Thursday, February 04, 2010

Whos the happiest of us all?

During my growing years, as my cognitive abilities developed and I began to look beyond the masks people around me wore, I started realizing that a lot of absolutely "normal" people  had suffered great personal turmoil at some or the other point in their lives. I remember thinking then that I should consider myself lucky since I did not have a closet full of skeletons and the resulting baggage to carry around.

As life has moved on, that feeling has been replaced by another. I have seen these same people feel happy, content, joyous, satisfied. I have seen them give in completely to the pure pleasure.  I have also seen them eloquently express what they feel, and felt jealous at not having felt the same way ever. I have seen their happiness fill their being to such an extent that there is no place left for any other emotion, in that instant, its as if their past had left them, that the skeletons had ceased to exist.

How important is it then to have gone through extreme and seemingly ending pain to be able to experience pure, unadulterated happiness I wonder? To have been touched by such grave tragedy which can blur the lines between emotional, psychological turmoil and physical pain? Is the emptiness within me a void created not by lack of care, but by lack of sorrow? Sadly, there is only one way to find out....

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Snakes.

If there is one phobia that overwhelms all others in my life, it is my fear of snakes. I have no clue how or when it started. Confessions are in order here - I am sure you have seen those movies where someone wakes up screaming from a rather nasty dream, all covered in sweat, which is later dabbed off by his oh-so-loving girlfriend. I have experienced the former, NOT the latter and snakes have almost always been the culprits.

I am told that various freudian interpretations exist. Here is one which has often had friends sniggering.

I have stayed in a house surrounded by a small garden for most of my life. Garden snakes, both poisonous and non-poisonous, were often sighted around my place, especially in the colder months of the monsoons and winter. The stories of Gokul's dad killing a cobra or of my 2-year old kid brother closely examining another are stuff of legend at my place. Just a few days back, I heard another one...

My brother (who survived the above mentioned incident :D), came home to an empty house one evening a few days back. Usually, with no one else at home, he proceeds to choose a random room in the house to dump his stuff and head out to meet his friends. On this fateful day, he chose my parent's bedroom. Thankfully, he at least bothered to put on the lights before entering the room. Surprise-surprise!! There he was!

Brown in colour, and a good 3. ft long, the snake lay coiled up in front of my parent's cupboard. If it were me in that situation, I would definitely have used my expert snake taming abilities involving a flute and lots of milk :)  But my boring brother chose to close the door and call the local "friends of snakes" organization who then released the snake to safety outside my house...

To pile on the misery, my parents were also told that there are many open snake holes  in and around their garage.

Moral of the story 1: Dreams do come true.
Moral of the story 2: I am never going back to that house again.

Epilogue:
The whole post was written with my toes curled in and momentary jolts of electricity passing through my body. This is probably what people who visit shrinks go through :)

Life, the Universe and Everything

This post is inspired by the BBC documentary "The Empire of Cricket - India". For those of you who are too lazy (like I was) to read the whole "The Corner of a Foreign Field" by Ramachandra Guha, I assume the book must have been something similar (is that an over-simplification? Probably is..)

Another evening spent with youtube, my ol' friend who never lets me down. Will I ever tire of watching re-runs of my favorite team play?My mother always cribbed about how only the players themselves and I watched reruns the Sussex vs. Lancashire county games. I remember running around the house like a mad-man after watching a bare chested Ganguly on the Lords balcony in 2003, announcing that India had finally arrived. The images in these videos move me in a way hard to explain or put into words. I surprise myself  when the obviously pirated bad quality videos on youtube of events well over a decade old give me goosebumps even today!

Here are some memories / images / voices, whatever you wish to call them, that always have and always will bring a smile to my face and give leave me with a warm feeling. Of course there are many more, and I can never comprehensively list them out, but I hope this list leads you down the same trail of enjoyment :)

"They are dancing in the aisles in Saar-jaa" 
"The Win" -Perth, Jan 2008
VVS Laxman at the Eden Gardens
Kapil catches Viv Richards - WC 1983 Final
Natwest Trophy 2003 final
 Sachin's "mediam pace" interview :)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Hamaara(ri) Bajaj.

This is something that I wanted to write about for a long time now, I was finally pushed into action after reading this on Sidin's blog.

If you have ever had the pleasure of visiting my house, you most definitely missed her I am sure. She was like the maid of the house no one notices till the day she doesn't show up because her 10 year old son has viral fever or dysentry (too much information...). She was like the hero of many a battle, who stood steadfast even after so many attacks on his life. She let me ride her at will (no pun intended :) ) and never once did she falter while at my service.

She was so taken for granted around the house that today I realize I don't have a single photograph of her! She was MOV 158, my dear ol' Bajaj Chetak. Buying her was probably the best business decision my dad has made. This and the fact that his old "lambretta" (Here is a snap) had gone from being a possible health hazard to a killing machine. Even though my mom, evil woman that she is, did not allow me to get a 2-wheeler license, I did manage to squeeze the last few thousand miles off the Bajaj. What great memories I have of Mayank, Snehal and me all riding on the bajaj to our katta, of Snehal trying to ride the Bajaj and running with her when he couldm't get her to stop, of me mangling the scooter (and myself) by managing to hit a wall the very first time I got a chance to ride.

The back seat without a cushion which was a serious back breaker and ass pincher, the non-existing shock-ups and the speedometer which was stuck at 40 kmph. What great great times...

Each time I go back home, I decide to drag her to the closest mechanic and get her back in shape. But, there is always something more important to do. That's been the story of her life. I think the decision to let her be in that state of decadence is part of a bigger conspiracy, my mom being the main "conspiratee" (I know its not a word), to make sure that my brother doesn't come within touching distance of the scooter.

But I won't give up without a fight, for all the rides and the good times, she deserves another chance. I wont say farewell!

Rant

This post was written after having endured about 16 minutes of  the newly released "Phir mile sur mera tumhara" video telecast on Zoom TV. Before I rant any further, I must say that the whole "fusion" touch to the original score has been done quite well, and I did enjoy listening to Louis Banks' take on the evergreen original for the most part.That however, is where all the good ends...

I am not trying to dissect the new version on any technical aspects like many other bloggers have done. Here is one that everyone seems to be talking about. For me, the original (I like the way Kris Ashok calls it MSMT) was an emotional uplifting experience. It reminds me today of the times of Ramayan on Sunday morning, of "Aamchi mati Aamchi mansa" daily at 7pm  and the "News in English" with the lady sporting a bindi bigger than a one rupee coin. This video, combined with its equally illustrious cousins, was probably watched by every Indian who had direct / indirect access to a television set in those days. Even in the early 90s, that was a fairly large number.

Some of my favorite moments from the old song include, but are not limited to...

- The guy on the elephant -absolutely priceless.
- Narendra Hirwani !! (This is his claim to fame :))
- The Calcutta Metro scene (with Arun lal of the " match aint over till Arun Lal does the presentaion" fame)
- Amitabh, Jeetendra and Mithun singing together.
- The Sketch by Mario Miranda.
- A hot Mallika Sarabhai
And of course, the way it ends in the national anthem.

Btw, at 6 and something minutes,  MSMT was definitely better timed and did not get monotonous or boring  at any point. It was also meant to always be telecast at one shot, and not broken up into bits and pieces, which, if done, defeats the whole purpose methinks.

This brings me to MSMT 2.0, or PMSMT. This might actually have been a decent short video, like say Bharat Bala's Jana Gana Mana, or Rahman's Vande Mataram. The big mistake was to try to pass this off as a sequel to MSMT. Please don't blame me now for comparing, you asked for it. For starters, is it only me, or did someone else get the feeling that the whole thing was shot in and around Mumbai??

How many times exactly am I supposed to see someone against the backdrop of the Taj or the sea-link? Amitabh and Shaan (that quintessential Bengali...ya rite...) are both filmed on the street outside the Taj. Shreya Goshal (Who the fk is she?) is on a double decker Mumbai-darshan BEST bus outside V.T. station. Abhishek and Aishwarya are at what is either kanheri caves or Ajanta/Ellora. SRK is in front of the Bandra-Worli sea link, so is Louis Banks. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy are probably at the Silver sand beach, Juhu. Ranbir Kapoor appears to be somewhere near Lonavla.  (I do admit that I could be wrong, but I don't think I am).

Glacing through the previous para brings me to another irritant. PMSMT suffers from identity crisis. Is this a song about national integration, about showcasing Indian greats in the 21st century, or is it a showcase of the Hindi Film Industry at large? Shahid "one hit wonder" Kapoor, seriously, what were you guys thinking? I can understand AB, the Khans and Aishwarya Rai being included (OK, maybe Abhishek too since its a package deal looks like), but why include half of bollywood?

Which brings me to my pet peeve. Where were the "real biggies", the representatives of that ultimate past-time of the nation, that game of all games, good ol' SRT and co.?? Someone mentioned hefty fees and playing Bangladesh as reasons, but surely Laxman doesnt charge too much? I would've even kept my extreme (unfounded) hatred for K.D. Karthik aside for this one. Another friend mentioned that there are way too many "common men" (read: people no one knows or really cares about :) ) in PMSMT.

And ya, the maharashtrian in me really cringes each time the mainstream entertainment channels turn to Atul and Sonali Kulkarni as the typical maharashtrians. Also, there is a maharashtra beyond the "Kolis" of Mumbai, can we please show some of it for a change?

Other peeves/cringe-worthy moments:
1. Aamir Khan picking off a part of the "Aati kya Khandala" tune.
2. Salman Khan feigning a "bite" looking at the kid standing behind him -- all very questionable I tell you.
3. Gurdas Mann
4. Deepika Padukone standing probably the only way she knows how to, the typical "left leg bent at the knee" pose models give us on ramps. Also - someone should've told her that this is NOT a movie, so spare us the bad acting.
5. Everyone whospread their arms out - please just shoot them.

What a waste of time...

Do watch these sometime though - surreal I say :)
MSMT
The "run"
Baje Sargam

Friday, October 30, 2009

Antarpaat.

The fleeting fragrance of rose essence, the sweet sounding shehnai and the pandit rushing through his crude sanskrit. Amidst all the chaos, one could make out that this was the big day. Hoards of relatives and friends were gathered around the podium, the final ceremony had just reached its climax.

It was as if the music suddenly stopped, and time froze. As she saw her son soak in the limelight, she was travelling back to another era long forgotten.  She was standing on that podium herself, and the curtain that separated her from a new life was just about to drop. On the other side a new life beckoned, full of hope and fledgling dreams. Her parents stood by her side, looking on happy and content as she took her first steps into a new family. She was scared, but even more scared to admit it.

She was in the middle of a storm of images, crashing into her and splitting her very being. She remembered waking up in the hospital, surrounded by her family, all eager to tell her that it was a boy. She sensed the same fear again, remembered searching for him amongst all those people and the relief at seeing him smile back gently at her, talking to everyone but as if addressing only her.

Learning to crawl, the garbled first words, learning to walk, run, laugh, falling of the bike, learning to dream, to think...they had been through everything together. The school, the games, the injuries while playing, the exams they hated together, the dinners they waited for, the vacations, the fights, the love...one full lifetime of memories which her mind was showing her in a mere instant. She did not even realize when her eyes became moist...

He called out to her suddenly..."Aai, ithe ye, kuthe door ubhi aahes!" and the sepia tinted haze receded yet again. She was back in reality, in the present, in the middle of the ceremony and all those people all dressed up and waiting in anticipation. He wanted her by his side, she moved ahead,wiping her tears.The curtain was about to drop once again...

(Antarpaat: marathi, noun, "Ceremonial curtain")

Sunday, May 31, 2009

India after Gandhi (and me after Guha...)

I must begin with a sweeping claim. It would be a pity for someone who considers himself invested in the idea of India to not have read the book "India after Gandhi ", compiled by Ramachandra Guha.

As Guha begins by saying, it is indeed unfortunate that the date of 15th August 1947 has been etched in our minds, to remain forever as the indelible line which separates modern India from historical India. We naively refer to the pre-independence era as the history of the nation, and comfortably forget the 60 years since then, both academically and in day-to-day inspections of modern India.

Based of this premise, he takes us on this most spectacular tour of modern day India, carefully explaining and deconstructing the events which have shaped our political, economic and social history. The book's victory is in the fact that Guha does not take sides, and is a mere spectator as history is passing by. He is well aware that the job of a historian who is chronicling(?) contemporary history is that much tougher because he has experienced first hand (and probably even been affected in some cases..) the fallout of various defining events / decisions in his nation's history. Yet he must take an objective view keeping in mind that it isn't his job to take sides and/or pass judgements, for that falls into the areas of sociology or political science.

Of course, this does not mean that he in on a fact finding or fact collecting mission. One of the biggest plus points of the book is that it is such an easy read! Even though the author makes no attempt to "spice up" proceedings, the very topic is brimming with color and entertainment. In the section devoted to Hindi cinema, I could not help but wonder how hindi cinema's pan-indian popularity could probably be attributed to its inspirations coming from our own contemporary history. The overt melodrama, the color, the music, the themes are so deeply influenced by the reality that is our nation. (Disclaimer: I am in no way saying that the depiction is accurate, or that the movies themselves are great works of art, lest I am crucified in the comments :-) )

My favorite section of the book though is the section titled "Picking up the pieces", where Guha devotes almost a third of the book to Nehru's herculean efforts to pull the country out of its worst times, the long term ramifications of his decisions, and his everlasting political and social legacy. It is a well known fact that Guha is a "congressi babu" (forgive the pejorative connotation), but he does a creditable job of being dispassionate in his deconstruction of Nehruvian India. We come from a generation which grew up venerating leaders like Nehru, our only resource being the stories about the post-partition era from our grand parents and the "India shining" history text books. I believe that both these sources generously push the boundaries of fact into the realm of fiction and myth. For me, Nehru had always been an enigma of sorts, I never quite understood the magnitude of his contributions, and Guha changed that withing a couple hundred pages. Others may leave this book with very differing views of Nehru and the India he left us, and therein lies Guha's greatest victory.

This same section also delivers acute insight into our political, judicial and administrative beginnings. One is left wondering about what India we would live in today had we chosen to emulate the Anglo-Saxon liberalism model of governance, and paved the way for a liberal "Hindu" nation. Also, it is hard not to feel moral ambivalent about the Kashmir issue after the historical perspective of the troubled state is laid out in front of you.

Like any other great book, there are areas which probably deserved more ink. I think the book does not do justice to the pogroms of Delhi (post Indira Gandhi's murder) and Godhra. While chapters are dedicated to similar incidents of rioting in Calcutta post-partition, we dont get a good feel for the political and social fallout of these incidents as they are almost brushed under the carpet in a few pages. Similarly, while the khalistan movement and Indira Gandhi's murder is given its due, the LTTE operation of 1987 and Rajiv Gandhi's subsequent murder are almost forgotten about.

The other (smaller) issue I found irksome was the loss of chronological integrity in the last part while covering the 90s and 2000s. I believe this was done to give the reader a birds eye view of how certain events have influenced these decades. However, it becomes very tough to piece together these disparate stories running in parallel, while simultaneously trying to assimilate / deconstruct the psyche of the common man in that time frame. But this more a personal limitation than an intelligent critique of the book's structure.

All said and done, do pick this book sometime. It will leave you reeling with the sheer strength of what is India, with the magnitude of our accomplishments in the last half of the century and with the arduous challenges we face hereon.
This is one story definitely worth reading...

It must be mentioned here that I look down upon my opinions of literature with some degree of skepticism. I am mildly amused that I wish to write about this tome I just got done reading, a book from which I borrowed the title of this post (w/o the parenthesis of course...).


Sunday, May 10, 2009

They found themselves at an airport lounge all of a sudden. It had all transpired in a matter of hours. He pondered, "Wasn't it just yesterday that I sat in the cozy comforts of my home? And here I am now, not sure about where I am headed and what lies in store for me in this foreign land. Was this really my decision, something I wanted to do? " Its amazing how warped your mind can get after travelling around the globe.

She woke up just then with a start, pulling herself away from his shoulders. She thought " Wow! That was a nightmare...thank God. I dont have to rush home just yet, Mom is fine after all". She looked around and felt for his hand, to seek reassurance in his presence around her in those final fleeting moments.

He felt her touch and gently moved his hand away. The guy sitting next to him, whom he hardly knew, but was travelling with, would notice this gesture he thought. How ill-formed our thoughts are in those adolescent years. We draw ourselves away from the gentle expressions of a muted love. So worried are we of the opinions people around us are forming, that we forget to live out the moment with a loved one.

"United flight U-500 is now boarding at gate G17. We would like to invite all passengers travelling in zone 1 to board at this time". This was it. As he started to get up to move towards the gate, his mind was still reeling. Numerous memories, of happy and carefree times spent together were coming gushing back. She was still holding his hand, as if almost begging him not to leave her alone in this big bad country all alone. He had never felt so vulnerable, a word from her and he could have kissed his future goodbye.

She was barely holding her tears back. "I'll have some coffee from the Mcdees" (as Mcdonalds was commonly referred to where they were from), "I dont want to be caught napping when they announce my flight", she said. Starbucks was quite an alien concept till then. He knew this was just small talk, her way of turning attention away from that moment, of not allowing him to look into her eyes and feel her vulnerability. She has always liked to think of herself as this ultra-resilient, emotionally tough person, but it was so easy for him to see through this veneer at a girl who was probably as scared as he was right then.

As he prepared to turn away and walk towards the shoot, there was one moment when their gaze lingered on. His "friend" was waiting for him near the shoot, getting impatient with every pasing moment. He couldn't stop himself this time. Running back to where she was standing, he hugged her tight. The urge to kiss her was overwhelming, but those were different times, weren't they? 

He mumbled his last few words, not even realizing what he was saying and ran towards the shoot, towards his new life. 

Monday, November 10, 2008

Elegy for the favorite player.

Here is something I really wanted to pen down ages back and never did. Youtube will never cease to amaze me. Just when you think the evening isnt going anywhere,  the "god of the off-side" is right there in your living room keeping you company. A hot cup of tea increases the viewing experience manyfolds too. :)

Anyway, do read on...

Dear Saurav,

Its your last day today, and all those memories of the great times you gave us are coming back to me. They will talk about you for a while, as they always do. Tabloids will flash the good, the bad and the super ugly about you with equal enthusiam. Every cricketer / socialite will try to prove that he is your last living friend and how he has "candid" experiences about you to share.

The public makes a cricketer they say, he isnt bigger than the sport or the people who watch. And then there are those, who rise above the game and dont remain mere sprortsmen in the public's eyes. They capture the viewer's imagination, strive to make his every dream a reality and give him countless fond memories to cherish and recount for ever and ever. 

Yet only few will remember what you have accomplished. Only those who were truly scarred by the "tendulkar gone india gone" era can understand your true contributions. Which Indian cricket fan can forget the Natwest trophy and your barbaric celebrations on the lord's balcony, or your 3 hundreds on debut, or the way you amalgamized a team in total disarray into a band of fighters. Yes there were the Nagmas and the Chappels, but that is what sets you apart right? You never aspired to be the good boy of Indian cricket.

You are about to stare down the valley of oblivion. I know that the IPL still remains, but we both know that your best years are past you. It will be hard to digest that the good you did is soon forgotten while the greys keep coming up every now and then. Do keep in mind though that there is a bunch of us who will judge every left hander against the tough mark of your cover drive, square cut and the distance of the sixes hit against South African off-spiners.

You leave us a long list of great memories, I do hope you write a book someday, it will definitely find atleast one buyer.

Love,
"yet another" ardent Indian cricket fan.