Such a good girl...

He sat on the first bench. It was a special day. He wore a white shirt with big flowers on them. He hated that shirt. It made him look girlie. He wanted to buy a black shirt, but his mother thought he looked cute in white. To salvage his manliness, he wore black jeans. He thought it made him look grown up.

It was that age when guys want to look grown up. Girls can remain girls all their lives. Boys, they want to be men, the first chance they get.

The students looked at him in anticipation, for they knew, any moment now, he would be called in front of the class, the customary song will be sung and then, will come the best part of celebrating a friend's birthday.

"What chocolate will you give?" asked a bespectacled kid sitting behind him, clearly salivating at the idea.
"Melody." He said.

The bespectacled kid sniffed his nose. Karan Mehta, his father had a paper mill in south Mumbai. His birthday was last week. He gave one 5 star to everyone. In comparison, melody seemed, well, pedestrian. But he didnt care. He knew melody was her favourite. She had told him once. He looked at her. Was she looking? Did she think he looked handsome? She wasnt looking.

"Happy birthday," she said as he gave her the chocolate and shook her hand. "How old are you now?"

"Ten." He lied. He was only 9. He wanted to grow up soon, do grownup things. She looked so pretty. Her pink lips seemed so soft. People think boys are innocent when they are young. The truth is, boys are never really innocent. They always know their thoughts are dirty for their age. As they grow older, the thoughts keep getting dirtier.

He looked at her soft cheeks. He wanted to kiss her on her cheeks, like they show in old movies. But will she get pregnant if he kissed her? That's what happened in those movies. He checked his thoughts.

Such dirty thoughts. She was such a good girl.

Then they were 14. Boys wanted to go to Water Kingdom. They opposed the idea of Essel World. They went there as kids, they said. Water Kingdom was unseen, exciting. What was exciting was the opportunity to see their respective girlfriends in wet shirts. Those were simpler times. Being boyfriend-girlfriend meant you asked the girl if she wanted to be your girlfriend, and then spend the next year getting teased by your friends and avoiding each other.

She wouldnt go. She didnt like water much, or the idea of hormonal 14 year old boys staring at her body. What followed was the first lesson in bribery. He convinced her best friend to go. It wasnt easy. She wanted a SRK poster she had set her eyes on. It was overpriced considering SRK's looks and his acting prowess. She was in. And then he waited for the day.

She came out of the water in a black shirt and grey slacks. Those were simpler times, girls hadnt graduated to wearing anything that showed more than 35% of their skin. It gave passing percentage a whole new meaning. The shirt stuck to her newly developed bosom. The strap of her bra showed. It left a huge impression on his mind and somewhere else. Dirty thoughts.

"You look very pretty." He said. Thank God for testosterone. It does great things to a guy's confidence.

She smiled. She looked away. She hunched her back, trying to hide her assets. But the shirt hugged on to her wet boy. Thankfully.

Such dirty thoughts. She was such a good girl.

Then they were 19. The sea lashed on to the rocks. The sea mirrored what he felt for her. The unrest.

He wanted her. How much longer could he wait. He put his arm across her. Gently, pulled her to him. Her body was soft, soft but stiff. Her body wasnt in sync with her mind. They wanted different things. His grip firmed, and he pulled her gently towards him. She gave in. She placed her head on his shoulder. There was a nip in the air. She wore the green sweater he had gifted her. Green was her favourite colour.

She was so pure. So uncorrupt of all the things wrong in this world. She was so right.

He whispered in her ear-
"I will do bad things to you."

She smiled, only to realise it was wrong. It sounded wrong, bad, dangerous. But for some reason, it left her with a tingling feeling somewhere inside her. She looked away. If only she could fly away from him. If only he wasnt able to make her blush like that. If only he would kiss her.

He looked at her, then at the sea, lashing out on the rocks.

Such dirty thoughts. She was such a good girl.

Then it was that day after what seemed like ages. Where did she start and where did he end as they lay next to each other, sharing dreams, bodies and sweat. He played with her curls. She closed her eyes. He kissed her, playfully biting her.

"I told you I was going to do bad things to you."

"Yes. You did. You are a bad boy."

"And you are such a good girl"

"I love you."

This was the first time she had said it. Not that he had waited for her to say it. He had said it months ago, because thats how he felt about her. How did it matter if she was there yet or not?But it did. If it didnt, why would he feel richer today?

"You love me?" He asked. He wanted her say it again.

"Ever since the first time I saw you in that white floral shirt of yours. You were such a cute kid. And a liar, by the way."


"Yeah. You werent 10. You were born in the same year as me."

"Why didnt you tell me all these years that you liked me?"

"And miss all the wooing you have done for me?"

"Excuse me! According to my records, it was you who was head over heels in love with me."

"Yeah. Right. That is why I had to distribute melody, bribe my friend with a SRK poster and gift me a green sweater."

"You knew?"

She nodded. Her eyes twinkling with mischief.

And he wanted to do bad things to her again.

Such dirty thoughts. She was such a good girl.

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A city called Mysore

I had the good fortune of living in Mysore for sometime. After a year and a half in Berlin, I was homesick, and in spite of Mysore not being my home, I felt like home here.

The first thing that I think about when I think Mysore, is pleasant weather.

I have a system to rank cities' worth living index. Let's call it the Arshatian City Life Index (I know, I can be more creative, but I am happy as long it has my name in it.)

After living in Berlin, 'living' in this context, means more than just going to college in the morning and parties in the night, 'living' here means being on the street with your packed bags, not knowing where to go. (For some reason, nobody would take us as tenants in Deutschland, wonder why! ). 'Living' means having half an Euro in your pocket and finding that everything on the menu, even coca cola, costs more than 1 Euro! After 'living' in Berlin and quick visits to London and Paris, coupled with hitch hiking through Eastern Europe (I know a post is due about my Euro trip, it's gonna be awesome), I have come up with a city life index to rank cities where I want to live most of my life.

So here goes :
Arshatian City Life Index Parameters (Weightage given in the brackets)

1. Weather (35%) : Weather is one thing that God or nature as you atheist pricks call it, gave you. No amount of GDP growth, centralised AC bathrooms or centrally heated garages are going to make it better. This is where Mysore scores all its points.

2. 24x7 ness (25%): By now, you must have realised I am making up these words, but really, if you know how cool 24x7ness is, you would know why this parameter is so important. I remember going out at 2 in the morning for a glass of milkshake when I was young. Yeah, that's Mumbai for you my dearies. Mysore scores very low on this parameter, though. Everything shuts down at 9 pm. It still does better than Berlin though. Except Falafel shops and clubs which are open all night long till the afternoon next day, everything else shuts down at 8!

3. Public transport (25%) : I am spoilt. I like to be taken from one place to another in a chauffeur driven rickshaw. I dont mind the bus either. I like trains too. This is one of the reasons why most American cities don't match up to the awesomeness that are European city. I don't get it. If Europeans built the US, how come they did such a bad job?
Mysore, like most Indian cities performs dismally. But it is still better than Gurgaon and Pune.

4. Exclusivity (15%) : In Berlin, you the firang! In India, you know how fascinating firangs are to the local folk? Indians are equally fascinating, if not more in Berlin. You have pretty girls come up to you and strike up a conversation...(Or maybe it's just me who's super handsome or something... yeah, we will go with that...) In London, there are more Indians on the roads than the English. I kid you not, there was a British soldier or whatever they are, you know the ones with red uniforms and that absurdly long hat? Yeah, that one was an Indian!
With my south actor looks (and weight) and a mustache to match, I was an insider in Mysore. Clearly it lost all it's 15% here.

There's nothing to see in Mysore or Bangalore for that matter. After you visit European cities, where everything is turned into a tourist spot by the Tourist authorities, you wonder how come such a thing never happens in India.

Anyway, given below are a few observations about Mysore:

* Sweater is all season wear. You will find people wearing sweaters in mid-May! Really, it made me ask one lady why she was wearing a sweater. She said - it's coldaaa.

The extra a's I gather were because of the extra cold, but later I found out that's how people here speak. And yes it does get incredibly cold in the morning. Even in Mid-may! (Europeans reading this blog, incredibly cold means 17 degrees in this country.)

* When people speak in a language you don't know, you talk to them in a language, you yourself arent too fluent in!

No seriously, whenever people started talking to me in Kannada (can't blame them, I had a mustache and south Indian actor looks) I shift to German. Not English, Hindi or Marathi, but German. This is how the conversation went when I once wanted to hire a rickshaw.

"Jayalakshmi puram?"
"How much?"
"No. 30." (I can be quite a cheapstake.)
"Jayalakshmi Puram... far madi... naan orkunnai petrol badhai ho badhai... Pranab Mukherjee... nee papa parapo"

I bet he was talking gibberish, but I was bent upon saving 20 rupees. That's 1/3rd of a Euro, my european friends. Yes, I know you guys give away 3 Euros as a tip, but then that is why your GDP is falling and ours is rising. (Did I stoop too low?)

I shifted to German, as an instinct. I didnt do it on purpose. I swear -
"Aber, du musst petrol haben. Kanst du mir lift geben? Volkswagen. Das Auto. Audi. Vorsprung durch Tecknik."

He caught my bluff. He understood I was randomly naming car companies and their tag lines.
"No. 50 mean 50." He did a little twirl with his index finger in the air. I immidiately realised this was not a guy to be messed with. I gave him 50.

* Finding a place in Mysore can be tough. First you have to find a rickshaw driver who you think can speak broken hindi. Second you have to pronounce the name of the place you want to go right.

As an examples, all you north Indians reading this post, say "Kukrahalli Lake" 3 times. Do it in front of your south indian friends so that they can derive some pleasure out of it.

One you have pronounced the tounge twisiting name right, you are in for a treat as the driver tells you where it is.

"Sir, aap seedha jaana... Seedha matlab, straight-aaa. Fir dead end aana, dead end se left-aaa. Wahan pe ek bada building bolna toh, aapka building."

Go interpret.

* If you ask the locals for a place, they can be really vague.
"Anna, Gayathri Tiffin (an eatery in Mysore) kahan hai?"
"Gayathri Tiffin-aaa? Go straight-aaa, right mein ek bada tree hona. Wahan pe Gayathri Tiffin hona."

I went straight and found a big tree every 100 meters.

* The dasherra celebrations in Mysore are the best in the country. The streets are lit up, the palaces are lit up too. Due to this overspending by the Karnataga Govt. for a day, the rest of the year, the street lights are turned off to compensate.

* The filter coffee or "kapi" as they call it here, is the awesomest drink ever. Nothing pulls you up like a good cup of filter kapi. If only the Mysore govt decided to market it right, it would kick Nescafe's butt. Mysore makes Italy small. That is also because Karnataka is bigger in size.

At the end of my stay , I had begun to fall in love with the place. It was quiet, the weather was good, the food was good and the coffee, oh yeah.... It is a lovely place to retire. One part of me wants to buy a house there, the one with a front yard and a back yard. You know, some place where I could have a small garden, grow tomatoes and cauliflowers and chillies. A place where my grandkids could come visit. A place where I could spoil them rotten. Sound like I am getting old. And you know what, it's not that bad...

P.S. - I have been working on my second novel, that explains my absence... I will post an excerpt soon.. :)

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