Thursday, December 28, 2006

Meeting Dalai Lama

Early, very early this morning, when the alarm starting ringing, I got up cursing the alarm, myself and the world. I do not like getting up early, unless it is to travel someplace or simply get up, do some yoga, grab a hot mug of coffee and relax with a book. But work beckoned, unfortunately. I was to go to a meeting of the Dalai Lama with the Governor of Karnataka T N Chaturvedi.

To worsen my early morning blues, this programme was at Windsor Sherton, one of the best hotels in the town. Now, these 5-star hotels are all extremely lovely. I especially love Taj West End and The Oberoi here. I wouldn't voluntarily go to any of these places. But the thing is, all business press conferences and other corporate events are held here and I am invariably forced to go.

My only problem is that I need to dress up to go here. My usual half crumpled kurta, a dirty pair of jeans won't do and that is what I hate, that dressing up part. And also the stuffy feeling I get at all these places. Snobbishness is something I cannot tolerate.

Anyway, this morning I got to the hotel and we did get to see and talk to the Dalai Lama. I took some pictures on my mobile that I will download and post soon. My impressions of him? Hmm.... I don't know. He came across as very dynamic with a smile ever ready on his face. He was very willing to mingle with everyone and posed for a number of pictures with tourists there. That is something I liked about him, that he was ready to mingle. A lot of religious gurus keep everyone else at a distance.

But somehow, he did not come across as the spiritual head that he is. I guess I was expecting him to be distant, formal and with this air of religious superiority. He was none of those, and quite nice because of that.

Dalai Lama, hmm! What, or rather who next, I wonder. :-)

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy Holidays

Hello people!
Just a short post to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a very Happy and Prosperous New Year.

Now, the above picture doesn't really convey festivity, but I just thought it was a nice picture and wanted to share it with you all. By the way, it is a picture of the Elephanta Caves near Mumbai, taken when I was there a few months ago.

The end of the year calls for some introspection, some stock taking. But I will let that wait for a while. My family is here with me and I am having the time of my life. So no blogging. But do come back, I have a long post about the wedding coming up.

Happy holidays! Stay beautiful.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Wedding





I love the mehendi. This is the bride, by the way. Decorating hands and legs with henna is not a South Indian custom like it is in the North, but all the brides wear them anyways. My cousin was glowing that day, and not just because she had got a golden facial (whatever that means!) done. She looked simple and more beautiful because of that.




This is the bride's hair, all decked up with flowers and jewellery. Because hardly anyone keeps their hair long these days, false hair is tied on and decorated all the way with flowers. The room where her make up was done was very badly lit and the picture did not come out very well.


The mantap. It was a very simple one that further highlighted the beauty of the entire ceremony. The board spells out the names of the couple.

Most weddings today have the latest numbers from Bollywood movies blaring out of loudspeakers. In others, even that is missing, replaced by the cacophony of a thousand voices, all talking and none listening. In a select few, a troupe of traditional musicians like the above are hired to play. I must say they did play tunes of old Kannada film songs once in a while but on the whole, it was good music. When the groom finally garlands the bride and the marriage actually happens, something called the "Gattimela" is played. This is when the couple become man and wife.


A really bad picture, too much light. Now after the actual wedding, what follows is a series of rituals that I did not care to try and understand. The priest officiates the ceremony, assisted by others, in the presence of the couple's parents and everyone else who care to sit around the mantap. I have never sat anywhere close so I cannot tell you what the rituals are.


Feasting! Every wedding, in fact, every Brahmin function is an excuse to feast. Brahmins love to eat and sweet dishes are a special favourite. Functions such as weddings need a lot of preparations, food-wise. You see above the kitchen with the huge huge vessels and the cooks. As far as I know, there are no women cooks for such functions.
As kids, we would have great fun at these places. We would steal bits of food, the dough of `holige', a sweet dish (the dough is yummy too!) and other snacks. And then we grew up. Now we have all become boring in the process of maintaining decorum. :-(

After the wedding and hours of rituals, after the feasting and after everything else (Ahem!), the next day is the 'grha-pravesha', when the bride's in-laws take her into their home formally. The wedding is held at the girl's place or at a place of mutual convenience. If the groom's house is far away, this puja might take place after a couple of days. In my cousin's case, her husband's house was close by.
The 'grha-pravesha' is again a series of rituals that I did not understand. Actually, I was too busy talking to my uncle and my cousin to bother. From what I understand, this is where the in-laws accept the girl as a daughter of the house.

The 'kanyadaana' takes place here. What strikes me as really bad is that the mother who bears the child and looks after her for all those years has no part in giving away the girl. That part of the entire ceremony is really sad.
By the way, what you see above is a `kalasha', an arrangement of coconut, rice, betel leaves, etc that is used for many rituals. It has some significance. I will write about it if I ever find out. :-)

A very bad picture. These are little pitchers filled with `paneer' or fragrant water. This is sprinkled on the heads of the bride's party by the groom's family to welcome them. Kids in the family are usually given this task. I did it, and must tell you, it is great fun. In the plate is 'tambula', an arrangement of betel nuts and leaves.

Again, the rituals around the holy fire. There is my little cousin and her husband. The priests are officiating the puja and in front is a 'rangoli', an intricate drawing to bring good luck and ward off the evil eye.

The rituals, though I do not understand most of them, are beautiful nevertheless. The rhythmic chantings from the Vedas are soothing and makes me proud to be a part of this over 5,000 year old tradition.

The bride smiles. Her entire happiness reflects in her eyes. I know then that she will be happy. I know her husband is a nice person. And I couldn't be happier for them.

Here is to their happiness. God bless them.




The Wedding

My cousin's wedding was beautiful. I think in the last post I had written that I would watch the rituals and report back. That is not happening because, 1) I was too busy talking to every one of my extended family members and 2) I did not have the patience to sit, observe and understand. Anyone who has been to an Indian wedding would know how intricate each ritual is. It is more advisable to just watch the rituals, listen to the chants and be drawn into the beauty of a tradition that has been carried out for millenia now.



I give you some random shots of the wedding, taken with my phone between trying to walk with dignity in a saree, between conversations and between being busy.... well, just being busy!




Monday, December 11, 2006

The Great Indian Wedding

My little cousin is getting married in two days. I say little because she is the kiddo in the family. The forever kid. The one who gets away with everything. To be frank, all of us in the family are so pampered that all of us have gotten away with everything.

She is getting married on the 13th. It is hard to imagine her as a married woman. It is going to be a grand wedding. Looking forward to it because I haven't gone to a good family function in ages. It will be great fun. The entire extended family will be here. In our weddings, the bride's family had to oversee all the arrangements, entertain the guests and manage the wedding. I and this cousin would always do that at all other functions. This time, its just me there. Will be fun.

I have always wanted to write a post on weddings in my community. The wedding is a sober function, no dancing like in North Indian weddings. But the rituals and the meaning behind them are beautiful. If I ever manage to observe everything, I will come back and write.

I am off to some fun, and a break from work! Yipeeee!
Tata my dear readers, stay precious. Life is Beautiful.

When Its All Worth It

Yesterday, a colleague and I were cribbing about how not-so-interesting life was. Suddenly, we said hey! If we journalists call our lives boring, how it must be for others. I mean, we get to experience something new every single day in this profession. We have flexible work hours, get to meet new people every day, go to funny, amusing events, so much happens in life. This colleague had just met all the top film stars at a press conference that day. I had gone to a military school event where I got to watch a hardcore patriotic play. Our lives are not boring, it is just that we don't appreciate how much we have going for us.

Journalism is all about something new everyday. That military school event was great fun. It was an early assignment and I had to wake up early too, something I loathe. I dragged myself to the Defence PRO's office and we went to the school in one of those huge military buses. I love those army types. They look so dashing in those uniforms. It is not that all of them are good looking (most are). Just that there is something so Indian about them. Maybe the uniform, maybe their discipline. Everytime I see one of them, I want to salute them, then and there.

Anyway, this event was the diamond jubilee celebrations of the military school. The alumni were all shouting across the hall to greet old friends, typical school alumni meet atmosphere. The chief guest was the Governor of Karnataka. The moment he entered, the school band began to play the national anthem. It was one of the best I have ever heard. Patriotism, at least an outward show of it, is largely restricted to August 15, January 26 and Indo-Pak cricket matches, I feel. I love my country, but it is not often that I feel a surge of pride in how beautiful India is. Perhaps when you are living here, you take it for granted. But there, listening to the anthem, I actually got goosebumps! It was just.... overwhelming in a way. I felt so proud of my country then.

Yesterday, I was assigned to go cover an exhibition put up by the graduating students of Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology. I have always been inclined towards the arts, though I don't paint, draw, dance or sing myself. (Well I do sing in the bathroom, dance like crazy sometimes and draw, doodle rather when I am waiting. But this doesn't count.) Give me the jhola, chappals, arty stuff. Works for me over formals, leather bags and pointed shoes.

The arty types, though I don't like typifying them, are different in the way they dress, behave. For starters, they are extremely creative. But then, probably if you are in an atmosphere that induces creative thinking, it shouldn't be too hard.

Anyway, I did go to this event and spoke to a lot of students. Some of their projects are amazing, some weird, some too complex. But on the whole, it was a great break from covering dumb politics, boring speeches and mindless events. I did get some byline stories too, to take care of special story demands.

Moral of the story: Journalism and writing is just another job at the end of the day. We get bored too, we crib about life, just like every other person in every other profession. But at times, like the two examples above, it all seems worth it. I understand that going to such events and meeting different kinds of human beings and different kinds of people (there is a difference, believe me) does not happen to everyone. I appreciate the opportunities I get. Well, sometimes I don't. Come on, it is almost a given that you need to crib about work, your boss, salary, etc. I am just following the rules of the working world people!

I ramble too much here. But it is all worth it. Life, in spite of everything, is worth living.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Journalism at Express


This is what my colleagues do when state matters, murders, gossip about people in power, scandals and exclusives get boring! This is an old picture so I am not sure whose creativity this is.
And below is an SMS one of my colleagues, Jaunet, made up and forwarded to everyone else during some boring assignment. I wont say its 100% true all the time, but this pretty much sums up what all journos everywhere do. (I know everyone will deny this now, but I, as an insider, know this statement to be true to the best of my knowledge people).
The SMS:
........Deadline pressures, special story hassles.
Loads of coffee, with occassional beers.
Dumb state politics, serious office gossip.
Crushes on CRs, criminals, crime reps n cops.
Infinitea to canteen ka tea.
Bitch about appraisals, yet swear by Express.
Walk in to work at 1 and walk out for shopping at 3.
Others call it time pass, we call it
Journalism at Express!!!

Days of My Journo Life

DAY 1: I have a very early assignment at 8.30. That means I have to sleep walk out of my house by 7.30. Ugh! Thankfully, a colleague is going that way too and says he will pick me up. That means I go out by 8 am. Not too bad but its cold and the bike ride is not something I want to repeat. The assignment is a ok one, followed by breakfast at Koshy's again (reason is that no other decent restaurant is open at that hour on M G Road). I go to this book festival near office and blow up a lot of money on some great titles. I am happy, relaxed, in spite of the early hour. The wind is slightly cold still and am I the first person to walk into the office. It is quiet.

Two hours later, chaos begins. The rest of the day is hazy. The only thing I remember is that I had toooooo much work, frustrated at having to come up with new ideas every day, just cribbing about work. When I call home like I do every night and look forward to cribbing some more about life, office and work to ma, she tells me that she is down with fever and feels terribly weak. That unnerves me further. By the time I get home, I am so frustrated I just want to scream out, cry, whatever. That, when crying is a very very huge thing for me to do. I never cry, even when required, which is bad I know. I end up bottling up all this and drop down to a bad night of sleep.

DAY 2: The same thing repeats. Actually pretty much of the first paragraph repeats. By evening ma is better. I still have toooooo much work but I am relaxed. The frustration is there but I will it to go away and it does. I come home, read a book and sleep deeply.

What made the difference, you ask. On day 2, I forced myself to wake up half and hour earlier and practised my yoga. I meditated for just a while, told myself it would be a good day, prayed and stretched my body in all ways possible in postures. And that made all the difference.

DAY 3: Same as above.

I wonder why I ever stopped yoga. Even as I type these words, muscles I didn't know I had are aching from having stretched them after ages. But it feels good. I feel alive. I do not advocate the benefits of yoga here.
Actually, I do. Yoga, or any other form of exercise, does wonders. Now this instant use like I got may not be possible. For me, it has been an on-off thing. But keep at it and even those dirty politicians, mundane press conferences and the mindless people wont unnerve you. No wonder Indians have always been cool!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Yappy Budday To Me!


Happy birthday to me! One year older, one year down in the journey of life.
This was my first birthday away from family. Ginger, my dog, is very sick so my parents could not come down as they had planned. I did not want to celebrate this year but then my friends dragged me out.
I did have a good day, but sorely missed my parents. Made me realise how much I am attached to my roots, those yearly rituals. Well, I will not complain today, it is my budday after all!!!
By the way, the above picture was taken near Madikeri, actually on the way to Talacauvery, the birth place of river Cauvery. I loved the contrast of the lone blue house with the green hills. Somehow, felt this was an appropriate picture.
Will be back soon, with more words out of my head.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Dates I Don't Go On

I love my job to death no doubt. But some aspects of it can be very irritating. One, I don't get time to socialise. By this, I don't mean dating people, I have been off that scene for some time now (Am not giving out details!). I mean going out for a movie, shopping, with friends. I have to squeeze in these in between work hours, sadly.

The other thing that leaves me irritated is the kind of men I meet on assignments. Women's lib apart, I must tell you that journalism is one field that is still male dominated. There are very few women journalists around, though the ones who are, are great! (Like me! He he!) Jokes apart, there have been many programmes where I have been the only female in a room of say, a hundred men. I am totally used to it.

But then, there are times when I come across men who just do not get the message when I tell them, 'no thank you, move on buddy!' It is imperative in my profession to hand out visiting cards with personal details like mail id and mobile numbers. In some five months into life as a reporter, I have come across more than a few who invite me for dinner/coffee/lunch/office.

I meet dozens of new people every day. By now, I can fairly judge the intentions of people. Thankfully, none of these men I am talking about here were lewd or made me feel uneasy. These were all charming, polite people, sure. But very persistent. They just don't seem to understand that I am not interested.

Phew! Just this morning, I had a hard time with one such person. He wanted to know when I would be free (I am never free), so that he could invite me to his office for some coffee. Then there are the younger lot, about my age, who flirt shamelessly.

Frankly speaking, I don't mind them much, as long as they are harmless. But when they continue to insist upon keeping in touch, it gets a little too much. And by nature I am not a very patient person. All I can do is grin and bear it.

Whoever said life is easy for a pretty, poor girl!!!! (Wink wink!!) :-)

Breakfast at Koshy's

I usually like to be on time for assignments, in spite of knowing that ministers are going to be late. Yet, I made up my mind to take my time going to a chief minister's programme this morning.

Ok, ok, I am lying here. I overslept, ok! I jumped out of bed and ran out. Again I lie, I took my time, knowing the CM would never come that early anyways. (It was at 8 am and thats VERY early for me!) But as luck would have it, the programme had already begun when I reached the venue about twenty minutes late. To cut the long story short, I did get inputs for my story, so that problem was solved. I shrugged off a very persistant colonel who wanted to have coffee/ lunch with me, went to a book festival, bought P Sainath's 'Everybody Loves a Good Drought' and am in office, blogging, something which I try not to do.

Anyway, what I meant to write here was about my breakfast this morning. M G Road, right next to the venue of this programme was fairly empty this morning. I have always enjoyed walking down that road. You can lose yourself there, though that is not something I continue to like these days. Anyway, I walked the length of the road, hoping Koshy's, my favourite restaurant in town, would be open.

It was open. Koshy's is a lovely place with great food, lovely people. It has a long history that I had written about some time ago. Since then, I have been a regular there whenever I can spare the time and the money. It is usually filled to capacity, is pretty noisy, though it is the nice kind of noise. You get to think in that place with different accents, different colours and sounds in the background.

This morning, I was one of the first persons to step in. It was quite, almost disconcerting, for I always associate Koshy's with noise and a pleasant crowd. But then, it was nice. I sat by the window, with a collection of Busybee's column Round and About in my hands. His columns always crack me up, no matter how many times I read them. Just like F.R.I.E.N.D.S., in spite of the nth number of re-runs.

I sat facing the door and slowly the place started filling up. Many people walked in, a lady with a gaudy Louis Vuitton bag (wonder why people pay through their noses for them, they don't look at all), some leggy lasses, punks, someone who looked like a politician and others. I thought I recognised some famous faces from the Page 3 circuit. But then, I could not place them. Neither do I follow Bangalore Times supplement.

As I ate my sandwiches and drank some coffee (not the best I have had though), people continued to file in. By the time I finished breakfast, Koshy's was full again. Things were back to normal.

How I wish I could say the same about life in general too.....

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

This I Gave Up




I was on a very quick visit home a week ago. Had some issues to sort out. After a very long time, I and Raksha, someone I have been great friends with for the longest time, went out. For many many years, we have been very close, still are. Just like old times, we went to Raja Seat and sat and talked, just like we used to. Made me realise how good old friends are, made me realise just how much I was missing out on a lot of things. Believe me, nothing can replace the years and experiences you have been through with someone. Both of us have seen each other go through a lot, so much that we can sense what's happening with the other. I must admit, we have never been the kind to shout from the rooftop how close we are. There have been times we haven't kept in touch for days and weeks. But we both know that when we really need a good, hard talk, the other will always be there. I suppose that is friendship, more than anything.

The trip was great this time. Sitting there, talking with her, I got many things in sharper perspective, things that had been eating into my mind and work for some time. Came to conclusions. That reminds me, I read this somewhere recently: A conclusion is what you come to when you are tired of thinking!

Seems so true. Amazing how some people have the talent of putting things in such simple words.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Office


This is my office at night. Like I was saying, my phone does not take very good night pictures.

Well, the building is huge and is bang in the middle of what I would call the heart of the city. It is just a stone's throw from the Press Club, High Court, the Vidhan Soudha (read this on VS) and a lot of other government offices. It is in close proximity to almost all the star hotels (necessary because a lot of programmes are held in these places). This makes our job as reporters a lot easier as it saves us a lot of commuting time.

Anyway, the building is quite old, is three storeys high and also houses an IT company, a bank, Kannada Prabha (Express' sister newspaper in Kannada), advertising and product marketing sections and a very smelly canteen that stinks of stale oil all the time. But we eat there everyday, at least the coffee is good (they make it the way I like it). It is office after all.

Riot of Colours


Much as I love my mobile phone for the wonderful things I can do with it, I must admit it does not work very well for night pictures. But I could not resist taking the above picture.

This was when I went to Madikeri for Dasara last month. This is a shop I have seen a thousand times and every time, it is plain, devoid of colour or even things on sale. But that night, it seemed to have all the magic of a village fair, with the balloons and the lights and the cheap sweets to the marvelous colours. Madikeri simply transforms herself during Dasara.

This is something I shall continue to love about Madikeri. In Bangalore everyday, I see a million lights beside the road, in shops and on buildings. It is a blinding sight often. Yet, when I go to Madikeri, when I look at bright lights and many people, I still gape in wonder.

I suppose some things always remain with you. I suppose I shall always remain a small town girl.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Hell (O)

Hello my dear readers. Life is so so hectic that it has been ages since I even opened a blog to read, let alone update it. It is late even as I write this, but I just had to write today. This is one of those of those days when the words in my heart and mind are in constant conflict to tumble out. This is a time when I just have to write something.....anything....as long as I write.

Since I have not posted anything on the other blog, let me write a post there.

As for life, its been busy. But happily, I am back to the reading habit. Been reading a lot lately, a Kannada play, a critique on liberty by John Stuart Mill and a racy, but very well written novel called `Shantaram' by Gregory Roberts. I did not have much hopes from this one but to my surprise, it is quite well written. His descriptions of India is quite insightful. I suppose it takes an outsider to notice and eulogise what for us is commonplace and prosaic.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Chronicles of Urban Life

(Someone who admired my writing used the words in the title. You know who you are. If you are reading this, thank you for your kind words.)

In a little over two decades of my life, I have lived in three cities for considerable amounts of time and been to many others in the course of my travels. I was too young to remember Madras in detail. Though technically I lived in Mangalore, I lived on campus and my trips to the city do not qualify me to talk about the city. I could write a thesis on Madikeri, but it is not a city. And now Bangalore.

My job as a journalist and living by myself gives me a lot of opportunity to feel the city. As I travel to and from assignments and work and home, I tend to see a lot of people, not often very kind, some plain irritating and most rather amusing in their own ways. One common factor in all the cities I have noticed is the hope that lies behind the facade people wear on their faces, too afraid to reveal their true selves, lest it becomes an impediment in their efforts to fit in.

Cities, especially Bangalore, is the place everyone comes to with big dreams and bigger hopes. I did too and thankfully, my dreams were not hopelessly crushed by reality. I see how blessed I am to be living a dream when I see people around me who could not make it. Their eyes tell haunting tales of despair even as a faint smile plays on their lips, a smile that they take resort in to survive from one day to the next. I have always thought cities as very sad places because it is here that people come, hoping to become something and go on to become just a statistic in a growing population. In smaller towns like Madikeri, it is never so. We always know our places in the town, know our stand in the universe we create for ourselves. The dreams continue but we know it is ok if they are not fulfilled. There is a content in the way we grumble about the weather, about the falling coffee prices, about inflation and about the distant lands.

Not so in cities. There is always the next dream to chase, the next 'thing' to buy and the next thing to learn to fit in. Bangalore always makes me sad, every city does. When I work late in the office and get back in the office cab past midnight, I see people sleeping on the pavements with the sky for a roof and the hard Earth for a bed. Some are still awake when we drive past, playing cards under the street light, drinking cheap liquor or playing with their kids. If I saw them in the daytime..... Well, I wouldn't. These people become invisible with the first ray of light, leave no trace of their make-shift homes as they go in search of the dream that evades them all their lives. Cities are sad places.

But let me tell you. If you could even care to look into the eyes of some of the vendors on the street, the coolies in the railway station or the kids begging at traffic signals, if you look deep enough, you can still see that little flicker of hope of a better existence.

I tend to meet a lot of such hopefuls in my line of work. It is heart renching to see the kind of hope they place in the article you write. For me, it is just a copy, just another byline that will look good in my portfolio but for some of them, it is their only hope where they believe one article will make all the difference in their lives. It will not. The helplessness you feel at your inability to help them in a significant way is probably the worst thing in journalism.

But than, the only thing that gives me hope is the hope I see deep in their eyes. The lives they lead in spite of the death of their dreams, their sheer survival instinct is a reminder to me that life has to go on, that it does. As I walk past the Press Club and peek into Cubbon Park, I see a couple, coyly holding hands and whispering to each other. Just off the corner on M G Road, I see a blind woman selling lottery tickets in a loud sing-song voice. On Magadi Road through which I travel every day on the way to work, I see hundreds of people laughing, haggling, flirting and leading lives. As I hurry past slums, the scene is repeated. As I walk past houses in Vijaynagar, I see the same scenes again.

And herein lies the mysteries of urban life. Cities kill the strongest of dreams but people live on, building upon castles of newer dreams with airs of hope. Cities are sad places but then, if you lift the thin veil of urban behaviour apart, there is hope and joy and laughter too. Civilisation sustains itself, even when men clash.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Happy Deepavali


Hello my dear readers, I am back, after a great vacation. Normally, it so happens that everytime we travel, we end up taking in so much of places and people that it ceases to be a vacation. This time was different because I did not do much of sight-seeing. Instead, I relaxed, read some books, thought, and did nothing! It was pure pleasure. Nevertheless, I do have stories to tell.

Before I begin, here is wishing you all a very Happy and Prosperous Deepavali. May the festival of lights bring you all the joy and peace in the world.

Unfortunately, I am not celebrating the festival this year. For the first time, I am not at home. We got off from work today and I was at my house in Bangalore, feeling sorry for myself for not celebrating and annoyed at the kids in my street for bursting the loudest of fire crackers. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against crackers, even though I stopped bursting any many many years ago. I love those flower pots, swirling circles, `sur-sur bathis' and the rest. I just don't get the point in bursting those huge and very loud bombs, that's all. Anyways, nothing I can do about it.

Every year at home, I would lit dozens of little mud lamps and arrange them in front of the house. Once I remember we had kept lamps and candles even on the terrace. That is what I miss the most here, even as I write this. As I look around, people just seem to be bursting crackers, I can hardly see any lamps in front of houses. Lamps, deepas after which I am named, are what Deepavali means to me. I miss that sorely.

As I sigh at life, other lives and the festivities go on. And a very happy Deepavali to you all.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Bon Voyage to Myself!

This is going to be a very short post for two reasons.
1) I am quite strapped for time.
2) I am quite excited.

The reason being that I will be travelling for a week starting tomorrow. Needed this break. It has been so long since I went anywhere far.

Anyway, you will not hear from me for a few days. But I will be back with a bang and with some grrrreat stories!

Until then, tata!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Places, People and Their Lives


Another one in my life series. I had to go to the Press Club today. There was this conference about Yakshagana performances during Navarathri festival. Apparently, there was also a little performance by the kids which I missed because I was stuck in traffic. We were out after a while when I saw this kid, all decked up in the traditional Yakshagana attire standing in a corner, looking all bored among the adults.

I had wanted to take the entire dress but unknowingly caught the child in a candid moment. Could not avaoid the white bit of someone's leg there.


I must write about Yakshagana sometime, it is the traditional art form of Karnataka.

After Igot my new phone, I seem to be posting more photos than writing.....

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Byline

I have come to realise that for most people outside of the journalism community, the word byline does not mean much. Until a little over two years ago, I was not much concerned with it either, but today, after many many bylines, the word still thrills.

A byline is your name that gets published along with your article that is usually called a 'copy' in journo jargon. It is normally given for exclusives, special stories and columns. Over the last couple of years when I was studied journalism and in the last four months that I have been one, I have got quite a few bylines. (Immodestly, let me tell you that I have stopped counting.) But two bylines stand out in my mind.

One was my first state byline for a news copy that came out exactly one month after I had been interning. That was also the day the editor called me up to say that I had got the job there. It was not an extraordinary story but the timing is what I shall remember.
The next one is a byline I got today. It was for a travel piece (pretty much ilke the ones I write here) that was published on one whole page of the Sunday magazine section of the newspaper I work for. Now this page will be seen (I can't be sure of the readership!) by people in all of South India. The timing was near perfect too.

Just when I was a little down. I got up early this morning and rushed for the paper. The joy of seeing my name in print was just like the way I felt when I got a poem published in a local newspaper in Madikeri about 15 years ago. After many bylines, I had though it would not be a big deal. But no matter how many I get, the thrill never fades away. When you see your name on the page and think of the few others who will also see your name on it, all those long hours of slogging, those boring programmes, those rude people and those long hours of waiting fades away.

With the paper in your hand, you feel this sense of accomplishment, however small, a sense of having done it all. Right then, you feel like you have all the power in the world. Again and again, this feeling resurges, to give you the will to write, in spite of everything, to tell your story.

Another Poem

I am not going to write what lead me to write this poem. Simply read on.....

ENCOUNTERING THE PAST

People meet
Some stay on,
Most move away
Leaving an indelible mark
That may fade
But never washes away.
The mark slips deeper
And still deeper
Till you forget it is there.


But like lava
That brews beneath the surface
The volcano bursts
To leave a scar
Not on the top
But where the old mark was
Deep in the mind,
Deeper in the heart.


This is when
The past peeps out
Of a corner
When least expected
Merges with today
Bringing up memories
That were suppressed
Quite by force.


But the greatest gift
To the human mind
The gift of short memory
Will come to aid
The scar will fade,
Almost disappear
As the past dies
The future is ahead.


The past looks on
Let it do so
With a tinge of awe
And a bit of surprise
At the life that has
Moved ahead,
Quite far ahead.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Heaven is a Place on Earth


Another mobile picture. I wanted to post a write up today but the keyboard I am using is really bad (This is in another section of the office) and I can hardly type. The keys are so tight.

But I will post later, I want to, I have to.

This above pic is a view from the veranda at home. On a cold, still misty mid morning in my beautiful Madikeri, I know that no other place can be more beautiful for me. Heaven, I know, is a place on this beautiful Earth and it is in my exquisite Madikeri.

Until later, think beautiful.....

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Places, People and Their Lives

Now that I have a jazzy phone with camera and all that, I manage to click some interesting pictures of people, places and life in general. I will be putting up some of them under the title `Places, People and Their Lives'.

This above picture is the first in the series. I took this at a handicraft bazaar I went to recently. There were some beautiful stuff there and I ended up blowing up a lot of money. These Rajastani snake charmers (?) were selling the pipes and entertaining the crowds with some haunting music. I always took a video which I shall upload once I figure out how to do that!

I love the light and shade effect in the picture.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Blog Impact

I like to call it the impact of my post (I'm kidding myself here, of course!)
I got my calling cards yesterday!!!! Yippppeeeeee!!
It has my company name and my name and my numbers and everything! I know all calling cards have all these but these are my first cards people! I have the right to gush like this!! :-)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Calling On Me

There used to be a time when I thought visiting cards, or calling cards as I believe they are called now, were meant for high-flying businessmen, a kind of elitist symbol of the person's importance, if I may say so.

But I know realise every Tom, Dick, Harry and their aunts have calling cards. At every event i go to, organisers and just about everyone ends up giving me their cards. There are times when I really want to give mine and continue the acquaintance.

The catch is that I have not got my cards yet. We get them from the company and I have not got them yet. Is anybody listening to me.......?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A Poem

This is something I wrote after my visit to my old college.

(Untitled)

As I walk
Down the corridors
Of time
A world opens up
One of the past
When I took the stage
With a dozen others
We laughed a laugh,
Shed a tear, fought a battle
Stood still against
The ravaging time
And lost the war,
To retreat, ahead with Life.

The battleground remains
Same as ever
The foot soldiers- disciples
Of us and others before us.
As I walk past,
A veteran now
I remain unsung,
My time buried.
They lead on now
Their personal fight
Fought with a tear
And a hearty laugh.

I walk past
Letting them be
The vision fades
The faces I knew
Change.
Other lives now.


As I walk on
The corridors of time
I reach a monument
With a plaque.
Inscribed on it is
"NOSTALGIA"

Some Things Never Change

One of the most hackneyed expressions these days could well be `Change is the only constant in the world'. I myself have used it on several occassions in my writings. But I am glad to find that it is not entirely true.

I went home last weekend. It was literally freezing. I might as well have been transported into the past. As I looked out of the window, I could not see anything in front of me; the mist was so thick. It was raining so heavily that walking out of the house was out of the question. All the same...just like it had been over the years, as long as I remember.

I went to my old college to meet some classmates who teach there now. It was like stepping back into time again. felt like a rewind to over two years ago, when we walked the corridors, making pretty much big nuisances of ourselves. Every new face in the college was the butt of our comments. I got my share this time too. The faces had changed of course. But the manner of college life, those irritating lectures, lecturers we could get around by, noisy corridors... nothing's changed.

I went to town too. The same old beloved faces that smile at me, the ones who ask about my job; for whom I am not the journalist from the city, but just a simple girl they watched grow up. The lanes I walked in the rain, the shops I brought chocolates and candy from. The old musty government offices with a thousand files that are never cleared away. Ah!

The country might develop, civilisation may progress. But Madikeri and some things about it never change. And I thank God for it!

My Phone Scares Me (Almost)!

Here I am, after a long time. I don't even want to contemplate on what I have been doing these past weeks. That is one path I refuse to walk on now.

Went home last week for four blissful days. Best part was that I did not do anything. Oh I did get a new phone though.

Its a Nokia phone, one of the latest models. It is not very sleek nor is it easy to carry. But the features it has...! Wow! It is so technically advanced that I am almost intimidated every time I try something new in it. As of now, I have learnt to make and receive calls, send messages and take some pictures on it. But I am told it can do a lot more than that. The instruction manual reads like Greek to me. Such technology scares me because it is wierd how much man has actually progressed.

Mobile phones can be irritating sometimes. The best part about them is that you are always connected. The worst part is that you are always connected too. I have family and friends calling up all the time and the first thing they ask is where I am. and I don't always like telling people where I am every minute of the day. It gets so bad sometimes that I am greatly tempted to throw my phone against the wall.

But then, this new one that I have is too pretty to do something like that. And I haven't yet figured out half the things it is capable of doing.

Monday, July 24, 2006

My Family and Pampered Animals


A very bad picture, I am afraid. But I write here to tell you about the hundreds of animals that get royal treatment at my home. (Of course, hundreds is an exaggeration, but, ah well!)

My mother has made it a habit to feed sparrows on our terrace. The result, about 200 sparrows swoop in at all times of the day, eat the rice, dirty the place and create a ruckus whenever the food is all eaten up. And then there are the squirrels for whom dad has made many elaborate arrangements.

According to him, the younger ones find it difficult to get to the food. So he has put up many branches and pipes and boxes so that they can all come and perch comfortably on these to eat. The result, same as above, though the number of squirrels is lesser.

I have already written about the snakes. Thankfully, my parents have not started feeding them, though I would not be surprised if they did. All the left overs at home go to these creatures. (Ginger is too high-brow to eat left-overs. And no, I am not kidding about it. He really does not eat left overs!)

There are of course cows that would come in every day. But after ma's garden plans materialised, they stay out. Thus it was that often I would see more animals than people. It was like growing up in a farm in the middle of the town. Ah, those were the times, with My Family and Other Animals!

A Most Beautiful Woman

Just the other day, I was on the way back from office. On the seat opposite mine on the bus was a woman in a yellow skirt, a faded red blouse and a multi-coloured dupatta. She had on heavy silver jewellery. Her hair was graying along the edge of her forehead. She looked like a Rajasthani woman to me. She had dirt below her finger nails. Her face was dirty and so were her clothes. But she was one of the most beautiful women I have seen in recent times.

You know why? Because the many many wrinkles on her face showed the many many travails she had gone through in life. Because her dull grey eyes reflected the burden of having lived a life. Because she emanated the life of a human being who was like millions of others in the world, whose chief concern was not government policies, not the elections, not the bombs, but that of feeding herself and her family. She was beautiful because she survived this world for so long. Because sans lipstick, thick mascara and a touch of blush, this woman was real; for beauty is not what you can see in a person, but what you feel reflecting from someone.

Baanuli

Baanuli is Kannada for radio, more specifically the All India Radio or Akashvani. Did I write about my training in radio before? Anyways....

This was after my first year at uni. We had a very long break of over three months and I was all enthusiastic about the media. After a bad week trying to work in a newspaper, I went back home. A lot of the staff at AIR Madikeri were friends of mine and invited me to train there for a while. And boy was it fun!!!

The office was pretty close to my house. Let me be frank, I have never really listened to the radio much. So I went there not with much interest. It was more like something to do for me. That was the time, the Madikeri station got a new computer with software designed for radio. The staff there was as clueless as I was. Nevertheless, that one month was all of trial and error, lots of experimenting and teaching the rest of them.

More than all this, what impressed me the most was the reach of radio and the kind of impact it had on people. We would get hundreds of letters everyday asking for songs, appreciating the programmes. Amidst all this would be that one sole letter that made everyone think that they were doing something good. I remember there was this one person who for some reason was bed ridden. He wrote saying that the radio was his only companion now and that he passed time listening to radio all the time.

I remember the debates we had at uni about which media was the most effective in reaching out to the people. All of us would conclude that it was radio in most cases. Though I knew all this theoritically, it was only at AIR that I actually felt the impact radion was making. It was all overwhelming in a way.

I am not very comfortable talking on radio. You give me a piece of paper and a pen or give me a computer, I will go on writing for hours on end but I cannot talk. One person there forced me to go on air once and I narrated a story I had written. It was aired too, though most of those who listened said it did not sound like me at all. I think it was just two days after this that we got a letter. It was from someone in a small village in a remote corner of the district. He wrote saying that he liked the story very much. That compliment is one that is most special to me because it came from a village I had never even heard of.

Now that I work for a newspaper, I write a lot of stories. I am sure many people read them in all corners of the state. But it is not the same, somehow.

Akashvani was special to me because there I was very very close to the people, th farming community, the sons of the soil, literally speaking. Now I get to meet CEOs, corporate people, ministers and the like. A number of them are wonderful people. But it is not the same, just not the same.

Would I go back to radio? Not for a job. But to connect to real people... oh yes!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Pulling the Trigger (To My Memories)

Just a few weeks ago, I was contemplating the tremendous changes going on in my life with me moving to a city, starting work and living a new life. But now, a routine has set in. This life is no longer new. It is just...life.

A routine life brings with it mundane chores life shopping for groceries, cleaning and the like. Last evening, I remembered to go buy fruits on the way. To my utter surprise, I saw butter-fruit (Avocado to the rest of you) tucked into a wooden box. I just had to buy a few.

To me, the little green fruit will also be butter-fruit. Avocado is too alien for my memories. Back in Madikeri, we have a butter-fruit tree that is most unpredictable in fruit bearing. It bears fruit one year and does not for the next few years. Anyway, butter-fruit continues to be one of my most favourite fruits.

It had been years since I had it. Can't wait for them to ripen. The point here? Well, just that in my routine life to which I was getting accustomed to, I came across a reminder of my past, my home, my beloved Madikeri. Its funny how a little something can open up a can of memories for you, be it a fruit, a chocolate bar that you loved as a child, few lines of a song that you hummed, a long lost picture....

In the two years that I was at uni, I don't think I missed home even once but now I do. In the busy life that I live through, it is these little reminders that make me think of the open spaces, the air and the mountains.

Someone once asked me what I missed most about Madikeri. I would say the mountains. If you asked me now, I would add that I miss the open spaces, the sheer slowness in life where there are no buses to catch, no deadlines...the different pace of life.

But then, you cannot have it all. 'It is all in the mind', reminded someone to me. And in my mind, Madikeri is never far.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

While I Was Waiting....

I keep talking of how much I enjoy what I do. My only complaint is the about the time I waste waiting for the programme to start, for ministers to come, for something to happen. While waiting, I do get to talk to the other reporters, the organisers and make some useful acquaintances. But there are also times when that doesn't happen either.

At such times, strange lines, verses and one-liners make their way into my notebook. Here are a chosen few.

Cool room
Good people
Light heart
A smile
That reaches not the eyes. May 19


Eyes search
Mind questions
Heart seeks
But the answer evades
As always. May 18


I need
To write
But sleep
Just does not
Evade
Zzzz...... May 24


Bathi hoda baaviyinda Neereleva Prayatna Vyarthavallave?

(A sentence in Kannada roughly meaning isn't it futile to try to draw water from a well that has dried up)

There used to be a time when I wrote poetry. What you see above is the sad remnants of that!! ;-) Now that I spend so much time commuting and at work, maybe I should start again. Hmm...something to think about......

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Living a Dream

Ok, I am in front of the computer in my office, finished my work for the morning. I sit and ponder about what I want to write about. Somehow, my assignments seem ordinary now to write about. Earlier, when I was in school and later even during college, I would look up to the journalists who came to cover events. I always thought they were this privileged class who were known to everyone and everyone would go up and introduce themselves. Now that I am living that life, it really doesn't feel like a big deal, though I do see people look up to me in awe at places I go. I know its because I am a journalist and not because I am Deepa (I haven't reached there yet!) but its nice at times.

All of that is routine to me now. So I shall not write much. I have always loved travelling and writing about it. But it has been ages since I went anywhere. So no travelogues for now. The only thing left is my social life but that I must say is non-existent. I work everyday and over the weeks, my personal life has merged with my professional one. I do not complain though, for I knew what I was getting into. The only social contact I maintain on a personal level is to talk to my friends over the phone.

Come to think of it, it is sad that as we grow up, friends no longer are as important as they once used to be. Of course, you do need that core group or that one bestest friend to survive but the others no longer get priority, which is very unfortunate. Come to think of it, all my friends are scattered all over the place. Any contact between most has been reduced to sending and getting SMSes on that all important mobile phone.

Ok, I have typed so much but I still do not have a topic to write about. I need to travel or make new friends; I wouldn't have to deal with a blogging-block then. Let me close with what is in the offing for readers in Bangalore. I am working on a series of articles about places that are part of the history of the city. The first one was about Elgin Talkies, a theatre that has been in existence from the time the Lumiere brothers brought their cinema to the country. Next is about Dewar's Bar, an old watering hole in the city that had once attained elite status among the British. Let me try and put up those articles on the blog.

Now, back to living a dream....as a journalist.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

My First Time (at the Assembly) and Other Stories

There is this new brand of clothing that has opened up shop at a mall near my office called Urban Yoga. When I bought a ridiculously expensive pair of trousers from there yesterday, they gave me this cute little brown bag with spiritual stuff printed on it. One line I liked was that you are new with every breath you take.

That is so true to the life I am leading right now. Every moment is different, every day brings with it a thousand new experiences. One such special day was June 21, 2006.

I must have written somewhere on this blog that politics holds a special charm to me. It is filthy, disgusting and all that but I have always enjoyed keeping up with the ones who 'lead' the country (do not ask into what!). My office happens to be just a few minutes away from Vidhan Soudha, the seat of power in Karnataka. At least twice a day, I go past the imposing building and each time I get thrilled (for want of a better word) at the sight of it. I had always wanted to go inside and watch the proceedings when the Assembly is in session.

Getting a pass can be a bother but thanks to a friend, a fellow journalist, I got to go in. It was marvellous. My friend took me to see the Legislative Council and then to the Assembly. The rules are strict, no mobiles, no bags, nothing. I was shown where to sit by smartly dressed assistants. The visitors sit in galleries around the well of the Assembly.

I peeped down. The well is beautiful with green carpeting and mahogany tables and chairs. The Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy was answering a question about a major project that had lead to a lot of controversy. Arguments soon began to fly back and forth with the Opposition advicing the government on various issues. Soon a fight broke out among the Opposition leaders and they almost began to hit each other. Sadly, that was when we were asked to go out, to keep the dignity of the House, I suppose.

That was the end of my first time at the Assembly. I did want to stay and watch them fighting! Ma thought I was demented to go and look at the crazy politicians when there were live telecasts on television. But then, I haven't really been listening to my mother for some years now! ;-)

Yesterday, I did a story on Elgin Talkies, the oldest film theatre in Bangalore. It has existed from the time the Lumiere Brothers first screened their movie in the country, from 1896 that is. The owner was a very friendly person and told me a number of stories of crazy fans. Apparently, hero worship was so much in those days that unemployed people would steal and bring coins to throw at the screen when their favourite heroes came on screen!

Then there was another programme I went to, a very fundamentalistic Hindu programme. Today, just as soon as I am done blogging, I shall be going to interview a high profile naked Jain saint who is in the city.

This post is full of different stuff, unrelated paragraphs, I know. But then, this is how my life has been. Very different. I come from a family of doctors, engineers, teachers and bankers. Almost no one is in humanities. Even today, my extended family fails to understand why I chose to be a journalist. I do not have a one line answer. A love for ability is not it. I suppose it is the joy of meeting people. I have been talking to people the kind I didn't even know existed. I have been listening to stories I didn't think was possible in a civilised society. Perhaps that is what brings me here. I don't know. Like Woody Allen once said, the heart just wants things; there is no reason to it sometimes.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Keeping the Faith

My job, much to my delight, has been exposing me to various kinds of people, the kind that I would never have met if I was not a reporter. Reporting teaches you patience, something I totally lacked. But over the past one month, I have had to wait a lot, for people to come, for speeches... Once we had to wait nearly five hours for a former Deputy Chief Minister of the state to make his speech! Can be tiring, but you also get top make friends with other journalists which is good.

Recently, I had to cover a programme where a lot of gurus, matadhipathis of various religious institutions or mutts were to attend. It was a very religious programme.

The chief swami who was to come is based in Tamil Nadu, so I saw a lot of Tamil mamis at the function. If you have seen pictures of the late M S Subbulakshmi, you will know what I am talking about. Nine yard sarees wrapped around their legs, heavy nose studs, a delicate posture, bent down often with years of kutcheries and pickling mangoes in their homes, they are a joy to look at. It looked like a hall in Tamil Nadu, with old, very old Tamil grandpas and mamis, all with a yellow shawl of their mutt wrapped around their shoulders.

The programme began with the chanting of some shlokas from the Vedas. I hadn't heard that in a while and it was soothing as usual. I am not too religious (I like to think of myself as spiritual instead) but these chantings also stir up a feeling of belonging to a 5,000 year old culture of Indianism like nothing else normally does.

The rest of the programme was usual, with speeches and discourses by each of the swamis that I dutifully took down. After a while, this middle-aged man came and sat next to me and every once in a while, I couldn't help notice how pious he was.

This programme was to celebrate 100 years of the ascending of a late swamiji to the peeta of a prominent mutt. All the swamis there spoke about how great he was, etc. Every time some of his miracles were talked about, everytime a swami spoke, this man next to me would fold his hands and utter a silent prayer. Soon, everytime he heard something about that late swami, this man began to cry!

What struck me was the kind of faith this man had. Now for some personal reasons, I don't think very highly of any swami. I have many issues about them and I can get very sceptical. But for this man and so many others there in the audience, they were in divine presence. All the swamis there were the heads of very important mutts in the country, most very prominent in the political scene in the country, commanding tremendous influence over millions of followers all over the world. For many that day, it must have been a very important day, a very religious one.

This is what amazes me about India. Millions of people, all from different backgrounds, most with nothing in common except for their faith, are bound to each other by that very faith. I may not believe in them, I don't have faith, I admit. But my faith rested in those people there who were so involved in their devotion that the rest of the world seemed immaterial to them. It is this faith that unites people. I agree with the caste system being a bane, reservations, and all that stuff, but I don't see how a country like India would survive without a faith, in religion, in swamis or anything else. To the alien eye, it might symbolise an ignorance that hinders development, but to me, development symbolises this keeping of faith.

To me, it is development that people are still willing to keep their faith, in spite of everything. This is quintessential India to me and in it, I will keep my faith.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Being a Journalist

I suppose you could say I am back in Blogsphere. I missed being away, missed reading everything that you all out there had to write. Life has been.... can't really say busy, it has been much more than that. Days are moving so fast that I seem to have lost sense of time. The day seems to merge into the night until I am so unaware of the concept of time that it really makes no difference to me at all.

But life is also very very good. Being a journo is major fun, believe me. Since I love what I am doing so much, it does not feel like work at all.

I find it strange that people attach a certain amount of glamour to the profession of a journalist. I have met people who almost seemed awed at what I am doing. It is not just about me as a journo, the entire profession seems to almost intimidate them. But there is no absolute glamour there, trust me. It is just like any other job that becomes better if you do it well and if you have a degree of passion.

As a reporter, I have by now seen places in Bangalore that I had never even heard of. I have met some lovely people, some of whom have become friends. I have even seen some very strange people, had some weird experiences. But life has been good, people! You will hear about it, wait and watch this space!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

At the Railways

I have always found trains very romantic. It is so much better than sitting in a bus. Cannot say much about planes here. Trains have a nice, old world charm about them, I think. The chugging of the long bogies, the chai-wallahs and the hundreds of others things that are sold, the walk down one compartment to the other; I have always loved them. But what I had failed to register were the little boys who swept the compartments with the shirt off their backs, the little beggars we often shooed away. Recently I had the opportunity to talk to them.

Bangalore Railway station gets around 150 runaway boys and girls every month from various parts of the country. Most of them are from rural parts of Karnataka though, escaping to dreams of the big city from lives full of problems like alcoholic fathers, poverty, etc. The runaways are aged between 3 and 25. Some grow up on the platforms of the railway station. Some go back home, some run away again and some settle into decent jobs.

I met a lady called Shanthi who works for Bosco, an NGO that works for the rehabilitation of these children. She told me some amazing stories about them.

Some of these children do drugs. A few use ganja but a majority are addicted to 'solution', commonly available whitener. Drops of this whitener are put to a piece of cloth, rolled up in the shape of a cone and inhaled. This supposedly gives them a high. The rolled up cloth is called 'mike' in their slang. A bottle of whitener is normally sold at Rs 18. But the shops who sell them to these kids do so at around Rs 30-35! A group of such addicts can use up to 3-4 bottles every day.

Some boys are forced to work in hotels. Owners and middlemen trick these boys into going with them. Every boy would fetch the middleman a sum of Rs 50. The young boys are locked in in hotels and are made to wash dishes the whole day. This leads to skin problems, so much that they cannot use their hands or walk after some time. Few manage to run away.

The children are sexually exploited too. The dark corners of the platforms and empty bogies breed a lot of such activities. Homosexuality is prevalent too, with the older boys exploiting the newer and younger ones. The worst is the child prostitution. Some young girls would enter into the flesh trade for as little as a bottle of whitener for payment! There are also women who come from villages around Bangalore every morning, trade their wares the whole day and go back to unsuspecting husbands and children in the evening.

Bosco has been taking these children to their centre in the city. They are given training in various trades. Some are sent back home after counselling. They even help the children save money from what they earn as coolies, rag pickers, sweepers and middlemen for travel agents.

Something I never expected was the way these children opened up. I never thought they would speak about their activities. But to my utter surprise, they were very open about their drug addiction, illicit relationships, etc. They were all very very friendly too, probably because they didn't know I was going to write about them!

Among them, there was a 13 year old who already had a 10 month old baby! The father was just 15 years old! Another 13-year old who sells peanuts is pregnant too. Her 'husband' is all of 15 years and is very shy when we ask about his 'wife'. Most of the girls pretend to be married and wear mangalsutras and toe rings. The boys have long, ugly gashes across their cheeks from fights over women and drugs. It is supposed to be a matter of pride for them, an initiation process into street life. A boy with a gash becomes a man, if I understand right.

Some of these people lead very posh lives. Shanthi told me that they buy one pair of clothing every week, wear them till the next Sunday and throw them away. The women give their clothes to the dry cleaners! Most watch up to three films every day on a first day first show basis. They get everything they could possibly want in the railway station- food, freedom, women, drugs. Some of my friends who had accompanied me looked at their own old clothes with disdain. I could almost detect a look of envy in them!

These people lead sad lives. But then, the sad stories are the ones that sell. Poverty makes the best stories. What this story did to me was that it sort of sensitised me towards their kind. You normally tend to turn your noses at them at public places. I learnt that they are people too, not faceless entities. They have their problems, their joys and sorrows just like the rest of us, just the nature of problems is different. When I went there the second time, some of them came up to me to talk. And thanks to this story, I had become human enough to talk with them too.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The Bus Rides I Take

Over the last one week, I have travelled quite extensively in buses around the city. It had been many years since I did that here; and I am not being snobbish. Thankfully, its not too hot and the smell of sweaty bodies is one less thing I have to deal with. I normally nod of to Dreamland in buses but right now, its a matter of survival for me to be alert. Ok, that, I know, was a little bit dramatic but I do have to keep my eyes open to know where to get down.
In the meanwhile, I have been observing people around me. I normally don't take crowded buses. When the bus is near empty and in bus stops, I have come across a variety of people.
There are the couples, safe in bus shelters from the moral police who frequent the parks. These are obviously oblivious to the world, hold hands and gaze into each others' eyes; the guy says something not so funny and the girl lets out an extra loud laugh to boost up his ego. A prettier girl walks by and the guy can't help but turn his head. The girl, depending on the stage of their relationship, either scolds him or ignores. Once inside the bus, they continue staring into each others' eyes.
There are the young women and girls going to work or college who normally listen to radio on their phones and stare out of the window. An uninteresting species.
There are the mothers with over zealous kids pulling at their sarees, putting their hands and faces out of the window, jumping from one seat to the other, pestering the other passengers, making nuisances of themselves. Some mothers try to pipe them down with stern words or a smack on the hand. Doesn't help too often; there is a limit to how much you can scold a kid in public, even if its your own.
There are then the men, going to work or elsewhere. Would have been an uninteresting species too but they look everywhere else but out of the window. The lecherous looks and groping hands of some perverts makes it hard not to be wary of them.
By no way is this list applicable to everyone. It has just been a week for me. I am coming across strange and thus, very interesting people. Will keep you updated, of course.
I went to a temple today and got stuck in a traffic jam on the way back. A little boy came up to me and asked me to take his picture on my phone. He wanted to buy a phone too and kept asking questions until his parents called him to go sit with them. Behind me was this family of four, parents and two little children. I was forced to listen to their conversation because they were so loud. From what I figured out, they were going to a birthday party. The wife was cursing the husband for taking the bus. This lead to a fight about adjustments and being snobbish between the two. The son was way too arrogant and used abusive language in every sentence! I failed to understand how parents could let him go on like that!
Moral of the story: I should buy a pocket radio and use it. Atleast some inane discussion on the present length of a mini skirt by an overly perky RJ followed by noisy songs is better than listening to family fights and sweet nothings and stupid questions and comments and cries and all that you see and hear....on a normal bus journey.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Going Are the Days....

Today as I logged into Blogger, I looked up the date of my last post. Pretty long time back, I realise. Time has flown for me at the speed of a light year. Before I could fully comprehend what was happening, life changed totally.

The most important thing is that I finished uni. I moved to Bangalore and I am sorry I cannot say anything further. But I am doing what I love and I am enjoying it too (for the time being, at aleast!).

Life is going very well. Really well..... Will get back to you, my dear readers, soon.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Golkonda Fort

A friend reminded me last night that I had stopped my travelogue half was through. Thanks for that, it had totally slipped my mind. Before I continue, I must say yeah(!) to this friend again. He had the guts to let go of a great job, a job that many people would die for, and move on to a totally different field. In the course of his new job, he will get to go to places I have never heard of (I am sure he wouldn't have either!) and travel around the world. Good for you friend, I am very happy for you.

Where was I? Oh yes, I last wrote about Charminar.

Hyderabad is famous for its Nizams, its pearls and its cuisine which I find very very spicy. After a tour of the other sights our next stop in our conducted autorickshaw tour was the Golkonda Fort. Nice fort but I wasn't too impressed.
I have this new theory in life. I feel that when you travel a lot and see many places, it takes a lot to impress you. The good and the great does not hold your attention much. Its sad, but I think true.

Anyways, a path that winds through high walls takes you inside the entrance of the fort. There are people milling around the entrance. The noise pulls you back from any attempt to go back to the days when the king still looked below from his palace with his beautiful queen hanging on to his arm. We walk through chambers that used to house slaves. The guide shows us hooks to which they used to be chained and I think of The Roots. We move up different levels towards the top, stopping every now and then to take in the view, huff a bit and take a breath.

There is a photo exhibition by a French photographer in the garden below. All blown up pictures of Indian life, quite good.

The guide takes us past a little temple, shows us the impressive drainage system. We reach the top, totally out of breath. True to a typical tourist haven, there is a little tea stall which sells Lays chips and other stuff so that tourists can coveniently litter the place.
We then get to climb up a flight of stairs to see this beautiful view of the entire city. That was good. We could see Hyderabad from all four sides.

The climb down was easy for ma; she hates climbing. I hate getting down; climbing is my thing. There is this one spot on top from where you can here the sound of a man clapping at the entrance very clearly. This was how someone announced their arrival, a sort of old-age door bell, the guide says.

As we walk back to the entrance, little kids and old men trying to sell postcards throng us. We brush them off and pose for a few pictures of our own. The gardens are pretty but it is too hot to sit there even for a while.

Golkonda Fort is very famous for its sound and light show. It is much later in the evening and we go out for some more shopping at Abbids, Hyderabad's shopping centre. There is a Kannadiga in the shop we go to. He speaks the language of the north and we have difficulty trying to understand. But in a place where its harder to understand Telugu, we manage. There is a looong (by dad's standards) session of trying on pearls and bargaining and picking up elegant pieces.

We then rush back to Golkonda for the show. We are a bit late but are instantly wrapped up in history, the way Amitabh Bachchan is reciting the story. His voice is magical, no doubt. The magical story of the king, the dancer he fell in love with and way his kingdom was ruined manages to take us to the age we were trying to go to amidst the crowd earlier in the day. Now this impresses. The play of light and sound highlights sections of the ruins of the fort, music floats by and the cool wind carries the stories of the past to enchant every generation. It is then that I realise. No matter how much I travel, no matter how many places I see, life and this amazingly beautiful world, filled with magical stories and brave people, will, in one way or the other, always impress me. And also put in me a renewed desire to travel some more, to listen to the stories each fort, wall and stone has to say and impress me with sheer beauty, yet again.