I’ve been friends with Tinilono Tan on facebook for some time now. Ever since I registered, I think, back in ’09. I have had no idea what he really looks like though. His photo albums don’t have any human beings in them, though I’m still assuming he’s one. Wildlife, trees, mountains, space, experimental aircraft. His albums are filled with that kind of stuff. And oh yeah, some hand written poetry. Pretty dreary, gloomy, Gothic kind of stuff. Luca Brasi would look good reading it. I’ll appreciate it if you don’t tell him that, thank you. Not Luca Brasi, silly, Tinilono.
Why he writes his pieces by hand and then scans and posts them, beats me. But by the by, he does have a great handwriting. Flowery. The ‘t’s do have a flamboyant flourish to them. Almost feminine. Whatever. Look, maybe the guy is nuts but from the very first moment I got to know him, Tinilono Tan has been nothing but a thorough gentleman. Never heard anything negative about him from any of our mutual facebook friends either. Except maybe one time someone messaged me, “He blocked me! Tinilono blocked me! @#*&%!” But that was it. With me, he has been exemplary in all respects. That blocked friend did seem a little creepy anyway.
Tinilono Tan is probably a nickname. I can’t imagine anything on two legs that breathes, actually being registered at birth as Tinilono. Albeit, Tan could be a surname. Probably of Thai origin, maybe Filipino, Fijian, Sri Lankan. Who knows? But I doubt he’s any of these. He doesn’t sound on facebook like he really could be a Tan. Trust me; I have this ability to know. Baobabs and flatulence are not my only areas of expertise. If his last name was Tani instead of Tan, he could have been Italian. Tinilono Tani. But my gut says he isn’t Italian. His sentences don’t have any sex in them. He’s quite straight-laced, this guy. Or maybe somewhere up his family tree they were hung up on the ratio of their heights to their bases. Maybe his elder sister was named Theta. Who the hell knows? Stop busting my ass on this, okay?
Let’s call him Tini for short. I’d like to save the epidermis on my fingertips from any more keyboard tapping than I have to. At my age, it doesn’t regenerate so easily. Like another member of my anatomy, living with his two buddies, south side. But don’t get me started on that. Let’s stick to my epidermis. The other guy doesn’t want to be woken up.
On second thoughts, calling him Tini could be doing him an injustice. Tini is too close to Tiny. And we don’t know how he is hung, do we? Let’s be charitable and give him the benefit of doubt. How about TT? Short and sweet. Nah, it’s too feminine. Makes you think of baobabs. Titty. I have folk with baobabs on my mind all the time as it is, without having to overdose on somebody who might not be having’ them at all. OK, OK, f–k it. Let’s settle on Fan Tan, no arguments now. No, wait. I think Tini was just fine, OK? So, Tini it is. Makes no difference to me how he’s hung anyway. Jesus, I’m so fickle minded. Don’t know how you put up with me.
All right, let’s see what else we have on this Tini Tan guy. Like I said, I don’t know if he’s male or female. But my hypothesis is that he is a he. His page would have nothing’ but farmville in it if he was female. A real gentleman too. He posts stuff that reek of pure masculinity. Not the power drill/hedge trimmer/sledge hammer/jib rock/ATV kind of masculinity. Refined maleness. No mush there. Look at me. Know what I mean?
When Tini comments on my notes and my obvious efforts to be funny, he conveys a certain maturity, a polite and measured appreciation. Somewhere between going overboard with praise and mumbling ‘whatever’. And he is always painstakingly respectful. Quite certainly a balanced and solid upbringing. You just know you’ll feel good if you read his comments or his posts. The links he posts on his wall, they are taken from journals and magazines and are always well chosen and thought inspiring. You don’t find anything that can inflame undue passions on his page either. I normally label such guys as a pain-in-the-ass but, in Tini’s case, I won’t.
In addition to almost being a pain-in-the-ass, Tini has other equally annoying attributes. He keeps saying ‘Jeepers’ to almost everything, albeit in a harmless, effeminate sort of way. ‘Jeepers, the GOP is thinking of fielding Sarah Palin again’…..’Jeepers, Sarikadi, what a lovely poem. Oshadharon.” Jeepers is as far as Tini goes, with regard to being effusive in praise. You won’t catch him going further, certainly not overboard, gushing, like.
Another thing, he has become friends with my wife, Madhobi, too. I’m not sure who sent out the invite first. Probably him. But then, maybe it was Madhobi. He is quite a suave bloke after all and 99.99% of his friends on fb are female and they adore the bugger. Why women would fall for effeminate guys like Tini Tan, I’ll never know. What will happen to us hunks?
Ever since they became facebook friends, Tini and Madhobi have been burning up the ether with their messages. I know because I have had her password ever since she wrote it down on the back of the bookshelf in the den. Tini’s message to Madhobi last Sunday did seem a tad too personal, but then I’m a liberal guy and all. I mean, come on, why can’t Madhobi let her hair down once in a while, huh? She was only 18 and me, 45, when we married and it’s ten years now. She needs space, doesn’t she?
And out here in the liberated west, everyone calls everyone ‘sweetie’, ‘boobleeboo’, ‘honey’, ‘princess’ and all. So what if he calls her ‘sweetiepoo’ instead of just ‘sweetie’. Doesn’t mean anything, I tell myself. Come to think of it, I really haven’t been able to pay much attention to Madhobi lately anyway and serve all her needs, like, if you know what I mean. Floppy discs might be a thing of the past but, let me tell you, floppy dix are still around.
Anyway, this thing between those two, if it’s anything at all, it’s only virtual, not something real that I should be concerned about. Tinilono Tan is probably thousands of miles away, in some dreary Santiniketan literature department, chucking flowers at passing cows. I’m positive that back home, he has a plump wife named Lajyaboti and seven snotty kids, aged from one to seven and named Khoka, Tukay, Teko, Bam, Pish, Kochi and Buro.
Well, be that as it may, Tini is everything I’m not. He’s always in control, always able to expertly defuse a conflict situation in a post string, never ever offending anybody, addressing his senior Bengali friends on facebook with a ‘didi’ or ‘dada’, his comments and posts always intelligent, always out-of-the-box, making you go,’now why the f–k didn’t I think of makin’ that comment myself’.
All in all, Tinilono Tan leaves you with a warm feeling, like being associated with something substantial. A rock, sir, a pillar. Probably has this deep assuring voice too..”Rest assured, Ma’am, I’ll take care of everything. Your husband will capsize like a stone and you’ll never hear from him again”. That kind of quiet dependability.
Come to think of it, Tini has all the attributes of a seasoned psychopath. Knowledgeable, cultured, polite, assured, confident, charming, gift of the gab, no photographs. (Shiver). But I mustn’t jump to conclusions. Even though he might have made sure others did. Come on, there’s no evidence. None of you have disappeared. Yet.
I know Tini lives in the US. The birth place of Ted Bundy and Albert De Salvo. (Shiver Shiver). He has once invited me to meet up if I happened to in the States. Not a full blown invitation, mind. Sort of ‘stop by for a coffee’, like. But even that gave me the heebie-jeebies, I tell you. Maybe I’ll take Dick Cheney along if I go for a coffee with Tini. Tini sometimes makes comments to posts in Bengali. And he’s obviously very bright. So he’s obviously a Bengali. QED. Open and shut. So what if he is a serial killer. Serial killers rarely bludgeon 58yr old Bengali men to death. Now let’s move on.
Tini calls a mutual facebook friend, Sarika, ‘Sarikadi’ (the ‘di’ being a Bengali inflection normally reserved for an elder sister). And I know from Sarika’s facebook profile that she is 40. Therefore Tini is younger. I’d put him at around 32. So Tini is takin’ shape now. Male, Bengali, 32, possibly psychopathic, horny. Wait a minute, did I just say horny? It slipped in, sorry. Male, Bengali… horniness just follows like a natural corollary. I beg your pardon. But let’s be generous and say he is virile. So male, Bengali, 32, psychopathic and virile it is. So far so good. I’m thrilled with my intellect and my powers of deduction.
But here’s where the scent dries up. There just aren’t any more clues in the unmasking of Tinilono Tan. No further leads. The trail is cold. I decide to broach the issue to Chinmoy Chandra, my colleague in Nacelles and Externals. Chinmoy is a true Bengali of the 70s’ Santiniketan variety. Slender, effeminate, hair parted down the middle, thin nervous fingers always touching up his hairdo, pencil mustache, doe eyes perpetually flicking this way and that, chain smoker. Intuitively brainy. Twice a widower. Heard both wives died of accidental food poisoning. Poor sod.
Seeing Chinmoy at the lunch table the next day, opening his dubba of bhetki macher jhal and ruti (spicy fish curry and thin Indian tortilla) that his third wife, Aparna, had lovingly packed for him, I saunter over. Two smart Bengalis, making jet engines, should be able to unearth new detail in the outing of Tinilono Tan, I say to myself. While he fits a piece of Bhetki fish on a sliver of ruti and dips the ensemble into the angry red curry, I brief Chinmoy on Tinilono Tan. He hears me silently, a grave look on his face, all the while munching away, his cheeks full, eyes slit, staring up toward the ceiling. He is thinking maybe. Or maybe he is about to belch (bhetkir jhal does that to you). After I’m done speaking, I stare at him.
“Want some tomato chutney? I’m full,” he says. He knows I love tomato chutney. And I know Aparna Bowdi holds a worldwide patent on tomato chutney. He pushes the container across the table. I take charge of it and it disappears so fast, the gastric juices inside are staring dumbly at each other, stuttering, “What the…!”.
“Well? What do you think? I don’t have all day, you know.” Tomato chutney or no tomato chutney, I am eager to know what he thinks of this Tini Tan affair.
“Maybe he’s an advanced intelligence from another world, here to study us in every detail. Maybe he’s an archaeologist from an alien planet. Maybe he has no dimensions”, Chinmoy has a deeply troubled look.
“Cut that alien shit, OK? You look like an alien yourself, with all that food stuffed inside your mouth. Now be serious. I have ta know who this Tinilono Tan guy really is. This is breakin’ me apart.”
He finishes eating, wipes his hands and takes out his ballpoint pen and a note pad. There are still 10 minutes in the lunch break. “Let’s jot down all that we know about Tinilono Tan, OK?” says he,” First, his name, T i n i l o n o T a n. There. Have I got spelling right?”
I’m finding it difficult to focus for some reason. What was that he said? Tomatono Tin? The tomato? Must be the tomato. Must tell him something is wrong with the tomato. I try to reach out to the note pad and turn it around so I can read. The ‘T’, the flourish…didn’t I see it somewhere before?
“Jeepers, man, what’s the matter with you? The tomato chatni too jhal (spicy) for you? Look at you. You seem to be having a fit. Come on now, we have to unravel the mystery behind Mr Tini Tan”. Chinmoy’s voice seems to be fading quickly and when I try to focus on him, it’s like I’m looking through an out-of-focus, wide angle lens. But somehow, instead of being concerned as he always appears to be, this time Chinmoy Chandra seems mirthless, jaws set and clenched, the way they do when you squish something under your heel, when you want to get rid of it. Someone walked by carrying a tray of food and said to Chinmoy,” Hey, Chini Chan, I still haven’t received that analysis…..”
The last thing I wonder before I topple over is where the heck I’d heard ‘Jeepers’ before.