The wind phone

While recuperating from a bout of god knows what, I came across this tit-bit on BBC World of the ‘wind phone’ – a telephone box on the outskirts of Dublin. This is unlike any other telephone box. It does have a round dial-up phone inside but it doesn’t work. The phone box set up on a scenic mountain top, serves as a private space for anyone to deliberate on life and loss and whatever is spoken within that box is carried by the wind. A beautiful concept, it is something I could do with right now.



The Legend of ‘Chappal Day’

For the safety and security of all except me, I have changed the names wherever necessary. Any resemblance to known people could be intentional.

I used to hate the word ‘chappal’ but this has changed with reminiscences of the day where we boys became men through this ubiquitous piece of footwear. The all boys Jesuit run school we were in had a super strict dress code. Besides the obligatory navy blue shorts and white button down shirt there was a further strict rider – no chappals, only shoes and socks. And being a high school student meant our class was expected to set an example to all those we hazed when the teachers looked away. Considering all this we still managed to look like a mauled bunch in some African safari by the time the day ended.chappal

Now our teachers had some quirks. There was one who coudnt stand boys who sweat in class. You were immediately puled up and made to sit down on the ground before the blackboard if this ever happened. And god-forbid you had an afternoon class in the Mangalorean heat. You had to make sure not a drop of sweat came down your brow.
Now as we were completing our 10th standard (we had just finished our mock final exams for which I definitely did not study) we had a few classes left before hitting the SSLC final exams. We were made to know that this was a do-or-die exam that would define our future. Who knew from then on we would be told that every exam was a life defining point. Now as our classes concluded, we decided to do something that would make us stand out and remember our days in high school. Oh boy! How memorable we made it that we even talk about it today on the WhatsApp class group.

Was it a good old school hall send-off with speeches and all – No. Was it a felicitation of performers followed by distribution of sweets and Thums Up – Nope. Was it prayer followed by song and dance for our teachers and juniors – No No No. A good classical send-off it was not. We ended up with Chappal Day.

I still have no clue as to who started this thing, though my suspicions surround our last benches as the originators. Every trip to the principals office was facilitated by the last bench (I was an integral part of this througout, though I managed to escape trips to the office at the expense of others).

Our class teacher was Achal Sir, a genial Kannada teacher who went on the rampage if anyone disturbed his class. “Hey pattinga” and the duster flew towards you if you ever whispered sweet nothings to the Debonair magazine centerfold on your lap as Pampa and Ranna were explained from the dog eared textbook on your desk. This combined with the fact that Achal Sir was a career NCC man made the subsequent whackings something to remember. But he was an extremely sporty guy who knew that high school boys need to let off steam from time to time. Now, I dont know why chappals were selected as a send off motif. Maybe it was the antithesis to the strict dress regimen we had, or the need to needle some of our teachers who let a holier than thou approach pin us all year long. Well, whatever it was we just decided that we would come one Monday (which also happened to be the last day of class before the revision holidays) dressed in our best whites and well pressed navy blue shorts, but with chappals. Further, we also got a buy in from Achal Sir to go ahead with this. In not so many words he said OK. Basically as he was finishing class on Friday, we slipped in the fact that Monday would be Chappal day. He ‘Hmm’ed and that was good enough for us.

Monday came up and we trooped in to the morning Assembly in our finest chappals. Bata, Paragon, Action, Premier, and every Market Road brand were on show as we went through the Assembly without a hitch. Some teachers were looking at us weirdly, knowing something was amiss. The first class of the day was Mathematics. Now, we had Michael Sir or Mickey as we all called him – a nervous, twitchy sort who came in with a martyred look like St. Stephen about to be stoned. His wailing explanation of Acute, Obtuse and all sorts of angles that you might as well learn from the Kamasutra, made it the most boring lecture of the day.

As soon as Michael Sir entered he saw the words “Happy Chappal Day” chalked on the blackboard with some cheap flowery motifs around it in purple and green – the only other chalk colours that were available. This was the work of Edmund (last but one bench, even then the usual suspect). Mickey looked up and we saw his face going red as hell. Oh Oh, someone’s gonna get hurt real bad. He stood quietly on the platform for sometime, possibly trying to get his BP down. For once we were thankful that his goody-two-shoes boys in the second bench were in his face to soften his anger. These choir boys were tall guys who couldnt make it to the first bench but were good enough for a second row.

And so the class began, with an obviously still simmering Mickey explaining for one last time the intricacies of algebraic equations and summarizing chapter after chapter. During the class a bit of chappal football took place. With the boys removing their chappals and trying various positions with their shoe-free feet for the first time, others took advantage and began playing footsy with the slippers. And that’s how Praful’s chappals ended up under the lecture platform, having started its journey from the last bench. All this while Michael Sir knew something was afoot. He droned on while suspiciously looking around – like a meer cat checking out the landscape.

And so the class ended as the old electric bell rang. Michael Sir collected his books and register and began his walk down the platform. He hadn’t even wished us the best of luck for our exams. It was at exactly this point that Edmund decided he needed to add to his artwork on the board. He sat on the last but one bench, right in front of us, and gave a rapid clap under the desk. Now a clap spreads like a Mexican wave and in this case the whole class took this as a cue to give one thunderous clapping farewell to Mickey. I am sure the whole school heard us and thought it was an appreciative send-off to a teacher from one of the 10th standard classes. If only they knew. Mickey turned around immediately snarling, “who was that idiot who clapped. I want that fellow to come to the staff room within the next 10 minutes.” As if we would give up one of our own! But then we have our holier than thou souls.

And so it happened, after Mickey walked out, we had Achal Sir come in for the Kannada class. And surprise, surpise, our class teacher had on a pair of black slippers. He had given up his shiny shoes to ensure that he joined us for our last class givng in to our quirky request. The class began with all of us forgetting about Mickey and his scowling brow, to an excited chatter. “Shssssh” was the first thing that Achal Sir said and the class fell silent. One thing Sir would not tolerate was insubordination. Just because he acquiesced to our request didn’t mean he was going to let us off the hook. The class respectfully fell silent and the final Kannada lesson began.

Fifteen minutes into the lesson our class had a visitor. No, it was not a crow roaming the verandah searching for scraps of cookies that someone threw out of the classroom when the teacher spotted them. It was our principal Fr. Savio. He walked in with a genial look on his face like he had come to wish and bless us all for the final exams. Boy, were we wrong! The first thing that caught Fr. Savio’s eye were the slippers worn by Achal Sir. This was an obvious anomaly considering that fact that no one had ever seen Sir without shoes. The principal then moved his eyes to us scanning every John Johnny Janardhan and it was obvious he got the drift of what was happening. “All those who have worn shoes please come out”. A couple of guys who missed the boat when the message had gone out about Chappal day and a few other Judas’s made their way to the podium. We counted four. And then we heard a shuffling from one of the last benches. Peter (or Pedro as we all called him) was half standing and slipping on some shoes. He had worn shoes to class and had changed into slippers later. He was now trying out the goody two shoes act and make it up front.

Post this hungama we escaped the wrath of the principal. Call it providence or the SSLC exams round the corner, it died an immediate death. Maybe our class teacher had something to do with that, I don’t know. However this event is still talked about in our WhatsApp groups and was brought up during one of the conversations. I need to chronicle this event cause it really signified what our class was all about. A rowdy bunch with the coal and steam to make it in life. We continue in that vein, though operating under the radar.

Skinned knees, kicked shins and hurting ribs

Udayavani newspaper circa 1996 – Our team – St. Aloysius, Mangalore – when we qualified for the state levels

That’s what you get from a couple of hours of intense football. The weekly football sessions at the Decathlon ground in Sarjapur are a good way to close the week, but the after effects are there for all to see. Playing as the goalkeeper and then the sweeper, I managed to ram into a forward who was trying to get a goal through and ended up kicking me in the chest.

This was followed by a diving save that saw me skin both my knees. And the blood flowed on my gloves too as I tried to stem it in between the game. The final bruising came in the form of my shins kicked by the defenders as I played a sweeper with a couple of runs to the opponents box. Managed to assist and slip in a goal, but hell the bruising really hurt this time.

The Decathlon ground is a good five a side field where football matches are intense and well fought. Preparing for the corporate football tournament in April we are trying to cram in as many training hours as possible with quite a decent team of players. I have to brush up my goalkeeping skills, last displayed more than 15 years back at the state level. It’s hard after such a long break where the only games you played in between have been the beach football matches with cousins in Mangalore.

So here’s to the next round coming up this weekend. Ouch! but hell yeah!

From da Projects to the Block

Watched Attack the Block. Loved every moment of it and at the start the movie did push me a bit back to ‘The Wire‘ marathon that had gone on over the last couple of months in my single room cell. Attack the Block

Attack the Block takes place in the British housing blocks that form a cesspool of crime and other nocturnal activities that offend our prim and propah sensibilities. These areas are the same no matter where you are. The Wire reflected a similar locale that turned the very American dream on its head, not that there is much dreaming happening in the States nowadays.

The Block is a joy ride from the word go. The unlikely heroes of this piece are a bunch of muggers who then take their victim under their wing and set out to rid their block of the space vermins. Irony personified, the movie has its share of cheeky comments that would have film study critics deconstructing the very essence of the film. But fuck the film critics, though they have loved the movie… This movie is fun and the characters are natural as they come in all their dark humour and Brit banter.

I personally loved the two little young ‘uns who go about trying to emulate the boys in the hood and do manage to subdue one of the aliens in hilarious fashion. They do know how to handle their ‘Christmas gifts’. The aliens are ugly as usual, but I can’t say that for the rest of the cast.

Moses, the protagonist, proves to be the chosen one  who takes the fight to the aliens and rescues his block, in line with his namesake from the Old Testament. John Boyega, who takes on this part, is impressive in his first feature film and I am sure there’s a lot more in store for this kid. attack the block

As if the aliens were not enough to contend with, you have drug kingpins and cops out to get Moses and his gang of wannabe gangsta’s and in this mish-mash of action a hilarious platform is built as the team jumps from one peril to the next.

Brit Cinema is taking things to the next level and it won’t be long before they invade America’s hallowed sci-fi genre. Directors like Joe Cornish are proving that there’s more to Brit cinema than pompous old farts having their evening tarts in trays wheeled in on silver carts. Love it Britain… keep it coming.

And Hollywood, you try and remake this movie… I will personally ensure that you get yourself insured. This is Britains Block.

Dexter, Dexter… and more Dexter Morgan

I am on a Dexter trip – that TV series that puts the blood into bloodbath. Dexter Morgan Season 4Courtesy a generous ‘long-lost’ friend, the fourth season of Dexter was something I was looking forward to ever since I heard that it beat the living daylights out of Season 3. Not that Season 3 was bad… maybe it was slightly muted compared to the high tension of the first two seasons, but what the hell considering Dexter‘s high standards, it makes ‘Lost’ go hide in whatever black hole the island generates out there. Not that I hated ‘Lost’, but hey you get the point.

Michael C. Hall is now doing double duty as Executive Producer and lead character and after going through half of the fourth season I must say that one of the most intense cat and mouse sequences are in motion with Dexter facing off with the Trinity Killer played by the ever impressive John Lithgow. Lithgow is one of those actors who can crack you with his ironic humour and scare you with his maniacal intensity which can go outright campy as in Cliffhanger or downright creepy as in Dexter and Raising Cain.

As I type this out, Season 5 is well in progress. Here’s to Dexter Morgan. Go slice them Dex.