Thursday, December 13, 2007

TILL YESTERDAY...

Till yesterday,

He was another face in the crowd

Another body grinding in the surging mass of humanity

Today,

He remains the same

Separated, yet a part of the populace

Respected, yet often misunderstood

Loved, yet often loathed

Adored, yet left alone in a sea of millions

Fulfilled, yet heartbroken

Practical, yet daydreaming

He tries to write, and knows that his words mean much more now

He starts writing, and he knows that life isn't the same anymore

He continues writing, and realises that he is happy to be a normal person, yet, some shackles stop him from doing as he wishes

He concludes writing, and rues the fact that in spite of his love for writing, his work keeps him away from it, for months together

He knows that he will write again. Love has a way of bringing things around...

Till tomorrow comes...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

GUSTAKHI MAAF...



Sonnets have been written for people in love. Love ballads get splashed all over our senses, day in and day out. Where does the inspiration come from?. Love is an all consuming emotion. Only those who feel the pangs of this 4 letter word may understand the meaning behind the mushy songs and sweet nothings. He blogs in English, but when it comes to inspired poetry, he falls back on the time-tested cupid language, Hindi. Who is it that inspired the outburst of emotion-laden words? A secret shared, between him and God ;)



Gustakhi maaf.


Dil ka khitaab de baithey.



Gustakhi maaf .



Chain bhari neend kho baithey.


Jaagey rahey saari ratiya,


Nainan me tum hi muskuraaye.


Kaleje se nikalti reh gayi

Ek bebus si uff, ek thandi si haay.

Pakad ke haath mera


Ungliyo se khelti rehi tum.


Ghabrati to nahi par

Thoda sharmati reh gayi tum.


Nazrey mil nahi paayi


Kyunki jhuki jhuki thi tumhari palkey.


In palkon par aas bithayein


Kya mere they wo sapney?

Duniya ki awaaz mein mazboot magar


Bacchey se hum tumhaari aagosh mein.


Ye aagosh bhi lekin pal bhar ka raha


Tum door chal padey, hokar befikar.



Aasani se keh diya


Jaao iss zindagi se uss zindagi tak,


Mujhe bhool jaao, mujhe yaad mat aao


Yehi badbadati rehi kismet.



Ye khamoshi
Jeeney na degi

Ghol do isey ishaaro mein


Kya sochti ho, bolo zara.


Goonjney do dhadkan in hawaao mein



Ab yaadon ke kamrey me bechain kyon hoon


Is bhari bheed me bhi tanhaa kyon hoon …


Tanha, tanha


Lamha, tanha



Gustakhi maaf

AN ODE TO INDIAN IDOL


Of late, he doesn't get enough time to write about experiences & journeys, because life is whizzing by at such dizzying speed that by the time his fingers are set to record one experience, he is jet setting to another one. Would that be unfortunate, but he discovers that even in the snatches of leisurely time , his thoughts turn to penning down something. And out of those snatches comes poetry, something untried, untested. He is not the best with verses, but he tries, because he believes in himself, and it is this belief that has brought him to the seventh heaven he drifts around in today. This is his ode to his journey in Indian Idol, short and sweet.

Tu hi shuruwaat thaa
Tu hi anth hai

Tuney di khushiya
Tumne hi rulaya hai

Ashq kabhi na lagey they itne meethey


Hanstey chehro ki parchaiyaan,
ab bhi un kamro mein hain


Wo mithaas, wo kadwahat
Wo haathon pe pasina

Wo maathey pe shikan


Jhilmilatey geeton pe thiraktey kadmon ki aahat
Beetey lamhon ki dastak par pyasi yaadon ki aahat


Kaise bhulaaoon tumhe, rooh ka hissa ho tum
Zindagi ko zindagi banaya who bezubaan kissa ho tum


Ab waqt ka dariya beh chala hai, ye rokey na rukega

Yaadon ka ye paimaana bharey to bhi na chalkegaa

Saturday, September 29, 2007

A BIG THANK YOU !

GREETINGS TO ALL !!!!!

It's been an extremely, excruciatingly painful pseudo separation that me & my blog have suffered for quite some time. Almost 5 months of Indian Idol and what do I have to write about it??? Loads, I'm sure. But at the same time I know that putting everything into words may nigh be impossible, because sometimes there are things that you can just experience and not relate. The Indian Idol journey is a part of me, and I shall try my best to put it forward. I wasn't able to keep a journal during this sojourn because I was busy and I prefer typing anyday over writing as well. Methinks I shall have to rely a lot on memory (which fails me often) and walk down that path again. So many months of speaking in Hindi (the language of choice when I speak) has taken the sheen off my English vocabulary a bit. As my favorite line goes, "I shall try my best."

But hey ! This blog isn't about my journey, atleast not yet, because the recounting of that magical voyage will take some time. For now, all I want to do is thank each and every person who has appreciated my work, my voice, my sincerity and has accepted me as I am, and in spite of what I am. Believe me, it is YOU who have given me newfound confidence and have also taught me that there is something good for good people out there :) YOU, whereever you may be, young or old, male or female - people of the world, you've made me a new person. Many people ask me , " How does it feel to be a celebrity?" - and although I've never used this answer, the reply that comes from the depths of my heart is that the best thing about being a celebrity is the power to make someone smile.... A smile is worth a thousand words, and if I can make people smile through my words, my voice and my smile ;) then I consider my life fulfilled.

Thank you very, very much. Life has changed a lot, for the better . But remember this, I remain the same always. I may not be able to reply to everyone. I may not be able to accept friend requests. All I can say is that YOU reside in my heart, and I can never ignore you.

Thank you for all the love. It takes a lovely person to give love, and I am fortunate to have recieved this love from such special people

Bye for now

Monday, May 07, 2007

KOLKATA - SIGHTS & SOUNDS




The last time I’d been to Kolkata, I’d seen the majesty of the city. This time round though, I saw what I have always seen in Kolkata, but for the first time I actually noticed it. A bid to escape the monotony of sitting at home brought me to some of the more frequented & crowded pockets of Kolkata. The entire atmosphere was overwhelming. Every inch of available space is usurped for one commercial purpose or another. Like Mumbai, the “criminally” empty spaces here are dotted with filthy eateries and stalls after stalls of stolen/cheap quality wares – toys, plastics, clothes etc (calling them stalls is an exaggeration, since they’re nothing more than a piece of cloth on the floor, wares displayed on it and a sheet of tarpaulin on the head to protect the vendor from sun and rain.) Kolkata is a sea of daily wage workers, carrying on their heads / carts virtually everything from coal to cement to underwear!!! In spite of the myriad range of shops around, it is extremely painful to locate cyber cafes, pharmacies & phone booths, for which I walk long and far without much success. It surprises me to see girls barely 5 years old manning cigarette & paan shops. The endless surge of laborers find succor on the footpaths which provides them with food and the tiniest of resting places. For them, it’s not important whether the spot is clean or not, whether there is the possibility of a hundred people walking over you. What is important is that there is a space, and it must be utilized well.

It becomes an art to dodge people on the narrow footpaths crowded with stalls and hordes of people. Worse still is avoiding contact with people with heavy carts, cars, cycles, rickshaws, cows, among others, all on a single two-way traffic road 20 feet wide! In spite of all the chaos, people or vehicles rarely ever bang into each other, such is the efficiency (if you could call it that) of the pedestrian system. The same could be said about the serpentine driving manners of the city traffic. The traffic is among the worst in the country, but what makes it worse is the worm in every motorist’s head that it is their moral duty to blare the horn incessantly. You just realize how loud EVERYTHING is. It’s like being forced to stick your ears to a high-power loudspeaker – it’s loud and there’s nothing you can do to avoid it. The deafening sound of the traffic is enough to drive anyone insane & give them a splitting headache, but the locals are accustomed to it & walk on nonchalantly. Kolkata is a city of sensory overload – too many sounds, sights, smells and sensations. The sound of the siren of an ambulance is omnipresent and ever audible. The aroma of fish, pakodas and kababs, plus the stench of the sewage. The humidity rise to the point of intolerability. In all this, you soothe your nerves with chai in clay pots and the ever-famous Kolkata rolls & soda-shikanji.

Again and again, I find my senses assaulted in the most brutal of ways. Voices & hands are beckoning me to unbelievable deals. The buildings are majestic, relics of the colonial era; utterly neglected and the paint on the façade that has peeled off ages ago has never been relinquished since. Traces of past grandeur are all that remains – an illusion. The reality stinks as bad as the repulsive odor of urine that permeates almost all the buildings, as if every pore in the walls were bleeding urine. Offices and shops have been constructed upon existing structures. I see one such office with cubicles so tiny that I ponder whether the employees would die of suffocation or claustrophobia!!!! The boss’s office door has a beam of wood passing before it in such a way that anyone who desires to see the boss has to bend and bow, literally. I have my doubts that the beam had been placed by some sadistic ex-boss who desired to see his subservients bow before him. Later, I am told that that is not the case. The beam was actually one of the main supporting foundations of the building eons ago. Once they reconfigured the building to accommodate more businesses, this beam came in between but they couldn’t remove it, lest the whole building come crashing down. I am amused by the story!

In most of merchant India of yore, appearances aren’t all that important and it is deemed OK to conduct businesses in shady alcoves & unattractive offices. The merchants are always draped in formal clothes, albeit very old fashioned and often unwashed or stained forever by the air of the city, with gold chains peeping out innocently through shirt buttons left open deliberately – to beat the heat & to display chest hair. Garbage is everywhere, and yet, ironically, mere meters away from all this filth & grime is located the All India Institute of Hygiene & Public Health, itself as shabby & filth laden as the BurraBazaar. The heat of the day has reduced me to a bumbling dehydrated idiot, and it just gets crueler with each passing day. It’s a bath in sweat after a morning bath and the done-to-death A/C shopping malls begins to sound like a good idea. It is easier to paste a smile on your face all day long like an idiot in Bangalore, but the sheer heat of Kolkata wipes it off your face! Increasing heat means more A/C’s, which consequently mean more CFC’s and even more heat – a vicious cycle from which it seems too late to get out of. Come evening and mosquitoes the size of dragonflies are eating me alive. I buy a really good looking imitation watch for a hundred bucks & immediately regret it as the watch literally comes apart in my hands, the battery chokes to death & the dials move at will or when I tilt the watch a bit!!!! It has been put to proper health now, but as to how long it will last, your guess is as good as mine.

The public transport system of every town and city has a story of its own to relate. Kolkata runs on the archaic support beam of its buses, carriers and rickshaws. Travel by the groaning, dark & dingy buses makes me thank the efficient & clean bus system in Bangalore. Autos, cabs and private vehicles offering transport on shared basis are in abundance and offer very reasonable rates for a good distance. Of course, maximum is the norm here, and autos plying with 8 passengers when it’s meant only for 4 are a common sight. The number of passengers usually depends on how generous or greedy the driver is feeling on the given day. All Govt. cabs here are Ambassadors – an ambassador invasion, to say the least. But what impressed me the most about Kolkata was its underground Metro service – the first in the country, and it shows in the falling paint of the coaches. Still, the stations are clean (apart from the inevitable paan stains) and the service very efficient, though very loud (as with everything else here) and ruling out any possibility of conversation. My friend & I stare blankly at each other for the duration of the journey…

There’s a way in which every form of transport in Kolkata swerves uncontrollably from side to side, demanding a super sense of athletic balancing act from the passengers. Conversations of cricket are adrift everywhere, given the World Cup frenzy. In spite of that, children come out in the evenings to play football. Mind you, not cricket but football, the craze here. A group of girls are collecting donations for the Nandigram victims. The insincere smiles on their faces plant a doubt that the money collected is not going to be put to good use. Dwarfs. Eunuchs. Street barbers. Barbers flirting with the eunuchs. Truckfulls of Trinamool Congress cadres (Mamata Banerjee’s party). People playing cards outside what in the morning had been a fish market. The stench lingers on but most people are accustomed to it. In most other towns or cities, buying fish, if at all, is a morning affair, but the Kolkata fishes are not bound by time. They slither into the buyer’s bag anytime of the day – the staple diet for most inhabitants and akin to shopping for your daily aloo, doodh and other veggies. An entire street is dedicated to people selling only egg noodles, and there are innumerable stifled and openly displayed yawns. Scores of television, phone and electricity cables decorate the skyline. Blatant white faced lies are dished out to further businesses. Mother & children ravage the non-existent contents of their plate – there’s so little for some to eat that an empty plate & a full one look the same. It is a very disturbing sight. In the massive juggernaut of the crowd, they were just three souls groveling at our feet…

I notice a unique system of buying vegetables online – literally!!!!! The flat owner lowers a bag on a nylon line till the ground where the vegetable vendor sits. The exchange of money for vegetables takes place through this online bag. I wondered whether this was because people were lazy to come down for the vegetables or whether it was something with casteism as I had read in a book recently. Fortunately, a friend assures its plain laziness. Meanwhile, the sunlight plays gently with the silvery surface of the lake. The two man made ponds outside the house are frequented by boys, men and women on a daily basis. It’s a free-for-all instant heat-beater! The women stay close to shore and bathe completely clothed. The men folk have no qualms about undressing and dive right in. The boys don’t know how to swim yet, so they improvise. They collect empty plastic bottles, thermocol blocks and make their personal floaters out of it. Sheer glee, noise and the pleasant splashing follows. The constant exercise has given the boys a well toned body and an enviable stamina. Unfortunately, as a result of their daily ablutions & clothes washing at the ponds, the water has turned a murky green brown.

It was both amusing and disturbing to come back to Kolkata, and for many reasons. The thought struck me like a sledgehammer. Why do most young Chinese in Kolkata find participating in Chinese New Year celebrations a waste of time? The few times that I’ve been here at that time of year, the young crowd that I met had absolutely no interest in New Year festivities. When probed, they scowled that they’d rather spend that time in a pub guzzling down beer or in a disc, dancing the night away. They actually sneer at the non-Chinks who gather out of curiosity to witness the world famous dragon dance, as I had. What’s wrong with a slice of your own culture? Spending time with your own family? And what is wrong with someone else admiring what is yours? If one cannot respect what they have, at least another can. Does every celebration have to have drinks and dance? I don’t think so. Unless there is respect for one’s own culture, there can be no celebration without a tinge of guilt…

Karnataka is so much better. I talk not only of Bangalore, but also of the villages and smaller towns which I’ve had the fortune to travel to for Dental Community camps and or personal trips. Would you believe me if I told you that the slums in Karnataka are cleaner than the city of Kolkata? Than most North Indian cities? Kolkata seems just like one big slum, and a dirty one at that. Open lakes and canals have been overrun by some Brazilian plant, rendering the water & sludge underneath invisible to the naked eye and creating a perfect death trap. There is an all pervading smell in the atmosphere that one can’t really explain. It’s not those of what a coastal city smell is made of. Flies and dogs hover around the mounds of trash, and among this are brought up the children of tomorrow – filth ridden but astonishingly resistant to most diseases. Obviously, something is very wrong with the civic sense of the people and the responsibilities of the Municipal corporations. What appalls me is the irresponsible habit of littering any & everywhere by people- even the educated ones. The Municipal Corporation comes later, but its first the responsibility of the public to maintain cleanliness. People here aren’t as courteous and the number of smiles on their faces are fewer and often forced ones. However, my previous image of Kolkata changed tremendously on this visit. No way is it a lazy, laid back city. There’s activity enough to give Mumbai a run for its money! Just before leaving the city, I try to lunch at a popular Chinese restaurant, but get there way past lunch hour. So I walk a bit, and reach another favorite – Sabir. The food there has to be savored to know why I love it so much. In all the grime, there are still a few saving graces.

There are, of course, more glamorous & cleaner parts of Kolkata. The upcoming New Kolkata is going to be a posh, well-planned extension with hopefully much lesser traffic congestion and more green blocks. That is the rosy picture of tomorrow’s Kolkata, but what I described here so far is the ground reality of most of today’s Kolkata, the real face of the city’s underbelly. There are flashes of optimism here and there. Just minutes away from BurraBazaar stand beautiful Victorian buildings, and these are well maintained, mainly since they’ve been taken over by privatized banks for their offices. The high ceilings, sturdy infrastructure, predominant stone & iron skeleton and unsurpassable beauty are some common features in these goliaths. You’d be excused if for a moment you felt you’d been transported into the glorious past. There are pockets of Kolkata where the roads are wide, clean and very well maintained. It’s like another city altogether!!!! This is what I’ve seen and it may differ from the other faces of Kolkata, but this is my account of the city.

BIKELESS IN BANGALORE




Close on the heels of the now popular Bookless in Baghdad comes a piece by aspiring but little known part-autobiographer by the name of Mr. Chang. The title of this piece has nothing in common with the best seller except for the first letters of each word of the title, Bikeless in Bangalore, the city travels and travails of a rudderless soul handicapped by the sale of his bike. This is the only chapter, and the author claims no responsibility for any torture to your senses or the waste of your time.




It now boils down to this.

Just a week left in Beloved Bangalore. A lot of work yet to be done. Dues to be cleared. Sending of the hulk size luggage package. And finally, the bike has to be sold. Once accomplished, Chang finds himself bikeless and decides to try the public transport system on his way around the city – both for the first time in four years. The first leg of the journey is easy. Buses are easily available and empty enough to park himself comfortably. He gets to the proposed area where he has someone to pick him up and take him around. The return, however, is eventful. The desired buses are not forthcoming, and an alternate route is chosen. Once at his destination, he runs helter-skelter to find his bus. All that registers is numbers blared out at him. Numbers, numbers, numbers! 19, 22, 300, 129. It goes on and on. He’s not the only one having a tough time. The locals struggle as well. The station is a picture of chaos. But he doffs his hat (!) to this system, which with all its faults can still handle the demands of India. The public transport system in Bangalore is effective. The buses are neat and clean, comfortable and connect every corner of the city. The level of efficiency is very commendable if one considers that the public transport carries more than twice to thrice its capacity at any given time of day.

Back to our protagonist, who finally boards the right bus, one of the last for the day. The conductor makes hay while the moon rises – securing more passengers than the bus can handle. The bus creaks, groans and stalls a few times. He travels, hanging on for dear life with one hand on the railing and one foot on someone else’s foot!! Half his body is in free-fall. He almost loses a shoe and the book in his hands to the bizarre situation he finds himself in and promises to work hard on his forearms to aid him in the future. The river of people is in full swell and all he can do is stand perfectly still and bide his time. And then someone casually remarks that if they are caught by cops, a fine would be forthcoming for “hanging on”. The stench of alcohol on the passengers’ breath overpowers other odors of sweat & cigarettes. Chang realizes that in the frustrating rush of everyday travel, pent up frustration and a crude sense of humor floats around freely (“You can get off at Bamboo bazaar and do seva[service] to a woman with the bamboo all night long.” “No this bus does not go to Shivajinagar. If it goes to Kashmir, will you come?”). It’s easy to get frustrated, but he appreciates the humor, however crass, as it helps the passengers drive away the monotony of daily travel.

The conductors and bus drivers in most cities use some sort of a code-system, & only they understand the true meaning of it. When the bus must stop, the driver whistles at different pitches (God knows what each one means). And when it must depart, the conductor shouts something which sounds like “Reeyah / Ray-it / Reigh” [pronunciation differing from person to person]. Chang knows it means nothing in the regional language, so he assumes it means Right!!!! Let’s go! Many a times, the dynamic bus duo of conductor & driver stop the bus for insane reasons, and to get them going the passengers imitate the conductor and shout reigh, reeyah, ray-it but to no avail. It’s as if the driver is attuned only to the voice of his partner-in-crime. Public transport truly provides an intense study of human behavior.

Finally, the bus drops him a few kms from home. He waits and waits and waits for the connecting bus. Finally, giving up, he takes an auto home, tired yet rejuvenated by the amusing experience, probably one of many to come in his stint of being Bikeless in Bangalore. He looks forward to more…….Back to our protagonist, who finally boards the right bus, one of the last for the day. The conductor makes hay while the moon rises – securing more passengers than the bus can handle. The bus creaks, groans and stalls a few times. He travels, hanging on for dear life with one hand on the railing and one foot on someone else’s foot!! Half his body is in free-fall. He almost loses a shoe and the book in his hands to the bizarre situation he finds himself in and promises to work hard on his forearms to aid him in the future. The river of people is in full swell and all he can do is stand perfectly still and bide his time. And then someone casually remarks that if they are caught by cops, a fine would be forthcoming for “hanging on”. The stench of alcohol on the passengers’ breath overpowers other odors of sweat & cigarettes. Chang realizes that in the frustrating rush of everyday travel, pent up frustration and a crude sense of humor floats around freely (“You can get off at Bamboo bazaar and do seva[service] to a woman with the bamboo all night long.” “No this bus does not go to Shivajinagar. If it goes to Kashmir, will you come?”). It’s easy to get frustrated, but he appreciates the humor, however crass, as it helps the passengers drive away the monotony of daily travel.

The conductors and bus drivers in most cities use some sort of a code-system, & only they understand the true meaning of it. When the bus must stop, the driver whistles at different pitches (God knows what each one means). And when it must depart, the conductor shouts something which sounds like “Reeyah / Ray-it / Reigh” [pronunciation differing from person to person]. Chang knows it means nothing in the regional language, so he assumes it means Right!!!! Let’s go! Many a times, the dynamic bus duo of conductor & driver stop the bus for insane reasons, and to get them going the passengers imitate the conductor and shout reigh, reeyah, ray-it but to no avail. It’s as if the driver is attuned only to the voice of his partner-in-crime. Public transport truly provides an intense study of human behavior.

Finally, the bus drops him a few kms from home. He waits and waits and waits for the connecting bus. Finally, giving up, he takes an auto home, tired yet rejuvenated by the amusing experience, probably one of many to come in his stint of being Bikeless in Bangalore. He looks forward to more…….Back to our protagonist, who finally boards the right bus, one of the last for the day. The conductor makes hay while the moon rises – securing more passengers than the bus can handle. The bus creaks, groans and stalls a few times. He travels, hanging on for dear life with one hand on the railing and one foot on someone else’s foot!! Half his body is in free-fall. He almost loses a shoe and the book in his hands to the bizarre situation he finds himself in and promises to work hard on his forearms to aid him in the future. The river of people is in full swell and all he can do is stand perfectly still and bide his time. And then someone casually remarks that if they are caught by cops, a fine would be forthcoming for “hanging on”. The stench of alcohol on the passengers’ breath overpowers other odors of sweat & cigarettes. Chang realizes that in the frustrating rush of everyday travel, pent up frustration and a crude sense of humor floats around freely (“You can get off at Bamboo bazaar and do seva[service] to a woman with the bamboo all night long.” “No this bus does not go to Shivajinagar. If it goes to Kashmir, will you come?”). It’s easy to get frustrated, but he appreciates the humor, however crass, as it helps the passengers drive away the monotony of daily travel.

The conductors and bus drivers in most cities use some sort of a code-system, & only they understand the true meaning of it. When the bus must stop, the driver whistles at different pitches (God knows what each one means). And when it must depart, the conductor shouts something which sounds like “Reeyah / Ray-it / Reigh” [pronunciation differing from person to person]. Chang knows it means nothing in the regional language, so he assumes it means Right!!!! Let’s go! Many a times, the dynamic bus duo of conductor & driver stop the bus for insane reasons, and to get them going the passengers imitate the conductor and shout reigh, reeyah, ray-it but to no avail. It’s as if the driver is attuned only to the voice of his partner-in-crime. Public transport truly provides an intense study of human behavior.

Finally, the bus drops him a few kms from home. He waits and waits and waits for the connecting bus. Finally, giving up, he takes an auto home, tired yet rejuvenated by the amusing experience, probably one of many to come in his stint of being Bikeless in Bangalore. He looks forward to more…….


[This post was drafted in March, when the author was a week away from leaving his beloved second home, Bangalore. Circumstances prevented him from posting this...until now]

Thursday, March 08, 2007

JUNKET = BELUR, HALEBID, SRAVANABELAGODA

I hate early morning journeys, but you gotta lose some to gain some. Early morning heralds the take off to Belur, Halebid and Sravanabelagoda. Some journeys have little to do than twiddle your thumbs in transit. This is one of them. The time spent at the monuments though, proves worth its while.

After stale idlis and watery sambhar, Sravanabelagoda is the first destination. Six hundred and eighteen steps are all it takes to get the top of the hillock to get a glance of the temple and the famous Jain statue. Six eighteen is a large number, and palkhis [palanquins] are available. In true adventurous & religious spirit, I intend to conquer those six hundred & eighteen steps (that I don’t have money to spare for the palkhi is irrelevant banter). The sluggishness of daily life & the sins of zero exercising catches up when only on the 50th step itself, the lungs are screaming for air, the feet are trembling and buckling under their own weight. But grit and determination (and a resolve not to embarrass myself) gets me going anew to the summit. This gargantuan task is accomplished bare foot, creating a record of sorts of banging my toes painfully into every rock or stone I encounter on the way up.

The Mahamastakabhisheka festival [anointing of the statue with milk, ghee & the like, along with big-time ceremonies & worship] happens once every 12 years, and the arrangements made for the festival held 2 years back still stand, decaying – bamboo & thermocol arches on the verge of being blown away by the strong gale of wind, worn signs and scaffolding for the tourists/pilgrims. The statue of the Jain Tirthankara stands at 58 feet, much smaller than I expect it to be. One of the largest monoliths in the world, it depicts a naked God with stone vines growing from a rock around him onto his thighs. The posture – erect. The expression – serene. The view from the top? Breathtaking – literally!!!! The tikka finds a place on my forehead, and proceeds with giving me an allergic rash.

The descent is deceptive. Though it looks easy, it is so easy to trip & go rolling down the hill. No Jack & Jill here. One tumble and hello Humpty-Dumpty. As always, hordes of hawkers selling everything from postcards to chess boards to imitation Ganeshas storm troop me. A cold, indifferent glance is all they get…

Surprisingly good noodles for lunch in a South Indian restaurant pave the path to Belur and Halebid. Both these places could pass off as the poor-man’s Hampi. The temples belong to the same dynasty and the same time period, hence the uncanny similarity in the architecture. From a distance, I can’t tell one from the other, but a closer look at the thousands of stone human figures, elephants, warriors, Gods and Goddesses adorning the temple clearly sets a clearer picture. The sculpted inner & outer walls of the temple tell a tale of dedication and sheer hard work by the craftsmen. Each figure is carved to perfection and straining to come to life any moment.

Each figure carries a different story, sometimes amusing, sometimes amazing and sometimes downright insane. Like how once Lord Vishnu was so pissed with a demon that he literally ripped the skin off his face [a la autopsy]. Also, how the word GOD actually stands for the Holy Hindu Trinity –

G - Generator (Brahma)

O – Operator (Vishnu)

D – Destroyer (Shiva)

That one has me rolling on the floor.

Two figures that really catch my eye are of figures attired in what appears like the European judges’ wig and coat, and also space suits of astronauts. And these temples were built in the 12th century!!!! I wonder if these guides just make up these fantastic stories to make us believe our ten bucks is worth the banter!

The peripatetic tour of the temples becomes a game of hop-scotch as the sun-heated stones play havoc with our bare feet. I won’t walk easy for many days, but the entire trip is a feast for the eyes, and an artist’s delightful dream come true. Though I keep wondering why the women in stone are depicted with such enormous breasts!!! Is this the same country which denotes much of its time on sexual taboos and on debates on how western influence is corrupting us sexually? Two sides of the same coin…

Journeys back home after an enjoyable trip are never happy ones, knowing that the getaway from the mundane daily routine has come to an end. I still find my bike where I left it, and zoom back home. The tired body has taken a beating, and it calls it a day.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A TRIBUTE TO REMEMBER

[Image courtesy = www.dbtpl.com]

An evening of perfection

An evening of mastery

An evening of pure magic!

I expect no lesser in a jugalbandi between Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, sarod Maestro, and Ustad Zakir Hussain, tabla virtuoso. Cheap tickets never get good seats, and a cash crunch negates expensive tickets. 2nd March brings "The Tribute to Bangalore" concert.. Chaotic traffic and poor parking arrangements are the venue’s decorations, but once inside the mind is set to rest. The venue is large, and the stage well decorated though it could’ve been better considering the magnitude of this performance. People from all walks of life seem to have gathered – from the evidently upper bracket to the middle class. From curious adventuress to hardcore music lovers. Indians, Europeans, Kenyans – a motley group of interested people. Seated at the rear end of the venue, I strain my burdened eyes to see the giants of classical Indian music look like tiny figures. It is small comfort to have giant screens with blown up pictures

[Image courtesy = www.drummerworld.com]

The emcee goofs up a little, but otherwise does a good job at the introduction of the maestros. Ustad Zakir Hussain, in his own inimitable humorous style keeps peeking into the emcee’s notes!!! Ustad Amjad Ali explains how both haven’t had the time to rehearse their show, how they shall play according to each other [a gift of years of dedication & practice] – hence the amalgam music produced is birthed only once and never repeated. The perfect symphony between the two is the stuff of legends. The beautiful rendition surprisingly sounds like impending doom, melancholy, the advent of monsoon and joy all at once. The snail paced compositions pick up tempo to reach a frenzied crescendo. Sure, for a carnatic music ignoramus like me, it is tough to tell one composition from the other but surprisingly, I find myself swaying to this form of music too.. Whenever the performance begins to get monotonous, the Ustads conjure a magic-trick from their infinitesimal repertoire that has us cheering and applauding with gay abandon. Some of the raags performed are Raag Kirwani, Raag Saraswati, Raag Zilahari [for the festival of colors, Holi], Raag Kamal Shree [dedicated to late Rajiv Gandhi] and my selfishly personal favorite – Raag Durga, one which I have sung in school a long, long time ago.

“Ghir ghir aaye kaare kaare baadal,

Sakhi mohey chain na aaye piya bin.

Kaise jaaoo main piya se Milan ko.

Ghir ghir aaye kaare kaare baadal”


It is pure bliss to sit there and imbibe the renditions. Three hours pass by quickly in a haze of bliss & wide-eyed wonder. Maybe it has been too much for me and I stand with a raging headache. In spite of the hammering in my head, there is no denying wizardry of the Ustads, and they have me in their thrall. A hearty dinner of parathaas is followed by deep slumber, graciously interrupted by memories of melodies played earlier….

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

HUNGER PANGS, MIXED BAG, BLACK FRIDAY AND EVAM

[Image from scienceclarified.com]

Last night’s hunger pangs troubles his mind. It takes him back, years back. Back to school, reminding him of how hunger was master. Food was nutritious but minimal – the kids at school are expected not to bloat up on excessive gorging. The Physical Education further eats into body reserves. As a child, he is not privy to pocket money. He can only watch the seniors indulging themselves at the coffee shop. He gets so hungry at times that he drinks liters of water, sometimes ties a piece of cloth tightly around his stomach to restrain the belly-demon.

Back to the present, he feels morsels are taken for granted. Food is an irresistible incentive. Hunger betrays conscience – leads to crime, loathed but forced to commit. He prays. He hopes to help, and change mindsets. He idealizes that a world without hunger would be one with far less anguish and crime.

Want not, waste not.

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The flat is a mixed bag of late. It has a Mexican, a Canadian, a European, a few South Indians and me (Karnataka/Jharkhand – fully Indian, minimally Chinese) as tenants. A Dutch guy and one from Dubai vacated a week ago

Initially, it was nigh difficult to get along. The huge cultural differences, the twisted accents, the way of living and differing perspectives – all these made fellowship somewhat of a hardship. But finally, things are falling into place. One learns to understand their accent, their point of view as well as learn to speak slower to be understood.

Yes. Things finally are falling into place. For one who thought he could never get along with foreigners, I’ve done a good job

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For those who are fanatically anti-Muslim, I suggest you watch Black Friday, and ruminate over it. It’s a big, unending mess and all of us are to blame, not Muslims alone. It began in the Mughal era, was exacerbated during-and-post partition, and is still being propagated and preached by vested political interests. Mark the words unending – that is what it is going to be unless steps can be taken in the right direction

We, who are ever so ready to point a finger, should remember we aren’t all pure ourselves. Stop blaming others. Attempt to do the good that you are capable of, and the satisfaction of a job well done is assured

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Evam completes more than 150 shows. I’m over the moon

I LOVE EVAM !!!!!!

Monday, February 26, 2007

SOJOURN - CHENNAI, PONDICHERRY AND THE REST


As part of my ongoing thirst-quest for travel, I set out to Chennai on 16th February. The bus timings between the 2 cities are unearthly, which is why I reach way too early in the morning. I’m welcomed by wily auto-fellas who rip me off. I get to Maddy’s place – beautifully decorated, almost like a mystifying & bedazzling museum. We are drowsy but it’s been ages since we’ve seen each other and we talk for quite some time. Chennai is quite a lot like Calcutta in terms of weather … hot, sticky, and sapping. There is definitely something that sucks the juice out of me and I find myself feeling drowsy & unfocused (and that’s sayin’ something coz’ I’m always hyper-active on trips) Not to mention the extremely noisy autos, probably one of the noisiest in all the places in India I’ve been to. But apart from a few initial misgivings, I find myself liking the city overall.

In those first few hours of the morning, I get to meet Maddy’s mad mom (“I see where the lunacy comes from”, I tell her). D picks me up later and we head straight for a movie (which is eaxctly what happened on my Pune trip too – straight from the station to the theatre ;) Post movie, we go to his house. Both Vaidehi aunty and D’s mom are extremely chilled out & sweet people. D is majorly into movies and visual arts, and therefore I get a liberal dose of interesting TV series and also a Tamil movie to boot!!!! (Pachai kili muthucharam - with D providing excellent translation). I ask D a lot of questions about his work, and emerge none the wiser. I meet Kapakka, someone whose voice I;m crazy about, and who is a very dear friend to D and Maddy

Unfortunately, most of the plans don’t fall into place and we have not much to do. A visit to the Broken Bridge and the beach has an expected calming effect. Many awesome coffee places are visited and lounged around in. The plan to leave for Pondicherry by bike the next day is thwarted by unexpected rains, and we take the bus. Doing this sadly ousters all the destinations we could’ve visited on a bike, and we land in Pondi early evening. We have a hard time finding accommodation at first, but once done, we set out for Pondi walks. Pondi is a small place with many, many lanes, and most of the town is accessible on foot. Being a Sunday, the crowd is overwhelming. A sitting on the rocks, watching the waves crash ashore puts the mind to rest. For it is places like these, where doing absolutely nothing at all feels like a job well done :) The trip is a culinary delight as we lunch at places with mouthwatering fare, and at one of these places I come across a group of chinks who speak chaste Hindi, just like me!!!!! Brothers & sisters, we are not alone !!! ;) It amuses me to no end.

The next day is spent in abject misery as I catch a terrible cold. All the prizes of the world may be a difficult catch, but a cold is easily & unwillingly caught. I find it difficult to even walk around, and it takes away the joy of walking in Pondi. In spite of the tough time I give myself and D, we still manage to go places – the Ashram, Churches, beach front and the Auroville handmade paper making factory (we gorge on many of the products on sale and get a tour of the factory by a phirang with a condescending attitude – bleady!). It was a disappointment though, not to be able to make it to Auroville even on this 2nd trip to Pondi. The weekend being over, and a trip enjoyed, I catch my bus back to Bangalore and finally regain color after more than a week…

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Ruminations were abundant in an earlier blog regarding how we can be better human beings by just being nicer to people around us, give compliments where they are due and learn to say “thank you”. But have I ever thought of what I can give to the world after death? No sir! How many of us consciously think of the contributions we would like to make to the world even after our deaths?

A flat mate, Prasanna opens his heart out one evening. He comes from a family of doctors, where all known relatives are in the medical field. Years ago, when the time for a decision came forth, he took another path – he chose to be an engineer. Today, he earns a decent pay packet and is happy with his job. But happiness is a relative term. It stings him that in person, he cannot give to the society what he could have as a doctor. He rues that he cannot relieve the afflicted of their maladies. Of course, the lack of a definite identity and respect as an engineer are minor niggling factors, but this man struck me as genuinely repenting not having become a doctor. Instead of empty talk, smoke & mirrors, this man has attempted to make amends (that’s what he calls it) – he has pledged his eyes and his body for a post-death scenario, so that some unfortunate person can see again, and that others may learn of the human body & progress to become good doctors. It touched my heart to know his noble intentions, and made me think … what we want to give in life, and in death…..

“Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.”

- Horace Mann

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One book that I would enthusiastically recommend to everyone at this moment is How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie. Yeah, I can see the look on your faces. A self-help book???? But this one strikes me as different. I believe it a book with the potential to change your life significantly. Unlike other self-help books, this one does not have a single boring moment. It is replete with jokes, anecdotes, stories, quotes and interesting slices of history, and of course, it is a step forward to be a better, successful person.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

HAPPILY EVER AFTER

From courtship to engagement to marriage…


It’s been one long ride for Feb and Zimmy, and no one could be happier than me

Feb and Zimmy got married on February 11th, 2007. It was a very, very joyous occasion for all of us. Dips, Punit, Shweta, Nitu and me reached Mangalore, unfortunately just missing the nuptial vows (big letdown!!!) But we were witness to the rest of the proceedings, which brought laughter and fond memories. This moment of intense joy also brought with it a tinge of sorrow as marriage always brings distances in friendship. I’ve known Febla for so many years, and no matter what has happened, she’s always been there for me. I shudder to think if that should change now, as priorities do differ post-marriage.

But then, I think over, and am glad that I know she will be very happy with Zimmy, who loves her a lot and will take good care of her. My love and prayers will always be with them, and here, with all my heart, I wish them an extremely HAPPY MARRIED LIFE!!!

HERE'S TO FEB AND ZIMMY. CHEERS!!!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

THOUGHTS AFTER A CLASSIC

[Image courtesy : Giagia, Flickr.com - Catching the sunshine]


The entire beauty of reading a literary classic is that although you’ve never seen those places, never lived in those times, never come across those mannerisms and the like, such rich imagery is painted by the words of the author’s brush that even the blind can see the vivid colors of the narrative. There seems to be a beast on the prowl, teasing your senses. Yet, there is an invisible leash restraining it, letting you savor the suspense of the moment a little longer

Of late, I’ve come off reviews of any kind, and this isn’t a review for this book I’ve been reading (Wuthering heights – Emily Bronte). It’s just that reading a classic after long years had filled me with a sense of déjà vu. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens was the first classic I ever read as part of my syllabus. It had left an indelible impression on my psyche. The description of the moors and the misery of those post-war times made for a depressing picture, which stayed with me for quite some time. Wuthering heights brought back quite a few of those repressed memories of times when love was still a very tender emotion, often more foolish than the brand of “love” we have today. Life was so different back then, when killing time meant reading a lot, going for a ride over the hills, listening to stories with wide-eyed wonder. But what I also realized after the book was that some things remained with us – malice, hatred, jealousy and ego. These carry on to our lives even today.

It seems easy to blame it all on the mythical Pandora’s box, which had contained all the maladies of the world, until one foolish, curious girl opened it and unleashed miseries of all kinds on this world we live in. What we never seem to consider is that even if it were true, what can we do to make things better. Why should we sit and blame others? As someone stated, how much does it take to be nice to others? Does it cost a bomb? Does it require a lot of energy? NO IT DOES NOT! Then why should we scowl and curse and swear and plot and bitch about things, people, events - practically everything under the sun? We don’t like our jobs. We don’t like the people around us. We don’t like the food. We don’t like the place. What IS it that we do like? We harbor a mild revulsion to so many things that we forget the things we like, the things that we love. And we realize that in the quest to be nasty to self and make others’ lives miserable, we’ve forgotten how to live…

Stop complaining – Think of how fortunate you are that things are not worse

Stop fretting – it builds up negative energy within you

Stop being a jerk! – do unto others as you would have them do to you, so if you’re an inconsiderate jerk, don’t blame people when they pull the same on you

Smile – it’s the BEST AND CHEAPEST makeover you can get

Start being good, as much as you can be – everyone out there is, knowingly or subconsciously, craving for appreciation, and it doesn’t hurt to be good to others and give honest compliments. Think before you speak, and phrase your words carefully to make more friends than enemies & disgruntled acquaintances.

You might feel stupid at first, but goodness is contagious, and you can be the initiating catalyst. So maybe you can’t turn the world over, but you can start your humble contributions right away. Be nice. What goes around, comes around


“Measuring life by what OTHERS do for you may disappoint you.
But measuring life by what YOU do for others will add more meaning to your life”

- Unknown

Friday, February 09, 2007

WHEN THE SKIES ROARED


The urge to see and imbibe all that is characteristic of your city is the strongest when you are counting your last days there. Over the years, I’ve given a lot of events unique to Bangalore, a miss. Probably because of the tendency to take it for granted that it is all well within easy reach & accessible any day, anytime… With those thoughts, years go by and then one fine day you realize, you haven’t got much time left!

First in the list of attendance was Chitra Santhe. It was unfortunate to have missed out on the Republic Day Flower exhibition at Lalbagh as well as the Bangalore habba. Fortunately though, I get to visit The Aero-India show 2007 due to the persistence of a fellow enthusiast. Passes are hard to get by (sold out two weeks supposedly) and we ride off in the eternal hope of getting them at the venue.

The ride is long, and the bike unresponsive to the strains of high speed. We finally make it by 10:30 AM and secure tickets too J As I have always believed, Indian security check procedures leave a lot to be desired. The pamphlet, pass and the banner at the entry point clearly state no cameras or cell-phones are permitted. Yet, all they do is minimal frisking, some unsatisfactory checking and let you in. I do not complain of being let in with a camera (prohibited item), but I wish they’d be a little more diligent in their duties.

By the time we get in, a few parachuting maneuvers are all that we have missed. What follows is truly delighting ….. Choppers and Fighter jets whizzing around the display arena at high speeds, performing dangerous and high “aaaaaah” quotient maneuvers. Throughout the event, there is a running informative commentary about the Aircrafts, the pilots having these beauties at their command and the skills required to make possible their majestic flight. It is another matter altogether that with the Jets crossing the sound barrier repeatedly and creating ear-splitting noise, it becomes virtually impossible to hear most of it. Apt music (part military style, part rock) adds to the overall ‘feel’ of the event.

The prominent aircrafts on display are the C-17 Boeing, the MIG 29, Sukhoi, LTA, BEL 407, F-16 Viper, Tejas LCA, IJT, Saras heli-team, among others. The most supple and mercurial, in my opinion, would be the Sukhoi, an aircraft that played a major role in India’s victory in the Kargil war. The Saras heli-team performs dangerous maneuvers at close quarters (a week ago, they lost a team-member in a crash – hats off to them for a brilliant performance). MIG and F16 are mighty impressive too, but the craft that takes the cake and my breath away is the C-17 Boeing from the US Navy – majestic, and massive. Weighing well over a thousand kgs, with a wing-span of half a football field and a tail height of over 20 meters. Phew! Beat that! To top it all, the C-17 is extremely agile and capable of deft maneuvers and short landing in spite of its gargantuan husk. Truly impressive!

A lunch break ensues at 1pm, and the display would resume only at 3pm. I have to meet some friends, and reluctantly leave the display sooner than expected. We have our fill, browse through some exhibition stalls showcasing memorabilia of the Indian Air Force, and depart.

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My reputation supersedes me. At a recently married friend’s place the same day, my past catches up on me. She is relating he adventures with making ghee out of thick milk (full cream). I enquire with genuine interest about thick milk since I knew not what it was.

Given my past reputation for cracking vulgar jokes (I still do that often ;), all I get as an answer are dirty looks from all the female presence in the room. C’mon girls …. I’ve reformed, or I think I have J


“Lead me not into temptation
I can find the way myself!!!”

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

OH OH ! THE SNOWMAN IS MELTING !

[Image courtesy= www. picturegrill.com]


Like, why do I get this horrid feeling that by the time the world actually DOES wake up to the imminent threat of global warming, the water would’ve already gone way over our heads? An article stated that it is unfortunate that our lifestyle today is such that we cannot do without it. And this is this lifestyle that is contributing to the widening hole in the ozone layer, the degree by degree increase in temperature, the shrinking glaciers and the increasing water levels all over the globe. Some claim that the recent increase in the occurrences of hurricanes, unseasonal rainfall, droughts, snowfall and tsunamis are a direct consequence of this phenomenon. Whether it be true or not, there is no denying that Anthropogenic (human-induced) warming of the climate system is widespread in the atmosphere, and the oceans. We are literally, swinging the axe on our own feet

This would not only mean the end of Christmas, but the end of civilization as we know it – water shortage, land degradation, dropping crop yields, floods etc. If the previous civilizations were wiped out by the Ice Age or Meteor impacts, then ours might very much be the victim of some hard-core roasting and water-dunking. The fate depicted by Hollywood blockbusters could very well be a reality soon. There will be no running away. No hill stations to escape the brunt of the heat. No high ground to escape the swelling oceans. This means that countering steps have to be taken NOW! We may not be capable of making a huge impact, but there are definitely small steps we can take to make our lives safer.

Plant more trees - We all know the multiple benefits of these, don’t we?

{Image courtesy = Alan Burfitt, www.pbase.com}

Conserve energy - When not in use, or not required, switch off all electronic items or power-run gadgets/appliances/mechanisms. This INCLUDES even those outside your house – be it in galleries, other’s houses, new places or a place where you are put up temporarily. Often the thought that perverts us is that it isn’t my place. It isn’t my home. Why should I bother? Look around and you’ll realize, this world is your home, and everything in it is something you can take care of. The conservation will insure that fossil fuel use is brought down, as well as give time to think over new biocompatible and feasible sources of energy. This brings down emissions. Tim Flannery states that every time we switch on a light or drive a car or cook a meal, we release some CO2 into the atmosphere which stays there for almost a century!!!! It’s not possible to give up our way of life today. We’ve come too far for that, but saving energy and reaping its benefits is still in our hands. Till the Government and the Research teams come up with alternates to the existing modes of energy production and put in stringent measures for conservation & emission control, we can do our part as ordinary citizens. Small actions on our part can make the world a better place to live in. It’s not only going to help your country, it’s gonna save the world…

{Image courtesy = www.conserve.uci.edu}

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Breast augmentation surgeries have united many broken marriages, getting rid of the sag in the women’s assets as well as in their relationships

So says one Venkatesh, plastic surgeon and cosmetologist. It was disheartening to read this blasphemous statement which effectively erodes the very fabric of a successful and happy marriage – which I hope is still faith, love and respect for your partner. If the completeness of a marriage is really being gauged by a woman’s “ampleness”, then it’s a shameful age upon us…