsterdam and this was enough of an excuse to get together and give her a good send-off. And I did get my first taste of something they called mock beer. Cheers!

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Photo Courtesy: Saina Jayapal – Bangalore’s Best Culinary Photographer

 

When the sun goes down

Sitting on the beach as twilight approaches
I look across the horizon and watch the murder of crows
flying off to their nests as evening comes by
with the waves below giving out a collective sigh.

Day ends, but the sun still remains
giving out a last ray of hope of the hours that were
the sand gently brushes against my feet
as the wind raises up a gentle storm.

I have gone through the day
It had its bright spots, it had its eclipses
and there was this one flare that really shined
to the point where I believed the experience to be divine.

But flares do die down with the change in weather
From the fiery heat to the coldness of winter
A day can include every season of the year
seasons that bring in courage and fear.

I took on the morning with the courage of a Spartan
Sure, decisive and warmed up for the moment
And then came the rain that drew out the clouds
And dampened and left me cowering in the shadows.

I tried to rise up from the storm
reached out and ran down a trail that was no longer smooth
Flowing mud and roots that caught my feet
Leaving me searching for a shelter to retreat.

The flashes of lighting lit up the trail
and the sun came out in spurts with some hail
I waited and wandered, meandered in fact
wondering if I had the courage to compete and act.

I began on a path that turned into a false start
Never reaching the true map that had been drawn
The day influenced and brought out its share of mirages
Shimmering and driving insane the needles on the compass.

I watched and waited and that’s all I did
The day went on leaving me behind
By the time all ended the wreckage was on the sands
The very sands where I built castles as a child.

I had this day to reach out and act
Slice through the foliage that blocked out the sun
Be on a path that ran through and true
But alas I was stuck in a shadow I hardly knew.

I know not what I have become
As twilight descends on the sands of the beach
I know not what the next day holds
Or if the moon would shine down tonight with unease.

As I leave nature to chart its own path
I look into myself and see what I have got
I could use the waves and the wind that blows in gusts
To map my course with an honest heart.