Incomplete Zero

Completing the Nothingness

Sunday, November 16, 2003


Since Ayn Rand and Russell i was always looking for some profund philosophical thought to hit me while i was reading something.But the book i have just finished "Memoirs of a Geisha" along with "An Equal Music " and " The Golden Gate" have rekindled my love for fiction. "Memoirs .... creates and entire world of its own and i was transported into it....They say all good writers posses this create a world and then draw the reader into it..and when this is entwined with history and culture the makes for a heady mixture....

Just a couple of months more and my stay in what has been paradise for me would come to an end....and i hope i devour every moment in the coming months....books movies



My first impression of this dilapidated relic of a city,passing off as an excuse of a state capital,evoked a mixture of claustrophobia and wonder.The sheeer number of people overwhelmed me.

The more interactions i had in the city the more i could undertsand the reason UP is part of the infamous BIMARU group.The most striking aspect about this place is the lack of intelligence/efficiency of the people who are part of the government machinery.Getting a ticket reserved in a railway station can be a pain for someone who is accustomed to doing the same in other parts of the country.

Usually the guy on the other side of the counter is more informed about the various rules and intricacies that lace the reservation system in the Indian Railways.On multiple occasions i found that in Lucknow the people in charge of this job do not know some basic features like a "break journey".I tried to attribute it to the low literacy levels,until i visited a dentist yesterday.

Impressed by decent exteriors and qualifications on the nameboard i entered into a dental clinic.It was house cum clinic.I asked the "maali" whether the doctor was in because i had arrived 5 mins earlier than the visitng time.Yes, im the doctor came the reply.Now i understood reel life does borrow from real life.

Upon being seated on the dentist's equivalent of a shrink;s couch, i realised that he had his son who was studying in a Dental Collge was moonlighting as an apprentice.The doctor himself was like the "Bada Imam Bara"- a relic.The father and son duo proceeded to work on me -the proverbial guinea pig,frog ..cockroach.The good dad giving his son fundaes at the expense of my "batthisi".

Then came the coup de grace,the apprentice who had just gone into the other room to snatch glimpses of the cricket match let out an exclamation in the aftermath of a Rahul Dravid six.

I couldnt believe my ears.I had bought a friend along who was watching the cricket match in the waiting room and i had told the doc that i study at the IIM and thereby hinting that do not butter me up with CRM coz im not a lifetime customer for a you.

Neways as soon as the ball landed beyond the boundary the apprentice/son exclaimed "By Jove, thats a shot".Now nothing could explain this expression.Colonial hangover, reading too much about butlers and royalty,PG Wodehouse..nothing could explain it...i wish i gave the doc and the son a piece of my mind...but then i had too much at stake- a tooth and decent sum of money....

I returned to the only heaven/haven i know in Lucknow ..campus...


Saturday, November 01, 2003

The Thaw - A Short Story

What the heck dad, we stop for today. Come on, just because you’re having a good day and I’m not doesn’t mean we go on playing till eternity" said Vikrant, dripping with sweat, exasperated and with his hands on hips. Commander.Vishal Singh walked over to the other side of the TT table with a condescending smile put his hand around his son's shoulder and took him into the sauna.

Playing with dad at the Navy Club on weekends had become a ritual over the years for twenty-one year old Vikrant. The ritual consisting of a few hours of play followed by a refreshing sauna and then tea at the restaurant facing the seaside never seemed to lose its charm. As they drove to the restaurant Vicky could not but help imagining beating his dad the next weekend.

"Relax you will get used to losing by next week", said his dad, smiling as if on cue. He replied with a wry smile that seemed to say "Jus.... wait ol' man...". His dad was the most important person in his life. He looked up to him like kids looked up to their favorite film or sport star. At 47, Commander Vishal Singh was supremely fit and agile, the fact that he could still beat his son every odd weekend was testimony to the fact. Right from his childhood Vicky was used to hearing from relatives in the family about his striking resemblance to his father. As he grew up the likeness just increased. The only major difference was that at 6 feet two inches his dad was a couple of inches taller.

"What’s new in college, Vicky?” asked his dad sipping on his tea.

"Well placements are coming up in a month and I’m pretty keyed up about it" he replied chewing his brownie.

"Are you looking at any particular firm"

"Well, the usual suspects are coming visiting...Infosys, Wipro, TCS and stuff and since I’m a computer science grad I guess my chances are bright"

"Well... Kapoor uncle keh rahe planning to go to the U.S....aren’t u interested ????....If you want to pursue your studies further...that’s the place to go..."

"Well this may sound simplistic but going to U.S inevitably means ending up settling there. I have got one life dad and I cant live there...with u and maa alone here. When Ravi leaves uncle and aunty will at least have Ritu with them for a few more years."

"But what about your career, you know separation is but inevitable"

“Actually I’m not too keen on studying further either, I want to work for a few years and then set up my own software firm with a couple of friends. We have planned out a few things, lets see how things turn up”

“Chalo …...time to go home…” said his dad.

As they were driving back to their flat Commander Vishal Singh could not but take pride in his upbringing. Vicky was able to take the decisions about his future with conviction and he seemed have his priorities in life clear. He had named his son after the first aircraft carrier he had worked in-INS Vikrant.

As soon as they reached home his mom said it was grocery shopping time and Vicky took her to the nearest departmental store. Mom was kind of always part of his life and yet absent. She was like the behind the stage person in the family. She looked after the daily chores and the well being of the family effortlessly. She almost seemed to blend in with the furniture at times. She would constantly be busy in some work while Vicky and his dad would be busy discussing or arguing about one thing or the other. Though he loved his mom very much he was closer to his dad. Other than the fact they did not watch porn together… his dad and he were practically the best of friends. The fact Vicky did not have any siblings made the intimacy and warmth of his relationship with his dad even more plausible to his friends.

The next few months just breezed past. Placements resulted in him landing a job with Infosys and the last days at college were spent recapitulating the last four years and making resolutions to make it a point meet for sure at least at each guy's wedding given that many were flying off to the States. Farewell parties served as the platform for Vicky’s initiation into “spirit”ual life and like most beginners vodka became the drink with which he invoked Bacchus.

There were three months to join Infosys in Bangalore after he completed his graduation by the end of May. So he set off on a month long tour with his brat pack and back pack. This was followed by a trip to his native Punjab with his parents where he was showered with congratulations and blessings for being on his way to accomplishing the clichéd mission -Padh likh kar badha aadmi banna


Vicky had just finished his final installment of shopping before he left for Bangalore in a couple of days and was on his way back home when he noticed their Maruti Zen at the traffic light. Dad was inside it. Vicky wanted to drive up to him but the scores of two wheelers between them did not allow him even the faintest chance. He would be lucky to cross the road when this signal turned green. Lucky he was and he just managed to cross before the light turned red again.

Surprisingly at the next crossroad his dad took the turn that would not take them homewards. Involuntarily he followed his dad, just curious to know where he was going. Due to the steady traffic he could catch up with his dad. Continuing to surprise him his dad turned into the gates of a swanky hotel as he was watching from behind. Almost automatically he went into the hotel, parked his vehicle and stealthily followed his dad. He did not even pause to think why he did not walk up to his dad. He saw his dad enter the coffee shop in the lobby of the hotel. The glass doors gave a good view of the interiors. A strangely uneasy feeling crept into him when his dad walked up and sat at a table where a lady of about thirty-two was sitting .He could see the lady’s face fairly well and he was sure that he had never seen her.

Umpteen questions were flooding his mind,” Who was this woman his dad was having coffee with”,” What are they talking about”,” What am I doing here and what am I supposed to do now”,” Do I just go back or…Caught in the turbulence in his mind he did not notice that his dad had got up and they were walking towards the door. He slowly managed to get out of their line of sight, but he could still see them. As they passed by him he could not help himself marvel at the woman's pulchritude. This only added to the maze of emotions going through his mind. Controlled by some inexplicable force he decided to stalk his dad. His dad just walked up to the reception counter and collected the keys while the woman took the lift. He continued his chase and took the stairs while his dad took the other lift. On the third floor he saw his dad at the end of the corridor opening the door to a room; the lady was beside him.

How he drove back home he did not know. It was a like numbing down for a moment. Though he told himself that he shouldn’t jump to conclusions he could not but help seeing his whole world crumbling around him. Could God sin? Pain, anger, despair, self -reproach and anguish, a whirlpool of emotions sucked him in. His mind and head were screaming.

He walked into his room, his expressionless face belying the raging within. A perfunctory answer to his mom and he locked himself up. He sank into sleep amidst his own tears. He got up at 11 p.m and the events of the evening came back to him in a flash. He opened the door and walked into the drawing room and his dad looked up from the magazine.

“Tired from all the shopping huh? Wash your face and ill serve you dinner, mom is already asleep”

As he was washing from his face he knew he could not look at his dad for more than a few seconds without losing his calm nor would it take his dad more than a few seconds to figure out that something was terribly wrong.

He slowly dried his face and as he took off his towel he caught the eyes of his dad who was serving the food onto a plate.

”Who was the woman… dad?”

The expression on his dad’s face changed within the space of a few seconds from bewilderment to comprehension to one of poise.

“She was a prostitute”

As he stood motionless in front of his dad he felt that after the one line that his father had uttered he had become a stranger to him. The worst fear that was lurking in the recesses of his mind had come true. How could his life that was pleasant until eight hours ago change so drastically? How could the person whom he almost worshipped betray his faith? Out of the blue the image of his mother cooking flashed on his inward eye.


“I never thought it would come to this …but you are old enough and you should know the truth and then…do whatever you wish…”

Vicky just stood there puzzled more than ever

“ Your mom is frigid…………….”


As he stepped onto the platform of Bangalore railway station on the early hours of Saturday he realized that the climate was colder and it was just the first week of August. He walked on, his face expressionless, it was as if he was oblivious to his surroundings, like everything else was at standstill and he was the only one moving.
He moved into the flat his company had arranged for him. He had to report on Monday so with two days to himself he felt empty. He wanted to immerse himself in work a.s.a.p.

The food he was eating was good .It was the usual thali with a special Saturday curry. His thoughts returned to the events of that fateful day. After informing him of his mom’s condition his dad left him saying ”Khaana khaa lena beta”

He thought of a movie he had seen, “The Good Mother”, where Diane Keaton had played a frigid lady in an unhappy marriage. He had always though of these things as biological or psychological things that happened to someone else, not to someone in his own family. He could not understand his feelings towards his dad. He was not angry anymore but it was as if everything had changed permanently, like an accident disfiguring someone for life. He did not speak much to his dad and he tried his best not to show anything to his mom.

Four months had passed by and the winter had set in for good. Vicky was not used to such cold weather, he was always in warmer climes. The cold wind that blew across the streets touched his bones when he went out to have his dinner. His face was still expressionless. He went to his office, worked till, grabbed dinner and then worked at his flat and fell asleep .He had transformed from a bubbling enthusiastic youngster into a taciturn brooding individual. As much as he had changed, he had realized he wanted to lift himself out of his gloom but seemed unable to. He wished if God or someone like him would give him back his life…or rather his lust for life. Dad would ring up once a week and the conversations had got only faintly better. He knew his dad was trying but it was as if all the warmth had evaporated all of a sudden.


One weekend around 10 p.m Vicky was walking back after his dinner into his apartment complex when he passed by a young woman who was standing in the cellar soaking and seeking shelter from the rain that was pouring down. Just at the moment he had passed her, he looked at her again.

“I have seen you somewhere??”

“The double take was good but the line spoiled it all…don’t you think it’s a bit too clichéd?”

“You work in the floor below mine at Infosys…I remember seeing you in the canteen”

“Oh!! So contrary to expectations you are not mute and you are aware of your surroundings too”

“Why do you say so?” he asked perplexed

“Well I haven’t seen you open your mouth for a purpose other than eating and I haven’t seen your eyes move anywhere from your plate”

With the hint of a smile Vicky said” I live here, care a for a cup of coffee…coz the rain doesn’t look like subsiding”

“Well…since you use the most clichéd lines with utmost regularity… I guess your not the weirdo I thought are…errr okay…coffee is fine…but please come up with some better lines at least to keep me interested”

“The lift is this way…by the way why should I be the one keeping u interested by coming up with good lines ……why can’t u do it…its damn convenient for women to put the responsibility on men…we are supposed to be funny, talented…blah blah…you keep me interested for half hour over coffee and I’ll take you out for dinner tomorrow.”

“Hmm…smart ass…”


“So are you vegetarian Ms.Rao?

“Don’t call me Ms. Rao, its irritating to the hilt, you will lose all the brownie points you have won so far… Well I eat anything that’s cooked well”

“I bite anything that doesn’t bite me back….”

“Hmmm interesting ……you continue to impress”

“ The pleasure is all mine”


It was like the dark clouds that hung over the horizon of his mind had lifted. Vineetha… Vini as he called her had come into his life like the proverbial whiff of fresh air. The first three months of their courtship flew away breezily. They would talk for hours endlessly and never seemed to get tired of it. Movies, music, gossip, and books they seemed to have opinion generating discussions on everything. His favourite topic was how he would tame her tiger (she refereed to her dad as “mera tiger”).

They never felt the need to use words to express their feelings for each other. For Vini it was as if he had become her second family, she was a localite and for him almost his only family. His family ties had stayed frosty. The vacuum in his life was more than filled.

One night after a dinner date Vicky asked casually ”Care for a nightcap madam.”

“Well monsieur….moi have to go home”

“C’mon…..your tiger is out of station for the first time since we met…you told me you are good at cooking ,now cook up a story for your mom…”

“Well you have already bored me for the past few hours…you better have something interesting planned or else this will be your last nightcap”

They reached his flat and they flopped on to his sofa.

“Soooo???….” said Vini with a mischievous smile and a slow and elongated verve…

“Your eyes are beautiful…”

“Aaah!!! Cliché again…the dim lights are fine…but to get me into your bed you must do better misterrrrrrrr”

“What the heck ….you talk too much….”

With a swift move he sealed her lips with his. They had kissed before but this time both of them knew that it would be more than just a kiss. She was uncharacteristically tense. He could sense it by the quivering of her lips .The kiss lasted for some length of time. He slowly broke away and said James Bondishly (God save the Queen’s English) ”You know I’m sort of traditional, so we’ll leave the sofa for the morrow, let’s go inside…”

“Good line Mr. Singh, I see you are capable of rising to the occasion”

Those were the last words that were spoken for quite a few hours. They were entwined in what they felt was an expression of the deepest and purest feelings they felt for each other. He lay panting on top of her looking into her eyes and with the utmost tenderness gently kissed her. The first warm rays of the sun in months waltzed through the curtain and fell on Vicky’s face. He opened his eyes and turned his eyes to find her sleeping in bliss. He had never felt more calm and serene in his life. His thoughts suddenly returned to his dad.

He could not imagine that his dad had lived his entire life without ever experiencing what he felt last night and lay in his bed thinking. Russell once said sex without love is like having sex neat, that is divorced from companionship, imagine… love without making love would be like…. having just water, without the spirit that lifts one higher.

Vini opened her eyes and found him gazing at the sky through the window,” What are you thinking” she asked.

“Well ma’am I’m going home to speak to my ol’ man about burying some demons and taming a tiger and by the way don’t you think the sofa is more comfortable….”