I was very sick over the last weekend (both physically and mentally), so I came up with the list of american gaadhegaLu, just to cheer myself up!

* Fussy husband ge yogurt alloo stone anthe.
* Dollar iddavne dhoddappa.
* Hotte ge bread illa thale ge Nike cap.
* Cent ge hodha maana quarter kotroo baaradu.
* Kayyi dirty aadre baayi yogurt.
* Yathaa rentu thathaa apartmentu.
* Soccer match nodo heNNanna nambabeda, shopping maado ganDanna nambabeda.
* MaLLi MaLLi manchakke yeshtu kaalu andre, 1-800-COT-LEGS ge phone maadi andlanthe.
* Kempage irodella sause alla.
* Cot iddashte kaalu chaachu.
* Peter hodha, Peter bandha.
* Ondu kaNNige bread, innondu kaNNige burger.
* Kunilaaradha street dancer sidewalk sari illa andlanthe.
* Maadodella anaachara, apartment mundhe "God Bless You" sticker.
* Thaayiyanthe magaLu, wool-inanthe sweater.
* Credit card andre coma li irovnoo eddu baayi bitnanthe.
* Dude nelakke bidroo french beard maNNaglilla.
* Chinnadha fork antha naalige ge chuchchikolakke aagutta.
* Coke kaLLa andre kayli can idya antha nodkondnanthe.
* Hodhya ghost andre bande closet li anthanthe.

After a few exciting, happening and eventful days, things seem to have slowed down. "May be the powerplays are over. Overs 20 to 40, hang on! Wait for the slog overs", I said to myself. I had leased an apartment, which is just a block away from my office. I packed all my baggages from the hotel, asked the receptionist to book for a cab and started preparing palav. It took a while as I was experimenting with palav for the first time. Packed my lunch box, locked the room and went to the reception. Wow, the world is such a small place, the driver who used "son-of-a-bitch" in every possible sentence, was waiting with his cab. I thanked the receptionist and went near the cab.

The driver looked very upset. I had asked the cab to be there in 15-20 minutes, but I had arrived after half an hour. The time on my watch showed 8:52 AM. "I am waiting here from 8.35", he said angrily. So rare, a sentence without "son-of-a-bitch". I silently thanked my receptionist for not calling me, as I was not ready when the cab was waiting. "Oh, I did not know that. I was waiting in my room. He did not call me at all" The actor in me had taken over, pretending to be innocent. "Son-of-a-bitch, I was waiting. He was telling coming-coming-coming. Not allowing me to come inside the hotel also. Mother f*****" Oh, he has improved his vocabulary tremendously over the weekend!
"It costs for the waiting charge also".
"Oh, is it? I dint know that you were here. How much will it cost?"
"Nothing. Going by cab is costly. Good that you are moving to the apartment nearby"
"Ya thats right"
He took his phone and called his office.
"I was waiting for more than 15 mins. The receptionist not allow me to go inside, son-of-a-bitch. Mother f*****, he does not even call the customer. I wont go there next time" and disconnected the phone. "He made me wait for such a long time, behnchod". Behnchod! Good, he has not forgotten his mother tongue. I never expected that this would be the first hindi word I'll hear after coming here!

It had started snowing that day. The maximum temperature was 20 degrees. Oops, I forgot to mention, it was in fahrenhiet. The id card was hanging inside the cab, which read Dil Nawaz. To save my receptionist, who had saved me from his scoldings, I decided to drag him into some conversation.
"Will it be too cold today?"
"No, today it is just snow. Tomorrow will be very cold. Tomorrow, sun (and not son-of-a-bitch) come out, snow melts, it will be very cold"
"Oh, so we cant walk if it has snowed?!"
"You can walk. The white snow is no problem. It is like powder. When it melts, it become ice, very slippery. Be careful"

The cab landed at my apartment. I got the luggages from the cab, dumped in the apartment and went to the office.

I entered the office and got into the meeting room for the scrum meeting. This is probably that time of the day where I talk the most (excluding talking to myself) The daily meetings ensures that I wont forget speaking. Whats most funny is the phrases they use in the meeting -
"I cant take that $h!t from him" (I dont accept that argument)
"Go to the bank, show up your a$$ to the manager" (Meet the bank manager to get a loan)
"I will fu**ing solve this" (Just solving it, the first verb has really no meaning here!)

After coming to the apartment, I felt a strange sense of disappointment for leaving the hotel. I have no TV here, no phone, no internet. Its very difficult to spend time, as I cant even go out because of snow. Its difficult here without a car, a telephone and a SSN. If you dont have these, you dont exist, mate! The apartment seemed very unfriendly and hostile. I thought what Sahir would have told - "Main aur meri tanhayee aksar yeh..." Hey, its better with me, we are three - "Main, meri tanhayee aur meri laptop aksar..." I switched on the laptop and queued some songs. Bob Dylan started singing - "People are crazy, times have changed....but things have changed" I felt better. I never understood the words of Bob Dylan's songs, their meanings. But, there is some sense of weirdness, craziness, rebellion that is so appealing. "...all the truth in the world adds up to one big lie" Bob continued. I started to think about my plans for the weekends ahead, to keep my frustrated mind busy. I need to do some shopping and washing this weekend. If I get some time, I will go to the office. Next weekend, I can go to temple square. The week after that is christmas, planning to go to Las Vegas with Avi. For new year, need to plan something. I was happy with my planning. We always plan very intensely, what we need to do, where we want to go, to make the best use of the limited time we are here. Why dont we plan our life like this, why are we so careless, why do we take it so easily, as if we live forever? I had no answer to that question.

In just a week, I had picked up cooking real fast. I could cook anna, saaru, uppittu, palav, ghee rice pretty well. But the whole cycle - preparing the food, eating, washing the utensils would take almost an hour. I hate the "washing the utensils" phase very much. Many times I decide to prepare that dish which invloves least number of utensils! And, there was no longer that sense of excitement and accomplishment in cooking, as I had learnt it well. But, I had no choice - I had to cook, because that was probably the best Indian food I would ever get in Salt Lake City! After dinner, I queued up the "Buddha Bar" songs in my winamp and started playing minesweeper. I felt miserable with the thought that I have to wait for more than a couple of months to eat eerulli chitranna and akki rotti. The song "Solitude" was being played - "Maut mujhko gawaara hai lekin...kya karoon ke dum nikaltha nahin...". The same events went on for the whole week.


By friday evening, I was feeling really restless. I hated going to the apartment and turning on my laptop. I had planned to go for shopping over the weekend. How about going today? I had heard somewhere that shopping is a great stress reliever. But, it was cold. Its real easy facing cold than loneliness, so decided to walk to Wal Mart (as I dont have a car and I dont exist!) It had snowed heavily the last few days. The roads were clean, but the snow was not cleared from the sidewalk. Why would anyone care for a mortal like me, who decides to walk for an hour to shop? I remembered the Dean Martin song "Let it snow". "Dean, you must have had a car or you had nothing to shop". I almost slipped. I remembered what the driver had said "Snow no problem. Ice slippery, careful". The way to walk on slippery surface is keep your head still, dont drag your feet, and dont turn sidewards when you are lifting your leg (its like what they say in cricket - keep the head still for the right balance and play straight!) I reached a traffic signal and started waiting for the walk signal. A few people were watching me from their cars. Was it suprise? Or pitying about a human being with no car? I could not quite decipher. Did I see a small kid driving a car? No idiot, its left hand drive here, and the child was sitting on right seat! I wondered how difficult it would have been for Vito Corleone when he came to this country almost a century back. Atleast I know english! I reached the Union Park Avenue, I remembered the place where I had met Steve and Megan. Now, I was familiar with the place. On the way, I happened to see what many people would not have seen - an american drainage. It was no different from ours, except for the fact that it was filled with snow! I was a few metres away from another traffic signal. I saw a person cross the road before the signal. With much effort, I controlled my natural urge to break the traffic rules. The cars were very fast and I could not judge whether I could cross the road before they come. So, crossed the road at the next traffic lights when I got the walk signal like a "responsible citizen" and entered Wal Mart.

It was much much bigger than any mall I have seen so far (as if I have seen many!) There were many sections and sub-sections (they call it isles)
A lady came to me and asked "Hello, how are you doing?"
"Pathetic. Miserable." I thought. "I'm fine, thank you", forcing a smile on my face.
"How can I help you?"
"Can I get a shopping cart?"
"Yes, sure" and she gave me the cart.
I started exploring all the sections - household articles, clothing, car accessories, electronic items. I could get anything here, except a solution to my loneliness. I was looking at all the items, multiplying the prices by 46 and comparing with Indian prices, like a typical first timer. It would have been easier with 50. I cursed the appreciating rupee. I had just taken a turn from household section, but I could not find a way back. The retail giant did not have much difficulty in misleading a man with pathetic geographic sense (Apologies for the complicated sentence formation, I just meant "I was lost!") After failing to find my way in the next few minutes, I took the help of an old lady at the counter to go to the isle I intended to. I finished the shopping. Did I forget anything? Yes, yogurt! I went to the dairy section, but could not find plain yogurt. I asked the lady at the counter if there is "ANY" place, where I can get plain yogurt.
"You can go to Smiths, next building. They have it. Thank you sir, have a good night"

On the way went to Smiths and got plain yogurt. I felt really happy for the biggest accomplishment that evening. The luggage was pretty heavy. My apartment was half an hour away. Dont think of it as half an hour. Delta approach! Take five minutes at a time. The covers are very thin, can they survive the journey? After every few minutes, I changed the bags in my hands, not to overburden any one hand. I had to walk slowly, as I had to balance the luggage and walk on snow. I was very tired, while I was just ten minutes away from my apartment. I stopped, kept my luggage down, did some muscle-relaxing exercises and continued walking. The covers, though were thin, had survived the journey - just like me! (I know a few people say that I am no longer thin, but I completely stand by my statement!) I came inside and opened winamp in my laptop and sat down for a while. Sowmya Raoh started singing - "Zindagi yeh pal, yeh pal zindagi" I generally listen to this song when I am very tired, felt better. Prepared anna, saaru and curd rice (the last time I had eaten curds was in the flight to Paris) I had one of the most satisfying (if not the tastiest) meals I could ever remember, and went to sleep.

On the first day, I was walking back from the office. I just wanted to prove myself that my road sense was not that bad at all. I had remembered the road, all the landmarks while going to office in the morning by taxi. There is no way I will be lost! Half way, I confirmed all the landmarks and was proud of myself that I was right on track. It was then I saw the board - "Dont walk"! "What the **** is that?" I said to myself. It was a highway and I was not supposed to walk straight at that traffic signal. I remembered my vector class in college. AB is same as AD+DC+CB. So, instead of going straight, go left, take a right and another right, and there you are! Who said that mathematics is useless? I turned left and walked for a few minutes when I got a traffic signal without "Dont walk" board. I crossed the signal and started walking in the vector DC. But, where is DC supposed to end? I was lost! There were no people around to get the directions. I could see only cars around. It seemed like its one man's fight against the kingdom of cars. I took a right turn and decided to walk till I get my hotel or some homosapien. After sometime, I came near a shopping mall, met an old man and showed my address. He asked me to cross the road, and go straight. I crossed the road, and again I was not sure where to go. I saw a young couple coming out of another store. It seemed like they had come for christmas shopping.
"Excuse me ma'm, can you please tell me how to go to this address?"
"You have to take a turn here, go till you get the intersection, take a right turn there. Its slightly far"
"I got it, thank you", I said, even though I was not very sure about the full path. I wanted to go the nearest point on the right track and take it from there. "Delta approach", I said to myself.
"Its a bit far, do you want us to drop you?"
"No its fine with me. I am enjoying the weather", I said, even while I was shivering slightly.
"You are sure?"
"Sure, thank you very much" Am I using too much of "thank you" after coming here?
They went to their car and the woman shouted at me - "Hey, its very cold out here, come over, we will drop you"
"Ok, thanks" and I got in the car.
"Hey, whats your name?"
"Vasuki, I have come from India"
"Hai there. I am Megan and this is Steve", introducing me to man at the steering.
"Hai Megan. Hello Steve"
"Oh good. How long you have been here?"
"I landed here just yesterday"
"Oh really?" These americans are realy amusing people. Whats was so suprising or suspicious about my reply? All these "thanks", "wow", "well", "really" have no big meaning, I thought.
"I liked the city. Especially the snowfall"
"Really? You've been to Temple square? Go there, you'll like it. Its full of christmas decorations"
We were near my hotel room and I remembered the landmarks "Krispry Kreme" and "IHOP".
They gave me their phone numbers and asked me to call them, if I need any help.
I thanked them once again and got into the warm confines of my hotel.

It was my second day in Salt Lake City. I decided not to walk in the morning, partially because I was tired and partially because I had lost my way the previous evening. The weather was cold, but it was not snowing. I could see sun after a long time, but that had no effect on the cold. I remembered the science class of my first grade - "Sun gives us heat and light". To hell with the science teacher! The sun gives only light here. The receptionist of my hotel, Jeremy had booked a cab for me. I thanked him. He has a very peculiar way of saying "You are very welcome". It nearly sounds like "Yoorvrywlkome". I never miss an opportunity to thank him, so that I can hear that funny phrase. The yellow taxi was waiting outside. Inside was a driver, with a long beard. He wore the cap which muslims wear. "Good morning, sir. The weather is so cold, son-of-a-bitch" he murmured. Whats so "son-of-a-bitch" in that? I wondered as to how "american" he has become after coming here.
"Are you from India?".
"Ya", I told, disappointed with the fact that no one guesses wrong.
I thought of asking where he is from, but decided to keep my mouth shut. In case he is from Pakistan, he might misunderstand even my "okay" or "oh" or silence for his answer.
Towards the next turn, there was quite a big traffic jam. Wow, I am not missing Bangalore at all! "Thees ees Rush hour, traffic jam. Son-of-a-bitch" he told and changed the lane by acknowledging the person who tried to overtake him by his favorite phrase - "Son-of-a-bitch" I asked him if there is any other way to avoid the highway.
"You aint gonna need no highway. There is a straight road. I will show you." and took a left turn.
"Are you in software?"
Do I look as stupid as actually am? "Yes, I am a software engineer and I have come here for three months", I said.
"How much do you get?".
"40$ perdium"
"40$. So less? Your company charges 20$, per hour. They make 160$ per day. They give you 40$ and put 120$ in their pocket. Son-of-a-bitch. People come to this country to make money. If you cant make money, whats the point coming here? Are you single?"
"Yes"
"Then it is okay. Otherwise, it is difficult with a family. I have 5 children, the money is not enough"
The car stopped at 756 East.
"Do you want a bill? It is $12.40"
"I came yesterday in another cab. It cost me 10 dollars. Are the rates different for different companies?"
"No, the minimum is 10 dollars. But, it charges for waiting time. Today, it was rush hour, traffic, son-of-a-bitch. Its okay, you give me just 10 dollars"
"No its okay. I just asked to confirm. I will give you 12.40"
"No no, give me 10 dollars". He did not allow me to give him 12.40, probably pitying my meagre perdium.

I went inside the building and started doing the most uninteresting thing I have done after coming here - I started coding!

As I started writing this from the hotel room in Salt Lake City, I distinctly remembered what the gem merchant had told me not so long ago - "This will be a huge eye opener for you!"

The journey was long, almost two days (excluding the half day I had lost in travelling to the other part of the globe) On friday, I had reached the Bangalore airport almost three and a half hours before the schedule and the first sign I saw on reaching the airport was "The flight AF 0191 from Bangalore to Paris has been delayed" I had no idea that this was just a small beginning of a series of "Waisa bhi hotha hai". I carried 2 huge suitcases, along with a hand bag and a laptop. This was the first time after my school days that I was carrying so much weight. Even though the baggage limit was 30 kgs per bag, the "negative-thinking" person in me told me to carry much lesser than the limit, so as to completely avoid any chances of overload. But, Air France had different plans. Effective, 1st Nov, they had changed the limit to 23 kgs! So, I unloaded the luggage and got the boarding pass. I tata-ed all my relatives, amidst the chorus of "take-care"s. The scene was anything but emotional, as no one cried. Probably, me going abroad had given them more joy that the sorrow of missing me(?) for three months. Even I was pretty cool - I was not as excited or tense as I expected myself to be. Very unlike me, I said to myself.

I went through the security check, and sat in the lounge waiting for the plane. There were lot of french people in the airport - the oldies were flauting the Sai Baba badge on their shirt, reading "Sai Baba - his story" and a few closed their eyes with rudrakshi in their hand, as if to convince themselves about "that". The french kids were lying all over the floor - riding their toy cars, writing sketches. Finally, I got into the plane, and we had a TV to kill time. There were many music channels - I tried everything from Easy Listening, Classical, Kids Rock and finally settled for Latino music. The best song I heard was the latino version of "Hotel California". After a while, I got bored, and started surfing the movies. I saw some weird french movie, about two street singers, their struggle and things like those. They started singing "Happiness is better than life. It was Philippe who said that, not I" and within a few minutes, I was in deep sleep.

The flight reached late to Paris. It was snowing! I had never seen snow, and walking in snow for a few minutes gave me such a high. I was already late for my next flight and I started running towards helpdesk to know my terminal. It was 2C. I got into the shuttle to reach 2C. There was a middle aged Canadian, my only co-passenger in the bus. I asked him where to get down. He showed me the map in the bus and explained me that 2C is after 3 stops. I knew that CDG was a big airport, but I had never expected it to be so insanely huge. Seeing me breathing heavily, he asked me "First time?". I nodded. He smiled and said "Dont worry, this will be a huge eye-opener for you" In the meanwhile, he asked me about my profession, about India's GDP etc. In a short span, he covered many topics like how China is slowing down, how americans are lazy, how India is improving, his profession of being a gem merchant, how he wants to expand in India with Jaipur as base. "Your stop, 2C!" he said. I thanked him, and ran as fast as I could (By the way, I never could very fast!) I went through the security check, and I tried hard to frame as small a sentence as possible to make the french understand. He opened my baggage and pointed to the umbrella and asked me what it was. I told it was an umbrella, showing my fist and helping him visualize the umbrella. "Umbrella, umbrella", he said a couple of times to himself and felt really happy for learning another english word.
Then, I reached the terminal and thought of telling "bonjour" to the mademoiselle sitting behind the desk. I was not sure whether to pronounce it as "bon-joor" or "bon-zoo", so I settled for a safe "Hello ma'm". The plane had already left, and I asked her as to when did it leave. "It-it is left much much more time" I cursed the french for not learning proper english and FTV for not teaching us any french beyond "lingerie"! I collected the tickets for another flight (I was supposed to go from Paris to Atlanta, but now I was flying to JFK, New York) Even this flight was delayed because of heavy snow fall. I got the opportunity to roam around this terminal. Almost all the shops were related to fashion. I was wondering how two middle-aged french women might talk - "Nim huduga fashion aa, nam hudugi noo fashion" (Similar to "Nim maga computer aa, nam magaloo computerru" in India)

Finally, the flight started at 5.45 PM, again an Air France flight. As I had explored all the options in TV in the previous flight itself, I decided to sleep. It was already night when I reached New York and the view was spectacular. As the flight started late from Paris, I had missed the flight to Salt Lake City. As there were no other flights on that day, I got the only flight to Salt Lake City, early morning the next day. But, this flight was from Newark, 60 miles from JFK. It was already 10.00 PM and the shuttle services had stopped at 8.00 PM. There were a couple of taxis waiting outside. There were three ladies who asked me if I want to share the taxi and my answer was YES! But, they decided to go to some other place in the final moment and I ran to the other taxi where a family of four was already seated. They asked the driver if I could join them, to which the driver replied "No sir, only four!" and the taxi sped away. I was standing all alone in the cold of the New York night, remembering Tom Hanks in "The Terminal". And all of a sudden, a heavily-built guy came from behind and said "Wanna go to Newark. There are no more taxis. Come with me". I just followed him, thinking that he would take me to another taxi stand. In the parking lot, he asked me to get into his limousine. Before I could think anything, I was in his limo. And then, the fear started.

He did not look like a cab driver and now I started wondering why he was so enthusiastic in helping me. I wanted to get down and run. But, my mind told me that if he is a crook, he can follow me and attack, as there was no one in the parking lot. The limo started and I started thinking of alternate plans. In case he tries to attack me, I have the weighing machine in my bag, I can hit him with that. No! If he snatches it from me, then I am gone! Cool down, there must be some other way, I told myself. I started to talk to him and disturb his thought flow, in case he is planning to rob me. "Sir, where are you from?" I asked him, amused about myself, for giving so much respect to him. "Bhopal" was his one-word reply, and started concentrating on his driving. After a few deafening silent moments, I asked "Sir, your name?". "Alex" was his reply. Is he really an Indian? Is he an Indian Christian? Anyway, I would not have believed him, even if he had told some other name. We were travelling on the highway. There were only two human beings I could see - one whose heart beats I could hear, and other one was driving! What if he robs me at gunpoint and throws me out of the car? Whom will I ask for directions here? Or even worse, I thought of the newspaper heading - "Java developer murdered near JFK" The heading somehow didn't amuse me! Then, he started sharing with me his domain expertise. "I drive limousine, my company has 1000 vehicles. This way, it is called Queens. This is a very long tunnel - the Hudson river flows over this, I have to pay 20$ for toll fee. This is Manhattan" Manhattan! I remebered the ladies near the airport talking about going to Newark via Manhattan. So, he must be genuine, or he might have a plan of taking the limo to some unknown road in downtown. Manhattan was not great. The roads were bad, tins of coke and litter was all over the roads. There were traffic signals every 100 feet. I started wondering if this was a better way to handle traffic, and I was proud of my thinking - social responsibility even in times of personal crisis! Finally, I saw the board, "Newark airport" and then I knew he was genuine! I asked him if it is safe to stay in the airport all night. "You can stay. Look around for cops. Be careful from black people, homeless people!"

I had landed at Terminal C, and my flight for the next day was supposed to be at Terminal B. I started walking towards the air train and saw a few blacks there. I remembered the words Alex had told, and I realised how Preity Zinta felt when she was alone in the airport in Dil Chahta Hai. I reached Terminal B. Even here, there were a few blacks, but they did not seem homeless. I talked to a cop I met "Excuse me sir, can I stay here all night? Is it safe?" What a stupid question, Vasuki! You are talking to a cop and he would obviously tell it is safe. "Yes, you can stay here, no problems!" I went down the stairs and sat on one of the chairs (does this sound like a rap song?) There were only a few people in the whole floor - another black woman - no, she also does not seem homeless and she looks totally disinterested, an old thin man - he cant be dangerous, I can take on him, if he has underestimated me, a young man - sleeping on the floor, he seemed to care about nothing except his sleep, a young girl - with pierced nose and ears. I put on my gloves to hide the rings on my fingers and wore my cap to hide my hair color, to mislead any novice crook around into assuming that I am an Italian or a Spanish! I started looking at the TV, with the train timings on it. The time was still 10:50 PM! I still have to kill time for more than 7 hours. Unless, somebody else kills me! The weaker part of me told me to pray God, but decided against it as I was not prepared to share the credit of this excitement with God! The fear of death and missing the flight kept me awake. And to give me company was "One night @ the call center". The book was very amusing and interesting. Cleaners were walking around, and after sometime they started playing some spanish music in their rooms. I started enjoying the music and remembered what Philippe said - "Happiness is more than life"! At one point of time, I was the only person in the entire floor. It felt scary at first, then I realised its safe, as no one was around. As the clock turned 4.00, I called Avi, and then passed the message to home that I am fine. Got the flight to Salt Lake City early morning and reached here by noon.

I lodged a complaint about my missing baggage and got a taxi to my hotel, and thought of getting a good bath and sleep. I felt like all my troubles are over. How wrong was I! I went to the hotel only to realize that the booking done was declined because of some issue. I asked the receptionist to allow me check in and I will clarify this in the evening - but he refused. I gave a call to my client, who did not receive the call, as he was on a vacation. I asked the receptionist again to allow me an international call to India. "No international calls", was his reply. I decided to stay in the lobby and keep trying to call the client every one hour. I said to myself "Worst case, I will stay in the lobby all night and go to the office directly in the morning" and once again said to myself what Philippe had said! I asked receptionist for some newspaper or book to read. He gave me the Utah travel guide. So, I went through it, to decide what places I should be visiting in the coming weeks. "Whatever happens, happens for good" I said to myself. At around 3.00 PM, he allowed me to check in, by taking 100$ deposit. I sent a mail to the company and resolved the issue the same night. And, I had the most peaceful sleep that night.

The journey had just begun!!!

Summer of 2002

The alarm started ringing. Is it 10.00 AM? Is it 11? I opened my eyes slightly, just enough to see my black timex watch. Oh no, its already 11.50! Time to get up, not that I cant sleep more, but I would get more "lectures" from everyone if I sleep beyond 12.00. Lectures from the normal, "correct" people, who belong to "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise" school of sleeping pattern.
But, I had slept at 4.00 yesterday night(or is it today morning)!
What was I doing, you must be wondering. I was playing FreeCell all night!!!

It was one of those days during summer of 2002. I had finished my graduation and waiting(or hoping?) for some company to take me. It was the dark period of IT industry(mine too! However, it was a great learning experience for an immature industry and a person even more immature). Not many companies were recruiting, that too freshers. Still, there were a few companies calling for interviews(making me visit Bangalore). I hated going to Bangalore. I was a typical Mysorean - lazy, unaggressive, laidback(I still am!) Every time the interview used to get over, I would rush back to Mysore, to my little room on top of the stairs!

The days in Mysore were almost the same. My mornings used to start at noon and the nights would end at dawn! I had breakfast on very few days. Lunch used to break my fast. After lunch, I would go back to my room(oh, how I loved that room).
I turned on my computer and queued some songs. I searched for "The Complete Reference : Java" by Herbert Schildt, from the pile of books and papers on my cot. I had read that book a couple of times, but started reading it again(I was bored to read it again, but I told myself "Read, read and stop not until you get a job")
The song was playing "Take it easy". What the hell does Don Henley know about recession? I opened winamp and queued some of Rafi's sad songs. "Yeh Raat Hai Pyaasi Pyaasi" I felt better. Atleast Rafi knows how bad the recession is!!!

I opened FreeCell. I had played that game more than all those Microsoft testers, who have tested that game. I used to play it very passionately(I still do) as if winning a game would solve all my problems. Rafi started one more of his pathos - "Rang Aur Noor Ki" (One of my favourites, I wanted to sing that song in my non-existent girlfriend's wedding!)

As long as I was with my computer, I was pretty happy. I loved my computer, because it never preached me how I should do a course on embedded systems, or how I would land up in a job very soon. I hated meeting the people. I hated their advices, their pity, their concern, understanding and love! Now, I know I did not hate anyone, but I hated myself(for being so lazy and taking things easier than Don Henley)

After a few visits to Bangalore, I felt less irritated. In fact, I had started liking it, the pace of the city was very addictive. I roamed around Bangalore, searching for a job. I got 100 xerox copies of my resume, as if to challenge Bangalore that you cannot leave me jobless for long! Finally, I got a job in Tarang, shifted permanently to Bangalore(read "permanently" as 5 days/week)

The boring afternoons playing FreeCell, and the depressing nights with Rafi's pathos had just ended!

Does it mean time? Death? Is it about Death time or timely death?

Cast(In alphabetic order) :
Ajay Devgan
Driver 1, 2, 3....
Esha Deol
John Abraham
Lara Datta
Monkey 1, Monkey 2
Owl
Snake
Tiger 1, Tiger 2, Tiger 3
Vivek Oberoi
(The writer has made a sincere effort in having the names in alphabetic order. He is not responsible for last minute spelling changes because of numerological reasons)

THE FULL STORY
---------------
Kaal kaal mein hum tum kare dhamaal...
"Breathtaking" sets..."imaginative" choreography..."energetic" performances...
but why the hell are they in an adventure/thriller/horror movie...
sorry, you are not supposed to ask those questions!

The night is dark...The place is Orbit Park...
The owl rotates its head and gazes at the camera...
The bat hangs upside down from a tree...
The monkey shows its long white teeth, as if for a toothpaste ad...
The snake opens its mouth a full 90 degrees(not sure whether it is yawning or trying to scream)...

Two foreign researchers get down from a jeep and walk towards a sleeping tiger (As you know, foreign people are dumb and Indian tigers are intelligent)
They start walking towards the tiger, with camera in their hand, hoping that the tiger will not wake up(How could they take such a risk, that too with Indian tigers?)
The tiger gets up, chases them, jumps on their jeep, roars...

BLANK SCREEN...
(Please assume that the foreigners are dead!)

Somewhere very far from the Orbit Park, John Abraham is on a vacation in a national park...
he is running fast(you guessed it right, without the shirt)...a snake is crawling...
he runs...it crawls...
he runs...it crawls...
he runs...it crawls...
finally, he jumps over the 15 ft. snake and catches it...

Then, a pair of strong legs, almost boxer-like come on the screen...they walk towards John...
the camera slowly moves up...again you guessed it right, its Esha Deol...by the way, she is a professional photographer...

John gets a call on his mobile...he attends the call, tying the snake around his neck and closing its mouth in one hand...his employer tells him he has to go to Orbit Park on a research(Dont blame me for not telling all the details...we are never told what research he was supposed to do or who his employer was)

The scene shifts to a highway where an imported car is speeding at more than 200 kmph...We are shown the car from all angles...the automatic features in the cat et al...
Did we start getting ads in films? Have I falled asleep and started dreaming?
No...they are a group of friends who are on their way to spend some time in some farm house...
Vivek Oberoi, a very confident, easygoing, cool dude...
Lara Datta, a very superstitious, darrpok, young woman(She tries really hard to convince us so)
One "muscle" man keeping a gun and who is fond of shikaar...
(They try to make us feel suspicious about him...so you can easily say he is not the killer!)
Another waste fellow who keeps recording everything in handy cam...

On their way, Lara starts seeing the bad omens (Black vehicle, tyre wobbling, black cat)
Their vehicle breaks down.(A vehicle breaks down every 20 mins)
One crazily-behaving guy gives them a lift (The same rule applies here. Since this guy is also made to look suspicious, he is also not the killer)
Their adventurous journey begins...

Their new vehicle hits John Abraham's vehicle, which also has broke down(Vehicle breakdown is the second frequent thing that happens in the film, the first being Lara's nervous breakdown)
They decide to give lift to John and Esha...they go to a guest house...there is a weirdly-behaving guide who promises to show them the tigers next day.(This guy also keeps smiling wickedly, so he also cannot be the killer)...and our Vivek Oberoi is a very short tempered guy, who always keeps telling "Maar daaloonga tujhe" whenever he gets angry(Vivek is made to look suspicious, so even he is not the killer)

The same night, "something" drags the guide of his tent, and he is found dead after 2 days (Looks like tiger killed him, but remember the rule, it wont be what they want us to believe)

There is also a forest officer, who is suffering from acute cold, who always turns his nose like Kris Shrikanth used to do. He also looks and acts very wicked(Yes, I know by this time you would remember the rule, he cannot be...)

All the adventurous people(excluding the muscle man) go on a safari...they come near the "core area"(For detailed description of core area, please use google)
The driver warns them about tigers and not to walk on the roads...
but our supremely confident Vivek Oberoi jumps out of the car and gives a "you saw how brave I am" smile and starts walking on the road...even John jumps out...

...it is then they hear the sound...and suddenly out of nowhere a tiger starts running towards them...Vivek is still very confident...and he slowly starts moving back...the girls in the jeep are not at all afraid(poor girls, they did not know that there was a camera facing them)
As Vivek starts going back, he falls down...two more tigers surround their van...
they are trapped...there is no escape...
...it was then they hear another sound...

"Thrayammbakkam rajaamayye sugandim pushhti vardhanam
Urvarooookameeeva bandhana mruthyo muksheeya maamruthaath"
(The spelling mistakes in Mruthyunjaya Manthra are deliberate. It is as told in the film)

Clad in an "all black" outfit comes Ajay Devgan...with brooding eyes...bored look(even we were bored by that time) and a stick...he is Kali...Kali Pratap Singh...
In his customary style, he tells the cool dialogues...he asks them not to BREAK the rules...
Rule 1 : You should not walk in jungle
Rule 2 : You should not carry guns
Ajay keeps talking about so many things about jungle...no one listens to him(I swear, even I did not)

Vivek's friend, the muscle man goes alone to the jungle to do some shikaar(Even though he knows that many people have died in the last few months)...his friends get afraid and start searching him in the jungle...and they find his headless body(headless, literally!)

Then, all the people decide to leave the jungle and go back...on the way, they find that the road is blocked because of the land slide. Then, suddenly Ajay Devgan arrives there and tells them that he will take them through a short-cut root, which is very dangerous.

On the way, Ajay keeps telling about horrific stories, which nobody believes. The other waste fellow(Vivek's friend) also dies on the way. So, he also cannot be the killer (assuming that he did not commit suicude)

Now, we are left with Ajay, Vivek, Lara, John, Esha...even after seeing so many deaths they keep wandering alone in the jungle, get scared by "bura sapna", and finally arrive at an old bungalow(The same type, where you can find lot of cobwebs, broken old furniture, and most importantly a candle) Here, Ajay warns them not to go towards the well. But, Esha feels very thirsty in the middle of the night. She, as any other stupid hindi film heroine goes alone and get killed.

After sometime, every one realize that Esha is missing. They arrive at the well and find her dead. Ajay keeps telling his usual "Maine bola tha saahab" dialogues...
Thats when Vivek looks in the well...only to realise that Ajay's image is not visible in water...Ajay is the BHOOT...our Vivek, for the first time in his life, uses his brains, sends Ajay to bring some wood for Esha's funeral...and runs away with John and Lara...

Ajay after coming back, realises that they have escaped...he starts telling his story to us...he was killed by villagers for some unknown reasons...he was thrown to tigers...

Finally, the three "bacha hua log" join the main road...and they survive...

MORALS OF THE STORY
--------------------
1) Dont take panga with bhoots...they dont have any logic for killing.
2) If you are stuck up with a bhoot, join the main road as soon as possible.
3) A person who looks wicked and crooked is generally harmless.
4) A superstitious girlfriend is better than an adventurous one.

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