Thursday, April 26, 2007

Torture on Rajiv Rahadari

I am usually quite excited every time I have to travel back from Karimnagar. The thing is they start running the video bus coaches towards the second half of the day, and I make sure I come back in those. It is one of those things, you know, that strike you as stupendously thrilling in childhood, and then somehow through all your acquired adult blaséness you can’t seem to throw off the impression.

Well, there I was at the Karimnagar bus stop determined to get the AC video coach this time because the Deccan is a furnace these days. I stepped on to the platform only to see just such a bus pulling out of its spot. I made a dash for it, but of course everybody else seemed to have the same idea because the bus was full-booked.

I headed to the Enquiry a bit despondently fully prepared to use every trick in my bag to wring some useful information out of whichever monster was behind the counter. In my line of work I’ve had to deal with more than my share of the instrument of torture that commonly masquerades as an Enquiry officer. I braced myself and said in tones I hoped were polite and confident, adult enough without being off-puttingly authoritative, foreign enough to be of interest and local enough to put at ease “Excuseme Andi”

But I wasn’t prepared for the shock – the creature at the desk looked up and…smiled, and what a blinder it was! I tottered on my feet, but I recovered enough to make my enquiry. I needed only three minutes to ascertain that by some fluke chance I had before me an Angel.

One hour was how long I would have to wait, but yes of course I would be able to get on to the AC bus and yes, they did have a video on it. I made a ‘Spot Decision’* and asked to be directed to the nearest place that would serve me a hot meal. Assurances of speediness and a seat on the bus were exchanged and I trotted off.

I returned in about a half a hour with a bellyful of slurp-inducing Andhra food to find that my bus had already arrived. A slightly panic-filled dash to the ticket counter and what do I know? My Angel has reserved for me a seat, and of course he has made sure it was beside a Lady.

I thanked him profusely and happily took my seat on the bus and waited for the bus to move and the AC to be turned on and for them to play the movie. I must tell you at this point that my education in the filmmaking art of Tollywood has been vastly advanced by these Karimnagar trips. I can’t say even now that I actually ‘get’ most of the films, but I am beginning to have my own opinion of what they may be about.

Well, and so I waited. We took off and some ten minutes into the journey the teenaged bloke whose express job it was to turn on the film, still did not show any sign that he was mindful of his duty. Not wanting to appear unfashionably enthusiastic I sat on my hands, literally.

In retrospect I reflect that they were they only peaceful minutes in that entire journey and it would have been vastly better if nothing had happened next. But as it turned out several things did.

The Boy (of whose type I devoutly hope there is only one in God’s world) came into our part of the bus and began fiddling with the remote. This lasted (and I do not exaggerate) a full half hour. During this duration we had only the audio sound track of his chosen film which went by the name ‘Bunny’. Repeated requests for the other film fell on deaf years, (we {the Lady and me} figured that any film of Pawan Kalyan’s should be better than a film called Bunny.) And when I say Audio track please do not imagine that we had a stream of continuous uninterrupted audio from the film, ho ho ho no! What we had in fact were some three scenes of dialogue (which I can now produce verbatim) and one of those rousing rythu songs in a high pitched male voice. These were played in erratic order designed to play concertos on a being’s nerves. For visual effects we had our man the machine fiend punching away at the remote, TV and DVD player buttons in all possible mathematical permutations, at lightning speed and enough force to punch holes right through them.

I sat, you see, in the second seat, which was too far to spank the blighter’s bottom or snatch the remote from his hand, but close enough to get a blastfull of torture. Thirty minutes later I could take it no more; I did in fact get up and take the remote from him. I found the secret button panel on the TV but that was how far my success went. Disgusted I returned to my seat.

Ten more minutes ensued, similarly. A teenaged person walked up, just the kind of person who reads manufacturer manuals for pleasure. There was a palpable air of belief and hope in the bus. He came up with the idea of a loose wire. So much for Generation Z! I scorn now but I must admit I was ready to believe him then – something had to be done, you see.

I must describe to you the fiend’s behavior through all this because it added considerably to our suffering. The fiend could not be talked to; quite obviously he did not have ears. The fiend was imperturbably and entirely immovable; physical violence might have done the trick but I cannot be certain. The fiend was single minded and untiring. And the fiend wanted his audio ear-splitting loud; probably because he liked a reminder of his partial success.

I reached a point where I was going to fall onto the aisle and kick my feet in the air. But something flickered on the screen and we actually had some video. Only about half the screen was covered with menu options, but hell! We had some video. Oh! The torture of hope! I grabbed the remote again, more for form than with any confidence. Ten minutes later the fiend shot me his first half smile, he had managed to get rid of the menu.

Hallelujah! We said and sunk into our seats, resolved to enjoy Bunny if it killed us.

But if you remember I told you first off that this was the bus of torment.

Fifteen minutes into the film an extraordinary person from the last row who had entirely silent for the past hour and a half walked up to the partition and rapped on the glass and informed the fiend that he will not watch this film. What would you, a rational person, think the fiend did at this point? Send this weird person away with a flea in his ear? Remind him of past sufferings and ask him to kindly adjust?

But does it really surprise the psychic in you when I say that the perverse fiend actually bounced up to oblige that blasted man?

We were NOW to have a change of film people!

I need not tell you, fortunate beings (you only read about this as against actually experiencing it) that the next ordeal lasted long, too long! At the end of which I divined that the fiend did not actually know how to eject the DVD which is why he was adamant about Bunny, but now emboldened by his recent success he was ready to do button-battle again.

This time he failed, with the result that we had to watch Bunny again – from the start.

He left us then. I crept up and turned down the volume to zero so as to halve the agony. Five minutes later, F decided it was time to sell us stale chips and Kurkure. You could of course trust F to notice that something was amiss. He promptly turned and turned up the volume.

Sometimes in life you have to recognize a superior force. Such a moment was upon me. I made peace with my circumstances and a strange peace ensued. I watched every scene of Bunny with a surreal intensity. But funnily the film drew to a close in less than an hour. I was surprised because I had never known a proper Telugu feature film to be so short.

It dawned on me that what we had been repeatedly viewing was the second half of Bunny. It was the DVD that was last put into the Player and F was naturally playing it.

At times like these a certain mist descends on to a being. And I suppose I did not mention that the AC in this bus did not actually work? But in spite of my state I recognized a familiar street and had the bus pull over. Somehow we had arrived in Secunderabad.

I walked home in a daze, dully glad of a familiar world.

* People from my long forgotten childhood will be familiar with this term. Without special significance it just mean what it means.

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