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Dirtscapes

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The A Div Chronicles : Episode 1 - Prasad Dalal And The Fine Art Of 'Exam Paper Scratching'

Tuesday, August 30, 2005
This post deals with the only number that we in R.A.I.T really cared about. 40. That guaranteed the next 6 months ka tp at home as well as college. I was initially not too bothered about the fact that 40 is a must to pass an engineering exam. School/College mein it used to be 35. What's the big deal ... 5 more marks? Wouldn't make any difference right? Wrong. One semester down the line, I got the picture. Each mark after 35 is worth it's weight in lead.

And so begins this little story.
Before that, a little background about the person in the title. Prasad Dalal (henceforth referred to as Dallu) is the most deadly purveyor of pus-infested jokes. Period.

In the final year, he let me in on a dirty little trick he used to play while writing those (stupid) engineering exams. If the paper was a little tough (which is putting it very very mildly indeed), needless to say there would be enough time to sit back and admire your handiwork i.e the 'thaaps' you would have jotted down on the answer sheet. Most of us mortal souls would start preparing for the KT mentally...vowing to cover the chapters we had 'left in option'.

Not this guy. He would turn to the last page. Then manufacture another line, and leave the sentence incomplete. From the last word he would write, he would draw an ugly jagged line diagonally across the page till the bottom right corner, and then submit the answer sheet.

"Why on earth...", I asked, just as confused as you.

"So that the examiner sees the answer paper, and feels a twinge of sympathy .."

He then gave me his projection of the examiner's thought process:

'This poor chap was writing so hard and trying his best to complete the paper. When the warning bell rang, the invigilator, cruel as he is, snatched away the sheet from the child's hands while he was still writing, and that's what has caused this scratch on the paper...I think I'll slip in a mark or two if he needs it...'

Far fetched? It actually worked. Go Figure.

posted by Tapan at 9:54 PM

Rock Shows in R.A.I.T

Monday, August 29, 2005
This is an older piece I'd written about the rock shows we used to host in RAIT .
Posting it here, since it was never 'formally' published.

The ROCK SHOW....

Now, the rock shows were held on the last day of Horizon... (note the usage of the word 'were' ;) ), the day after the 'fashion show' (aka a whole nite of leching at the Thadomal Models). If you were one of the organizers for the rock show, you had it. All the volunteer junta would conveniently take the next day off, tired as they would be from all the onanism last nite around. So the third day would dawn hot, f*ckin hot and dusty with a handful of volunteers. Master of all you see? Not quite, mofo!!

There would be barricades to be built(read the trusty old F.E. benches, slammed together in various carnal positions to make a 'wall' 3 feet high, for the security guys to stand up and dhamkaav the crowd - "Boss, do not touch the bamboo poles", "abbe ******, zaraa door hoke headbang kar!","aaon kya udhar?! haan? aaon kya?" ), bands to be escorted, security to be managed. So, under the ever kind March Sun, the whole process would start. Bench after bench lugged to the venue.

Then the sound guy would get busy doing his thing, and you got to tinker around the main stage. Fooling around the main stage and listening to the sound guy play 'Eye of the tiger' in an endlessly maddening loop, lugging drum kits up n down, tripping over those endless cables, wires and assorted 'rock' paraphernalia, standing on the stage, and looking down the arena, wondering what it'd be like to ACTUALLY play there. ;)

The hospitality section (read dope,ciggies,booze,food,acco for the bands...in STRICTLY that order) was totally the domain of the Nerulites, who always did a kickass job. Come evening time and the 'crowd' would start building up - a restless line of piss-drunk, stoned, and bladder heavy metal tee-shirts that wud start snaking around, all along the side road. Volunteers would now start trickling in, suitably refreshed and you were suddenly spoilt for choice as far as help was concerned. Customary 'khunnas' administered to them, security duties assigned. The crowd would keep on building up till around 7.30 and then the gnarly gates would be thrown open and then the massive crotch fondling exercise that followed would gladden the hearts of Sodom. The guys trying to smuggle in stuff were kicked out (after the dope was pocketed by us of course... Shhh...trade secret. But we ain't as heartless as MOOD I, we DO ALLOW Ciggies inside.)But things would get REAL ugly if syringes and the like were caught, instant justice administered down in the SUC room with every body getting a shot at the junkies (Ahh the summer of 1999 :) )

Then of course, the cops. There HAD to be a problem every year with the noise, can't blame them too, what with Parikrama hitting the eardrums of the neighbouring 'Societies' around the college periphery, not good for uncle/aunty/baccha log at midnight.

Speaking of Parikrama, man, those weird tiles which now adorn the pathway to Eden(OK, OK, the Engineering gate) are at the heart of a very interesting story. It was my final year ,2001 and yes we had 15 volunteers in all for the rock show (surprise surprise) and guess what the boyz from Parikrama want? A platform made out of nearly 500 bricks on the terrace to launch their pyro stuff at the end of the show! So off to work! Saathi haath bataana and all that jazz. Just the 15 of us lugged those heavy as hell bricks up n down 4 floors. My muscular forearms stand testimony till this very day to that one feat. For ONCE, we actually used the 'Shortest Path' Algorithm to such good effect that our Profs would have shed copious tears of bilious joy. Endless sweaty trips later, it was all done. By then, we were too pooped to even listen to what the bands played. Hazy recollections of smoke on the water, FIRE IN THE SKY...yeah!!!!!!!!

posted by Tapan at 11:27 PM

TV - Glory Be

Been playing Counter Strike:Condition Zero non-stop for the past couple of weeks. Am blown away by the graphics...and the way it haunts my dreams (All my recent dreams have had a cross-hair somewhere in the frame).

What's with the TV connection? Well, was just surfing channels and stumbled across a TV show which shows guys dressed up in fatigues and sporting warpaint, split into teams, playing this game over a network. This is ostensibly for the benefit of the large percentage of people who have never seen a computer, have never played a computer game, are absolute social outcasts, are starved for quality entertainment, and who would genuinely cheer for these brave souls. 'Heart se'. It's actually a very noble concept, if you think of it. Why deny the pleasures of computer gaming to the masses?

I almost creamed my shorts. Could not take the excitement.

Was really proud of the new standards which Indian television programming has reached. There was a time, around a decade ago, when good old DD would show a rainbow patti waala screen, with the most irritating sound known to mankind playing in the background, when they had nothing to show (That sound was a sure-shot blood pressure raiser). There was no compulsion to bombard people with such stunning content. We're so lucky to be in this day and age...

Oops...there go my shorts again!!!!

posted by Tapan at 10:31 PM

The Great SEEPZstern Trendkill (Apologies to Pantera)

Saturday, August 13, 2005
It's finally time to document this experience. I work in a software company in Mumbai's definition of a 'Software Park' called SEEPZ. Very well maintained area, lots of greenery. Nothing wrong with it. But getting there...is a different story altogether. Ergo, this piece.

As a rule engineers are sturdy beasts of burden. Surviving 4 years of our wonderful syllabus is no mean achievement. So destiny just takes you for granted, and piles it on even more. If you are an 'IT' guy in Mumbai, chances are you would be mostly working in and around the Andheri (East) area (Now why the place is called Andheri(East) eludes me...cos it's a separate suburb in it's own right. I know people who stay in Andheri (W) and have to travel for an hour from Andheri(E) to get home. Ironic, don't you think? Since they technically stay in Andheri...). The best (and most of the times...the only way. Try hunting for a rick when it's raining) to reach SEEPZ from Andheri(E) is to travel in a bus called 415 (Chaar she pandhra). The bus-stop is situated just outside the station on the Eastern side.

It's here that the 'majja' begins. After negotiating the friendly crowds on the platform, you start to ascend the staircase to get on the 'footover' bridge. One step at a time. Baby Steps. Baby Steps. Head down. Ants Marching (Thank you for that Dave Mathews)


Once on the bridge, if it's your day, the line for this bus will be overflowing onto the middle of the bridge before you have even got out of the railway station...all the way to the stop outside.

Tangent time :
What if a guy doesn't have a rail ticket, and he's just standing there for the bus. Isn't he right in doing so? Not his fault right? The grand board saying 'This is railway property. You must have a valid ticket to use this' (or some such) sounds a bit unfair, no?

Customary curses over, you stand in line just like everybody else.
You can easily pick out the frazzled newbies who just can't believe that the line starts from the railway station itself.
"Yeh 415 ka line hai? Yeh 415 ka hi line hai na?"
"Abbe line dekh...aur peeche jaana padega bridge pe..."
It's times like these that a smug smile can take away some of your pain. "Welcome to the real world..."

Talking of lines, there's more to that than meets the eye. There are two broad families. The 'standing' line and the 'sitting' line. Simple. Stand in either one..depending on whether you want to sit or stand all the way in the bus. The standing line moves faster. The sitting line takes a little time. Personally, am a sucker for the sitting line, since I'm not much of a risk taker.

"Risk?" you might say.

The distance from the station to SEEPZ is not even worth 15 minutes. But in case the traffic gods of Chakala are in a particularly dyspeptic mood...god help you if u want to reach within the hour.

Speaking of Chakala, words fail me in describing this geographical wonder. The geniuses who developed the area thought of pretty much everything...swanky glass facade waala buildings on the corners...a semblance of a tar+concrete road, lamp posts, post boxes, light/telephone boxes...the works...save a FOOTPATH. There is NO footpath at all from the Western express highway to Nelco. Whatever be the locality...there are footpaths which have been gratefully encroached upon. Not that we actually get to use them, but they are THERE...these guys probably meant it act as an anti-encroachment exercise. They did succeed there..not entirely...cos you can still spot a Nimbu Paani waala, a Wada Pav waala and a smattering of chai tapris. But no footpath.

On days when the 415 lines have piled up beyond belief...the stock quotes from the BEST boys in blue who manage these lines are "Chalo chalo...Chakala Jaaam hai", if they spy you being too choosy and not boarding a bus. Masters at the art of body language.

In addition to this, there's the 'ladies line'. Which invariably moves faster. Since they get to board the bus first. It's enough to make you wish that you had a little more estrogen.

The BEST supervisors do a decent job managing the lines. Not a very enviable job, given the wonderful civic sense that most people have. They have to physically stop people from jumping lines. Which of course a lot of people try to do. It's testimony to our mindsets that when these guys finish with their duties at around 11 am or so...there is total anarchy. It's every man and woman for himself. Thumb rule. If there are no BEST guys at the stop, spend on a rick. Will be worth it.


posted by Tapan at 6:52 PM

Indus Creed mp3s!!!!!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005
Had hunted my ass off for these mp3s, finally found them on a post on gigpad.com. Click here to download them. (This is a rapidshare upload. Thanks to superunknown from the comments below)

I was in the 8th Standard when I first heard 'Top Of The Rock', or rather watched it on MTV. One of the earliest acts to be featured on Asia-Centric MTV back then. Might sound real kooky, but I used to be so F**kin PROUD when this video used to air back to back with the likes of GNR, Nirvana, Metallica - the whole early 90s music deal. It was like India WAS THERE man...on MTV!!!!

I remember saving up and buying Rock N' Roll Renegade at Rhythm House (that used to be the only place anyways for 'inglish' music). Popped the tape in as soon I rushed home and was immediately confused. Wasn't 'Enemy Within' supposed to be a song or something? Why did it get over so soon?! Almost went back to Rhythm House to return the tape ("Dude, where's the first song?!") Then listened to 'Top Of The Rock' some seven times in a row and was in heaven. One of my all-time favourite leads. There's this song called 'Chains and Black Leather' which I just freaked out on. Some years later, the Pet Shop Boys came up with a song called 'Can you forgive her?' which had the exact same chorus - dunno if anybody has noticed that. Felt even prouder.

Bought 'The Second Coming' and then they aired the video for 'Pretty Child'. This must be one of the best rock songs to come out of India. Period. The tabla stuff (by Taufiq Qureshi I guess...) just melds so beautifully into the whole song, it's not 'majboori' fusion just pasted on to sound 'Indian'. Brilliant brilliant song and that saxophone solo just kicks your ass from here to Rang Bhavan and all the way back. And it's not an easy song to sing and Uday really shines on it. This video cracked the weekly MTV top 20 in Asia and peaked at no. 4 or 5. There was this magazine called 'Target' which then did an interview with these guys, I remember reading it again...and again...and again. Other songs of note were 'Cinderella', 'Bowl Of Madness', 'Die For Your Country', and 'Screaming Out' with it's flanger laden opening. Kick ass riff.

Then came the 'Indus Creed' thing - the album and the name change. Remember getting real upset over this, because I really thought 'Rock Machine' was a cool name. Why did they do it? WHY?!!! Got a glimpse of the 'Trapped' video on 'The World This Week' hosted by Prannoy Roy and some program on erstwhile DD2 and MTV. This was pretty cool too, since the last thing you'd expect anyone to report was an Indian Rock Band releasing an album. I guess this is true even today, just goes to show that this was no mean achievement, given that the 'rock scene' wasn't as 'big' ten years ago. The new album just was out of this world with crisp production and beautiful melodies. They used stuff like the sarangi, the flute and tablas. Loved the lyrics too. Fav Songs : 'Cry', 'Play' (BRILLIANT Keyboards), 'Fly' and of course 'Trapped'.

I caught them live once at Rang Bhavan, circa 1994. Very very tight band with a cool stage act, these guys knew how to work the crowd. Just wish that they would have stuck around a little while longer, would have killed for more material from them.

"Cry cry...the same cry. Words that hide the pain inside. Cry ...the same old cry"

posted by Tapan at 10:54 PM

The RAIT Experience

Monday, August 01, 2005


Fate, that cruel landlady, has dealt us our eviction notice. Time to leave, to say goodbye to 4 wholesome years of pure, unadulterated ‘raantigiri’. No more RAIT. The very thought is like a ten-ton hammer hitting u right between the eyes. Time to rejoice? Definitely Maybe !!! No more 2 to 4 hour commutes (stop laughing all u New Bombay and BARC people). No more journal work. No more submissions. No more term work tests. No more ‘jherox’. No more EXAMS ! NO more vivas! But wait….isn’t this supposed to be a senti piece? Hell yeah baby it is!! About to follow are some of my memories 'bout life in this madhouse.

Here’s hoping most of you relate to them !!


Aakarshan:
Definitely the ultimate symbol of all that RAIT stands for. An event like none other, NONE. The jeering, the applause, the paper showers, the decibel level, the crowd waiting like hungry wolves ready to tear you down at the slightest slip up, the delirium following the end of it all…

One thing I remember is listening to the tinkling of the keyboards, while twilight just about made it’s furtive way around the horizon, standing with my friends (you know who you are!), weary from all the manic dancing and getting that ‘God’s in his heaven and all is right with the world’ feeling. Pretty definitive. (Soppy? Man, it is, I am going soft!)


Horizon:
3 days = a massive blur. Now this blur could have been due to

a) Organizing stuff

b) Excessive fatigue caused by the RAIT ‘bench press’

c) Lack of sleep

d) A particular class of alcohol compounds and certain alkaloid derivatives (mostly a combination of the above taken in copious quantities, like there’s no tomorrow! All part of our traditional Aadar Satkar…?)

Take your pick!

Add to this the aftermath of the whole affair. Falling asleep while going back on the first train of the morning, and waking up just before your station. There sure was a guardian angel watching over us! Sleeping for three whole days afterward. (Heck, who needs sweetleaf?!)

The Canteen:
The nerve centre of the college. The control unit. The central processor.(whatever, maaf!). The (smoky and dingy) first stop after landing on campus for most. The scene of so many ‘aalams’ (i.e. banging like maniacs on the tables and letting our vocal cords rip), conspiracies (oh yes!), journal writing sessions, and good old time massacre(sic).

One thing I must mention here is Anna’s (as from down south) Misal Pav. A stand out dish. One can write complete tomes on this particular thing, but it will suffice to say here, that it has become ingrained into our collective subconscious. Any RAITian worth his/her salt should be a Misal Pav connoisseur by now. Four years of eating the same thing day in and day out, does that to you I guess! All the same, decent food, decent prices (Chhole Bhature, Veg Pulav, Limbu Paani).

The Carrom Room:
Also, the box-cricket room. A dingy, airless hole which was home to many guys. The all pervading stink of rancid oil, along with some of the most gloriously distraught furniture ever known to mankind. The scene of many a carrom match, plain faaltugiri and of course, the SUC meetings!!

The Campus:
Was cool when we joined, is now AWESOME. Even the staunchest critic has to admit that our campus RULZ! Straight out of the Yoo Ess Af Ay (dyslexia anyone?). The mindblowing views from the drawing rooms were unmatched. The place looks like something straight outta timelessness in the monsoons - lush wet greenery all around, the building defiantly standing up to the choicest of chemical infested Navi Mumbai raindrops. Wonder why the campus reminds me of Circe...

Workshop:
One word definition ? HELL. The guys trussed up like god knows what in those goddamn boiler suits. One piece affairs of course. I don’t know about you, but I positively detested it. One of the reasons being was that it was in the basement (for more details, refer ‘The Joys of being an FE’, by the same author)(Maaf karna, mere andar ka Tanenbaum jaag gaya tha!). Worst of all was filing/fitting day, when the screeching of all those blunt files against metal was intolerable. Kinda sounded like Annamika (of ‘ketwolk’ fame) on amphetamines. Plus you got to smell like Iron Man, if the Nirma soap powder ran out near the sink. My nasal hair cringes at the recollection. Very painful.

The Commuting:
One thing which probably makes an RAITian a VERY different proposition. The men from the boys stuff. Anyone who balances the commute with the whole engineering show has to be worth it man, has to be worth it. Miseries compounded during the rainy seasons. Dadar and Kurla are not exactly honeymoon spots in those watery months (or any month for that matter). Ah, fair old Dadar, with that ethereal perfume… a $$%*@@#$ soul scalding, nostril burning, mix of the choicest ‘kothmir’, ‘hari mirchi’, ‘adrak’, sweat , cotton clothes and cowpiss. One whiff and you are hooked for life. Back for more, without fail.

And the time honoured joke which went something like ‘If someone as much as took a leak on the harbour line tracks, you had a flood coming your way’(don’t ask me who thought of that one…) proved cruelly true every monsoon. Case in point? Vadala Road (or Vadala port?).

Most of us have used Trains, buses, ricks, in no particular order, to reach college, one way that is. The trains. Now what do I say? A tortoise on dope could have whizzed past those pathetic tin chains called the 'Harbour Line' trains. Miss one train, and man you had it. The next one would creep in at it’s own sweet disposition.

Entry was simple. Pre-Kurla that is. Then you got to know that the human skeleton can actually exhibit some great elastic properties. Honest. A frantic body massage till Sanpada ‘teshun’, where the train would literally purge itself. You were king till Nerul arrived.

Trust the ever resourceful RAITian to actually manage to write journals in these conditions, or grab some frantic knowledge bytes before the exams.

But one consolation was the Vashi bridge. A grand sight indeed, especially at night.

And of course, the Andheri-Belapur is the sort of stuff that legends are made of. Cool train, cool people. It was here that I first cut my teeth as an ahem… entertainer( the Ego has landed - RUN!)

The buses? Well, I do remember the khunnas between me and the ‘mashter’ over ‘suttey paishe’. But no grudges against the buses, they are cool!

Nerul Station :
Or Nerul Airport as we call it! Whatta station man! I haven’t seen so much granite even in the ad for ‘Surendra Granites’ that my cable guy assaults me with!

Speaking of the station, can Pushpa Snacks Bar(!) be left out? Earlier we used to haunt ‘Satya’ (so called cos he had a beard) for his samosa pav, until this guy came along on the scene. As Jeetendra would put it...

“Pushpa ne hame paala, posa, bada kiya, hamare andar ke bachpan ke poudhe ko jawaani ka pedh banaaya!”. You get the drift?

The Exams:
The half yearly pains in the otherwise pretty simple life of an RAITian. Lousy concept. The morbid fear of that proverbial ‘Ek Paper’, in which, ‘lag jaayega’. Every sem, without fail. There had to be a red herring which would give henna a run for it’s money (another lousy one….sorry). That dirty feeling you get when you are just about to receive the paper, where everything you have done dances like Mithun on Speed right in front of your eyes, dissolving into a psychedelic blur.

Ditto for the vivas. Only worse, you developed a case of trapjaw as well. Gheraoing every emerging guy…”Kya poocha? Kya poocha? External kaisa hai?”. Boy, everyone sure did have their five seconds of fame on viva day!

The vivas were the most challenging parts for most of us, cause they were about possibly the only thing that an RAITian isn’t God in (well, most of us anyways) - FUNDAS! Swotting and sweating like mad before the vivas, and calling everyone except your grandparents and the examiners themselves for ‘questions’.

Once inside, it was pretty much pot-luck (matka!)

My Dear Journal… :
The lesser said the better. Probably the most stressful time in an RAITian’s life. Reams and reams of paper filled up with writing by us - ‘the human Xerox machines’. Sitting up all night, and struggling over to college the next day, bleary eyed and disoriented, to be greeted by a fantastic scene.

Everyone was just about everywhere doing just one thing. Writing. We would win all the medals in the Olympics if they ever hold an event called ‘Synchronised Writing’.

"Tera first page hua, to idhar laa..!"

"Mera second page tere paas hai na?!"

"Stapler hai kya?"

"Kitna pages hai total? (Number) kya?! Maa kasam, chhaapo!"

Scrapping like school kids over graph papers (especially the semi-log ones) and spare journal sheets. Running around to Xerox that eternally missing Index paper, u almost always never had one. Scales and pencils would do the Houdini on u, when you needed them the most. Then you would just have to wait in stony suffering silence till u could borrow them from someone. The feeling on submitting that last journal every sem was esoteric. Usually went home inebriated after that (from the joy that is).

The term work tests. Well I guess we progressed to higher levels of shamelessness as our seniority grew.


* FE : u really didn’t know what was happening. Bad dream.
* SE : thoda aaju baaju dekhne ka.
* TE : book kholna chaloo.
* BE : book? Chhah !! maaaaaaaaaf ! People actually went ahead and
bought Jigar’s just for the TW tests. Chuppane ko easy hai na…..(case in point? As far as A div goes..this sem’s Software
Engineering test. Not only were genuine Jigars seized, even
Xerox copies were not far behind!!)

Students With ‘Jigars’ Of Steel :
Kya main bolu ?! Hate them as u might, but the fact still remains that you had to refer to them, at one point or the other. No way out. How the Jigar’s guy squeezed in an entire semester’s worth into an edition thinner than Kate Moss beats me. Data compression ka baap hai boss! ‘Brilliant’ Jigar’s……One of the more enduring memories was getting them Xeroxed at chembur. Mast 7-12 rupees mein ek Jigar’s. Felt nice. Real nice.

God bless Dhiren Gajjar and Pankaj Thanekar, who made the life of the middle class engineering student a mite easier. All the best chapters from the recommended books, in one package. So what if the flow was let’s say jerky (to say the least), quite a neat deal. This also didn’t escape the Xerox machine’s sights. But they really had some cool whoppers.

"Do you find engineering as hard as climbing a mountain ? Don’t worry, we will make it as easy as drinking a cup of tea" has become nothing short of an Urban Legend. Or has it…..?

Chembur:
The ultimate pilgrimage site. 25 paise Xerox. Magic. The Xerox ‘gully’. Options hi options . Ingesting the noxious kerosene fumes, and marvelling at the technique of the xeroxwallah.

Holi In College:
What a riot! The only college in the whole of mumbai, which would allow this sort of mayhem, at least till a couple of years back, till they repainted the college anyway. Was fun while it lasted. Would start of innocently enough with gulal, and ink pens. Then suddenly a bucket would materialize from nowhere, and did it take off after that. Dousing everyone in sight. Colours exploding everywhere. On the walls, the staircases, the corridors. Dragging people thru puddles. Banging on inverted buckets and singing. Dancing. Life….

The college would resemble a warzone the next day. No prizes for guessing why they stopped it!

RAITisms:
Now this deals with those typical words, why words, they can be rightly called as figures of speech, which only an RAITian can comprehend. They usually had an obscure and quiet beginning, but once they gained in momentum, nothing could stand in the way. Usage generally spread like amoebiasis contracted after stuffing urself with the bhajjiya paav outside Vidyalankar, to other colleges.

Scene:
Think about it. Brilliant word, I love the feel of it as u loll it around ur tongue, and then expectorate. Extremely versatile, it had it’s origins somewhere amongst the Nerulites. It then spread to A div, and then there was no looking back. Ekdum hit item hai boss.

Usage

* Journals ka kya scene hai yaar?
* Arre nahi mila, scene ho gaya yaar!
* Bahut **** all scene hai …..
* Dekhte hain kal scene kya hai
* Abbe sun, yeh scene hai….
And so on and so forth…….

Maaf:
The baap of all words. The Altaf Raja of all Rickshaw tapes. The ….well Maaf! This has been immortalized by dare I say, our batch? HELL YEAH! Just one word, but so many meanings…just the inflection of your voice can make it convey a wide range of interpretations. One is eternally grateful to Farooqbhai for it’s large scale popularization… rampant man, absolutely rampant. Reliable sources tell me that it has caught the fancy of the Americans too….what next?

Usage

* Nahi samjha, to maaf hai yaar!
* Maine do chapter chhoda, maaf!
* Kya maaf item hai boss! Full behenji!
* Woh book maaf hai re….jigars le
* Lecture maaf..

The best use of this word is when it is used solo. No embellishments. Just do this at home.

Say MAAF!

Do u feel it?!

DO U FEEL IT….?!

Care a Rat’s posterior about things, Go hang it all, I don’t care….all these and much, much more distilled into one four letter word…. and what’s more you can safely use this at home, right in front of your parents!

Brilliant Catharsis. My favourite word, currently (no prizes for guessing why!)

Note:

Other colleges may beg to differ with the above para but maaf…woh unka scene hai!

AD-BR:
Had to be. For such an epic train, there had to be an epic abbreviation. For those who came in late..(apologies to Lee Falk), it stands for the Andheri-Belapur. All the way from AD to BR. This train is a legend. Of course the morons traveling in it were too. God have pity on the ‘uncles’ who used to suffer (both English and hindi usages to be inferred) with us. Horrible decibel levels all throughout the journey, all the way. Most of the discussions during the practicals would involve decisions regarding whether to ‘take’ the 4:13, 5:17 or 6:23 AD-BR…they used to be very serious, with all of us divided into camps and gesticulating earnestly, and the profs thinking we were so deeply engrossed in the intricacies of whatever we were doing, or rather supposed to be doing.


Probably the ‘besht’ prank in the AD-BR was to catch some poor unsuspecting junior and make him sit in the midst. Then one guy would start

“Telefon ki ghanti baje tring tring tring………..”

The whole gaggle would join in,

“Telefon ki ghanti baje tring tring tring………..”

“ke bhaiyya!”

“Telefon ki ghanti baje tring tring tring………..”

“o bolo!”

“Telefon ki ghanti baje tring tring tring………..”


The ‘victim’ would look as confused as I did when I got my CP-2 paper. And then the entire group would pounce on him, and tapli the living crap out of him, saying


“Phone kaun tera baap uthayega?!”


Suckers would fall for this left, right and centre…..

Diwali In College:
RAIT is probably the only place in the entire universe where diwali is celebrated EVERY six months, with almost fanatical regularity. Come again…?! Simple………RESULT TIME!

Not that the average RAITian cared very much for results (most of us could very accurately predict the outcomes immediately after the exams), still as time dragged it’s leaden feet on, you began to feel the pinch. Restlessness would get the better of u until u wished that somebody would go and sell his soul to the Crackerwalla. Then stupid rumours would start floating around …..20 marks grace to start with, and then it would dwindle faster than the sales of the ‘Models’ album to around 5 marks by the end of the week. Next week, new rumour! Same time, same place.

Exasperation would reach a fever pitch, until some dudes would sneak in a couple of ‘Laxmi’ bombs and ‘rassi’ bombs. U somehow knew when there was an explosion in the making, people huddled around in sweaty little groups just outside the canteen, whispering and snide glances all around. You would just about wend ur way upwards when BOOM! It happened. If u were lucky, there would be a couple more…almost immediately u heard a HUGE roar, reverberating throughout the whole building……followed by blood-curdling cries of “WEEEE WAAANT REEESULT!” The security guys would come rushing in, but by that time our homegrown Guy Fawkes’ would have made good their escape. Only in RAIT…

The Gorilla Deathmatches:
Some of the self righteous ones among us (including urs truly) would whine about the lack of ‘facilities’ in college (read proper labs). But natural, when u have worked on a princely 64 kb for the first 2 years. But then came the IT labs…..insane places, what comps, what furniture, full2!

Once the initial admiration was over, the fact sunk in that the very excuse for our janamjaat kaamchori had ceased to be in existence…with such awesome labs, obviously u would have to sit and code! What next?! Relax….RAIT hai yaar! The devil in us refused to restrain himself. For one thing, with Windows NT in the picture, u had games to begin with…Solitaire, Minesweeper et al (trust us to look the positive side of things)

But hats off to the dude who discovered Gorilla! Probably one of the most stupid games to ever take janam, this quickly became the raison d’etre of almost all the practicals. Huddles of people around the comps, whooping and cheering on the ‘players’. The level of involvement had to be seen to be believed! How much pleasure could nearly 10 guys watching two gorillas throw explosive bananas (!) at each other possibly derive? Oh, plenty! PLENTY! (Lots of personal grudges were settled in cyberspace…)We even convinced some poor dumbass FE’s that it was our Final Year Project (hee hee!), and that we were testing various projectile angles and velocities. I still remember the awe on their faces….

Practicals were thus aptly dubbed ‘Video Parlour’ sessions, with us putting on our most earnest expressions whenever the lab ass. Or prof walked in (people usually kept a VB or a C session minimized just in case…)

The ‘Days’:
The usual suspects, tie/sari/rose, friendship, traditional……

Each held on a stifling Friday. Strutting around like peacocks and peahens from hell on traditional day especially, photo sessions galore. Love confessed. Love professed. Hearts broken…..

The Project Report:
Sheer Nazi torture. Racking ur brains as well as the library for material. Thinking of line expansion strategies. Struggling with that hideous abomination called MS Word. One ‘enter’ keystroke and boom! Where did it all go? One spacebar depression and watch the lines repel each other as if they were magnetic, leave alone the formatting and ‘bullets’. Scouting around for the best print-out prices, where else? You guessed it! Chembur. Getting the copies bound, and lugging them back, and then marvelling at the sheer volume of work (we actually typed all this ?!)

(this paragraph is pure mush…..u stand warned !!!!!)

I could go on forever. Trust me. There is enough material to do so. But, like all good things this one too has to come to an end (modesty anyone?!).

Along with an engineering degree, I guess each one of us has also got a Master’s in management.

Sounds corny? No. It isn’t. Interacting with such a wide cross section of people, you tend to learn something from everyone you meet.

Interpersonal relationships.

Time management.

How to judge people.

How to get along in life.

How to take it on the chin and move right on.

It’s been much more than just education, it’s been an EXPERIENCE.

Do yourselves a favour, guys. Keep in touch with ur ‘group’. It might be difficult, it sure is, but I guess it’s the only way to stay grounded and closer to who you really are.

One thing's for sure. I know I am gonna have a lump in my throat everytime I listen to Axl Rose sing,

“Where do we go?

Where do we go now

Where do we go…….”

To all the people I have known, it was, and continues to be a privilege. Thanx for everything.

Hope you find your pots of dollars at the end of your personal rainbows…

And yes,

May the Force be with you……

The resident lowlife,
Tapan.


posted by Tapan at 9:00 AM

The Joys Of Being an F.E.

The H.S.C Exams were just over, and I was licking my wounds, inflected courtesy the Maths-2 Paper. Till then, I had heard of only 4 Engineering colleges…VJTI, SP, Thadomal and VESIT...honest! So the time after that cranial murder called the 12th Std. was spent in applying whatever little mathematical probability I knew to analyze the chances of my getting a seat in these 4 places. I was pretty sure about the fact that VESIT mein payment pe to mil hi jaayega.

Came result day, one look at my miserable marksheet and it sunk in..no VESIT, no seat. The 2A round was a blur. The 2D round was a messiah! I got into RAIT..Comps that 2 ! And so begins my little narrative…

My first visit was memorable (from many perspectives..as u shall soon see!). Magnificent Building, one Mother of a campus. Marble marble everywhere …dammit they even had marble partitions in the men’s loo! I was positively over the moon…little did I know what the fates had in store for ‘Poor Twisted Me’...

I had gone to pay the fees. Now the college building was a bit of a mystery to say the least. Me and a friend approached some kindly looking souls, sitting on the steps. (As Dave Mustaine would put it..he hung his head..inside that noose….!)

“’Scuse me..where’s the office?”

They looked at us. They looked HARD.

“F.E?!!!!” , they chorused.

We didn’t know what to say cos we didn’t know what the hell ‘F.E.’ meant... They needed no further confirmation. They moved menacingly towards us. They surrounded us smoothly and swiftly. We still couldn’t get it.

Then these guys made sure we did, for the next three hours. We were grilled on everything right from the colour of our undies to how much our baaps earned. We had to tuck our shirts out, remove our belts, and recite the RAIT pledge (Too graphic to be displayed out here..since this is a family website (sic) ) and do the RAIT salute (Again….i’ll spare u the baloney). I was informed that I had seven fathers…the logic was somewhat like…

“Dharti maa hai..to aasman kya hai? Tera baap!”

“Gaay hamari maata hai…to bail kaun hua? Tera baap!”

These are the two that I remember…any more contributions are welcome!

It was fun (for them). Finally when we were released..ego battered and badly bruised..I headed home trying hard to convince myself I had a good time…

But the best was yet to come….

The first day of college dawned grey and forbidding. I made my inconspicuous way up the steps and entered the building. What I saw made me jump out of my skin. This huge sea of seniors had gathered on the upper floors. Bhaari scrutiny chalu tha..each senior was marking out his ‘territory’. We did not dare to make any eye contact with them. We were like livestock in an animal fair. Every ten minutes or so, a group of seniors would swoop down, and pick up the more ‘jhataak’ dressed ones and educate them about the basic facts of life in RAIT.

The message was clear..play plain-jane, play safe. Out went the jeans, in came the formals. Of course, not that we had a choice. The dress code was fixed. No watches, no shoes. Only chappals. Shirts always tucked out. No belts. The ladies had to come in Salwar Kameezes. Violators were almost exterminated. The free lectures were always met with a great deal of trepidation. The seniors would come in, lock the classroom door and rule. Our entire day was devoted to discussing and devising ‘khoofiya’ exits from college. But trust the seniors to outwit us every blessed time….

On went the intitiation..in trains, buses, trains, u name it. The word ‘F.E.’ shouted out by a senior was enuff to make u feel like u were doin time at a concentration camp. The drafter was another accursed giveaway. It confirmed ur ‘F.E.’ status. (RAIT does not have mech/civil/prod).

Slowly I learnt a lotta things from all o’ these rites.

* How to play the air guitar

* How to ride an air Bike/scooter, complete with ‘gear change’ effects (had to be intoned by us)

* How to straighten dogs’ tails

* How to catch dogs (The straightening part usually came after this)

* How to catch sparrows and sing love songs to them

* How to play ‘Air Hostess’ on the harbour line ‘flights’ (We had to stand near the doorway ,’doing namaste’ and welcome surly faced passengers into the harbour line flight to Dubai…)

* How to ‘shoot’ all the guys coming into the train with the AK-47..i.e. the drafter

* How to beg and accept only coins with denominations <= 5 paise. If someone gave u more, refuse it..This usually had to be done to the crankiest looking dude in the compartment.

* How to calculate the solution to x(x-a)(x-b)(x-c)….(x-z). People would run up pages worth of binomial expansions…and struggle for hours before they told us that it evaluated to zero!

* How to sell pens without refills

* How to sell chana and sing, one daana at a time that is…

* How to run a 100 metre sprint in slow motion. The funda was that the guy who came in last would win. Go figure that out!!!!!!!!!

* Another favourite pastime for them was to make one guy ‘sin x’, and another ‘cos x’, and then we would be asked to show tan x, cot x sec x, cosec x and the like….

Occasionally RAIT’s one man anti-ragging squad would step into the picture. When he was around, the seniors used to be somewhat subdued, and we were relatively safe. But even this guy had his limitations. He could not be around all the time, at all the places. But he really did get us out of some particularly sticky situations. That he became the most hated guy when WE went on into S.E., remains one of the greatest travesties of fate…..

Then one fine day..I noticed that the sun was shining (Inane comment this..but lemme explain). I had actually dared to LOOK UP! (Otherwise, I had memorized all the scratches on all the floors of the college building…). The tube lights in my class were shining away to glory, the fan seemed to be winking at me as it creaked and whirred. I was sure I was hallucinating. My groin wasn’t feeling tight every thirty minutes or so….(wonders what a little relief can do to ur renal system…)

The reason?!

It was F.E. Nite Day! (sic)

It was official..we could wear jeans, we could eat it in the canteens, we could freely roam around college..we could SMILE…..

All in all, it was a memorable duration of time…that first month. We were prepared to face anything that good ol’ Mumbai University threw at us. After all, what could be worse than this?!

(The May 1998 CP-2 paper I have to admit, did come in a CLOSE second!). Still the foundation was laid for us to face up to the mental massacre that passes for engineering…

Of course, things were not all this docile and harmless..RAIT hai baap! But even then..a big THANK YOU to all our seniors..wherever u are..(if it were upto us…I’d say burning in hell ;) ). These memories are so vital, guess they had to be there to make the RAIT Experience a totality…

(In retrospect, all’s well that ENDS well!)

posted by Tapan at 8:30 AM

Short Story - North Star

The car pulled over at the usual corner, at the traffic signal on schedule. The same thing, everyday. The suit seated in the back seat shifted uncomfortably. It was yet another day, he could not wait to get to work, because he wanted to get out...most importantly…

“Life’s a bitch...”, he sighed. And then immediately smiled to himself. He just wondered that if he were to count the number of times he said that while at work during the day, he would probably have to do just that. Count, count..Probably die counting. With this thought, he felt a shiver run up his spine. That word again. Die. Death. Self Destruction. He began sweating in the plush air conditioning of his tin container. “Turn up the AC!” he barked at the chauffeur. The Driver replied deferentially saying that it was running at the maximum. He cursed out aloud, and fingered his shirt collar, feeling his tie knot in the process. Ties...what a stupid waste of cloth...he muttered. Screw corporate policies! He managed another smile as he imagined his boss naked…the grotesque old dodderer..

“What’s wrong today? This signal’s taking it’s while” he commented. Cars were piled up as far as he could see. The Driver drummed on the steering wheel, and stayed silent. The suit looked at him with so much hatred. What does he care..the dumb illiterate…All he had to do was sleep on the upholstery till night after parking this contraption…he thought. He was going to be late again. More side glances and meaningful stares ahead..he could imagine them right now. The least non performers could do was to come on time, he thought wryly. He wasn’t even doing that. So where did that place him?! Once more he started to think about hitting the exit button of life. Why did it have to be so complicated? Ending one’s own life? That was the only thing that belonged to him anyways.. fully..he thought. His accommodation was courtesy the company…no family to speak of, since the bitch had left him…the job well, it could be taken away any minute. Life…a four letter word....

Just then he happened to look out of the window. To his right, on the pavement, was a family. A leper family. Poor wretches … he thought. Wonder what they had to eat last night..he started watching, with morbid curiousity. The kids were not infected, he thought to himself. The couple’s hands were bandaged. The expressions on their faces were surprisingly benign. The two children were playing with lumps of mud. A makeshift swing hung from two iron rods nearby. The father took his kids there, and gave them turns on the swing. The children squealed with delight, as they rocked to and fro on the flimsy rag. Happy..he thought. He felt bilious. They had no right to be happy!! Vermin. Scum. They probably haven’t eaten last night. And those kids..just wait till they catch it from their parents. We’ll see how loudly they’ll laugh then…he thought spitefully. Just as he was recoiling from the horror of what he was thinking, the signal turned green. The usual clamour of over stressed executive horns killed whatever thought processes he had spawned.

As expected, he saw all his so called colleagues snicker as he ran to his cabin. He sat down at his desk, after muttering his usual obscenities under his breath. There was very little to do…he rarely got plum assignments anymore. That should be amongst the first indicators that you have outlived your usefulness…he had read someplace.

He returned home that night strangely silent. He drank a little more than usual. The sight of those lepers in the morning had made him very very pensive indeed. They had the one thing he just was not capable of anymore...not at this rate anyways...the ability to smile. He tried hard to remember when he had smiled happily last…and found his lips twisting themselves into the beginning of a smile..No, not this kind of smile…was the last thing to cross his mind as he slumped into a drunken stupor, only to be awakened by the shrill bleating of his snooze alarm.

Surely enough…the family was there at the signal the next morning. He watched them through his bloodshot eyes. They were laughing away, exchanging pleasantries with one another. The parents were indulgently tickling the kids, who squealed with delight. It was genuine laughter. He could almost hear them through the rolled up tinted glass windows.

And so on it continued…each day, he would catch a glimpse of the family through his window, in their own carefree little world, oblivious to the whole show. That sight each morning became the clichéd fountain of strength for him to draw upon.

The sounds stayed with him…for the first time in over a year now, he actually could concentrate on his work. He gradually started feeling a lot better, both at work and at home. He was drinking a lot less, and he was generally performing above his usual standard professionally. But there was a certain superciliousness about the whole affair though, which was troublesome. It was as if he was thanking himself for not being in their place, yet he could not help but admire the way they could find happiness in things he couldn’t. It was with some uneasiness that he used to watch them each morning, feeling like a voyeur intruding upon their infested privacy. He started taking them for granted. They started becoming a part of his daily routine. A cursory peek at them on his way to work, would mark the ideal beginning of his day. He smiled a lot these days…

Till one fine Monday, they weren’t there at the usual spot. He was slightly perturbed, but continued regardless. Since he was performing better, he was overburdened at work. For a moment, he wished that he was incompetent all over again... At least he could make a move earlier on in the evening. Shaking his head, he moved on. He was slightly on edge throughout the day. Where could those guys be? Probably begging someplace else, he thought…on the drive back home.

The whole of the week was a repeat of the Monday morning. They still weren’t there. He was getting more agitated by the day. Where have they gone and why?! This question kept haunting him throughout the day. He left for home earlier than usual, citing uneasiness. His boss asked him to take care, and with all due concern thrust a couple of reports into his hands, demanding them to be completed by the next morning. Yeah..right…I’ll take care… he thought as he left the office building.

The next day dawned as a sleepy bank holiday. The Driver conveniently took the day off, calling him up at the last minute. Swearing heartily at him, he got into the driver’s seat. He didn’t like driving.

But today, the roads were empty, and driving was a pleasure. He revved up the engine and zipped along merrily. He was nearing the signal, and he stepped on the pedal, exhilarated, carefree, spirits high, singing along to his favourite song on the radio. He looked down for a second at his radio, to crank up the volume. When he looked up again, he saw the beggar right in the path of his zooming vehicle. Their eyes met in a dead stare. He honked, but the beggar was oblivious, and continued to stare at him, hypnotic and lifeless. His foot was glued to the accelerator, and he was too numb to react. There was just too much running through his mind…the sudden appearance of the beggar, that too in this manner had caught him completely off guard.

“Deliverance….”, was the thought running through the leper's mind as the car crashed into his emaciated body. “A fucking police case…”, was what he was thinking as his vehicle ground to a halt, a solitary tear running down his right cheek.

The cops concluded that it was the beggar’s fault, standing in the middle of the road…he was asking for it. Below the flyover nearby, the police found the corpses of his remaining family members. The coroner determined their deaths as being caused due to starvation.


posted by Tapan at 7:01 AM

Short Story - The Art Of Salesmanship

The sun beat down on the jaded tar road sending up heat waves and plain discomfort. His view was distorted. He could see jelly like outlines of cars in the far distance. Beautiful creatures in beautiful machines. As a luxury car zoomed by, he caught a glimpse of the good life. Arm in arm, cuddled together. It’s a miracle that the man is able to drive..he thought. Someday….Sweat trickled down the sides of his neck onto the grimy frayed collar of his shirt as he trudged on...bag full of disinfectants and mothballs in hand. He was really close to his objective. A lot of planning had gone into this particular day. This was it….just concentrate…he thought to himself. He hadn't eaten much, just to keep himself alert and focused. A light stomach would definitely help.

The colony loomed into view. Resplendent in it’s unabashed vulgarity. There was a board on the entrance which said ‘Salesmen and peddlers not allowed’. His heart skipped a beat. He hadn’t seen that board before. Never. Now what? He thought. He made his way cautiously through the open gates. There was no one manning them. He then went to the building where he wanted to go. Third floor, first flat to the right. A series of carefully measured, well rehearsed steps. He knocked on the door.

“Who’s there?”, a trembling voice shouted.

“Salesman”, he replied.

“Please go away..I don’t want anything. I am doing something really important, and I don’t want to see anyone….”

“Maaji, please consider…I have been walking in such pathetic conditions..I haven’t had a single sale..I have to make a sale or starve… please just see what I have to offer at least….”

There was silence for some time.

He waited and waited..refusing to budge. He couldn’t turn away…not now.

Slowly the door opened just a crack, the chain in place. A wizened old lady peeked out at him.

“What are you selling?”

“Phenyle, mothballs, disinfectants, Baygon Bait”

“I don’t know…”, the old lady looked doubtful.

“Please?” , he said, putting on his most ingratiating tone of voice.

“Well ok…but I will return them if they are not effective enough…do u understand?” she snapped.

“Whatever u say ,maaji”, he said, and started to hoist his bag down.

“Come inside”, she said, and opened the door.

If he was taken aback by this invitation, (could this get any easier?!!) he tried hard not to show it…he meekly followed her inside. And gasped. It was a lavishly furnished apartment…marble and granite everywhere….The air conditioning was a welcome relief from the heat..as the sweat dried from his soaked shirt, he felt an urgent thrill. His heart started beating faster and faster. He felt that the old hag could almost hear it, and tried to calm himself down.

“Would you like some water?”

He kept staring at the furniture, the antiques, the wallclocks..

“ Hey you! Are u deaf or something? “

“What did u say?..I’m sorry..”

“I asked u whether you wanted some water..”

“Yes please!”

As she went inside..he braced himself…taking some deep breaths..pacing up and down like a caged animal.

The old lady came back with a glass of water..He gulped it down nervously.

“Why are you sweating so much?” she enquired, her voice kind, warm, motherly.

He didn’t answer, concentrating on finishing the contents of the glass.

“Your life must be real hard…walking around the whole day, getting doors slammed in your face. Don’t you feel insulted when somebody does that?”

“You have to take it…a man has to earn his living somehow..”, he said, hoping there was some degree of conviction in his voice.

She nodded.

“So what are you selling? Anything that this lonely old lady can use?”, she asked.

You didn’t have to tell me that you were lonely, you stupid old fool..he thought to himself. I haven’t watched you like a hawk for a fortnight for nothing... I know exactly who your relatives are, that you have a live-in manservant, and that your children don’t give a damn about you. All that is going to end soon..real soon.

“There you go again…are you deaf?!”

He felt a sharp stab of irritation at her voice. He placed down the bag, and inched closer to the lady. She looked at him with surprise.

“What are you doing?”, she queried.

“Shhh…it’s going to be ok maaji..”, he said, as his hands closed around her neck.

“What the hell do u think you are doing?!”, she screamed.

“What does it look like?!”, he said, as he tightened his grip.

As he strangled her with increasing force, she just did not resist. There was an almost beatific look on her face. No distress, no fear, no resolve. It was almost as if she wanted him to kill her. This irritated him, who clasped harder and harder, until he felt her life force slink away.

This had been easier than I thought, he said to himself as her limp fragile old body drop on the marble floor.

He then sat down on the couch staring at his hands. He looked around for some keys. Scouting around in all the rooms, he then picked up whatever looked valuable. He sure was spoilt for choice. As he hauled all the stuff, he just could not stop sweating. His heart was pounding as if it would burst out of the roof of his head. As his grubby hands carried the loot to the hall, he happened to glance at the corpse. Her eyes caught his in a glassy, lifeless stare, a faint smile on her lips. Beads of sweat trickled down his forehead into the crevices of his neck. His ears were flaming, his hands trembling.

“Stop staring at me!!!”, he screamed. “Whom are you laughing at?!!!”

There was no answer. He almost expected one.

“Stop STARING!”

Still no answer. She is dead..he thought. I killed her. It then hit him..It hit hard..his teeth were aching..his heart rate going ballistic. One massive ferrous explosion within his chest..

The Police team reached the scene an hour later. They had been alerted by a neighbour who had heard a series of screams from the old lady’s house.

As the cops swarmed all around the place, the Inspector in charge surveyed the scene. The salesman’s body was hunched near the old lady’s. One hand clutching his head and the other his chest.

“A first timer”, he thought to himself as he chuckled. “Talk of instant retribution..”

One of the constables called out from the bedroom

“Saaheb, have a look at this!!!”

Underneath the bed, he had found a bottle of rat poison, some sleeping pills and a suicide note written by the lady…

Meanwhile, the watchman, along with the manservant crept up to the floor where the crone lived. “Are all the materials in order?” asked the manservant.. “Just to make sure..”

“Clutch the bag as inconspicuously as possible..”

As they turned into the aisle from the staircase and peered down the corridor, they saw a rush of khaki all over the place. A police team in the house?! Had they got wind of their plan somehow…but who could have alerted them? Or had the old lady smelled a rat?

“All down the drain”, they cursed aloud as they fled from the scene.


posted by Tapan at 7:00 AM