Arre O Sambar: All Aboard the Hogwash Express

Posted on June 29, 2005



I’VE STUMBLED UPON A TERRIFIC – and entirely original – concept for a series of seven books, and I thought I’d share it with you this week. It’s about a Chennai boy who’s never been to a barber, and whose favourite food is rajma. I’m going to call him Hairy Farter. On his eleventh birthday – or eighty-fifth birthday; this plot point is still under discussion – a crow craps on his head.

Or so Hairy thinks – understandably, because Chennai is full of crows that consider everyone here a Marina beach statue. He looks up angrily, and two things happen in quick succession. One, the bird grabs the opportunity and craps in his eye. And two, after he cleans his round spectacles, he notices it isn’t a crow after all. It’s an owl, with a note tied to its foot. It’s an invitation from one Dumble-dorai, to join the Raag-warts School of Carnatic Music.

Hairy is thrilled. So far, the closest he’s come to sa-ri is when his Uncle made him shirts from an old, nine-yard piece of fabric belonging to his orthodox Aunt Pattu-nia. (Needless to say, Hairy wasn’t ga-ga over those clothes, but he had no pa-pa, so he had to take whatever his ma-ma gave him.) But now, he’s at the Central Station, standing at Platform 9.75245. (It was originally just supposed to be Platform Nine-and-three-quarters, but Chennai boys, as you know, are magicians with Maths, and insist on being correct to the fifth decimal place.)

Hairy finds himself alone in his windowless compartment – not because he doesn’t know anyone, but couldn’t he have, at least today, avoided that lunch of rice and rajma? Anyway, the food trolley comes by, with broomstick-shaped delicacies from Kerala. (They’re called thud-appam, of course.) Then he’s joined by a bossy girl named Aruvai Rani, and a red-haired boy named after a drill instructor in the army, Raan-uva Whistle. And over the next seven years, the trio gets involved in adventure after exciting adventure.

So do you like my set up? In the first book, Hairy and friends foil a Hindustani music wizard’s attempts to jam incoming signals to Raag-warts. (I’m calling it Hairy Farter and the Sorcerer’s Cell Phone.) In the second, Hairy and Co. thwart an American jazz band’s attempts to deteriorate the tonal quality of Raag-warts students by getting them hooked to smoking. (That would be Hairy Farter and the Chamber of Cigarettes.)

Then, in the third year, the kids are growing up, and, as adolescents, become more aware of the opposite sex. Still, Hairy is taken aback by a fellow-student’s addiction to nude pictures of Academy Award-winning stars. (That’s Hairy Farter and the Prisoner of Oscar Porn.) That’s all I have for now. Wait, I do have an idea for another book. That’s the one where Hairy and his friends get homesick and seek out their Chennai roots. That would be Hairy Farter and the Goblet of Thayir-saadham.

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Posted in: Humour