Sunday, December 24, 2006

First Call

The IIFT exam results came out yesterday and I got a call! How brilliant is that?

I was outside Venky, having lunch from one of those roll places, and Mani messaged me, "Congrats on IIFT." Very matter-of-fact and all, and I obviously couldn't believe it, because the exam had gone so badly. I told my friend, "I think I might have got through IIFT." And she was more excited than I was. I messaged him back immediately, "Seriously? You had better not have been joking, Mani." Yeah, that's how I message. But, bleh, I didn't get the delivery report for another fifteen minutes, and by then I'd decided to just call him up and ask and he said, "Haan, haan, yaar. Maine dekha hai tera naam." Or something to that effect. Whee! I didn't do a little jig at the bus stop but it was a close thing.

So this is the first call I'm getting. And I feel so happy about it. I love the world and it loves me! I think I'm so happy mostly because the paper hadn't gone too well. You know how it is - you build up for CAT on the nineteenth, and after it there's this deflated 'that's it?' sort of feeling, and you're sleep-walking through the week, rather than studying for the IIFT paper next Sunday. During the paper, I was just attempting the questions I felt like attempting, rather than the ones it would have been smart to attempt.

CAT results come out on the second, and SNAP results on the eighth, and both of those went better than IIFT. Though it's the comparative performance that matters, of course. Nineteen thousand people gave the paper, and eleven hundred have cleared it, and now there's the GD/PI process left. But I don't really want to think about that right now. This feeling - it's so nice and warm.
• • •

Thursday, November 23, 2006

CAT 2006

So right, yeah, CAT 2006. I'll just analyse it once in this post, and everyone who gave it, or is planning to give it, can read it, and then I'll resume regular programming. If I feel like it.

So you've all read that bit about CAT changing its stripes and so on. Seventy-five questions this time, as opposed to ninety last time and a hundred and twenty-three the time before. (And other shudder-inducingly high numbers before that.) The whole pattern had changed. No variable marking, which was a boon as far as I was concerned. Straight four marks for each answer, as opposed to the usual one- and two-markers. And only one mark cut for each negative answer. Big "whew!" at that.

My centre was in Daryaganj, in a school called, of all things, Happy School. It turned out to be not as shady as I thought it would be. Nice single desks - non-creaky ones too, which is about all that I ask of a desk with such a crucial role in my life. In fact, it kind of reminded me of a desk I used to have when I was a kid. It had a liftable lid, with space inside where you could keep your books and stuff.

Anyway, we got the answer sheets at ten, and I noticed the five options thing straight away. I wasn't really worried, though, because I was too busy feeling relieved at the fact that the sheet only had space for one-twenty answers. We got the question papers at ten-twenty, and I read the instructions, and barely stopped myself from gasping aloud. Twenty-five marks in each section, four marks to each answer - the paper was out of three hundred! I remembered that the prospectus had said that we needed to score at least one-fourth of the total marks in the sections. Twenty-five out of hundred seemed managable enough.

So everyone who has read till now must now that the English section was devilishly tough - three Reading Comprehension passages with five questions each, five paragraph completion questions and another type of question that I'd never seen before, but apparently used to come many years before. And not only did all the questions require actual application of your brain, but the options were so close that, even when you tried the elimination of options method, you were left with at least a couple of possible answers. And my predicament was even worse than others'. Because I usually score well in the vocabulary and grammar based questions. But there wasn't a single one of those this year. In one stroke they'd removed the stuff that I was actually good at, and put in the stuff that I'd been averaging fifty percent accuracy in, in the Mocks.

I finished off the English section as best as I could, and moved on to Maths. And boy, did it raise my spirit! Every question was easy! I attempted thirteen and got twelve right. And I would have scored even more, except for my inability to believe that the questions could be so easy.

Then, with an hour left, I moved onto DI, which was midway between Maths and English in terms of difficulty level. I attempted eighteen questions, got at least thirteen correct. Think I got one more correct, but only one coaching institute seems to agree with me. Thank you, God, for letting me 'get' that mathematical conference set. I feel so proud of myself for that one. 'Should have been avoided' was the suggestion most experts gave about that set, but whoo, I got that one right!

And that was it. Two and a half hours later, I was out. Feeling pretty content with myself too, though I had no idea about how others had done, of course. Since then, I've been both down in the dumps, and ecstatic, depending on which answer key I choose to believe. Still - at the end of the day, it's the IIM answer key that counts, as I read in some forum or the other, and I'll have to wait till January to find out. Meanwhile, though, I'm basking in the glory of having done much better than anyone in my class - which is not saying much, by the way, since All Mathsies Suck At English (proved via extensive research). It has raised my stock to dizzying heights. (Is this what's called mixing of metaphors, by the way?) Most gratifying.
• • •

Monday, October 09, 2006


I like Delhi when it's raining. I love it in the autumn. I like it on foggy winter mornings. I dislike it when it leans on the horn a second after the light turns green. I loathe it when it labels me 'Madrasi' and takes me for granted. I like its DTC buses - for me they'll always mean U-specials and fun and non-flirty conductors. I love the green trees on both sides of the Delhi roads. I love Lutyen's Delhi. I like cruising through the streets at midnight, when the trees are lit by soft yellow sodium lamps. I pity Delhi when it asks me for alms at traffic lights, with a baby in its arms. I am in awe of the way it draws my eyes upwards everytime I pass South Block; the yellow and rust coloured stone always makes me feel proud of my country, how ironic.

I love the Delhi Metro. I love bus route no. 610. I like the little green autos. I love and hate travelling in Delhi autos in the winter - the chilly air will refresh you and freeze you to the bone at the same time. I loathe Delhi in the summer - how it tires you the moment you step out of the house, how it coats your hair with dust and sweat. But I love the taste of cold water after a day of travelling in the Delhi heat. Delhi taught me to value AC's and coolers. Delhi taught me how to travel by bus. In Delhi, I've travelled by car, by bike, by bus, by the Metro, by autos (both ordinary and the communal three-rupee ones). Delhi gave me every bit of whatever independence I have.

I love the AIIMS flyover. I love Dilli Haat. I like INA Market - Ivide Nursammaru Alayunnu, hehe. I love how you can always hear a bit of Malayalam if you listen hard enough, no matter which market you go to. I love the soft yellow glow of the lamps at vegetable markets. I love Sarojini Nagar, Lajpat Nagar, Janpath - I love all the street markets. I love the kurtas and the silver jewellery and the bargaining. Oh wait, not the bargaining.

I generally dislike North Delhi, but I love the University Campus. I love its greenery. I know I'm going to miss it in the years to come, no matter how much I crib about it. I wish I could have enjoyed it more. I love the bhel-puri-wallah at Patel Chest. Hell, I like all the street food I've ever eaten in Delhi. I love the momos at Dilli Haat. I also plan to eat beef from Kottaram restaurant in INA market at least once before I leave.

I loathe Delhi temples - both the ones I've been to, I mean. I like going up and down flyovers. I like Chanakya Cinema. I love Deer Park - its trees and its muted light and its geriatrics and its ruins.

[This post will keep getting updated as I think of more things I love/hate/dislike/loathe.]
• • •

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Blue Planet

This was it. Armageddon. She looked up at the mile-high wall of water as it approached. It was tremendously awe-inspiring, a solid block of water lifted up by the latest earthquake. She had told herself that she would not be afraid on this last little adventure, but she couldn't help the thrill of fear that shot through her body. The little hillock she stood on would soon be underwater. Once upon a time, it had been one of the highest peaks on the planet.

Only a few minutes left now for the water to hit her. She looked at the calm sea surrounding her on all sides. It lapped at her feet gently. A tame beast, except for the mountain of water approaching her rapidly. She could hear it now, its greedy roar.

"I'm the last person left on earth," she told herself. It was a bit of a thrill. "The last representative of a miserable race that defeated itself by defeating a planet."

Less than five hundred metres now. She realized that it was slightly concave, not the solid vertical wall it had seemed from far away. The upper edge was white-tipped. The bottom was almost green. She felt she could taste the spray on her tongue if she wanted to. The movement of the water as it got swept up into the wall was almost hypnotic.

Was it becoming faster as it came nearer? Only a minute or two now. She could barely see the top edge. The bottom was so thick, so green, so deep. And so near. Had she left it too late?

She clenched the remote in her left hand. She waited till the wave was almost upon her. It drenched her through her wetsuit. The spray landed salty on her tongue. The sun was blocked out. The world was nothing but the blue-green darkness surrounding her. She pushed down the button, even as a sudden stab of illogical doubt went through her. What if it didn't work?

The next minute, she was in her Ship. Wet through and through, teeth chattering, her suit clinging to her. But alive.

A burst of relieved cheering made her grin. All around her, the crew clapped and shouted. She gave them a theatrical little wave as she stepped out of the Beaming Portal. Scotty, her second-in-command, came forward. "Now may we leave, Captain?" he asked with an effort at his usual dryness, though he couldn't contain his relieved grin either.

"Hell, yeah! Heave-ho for Mother Mars!" she yelled, earning a roar of approval from the crew. Then they all turned as one for a last look at the planet they were leaving behind. It spun uselessly on its axis, completely blue now, even as its last inhabitants sped away.
• • •

Sunday, September 10, 2006


Ever since the murder of a Professor in Ujjain, the country has been largely against student union elections and campus politics in general. But if you ask me - college elections are brilliant fun. From an outsider's point of view, of course.

In my college, there are two different elections held simultaneously - one for the Delhi University Students' Union and one for the officebearers of the students' union of the college itself. Obviously, the campaigning for the college elections is more visible in each college, because the University people have a lot more ground to cover.

This year, the election for the college President post was very hotly contested - three candidates in the fray, as opposed to one last year. It went without saying that each of the candidates had to be a hosteller, because no one could even think of winning without the support of at least one of the different hosteller groups. I believe these groups form on the basis of caste more than anything else.

They used every one of the old tricks this time - plus new ones. First they gave us questionnaires, asking us what we wanted. And on the basis of the answers they got, they printed their manifestos. Saved them a lot of thinking, I suppose. Other than this new method, there were all the usual things - pamphlets with the name and ballot number of the candidate in bold letters, posters, barging into classes with their coteries and giving long speeches. But, to grow with the times, they also sent emails and SMS's. They also printed t-shirts with VOTE FOR [CANDIDATE'S NAME] in bold letters. So much money wasted, especially if you lose.

I loved the campaigning bit, honestly. Each of the candidates had a huge gang of hostellers and other sundry people supporting them (probably bribed with the promise of good food later) and they took out processions through the college corridors, shouting the name of the candidate. Whew, the energy. The chants, of course, were exactly the same as they've been for the past several decades:

Hamara president kaisa ho?
Kaisa ho? kaisa ho?
[Candidate's name] jaisa ho!
Jaisa ho! Jaisa ho!

It gave one goosebumps to watch the processions go by. Wearing their mass-printed t-shirts and yelling at the top of their collective voice, singlemindedly supporting one person. Watching them, one could suddenly understand how people become monsters when in mobs. But there was a certain beauty about it too. Especially when one thought of the generations of people who must have done exactly the same thing in the years past. Who must have come from the same villages in Bihar or UP or wherever, dreaming of studying in the big city. We're the same people as our predecessors, no matter what we like to think.

But despite this, there was no violence. I was sitting with my friends in the canteen the other day, having pao-bhaji, and two different processions marched in through two different doors. My first thought was, "Oh, no." There was no way to escape, because both the doors were blocked. But despite my fears, it was all very civilized and non-violent. Well, perhaps not civilized, exactly, unless one calls climbing on top of tables and chanting someone's name in a frenzy civilized. The two gangs saw each other, stopped, and decided to have a chanting session right there in the canteen. They each formed a multi-layered circle, and started chanting away. They both had almost the same number of people, so it was hard to make out who was saying what. They started out with the Kaisa ho chant, but soon degenerated into just shouting their respective candidate's name over and over again. But the decibel level was so high, I could actually feel my chair vibrate. Whew. You had to be in that tiny dark crowded canteen to feel the energy. Though I think I would have enjoyed it more had I not been afraid for my life and plotting escape routes. But the campaigners were all grinning, enjoying themselves thoroughly.

Perhaps the lack of violence had something to do with the candidates. They were very mild-mannered, and there was only one who could actually speak for himself. The others relied on their 'assistants' to put across their election promises to us, and only said at the end, "I'm So-and-so, ballot number such-and-such. Please vote-support-elect." Everyone used that phrase, I've no idea why.

My class is one of the largest in college, with fifty-sixty people, so every single candidate made a point of barging into class and asking us for votes. Never mind that mathsies are famous for sitting at home on election days. Anyway, this was good for us, because our professors soon got tired of trying to teach in a constantly disturbed class, especially with the sloganeering going on outside, and ended classes early.

In the beginning, we all made aeroplanes out of the pamphlets they gave us, so that the front portion of the room was carpeted with the crushed corpses of single-flight planes. But there were so many pamphlets that we soon got tired of making aeroplanes. Some diverged into the creation of paper boats, but you can't launch boats into the air with a whoop, so that was short-lived.

They should ban pamphlets in college elections. Posters are okay, but pamphlets are so messy. For the past two weeks, you couldn't go anywhere in college without stepping on the hundreds of pamphlets littering the floor, never mind all those times your mother advised you not to step on paper because it represents Saraswathy Devi, the Goddess of Learning. Campaigners would just throw whole stacks of pamphlets into the air, and they would flutter down pathetically, the candidates' faces staring at us glumly from the floor. I don't know what purpose it served, because it certainly irritated me to have to check my clothes constantly for stray bits of paper.

I didn't vote the last two years, but I was determined to vote this time, this being my last year in college and everything. Plus I'd promised several people in my class (hostellers who were campaigning for one candidate or the other) that I would vote. One of them even called me up the night before the election and said, "Jasmine, tu aa rahi hai na?" And he called just for that. WTF.

On election day, North Campus was filled with police people. Still, I heard somewhere that some girl had been molested near Patel Chest by some campaigners. Anyway, they were very strict about ID cards at the college gate. As soon as I walked in through the gate there was a whole crowd of people I had to wade through. They pressed pamphlets towards me and intoned "Vote for ballot no.2." or "Vote for So-and-so." Now that is what I call last-minute campaigning.

Electronic Voting Machines were being used for the first time in DU elections, and every one was very excited. And slightly apprehensive too, because they weren't sure how to use them. But the more confident ones cracked, "Arre! Tune Reliance ka ad nahi dekha! Bas button dabao!" Heh.

The voting happened very slowly this time, more seasoned voters told me. There were huge queues outside the booths and some people even left without voting, fed up with people who displayed that typical Delhi habit of jumping queues. I swear to God - there's nothing that irritates me more. Fortunately, I didn't have to deal with it this time, because I went early. But still, it's a fact of Delhi life - wherever there's a queue, there will be people who're too superior to join it where it ends.

It only took me ten seconds to vote, compared to the thirty minutes I had to wait in a queue. Just pressed a lot of buttons. I voted for the SFI in the DUSU elections. Neither the NSUI nor the ABVP appealed to me, and I was sure that the SFI would lose anyhow. So it was sort of a no-vote, I suppose.

I only got to know later that that guy from the anti-reservation campaign - Aditya Dar - was standing for the DUSU president post. I would have voted for him had I known before that he was a candidate. But apparently, he didn't do any campaigning - not even in his own college, wierd person. I know a lot of people who didn't care about any of the political parties and who would have voted for him purely based on the work he's done in the anti-reservation campaign. I suppose he was proving some point or the other.

The newspapers claimed yesterday that it was the novelty factor of the EVM's that caused the high turnout. Pure bunkum - let me tell you. It was Lage Raho Munnabhai that was the reason. Practically everyone I know had plans to watch the movie on Friday. They only voted because they had to meet up somewhere first, and college seemed like a good place, and they thought, "Okay, I'm here anyways. I should vote." My college had one of the highest turnouts, and I attribute that to the brilliant campaigning strategy of the candidates. I mean, who can refuse when someone calls you up at night and says, "Please kal aa jana. Yeh mera request hai."

All in all, it was FUN. I'm glad I voted. I guess Delhi University showed the country that campus politics doesn't automatically have to mean violence and murder.
• • •

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Thoughts on Rain

Of all the kinds of rain in the world, gentle rain is the saddest. Uncertain, nostalgia-inducing - umbrellas lying crumpled up inside school bags; the sudden wetness on the head as a raindrop wanders in; dark-leaved trees against grey grey sky; squelching through mud and ruining shoes.

Of all the kinds of gentle rain in the world, early morning gentle rain is the saddest. Who is it raining for? The streets are almost deserted. It reminds one of a theatre performance before an empty room - row upon row of empty seats; perhaps a few friends in the front row, looking uncomfortable.

Delhi as a city gets transformed by rain. Overnight, it becomes green and lovely and cold and nice and well-behaved and romantic. And then overnight it changes back into its hot hellish self. Everyone knows this. Everyone feels this. This city is different when it rains.

I offer you proof: every Delhi blogger has, at one time or the other, blogged about the rain. When it rains in Delhi, you will know, because you will read about it in some blog or the other. Have you noticed this with bloggers of any other Indian city? Do any of them say this? Or this? Would any of them even think of posting, "Oh, it rained today. Wow, it's so awesome. I love rain. I love rain in this city. I love this city." Mind you, they can only say that they "love this city" when it's raining. Otherwise it doesn't count.

I love rain. I love rain in Delhi. I love Delhi. On days such as this.
• • •

Friday, February 17, 2006

RDB - Thoughts


Disclaimer: This post is not meant to be one of those controversial reviews of 'Rang De Basanti' that abound in blogosphere. These are merely my thoughts, as a member of the generation that supposedly 'awakens' in the movie. Oh, and it won't make much sense if you haven't seen the movie.

1. I wonder if the director wanted to create a youth movie or an idealistic movie. Perhaps he wanted to merge the two, in which case, the merging was not done very well. The first half is the youth part, with the sort of music that the youth likes, (though I must admit, the music is good - even a person as out of touch with Bollywood music as I am had heard most of the songs, albeit out-of-tune and badly sung by my unmusical friends) and the second half is the unrealistic, idealistic, stupid part.

2. Unrealistic, idealistic, stupid? Certainly. Noone but the stupidest would do what the protagonists in the movie did. There are people I know - Delhi University students just like the people in the movie - who feel as strongly about corruption and female foeticide and all the other issues plaguing our country, but they take out processions and marches. Yes, perhaps the processions have little effect, but then what effect did what the characters in the movie did have? Sure, at the end, they show interviews with college students, in which the tagline of a generation awakening supposedly comes true - but does anyone think that all these people are going to do anything? I feel strongly about India's vote against Iran. I don't think that we should vote with the US, never mind "enlightened national interest". But that does not mean that I'm going to shoot the External Affairs Minister. (Not that we have one at the moment.) Sure, the shooting of the Defence Minister makes for a good scene, but come on - it's unrealistic.

3. I really liked the camaraderie between the members of the gang in the first half of the movie. But I thought the parallels between the members of the Independence movement and these youngsters were too heavily drawn. Especially the Aslam-Lakshman bit at the end, when they die together.

4. And why oh why oh why was India Habitat Centre made out to be Delhi University? Isn't the DU North Campus beautiful enough for them? Did they have to go the rarified intellectual-snob air of the Habitat Centre to get enough privacy to shoot? It's an insult to the brilliant campus that we have that they chose to go elsewhere.

Other than that, though, the locales were spectacular. Where ever it was that they shot, the places were brilliant. In fact, I believe one of the places was Jodhpur.

And what did other people think of the India Gate scene? That a bunch of insensitive young drunks would find India Gate arousing their latent patriotism is something I find hard to believe. Perhaps it was meant to portray their insensitivity? The loud music, the exaggerated salutes, the drunkenness?

5. What was Om Puri doing in the movie, anyway? He was brilliant as usual, of course, but wasted, with about one and a half scenes to his name.

6. The acting was brillaint. And it's not even Aamir Khan - one of the few mainstream Bollywood heroes who, IMO, can act - who walks away with the glory. Every actor plays his part well; every character is brought to life - from the good-natured Aslam to the playful Sukhi to the sensible Sonia to the brooding Karan Singhania with his secret heartache, not to mention the Hindutva proponent turned actor Lakshman Pandey.

7. I was rather thrilled to spot a guy from my college in the movie. He appears in one of the early scenes, in which auditions are being held for the roles of the freedom fighters in the movie, and does a rather funny Shah Rukh Khan imitation. I guess belonging to one of the best dramatics societies in DU does have its advantages.

8. I probably ought to write this post again, with a bit more venom thrown in. Why do people feel that, just because they're young students watching a movie in a group, they have to behave like total clowns? The actor on screen says, "Mein apko kuch bataoon?" and there are shouts of "Haan ji, please, boliye." This happens in every scene.

9. I also had glimpses of the insensitivity of today's youth that the movie portrays. There is this sequence in which Rajguru and Bhagat Singh are holding a hunger strike in order to get paper and pens for writing. Rajguru puts their demand forward and is clouted mid-sentence by one of the British officers. The scene earns laughs from some of the audience. And that too not the sort of quickly stifled laugh that is a reflex response to something that the brain initially processes as slapstick, but is not; a proper belly laugh with no embarrassment, telling me that these people find it amusing that Indian freedom fighters got slapped around (and worse) by the Britishers.

10. This movie has been hailed by a lot of people as a watershed in Bollywood movies. I'm not sure I agree, but perhaps there is a need for such a movie in the context of India today. We do need to be reminded of what people sacrificed for us to enjoy the freedom that we are enjoying today. More than that, we need to know what it was that drove those people - patriotism of a kind that none of us shall ever know.
• • •

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Ode to a Winter Past

It's starting to get light earlier. The light rays seeping into my room make my brain all confused and it's waking me up earlier and earlier. It's rather amusing to wake up a couple of minutes earlier every day.

Anyway, it's official now - I like Delhi winters better than Delhi summers. Especially when they're like the last one was - cold, but sunny. I love it when it's cold and sunny. You can do all the things that make winter fun - open the windows wide and sleep in the sunshine, sit on a green lawn and bathe in the sunshine, hug yourself against the chilly wind and still see the trees sparkling in the sunshine. I like that.

But I like fog too. Not that we saw much of it this year, thankfully. But fog reminds of chilly shivery mornings waiting for the school bus, with desultory conversation about how freaking cold it is and the knowledge that it will be even colder in the bus with its broken windows.

Considering the way the Delhi summer behaves, it's a wonder anyone could possibly have a debate over whether winter's better than summer. But I don't like the darkness that winter brings. I guess I'm a morning person. Wait, no, I'm not - I hate getting up in the morning. So I guess I'm a late morning-early afternoon sort of person. As it gets later and later, my energy levels go down more and more. So I prefer it when it's properly light by six and when it's still light at seven in the evening. But that is the only thing I like about summer. Plus being able to wear light cotton instead of heavy wool, of course.

So I'm slightly sad that the winter is ending. Delhi breached the thirty degree celsius mark this week and I guess the temperature is only going to keep climbing. And it's only February as yet, for God's sake! It's maddening to watch the summer coming closer and closer and imagine with a shudder the travelling in the heat and the sweat and the over-brightness. I wish the current weather would go on all year around.
• • •

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

In Which I Prove That I'm Loony

It's wierd how things that happened a long while back and which you hadn't even thought of for ages can have an effect on you.

Today, on my way home after a truly horrible exam, I boarded bus no. 604, going to Vasant Kunj. It was a DTC bus and there were plenty of seats.

So I was sitting in the bus, minding my business as usual. An old man was snoozing on my left, clutching a black bag tightly to his chest. His head drooped down periodically. A window with a broken pane in the front part of the bus allowed in the chilly wind. The bus was unusually quiet, possibly because everyone was busy shivering.

A red and black Adidas bag lay next to my feet. I was thankful for its presence, because it ensured that anyone walking to the front of the bus wouldn't pass too closely to me, if you know what I mean. I assumed that it must belong to my snoozing copassenger.

A young guy sitting on the seat on the opposite side of the aisle took it into his head to stare at me. I looked away to avoid his eyes and the Adidas bag caught my eye again.

It was a nice bag, good-sized and well-filled. I wondered what Sleepyhead had in it.

Soon, Sleepyhead got off. He didn't take the bag with him, though.

That was when I started to get worried. The bus was half empty and Young Guy and I were the only people for about three rows. There was nobody else that the bag could possibly belong to. Young Guy seemed quite unconcerned about the bag; he was whistling cheerfully to himself and anyway, if it had been his bag, wouldn't it have been on his side of the aisle?

At the next stop, a couple of Army men boarded the bus and sat in the seat in front of me. They didn't even look at the ownerless bag. I suddenly realized that, to other people, the bag must look like mine, since I was sitting right next to it.

I stared at the letters painted onto the seat in front of me:Aapke seat ke neeche dekhiye. Lawaris vastu bam ho sakti hai. Turant shor machayiye. Inaam payiye. I remembered how I'd made fun of these words a couple of times and how I'd promised myself that I'd never do so again.

Should I raise the alarm, I wondered. But how foolish I would look if it turned out that the bag belonged to some guy sitting at the back of the bus. I didn't have the guts to do that, I decided. And anyway, the bag was probably absolutely harmless.

I wished the bus would go faster, so that I could get off the bus and stop obsessing over the bag.

But suppose I was right? Suppose the bag contained a bomb and it was even now ticking down to an explosion? I tried to imagine the explosion and all I could summon up in my mind was some yellow-orange colour. It suddenly came to me that, if I was right, I would never get to know. Because I would have ceased to exist.

It's an unsettling thing, you know - imagining one's sudden erasure from the world. We all survey the world from our own viewpoint and that viewpoint has certain parameters, things that you take for granted. The existence of self is one such. And to imagine the non-existence of self - why, that's contradictory, because how can you imagine, if you don't exist?

Like I said, it's unsettling. Which is not to say that it doesn't have its good points. Everything seems clearer suddenly, better defined. You suddenly notice the man sitting in the front seat with trousers so short that the tops his socks are showing. His raucous laughter isn't background music anymore, it's right there inside your head, mocking you.

I imagined him ceasing to exist and it was rather pleasing. At least his laughter wouldn't hammer its way into my head. But I suddenly realized that he probably wouldn't cease to exist if the bomb went off, because he was sitting at the front of the bus and would probably escape with extensive burns. And with that realization, it hit me that I would much prefer to live - even with burns - than to die and that it would be better for me to shift to the front of the bus so that I would be away from the blast. This also had the added advantage that the conductor would realize that it wasn't my bag and then it would be labelled lawaris vastu.

So, feeling very pleased with myself, I shifted to a seat right in the front of the bus, almost next to the door. So what if it brought me closer to the man and his laughter? I would be away from the bomb. After a while, I chanced to look down and - Aargh! - the bag was right there, next to my feet!

"It's determined to kill me," I thought fatalistically, staring at the bag in horrified fascination (the cliche is very apt here). I wondered why no one else had noticed that the bag had followed me all the way to the front of the bus. I wondered if I was going crazy.

Suddenly, the bag shifted. A hand had come out of nowhere to grasp it. After the initial mental recoil, my eyes followed the hand up to the shoulder and from there to the eyes of Young Guy, who gave me a winning smile. I didn't smile back.

Young Guy got off the bus at the next stop with his bag.
• • •