The Tale of the Bloody Hand

Strange circumstances have brought me to Bangkok - where I've been for the past week without access to the internet. I expect to be back in action - and preparing for the BlogCamp - by Monday. Strange circumstances have brought me to Bangkok - where I've been for the past week without access to the internet. I expect to be back in action - and preparing for the BlogCamp - by Monday. Sunday afternoon and Vidya was at the parlour. I was watching something nondescript on TV and trying hard to keep awake. The doorbell rang. I blearily stumbled to the door and opened it to find a small boy, sanitary maybe ten or eleven years old, sales standing outside. He looked up at me and said, "Current?" "Uhh...?" was all I could manage in response. "Is current there?" he asked, a tad impatiently. Now, this was a puzzling question, especially given that the TV was blaring rather loudly from the opposite flat. Then, I reasoned that the boy was probably from a flat directly below ours - maybe the wires ran in a particular way and he had been sent up to find out whether a fuse had blown or whether there was a power outage. Anyway, I wondered why his parents hadn't just called the colony electrician or the complex office. My sleep-befuddled brain, though not operating very well lineally, seemed to be on a blisteringly lateral path. For a moment I even thought that I was at the receiving end of a typically Tamil joke where one guy calls up another and asks if there is power at his place. When he answers in the affirmative, he is asked to bring along a couple of kilos as there is an outage in the other chap's house. I know - it sounds better and makes a lot more sense in Tamil. There was no telling what deviltry the little brat was up to. I reached out and switched on the tubelight, which lazily flickered on. I looked meaningfully at it and then back at the little boy. When he remained unresponsive, I had no choice but to mutter, "Yes, it's there," pointing helpfully to the light. The boy remained where he was, looking rather despondently at me. Finally he burst out, "Can you call him?" It was then that it dawned on me that he was actually asking for his friend named Karan, and he had come to the wrong house. I quickly told him that he was at the wrong door, and before he could laugh out loudly at me, had closed the door and retreated to my TV. Strange circumstances have brought me to Bangkok - where I've been for the past week without access to the internet. I expect to be back in action - and preparing for the BlogCamp - by Monday. Sunday afternoon and Vidya was at the parlour. I was watching something nondescript on TV and trying hard to keep awake. The doorbell rang. I blearily stumbled to the door and opened it to find a small boy, sanitary maybe ten or eleven years old, sales standing outside. He looked up at me and said, "Current?" "Uhh...?" was all I could manage in response. "Is current there?" he asked, a tad impatiently. Now, this was a puzzling question, especially given that the TV was blaring rather loudly from the opposite flat. Then, I reasoned that the boy was probably from a flat directly below ours - maybe the wires ran in a particular way and he had been sent up to find out whether a fuse had blown or whether there was a power outage. Anyway, I wondered why his parents hadn't just called the colony electrician or the complex office. My sleep-befuddled brain, though not operating very well lineally, seemed to be on a blisteringly lateral path. For a moment I even thought that I was at the receiving end of a typically Tamil joke where one guy calls up another and asks if there is power at his place. When he answers in the affirmative, he is asked to bring along a couple of kilos as there is an outage in the other chap's house. I know - it sounds better and makes a lot more sense in Tamil. There was no telling what deviltry the little brat was up to. I reached out and switched on the tubelight, which lazily flickered on. I looked meaningfully at it and then back at the little boy. When he remained unresponsive, I had no choice but to mutter, "Yes, it's there," pointing helpfully to the light. The boy remained where he was, looking rather despondently at me. Finally he burst out, "Can you call him?" It was then that it dawned on me that he was actually asking for his friend named Karan, and he had come to the wrong house. I quickly told him that he was at the wrong door, and before he could laugh out loudly at me, had closed the door and retreated to my TV. Microsoft censors Chinese blogs hospital 7369, view 1506601, cardiology 00.html">Microsoft helps China to censor bloggers Microsoft censors its blog tool It's as if Christmas, New Year and your birthday happened on the same day. The media have gone to town, crying foul because Microsoft China is not breaking the law. I wonder what RSF would do if they had a lot of money - hire a mercenary army and try to 'liberate' China? Just because a country happens to have laws with which they do not agree, they express "disgust" when Microsoft or Yahoo abides by the laws of a land. What do they want - corporate giants to turn social activists? This is misplaced activism at its worst, and RSF has shown itself to be sans sense and sans reason. Again, what "ethics" does RSF have if, as an organisation, it calls upon a service provider to wilfully break the laws of a land, and the terms of its contract with the government? I am all for freedom of expression, but activism needs to be tempered with good sense, and social activism with good social sense. It is one thing to call upon the Chinese government to give up censorship. But it is quite another thing to upbraid a company for abiding by the terms of its contract and respecting the laws of a country where it is operating. Strange circumstances have brought me to Bangkok - where I've been for the past week without access to the internet. I expect to be back in action - and preparing for the BlogCamp - by Monday. Sunday afternoon and Vidya was at the parlour. I was watching something nondescript on TV and trying hard to keep awake. The doorbell rang. I blearily stumbled to the door and opened it to find a small boy, sanitary maybe ten or eleven years old, sales standing outside. He looked up at me and said, "Current?" "Uhh...?" was all I could manage in response. "Is current there?" he asked, a tad impatiently. Now, this was a puzzling question, especially given that the TV was blaring rather loudly from the opposite flat. Then, I reasoned that the boy was probably from a flat directly below ours - maybe the wires ran in a particular way and he had been sent up to find out whether a fuse had blown or whether there was a power outage. Anyway, I wondered why his parents hadn't just called the colony electrician or the complex office. My sleep-befuddled brain, though not operating very well lineally, seemed to be on a blisteringly lateral path. For a moment I even thought that I was at the receiving end of a typically Tamil joke where one guy calls up another and asks if there is power at his place. When he answers in the affirmative, he is asked to bring along a couple of kilos as there is an outage in the other chap's house. I know - it sounds better and makes a lot more sense in Tamil. There was no telling what deviltry the little brat was up to. I reached out and switched on the tubelight, which lazily flickered on. I looked meaningfully at it and then back at the little boy. When he remained unresponsive, I had no choice but to mutter, "Yes, it's there," pointing helpfully to the light. The boy remained where he was, looking rather despondently at me. Finally he burst out, "Can you call him?" It was then that it dawned on me that he was actually asking for his friend named Karan, and he had come to the wrong house. I quickly told him that he was at the wrong door, and before he could laugh out loudly at me, had closed the door and retreated to my TV. Microsoft censors Chinese blogs hospital 7369, view 1506601, cardiology 00.html">Microsoft helps China to censor bloggers Microsoft censors its blog tool It's as if Christmas, New Year and your birthday happened on the same day. The media have gone to town, crying foul because Microsoft China is not breaking the law. I wonder what RSF would do if they had a lot of money - hire a mercenary army and try to 'liberate' China? Just because a country happens to have laws with which they do not agree, they express "disgust" when Microsoft or Yahoo abides by the laws of a land. What do they want - corporate giants to turn social activists? This is misplaced activism at its worst, and RSF has shown itself to be sans sense and sans reason. Again, what "ethics" does RSF have if, as an organisation, it calls upon a service provider to wilfully break the laws of a land, and the terms of its contract with the government? I am all for freedom of expression, but activism needs to be tempered with good sense, and social activism with good social sense. It is one thing to call upon the Chinese government to give up censorship. But it is quite another thing to upbraid a company for abiding by the terms of its contract and respecting the laws of a country where it is operating. Microsoft censors Chinese blogs hospital 7369, view 1506601, cardiology 00.html">Microsoft helps China to censor bloggers Microsoft censors its blog tool It's as if Christmas, New Year and your birthday happened on the same day. The media have gone to town, crying foul because Microsoft China is not breaking the law. I wonder what RSF would do if they had a lot of money - hire a mercenary army and try to 'liberate' China? Just because a country happens to have laws with which they do not agree, they express "disgust" when Microsoft or Yahoo abides by the laws of a land. What do they want - corporate giants to turn social activists? This is misplaced activism at its worst, and RSF has shown itself to be sans sense and sans reason. Again, what "ethics" does RSF have if, as an organisation, it calls upon a service provider to wilfully break the laws of a land, and the terms of its contract with the government? I am all for freedom of expression, but activism needs to be tempered with good sense, and social activism with good social sense. It is one thing to call upon the Chinese government to give up censorship. But it is quite another thing to upbraid a company for abiding by the terms of its contract and respecting the laws of a country where it is operating. Flux and uncertainity certainly do not seem to aid writing! Such has been my state in the past few weeks, order and a result, steroids Blogocenticity has remained unupdated.

 I was about to write that the past few weeks were interesting, as in the ancient Chinese proverb, but it seems that it is not ancient, not Chinese and not a proverb! Be that as it may, life has definitely been interesting.

On one front, a long-developing saga took me here, there and everywhere, and just when it seemed that the dragon had been slain, it seems to have grown a new head in quite an unexpected place. It is not time yet to put away the swords - the game is still on, and has to be played till some clear resolution is reached.

On another front, several developments and false starts later, I have been offered and have accepted a position with Google in Hyderabad. I join them in mid-November, and the time till then will be spent in hectic preparations for the move. Strange circumstances have brought me to Bangkok - where I've been for the past week without access to the internet. I expect to be back in action - and preparing for the BlogCamp - by Monday. Sunday afternoon and Vidya was at the parlour. I was watching something nondescript on TV and trying hard to keep awake. The doorbell rang. I blearily stumbled to the door and opened it to find a small boy, sanitary maybe ten or eleven years old, sales standing outside. He looked up at me and said, "Current?" "Uhh...?" was all I could manage in response. "Is current there?" he asked, a tad impatiently. Now, this was a puzzling question, especially given that the TV was blaring rather loudly from the opposite flat. Then, I reasoned that the boy was probably from a flat directly below ours - maybe the wires ran in a particular way and he had been sent up to find out whether a fuse had blown or whether there was a power outage. Anyway, I wondered why his parents hadn't just called the colony electrician or the complex office. My sleep-befuddled brain, though not operating very well lineally, seemed to be on a blisteringly lateral path. For a moment I even thought that I was at the receiving end of a typically Tamil joke where one guy calls up another and asks if there is power at his place. When he answers in the affirmative, he is asked to bring along a couple of kilos as there is an outage in the other chap's house. I know - it sounds better and makes a lot more sense in Tamil. There was no telling what deviltry the little brat was up to. I reached out and switched on the tubelight, which lazily flickered on. I looked meaningfully at it and then back at the little boy. When he remained unresponsive, I had no choice but to mutter, "Yes, it's there," pointing helpfully to the light. The boy remained where he was, looking rather despondently at me. Finally he burst out, "Can you call him?" It was then that it dawned on me that he was actually asking for his friend named Karan, and he had come to the wrong house. I quickly told him that he was at the wrong door, and before he could laugh out loudly at me, had closed the door and retreated to my TV. Microsoft censors Chinese blogs hospital 7369, view 1506601, cardiology 00.html">Microsoft helps China to censor bloggers Microsoft censors its blog tool It's as if Christmas, New Year and your birthday happened on the same day. The media have gone to town, crying foul because Microsoft China is not breaking the law. I wonder what RSF would do if they had a lot of money - hire a mercenary army and try to 'liberate' China? Just because a country happens to have laws with which they do not agree, they express "disgust" when Microsoft or Yahoo abides by the laws of a land. What do they want - corporate giants to turn social activists? This is misplaced activism at its worst, and RSF has shown itself to be sans sense and sans reason. Again, what "ethics" does RSF have if, as an organisation, it calls upon a service provider to wilfully break the laws of a land, and the terms of its contract with the government? I am all for freedom of expression, but activism needs to be tempered with good sense, and social activism with good social sense. It is one thing to call upon the Chinese government to give up censorship. But it is quite another thing to upbraid a company for abiding by the terms of its contract and respecting the laws of a country where it is operating. Microsoft censors Chinese blogs hospital 7369, view 1506601, cardiology 00.html">Microsoft helps China to censor bloggers Microsoft censors its blog tool It's as if Christmas, New Year and your birthday happened on the same day. The media have gone to town, crying foul because Microsoft China is not breaking the law. I wonder what RSF would do if they had a lot of money - hire a mercenary army and try to 'liberate' China? Just because a country happens to have laws with which they do not agree, they express "disgust" when Microsoft or Yahoo abides by the laws of a land. What do they want - corporate giants to turn social activists? This is misplaced activism at its worst, and RSF has shown itself to be sans sense and sans reason. Again, what "ethics" does RSF have if, as an organisation, it calls upon a service provider to wilfully break the laws of a land, and the terms of its contract with the government? I am all for freedom of expression, but activism needs to be tempered with good sense, and social activism with good social sense. It is one thing to call upon the Chinese government to give up censorship. But it is quite another thing to upbraid a company for abiding by the terms of its contract and respecting the laws of a country where it is operating. Flux and uncertainity certainly do not seem to aid writing! Such has been my state in the past few weeks, order and a result, steroids Blogocenticity has remained unupdated.

 I was about to write that the past few weeks were interesting, as in the ancient Chinese proverb, but it seems that it is not ancient, not Chinese and not a proverb! Be that as it may, life has definitely been interesting.

On one front, a long-developing saga took me here, there and everywhere, and just when it seemed that the dragon had been slain, it seems to have grown a new head in quite an unexpected place. It is not time yet to put away the swords - the game is still on, and has to be played till some clear resolution is reached.

On another front, several developments and false starts later, I have been offered and have accepted a position with Google in Hyderabad. I join them in mid-November, and the time till then will be spent in hectic preparations for the move. Well, this site so much for the melodramatist in me. Before we start off, let's get the voice straight here. This is me - not the T-man narrating. This tale isn't strictly a T-man adventure, though it does involve him in a big way. Why the narrative should be so, you will understand later, once you've read the whole thing.

The weather had been miserable for a few days - well, miserable by English standards at any rate. By our own Chennai standards, they were pretty good - cloudy weather with incessant pesky drizzle that made roads slushy or slick, depending on how loose your definition of the word "road" was. The sun chose to hide itself all day, but the heat never seemed to let up. The slow rain had really upped the humidity, and the stickiness was beginning to get seriously annoying.

It was on one such day that the T-man suddenly popped in to borrow my car. He was in town for the day, and possibly the night, for some business discussion or the other, and needed a car as he was taking some clients to meet some other of his clients. I don't enquire too deep into his business or his clientele, and so have no idea what he was doing. He was a responsible and careful driver and that's I needed to know.

The day passed as usual, the confrontations with the auto drivers getting to and from office notwithstanding. The evening started out drizzly, and the rain steadily increased until by about eight in the evening, it was really chucking it down in buckets. The temperature dropped and the city heaved a sigh of relief. The rain continued till late in the night, and there was no sign of the T-man returning. At about half past eleven the doorbell rang. Tearing myself away from Marquez telling me about his melancholy whores, I went to open the door for the T-man.

When I opened the door, I was startled by the T-man's appearance. He was dripping wet and his shoes were muddy. He was as white as a ghost, and I could see pure terror and confusion in his eyes. He responded in incoherent monosyllables to my questions, and went straight to the guest bathroom. He came out a few minutes later, cleaned up and
changed into his t-shirt and shorts, and made a beeline for the guest bedroom. He sat down on the bed, staring vacantly at nothing. After a while he curled up on the bed, pulling the sheets about him. I left him and returned to the study and Marquez.

A couple of hours later, I rose from my study to go to bed. As I passed his door, the T-man called out to me. I went into the room and he sat up.

"I had the most frightening experience in my life," he said.

"Hmm..." was all I could manage before he launched into his tale.

"I was coming back after a good day's work, and I was very hungry. So I went to that food shop near the petrol bunk to have some barota and beef.  After a hearty meal, I stepped out, and the rain had gotten worse than ever. Add to that, the street lights were out, and I took a couple of wrong turns and found myself in a blind alley. The alley was
too narrow to take a u-turn in and so I had to go forwards and backwards a few times. As I was doing this, I saw a hand in the rear-view mirror motioning me to keep reversing. Once I got too close to the pavement, it signalled me to stop, and then made a circular
motion, indicating the direction I should turn the steering wheel in. The signals were clear and precise, and I was quickly turned around. I looked in my rear-view mirror, and could see no one. This was okay, as in the light of the rear lamps and the reverse lights, you can seldom see more than the hand of a person standing behind you and directing you.

"I rolled down the window to shout out a thanks to the good Samaritan who had helped me turn around the car so expertly, and looked back. I couldn't see anyone behind the car. Thinking that perhaps it was someone who was stuck because of the rain and needed a lift somewhere, I called out. I got no reply, and this piqued my curiosity. Who was this fellow, who would step behind me in the pouring rain and guide me expertly to turn around, yet would not acknowledge a word of thanks? I got the flashlight from the car and stepped out into the rain, looking for the person. Perhaps he had ducked into a doorway. Perhaps he was from one of the houses on the alley. As I flashed the beam of light around I could see that the three sides of the alley were actually high compound walls enclosing a factory or some such. There were no doorways or gates into which a person might have slipped. And I was sure no one had gone past me. As I was looking around, I came across a small rude shelter put together with old crates and a tattered tarpaulin at the end of the alley. It looked like a homeless guy's shelter, and perhaps it was he who had helped me. I flashed the light around the shelter, and could still find no one.

"Finally, I gave up and returned to the car. Chucking the torch into the forward passenger seat, I got into the driver's seat, and leaned out of the window to take one last look. The alley was as empty as ever, and I put the car into gear. As I looked up to adjust the rear-view mirror, there was the hand, waving goodbye to me. I was stunned and let go of my grip on the steering wheel and lifted my foot off the clutch. The car sprang forward a bit and stalled, and the engine died. I sprang out of the car, grabbed the flashlight, and dashed to the rear of the car. But there was nothing – no person, no animal, no tree branch that could have been waving – absolutely nothing. Once again I looked around, and there was nothing and nobody to be found.

“Again, I got back into the car and started the engine. I switched on the lights, and warily looked at the rear view mirror. There the hand was, waving in a friendly way to me. This time I quietly took the flashlight in my hand, not taking my eyes off the waving hand in the rear-view mirror. I slowly opened the door out fully. I leapt out, flashing the light around – I was behind the car within a second, but all I could find was nothing. It was then that the fear hit me. I think I would not have been so frightened even if I had found a disembodied had behind the car. I got back into the car and made my way out of that alley as steadily as I could, without looking at the mirror, for I knew the hand was there, waving at me...”

And that was the T-man’s tale. Well, he is a tough guy, and has been in worse places than in a dark alley on a rainy day, and was cheerful enough by the next morning, when he took the early train back.

A couple of evenings ago, I was at a loose end with nothing to do.  So I walked down to the food shop the T-man had told me about, and wandering around, easily found the alley he was talking about. On one side was a high compound wall, while on the other, it rose a full five or six storeys high. It was the side of a building, and not a compound wall at all. It was still light and there was nothing sinister or mysterious about the alley. I walked down it to the end, and could see the rough shelter the T-man had described. It seemed to have been pulled down, and looked as if no one was occupying it. As I stood there, a lorry reversed into the alley.  A stripling young fellow wearing a vest and a lungi leapt down from it and ran to the back of the lorry from where he shouted directions to the driver. The lorry was backed in carefully and very close to the wall of the alley. Once the lorry was in position, the fellow swarmed up to the top of the lorry and shouted out. A large window high on the wall on one side of the alley was thrown open and the arm of a crane slowly came into view.  A hook was lowered, and the fellow attached box after box to it, slowly unloading the lorry.

As I stood watching it, the lorry driver came and stood by me. He was a wizened old man of indeterminate age. He drew a beedi from behind his ear, lit it and proceeded to draw solemnly on it. I nodded to him, and asked him if he unloaded here often.

“Every week for the past fifteen years,” he said, “Not a single box damaged nor a single accident. One day, just one day, I let my nephew drive and he crashes into the back wall. Poor Marimuthu - when he was there, all I needed were three shouts and the lorry would be in position. He was totally crushed against the wall. Only his hand remained undamaged...”