The coins and the notes

I always loved coins, and never those papers colloquially called ‘notes’ or ‘nambari’. Coins have this feeling of possession, when they crankle in pockets or bulge out distinctly from genitalia. Squared ‘five paisa coins’ to schilling-shaped ‘chavannis’, shiny ‘athannis’ and the bulky round ‘sikka’. They all have their own flair.

Once in Urbana, a small town near Chicago, my landlord was surprised to find umpteens of ‘athannees’ in washing machine. The Indian guys washed their clothes with desi athannees which resembled the ‘quarter’ coins of America. We were importing precious athannees from India just to wash the clothes. 

A story floats about Dhirubhai Ambani. He figured out that coins in Yemen where he worked in Shell company, are made from a precious alloy which costed more than actual coin. He collected these coins, melted them and earned a fortune.

Once famous Sitarist Ravishankar and Vilayat Khan were playing together. They were quintessential competitors and Vilayat Khan was some years senior. But, Ravishankar was ofcourse the world famous one. Vilayat khan sahab just kept the condition that he should be paid one rupee extra. Ravishankar got the whiff of it and smartly refused to take a single penny. Organisers offered a ‘coin’ to Vilayat khan and he turned furious. Afterall, he wanted just one rupee extra!!!

Muhammed Shah Rangeela, a Mughal ruler, loved to change his coins every other month. Suddenly one day all coins were deemed invalid, and new coins used to come. Afterall, he was Rangeela Badshah!

I have visited the coin factory in Nashik once, where workers take the 100 coins in hand, without counting them. They just know by feel, its 100 and not a coin extra. Then, ofcourse its counted by machines, but it always matches. Its the feel of coins.

How lovely it would have been to use silky stringed purses and throw off these asharfis. Aren’t the paper notes nasty, and coins rock!

Love at the times of Thackerey

As I travelled down the highway from Pondicherry to Chennai, Amma’s humongous canvas welcomed with her lovely smile, and then the posters varied in sizes but they were everywhere. Amma standing and waving hand or just a cool ‘Namastey’. So gracious! We certainly have the most beautiful women leading Kashmir (aptly named Mehbooba jee) and Kanyakumari (the quitessential ‘kunwari kanya’ Amma jee). Unfortunately, I never spent much time in these lands, surely not my adulthood. Never loved my leaders in true amorous sense. 

Born in land of Lalu, and blossomed in land of Thackerey. One, the virile icon with a cricket team of kids, and other the macho-man of Indian politics. What you inherit is a mojo of testosterone but with limited powers. The powers lay in hand of Thackereys. 

Love at times of Thackerey wasn’t so easy. After months of cajoling and pleading, you prepare for the Valentines, with a red rose and misty ambience. The smiling couple with scratching toes. The dreamy eyes and the dabbling love. With a touch gentle, and then you light up the candle. And then, somebody just blows it off in name of ‘bhartiya samskruti’. Makes you ‘murga’  and teams you up in fool’s parade. How does it feel like being a valentine murga (and for that matter murgi). Certainly, a chemical reaction occurs in body, and you burp out all the testosterone from unnatural exits. 

Things could get worse, if you don’t speak Marathi. But, I made it a point to take marathi lessons well in advance. Another step I took, was never to choose Valentine’s day as D-day. Love proposals are best to be made on ‘Ambedkar Jayanti’ in land of Thackerey. Probably, he is the only person with larger stature than Thackerey in his land. Though, it looks odd to give a red rose on ‘Ambedkar Jayanti’, but is constitutionally correct move. So did I and it worked. Thackereys didn’t even got a whiff of this love. How would they? They dozed off rest of the year, atleast for couples. 

All the Thackerey sticks have dates written on it. The pink circle marked stick for Valentines. The browny stick for Bihari beating. The green ones with a pointy dagger for cricket pitch digging. The red one for vandalising cinema halls. And one with ‘pichkaari’ for smearing face. If you got the colour codes and dates right, you would surely love in land of Bollywood.

But, love doesn’t ends up with roses. It has to grow into soft touches, kisses etc., apart from love ballads and naming future kids. Most pocket-friendly place from ages for expression of love is public parks. Thats where Thackerey had his officers on special duties. Somewhere in bushes, as you go hushy-mushy, Thackerey strikes. You feel like a porn-star with a bossom clutched in one hand and a sainik staring at you. And, you burp the testosterone again.

Love trick remains to avoid public parks, chose lifts rather, and finish love ceremony in seconds. Thackereys don’t use lifts or doors thankfully. They just break in. 

The comedy of caracasses

People who have donated their eyes, would realize when your kins would be sobbing and crying their hearts out, some fellows would be silently snorkeling out your cornea. Let me clarify, you won’t be buried or burnt off without eyeballs. Its just a thin layer on top of eye which would be smartly chiseled off.

One of the leading veteran cine-actress Lalita Pawar Jee donated her body to medical students. If you have watched her movies, you would know the ‘mantharaa’ of Ramayana was one of the most wicked vamps of Indian cinema. The squinty popping eyes, the gruelling voice and the witchy gait. Lalita Jee was truly ‘Ek thee daayan’ exemplified. The sheer idea of playing with Lalita Pawar’s dead body unnerved me. Thankfully, as soon as our medical school captured her cadaver, some family members interrupted with a modified ‘will’ document. Seems she had dropped the idea of donating her dead body to amateur medico butchers.

Dead bodies in anatomy classes may not be Lalita Pawar, but must be someone abandoned by their family. Except Parsee families, almost every religion love to celebrate the deaths. Decorating and embalming the deads, garlanding with flowers. Some bury them graciously, some burn them off in a serene riverside milieu. Inspite of this, we never had a shortage of cadavers. Many were just unclaimed dead bodies, while some families would shoo off as soon as death is announced. Anatomy hall was probably orphanage of the deads. If you don’t wish to end lying naked and brutally dismantled bit-by-bit, time to take care of your kins!

For some years in Gurgaon, I worked as junior ICU doctor, where my primary duty would be to predict death and ring up mortuary. Over the time, I became so accurate that I would perfectly guess the death-time and order the mortuary vehicle exactly 20 minutes before. Before the kins would build up inertia to cry and create ruckoos in hospital, body would be siphoned off. No tears fall, or a furniture broken. Death managed so smoothly, could have given me some ICU gallantry award. 

Reflex became so inherent that I called the mortuary exactly 20 minutes before my brother’s death too! I just couldn’t cry. Neither could my family. He was burnt to ashes within an hour. How cruel?

Does it really matter how a dead body is being carried, abandoned, buried or burnt off? What would you prefer? Ashes to be scattered in Ganges from a helicopter?

भटूरा रिपब्लिक

“माउंटबैटन सा’ब! जनाबे-आली दरअसल मुझे भूपाली भटूरे बहुत पसंद हैं।” 

“क्या बात कर रहे हो जिन्ना? अब भोपाल कैसे मिलेगा?”

“कैसे भी कर के दिलवा दो, आप तो माशा-अल्लाह बड़े शातिर हो।”

“ठीक है। आई विल डिस्कस विद नेहरू।”




“अरे अब जिन्ना को भटूरे पसंद हैं, तो मुझे भी लाहौरी बिरयानी पसंद है। ये क्या लॉजिक है?”

“भाई तुम तो पंडित हो।”

“कश्मीरी न?”

“वहाँ चलता है क्या?”

“दैट्स पर्सनल क्वेश्चन मौंटी!”

“ओ के! तुम लाहौर ले लो, वो भोपाल ले लेगा।”

“गाँधीजी कभी नहीं मानेंगें। फास्ट पे चले जाएँगें।”

“क्यूँ? उन्हें भी भोपाली भटूरे पसंद हैं?”

“अरे, क्या मजाक करते हो? गाँधी जी और भटूरे?”

“देन, व्हाट्स द प्रोब्लेम?”

“पटेल को भटूरे पसंद हैं।”

“वो दिल्ली में बनवा लेगा।”

“जिन्ना बनवा ले लाहौर में भटूरे।”

“दैट्स अ गुड प्वाइंट”


“न! मैं तो भूपाली भटूरे ही खाऊँगा।”

“मैं नहीं देता भोपाल! जो करना है कर ले।”

“देख नेहरू! एक भोपाल से तेरा क्या जाएगा?”

“इट्स द’ हार्ट ऑफ इंडिया! तू दे देगा लाहौर?”

“लाहौर न दूँगा, पेशावर ले ले।”

“मुझे नहीं खानी चपली कबाब! तू लखनऊ क्यूँ नही लेता?”

“उनकी ऊर्दू तो मुझसे भी नहीं बोली जाती। ऊपर से टुंडे का कबाब, मुँह में डालो, हवा हो जाए। बिन चबाए मजा नहीं आता गुरू।”

“गाँधी जी से पूछता हूँ। न तेरी, न मेरी। जो बोलेंगें, अपन वहीं करेंगें।”

“गॉड, गिव मी पेशन्स! चल ठीक है।”


“पाकिस्तान मेरी लाश पर ही बनाना! मैं फास्ट पे जा रहा हूँ।”

“गाँधीजी, वो भोपाल माँग रहा है?”

“जिन्ना! तुम वजीरे-आजम बनो! भोपाल भी लो, लाहौर भी।”

“नहीं, पाकिस्तान तो हमका चाहबे करी।”

“ये तुम्हारी ऊर्दू को क्या हो गया?”

“सॉरी! जबान फिसल गई। कल राजिंदर के साथ ढाबे में बैठ गया था।”

“पाकिस्तान में कोई राजिंदर नहीं मिलेगा।”

“दैट्स ट्रू! क्या करें भाई नेहरू फिर?”

“पटेल! व्हाट डू यू थिंक?”

“भोपाल तो मैं नहीं दूँगा। भटूरे जिन्ना से कहीं ज्यादा मैनें खाए हैं?”

“तो टॉस कर लें?”

“टॉस मेरी लाश पर होगा। मैं चला फास्ट पे। हे राम!”

“इधर भटूरे-बिरयानी की बात हो रही है। आप फास्ट कैसे कर लेते हैं?”

“भई! पचास साल की प्रैक्टिस है।”

“लेट्स गो टू मॉंटी! गाँधी जी तो चले फास्ट पे।”


“जिन्ना! भोपाल से हलवाई ले जाओ, और बात रफा-दफा करो।”

“बट, दैट वोंट भी भूपाली भटूरे।”

“स्वाद तो वही रहेगा।”

“और नाम का क्या? लाहौरी भटूरे! छी!”

“ये गजब ढीठई है।”

“अब है तो है। आई वांट भोपाल!”

“भोपाल को फिर अलग कर देते हैं। न तेरा, न मेरा।”

“पर तुम लोग कैप्चर कर लोगे?”

“न न! अलग राष्ट्र बनेगा।”

“और भटूरे?”

“दोनों खाएँगें।”

तब से आजतक भूपाली कन्फ्यूज्ड है कि भटूरे इधर खिलाए कि उधर खिलाये। 

गैस होती है भटूरे खाने से। 

The boats and the toads

My mumbaikar friends could walk much faster than me. Probably the fast paced city, the crowded mumbai VT, rush for local trains, and the impromptu rains made them rapid like a rabbit. 
Not only Mumbai, each city gives you a born skill. My Norwegian colleague from up-north was chosen as specialist doctor in Antarctica, while I was straightaway rejected. He spent his childhood in snow-caves and ‘igloo’s, while I trolled at samosa-kachori joint of Babloo’s.
May be I could have tried Olympics in long-jump or decathlon. My city Darbhanga was city of lakes, puddles, drains and scum. We sailed through muddy pavements, hopping over loosely but strategically placed bricks, climbing over walls, and swaying as we walked on one-foot. Shifting school bags to one who reached the other end. Boys-and-girls alike, we reached school unblemished, untainted. Not a drop of water on us, the way we folded pants up, accurately guessing the depth of puddle from swirling vortex of water. The long jump, the relay race, the sprints, and the hurdle race. Indeed a decathlon!
Floods were so lovely as it came as a festival every year, when the make-shift boats would start plying, and the cars would lie stranded. Floating chappals, tyres, the flower garlands from temples, the animal caracasses, the cowdung and human-shit alike. Every mundane thing just floated.
Our biology teacher never had shortage of toads for dissection. They were everywhere in all shapes and colours, croacking and hopping. The croaking toad, the buzzing mosquitoes, and the reptilian rhapsody were inherent background noise as we studied. Swat the mosquitoes, and kill the toads were the only urge. Some of us turned murderers and some biologists!
Army helicopters dropping food packets, and the politicians waving from sky. What a carnival!! Grab it or leave it! How would you drop a packet from 200 feet on a 20 feet land? And the land is shrinking. Need some ‘drone’ missile kind technology with sharp accuracy. Rice packets reached, but not the ‘rasam’ and ‘sambhars’. Steamed hot rice tastes so awesome with plain salt. Like hot ‘bhutta’ in Khandala rain.
A small elevated mound in villages where entire village would gather witnessing their submerging shacks. Naked kids swimming in muddy waters, and the women cooking together sharing the feast. 
Where the castes and religion cease to exist, and the life supercedes. 
#biharfloods #assamfloods #flood

Photo credit: Chinmaya N Singh