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!