Where did the popcorn wallah go?

Tan..tan..tun…tun..tan…the chimes of his sickle shaped utensil hitting the dark iron wok could be heard atleast a block away. Each afternoon, around the last few minutes of the 13th hour I could hear him approaching. I’d be usually be sweating in my school uniform, just arrived from school, with my mother bidding me to change before venturing out. On most days it would be too late for her, I’d already heard the popcorn wallah‘s tune and like children chased the Pied Piper I’d rush out to our gate waiting for him.

He was a tall dark man, with bright white teeth, often reserving a smile for me. The transaction was the usual, I’d ask him for 2 rupees worth of pop-corn and he’d pop fresh kernels of corn into the wok. The wok was a curious instrument, bigger than the ones at home but not any bigger than the ones they’d make jalebis in the nearby sweetshops. At the base of the instrument was a coal fired stove, and the wok had a sand-salt mixure. The real thrill of the ritual was the sound of popping corn, it gave me a strange delight and he’d cover it up with a strainer but even with that contraption, a few kernels would pop out and escape leaving a trail of popped corn in front of the houses he had sold his produce. In the end, he’d pick a paper bag, and gently blow air to open it. He’d finally fill it to the brim with hot popcorn and finally top it off with a sprinkle of the strange sand-salt combination. It took 5 minutes each day, in the sweltering sun, and I’d pay him up a couple of rupees. But the whole performance was not without its rewards, he’d always fill a tiny paper bag with already popped corn and give it to me for a quick snack, while i watch him cook a fresh batch for me. He’d never charge me for it, it was perhaps a token of our unspoken friendship.

This would continue for the next morning and the next, for almost 2-3 years, the price went up to three rupees and gradually his regular visits declined. Sometimes he’d be back to his village for weddings, and at some point he stopped coming. I, for my part, also grew up and left my home for studies and work. I still wonder where did the popcorn wallah vanish, does he still sell it in another town or place? Does he share the same camaraderie with another boy as he shared with me?

The second man had his stall in front of the Parade grounds in Kanpur. I’d often visit my grandfather for my summer vacations, and he’d take us once a week to this pop-corn seller to pick up our favorite snack. This man was shorter in stature, but more talkitive, he’d talk my grandfather about us and about his well being. It would usually be dark when we’d be visiting him, his kersone lamp would burn and through little strands of light on the wok. He’d only pack the fresh popcorn into thin polythene bags, and perform the magic of sealing the packs by touching the base of the lamp with stretched packing material. This was pure magic, and probably my first experience on how one could seal stuff in poly bags! This man would always give us extra bags of pop-corn, much to the annoyance of my grandfather, for he would refuse to take money for these extra bags. It was a ritual, with him giving us extra bags, and my grandfather coaxing him to take money for all of it. It would always be a sight, sometimes he’d win the argument on others my grandfather would prevail. Each week, when the packs were empty, we’d go for the refill. Over a period of time, our grandfather grew old and could no longer drive the scooter, my trips on vacations declined and the talkitive popcorn wallah vanished from our memories.

I do not know the fate of these men, who shared their affections with us with a fresh bag of hot popcorn, I wonder if they still ply their trade or have long fallen victims to make-it-yourself-for-10-rupees Act II, or worse, compete against 60 bucks a pack popcorn at malls, which we grudingly buy either due to keeping up a social pretence or just lack of other options. Maybe I’ll spot them once again…just maybe..

If you have a similar story of a street vendor filling your childhood with tiny pleasures, do share in comments below.

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Old Man and the Key

My appetite for mishaps and weird incidents reached a new level when I locked up myself in my apartment in Geneva. A story which led to me being the laughing stock of my office folks in Switzerland.

One evening, after an awfully long day at work I returned to my apartment, with my roommate still at work. This incident revolves around the two keys which were used to gain access to the building and then to the apartment.

After reaching early, I started attempting to cook dinner for the both of us. The roommate arrived below the building and called me up to come down and open the building door from inside. Tired and lazy I suggested to drop the key from our 5th floor apartment to him from the balcony. What happened next is an incident to remember!

I peeped out of the window and attempted my well practiced ‘key throw‘ towards my roommate. Little had I realized that Murphy’s Godforsaken law would pop up in the avatar of the vulgar façade protruding from the 1st floor of the building and stop its journey to the ground! The keys never reached the ground and decided to stay back on the first floor!

I realized what happened and like Robin muttered, ‘No problemo Batman I’ll come down and open the building door and then fetch the key by the help of the 1st floor apartment dude’.  With a hare like swiftness I sprung into action and ran towards my apartment door, only to realize that it wouldn’t open as I had locked myself in and had thrown the key downstairs! Yep, I could be featuring in the next episode of jailed abroad on Nat Geo! ( I did mutter a lot of F this and F that at this point!)

So now the roommate couldn’t get in the building and I couldn’t get out of the apartment. It was pretty late, we decided that he’d goto a friend’s place to stay for the night and morning will return with reinforcements.

Morning came and the roommate was on his way with a friend(the reinforcement?). I peeped outside the window to check if the key was there but the key was missing from the spot! Bollocks I say!

I had no way to figure out where had the key gone, the reinforcement suggested that the key was taken by a bird! Preposterous explanations for us! Anyways, they gained entry to the building and went to the 1st floor apartment only to find it locked. Next, they called the concierge but nobody picked.

Meanwhile I ended up calling the apartment lease broker for a spare key, they refused to help! I reminded them that the apartment is cleaned by cleaning staff which must be having a key. I then called up the cleaning people who couldn’t understand English! After a weird anglo-french conversation and they called back and promised to send someone over to open up the door!

After about 30 minutes a pretty lady opened the door, can’t express how glad I was to get out and see another human! I then ran to get a duplicate key made at the cost of around 800 INR!! But when I returned, I met this old man who had dropped a few keys and helped him by picking the keys and guiding him to the elevator. Somewhere in my heart I thought maybe those are my keys(I still didn’t have a building key!). Anyways, we entered the lift to test the duplicate key on the apartment, only to find this old man standing in front of our apartment fiddling with the original keys! He had braved all the way up to return our keys, I ran and thanked him in all languages I knew!

Background Story: The 1st floor apartment dude had picked the keys and kept them on our mailbox with a note. The old man picked the keys and left the same note behind. My roomate found the note but without the key, and had no idea who flicked it this time! Had lost all hopes and were annoyed as well…but then the old man turned up with the key!

Yes, my laziness cost us all a lot of distress 😦

Every morning she waits…

Another old post from my old blog, am just getting nostalgic and lazy! This one was written back on Feb 15, 2006

Every morning at 7.55 AM my office shuttle(another word for bus) starts from JP Nagar First Phase taking the turn to the East end main road and finally reaching BTM Layout…

I have a particular seat which is in a way my seat on the left side of the bus, just for the simple fact that 4 minutes into the journey to my office I would be passing in-front of the “Brand and Bargains” showroom and around 8 AM I would witness ‘her’ waiting like everyday for her bus.

I don’t know where she works, I dont know who is she but all I know is that I wish to see her everyday, in a way a lucky charm for me! She ain’t the prettiest girl, but then she is different…she could be working anywhere maybe Infosys, Wipro, TCS or anywhere…

Its already more than a couple of months when I am sitting at my seat in the bus waiting eagerly to have a glimpse, and then move on without thinking of her till the next day, the probability is that I would never know her in person, I may never know her name even…

She might never know about my eagerness to just have a glimpse of her, but it doesn’t make any difference…this relationship, if i take liberty in calling it one, is different. In a way I don’t wish things to change, there is this hidden beauty in all this…and I wish to retain it.

Its a routine that I wish to continue…to see her waiting every morning for her office bus right at 8.

Note: I never talked to this girl back then as expected, funny I don’t even remember the face now!

Hair strands falling off my head….

Yep! Like the French army fled against the British in the Battle of Agincourt, my hair strands have decided the give up and flee from my scalp. Needless to say it just takes away a bit more of the already low levels of self confidence I had about my looks.

If looking at the stranger in the mirror wasn’t enough, there are always infrequent observers(aka cousins and relatives) and the visits to barber which serve as a cruel reminder that I may be going bald.

A few months ago, on a visit to my home for a family event, a cousin observed, “Arre you have lost so much hair!”. Not only did i want to retort back by saying,”Oh yeah! When did this happen, they were all there like last night when i checked! Strange, I didn’t know!” I also wanted to top it off by boxing him in the face.

A few months later, a visit to the hair salon(the frequency of these trips have already dropped now!), the barber giggled and said,”Arre Sir! What happened, you have so little hair left on the scalp!” I just muttered,”You that means less revenue for you and more savings for me!”

Last month my sister send me a big bottle of shampoo from the US(yeah imported shampoo!), and it struck me…it could very well be the last bottle of shampoo I’d ever need!

Even dad now looks weirdly at me, I know he’s looking at the scalp and its last few battalions. I know that he is thinking, how could this egg-to-be ended up in my family of good haired people. Frankly, I haven’t gotten a clue, maybe its genetics or maybe its water…all I know is that with each passing day my head is getting smoother.

I know everyone would reach there in another decade, its just that I am reaching there first! I always liked to get attention, but being the only egg in the house doesn’t do me much good. Of course I’d expect the ladies to look beyond the obvious in me(while I may not be reciprocating that!)…and yes research says that balding is also a sign of virility!(Okay my only selling point!)

Neither is it controllable, nor did I bring it upon me! But my hairs have decided to flee.

PS-Did you ever notice, that the MD of Marico(of all hair products like Parachute etc…) is bald! 😉

The Single Calorie Hamburger

 

‘Breakthrough’ read the New York Times, Nature called it as the end of the world obesity crises. With his unical Hamburger, John Gates, a relatively unknown entreprenuer from Texas has zoomed into popularity and because a celebrity himself.

Scientests and nutritionists have been baffeled with this unique offering offered specially and uniBurger joints all across the country has uprooted the consumer of base of the likes of Whitecastle and McDonalds. Even the neigbourly diners have been shaken up!

‘The discovery has not been easy! We have designed a process to extract all the fat and carb molecules from the ingredients, without affecting the flavour’, said Mr Gates.

‘When the key ingredients like flour, cheese, beef and mayonnaese interact with the extractors of our process, they lose their ability to add fat and extra carbs to the offering. We have already patented the process, and our dream to end the obesity epidemic shall be fulfilled’

Mr Gates detractors are wary of his finds and are worried about possible negative impacts of the food being offered. The prime worry is the risk which always  has been associated with GM modified foods coming true.

‘We have found part answer to the quote mentioning that everything good in life is either fattening or married! I believe that McDonalds shall be a thing of the past, with our safe technology food lovers need not worry about the ill effects of their love for flavor food. Soon you shall see uniCal’s Hot Dogs, fries, Steaks and sausages.’

Upon being asked why the name uniCal, Mr Gates smiled and said,’Honestly our burgers add upto 6 calories per meal, however a normal human spends upto 5 calories munching the meal. As a result the net addition of calories is just 1, thats how the name uniCal comes from!’

The first advertisement of the product showed Gisele Bundchen munching onto cheeseburgers with ease with a catch line, ‘Now even size 0 doesn’t mean going hungry!’ This Superball advertisement has had immense impact on people, who have flocked to uniCal outlets ever since!

TIME magazine claims it to be the find of the century, way above the iPod or Nintendo Wii! Mr Gates is one of the top contenders for TIME Man of the year!

‘Ankur, Ankur…get up! Tea is ready’
‘Hmm…’, I can see my dad calling from the corner of my eye, its time to get up!
Sigh…I wish I could continue that dream…and be the solution to the obesity problem! But instead I shall treat myself with a 100 calorie tea!

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Above Average

I completed another book by an IITian, called Above Average. Its in the series of the recently spurge of campus fiction books like Five Point Someone, Mediocre But Arrogant, and Anything for you Ma’am. All these talk about people doing their studies at a prestigious Engineering School like IIT or MBA at JIM(XLRI in fiction!).

The authors of these books, are all pass-outs of these institutes and are thus able to articulate life at these places to the envy of others(perhaps also make a sale on the book because of the same reason).

But what about us, the people who have never been to such institutes of learning. In a country where only top 1% test takers ever make to an IIT or IIM, what about the stories which we JIITians or SCMHRDians have to tell?

Maybe one day I would also write one 😉

Snapshots from Hell

Snapshots from Hell - Book Cover

In one of my earlier posts I talked about buying the book Snapshots from Hell by Peter Robinson.

I just completed this gem a couple of days ago, and parts of it surely scared me a lot. Within next two months I shall be joining SCMHRD Pune to pursue my MBA education and this book about the life of the author at Stanford Business School has given me an insight on what to expect.

I believe the workload, the struggle and the hardwork needed for MBA at SCMHRD shall be no less that what Peter Robinson had to go through at Stanford. The book talks about the MBA psyche, the impact of the studies on people coming from diverse backgrounds, the value added by the course and finally how B School education changed people.

A must read for MBA Aspirants!

Earwax

The current post has been taken from a forwarded mail; I do not make any claims to the copyrights of the story below! 

This is a short story written by Dr Kishore Shah….he is a gynaecologist in Pune and a very gifted writer….enjoy this extremely funny story .

My wife is an ENT Surgeon while I am a Gynaecologist.  This can lead to some complications, as I  recently learned to my anguish. A General Practitioner phoned me up  and told me that she is sending a patient of hers for an abortion.  Unknown to me, she had also referred a female with earwax for removal  of the wax to my wife.
I duly informed the receptionist to send the patient right in as she  was expected (and expecting!) As Murphy lays down the laws of our  hospital, it was but natural that the patient who wanted the wax  removed from her ear, landed up with me. This is the conversation  that I had with the patient.

“Please come in. Be seated.” I said with a big smile. I always have a  big smile, when I am going to earn some money. The patient gave a  feeble smile and sat hesitantly on the edge of the chair. “Relax.”

“Doctor, will this hurt a lot?”

“Not at all.” The patient relaxed visibly. “You know something, Doctor, we tried removing it at home, but failed.”

I was shocked. “Thank God. Trying this at home can cause serious complications.”

“I first tried to remove it by jumping up and down, but it just  wouldn’t budge.”

I smiled and said, “If it were that easy, who would need doctors?”

She gave a cute smile and said, “Yeah! My neighbour tried to remove  it with his finger, but the hole is so small that he used a hair  pin.”

“Oh my God!”

“Yes! My mother even tried a matchstick.”

My blood pressure was shooting skywards. I just sputtered without  uttering a word.

“Tell me, doctor, how do I avoid getting this dirt inside me?”

I knew that it was an unwanted pregnancy, but calling it dirt was too much. I replied a bit angrily, “There are tablets which can prevent this happening. Or you could use protection at night.”

Now it was the patient’s turn to be confused, “You mean to say that it happens only at night?”

I saw her point. “No! No! I meant anytime of the day, whenever you are in the mood, you should use protection.”

She was even more confused, “It depends on my moods?”

Again I saw her point. “My mistake. You need not be in any sort of mood. It just happens.”

“My neighbour advised me to go to one of those chaps who sit by the roadside.”

“You mean that pin man?”

“Yeah!”

This neighbour of hers seemed to be a very dangerous man. Besides using pins, he was sending her to such quacks. The only safety he  knew was among the pins. “You were wise not to heed his advice.”

“But I tried his other advice. He told me to put warm oil inside and wait. However, that also did not work.”

This was getting more and more bizarre. Her neighbour deserved to be locked up either in a padded cell or a barred one.

“But have you taken your husband’s permission?”

Now the patient looked confused. “Do I have to take my husband’s permission? Because if you need his sign, he is working in Dubai. We  were not able to meet for the last one year.”

It was my turn to be shocked. I gave a sly smirk. It was one of  ‘those’
cases. The pin-wielding neighbour seemed to me the usual  suspect. I reassured her. “No! No! The husband’s sign is not at all  needed.”

“However, I did inform him on phone.”

Her husband seemed to me a very broad-minded fellow. I didn’t know  whether to congratulate her or to commiserate with her. So I hastily  turned to other aspects. “Its good that you came a bit early.”

“Actually I wanted to come early in the morning, but I had some other work.”

“Oh! I did not mean early today. I meant that if you had delayed this removal, it would have started moving. Then it would have developed a heartbeat.”

The patient was staring at me wide eyed as if watching a horror  movie. Looking at her face, I decided that she was not fit to listen  to the grotesque details. I decided to relieve her a bit. I said,  “You will bleed a bit, but only for a few days.”

By now, the poor patient was trembling, “how-H-How much bleeding?”

“Oh, only slightly more than your menstrual period, and it will  continue only for a week or so.”

By now the patient was clutching her hair in her fingers and staring at me wide-eyed. I asked her soothingly, “Why don’t you lie down on the examination table? Remove your clothes and relax.”

This was the final straw. She didn’t even wish me goodbye. I saw just a blur of motion leaving my consulting room at top speed.