No Parking!


Madiwala, the place where my office is, is one of the most congested places in Bangalore. The building is small and there is not enough parking in the basement. So we have hired some spots in a nearby parking lot which is nothing but a couple of vacant plots managed by the local semi-thug, Mr Kumar. One of the first advice I got when I joined this company was to stay clear from Kumar.

If you brush him the wrong way, he can make your life miserable.

There have been instances where he has abused a senior person in our office for apparently not parking the car according to his liking. Everyday there was some problem or the other. He was even called in the middle of the office hours to take his car out to make way for someone else’s car. It became so bad, that he had to find some other parking place.

By nature I always wanted to stay clear of trouble. On day one itself, I gave a lot of undue respect to Kumar, spoke to him in the most polite way in his mother tongue Tamil and addressed him Kumar Anna. I think it worked. Till now he has always been helpful to me.

Everything was fine until that morning when I went to park my car. I was suprised to see a lot of Kerala registered Innovas and Tempo Travellers tightly parked covering almost all the spots. My spot was still vacant and so I could park my car however I felt something was amiss. This parking lot was also used by the nearby Mallu low budget hotels to park their guests hatchbacks and sedans but Innovas and Travellers were there for the first time. When I came back to take the car late in the evening, my worries had already become true. There was an awkwardly parked Innova in front of my car and there was no way for me to go out.

I went to Kumar Anna and complained. He said

Kumar: It’s your people only…

Me: Huh? My people?

Kumar: Yes. Kerala people for film shooting. Mammootty‘s son is acting.

Me: Dulquer? Wow nice. But how will I take my car out?

Kumar: Yes I will call the hotel guys.

So I was there waiting absolutely irritated and there came another Innova in. The driver got out and looked at me. I smiled and asked him in Malayalam…

Me: Hello. Which movie?

Driver: Anjali Menon‘s movie

Me: Oh is it? (I got excited) You know what, Anjali is a friend of mine. Where’s she staying?

Driver: (Looking a bit suspicious) Somewhere here in an apartment

I didn’t exactly want to know where she stayed. I was just excited that she was in Bangalore and was curious to know if she is somewhere nearby considering the production vehicles were parked there. What if we could bump into each other? It was quite some time after we met the last time and I had a lot of questions for her about some nuances of Manjadikuru and Ustad Hotel. But when the driver was reluctant to answer, I kept my calm. I told my friend who was with me about Anjali being my brother’s friend and her new movie was the most awaited movie of the year and all that. Since then on I became more tolerant about the issue at hand. Suddenly they became ‘my people’, like Kumar said.

The next morning, the lot was full again. Even my spot was taken and there was no sign of anyone taking out their vehicles. I was not as irritated as the previous day. But I went to Kumar again

Me: Kumar Anna what is this? Where will I park?

Kumar: @#4%$%$# I don’t know. These people are so unruly. Your people only. Mammootty’s son. Yesterday someone was saying Mammootty is the greatest actor in India. I asked him to get lost. @#4%$%$#

I didn’t like what he said,  but then I wanted to park somewhere…

Me: Anna where can I park? Is there space in the other lot?

Kumar: No. Can you park on the side of the road. I’ll keep a watch on it. Don’t worry.

I was absolutely paranoid about parking on the road side away from my sight. One of the first things I negotiated during my hiring was for parking and that’s how I ended up getting it as part of my package. But that day I had no other go. So I parked on the side praying nothing should happen. And then I ended up doing it daily. Later on Kumar Anna felt bad for me and arranged a temporary spot in his other lot. The only catch was that I had to take the car out at 6 pm. So I started going earlier to work, which meant I had to wake up earlier too, so that I could leave by 6 pm. Again I wasn’t annoyed as I was doing it for a friend, ‘my people’ and of course Mammootty’s son :-). That was my contribution to the movie as a friend and a Bangalorean.

After a month or so, when I came in one morning the production vehicles were gone. I felt a bit bad that day but I got my parking lot back again. Kumar Anna bitched about the people of Kerala and Mammootty’s son a bit that day too but I understood that he was trying to make me feel better about the month that went by. Anyway life was back to normal once again. A week later I was thrilled to see the first look of the movie and then later the trailer. I have been following Bangalore Days on Facebook for updates and am waiting to catch the movie next weekend.

It’s funny to think how we can change others lives without either of us having a whiff of it. Like Hyperlink cinema. I was wondering if Anjali even knows about how my life changed for a month because of her decision to make a movie based on Bangalore. And many other people like Kumar. Like how Fayizi who was supposed to set up his upmarket career in London ended up running a biriyani kada in Kozhikode.

Which makes me wonder, how many people’s lives have changed because of me? Was it for better or for worse? Should I be thinking about it? Or is it Kismat? Like how Kareemkka says…

Kismat ennonnundu Fayizi. Athine aarkkum thadukkaan kazhiyoola!

I’m funny and my fans know it


There is this lady doctor near my place who has ostensibly become my fan. Let’s call her Sarah and she is a very sweet and chatty doctor. My wife visits her usually and spends time with her chatting and comes back hours later. Some time back I got a pretty bad boil on my leg and she suggested I should go to Sarah. That was the beginning.

After chatting for a bit in Malayalam, I showed her the boil. I was in absolute pain and I saw the empathy in her eyes. She prescribed some medicines and then paused for a moment and asked me

Sarah: Should I clean it up, it will be better?

Me: Oh no! This is why I don’t go to doctors.

Sarah: Huh why?

Me: Now you will say you have cut it open

Sarah: Oh no no! I will just prick it with a needle and let the puss drain out and will clean it up with dettol. That’s it.

Me: Will it hurt? Coz I’m already in pain.

Sarah: Well it might hurt a little but I think you can manage.

Me: Well….. OK

She went in and brought the tools and started doing a micro surgery on my boil, *and I was seeing stars*. In between she asked,

Sarah: Does it hurt?

Me: HELL YEAH!!!!!

Sarah: It’s over, it’s over. Please don’t try this at home.

Once the micro surgery was done, she became chatty again. She started explaining what could be the problem and suggested that if the boils keep on coming, I should go get a blood test done.

Sarah: But, I don’t believe you get boils

Me: Why not?

Sarah: You have a clear and lovely skin. If you get boils there would be marks everywhere

Me: Oh doctor you wont believe, that I had pretty bad chicken pox years ago, but somehow I didn’t get any scars on my face.

Sarah: No way….

Me: I swear

Sarah: OK whatever

As I was leaving, she asked,

Sarah: So any news of Shashi Tharoor? Are you in anyway related to him?

This was the day after Shashi Tharoor’s wife’s untimely demise.

Me: Yeah I heard that he is also in the hospital. I’m not a close relative but may be some door ke rishtedaar. Why did you ask?

Sarah: I thought so…

Me: Ya that way all Nairs and Menons are related in some or the other way 🙂

Sarah: Yeah i know

Me: OK See you

I came back and life moved on. My boil healed and I was fine. The week after my wife had to visit Sarah for something. She came back and started telling me hesitantly,

Wife: You know what? The doctor is a big fan of your’s…

Me: How come?

Wife: She was talking about your funny expressions and how much she laughed thinking about it.

Me: Funny? I thought my expressions were sad, she poked my boil…

Wife: She just thought you were funny. So even I told her about your retard expressions and silly jokes. Then we were gossiping about you all this while.

Me: Chalo. There is someone who is a fan of mine. She also said I look like Shashi Tharoor.

Wife: No way?

Me: Yeah. But dont worry, I will not be able to go there anymore.

Wife: Why not?

Me: That’s another story

Wife: Tell me

Years ago I had another neighbor who was a fan of mine. We were staying in a small house for rent in Ottapalam then. Every evening after coming back from school I used to straight away get into the bathroom for a shower and btw… I was a bathroom singer. Our bathroom was outside the house, kind of closer to the neighbor’s house.

We didn’t have a phone connection then, Amma used to go there when Achan called from the Gulf. One day Amma came back and started telling me that they were big fans of my singing. Apparently they waited everyday to listen to my songs. I can’t describe how exhilarated I was and that evening I went to have bath with a hidden agenda.

That evening instead of a bath I actually had a mini concert of sorts in the bathroom. I made sure that I was loud enough for the neighbors to hear me. It went on for a good one hour that Amma had to shout her lungs out from outside asking me to stop and said

I think they will never ask anyone to sing again.

The neighbors would have definitely heard my mom and that’s when I came to senses.

Me: From that day onwards if anyone said they were my fans, I just ran away. What if I subconsciously showcase some extra funny histrionics the next time I meet Dr. Sarah?

Wife: Good point. Don’t ever visit her. Tumhari to pata nahi, par meri to kuch izzat hain yahan.

P.S. She still finds it hard to believe that I look like Shashi Tharoor. 😛

Toddy Shop – 24 Kaatham

It was one of those days when we didnt have classes due to strike and our gang didnt want to go home so soon. As usual we went to the banana orchard near Poocha’s place. This place was our favorite hangout then (yeah we didn’t have cafes and pubs to hangout in our village back then) which gave us enough privacy. Also attached to the orchard was a small canal where we used to swim. That day also we took a dip in the canal and was wondering what to do next. Someone suggested drinking toddy.

Most of us, including me, had not had toddy earlier. So the idea was welcomed. The plan was to get toddy to the orchard so that we can have it at our own time. But no one knew where the nearest toddy shop was and also how to bring it. Sunny, the guy who lived in an ultra remote place, said that there were many toddy shops near his house. Poocha suddenly ran somewhere and after 10 minutes came back with 4 huge empty bottles.

Raju: From where did you get these?

Poocha: I went to the nearest house and asked….

Raju: Huh? Do you know them?

Poocha: No

Raju: What did you tell them? Did they know that we are planning to drink here?

Poocha: No way. I told them its to get water. I also asked them if they can spare some pickles. But they said no.

Raju: Wonderful

The next step was to get the stuff. We all started looking each other. After some serious discussions Uppu and I were chosen to get toddy from wherever possible. The bottles and some money were handed over to us.

Then started our road trip. We just had some vague idea where Sunny lived. So we started walking towards that direction. We walked through the vast dry paddy fields hoping to hit some proper road. After 45 minutes of walk, we saw a narrow and deserted road. Uppu recognized it as the road that goes to Sunny’s place. We were on the right track but again after walking for half an hour, we couldn’t find the toddy shop.

We were really tired by then and thought of asking someone if there was any hope ahead.

Uppu: Chetta, is there any shaap nearby?

Random guy: Mmmmm yeah. Just walk straight…

Me: But how long?

Random guy: Mmmmmmmmmm OK do you see that water tap on the road?

We: Yeah yeah

Random guy: Ya. Just walk further down this road and when you spot the 5th tap the toddy shop will be on the opposite side.

We: Oh Thanks a lot chetta

Me: Uppu, how does that guy know about these taps so well?

Uppu: I think he is a regular at the shaap and after getting sloshed in the night he counts the taps to get back home.

We LOLed.

We continued the walk with a new found vigor. We knew the destination was not far away. But we were wrong; the second tap was a good 20 minutes walk away. By the time we reached the 5th tap we were dead tired. But exactly like the random guy said, the toddy shop was on the opposite side.

We got the bottles filled and started walking back. I think that was the longest walk I have ever done. By the time we reached the orchard it was getting dark and the guys were becoming worried. As it was late we decided to quickly gulp it down rather than taking time to drink relaxing near the canal. Even though the toddy tasted funny, for me it was my labour of love. We finished the four huge bottles in no time and dispersed to go home.

When I reached home I was feeling totally sick. My stomach rolled like crazy and I was regretting drinking every second. Some time close to dinner time I started throwing up like crazy to the extend that I doubted if my intestines also came out. And there went my labour of love flushed down the toilet.

Gym Carrie


There was a time when my cousins used to call me “Air Force”. As a kid I was so thin I could fly away in a slightly heavy breeze. Amma used to try all kinds of stuff on me to make me put on weight; right from having Chyavanprash in the morning to eating spoonful of ghee every night. But nothing worked.

Years after that, sometime in my mid twenties, I started putting on weight. From ‘Air Force’ I was soon becoming ‘Air Filled’. Actually I was having lesser food then as it was during my struggling days in terms of job and money. There were many theories which did the rounds then regarding my weight gain; some of them attributed to my unhealthy habit of having food at odd hours and even to my “happy state of mine” coz of my newly found lady love. Whatever it was, since then I haven’t managed to reduce my weight much.

When I got married, my petite wife Teju, was not absolutely happy about my physical appearance. She kept on nagging about my double chin and pot belly. She tried to change my eating and dressing habits to make me look thinner. She also asked me to go to gym but I avoided it saying the nearest gym was far and I wouldn’t be able to manage the timings. I also told her about the money I had spent in gyms when I was in Chennai and Pune in vain. Then came the day I dreaded of, a gym opened near our house.

It was not a typical gym. It was more of a physio therapy place with a well equipped gym. They also had some special weight reduction plans. The place was also not crowded like other typical gyms and also you wouldn’t have to face a lot of hot women and also those body builders. But to make it happen I had to get up early in the morning which I was sure was not going to work. To motivate me Teju also offered to wake up early and come with me.

A week went by without glitches. We both got up early, walked to the gym, did workouts as instructed by a regular looking guy (Lets call him Charlie), and walked back. But after a week Teju started slacking. She was like, “I will join you in 10 minutes” types. After 2 days she completely stopped coming. I was also losing interest day by day but then something changed. A new gym instructor appeared. A girl.

The day I was contemplating to stop going, the gym instructor changed to a pretty thing. Lets call her Carrie. Carrie turned out to be a task master and made me do all kinds of stuff till I absolutely got pooped out. Nevertheless I was enjoying it. There was really no one else in the gym so she dedicated her time for me and I was exercising like a mad man trying to impress her. I completely submitted myself to her. I started going home sweating profusely. Early mornings became a piece of cake as I woke up early on time like a robot and ran to the gym. I actually thought I’m going to become ‘Air Force’ once again. Carrie and I also bonded well. I used to crack my usual jokes and she used to laugh uncontrollably while giving me hard tasks to do. Carrie used to tell me that my expressions were funny while exercising, as if I was doing some heavy duty weight lifting. So for me it was a time spent well. Teju would have wondered what the hell happened to me seeing my enthusiasm to go gymming every morning. I think I had a crush on Carrie coz I had thought of inviting her for coffee on the coming Saturday after the work out.

On Saturday when I went Carrie was not there and Charlie was back. I presumed that she was on leave and started meticulously doing my tasks Carrie wanted me to do. This repeated for the next 2-3 days. On the 3rd day while I was leaving, I asked Charlie about Carrie.

Me: Where is she? (Trying to make it sound as innocent as possible)

Charlie: Who?

Me: Carrie (Duh, who else)

Charlie: Oh she quit

Me: (WHHAAATTT???) Oh Ok

The next day even I quit.

A promise that remains

Pond Weed

I was 5 years old then, I think. Amma and I used to stay in our ancestral house along with my grandma and two uncles (Amma’s brothers) and their families. The house was big; I wouldn’t call it typical Kerala style, I think it had a contemporary take of its time. Also it had acres of land surrounding it, the front being vast paddy fields and the back a huge farm of vegetables, mangoes, jack fruit,coconut, tapioca etc. It was truly amazing when I think of it now.

One of my two uncles at home, I called him Mattimama, used to be a farmer and used to work hands on in the land surrounding the house along with others who used to work for him. I was Mattimama’s darling and used to take me along with him wherever he went. My favorite playtime after I got back home from school was to go out with my uncle to the workplace and hang around with him. Also may be help a bit in whatever they were doing and then return home mostly to hear Amma screaming at me for not doing home work.

That evening as usual I went with Mattimama and Sreedharan, who was the helper that day, to the vegetable farm. The vegetable farm had to be watered daily and hence there was a large pond at one end of it. A pond normally is used to have bath in our place and so it will be nicely paved with stone. But this pond was only meant for irrigation so it more or less was a huge pit of water. Mattimama and I went to the other end of the farm doing something and Sreedharan was doing something somewhere in the middle. The farm was huge as one had to really shout their lungs out for the other to hear from one end to other.

I don’t remember what made me drift, may be because that day I didn’t have anything meaningful to do to help. I walked and came to the end where the pond was. I think I had something that I had imagined as a boat in my hand and I decided to put it in the water. I threw the boat in the water and took a long stick to control it from the shore. I waved the stick two three times at the boat and it fell into the water. I looked around to see if my uncle can help me in getting the stick back. I could only see Sreedharan at a distance and not my uncle so I decided to get it myself. There was a ditch on the side that’s cut deep into the pond to make the water overflow into the paddy fields during rains. I slowly dragged myself into the deep ditch and then tried to reach to the stick. It was still far and so I kept my foot a bit more closer to the water. I kept my foot on the loose mud and it caved in and the next second I fell into the water drowning.

I didnt know swimming then and I was drowning, going up and down in water. I had kept my eyes open and could see yellow water when I went down, water gushing in through my mouth and nose. But the moment I came up I tried shouting Mattii… and then I went down. This happened almost 5-6 times I think and I couldnt shout anymore. I was losing hope but then I saw Sreedharan jumping into the water and swimming towards me.

Soon I was pulled to the shore and I saw Mattimama had also reached there by then. They pushed all the water out of my body, dried me up and made me rest for a while. It was almost dark they decided to call it a day. I was scared if Amma would shout at me, so I told Mattimama and Sreedharan not to tell her about this. As usual that evening too I got the customary screaming from Amma for not coming back on time for home work.

I dont remember much from those days but this is one incident I haven’t forgotten. Mattimama is no more with us. We moved to a newer house. Our ancestral house and the farm is now owned by a distant relative. Sreedharan learnt carpentry and switched line of job. He comes home even now as Achan gets some work done through him. Amma might have come to know the incident somehow later but I don’t think Achan knows about it yet. Even now when Sreedharan comes home he smiles at me and I smile back, silently renewing the promise he kept for almost 30 years.

Amerikya oru cheriya sambhavam alla! Part 4

Sightglass Coffee, San Francisco by yukikitchen

Hows ya doin today?

In the US, you will be greeted all the time by people especially when you go to shops, restaurants or hotels. And its not just a smile or a Hello. Its a good

Hi, How are you doing today?

In India we are not used to this behavior. The first time when I went to US I found this a bit irritating and funny. Most of the time when I used to go to a store I wouldn’t expect them to say anything but then when they used to say something, suddenly I would go “HUH, Sorry?” (nincompoop). In New York it was difficult for me to understand the accent of African Americans in the first place. The unexpected greetings just made it worse. But then towards the end of my stay in Santa Monica, I finally got conditioned to this phenomenon.

Second time when I went to San Francisco I had Tony for company. Tony was in US for a couple of months before I reached and was already becoming a part of the culture. Tony took me to Whole Foods Market the first day for lunch and I noticed him greeting back the cashier and then answer that customary question…

For here or to go?

“To go” means they are asking if its a “take away” or “parcel” order. This is again something I had to learn earlier.

Later at Subway I heard Tony asking

Can I have a soda with the sub?

I was like did he start having soda even with his food? 🙂 The lady there then handed him a glass and I saw him going to the fountain to fill Pepsi. Soda is the generic word for an aerated drink, I realized.

When it was my turn to tell the lady what to add in my sub, I said

Some chillis please

The lady looked at me puzzled. Tony came to my rescue and told her to add jalapeños. Chilli means beef in America, I was told.

San Francisco is a great place to have Indian food. Tony, Nikunj and I ate from Pakwan almost every night. Pakwan was better than all the Indian/Pakistani restaurants we tried eating in the Tenderloin area. We had authentic South Indian food in a Firangi fine dining setup from Dosa at Fillmore, complete with Kingfisher Beer. We even taught a cute firang waitress what a thali meal means. I also liked Deli Board a lot for their unique and delicious sandwiches. One Friday Rajesh took all of us to Bourbon & Branch, a Speakeasy, which was also an experience in itself. The girl at Bourbon & Branch actually greeted us by asking for our ID cards 🙂

Even though we used Square to pay in many of the cabs and Food Trucks in San Francisco, I wanted to have the original Square Wallet experience at Sight Glass Coffee. And I got the chance a day before I left.

That night we were staying in a Hotel very close to Sight Glass Coffee so that morning I dragged Tony to come with me. I made sure I opened the tab on the Square Wallet app before I went in. When I reached the counter the girl there greeted me; but a little different this time

Hi Umesh, How are you doing Today?

Tony was shocked to hear that. I greeted her back and ordered some random coffee and something to eat. We hated the food but enjoying the food was not the objective anyway. On the way back I went to the counter and told her

Put it on Umesh

and we walked away. Tony was puzzled and asked what’s happening. I explained to him how it all worked but I dont think he shared the same excitement as mine at that point. Nevertheless it was my second hipster moment in the USA.

End. The title is in Malayalam. It loosely translates to “Don’t underestimate America.”

Amerikya oru cheriya sambhavam alla! Part 3

Day and Night have no much difference!

The above picture of the Golden Gate bridge, San Francisco was shot at 8.50PM, in the month of June.

The first city I visited on my first trip to US was Atlanta. I reached at around 10PM right after a thunderstorm and that night I had to be content with Ceaser Salad for dinner. The next day, after the client meeting in the evening my colleague Mony and I went exploring the downtown area. We went around the Centennial Park, took pictures and then sat down in the garden outside World of Coca Cola, talked for a very long time. Then we went to a small store outside our hotel and Mony bought some snacks and some juices. She asked me too to get something to eat. I didn’t feel hungry so I said I will directly have dinner. Mony looked at me puzzled and then said OK. We went into our rooms.

I freshened up and looked through the pictures I shot, watched a bit of TV and realized that its getting dark and I was feeling hungry. I thought of having an early dinner. I got out and started walking towards the Subway I had spotted earlier. There were not many cars on the road. I even saw a car waiting in the signal patiently when there were no vehicles on the cross road. I reached the Subway and pushed the door only to realize that it was closed. Thats when I looked at the time and it was 9PM. Suddenly Mony buying food, looking at me puzzled, no cars on the road made sense. That night also I had to be content with Ceaser Salad.

In India we depend a lot on our body clock. Our body reacts a lot to the external conditions and we are tuned to listen to that rather than looking at the clock all the time. It doesn’t work everywhere. This happens even in the Europe, my brother has told me. Initially I found it very amusing as Atlanta goes to sleep pretty early. But I took this extended day time as my chance to explore the city when I reached New York.

The second time I was not surprised to see this happening, obviously. This made me plan our city exploration trips well. The day we decided to go sight seeing in San Francisco, Golden Gate was the last in our itinerary. We reached the bridge at around 8PM and started walking across. It was a long walk and was frikkin cold but the day light helped me to capture those moments in all its goodness.

To be Continued…

Amerikya oru cheriya sambhavam alla! Part 2

Car with GPS Navigation
They know where you are!

Once I got a bit settled to the new place I thought of calling my friends and ask if we could meet up. Karthick was first in my list. I called him, talked for some time and he said

Karthick: Hey Umesh, lets meet up in the evening and will have dinner together

Me: Cool. So will you come this side? How far is it?

Karthick: Yeah I can make it in 45 minutes. Where are you put up?

Me: I’m put up at a colleague’s vacant house. Do you know Santa Monica Pier?

Karthick: Yeah

Me: OK. Come there and if the pier is on your left, come straight down and take the…

Karthick: Hey hold on. This is USA man. You just give me your address and I will get there. Dont worry.

Me: Oops (I’m really a nincompoop) OK man. I’ll send the address to your mail.

I didn’t repeat the mistake when I called Girish. I wanted him to think that I’m cool… thanks to Karthick.

In US almost everyone has a GPS navigator in their car and the addresses are systematic and geo coded. Mapping services including Google maps have access to this database and it can show you the exact position of the address when searched for. So there is no need to “explain” to people how to go to an address. They already know it.

Btw in my second trip to US I actually helped a cab guy, who didn’t have GPS navigation, take me to an address I was going for the first time. Yes you heard it right.

One friday we got late at work (7PM) and I had to catch a cab from our office in San Francisco to my sister in law’s place in Cupertino, which is an hour long drive. 7PM is late in SFO and I luckily managed to get a cab but this guy wanted me to guide him. I pulled my phone out but it was dying. So I asked him if he has a usb port. He said yes. I connected the phone to it and made sure the phone was charging and I said…

Take 101

Google Maps navigated us to my sister in law’s door step. That was one of my hipster moments in Amerikya.

To be continued

Amerikya oru cheriya sambhavam alla!

Remember this scene from English-Vinglish where Shashi was embarrassed at the cafe? Its something that has happened to me. Well, a toned down version. The people behind counters are generally sweet and not like the rude lady in the movie. So what really happened to me in the Amerikya? The first time i went to US i was all alone myself and had no one around to tell me how things work there. I had to learn them the hard way.

Tip Everywhere

Hailing a taxi in Manhattan is like a roller coaster ride. Everyone is running busy there. This american-african (ya you are not supposed to call them black) driver of the cab i took zipped through the roads and screeched to a halt. I was not sure if I had reached the destination so was looking around and this guy said something which i didn’t understand.

Me: Sorry, What?

Cabbie: Are you paying by cash or card?

Me: Card. And I handed it over to him.

Cabbie: Swipe it on the machine and enter the tip. Make it fast.

By this time he spotted a lady who was looking for a cab and he wanted to get rid of me as soon as possible.

And I was wondering where the hell was the machine he was talking about. Then I noticed the small screen that was showing ads through the ride had then become a credit card reader interface.

I swiped the card on the screen’s side. It then asked me to enter the tip amount. I had to understand that screen in seconds and not end up making mistakes.

Cabbie: Can you make it fast. I have someone else here…

I think the fare was 8 dollars. So my non numerical head tried doing a quick math of calculating its 10%. However it was too difficult of a calculation for me to get the answer.

Cabbie: Hey maannn

By now I wanted to finish it off soon and so punched 3 and hit enter. Immediately i realized it went in as .03. I was supposed to punch in two zeros also. The cabbie got a shock and gave me a dirty look. I also saw the lady who was waiting for me to get out getting into another cab.

Cabbie: Comeonnnn maaannnn. (*&&%$%^$^$&*****)

I quickly got out saying Sorryyyy avoiding eye contact feeling like a nincompoop.


You are expected to tip for every service you receive in US. When the amount is within 20 dollars you simply add 2-4 dollars and dont do 10% math. In restaurants you tip from 10% to 20%. And Yes like SRK pointed out in the comments if you see something called “Gratitude” in your food bill, its the tip or service charge as we Indians call it they have added to the bill.

To be continued

The victim who passed away 2

That day Achan asked me to call some Appuettan who stays in Besant Nagar. Achan used to always look out for our friends and relatives in Chennai and ask me to visit them. I didn’t mind as I used to time my visit around lunch time only to get “forced” to have lunch by the uncles and aunties.

I called Appuettan, introduced myself, chit chatted for a bit and he called me home but for evening tea. I was disappointed. Actually it really didn’t make sense to spend on petrol and go all the way to Besant Nagar to have chai. But then I decided to go, sit there for some time and then go to Elliot’s beach and ogle at the “colors”.

I reached Appuettan’s house on a Saturday evening. Appuettan was a grey haired uncle, the aunty was sweet and they had a daughter who looked older than me. They were friendly with me, we talked a lot and it looked like they really liked me. After the chai I stood up to leave and continue with my beach plan.

Aunty: Umesh dont go now. Stay for dinner…

Me: Oh its Ok aunty. Some other time.

I took my helmet and thats when the door bell rang. Aunty opened the door and a young beautiful girl walked in. Appuettan introduced her to me

Appuettan: Meet Shweta, my younger daughter.

She smiled and shook hands and I was instantly smitten. I was now cursing myself for the timing I chose to leave. I reluctantly offered to leave again…

Me: OK then I’ll go
Appuettan: Hey man, just stay. We will continue our valluvanadan visheshangal and then rathri oonokke kazhichu pathukke pokado

I Okayed it immediately and sat back on the couch. Shweta also joined the party and this time I took out all my funny malayalam one liners making everyone laugh… all targeted towards, you know who.

When I came back I called Vivek Machan and told him about what happened. I told him about Shweta and asked him give me some ideas to meet her again.

Vivek: Eda prashnam athalla… did she like you?
Me: Well I dont think she disliked me. I think she enjoyed talking to me…
Vivek: Eda Kallaaa… Did you take her number?
Me: No man. I didn’t get a chance.
Vivek: OK. Why don’t you go there next weekend?
Me: Mosham Allade? What will they think? And what should I tell them?
Vivek: You tell them that you just passed by…

Next weekend as per Vivek’s idea I went to Appuettan’s house, this time smartly dressed and all. I rang the bell twice and as I was about to leave Shweta opened the door. She looked as if she just woke up from sleep. Also it seemed like there was noone else at home. Ente Manassil Laddu Potti.. I regained my composure, smiled and said

I just Passed Away

Shweta suddenly woke up from her sleepy self, stared at me for some time, screamed and collapsed right there.

I ran out with all my strength, took the bike and sped. After that day I have never gone back to Appuettan’s house.