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Sangham get-together at Mercy’s new terrace restaurant that offers a view of the…shipyard. (I kind of prefer the old terrace restaurant that faces HDFC. There is this water tank with black legs on top of HDFC. When the legs disappear and the tank starts floating, you know it is time to go home.)


At Mercy 2, the crowd is more cosmopolitan and genteel. There are fewer tables with the pool taking up most of the space, but service is slow…and as recommended by old Kochi hands we order three rounds together and the Nepali waiter isn’t surprised.


We stick to the time-tested koodal format. Reminisces about trips and trippings, crushes and crashes, we crib about Mooks and call up Lineman. Peanut masala arrives (one hour late) and Rojobhai starts the Vackachan stories…Santhosh Trophy, Three pegs = 3 am, Wedding Cake…Osa proposes a trip to Dubai, with pondatti in oor and all that, Biju is keen but I am not too sure…


We pile out by midnight – Biju, Diji, Jose, Mac, Pattar, Rojo, Varkey and yours truly – to take our chances with the cops/ autobhais/ wives.


Bonus: Check out Mercy’s brochure. Very Hotel California

A few months ago, at Spencer junction, I witnessed an amazing sight – an accidental collage created by a tree, spotlit by sunshine, its rain-cleansed leaves glowing green, and the image of a man on the Jet Airways hoarding in the background, the guy staring up, ecstatic, as if enthralled by the beauty of the tree. I tried to capture the scene on my N72, but then the signal turned green and I had to get going.

Few minutes later…ping, the irony-meter redlined, this was so Ogden Nash…

I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.
Perhaps, unless the billboards fall,
I’ll never see a tree at all.


Gotta get that pic for the blog, Gotta…Day 2. I managed to stop the car at just the right place, grabbed my phone, but before I could get the shot, I noticed the girl in the car ahead leaning across to the boy driving the car. Wow! Valentine’s Day…the tree can wait. The girl pulled out her dupatta from underneath her, returned to vertical position and got busy patting out the wrinkles, and the signal turned green.


Day 3. I finally managed a shot, but the camera position, shot composition and lighting were all wrong. I guess you can’t recreate a kaleidoscope pattern… 


Day 4. Jet Airways had a new hoarding at the site.


Then last week, the billboards fell. The trees emerged from the shadows, and reclaimed their territory. Kind of like the end of The Mansion of Gods…

By nightfall, the forest has taken over once again. Only a few Roman remains show that the Mansion of Gods
ever stood there…


…which reminds me of the first business venture I was a part of: The Four Star Lending Library, started by Biju, Keeshan, Sridharan and I, when we were in high school. The business plan was Biju’s – enter the market with Keeshan’s Kottayam Pushpanath novels and Sridharan’s Indrajal Comics, buy Tintin/Asterix comics using the revenue, plough back profits to buy more comics…The Mansion of Gods was the first book we bought. We had a great run and build a huge collection of Tintin/Asterix comics till John Sir busted us. Those were the days…


Vaal Kashnam: Too bad our underground library experience didn’t inspire a multi-million dollar enterprise. Snigger, snigger.

Chittappan, my friend and a great supporter of this blog, shared with me a poem he penned on his mother’s death anniversary (His mother, widowed when Chittapps was very young, succumbed to a deathly disease 15 years ago)  

It’s 15 years since Destiny had it’s way and Amma passed away.

I am thankful to Destiny that…
…she had the courage to face life after her intense personal loss
…she had the wits around her to smile even while grieving
…she had the will to face up for the sake of us
…in her own ways she showered her love on me
…she stood by me during my dark days
…she never expected anything great from me
…she did understand the love I had for her
…she is not around to see the mayhem

And I miss her all the more as days and years go by!


Welcome back Osa!
Chennai, Jose and I go back a long way…gotta do a post on our Chennai days…

(It still bugs me that i got the ‘jaws’ wrong in Jose’s Rajagiri autograph book…)

Recently we dropped in on Vinu and Sindhu. After the inevitable rounds about family, friends and REC, the talk drifted to movies and movie stars. Sindhu asked me who my fav Tamil actor is and I said ‘Kamalahasan’.

Sindhu: I should have known. You look a bit like him…


Flashback. 1992. I shaved off my mush, and my friend Shobhana was like, “Mallu, you look like Guna”. Wow! Shaving-off-my-mush…and waiting for some guy to go, “You know, you look a bit like Kamal” became an annual ritual for me.

Then one day, mush-less, I entered the office, and the gang went…“Tada Tada Tada Tada…Avvai Shanmukhi…”

(Avvai Shanmukhi = Chachi 420, hence this post qualifies for the ‘Series 42’ stamp given to posts about my fav stuff – thought you would like to know)

I met Pauli, my REC classmate, C 303 roommate and L&T colleague, a few months ago. Couple of rounds, and we couldn’t stop talking about the good old days – the fights, police cases, suspensions, lost friends, lost causes…man, college was serious fun.

Paul was our batch’s diarist, and his diary was more famous than Anne Frank’s. He was an early exponent of magic realism and had a dedicated fan following on campus. For a long time Joef and I contemplated stealing the diaries – that was when we were working on ‘Shaft: The Non-Pol Story’ – too bad we didn’t.

I don’t know if Paul has preserved those diaries (new wife and old diaries don’t mix well). Let me talk to Paul – guess I can work out a deal to syndicate his diaries…or let us hit him with the RTI or something.

Now you know why the Non-Pol story was called Shaft…

Around 1993-94. TV had a dinner meeting with a customer in Chennai. His plan was to pack the customer off quickly, and start jamming with Koomar and I. We reached the restaurant, the customer didn’t leave, and so we started jamming together. After a few rounds, the customer was decidedly uncomfortable, and struggling to make small talk…


He asked Koomar, “Are you married?”.
Pat came the reply, “Ya, Gandhi Square”.


The customer disappeared.


Of course, what Koomar heard was “Are you from Maradu?”.

All these are very nice jokes in Malayalam.

One day when I entered ICH, there was this guy regaling the Sangham with some tall story. I asked Jose, sotto voce, who’s this tamashakkaran? Osa replied ‘He is Tamashakkaran’.


It was the post-engineering era, and TK was part of the Trichur Invasion that swamped Jose Jn. After that season of fun, we all drifted off in different directions, and a few years later, TK moved into Chennai.


I remember the fun times in his pads at Mahalingapuram and Nungambakkam, the amazing jam sessions (No jam was complete without TK’s rendition of Nakshathra Deepangal Thilangi), and the times Tamash stood by me…


Again, when I got thrown out of the Perambur flat it was TK who gave me asylum at RAMS. Though I soon joined Chittappan, when Raghu left for Kerala, I formally moved back.


TK and Paramu were the two pillars of RAMS. Velan and I were the caterpillars who crawled in and crawled out. Perhaps because TK and Paramu worried so much about shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc. Velan and I could concentrate on having fun – and what fun we had.


In those days, the 24-hour coffee shop at Residency (The Right Place, when they still had those beautiful sepia prints of teapots on the walls) was our regular after-party haunt. Once we scandalised the hep crowd there by landing up in lungis. And once, after midnight, unable to find an auto to get back, we hitched a ride on fish-cart and dozed off in the cart with our legs dangling behind (It took us two days to wash off that matsyagandam).


Pretty soon Velan left for US, TK got busy with his MBA and then his fiancée, Paramu left for Dubai, and…kadavil njan mathram aayi.


During that time a shippie friend of mine stayed with me for a while. Every evening, we would set out on our valakkal mission, and return back without success. And every evening he would tell me…“Ente bharyede odukkathe prarthana…”.


I am sure Sangham will agree with me, it works, even today…

A few years ago, after an expo in Maastricht, I spend two days in Amsterdam…cold wind howling through the city and I – lonely and miserable – dragging myself through the crowded streets looking for a familiar face. Then, boom, I did a double take, did I really see a gang of girls in micro-minis…and almost nothing else…serving booze?

That was Teasers, an Amsterdam landmark, a pub modelled after the Hooters. Their house speciality is the Teasers Tequila – the drink is served in a shot glass, OK, and the salt…on the waitress, double OK (Don’t take my word for it, check out the YouTube video. Careful – NSFV).

Vaal kashnam – Once a friend of mine, who was with KLM then, visited Teasers with his wife and their eight-month old kid. Over to his wife…“My husband I could control, but the kid, he just went bonkers…” BHH.

I fell for ICH’s famous MD during my pre-degree days…and I can still remember the first time…on the long table next to the wash.

But ICH was never about food – more than a restaurant, it was a hang out, a haunt, a meeting point and when you couldn’t afford a coffee, a waiting room. During the ’80s, ICH was Sangham HQ.

ICH was…

  • Never-ending bull sessions
  • Top performing Mass with masala dosai and coffee
  • Pattar’s mutton omelette and rose milk (Those were the days, ICS to ICH for breakfast)
  • Post-engineering coffee marathons – 5 tables, 4 hours, 20 guys, 20 coffees
  • The coir carpet, the tiny square tables
  • The photographs – Gandhi, Nehru, AKG
  • The poster – ‘A fine type, A fine coffee – Both are Indian’
  • Bird watching outside Vettukattil, Coffee at ICH, Bird watching outside Vettukattil, Coffee at ICH…
  • Ciggies from Ali-kada (Customer: Oru Week thanne. Ali: Dishum!, BHH)


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January 2021