The syllabus for my recent pathology exam was 1286 pages of a briefcase-sized book. Yes, I counted them. No, I didn’t study them all.

Bhalani came to my rescue.

Laymen: Bhalani is a medical bookstore that compiles a book containing every question asked in a university paper in the last 40 years. Medical students: Bhalani is our Messiah – re-resurrected.

Here are His Ten Commandments:

  1. I am Bhalani thy God: Who brought thou out of the Land of Hard Work, out of the House of Slavery. No matter what thy professors tell thou, thou shall have no gods before Me.
  2. Thou shall not make for thyself an idol: Of sincerity, whether it affect anything in Heaven above (Drs. Guyton, Harrison and Gray), under the Earth below (the patients thou kill), or in the water under the Earth (minor lethal bacteria). For I, Bhalani thy God, am a jealous God, punishing students for their iniquity of knowledge, to the third and fourth generations of those who reject Me, showing steadfast love for the thousandth generation who love Me and keep My Commandments.
  3. Thou shall not make wrongful use of the name Bhalani: For Bhalani will not acquit anyone who reveals His existence, or that of His Book, to a professor.
  4. Remember the exam day and keep it holy: For one day thou shall labour, and do all thy studying. For the remaining six, thou shall not study – thou, thy mind, thy male or female friend, thy integrity and the alien Dedication in thy heart. Thou shall chill.
  5. Honour thy seniors and their trust: In My Book. If they’ve never studied rheumatoid arthritis, neither should thou. If they’ve read about obsolete conditions like syphilitic aortitis, so shall thou. Do so, that thy marks be high, due to The Book that thy God is giving thou.
  6. Thou shall not commit adultery: Peeking at the side effects of a drug My Book doesn’t mention is cheating. Know that Medicine can be summarised in fifty standard answers.  Thou shall never study an obscure disease, even out of academic interest. If rare, why care?
  7. Thou shall not murder: Thy patience with excessive studying. Thou with the smarts – why study bronchial asthma? So what if every fourth patient has it? If it hasn’t been asked yet, it will never be asked.
  8. Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbour: By spreading rumours that he covers more of the syllabus than thou doth. Don’t worry, he reads My Book too, and is just as clueless as thou.
  9. Thou shall not covet thy neighbour’s marks: He isn’t going to score more than thou will. Anything extra is just good luck.
  10. Thou shall not covet anything that belongs to thy neighbour: Especially his copy of My Book. Four are enough for thy entire batch. And thou shall pass them on to thy juniors.

Then, and only then, shall thou pass.

Thus it was, thus it is, thus it shall be.

* * *



Where the mind is without beer and the head is yelled high

Where liquor is free

Where my world has not been stoken up unto gag-ments

By harrowed domestic squalls

Where words come out from depths uncouth

Where mindless driving stretches its arms towards destruction

Where the bleary dream of reason has not found its way

Into the leery desert land of said habit

Where the mind is egged forward by Tiwari

Into ever-widening sloth and inaction

Into that heaven of me-dom, my Editor, let my country awake!

* * *



Six little old ladies met to catch up over a cup of tea.

“After returning to my deserted brothel in Lucknow”, said Umrao Jaan, “I perked up and made a fortune selling real estate to the Sahara parivaar. With all that money, I built a dancing school which put that dratted Pakeezah out of business. After teaching Shiamak Davar and Mallika Sarabhai everything they know, I began supplying junior artistes to dance in the background of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s films. I never married though – I could never have been the dutiful wife you are, Paro.”

“Dutiful wife my henna-stained foot!” opined Paro. “With Devdas out of the way, I set zamindar babu on fire with my chaahat ka diya and packed off my stepchildren to boarding school. I then married Chunni babu for love and set up a candle-making business that gives Dimple Kapadia sleepless nights. But I could never be as devoted to anyone as you are to Shekhar, Pari.”

“Shekhar?” questioned Parineeta, “Ha! I pressed his clothes for him, sang for him and gave myself to him, only for him to abandon me. Some jhol in his machcher made that dear, departed and I claimed all his property to go marry Girish. Using his engineering expertise, we made a fortune during the IT boom until he conked off like one of his light bulbs. That’s when this Lolita took over from Rekha and began crooning at Kolkata’s hottest nightclubs about the pahelis of my zindagaani. Nabokov even wrote a book about me. Can you boast of that, Mummy?”

“Don’t call me that!” screeched Mumtaz Mahal with an indignant puff of her hookah. “Fourteen children in nineteen years! The old dog could barely keep his pants on. I wanted him put down but my wretched Jahan Ara would have taken offence. So I told Aurangzeb to give him all kinds of hell and faked my own death. I bought a quarry and made a killing selling marble for the Taj to my dear SJ at atrocious rates and retired to run the national family planning program. Whose idea do you think ‘Hum Do Hamara Ek’ was, my almost-mother-in-law’s?”

“Of course it wasn’t mine”, exclaimed Anarkali, with an appreciative glance at the mirror. “I was too busy trying to wreck Salim’s life. All those hours of dancing for grey-haired gandus till I’m giddy and then they try to bury me alive! I blasted off his head with Mother India’s shotgun and spent my days writing incomprehensible Urdu lyrics for Mani Ratnam movies. You too may have used some of my lines, Chanda.”

“Aye”, agreed Chandramukhi, “I used them till I grew sick of spouting them for those inebriated louts. That’s when I sued Devdas’ family to be compensated for intrusion of privacy, obscenity and everything else I could think of. I exchanged my kothi for their haveli and became the chief benefactor of the Sonagacchi branch of Alcoholics Anonymous. We’ve done well for ourselves, haven’t we, girls?”

The little old ladies sipped their teas in silence.

* * *


Like I wonder why I think of football just once in four years?

Like we’ve always known Wayne Rooney looks like a pug. Now we know he plays like one too.

Like footballers are better gymnasts than the Government during Question Hour. What should have been a simple slip and slide becomes a headstand and a triple somersault.

Like it’s all very well to strategise in Thierry; it’s Suarez hell that things will get Messi in practice. Like 22 men on a 7140 square metre pitch can always find a handy leg to trip over, and call for a free-kick. Foul play or playing foul? Klose call.

Like the referee who disallowed a goal in the England-Germany match must seek Z-plus security should he find himself in yon Old Country. His senses might have left him alone, but the British won’t.

Like most teams would have found the naming of the official ball ‘Jabulani’, ironic. It means, ‘bringing joy to everyone’.

Like Baichung Bhutia spends more time giving gyaan about the World Cup than playing in it.

Like if India had been the hosts, the Uruguay-Netherlands match would not have been played. The stadium would have been rented out for Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s reception.

Like coaches after a goal are more expressive than Tom Cruise on Oprah and SRK in Devdas. It all depends on which way the ball goes. Like Maradona does this better than anyone else. Pele can insinuate all he wants; no one else has managed to entertain football fans for three decades.

Like it’s a pity that women aren’t allowed to play. What Pamela did on a beach in Baywatch, she could have done on a field in Nelson Mandela Bay. They wouldn’t even have needed a ball.

Like we know they play football but who can correctly pronounce Cote d’Ivoire?

Like the term American football has acquired a new meaning after that team’s doughty performance.

Like the Italian buttheads were head-butted out of the tournament early on, but why were the French Kissed goodbye?

Like either the Netherlands or Spain may win the Cup, but both will certainly lose their hearing.

Like both teams must pray at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Germany before kick-off.

Like it’s exciting that we will have a first-time winner tomorrow. Like the kids who hold hands with players pre-game will understandably clutch the sweatiest palms in South Africa.

Like I will miss seeing the larger-than-life figures of Ronaldo, Figo and Zidane, but am content watching Robben, Schweinsteiger and Casillas. Like I wonder who will shine in Brazil 2014?

Like four years is way too long a wait.

* * *

Note: My dad writes a blog called Cup, Kyon, Kahan for The Times Of India. In this piece, I’ve tried to copy his signature style. Like father, like son? You decide.


5th July, 2010:

The nationwide bandh called for by the Opposition caused minor unrest in usually peaceful areas such as Sopore, Writer’s Building and Parliament House. Insiders claim this has something to do with the hike in petroleum prices.

Leader of the Opposition L K Advani commended the young Turks of the BJP like Rajnath Singh and Murli Manohar Joshi for taking the initiative in organising this strike. In an aside to his progressive aide Uma Bharti, he was overheard asking if his next Rath Yatra could be engineered in an electric chariot.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi thundered that it was becoming increasingly expensive to burn down even medium-sized Muslim ghettoes. Ex-Petroleum Minister Ram Naik vehemently agreed with him.

Workers of the Shiv Sena and MNS engaged in healthy competition while burning tyres on the Western Express Highway. Amidst cries of protest against migrants, Muslims and M F Hussain, senior functionaries remarked to each other that the price of petrol seemed to have gone up.

BJP MP Hema Malini took time out from jetting across the country for her Ras-Leela performances to reminisce about the good old days when transport depended less on barrels and more on Basanti.

Gondia locals were astonished to find their MP Praful Patel spending an entire day in his home constituency. When he complained about being stranded there due to zero fuel reserves in his helicopter, State Home Minister R R Patil assured him that “Bade bade deshon mein aisi chhoti chhoti baatein hoti rehti hain.

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh celebrated the price hike as he expects pollution levels to decrease drastically. Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh had to restrain him from joining in the revelry and remind him that he was a Cabinet Minister. Shashi Tharoor tweeted that he was spending the day on the backwaters of Kerala with Sunanda Pushkar. Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan reprimanding the former Minister of State for External Affairs to keep his internal affairs to himself took the wind out of his sails.

Communist cadres from Salt Lake to Sonagachi took to the streets in protest. Politburo member Prakash Karat called the price hike a capitalist conspiracy, which led to West Bengal CM Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee planning a havan to ward off American evils. Kalaignar Karunanidhi, while trying to douse conflagrations between his sons M K Stalin and Azhagiri, was forced to remind the comrades that they were supposed to be atheist.

Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar was spotted enjoying his beedi at the plush ICC headquarters and washing his hands off the grain crisis by blaming the transport strike for his inability to supply harvested crops. Congress MP Naveen Jindal joined in the protest as his khaps were rendered impotent owing to their being stranded at the All-India Khap Conference held at Greater Noida. It was all in a day’s work for Uttar Pradesh CM Mayawati, who inaugurated 27 statues of herself in the Rae Bareilly district and promised to rename it Petrol Keemat Ghatao Hartal Nagar.

Amar Singh characteristically had nothing to say.

Meanwhile, other issues of import were pushed into the background. Warren Anderson and Arjun Singh slept soundly after years.

Sensing that his job was being done well by others, Naxal supremo Kishanji took the day off.

* * *