Sunday, 11 December 2011

Cerebral Paltry

Desi Boyz

The story of a couple- two beefy hunks here-their bonding, their travails post recession in the US and the sub plots of their love lives-with their women thankfully, and a sweet as cotton candy nephew  needs no smattering of grey cells. Pink slips post recession leaves Nick Mathur (John Abraham) an investment banker, with Jerry aka Jignesh (Akshay Kumar), his jobless, dependant friend and his nephew, an indulgent fiancée Radhika (Deepika Padukone) and a lot of bills unpaid. After repeated attempts at finding a suitable job, easy money finds both friends becoming male escorts, chastity belt intact. Just as the picture begins to crawl out of gloom, they stare at a prospect of doom. A video leak has them uncovered and Jerry stands to lose custody of his orphaned nephew, while Nick, that of his beau. The rest of the film resolves this conflict.

Director Rohit Dhawan true to his lineage picks a four-line story, stuffs it with humour, pads it up with loads of glamour and, like his father David Dhawan in his prime, gets his editor scissor happy. Nitin Rokade, the editor, for his part, doesn’t give you the time to complain. Unlike a lot of his contemporaries Dhawan ensures that he is able to create an emotional connect with his characters be it the hero duo’s male bonding, the uncle-nephew relationship, even the love-hate relationship between Akshay Kumar and Deepika Padukone and lend a pleasant maturity to all the relationships. Renuka Kunzrus` dialogue with hilarious twists to clichéd lines acts a booster dose for Milap Jhaveri and Rohit Dhawan`s screenplay. Pritam`s music though repetitive and cacophonic serves its pit stop purpose.
Sure, the treatment is bizarre and so are some of the situations. These male escorts are more clothed than their handkerchief clad clients that too in a strip-tease party, there is the chastity belt and its Bharatiya connections for Bharatiya males here and a couple more that do hamper the flow, but there are some others like the bizarre courtroom climax that add to it. The Sanjay Dutt cameo, Chitrangda Singh smouldering in a small role and finally Akshay Kumar with his deadpan sense of humour and quick timing, its his chemistry with the other principal characters that propels the film. John Abraham in possibly his best act so far, at least gets to do a little more than what he is best at-show beefcake and mouth a few inanities.

Leave your brains behind for this one? Don’t, because chances are you’ll miss the wit and repartee in some of the crackling lines or the underlying humour in this testosterone filled, improbable, yet enjoyable comedy of fellas. Logic does get the boot in this zzz (zip, zap, zoom) ride here because male testosterone gets to navigate and drive the film (that too without kicks and punches) while its female counterpart takes the backseats here. But finally it is the superbly laid track (read the racy screenplay and witty lines) that gets you to the finish in super good time.

Monday, 14 November 2011

The March To Utopia

The March To Utopia
Should school vacations be regimented?

Come March, the build up of examination pressure ahead of the annual feature and its subsequent exodus at the submission of the last answer sheet brings forth a kaleidoscope of visions in a student’s mind. Hours of unhindered playtime, a family vacation, or an annual visit to grandparents at their hometown are just some of them.

Many moons ago, children chugging into this station of Utopia were a common sight. Throwing all caution to the wind, they lived the good life, their worries and troubles a distant two months away. Friends ganged up, games were created, teams were made, rules were tweaked and heroes of the day decided on the itinerary for the next. Breakfast happened at eleven in the morning instead of nine, lunch at four in the afternoon instead of two and cell phones- they were blissfully non existent. All mom knew, or bothered to ask, was your whereabouts and expected time of return, which she knew would stretch by at least an hour. The scene was no different at granny’s or at the holiday resort. The odd film or a visit to the circus and the annual fair, were but add-ons to the jolly good times. After months of restrictions, regimentation and rigour these were days of gay abandon well earned, giving the little minds sufficient time to reboot for the vagaries of another demanding year ahead.

Children, then, having a cursory interest in any field sometimes used these holidays to develop the interest into a hobby. This was only a small feature of the holidays and there was no compulsion to take part or pressure to perform. Cut to the turn of the millennium and slowly but surely, the way economic progress brought in the mall culture, so has it the corporatisation and commercialisation of the summer vacation. Different companies with varied areas of interest now put in their might to give children a ‘structured and purposeful’ vacation with their holiday programmes. Their quick fix assurances and projected turnarounds by the end of the vacation are the crowd pullers. They are attractively packaged, aggressively marketed and priced fashionably high. In exactly the way a walk around a mall and a survey of all that is on sale can give one a sense of inadequacy even after an expensive purchase, the media bombardment of the innumerable ‘avenues’ now available for children can give parents the feeling of not doing enough for their child or worse still, the belief that the child does not want to get exposed to more streams. This feeling of inadequacy is further fuelled by the competitive streak in people, who want to be one up on the Jones’s and the Joshi’s in this race to nowhere. Busy or working parents justify their child’s inclusion in these camps because of their disposition and still other’s because of a herd mentality. Then there are those, who, with the inability to spend quality time with their children, find gratification in big spends as compensation.

Whatever reasoning they adapt, it’s from the children they extract their pound of flesh. Disciplinary orders, cosy mornings deprived of sleep, long hours away from visiting relatives, missed games with friends, unending hours in schools which come in the garb of holiday camps, the pressure to excel and become a trophy the parents can proudly display, all these come at a time originally meant to be the child’s own.

The picture though is not all black. One cannot grudge the organisers of these programmes as most of them do a pretty decent job of creating modules for children and ensuring the children get the best out of it. Learning a craft, picking a hobby, exposure to a sport or an art form like dance are definitely not harmful indulgences. What does mar the prospects of these trials are pressures of over ambitious coaches or over zealous parents probably expecting every such outing of their ward to be a milestone en route the ulterior motive of being a coach or parents of a reality show child prodigy.

According to Mrs. Maitreyi Satyadev, Principal of Sindhi High School, Kumara Krupa Road, Bangalore, one cannot discount the benefits of summer camps and holiday courses as they are a safe haven for children whose parents are indisposed. With play areas shrinking and playgrounds vanishing there are not too many places where children are safe outdoors. These are also avenues for meeting peers and making friends. But it is also true that with these structured holiday programmes there is a definite loss of randomness and spontaneity. Kids then begin to behave like teenagers and teenagers like adults. The victim here is the kid, the child, and innocence seems to be the casualty.

Her views are seconded by Dr. Mythili. M. Sarma, a child psychologist, practicing at Aadhihara Clinic in Bangalore. She is of the strong opinion that it is better to let the child bloom on its own and that creativity blooms when the child is ‘doing’ nothing. One cannot justify gunning a summer camp down a child’s throat just because of one’s disposition. Time management here is the key. Parents wanting to feel good about themselves or those with a competitive streak, in the process, tend to forget the child in their son or daughter, making him see much ahead of his age. What is of prime importance is to show that you are interested in your child, paying close attention to see what the child shows a desire to learn. It is here that the true benefits of these camps can be felt. Lonely children may be prone to maladaptive behaviours, so meeting their peers in a pressure free and genial atmosphere will definitely aid their growth. A holistic approach is the need of the hour. Treks and nature camps, where children are close to nature and with a lot of adventure, give them a booster dose of self esteem and a sense of achievement. So these are definitely advisable.

Restrictions, regimentation and rigour. These words come into play when the child feels he is being made to do what is expected of him and not what he believes in or expects. Let us not get blinded and understand that the child and his interests are paramount.

The ides of March have come and gone and the train to Utopia awaits its little passengers. We need to quickly take a pick. The organised chaos of a structured vacation or the disorganised harmony of a vacation of self discovery.
(Word Count-1081)

Sunday, 13 November 2011

No Pain, No Gain

“Rockstar” is the tale of the birth of a rock star, his inspiration, need, nemesis and saviour being love. It’s about his transformation to Jordan a superstar, from Janardhan, a gullible wannabe singer-musician who is made to believe he can attain his potential only if he falls in love, feels its pangs and has his heart broken. It’s this pain that will lead him to the depth of his inner self and bring out the true music, he is told. What starts out as a comical effort to woo the most coveted Eve in college to ensure she will break his heart by her refusal slowly develops into a friendship, music his priority no more. So how does he become a “Rockstar” and what price does he pay for it? Director Imtiaz Ali`s body of work is a string of love stories woven around diverse themes in different milieus .He chooses to helm a musical this time. A strikingly common thread in all his films is that the protagonists at the outset are friends in denial, not reading too much into their attraction for each other but unbeknownst to them are actually in love, the film culminating with their acceptance.
Imtiaz Ali`s choice of a musical had to be backed up with outstanding music and that he ensures with the maestro A.R.Rehman. Call him the Mozart of Madras or the Bach of Bharat. Call him what you will and it would still be short of a befitting description. The music of Rockstar is quite simply avante garde and of a quality and depth not heard in some time, with no less support from Irshad Kamil`s words. The rock ballad, the anthem, the ode to Kashmir, A.R.Rehman`s customary Sufiana ode to the Almighty, Selvamani`s percussion in the climax concert and the piece de resistance, the instrumental jugalbandi of the shehenai and the guitar. Pick any .The sheer variety and class is sure to benumb you. The songs and music pieces are seamlessly woven into the narrative augmenting more than hampering the flow of the film. One approached Mohit Chauhan`s choice as playback singer for Ranbir Kapoor with trepidation but the film puts to rest any lingering doubts. On the flip side, the overdose of songs in the attempt to move the film forward, especially post interval does rankle a bit.

The supporting cast has a slew of hitherto unknown faces that do an admirable job of bringing alive the milieu and Delhiite-Jat persona. Kumud Mishra as Kathna, the catalyst to Janardhan`s love story, in particular is a superb find.

Shammi Kapoor`s last cinematic appearance is not the huge bonus it could have been, but is still memorable enough as a posthumous release.

Nargis Fakhri, well, like the old catchline goes, ‘she’s just too good a looker but not too good an actor’ (…so I guess she’s just right for …chocolate!). For a film that rested so on its` protagonists shoulders, it’s her looks and chemistry with Ranbir that sails her ashore. She performs very model like with a stiffness reminiscent of them.

At the end “Rockstar” is Ranbir Kapoor`s film all the way, be it as the gullible wannabe, the unpredictable star or the brash lover. This is a performance where he’s let himself go, with no restraints but yet a well measured consistency, being in character throughout the film. This is such a  strongperformance where even a special mention of Akki Narula`s eccentric wardrobe for him seems too minuscule.

Rockstar is crackling in the first half and a little tedious in the second. Imtiaz Ali narrowly misses out on that fourth ace from his sleeve to complete his quartet after his earlier three. But what the hell, a king’s no less a winner, and we now wait with bated breadth for that fourth ace.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Bhandardara- A bounty(bhandar) of little delights

Bhandardara is situated in the Sahyadri Hills, in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra. The hundred kilometre drive from Shirdi to Bhandardara felt longer than the three and a half hours it took us to reach. The drive along the sometimes florescent green fields and sometimes dark, black soil expanses formed a nice contrast to the bright blue sky above and could have signalled unbridled joy, except that the tar on the road (or the lack of it) had decided not to extend us that courtesy. Thankfully as the Western Ghats got closer and we began our ascent, the hills started bombarding us with a slideshow of panoramic views as if in compensation.

The Western Ghats are a sight to behold during, or fresh from, the monsoons. Lush green here explains itself needing no help from either Webster’s or Oxford. The vistas got our sleepy eyes awakened and battered bones rejuvenated and we soon pulled over at the parking bay of MTDC`s resort at Bhandardara. At first instance it is easy to feel let down looking at the slightly unkempt property especially after being pampered by our regular holiday time sharer ,Club Mahindra’s quality and attention to detail. This was a downsizing we had prepared for but didn’t want to accept. But one look at the view awaiting us in front of our cottages and every thought of possible discomfort vanished. The Bhandardara Lake and its backwaters silently screamed for our attention. And we were only too glad to oblige. Our choice of resort was also vindicated when we realised that Anandvan, a star resort in the vicinity, in spite of its premium tag and Yash Resorts another,in spite of it swimming pool had nothing even close to offer in comparison. MTDC, located on a hillock is at a vantage point and offers the best possible view from anywhere in this area.

Mount Kalsubai near here is the highest peak in Maharashtra. The Wilson dam built in 1910 is one of the oldest dams in the country with the Arthur Hill Lake being one of the largest lakes. The lake is so vast, the MTDC resort is at a pick up point meant to ferry people across to their villages. Little bands of people waiting to be ferried to some obscure village somewhere along the stretches of this beauteous lake make for a charming, even mysterious sight. Still waters, as the say, run deep. The placid waters of Arthur Hill Lake go down a 110ft. Bhandardara`s reputation had more than just trivia riding on it.

The first evening was a boat ride to the ancient Amruteshwar Temple at Ratanwadi. Said to be built in 1100 A.D., this was a 1000 year old temple built in a style called the Hemadpanti architecture. A small but intricately carved temple, its peculiarity is a Shiva Ling (representative statue of Lord Shiva) which is perennially under water. The temple’s inconspicuous size is compensated by the absolute beauty of its location. The forty minute ride on the lake to the temple, the long winding backwaters and the hills all around gave its tiny size a more than perfect setting for focus and devotion.  There are Vedanta classes held here, organised by a priest who is surprisingly an MBA degree holder and has made it his mission to propagate the merits of the Vedas. The temple precincts are an ideal setting for his tutelage. Prayers done and the intricate carvings digitised in our cameras, we headed back. The temple started disappearing from sight and we realised it was fading light and not distance that caused this. The boatman, worried, was now in a hurry to get us back because it would soon be dark and navigating the functional motor-boat back to the resort in the dark would be difficult. Fortunately old Hindi songs in the form of Antakshari (a spoken/sung parlor game of Bollywood songs) calmed our nerves-and his, and we arrived at the shore as soon as visibility became zero. A vivid memory here is that of a clear, star spangled sky, giving us a visual representation of what a billion could look like all at once.

Food options at the resort were rudimentary. Thankfully, the food was tasty and being a government set up, it was not priced high either. Other options for food were a good five kilometres away. With a trek scheduled for the next morning, we moved to our cottages after a quick dinner. Flies and scores of unfamiliar insects, attracted by the lights, emblazoned the cottage walls and made for a sight more eerie than unpleasant.

Early next morning, fully charged from a good nights rest and a refreshing cup of tea, we proceeded for our trek aided by our guide. One of the trekking options was to Mt.Kalsubai. But preferring something less taxing for our untried feet we opt for a shorter, easier trek. We would now trek across a few villages to a hill behind our resort and back. On your way up the hill, the reach of the backwaters comes into view. They stretch almost beyond sight into the horizon. The guide then points to a small speck in the distance. It is the Amruteshwar Temple we had visited earlier. This spellbinding view of the dam’s catchment made us wish we had taken the Mt.Kalsubai trek. Another point we didn’t visit was the Ratangadh Fort, which has many myths and legends.

 Once back from the trek we decided to make good use of thecottage lawns and that spectacular add-on, the panorama in front. Out came the pack of cards, the bed spreads on the grass and along with it the customary game of Antakshari. This was bliss; in one of the many avatars it had paid us a visit with on this sojourn.
 “Save the best for the last”, goes an old refrain. We had unknowingly done so for an experience on this trip that would make it one of our most memorable. During one of our casual conversations with the locals, we gathered that many of the villagers came to the lake every morning to bathe. The water was potable and the lake was not known to have any undercurrents. It was presumed safe to swim in and was in fact a routine with most of the people who came to bathe. There was a small temple across the lake on the opposite shore. Some regularly swam across to pay their obeisance.

 The next morning, our last there, we took a dip near the shore to test the waters. Clear,cold and crisp. And invigorating. And to think that this was only the “beta version” of a swim we now believed would be etched in our memories for a long, long time if we decided to do it. We were going to swim across the lake to the opposite shore, visit the temple and return by boat. A distance of a little more than a kilometre, we would swim the entire length with the boat alongside us as a precaution. The boat would be carrying the rest of the group (just the two of us were adventurous enough).
The sheer joy and ecstasy of being surrounded by hills in such a vast expanse of water, for me, nay, us, had no equal. We swam ashore to the temple and thanked the lord for an experience which could be called one. This swim was one of the best I could ever have imagined.

The beauty of Bhandardara and the unexpected delight it gave us is something we will always regale acquaintances with.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Hindi Film Review-Aarakshan

Let go of your (ticket) reservations

The Mandal Commission’s Reservation Policy had created a furore at its announcement. Students and job seekers of the backward classes were to get preferential treatment in the government selection process, leaving the others (even the meritorious) feeling short changed.  In this backdrop we have Amitabh Bachan, an upright, principled, head of a college, with no bias or casteism. But a proclaimed soft corner for socially and economically challenged students and his mentoring of Saif Ali Khan, a dalit, keeps him out of favour of the upper echelons of the college hierarchy. Where his principles will be questioned and how they will hold him in good stead forms the crux of the film.

There is no lull to herald this storm. The jibes, the confrontations, and proclamations on contentious issues like reservation and caste, from the word go, all move towards the epicentre of a squall. The inclement weather till the midpoint break warns you of the worst. If this was rough, you believe, it would surely blow your roof off further on. You are now prepared, closeted in your respective strong rooms. It’s from here on that the storm peters down to deceptively cloudy weather and all that greets your anxiety is a strong wind that doesn’t even threaten to break into a drizzle. The publicity cries hoarse that it is a film on the Mandal Commission’s Reservation quota for OBC`s and its aftermath.  It eventually turns out to be a commentary on the commercialisation of education vis-à-vis heavy capitation fees and a burgeoning parallel education via expensive tutorials.

Amitabh Bachan, it appears, considers all his co-artistes edible that too with an expiry date. Why else would he gobble them raw, and in quick time, with almost every performance of his? His confrontations with Manoj Bajpai (a stellar performer in his own right who does manage to hold his own) and Saif (in the few scenes where he is allowed to) reiterate Mr.Bachan`s command over the medium, more so with the dialogues using more of Hindi than Urdu (A trait of Prakash Jha`s films). The performances are the film’s mainstay but it is a weak plot that lets them down. Deepika Padukone`s repertoire as a decent performer gets a fillip with her turn here. Her pleasant screen presence is also welcome. Pratiek`s name in the credits sure added a lot of weight. Pity, that was on paper only.  Though one cannot grudge him this performance, it is the role, which didn’t require his expertise. The project probably got him some stars for his CV. Wayne Sharpe (Background score), too, gets neither the subject (Gangaajal) nor the canvas (Rajneeti) to show his mettle.      

Clichéd friendships and betrayals, the expected volte face of characters at different intervals, an uninspired music score and a tedious post interval session do take away from the strength of the performances. Prakash Jha, unlike his earlier films is not in his element here, though his ability to highlight and intent to tackle varied social issues is appreciable.
(Word Count-489)

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Old Students` Day

Good or Great?

That very gate. Those very corridors. Those portals, classrooms, Ah! Even the winding staircase! You wistfully amble across the school compound into your alma-mater. “This used to be my playground …” that melancholic strain, seems to play around you with a surround sound effect. You gear yourself up for more such songs from this playlist, because you are here for the Annual School Alumni Association Day.

Hundreds of ex-students come back to school on this day meant exclusively for them. The most recent pass outs obviously outnumber all the other batches. There is a septuagenarian representing the school’s inaugural batch. Then there is the NRI, now an affluent entrepreneur, who has aligned his schedule to enable him to attend this event and there are scores of other batch-mates with less dramatic introductions but displaying the same pep and verve. The thought of reprising their juvenile antics, yelling out nicknames of their friends and old teachers in harmless banter, the fear of being reprimanded giving way to gay abandon, seems to trigger methamphetaminic enzymes of ecstasy. And then comes that feeling of being ever thankful. Thankful for making you less of a lesser mortal. From the 20 times you were made to repeatedly sing the National Anthem to correct the pronunciation of that one wrong syllable, to the one instance of being lauded for speaking a small truth in spite of its little consequences, all those memories come in a flood, making you climb a mind-tree and wait happily, in no hurry for it to recede.

It is these feelings of joy, ecstasy and more so gratitude that prompt people to want to give something back to their Alma-mater. To aid this in a systematic manner, Alumni associations are formed. The Oldest Alumni Association in India is that of the Madras Christian College formed in 1891. Its membership list boasts of greats like S. Radhakrishnan, Raja Ramanna and many more eminent achievers including Indira Nooyi, holding place of pride in society. Apart from catching up with old class-mates and meeting your favourite teachers, these associations help create corpus funds. Ex-Students of the institution donate into the corpus, helping fund scholarships for meritorious or poor students, felicitating faculty members or other staff who have dedicated probably decades of their life shaping or helping shape lives of students. Even ex-students, who have excelled in some field or the other, bringing honour to the school, are given citations through the Alumni Association. Active Alumni Associations in collaboration with those of other schools help create competitive camaraderie among the schools by organising inter school events and competitions which can even double up as fundraisers for any project in the school. It does seem that nostalgia is a wonderful accompaniment to the need to payback because there are many instances of philanthropists even bequeathing large portions of their wealth for the betterment of their institution that taught them so much.

The Old Students Day is clearly meant to relive memories of the best days of our life and help keep a connect with the institution that gave them to us. Being privy to one such day after an exceedingly long gap recently, there was the obvious expectation of being flooded with feelings of nostalgia, probably even getting an overdose of it. But that was not to be. It had been such a long gap now, more than 15 years, that there was a vague sense of detachment from school. Very few faces from those hundreds present were recognisable. Teachers you revered, apart from those who had left the school, could only try their best to give you that fond recognition.  Hundreds of students pass out of their classes every year. Expecting them to place you immediately after such a long time was just fool hardy. The school`s old façade was tampered with and new blocks with more classrooms had come up. This was a strange feeling of nostalgia coupled with feeling lost in a surrounding you knew so well. Would it have felt the same if the gap had not been so long?

A palpable change today is that in the attitudes of children in schools and the schools themselves. That pride and sense of belonging towards their Alma Mater, that adoration and respect towards their teachers does seem much lesser than that of students of years gone by. As students more than a decade ago, swelling with as much pride singing our school song as singing the National Anthem, upholding the values of our school with no less help from our School Motto and the School Prayer, addressing ourselves as Germainites, Josephites or Cottonians instilled that loyalty and created a bond. This bond seems amiss now.  Most schools today have a very common motto with barely any emphasis on its adherence; no school song exclusively meant for the school and small other details like these which were inherently meant to inculcate this sense of belonging. This is one of the primary reasons why Alumni Associations no longer seem to attract students. 

The Old Students Association is the one way to bond with your institution and any effort, monetary or a contribution with service, to pay back to it only helps in forging a relationship of loyalty and joy for years to come. Schools that don’t encourage this and students who are not a part of their alumni associations are bereft of the benefits and joys of this strong bond of loyalty and reminiscence.

Some luck,lots of wife-Vacation Ahoy!

What’s in a Number?
What’s a number got to do with your vacation plan? A vacation is sure to ramp up production of endorphins of joy and ecstasy in your body. And what if it is your first vacation abroad, in exotic Thailand? Your body’s endorphin production is going to race into overdrive!

Now, there are no prizes for guessing how you are going to feel if this holiday is courtesy a complimentary voucher including free stay and, believe it or faint, free air travel. But, you remind yourself this voucher is for two. Two. The wife, the voucher is in her name, sir, and you, the add-on. This reminder drops endorphin production from overdrive by at least thirty percent. This is 2011. The digits add up to four. Four must be HER lucky number.

Anyway, you light the regular two incense sticks and pray. The Lord has been kind after all.

Voucher in hand, the need now is only to confirm the date of departure within a few days, collect the flight tickets from the local airline head office and travel. Oh, the joys of travel! But just like all complimentary offers, this too is a teaser of just three days and four nights, leaving you wanting. The missus declares that this is just not enough. An extension of, at least, a week to this stay and that too at Phuket, in Thailand, is what will mollify her. She then magnanimously hands you that prize voucher which she won at the anniversary party of your vacation time-share company. So resourceful. Just that this voucher was won so long back, Jesus Christ was probably current affairs then. And pray how on earth can it still be valid, you wonder? That voucher was marked only for Australia and Spain, or, any planet of your choice. This, sweet heart is for Phuket, Thailand. Women…give them an inch and be damned if you don’t start believing they’re the rulers.

You obviously follow wise counsel, head to the vacation time-sharers office and hand over the voucher with a request for revalidation and approval for Thailand. Quite unlikely to happen, you are told, unless the zonal manager, currently on tour, gives his nod.  Years ago the missus ensnared me for life, you reminisce. That’s as lucky as she can get. There’s no way that voucher is going to get validated. You get back home and pray with four instead of the usual two incense sticks. The Lord needs to be appeased for madam to pleased.

The very next morning you receive a call from the vacation time-sharers office with this air of pre-conceived confidence. Minutes later there’s some hectic mental maths going on. Is four actually her lucky number or was it the extra two incense sticks? THAT voucher just got revalidated.

Have you ever felt you could have asked for something more, when something you prayed for has been granted? Well it’s the same even when something more than you wished for has been granted.

You have now confirmed the dates, booked the tickets, and, the visa for Bangkok is on arrival. The wait is on for D-Day just a couple of days away and everything is set, save for a small endorsement on the passports. The teller at the window in the passport office examines the passports and says that your passport could be collected on the morrow. As regards missus` passport, well there’s good news and there’s bad news. The endorsement is already done, but she will not be able to travel with this passport as it is damaged. So…what’s the bad news, you enquire? Jokes apart (shouldn’t they always be ‘a part’), you are told this passport needs replacement. You nonchalantly tell him to have it done and he replies nonchalantly that it will take a minimum of four working days and with the weekend approaching, you could make that six. Two days to leave, four days for a replacement. And four was supposed to be her lucky number! Guess she’s four light years away from luck. Back it is to the prayer room. The four incense sticks have become eight and now it is the missus is praying. Lord God, the great leveller.

In desperation to complete the passport requirements, a chance enquiry with the passport photographer by the missus (she is even checking with vegetable vendor) leads to a meeting with an insider at the passport office. Grabbing at the opportunity like it was a god sent chance for redemption for some past sins, he assures her he will try his best. But of course, provided his boss at the passport office agrees. Pronto-the prayer room-the eight incense sticks are now sixteen in number. The smoke sensor may well activate the fire alarm.

The duplicate passport is applied for via the insiders` channel in an emergency quota and with a hefty fee, and the mandatory interview is also arranged with his boss.  The missus, now full of remorse, she was careless with her PASSPORT for Lord’s sake, goes in and pleads her case. She had dropped some milk on the passport eons ago, and assumed it wouldn’t matter. The boss, a lady, empathises (who else would) and grants the delivery immediately, within four hours. FOUR hours? 2 0 11, four days, four hours, what’s it with four and the missus you wonder?

Passports collected, you rush back home with the wife and head straight to the prayer room. The Lord couldn’t have been kinder. The sixteen incense sticks turn to thirty two and you both pray fervently thanking Him. He seems to acknowledge, but with a strangely familiar sound ….

The smoke sensor has just activated the fire alarm.