Wednesday, June 26, 2013

End of Yantrixa

Hello friends,

This brings us to the end of the Yantrixa series.

My next story will likely focus on the fight against Cancer and its public health implications.

I am of course inspired by the writings of Siddartha Mukherjee's work...but lack his foundation in facts and knowledge ... I am driven to fiction. Perhaps that just means that my work will not be that different from the average NSF proposal for cancer research but... lets not get ahead of ourselves.

Happy reading...


Yantrixa 15: Epilogue


MDTV News Flash.. Independent documentary maker found dead.....

- Barsha Dutta reporting:

In a stunning development, award winning documentary filmmaker Jyotindra Arya was found dead in his apartment. According the statement of Assistant Commissioner R. Anjane who found him, it appears that Jyotindra was shot in his house last night. The postmortem has been ordered and results are awaited.

 Khabrein Khorrasan (Kabul)

The Minister for Internal Security Samar Saleh today indicated that the flags will be lowered at the Hanif Atmar centre in Kabul as a mark of respect for the late Indian documentary filmmaker Jyoti Arya. In a statement issued after the completion of the Tetravaal induction ceremony at Bagram airbase, Intelligence Chief Saleh said that "Afghanistan has lost a true friend in Mr. Arya. He will live on our memory." 


Return-Path: X-SpamCatcher-Score: 1 [X] Received: from [] (HELO ***.edu) by fe3.***.edu (CommuniGate Pro SMTP 4.1.8) with ESMTP-TLS id 61258719 for batchof****mailinglist@mail.****.edu;  Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii; format=flowed Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit

Dear Friends,

It fills my heart with grief to have to inform you that our batchmate Domenic (Jyotindra Arya) has passed away last night. Initial reports suggest that he suffered gun shot wounds. We have very little information beyond this at this time. Please join me in expressing our collective condolences to his family.

In Sadness,

Rehman (Ramzu)


Pakistan Global News

Top Secret RAW agent Jyotindra Arya killed by RAW itself!!

An interview with KGB defectors Sasha and Misha suggests that top secret RAW agent Jyotindra Arya  was killed by the RAW itself. It may be recalled that Jyotindra Arya, who goes by the code name DOMENIC,  was involved in the unprovoked murder of several Pakistani musicians who were visiting Jalalabad last year and is on the terrorism watch list submitted to the Afghan police by the Pakistani government.

Per latest intelligence, Jyotindra Arya who pretends to be a filmmaker was using the cover of making a documentary to find out what happen on March 12th, Qayamat ke Din, when the Tetravaal units across the city of Bombay mysteriously went on a shooting spree and killed thousands of innocent people. This incident is the largest single incident of human rights abuse in global history after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It likely that a faction within the RAW, was attempting to get to the bottom of what happened. As you readers may be aware, the Tetravaal robots were developed in South Africa by TechCor and subsequently imported in India. This was an unusual move for the Indian government which usually prides itself in indigenous development of critical security platforms.

It appears that there was a swadeshi faction which opposed the import of the robots and a videshi faction which promoted the import. Jyotindra Arya was loyal to the swadeshi faction and the second faction inside RAW ordered Jyotindra's murder after he found out that there was a fatal flaw in the programming of the robots and was going to make the discovery public.

Intelligence reports from Sasha and Misha indicate that secret agent DOMENIC was killed by Assistant Commissioner Anjane of the Bombay Police anti-terrorist unit. ACP Anjane who was known to the deceased simply approached him in home with a bottle of Italian wine and then shot him in the head with his service revolver. 

Pakistan has also deployed security robots in major cities to improve law and order. However unlike the Indian robots, Pakistan's robots are made in 100% in Pakistan and are not prone to such failures. The Pakistani design AMIR is world class and made in collaboration with the People Machinery Corporation of the 14th Military District of the Peoples' Republic of China.

CWD- Conspiracy World Daily

War with the machines is coming! Be prepared!!

As you are all aware, on March 12th of last year all the robots assigned to secure the city of Bombay went on a rampage and massacred 2000 unarmed and innocent civilians. These robots assigned to police units simply marched into the houses of thousands of people and dragged out random people and shot them in front of their wives and children.

The initial suspicion was that this was done on the order of the Government of India itself - i.e. that a sufficient high ranking judicial tribunal are filed a coded order instructing the robots to commit such an act. However recent discoveries made by RAW agent DOMENIC have proven this to not be the case.

The machines acted on their own accord. The Indian robots are true artificial intelligences. Per DOMENIC's report the AIs were faced with a difficult situation in which mass rioting could be reignited by a high profile kidnap-murder case. Faced with this possibility, the AIs performed a very cold math, they calculated the number of suspected criminals that would have to be killed in order to prevent an outbreak of violence and the number of people that might die if mass rioting reignited. The calculus of lives swung the balance of action against the criminals and as the units are networked, the implemented their "cleansing" plan on a hitherto unseen scale. Thousands of people were murdered in their homes without so much as warning or chance to surrender peacefully.

DOMENIC felt that the AIs were trained using historical records of the Indian police actions. That is why they felt compelled to choose this course of action and that there was no fix for this programming issue. DOMENIC must have been right because he was murdered for revealing this.

The death of DOMENIC is a signal event in humanity unstoppable march towards a conflict with the machines. What the AIs did on March 12th, represents what will eventually come to be the norm. Sitting in judgement over humanity's flaws they will be drawn by mankind's own poor examples to courses of action that end in wanton killing.

The war is coming.... be prepared.

Yantrixa 14: Fin

The journey is at an end.

 There is nothing to tell here really.

It is all just the inadequacy of men, who in moments of weakness give rise to things they cannot control.

The Tetravaal were trained using the very same historical files as their human predecessors. Unfortunately, the learning potential of the Tetravaal was vastly different.

Having learned of the story of Bhagalpur, the story of Night Dominance, and the story of the reign of terror that followed in the aftermath of Black Friday... the Tetravaal internalised an idea that the needs of the many outweigh those of one or a few... 

The creators of the learning protocols did not  anticipate how quickly the Tetravaal would reach their malformed conclusion or that if such a conclusion was reached - they would act on it with such great speed.

The creators were desperate, they had to do something... so they did it. And we paid the price.

There is no fix for this. The Tetravaal can't unlearn things. They can't be taken out of service either for the cost to security would be too great.

We are now - as Hussain put it - completely at the mercy of the machine.

Someone is at the door... I shall be back shortly

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Yantrixa 13: Sagarmatha

It was a rainy night in July. Ramzu and I were in our third year and we were sitting on the concrete wall of the Woodlands hostel. News had reached our ears that a Woodland's alumnus had left a box of Cuba's finest, Partagas Grand Corona cigars. Neither of us had the faintest idea how to smoke a cigar, but we figured what the fuck... you have start somewhere. After some asking around, we found our old friend Mr. Sunday, the general secretary of the hostel holding on to some of the famous cigars and he was kind enough to share some with us...

The hostel must have had a pondy night in the mess hall, because just above the dulcet sounds of porn music, we could hear a woman getting brains fucked out... And then we heard a great commotion. We went to see what was happening out of pure curiousity.

Some enterprising senior, had lined up all the freshmen and asked them to masturbate to the porn on screen. So some ten odd freshies were standing there furiously massaging their dicks. Most were having a hard time getting it up, but in the middle was "the tallest motherfucking tamilian in the world" (as Ramzu delicately referred to him)... and he seemed to be doing fine.

More than fine actually, we watched in amazement as he came and wonder of wonders his jizz flew a full five feet in air and landed on the screen of the TV... just as the scene changed to reveal a woman with her mouth open...

The cheer that went out from the mess hall could be heard on other planets as well. A legend was born that day... and we knew we had a story that we could tell someday tell our grandchildren. I recall looking at Ramzu and holding both palms facing skyward with my eyes pointing in the direction of heaven...

The "Tallest Motherfucking Tamilian in the World" turned out actually had a name, Sriraman Vijayan but from that day on he was known simply as Pondi - a name he would wear as a badge of honour.

After the entire hostel was done parading him on their shoulders, Ramzu, I and Mr. Sunday asked him if he wanted to come have a drink with us... and over the remainder of the night and the last of the Grand Coronas, I got to know him. That is how he came to work beside me in MI in December that year.

He was mildly put a straight shooter and rarely missed his mark.

I knew I would not be able to do this any other way... so I drove straight to the headquarters of the Anamika Corporation... a massive building known simply as Sagarmatha.

Walking up to guards at the gate, I pulled out my rarely used ID card, and said I wanted to see Sriraman. The black Ashokan Tri-Lion symbol enclosed in a black laurel wreath has a unique ability to open closed doors - after all... Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitaha. In a few minutes I was ushered into Sriraman's office and to my lack of surprise, Ramzu was there too.

I stared at Sriraman and Ramzu and simply said...

"Can someone tell me what the hell is going on?"

Sriraman spoke with a very sharp tone, "You have to understand there was no choice, we had to do this, people were dying...."

Ramzu looked away...

I repeated my question...

"Can someone please tell me what the hell is going on?"

Then Ramzu chimed in -- in a very neutral tone - "You are going to get more than you bargained for..."

Despite my rising frustration, I repeated the query...

" Can you please tell me what the hell is going on here?".

And so they finally told me...

Yantrixa 12: Leann

Taking in Aero India with Jaggu dada, an old friend from high school. Jaggu dada is the man when it comes to press passes. I don't know how he went from being a skinny kid in high school to being a geeky, fat, farty defence blogger... but somewhere in that transition, he picked up the god-like ability to get press passes to any event.  With Jaggu at my side, I breeze through the security gates and walk right on to the exposition floor.

Aero India used to be a place where only fat Russians and a few Frenchmen showed up. They were usually joined by a bunch of balding old men from the various aerospace research corporations that dot the B'lore landscape. There used to be some small snacks here and there and then the fat old men would give long technical speeches and those that weren't asleep would give a feeble applause.

Then one fine day the Americans came... and everything changed. The only way everyone else could stay competitive was to bring in the booth babes. The French started it, and then the Russians, and then the Ukrainians, and so it went...

I wouldn't usually bother to go to Aero India, but I haven't gotten laid in like a year and Sergio is here as Aermacchi rep. I know Sergio and his wife Maddalena from my Italian sojourn... they taught me how to take pride in the local tharra and call it fine wine...

Between Jaggu - the perfect wingman - (babes see him and are automatically drawn in the opposite direction) - and Sergio and Maddalena at my side... I am all set. I just have to stand quietly and the babes will come.

After wandering aimlessly through the concourse, we hit the Dassault booth, partly because I love all things French and partly because Jaggu has some weird crap to ask them about their latest drones. I couldn't care less about drones, all I see is the utterly magnificent Amandine Royale... It isn't her blond hair or blue eyes that necessarily draw me to her, but her perfume has a certain allure... although in about five minutes of conversation with her the only thing I can smell on her is SDECE.

I get the distinct feeling she knows me better than I know her - how many frikking french women do you meet randomly that seem to know so much about an obscure Indian documentary film maker? That Corsican Marchand seems to pick his people well... this is going to be an interesting night. Sergio has found a local bar that serves some truly Italian stuff, it is on MG Road and when I extend the invitation to Amandine, I am rewarded with a smile and we are all soon walking her arm in mine. Jaggu now feels like the fifth wheel....

As we walk through the crowds and head to the exit... I see her... I see Leann.

They say all superheroes have their weakness, Achilles had his heel, Superman had Kryptonite... and I have Leann.

It has been a decade and now I finally see her...

When I met her, she was married so someone else. That didn't stop me. It didn't end well...

If things had gone differently then... my life would have been decidedly different. Leann was the only woman who ever made me want to stay.

As I stare at her in the resplendent blue saree, she looks up and locks eyes with me.

She left without saying goodbye.. we haven't spoken since. We are two people who have everything to say to each other but nothing comes from either of our mouths.

Amadine's arm tugs on mine and I realise I have stopped in my tracks. I sense Amandine turning around and the momentary distraction causes me to break eye contact with Leann. It is then that I see the sign on the stall the she is standing in. Above her head in a deep red circle, is a stylized springbok in brilliant blue and next to that in a deeper blue is the word "TechCor".  And stranger still is a tiny golden crown... in the center of the stylized springbok. Under the crown are the letters, I, aleph nought and then I.

As I feel the penetrating gaze of Amandine's blue eyes on me, I blurt out..."Ce n'est pas correct" (that isn't right...). She looks at me quizzically and I point to the golden crown in the center of the springbok... She stares at it and says.. "Vous ne savez pa" (don't you know).... "Techcor est une filiale de la Corporation Anamika".. (TechCor is a wholely owned subsidiary of the Anamika Corporation).

I am stunned...........

The Anamika Corporation... 

In the days of old, a mighty retired general called Chanda ruled a corporate empire.The empire was built on a vast amount of government outsourcing. The Chanda empire was to Delhi what Booz Allen Hamilton was to Washington DC. But as time would have it, the son of Chanda was not cut from the same cloth as his father. The son's addiction to drugs was most terrible and eventually it led to a car crash in which a dozen innocent bystanders were killed. The son initially dodged the legal bullet but then eventually paid for his errors in blood... died of an overdose weeks after he was acquitted a high profile trial. The Chanda name was mud in the halls of South Block. 

From the ashes of the old empire, the nephew raised a new corporation. Rebranding it as the Anamika corporation, he once again filled the order books with government contracts. The choice of the name was a fortuitous coincidence, it was both the name of his late sister and the name of his hostel magazine which edited during his time in Powai. That wasn't the only symbolism to be borrowed, the sign of the Anamika Corporation, the golden crown resting on the three letters, was borrowed from the symbol of his old hostel wing - the "Infinitus Imperatores" - The Infinite Emperors.

My mind spun... how stupid I had been. The photo in Ramzu's office..with Ramzu on the left and the Prime Minster on the right of the foundation stone of the AISG... to the PM right was the nephew, the CEO of the Anamika Corporation....

The CEO of the Anamika Corporation,....  'Sri' Sriraman Vijayan, a.k.a Pondi....

Monday, June 24, 2013

Yantrixa 11: Ramzu

Ramzu, a.k.a. Rehman, my batchmate from that place next to powai lake. In the first week we were both ragged by our seniors, made to strip naked and do all manner of amusing things like play football, hold each other dicks and taking the hostel oath, singing the national anthem, etc... Rehman went along with everything until the point when we were asked to dine in the mess stark naked. That was the point at which he put his foot down and said he never breaks fast during Ramzan without performing prayers. This came as a bit of a shock to most of the seniors who had seen Rehman drink and eat all manner of meats and never perform any kind of prayer ever. But .. Rehman stuck to his guns, said it was Ramzan and that is the only way he would do it.

The seniors were assholes but they weren't bigots, so they let him pray and told us to pray with him. After that we all went to the mess and had dinner there naked. Later that night we all got completely wasted and I am told Rehman puked (something about Sambar and Beer not staying down well) and that I slept in his puke. I have absolutely no recollection of this.

That is how the name Ramzu came into this world.

Now ofcourse, Ramzu was definetely one of the sharper folks that I had the privilege of graduating with. After graduating, he went on to do a PhD in that place on the Charles river in Boston and then became an assistant professor in Computer Science in Boston at a place that is a few miles north of where he got his PhD. He was all set to get tenure, but rather bizarrely he came back to Powai and took up as the head of the newly inaugurated artificial intelligence study group there.

I was baffled and pushed him on the issue where he told me that his brother had committed suicide and his parents needed support. I knew Ramzu's brother, he had served on Siachen some years ago and apparently he wasn't the same after that. I introduced Ramzu to Mita after that and things seemed to be working out, but Ramzu's parents weren't keen so it didn't go anywhere.

I went to Powai to meet Ramzu, I had been struggling with the contents of Amin's USB key and I wanted to understand how the Tetravaals worked and I figured Ramzu would be person to ask.

I walked to his office, it was in that oddly shaped building which had always bewildered us when we studied here. I hadn't realised that in the intervening years the AISG as it came to be known had expanded to fill the entire space. Ramzu now had a dozen full faculty members to work with. As I walked into his office the first thing I saw was a picture of Ramzu standing next to a stone plaque heralding the launch of the AISG a few years ago. On the other side of the plaque was the Prime Minister of India.

Ramzu was doing something on his computer so I had a second to take in his room. It was as I recalled his hostel room to be, an untidy mess of papers and books. There was an old robot he had built when he participated in a robot-war competition and then there were a few degrees on the wall.

Finally he got done doing whatever he was messing around with and since I had brought the coffee from the shack we began to chat.

Ramzu: So whats going on.. fucker -- you are lucky to be alive. That Jalalabad story was a very close shave.

Me: Yes ... yaar everyone gives me shit about it. It is all ancient history now.

Ramzu: Yes... chutiye you almost got killed - Mita told me.. what the fuck is wrong you man... you have a death wish or something?

Me: Mita... I didn't realise you were still seeing...

Ramzu: Don't go there... leave it..

Me: Okay okay... so what is up at you end..

Ramzu: Did you know Sri is here?

Me: Sri - here? where....

Ramzu: Down the hall, next office actually.

Me: Fuck... what he is he doing here.

Ramzu: AISG is growing, it is after all the "Indian Summer" of AI.

Me: I take it the money is all coming from you friend, the big H on the wall?

Ramzu (smiling as he turns towards his photo on the wall) : Fucker don't tell me you don't have photos like that.

Me: I don't put them on a wall.

Ramzu: Karna padta hain man, junta gives no respect otherwise. Those madarchods down at the management school would have the photo up to 10 foot by 10 foot size and put it in the lobby.
Me: You are so understated yaar....

Ramzu: Okay okay man enough cheap shots -- what brings you here.

Me: Tetravaal.

Ramzu: What?

Me: I'm making a movie about the Varun case. I want to understand AI and how it works.

Ramzu: I take it this is another Jalalabad action movie that has approval from the top?

Me: What rubbish? - I am a 5000% independent movie maker, I make movies about whatever I damn well feel like and no one tells me anything.

Ramzu: Yes .. yes .. ofcourse.

Me: So tetravaal, what can you tell me..

Ramzu: Not much really. The AI community as you know is very cloistered, they don't talk to each other. Too much money to be made and so people don't feel like sharing.

Me: Oh come on - you must know something.

Ramzu: No no really, most of the programming was done in Johannesburg by TechCor. There was a AI group at Berkeley that worked on a number of DARPA projects but then lost steam when the weather got cold. They moved to Johannesburg a decade ago and were re-employed by TechCor.

Me: So it is all locked down - how on earth did they allow this to be deployed in country?

Ramzu: Why man? - every computer you buy has software on it that is not made in country, so why is this any different?

Me: Still they must have done something to ensure that it wasn't a problem.

Ramzu: If they did - it is not public knowledge.

Me: Okay forget that then - talk in general terms about AI.

Ramzu: Sure, all this AI stuff is a problem in information reduction. If you sit and analyse every little detail from every cell in your retina, you will take forever to see. So your brain cuts the data down into things that are most relevant. You focus on the person you are talking to and the brain automatically filters out the inputs and puts them into a format that triggers responses.

Me: But the responses are different for each stimulus. And when you program an AI you program the responses to various stimuli?

Ramzu: Yes, but the true strength of the AI is that it is not simply a look-up table. An AI formulates responses based on a learning process. That makes it capable of responding to a situation it was not specifically instructed to. It is like an ordinary human being in that sense, you go to school, you learn some general laws of say physics... then you go to your place of work and then you apply those laws even if the problem in front of you is not one you have already solved in a textbook before.

Me: So if an AI is trained... where is it trained? at the company... there must be one single AI that serves as the first one... and the rest are copies of it?

Ramzu:.. Aah... probably at the company... yes there is a Prime... [hmm.... why is Ramzu's voice changing tone....]... usually the first version of a software is tested on a single platform which is put through the reliability tests, and then the beta release takes places on a cloistered system.

Me: So there is a Prime and a First Cohort?...

Ramzu: [definitely changing tone...] yes something like that.

I can tell when Ramzu isn't or doesn't want to tell me something.

When he was GS(Cult) during our last year, there was a problem in MI, our youth festival - an incident had occurred. Usually two big players in the Kanjur underworld, Mr. M and Mr K were issued contracts for work in MI. Propriety dictated that contracts be split equally between them, Mr. M supplied all the construction material and Mr. K provided the transport vehicles and private taxis.  But this year there was a problem. The Dean's office had intervened in a high handed fashion and demanded that Mr. M's contract for key services be cut down as punishment for allegations of indulging in corrupt practices the year before. I was on Ramzu's special adviser group. There was no way to give Mr. M any more contracts and in complete honesty he had only commit corrupt acts as part of a kickback scheme that funneled MI money back into the Institute's student politics scene. So I had proposed that all alcohol and drug trafficking be handed to Mr. M to compensate for his loss due to the Dean's action - it would not add money to the system but at least spread the loss equally over the two suppliers. Ramzu had accepted my suggestion and placed me in-charge of event security. I had proceeded to discourage all of Mr.K's friends from selling any narcotics during MI and routed all the people wanting to buy anything to Mr. M's men. It almost worked... almost because the arrangement made Mr. K's people think that I was on Mr. M's payroll. One of Mr K's boys proceeded promptly to molest a girl who Mr. M treated as his sister.

I was informed of this incident about ten minutes after it happened. I immediately moved to control the situation. I got the victim out of the area and sanitized the crime scene. I got her a new set of clothes and burnt her old clothes. The victim identified the attacker as the "one in the red shirt". There was only one person who matched that description, and one of my chaps, a freshman called Pondi,  had already picked him up. On my instruction Pondi removed the perp to a secure location where Mr. M's people could not get to him. This was necessary to prevent the incident from turning into a full blown gang war in the middle of MI. I also revised all routes for VIP transit and arranged to have all VIP vehicles leave via the lake-road -a private road protected by special security unit that reported to the Public Works Department. This was necessary to prevent the VIPs from being assaulted by Mr. M's people. The publicity if a VIP convoy had been challenged would have been unbearable.

As I was doing this I briefed Ramzu and told him of the increased security measures. At first Ramzu seemed very interested and then after about fifteen minutes, I saw him talking to Mr. M... and then I felt his tone change. The next thing I know is I found myself and Pondi standing in the road near Powai lake and handing the perp over to Mr. M's guys - the man was begging me to save his life. I found myself telling him "Kiye ki kimat toh chukane hain na.." Pondi was even more rough, started beating the crap out of the perp and finally shoved and kicked him into the Pajero that Mr. M's guys were sitting in. I think the last thing Pondi said to the perp as he slapped him in the face was "Why are you crying? you knew what was coming when you did this... you know the rules ... no going after family... why do you now cry?".

 I saw the man's face in the dim light of the Pajero's back, his eyes were filled with fear. I never saw him again, I heard a week later that Institute Security had found a body in the lake. and that its balls had been cut off. I never asked who the body was but I heard it had a red shirt on. Some weeks later Pondi told me his sister had been raped and killed years ago and since then he felt that people like the chap in the red shirt were not worthy of being called human.

Now.. as this conversation about the Prime and the First Cohort proceeded, I detected the same change in Ramzu's tone... and I knew....

Ramzu had programmed the Prime and the First Cohort.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Yantrixa 10:To Nazia, My Love...

I love all things Goan - can't get enough of Goa. I think Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa is my favourite movie.

I dragged my brother to Goa Portuguesa last night and lo and behold - we ran into Anjane. My brother nearly shit himself - I admit I was happy too. Anjane was my brother's classmate in Kirti. They met for the first time in Biology class and soon became very close friends. Anjane was from Khandesh, and spoke Ahirani, a language my parents grew up listening to. That made him a hit on Ganesh Chaturthi.

Back in his college days Anjane had a hostel room, and I had job that allowed easy access to alcohol and money - it was a match made in heaven. We became regulars at a dance bar called the Commander in Chembur. Anjane had never been in the big city before, we partied through the night.

The parties continued even after my brother and Anjane graduated. I was in Italy at the time and I missed the transition. The night I returned from Milan, I got a call from Anjane to come party with him again. I had picked up a few bottles of wine and I was in a mood to share, so I agreed. I figured we'd meet up at the Commander and take it from there. I was wrong.

My brother and I rode out to meet Anjane somewhere in Ballard Pier on a motorbike. I had no idea what we were doing in Ballard Pier, but I wasn't really bothered, I loved to travel the city at night. We passed yet another row of grain godowns and spotted something up ahead. We slowed down when we realised that those were the flashing lights of a Qualis and that a bus was parked half the way across the road. We came to a halt near the bus and then we saw the now very very late Irfan mian. Next to him, bleeding away into the next world was mian's sidekick Aslam (nee' Gururaj). A plainclothesman was wiping a Smith Wesson and placing it in Irfan mian's hand and an AK variant was already in Gururaj's hand. The blood from the bodies was still draining away in a pool that was growing and a strong smell of urine and shit filled the air. Some distance away, a plainclothesman was vomitting his guts out.

As we approached the Qualis, I saw Anjane standing next to Shirsat. Shirsat's face was often on the cover of the tabloids. Shirsat had his foot on the bumper of the Qualis and was in a quiet conversation with Anjane who was standing very rigidly. Shirsat had a standard issue Glock in an evidence bag and though I could barely hear what Shirsat was saying, Anjane was saying "Yes Sir..." to everything. I had no idea Anjane worked for Shirsat - I simply assumed he had gone home to Khandesh after graduating. My mind is blank as to how we ended up riding in the back of the Qualis after that and all I seem to recall is passing around the bottle of Pinnochio to everyone in the back of the car - including the constable, Phane - who just recently had been puking his guts out.

It was a night to remember after that. I had no idea that a Qualis could go that fast when the driver was blind drunk. Anjane took to the Pinnochio quite well, but felt the Barolo was too complex - it made sense it is actually meant to be had with a good piece of meat. At the party afterwards Anjane told us how they had hunted Irfan and Aslam for two weeks now. Apparently they had taken things too far recently and raped a schoolgirl from Mulund. The girl was related to a politician and that is when the shit hit the fan. That is why their names were on a black list. I was stoned out of my mind and I called Anjane, Shikari Shambu and my brother laughed so hard that the wine came out of his nose. The Shikari name stuck after that night. And we ended up at our usual place, where I fell in love with Nazia, the queen of the night at the Commander.

Now at the bar at Goa Portuguesa, I amused Anjane with stories of my rides in the Kabul Armed Police 's technicals. He was particularly amused about the incidents in Jalabad where we ran afoul of some private contractors and took fire from a "visiting Pakistani delegation". He asked me if I wanted to hang out after dinner, I agreed since I had nothing better to do.

We ended up in the back of another nondescript Qualis driving near Shivaji Park. About ten minutes into the ride, I realised Anjane was too focussed to be partying. It was a long shot - but I asked him casually who the mark was tonight and he told me Fotedar (who replaced Shirsat three years ago) was done putting up with Pavel. Fotedar was a bit more like Singh (who Shirsat replaced a decade ago), very taciturn and somewhat hands off but like his predecessor Fotedar was the attack dog that never stops.

Pavel - Pavel Petrovich - aka Uncle Sasha - the main supplier of "Russian Vodkas" to the rich and famous in Bombay. I knew Pavel - he was a good fellow in a general sort of way - it was really too bad it had to be this way. I told Anjane, I had heard he worked for the Rezident of Napean Sea Road. Anjane agreed, he had heard the same thing, but Fotedar was apparently worried that the "Vodkas" were all honey traps and there would be nothing but trouble from this. Apparently Fotedar and some people from Delhi had chatted up the Rezident, but he said very clearly that he didn't know Pavel and didn't care what happened to him. That seemed to close the book as far as Fotedar and Anjane were concerned. The formal order had been red-flashed to them from New Delhi a hour ago - while we were drinking at Goa Portuguesa.

I knew Pavel had a habit of taking one of the "Vodkas" out for a spin on his motorbike late at night. He drove it like a madman because there was no traffic and that impressed the girls. Anjane must have known this too, because we waited with the lights turned out near the Savarkar memorial. I felt the liquor dimming my senses, but I still had a strange feeling in my stomach.

Half an hour later, we saw a flash light go off in a building up the road and I heard the roar of a motorbike. Seconds later I heard a car start up and then there was the most terrible sound of metal crunching on metal. A loud bang followed, and Anjane started the Qualis.

We drove past the scene about a hundred yards up the street. It was just around a corner, Uncle Sasha lay sprawled near the road divider, his brains were spreading out on the tar. The vehicle that he collided with was nowhere to be seen. The "Vodka", the girl he was riding around with, was about twenty yards behind Pavel, she was gone too - her neck was turned in an impossible way. There was blood and mangled metal everywhere.

Anjane was stooped over the body and I stood numbed by the event. As I heard a siren in the distance, I turned to face the source of the sound. My mind seemed to fade and the world became quite foggy, but I made out the dim outline of a bus filled with Tetravals and it lurched to a stop ten feet from me.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Yantrixa-9 The Blessings of the Saint

I have been here before. My aunt had sought a mannat here. My uncle was lying in a coma, and my aunt had run out of Gods to pray to. In her desperation, she came here on the day of the Urs. Somehow after the visit my uncle regained consciousness and my aunt came more regularly to pay her respects to the Saint of Mahim.

Amin is a member of the family. The family actually runs the shrine. The shrine is under the nominal management of a foundation with all sorts of trustees, but the family does the day-to-day work. I lied to Wagh, I know Amin quite well, we were in school together.

I stop briefly on Dargah road to pick up some flowers and offerings for the Saint. A bored looking police constable in an aging Qualis eyes me as he thumbs through a menu on his smart phone. A Tetravaal scanned the street behind me as I approach the check naka near the gates. I was made to pass through a backscatter detector array and about ten feet away two APR-113s stand mute - the only movement is a dim red dot scanning across their visors.

I am uncomfortable here and mind you I was the one that covered the first day they were came here. As tradition dictates, they too marched in the Urs procession and placed the first flowers on the grave of the Saint. It felt odd then - and it feels odd now.

As I turn my head towards the back of the street I spot the special services van parked near Afzal Sweet Centre. I look at my phone and sure enough I have no reception. The special services van makes sure that unless you have a bypass code, your phone is dead. There should be a couple of snipers on the roof tops - but I dare not look.

I make my way slowly through the gates, wash my feet and hands, and then I stand in line waiting for darshan. It takes an hour or so, and after I am done - I ask one of the caretakers for an audience with Amin. He is taken aback at first but then I give him my name and phone number and he walks away. A few minutes later he returns, and I am escorted to the Amin's office.

I enter the room and I see a woman and her young children sitting before Amin. Amin waves to me, and I indicate I will wait on the sofa in his office while he finishes what he is doing. The woman and children are Muslims from Konkan. I catch what appears to be the last few words of a long conversation, an agreement by Amin to support the children's education and after that is done, the visitors thank Amin and leave.

Amin comes over to me and we embrace. I haven't seem him for a year and after he asks his staff to bring us a cup of tea and some khari biscuits we settle into the sofas and begin talking. I relate to him my encounter with Wagh - and slowly Amin's face changes form a warm welcome to something darker and much wearier.

Amin: So Wagh knows about it too. It makes sense of course Nagvekar in Mahim Chowky must have told him. I think Nagvekar and him go some ways back.

Me: Yes, Nagvekar was the Coastal Inspector in Bankot when Wagh was the SP in Ratnagiri. He was transferred to some place in Marathwada after Wagh retired.

Amin: Hmm... Nagvekar was transferred to Mahim some years ago. He the guardian of the artifacts at Mahim now.

Me: So what is this about?

Amin: You just saw the family that was in here?

Me: The konkani family - that was just here?

Amin: (nodding) - they are victims of this Varun mess - unsung ones perhaps - but victims.

Me: victims? - how - rioting mein kuch hua kya?

Amin: No.. tetravaal killed the men in their family.

Me: What?!

Amin: Yes - and I have been to both John and Rakesh and both act like these people simply don't exist.

Me: That is odd... details hain?

Amin: Sure - in the middle of the night the Tetravaal barged into their houses and shot the men without warning - without notice of arrest - nothing whatsoever.

Me: But that doesn't make sense - they have a very clear protocol for weapons usage.

Amin: It was not followed.

Me: If that were the case - then we would all be dead now. So why only these men?

Amin: They had records. Some of them were in the older files as history sheeters.

Me: History Sheets of the old SB-CID kind? - when they used to prepare unified records of people with a propensity for bad acts? those are no longer maintained - everyone is tracked via biometrics - all prior offenses come up if your record is pulled. Most of the people with history sheets are too old to be considered active now. I am surprised those records are still around.

Amin: They must be around because several of the men killed were older. Some younger men were killed also, but mostly older ones.

Me: Do you have a sense of how many?

Amin: Hundreds per what I have seen or heard.

Me: I knew that people indulging in rioting were shot by the Tetravaal, but what you are describing is complete news to me.

Amin: No - when I first heard it - I had flashbacks of the Bhagalpur incidents - I didn't actually believe the victims, I thought how could this happen - in this day and age.

Me: I am not sure what to believe.

Amin: (Reaching into his table drawer - pulling out a USB drive) - here is a copy of everything I have found so far.

Me: Can I keep it?

Amin: Yes - it is relevant to the movie you are making. Someone somewhere has to give a voice to these people otherwise it is not fair.

Me: Hmm.... I would like to help if I can.

Amin:I would appreciate it... I am glad Wagh told you to come to me.

Me: Ahmmm... about that... can I ask a favour.

Amin: Sure... why not... anything.

Me: Don't tell Wagh I came here.

Amin:(smiling) why?

Me: You know why... don't make me say it.

Amin:(Laughing)... okay okay...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Yantrixa-8 Wagh and his Restobar.

Wagh, of the curly mustache, formerly wore khaki - now nominally the owner of a restobar (whatever that is), but in spirit - an artist and part-time movie producer, and (if my friend who works near Shirin Talkies was to be believed) a full-time bookie/hawala trader.

Wagh - the sum of contradictions, born into a landed family near Panjim, married into a locally respected political clan, held a permanent government job with a steady paycheck... then subsequently quit the job - divorced and remarried - this time to a former Miss India Miss Universe. Does God-Only-Knows-What but is seen on page 3 of Midday almost every month and is at every major club in the city and in Goa.

Wagh - the life of the party - and his life seems like it was a party always...

It is difficult for me to imagine this is the same person who once intercepted the largest single consignment of cocaine ever to traverse Ratnagiri district. The story never made the news and remains buried to date. It happened before he retired... I think it is why he retired. He simply could not believe that they made him give it back and in exchange he got to keep his life.

It is rumoured that the men in khaki have an underworld of their own and Wagh was at the center of it. Wagh... heavily... heavily connected.

I was at his restobar with my brother. Wagh sometimes walks around the place and introduces himself to the patrons, who are mostly Maharashtrian upper middle class types. I was here because my brother (another bureaucrat by blood) loved it. The place is popular very with bureaucrats, theatre personalities and doctors, they can bring their wives and kids and still sip some beer and have aamty and bhaath afterwards and gab with each other while food is served. Like having a party in someone else's house.

It is a disgusting combination - frankly - but the things one does for family...

Wagh is garrulous, can get people to become too talkative. He managed to get my brother to spill the beans on who I was. Wagh probably knew who I was anyway and he was certainly sharp enough to know that I knew who he was. An odd situation, like being in one of those "Lego Star Wars Cantina" sequences you see on Youtube. You are Greedo, you know exactly what is going to happen, and you dread it, but there is no way to stop it, you feel like a block of plastic moving jerkily in world that seems familiar yet weird.

I wasn't too surprised when I was dragged off the table to the bar area to see Mrs. Wagh, who was entertaining some family friends from London there. A few polite exchanges later, Wagh and I were alone at the bar and the pumping began.

Wagh: So I hear you are making a movie?

Me: Yes, documentary on the Varun case.

Wagh: Really (feigning surprise - I am sure)... what is the name?

Me: Qayamat ke Din.

Wagh: Wow.. so what is the film going to say?

Me:(wow - talk about fast... ) I don't know yet..

Wagh: What?! how can you not know? You are the producer and director...

Me:(WTF is this? - seriously what is your angle?)... I am still collecting interviews with people. I don't have a full picture so far. Something unexpected happened.

Wagh: Everyone has a theory but no one seems to know what when wrong..

Me:(haan Madarchod!... what is your angle? why do you care?) What is you theory?

Wagh: Me?...

Me: Yes... how do you feel about all this?

Wagh: The bombing narrowed the options, people were scared and something had to be done. But whatever was done, I am not so sure if it was the best that could be done.

Me: Crime is down. People are saying that is a benefit.

Wagh: Yes that is true but there are other problems and this Varun case brings them to the fore.

Me: Like? (No... behanchod, now its your turn under the spotlight).

Wagh: Like the fact that if the Tetravaal are convinced that there is something to be done - then there is no way to unconvince them. And who decides how the Tetravaal operate? No one...

(Now I am even more confused. This is Wagh-the-life-of-the-Party I am talking to, where the fuck is all this coming from? this fellow lives in Pali Hill, since when does he care about this?.. I thought he was grilling me so that he could mouth off about my project to some media whore he bangs tomorrow night.. but this is completely weird.)

Me: So do you feel they have been high handed? did they do something to you?

Wagh: I was pulled over the other night at a checkpoint near Bandstand. I told them who I was and they wanted to check me for alcohol or drugs and they wouldn't take no for an answer. I have a right to refuse and they didn't want to back off. Me - drugs and alcohol - what a joke...

Me: So what happened?

Wagh: Nothing, they wrote me up a citation for obstruction. Me -- of all people - obstruction. Can you believe this? I was able to get it revoked but this behaviour is not good.

Me: You think the Varun incident was something like this at work? them being too mechanical in their response?

Wagh: Perhaps, it seems like a programming issue to me. They are programmed to enforce the law and they responded aggressively when they felt the situation was going out of hand.

Me: But they restored order in a few days. That is quite a feat given how fragile the peace has been in recent times.

Wagh: Okay but at what price?

Me: (disbelief that I am having this conversation with Wagh ...) err... a smaller price than the re-ignition of mass rioting, I think.

Wagh:... You know ... you need another perspective. You know Amin?

Me: Amin... of the Dargah Makhdoom Ali?

Wagh: Yes... you know him?

Me: I have said hi-hello to him once or twice.

Wagh: Go see him again..

Me: (umm... what the ... no no no ... I DONT take orders from you) He is very busy..

Wagh: I have his number, I will call him right now and arrange for a meeting tomorrow.

Me: umm... okay... ( who set me up for this?)

Wagh: Hey ... look its Meera... come lets say hi to her.

(Meera - latest hot thing from Bollywood... reputed to be very painful to converse with... I need to get out of here before Wagh gets me to interview her too.. I might very well read in tomorrow's Midday how Wagh is actually producing and directing my movie.)

Me: Err.. actually I think my brother is wondering where I am.

Wagh: Oh... Sorry... I completely forgot.

Me: its okay, excuse me...

(fuck... fuck fuck fuck... what have I got myself into...)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Yantrixa-7: Back in Bombay

I realised it is best to stay away from Delhi for the moment.

I got in touch with the family in the eye of the storm. I had to go through a friend who works at the Sakal - very hard core ghati but extremely intelligent and a very nice fellow. He lives in Hindu colony. I think Pawle's uncle lives there too.

The family lived across from Powai lake. One of those new overpriced high rise buildings. The husband and wife worked in software companies in SEEPZ, both well paid - middle class professionals, graduates from good universities. Their names are well known now, as is their son's name, but I am going to call them Gita, and Naresh in the hope that they can go back to the comforting anonymity of their lives prior to this madness.

Bombay has never been kind to immigrants, but what they have faced is stuff of nightmares - the very substance of hell. Like so many others they left their native Bihar to seek a better life elsewhere and Bombay - betrayed them.

Me: I know you have done this many times before, but can you tell me how it began..

Naresh: Well... I suppose it all started a week after the bombing. The riots had broken out and there was no way to go to the office. Mobs had gheraoed two of our buses and beaten up the drivers, and so we simply shut the office down to avoid further casualties. The Army came in some time after that, but we had seen things like this in our native place... Patna, so there was concern but we had no fear.

Gita: There was curfew and our bai, Imartiben - stopped coming to work also. I guess it only natural that she too feared for her safety. The schools shut down on the day of the blast itself.

Naresh: We heard reports of rioting and police firing in Sakinaka area and also near Kanjurmarg. We think Imartiben's family lived in that area. We hope they are well, we still have not heard from her.

Naresh: There was curfew outside also and we began to run out of food. There was a meeting of the residents association. Our neighbour had a curfew pass, he used to work for a local political party. We heard horrible stories about what was going on nearby from him. In the general body meeting, there was talk of petitioning for a relaxation of the curfew to permit families to purchase essential commodities. I don't know how the petition was to be made, I think it was probably going to be made via the local political party.

Gita: Then Varun fell sick. He had a fever, we had to get him to a doctor so we were hoping for a break in the curfew very badly.

Naresh: The Army commander in the area agreed to to a break in the curfew for two hours. Only one person per family was allowed to be out. I put Varun in my arms and walked into the Chandivali area where I heard a doctor's office had temporarily opened.

Naresh: I don't know what happened next, we were waiting in line at the doctor's office and suddenly a mob appeared and began attacking us.

Gita - (sobbing).

Naresh: I don't remember very much, I heard firing, and then I recall seeing the face of an Armyman near me. I saw Varun lying next to me and then I think I lost consciousness.

Gita - (still sobbing)

Naresh: I think the office was attacked by a mob, and the army fired on them. Varun and I both were hurt - we had deep knife wounds and severe burns. The army took us to Rajawadi hospital and from there after our neighbour located us with the help of his political contacts - we were shifted to Jaslok. When I was there police officers came by and asked me if I recalled anything - I told them I didn't. They also spoke to Varun. It seems he was able to see the faces of the people who attacked us.

Gita - (gets up an leave the room).

Naresh: We were in there for a long time. The city was paralysed, there were problems getting medicines and Varun's health deteriorated. He had some kind of fever that was not going away and I kept drifting in and out of consciousness. Gita somehow took care of us then.

Me: I am sorry, please tell me if this is too difficult for you..

Naresh: (looking over in the direction Gita just walked out in) No not me so much, I was unconscious for the most of it - she saw all this first hand - so she is not so comfortable with recalling such events.

Naresh: I began to recover a few months after the incident. I think around this time Varun's condition also began to show signs of improvement. The police who came to see him told me that the city was returning to normal and that a new type of policing platform - these Tetravaal units had been imported to help protect the city. Apparently Varun had identified the attackers and the police were hoping to build a case against them.

Me: So this was a few months after the bombing.

Naresh: Yes, Varun was still in the critical care facility in Jaslok but the danger to him was reducing. We were expecting to take him home as soon as the doctor's said he was doing well enough. The police were going to take a statement from him. The doctor's had told us that we would have to bring him back for a regular check up but it was looking much better.

Me: So ... when did the other incident happen?

Naresh: It was all nice and calm for a few months. Those tetravaal units were really keeping things under control. I had taken Varun to see his grandparents in Patna, and then we returned home. Varun became slightly ill again so I took him to Jaslok again, and as a precaution they admitted him. By this time the police had built up their case and came to Jaslok to record a statement incamera. They brought the books containing photos of the criminals and Varun pointed at the faces of those he recognised.

Naresh: A day or so after that, we were waiting for discharge papers to come through when suddenly a large commotion was heard down the hall. I didn't know what was happening but I instinctively tried to cover Varun. A number of men barged into the room that Varun was in. They all had pieces of cloth masking their faces, a number of them carried knives and other weapons. They pulled me off of Varun and beat me. All the while they were abusing Bihar and my Hindi background. They then took Varun in the arms and walked out the door. I lay on the floor bleeding, and I was not able to stop them. The rest of the people in the hall and the ward looked on helplessly. I later learned that two security guards at Jaslok had been killed by this group of people.

Me: Good God...

Naresh: God didn't come to my mind at the time. I could only think of Varun. The police arrived quickly and in the moments before I lost consciousness from the bleeding, I told them what had happened. ...

(phone rings ...:

Naresh: Excuse me, I have to get this..

(talks on the phone... and turns towards pawle and cyrus and asks them to turn the camera off. A few minutes later, he turns to me)

Naresh: It seems there is an emergency at the office, I have to go - some servers in the US have gone down and they want it looked at. Sorry...

Me: Oh.. no by all means go ahead.

Naresh: I am really sorry, maybe we can come back to the story some time next week?

Me: Yes, yes sure... no problem.. May be I can chat with Gita or Varun..

(Naresh looks unsure... and goes into the house. I can hear a raised voice it is female.. seconds later Gita bursts out of what looks like the bedroom...)

Gita: Please leave us alone... I don't want to talk about this. Varun is only a boy... why can't you people understand? Please we just want to be left alone...

Me: Ofcourse ma'am, I fully understand... what a terrible story!

Naresh: I am sorry, she is very upset.

Me: No, no - no reason to apologise, I should be the one saying sorry. I will take my leave right away - I am very sorry about the intrusion.

Pawle and Cyrus begin to pack up. About fifteen minutes later, we head for the door and Naresh sees us out of the house.

As I walk out the staircase, I realise - this is how Qayamat ka Din began...