Tuesday, December 30, 2008

That Thing Called Change

What was that again? Ah, that thing about change being the only constant in the world. A cliche, but like all of them, true. In a way you wish for change, at most times you don't. Yet it does and you rebel, fight it, sometimes (thankfully) win over it.
There is also that part of your life that never changes, or at least, remains reasonably unchanged. I was at the Express office briefly today after this assignment. Nothing had changed, nothing much at least.

Express was where I discovered and nurtured my passion, for travel, writing, journalism, life. It was there that I came to, alone in a big city, fresh out of college, with ideas and dreams and several others...Express was, well... anyone who has worked there will understand why I cannot complete that sentence.

All new faces at Express. But you can still walk right into the office, the corridors, with the look and feel of my nostalgia, feels the same. The canteen guys are there too, silent Anil, the others whose names I never took the trouble to ask. They still know I take sugarless coffee and they still serve it with a smile. There is something there, perhaps, no...I cannot explain it. Express will always be...that something.

Off late though, I have seen several changes in what was dear, those little things which were rather inconsequential, but a part of a life nevertheless. Next to Express buildings was Sanman hotel, a regular haunt for great coffee. For those of us who worked on Sundays when the office canteen was closed, a treat was to walk down to Sanman for evening coffee. Nothing else was great, just the coffee. The waiters knew how I liked my coffee, sugarless and strong. Today there stands some other store, with glass panes. I don't look up when I pass that way.

My recent trip to Chennai threw up surprises too, none pleasant. The worst was my school was being rebuilt. Vidya Vinaya Vinoda Matriculation Higher Secondary School was one of the few that offered Kannada as an optional second language. I went there, because I couldn't start Tamil classes from the ABC level in class 3. The Kannada lyricist R N Jayagopal, who passed away some time ago and his wife ran the school. Madras (I can never call it Chennai) was special and so was the school. That was where I met Vani, built beautiful memories.

This November, I walked along the quiet lanes towards where I knew the school was. What I saw was a torn down building, construction materials. I walked on, I did not want to know what happened. Some things are best not known.

There were shops that I greatly loved. Maharaja's, the supermarket, remained closed, just like last time. I had written about Madras and memories two years ago here and here. Golden Smiles and Veena Fast Food were both gone, something I didn't bother remembering in their place. The road to Vailankani Church is full of branded stores; there are no vendors selling tiny plastic toy buckets and dolls. I couldn't find Fashion Folks either.

Change. I don't really like that word. You begin to love a place, associate it with some of your most cherished memories and there it is, gone! For arguments sake, you could say, memories can be pulled out on a rainy day, relived and the thought would make it just as sweet, bring a smile on to your face and chase away the clouds.

I would rather keep the places and the people and the situations and add to my memory box. I would rather live again, and again.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Lone Bench

Thoughts, and then, my
A tiring, exhilarating walk
I step on snow,
The lakefront, silent today
I feel like an adventurer
I want to run,
Throw my bag,
Drown my papers
And run some more
Into warm arms
To a gorgeous smile
To real love.
The black bench
Against the brown
And the snow
Stark trees
The sudden gust
Whispers to me.
This is real, or not.
The black bench
Will be stark too
The lone me,
Always that
The bench beside, empty,
I slip back to dreams
That have the warmth
Not the lone bench.
(Lake Michigan lakefront, on a lone black bench. Chicago, IL. December 03, 2008)

Friday, November 28, 2008

At 25

I turned 25 today, a quarter of a century, at 10.32 am. I suppose the number is a rather overwhelming one, but it was just another day today. Some calls, some cute things, some very sweet people. It is nice. Several thoughts, life inching along.
And nothing about the picture, couldn't find anything more appropriate on my office computer. I took this one Deepavali night.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Just "a story"

Some reports say 80 dead, its not the final number. There is a live encounter on the television that, like a voyeur in the drawing room, I am watching. The Mumbai blasts, yet another one. I never watch those 24 hour news channels, but today I cannot take my eyes off. One channel showed a man die in front of the camera, showed him being lifted like an animal into a car. I kept telling the cameraman, mentally, to not show those damn images, yet there I was, thinking of "the story". I felt sick, yet, I knew that was "the story". Terrorists are always a step ahead, aren't they? My country. Some young boys, they are saying, what runs through their mind? Does anything run through at all?

The things we, the media, do!

This evening, on the posh M G Road, I saw, yet again, what my country has become. Right next to my office is a supermarket. Foreigners are dime a dozen on the road. I almost don't notice a bald, fat, middle aged man. There is a little girl walking next to him, must be those pesky beggars, I assume. Wait a minute, there is something very wrong, when I see them both walk into the supermarket together. The best friend looks away, mutters 'paedophile'. My eyes stay on. A little later, the man bills a kilo of rice, a glucose packet, some snacks, two big bags. Is that the price? The little girl giggles, the fat man leans forward, I still don't turn away. Somewhere in the corner of my mind, I hate myself. I don't take a step forward.

This is not the first time. There were once three girls, one, the familiar rose girl, one lean old man. Some others. I remember books, reports I have read. I want to write these stories. For the journalist in me, the little girl would have been "a story". The very thought makes me turn away from myself.

The encounter is still on. I am still watching blood and bodies and the stories.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Story of Two Devadasis

The gorgeous Yamunavva. Pic courtesy: MK

Mudhol, Bagalkot district: When a cup of tea cost a princely ten paise, the man she fell in love with bought her a cotton saree priced Rs 4. For Rannavva, a devadasi, it was equivalent to a lavish drape of Rs 10,000. The graceful woman, chirpy and ever enthusiastic till now, breaks out into giggles. She must be about 50, it is hard to tell people's ages, weathered that their faces are by the vagaries of having a life lived. They cannot be expected to know their ages either; they have better things in life to bother about.

Rannavva is one of the old timers from a little village in Jamakhandi taluk. Her love story is quite contrary to the conventions of her community. Dedicated when she was just a little girl, her "hiriyavaru" (the elder one), the permanent partner, was poorer than her family. But she fell in love, stood by him when he ran a tiny tea stall, encouraged him to seek a job that his TCH training merited. Her wrist watch became his when he had to move away for a teacher's post. Every weekend he visited her. Ten years of bliss and he married another woman, with her consent of course. It was a happily ever after, with the two women tolerant of each other, with their three children each sharing a happy sibling relationship.

Rannavva breaks out into a 'chowdike pada', traditional verses and poems that devadasis are taught to sing at temples and at functions. She forgets the lyrics once in a while and is embarrassed because she hasn't been practicing off late but the elegantly beautiful Yamunavva, one the most respected devadasis in the area, reminds her of the next line. Both sing in rich baritones, slightly off key, but melodious nevertheless. Both are peaceful, enjoying their lives too. But talk of passing on their traditions to the next generation and they vehemently dismiss all such intentions. Passing on the songs, the beliefs and the faith in Yellamma devi is all fine, but not the dedication of women that denies them all their lives, the titles of a wife.

Yamunavva's partner is a rich man, the jewellery that compliments her graceful beauty, the 'boar-mala' (a chain of hollow peanut shaped gold beads), a gold and black bead mangalsutra, a large pearl nose-pin testify that. Her 'hiriyavaru' saw her when she was helping her mother in laying roads. A short stint in Mumbai and she was back in her village of Chimmadu. Her partner has taken a wife but has never denied her any comfort. Money for the son's wedding, new sarees, trips to the village fair and to his home, everything, except the institution of marriage. She has no reason to complain, her life has been good, her beauty still visible, her partner still loyal.

The system of devadasis, though banned by the government, is still prevalent in several parts of the northern districts of Karnataka. Belgaum, Bagalkot, Bijapur, neighbouring districts practice the system in considerable numbers. There are no new recruits into the centuries old tradition but the older women continue to perform some rituals, the prayers to Yellamma continue. Voluntarily they have now stopped breaking bangles and practicing widowhood for a month during December-January. Begging for the 'joga' is also not practiced. Yamunavva and Rannavva are both peer educators today with a women's organization in Mudhol, about 50 kms from Bagalkot. They are happy with their partners but dead against young kids being dedicated now. Any inkling of a family planning on dedicating a girl child and they rush to educate the family against it. In extreme cases, the police is discreetly informed too.

The age old system survives in pockets today. Awareness of their rights, exposure and social acceptance has made life better. But then, never have the devadasis been shy of who they are. Yamunavva is greatly respected in her village, her status high. Her large red bindi, green bangles, all her symbols of eternal 'sumangali' reflects her pride, her quiet acceptance of her life. At that age, must be around 65 years, she is still shy when she talks of her partner. Rannavva is more exuberant in her joy. Her joie de vive visible in every flick of her hand, in every verse of the songs she sings. The devadasis, despite all that the city talks of them, are not too unhappy. They are a rather content lot today.

An age old practise:
* Devadasis are girls who are dedicated to Goddess Yellamma at a young age. They can take on a permanent partner and bear children. Nothing stops them from taking on other customers. They do not marry and children do not have claim over the partner's property.
* Devadasis are called the eternal brides. Dedication process includes an elaborate ceremony where they are dressed as a bride. Five rules are whispered into their ear to follow all their lives, to feed the hungry, to not lie, to keep secrets, to give water and to give shelter.
* Earlier begged with a bamboo bowl at two houses on Tuesdays, at three houses on Fridays. Shared the gruel made from the grains with five other 'jogathis'. Seen as representatives of Goddess Yellamma, women often confessed and sought advice from them.
* Continue to fiercely guard and practice their traditional music and dance called Chowdike.
* Women who have had a miscarriage beg Re 1 from jogathis on a new moon day and with that money, pierce the nose of the child that is subsequently born. After a trip to the Yellammana Gudda, they are invited into homes, treated to a feast and people of the household prostrate to pray before her.

Hampi, her people

I say this often, that was amazes me most about my beautiful country is the myriad colours that play a riot with the mundane details of daily life. No matter how grey the day, there is always a bright red, a flaming orange, a deep blue that paints the frame of the eye.
At Hampi, the rocks were brown, sometimes grey. Sombre look, except when they took breathes away under the brilliant lights of the night. But people, in blues and reds and yellows and a mix of all those decorated the rocks, the dry terrain. Some posed, most did not. Yet they were there, oblivious to the camera, just curious, just so colourful.
First and second, siblings taking shelter under a rock mantap with their parents, refused to pose together.
Third, folk artists, just before a performance.
Fourth, the very colourful Yakshagana artists, again, in the backstage, before a performance. Yakshagana is one of the traditional folk arts of Karnataka, mainly prevalent in South Kanara districts.
Fifth, a beggar, very fashionable dressed. And no, I did not ask him to pose.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


My free spirit has been accumulating many miles off late. Got back from a busy four days in Hampi. Loved loved loved it, yet again. In a couple of weeks, the day after my birthday, I am off to Chicago, on work to cover a conference. My first trip to the US! Goes without saying that I shall look around, peep around the corner and do all that I am told not to (ok people, I'm kidding!) The visa thingie is left and I need to go to Chennai for that. My travel miles I shall encash, for experiences, many a story, many an adventure.

Hmmm...looking forward, to travel and a lot of other things.

Hampi and Conversations

The ruins of Hampi, indulge in conversations. I have always been fascinated by the rocks of Hampi, the only place where, to me, rocks are not just that, but monuments of stories, of history and grandeur. It had been long since I went there. The Hampi Utsav 2008, I was at work. Hot days and long nights of work, no food, no sleep, no mobile network (the best part), too many people, badly organised, there was little that was nice about it. But at dusk, when the lights came on, nothing mattered. The Virupaksha, Vijaya Vittala, the many many others, all began to speak. I could not take my eyes off. Hampi... I walked alone, explored, walked, photographed a lot, met people, discovered, yet again...did a lot that I loved.
Here, a few of the frames I loved. The main temples have been seen enough in other frames, this and many more, was the Hampi I saw.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Little wisps of a beautiful white, that just happened to be there. I go close, they flutter slightly in the wind that blows through my hair. I take a quick picture, hoping for beauty to remain. It does too. I want to take it in my hand and feel its invisible tickle. But then, I know, some things are best left as they are.

(Pictures taken at in the thickets of the beautiful range of Mandalpatti. The miles of mountains, just a few of us humans, a blazing fire that I embraced. A beautiful day it was, a beautiful memory.)

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Soul Sister to get Married!!!!!!

Pic courtesy: the internet

I just could not wait till tomorrow. I set my dozen problems aside when I write this aside. I don't feel like smiling, but for her I will grin today. I know if and when the best friend Raksha sees this, she is going to hate me. But I cannot resist, I need to say this....
(Drum roll please....)
The best friend, the girl I grew up with, my soul sister, ma's adopted daughter, Raksha the Great (as she used to call herself as a teen, with sarcasm) is getting married!!!!!! Finally!! Phew! To Pradhan, working in Bangalore. The last fact is the best part. Finally, my support system and I will be in the same city. Only when your best friend, the one who counsels you on everything from your hair cut to your career decision is away from you and you can only call her up at 1 am, only when such a person is away will you understand how thrilled I am.

Raksha and I have been friends for over a dozen years, probably because we are the only ones who will listen to each other and tolerate each others' crazy, insane behaviour. Raksha is the one I grew up with, who spent all our holidays at my home. The one who would breeze in with a quick hi and walk right into my kitchen to eat whatever was there. The one who always understood; I never had to explain why I did or thought what I did, she just always understood. We fought over marks. We fought over little things that girls do when in their teens. When she learnt to ride a bike, I was the only one willing to go with her. We would go all over town on her Kinetic. When she fell over her bike the only time in her life, I was there; I fell with her. We made junk jewellery together. We tried to bleach our jeans once and ended up tearing them into pieces (my dad laughed his head off and this is the first story that comes up at all gatherings!)We talked and cribbed about math classes, lousy teachers, stupid classmates, then college and studies, lecturers, crushes, then hostel, then work. And now we will crib about marriage and husbands ;-) (cheeky grin!!!)

Ma called us 'jodu-yetthu', literally meaning a pair of cattle; a Kannada usage that denotes something that is always together. Raksha and I are of the million arguments, the million heart talks, the years of laughter. Raksha is the one who never fails to make me laugh. Cynical, sarcastic sometimes. Plain funny, at most times. Raksha of a million stories together. Part of my two pronged support system, the sister I never had, the soul sister rather.

Love you girl :-* May you be the happiest ever. And Pradhan, you are one very lucky man! (There babe, I said it!)

(Giggles! Thinking of how much she will hate all this mush!!!)

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Life on the Other Side of the Road

Every once in a while, I get up in the morning and wonder, just like that, why exactly I chose to be a journalist. I ponder over why I choose to run around the city all day long, burn under the sun, punish my lungs and skin with the pollution and put up with the weirdest assortment of people. These come gushing in to my mind, in a rush. And then I think of the stories I hear, the fact that every day is a different day, that I would have killed myself out of boredom in any other job that is more disciplined in its hours and its job profile. Every once in a while, something happens, I meet someone or hear or see something and I am reminded of all that I love about what I do, that despite everything, its the passion that brought me here, its that same passion that keeps me going.
Why did I start this now? (Ma's right, I really can't stop writing once I start!) Ah yes, this morning's story. Walked to my assignment this morning, rather clueless and feeling very hot under the scorching sun. And then I walked right into a slum!

I was sitting there, waiting for a long time but for once, even without a book, without messaging, I was not bored. I saw there so much of life, the kind that is so raw, where human emotions are stripped of its usual masks that society, education, culture and propriety teaches us to don. Crude words, loud shouts that were heard above the blaring speakers. Naked children, chattering in crass words. A dog sleeps in front of a closed door, oblivious to all the commotion; for once the little kids are not bothering him. There is a bright blue door. Next to that a green one, with big yellow dots, red lines within that. A stench that I have come to associate with slums everywhere. A little baby, wearing what is probably her elder sister's hand-me-down. Very narrow lanes, crowded with clothes hung out to dry, some framed picture, another dog and an open drain. A tiny store that is dispensing bubble gum. A subtle hierarchy that I begin to notice among the boys and the men around; some rather stylish in dangerously low waist jeans and pierced ears, some older with girls drooling over them, some watching on in awe, anticipating the day they will do all that. Flirtations, among those of all ages, a girl in class 9, whose sister befriends me, is all eyes for a taller, older man who shows off to her his swanky mobile phone.

I am mistaken for an orchestra singer! Must admit, I did look very out of place. The stage is milling with children, in all sizes, in all variations of baritones! For a while, I can't help but wrinkle my noise at the smell. A little while later though, my eyes take over and watch another side of life. The houses are small, I am tempted to peep into them, but then, that would almost be a romanticisation of the idea of the glamorous poverty life, I chide myself. Yet, I strain my neck a wee bit and see pots and pans stacked one upon the other. A thin trickle of dirty water flows by. There are some wet clothes that are yet to be washed on one side. On the other, more clothes hung out to dry. Slightly older children are amused for a while. The beat of the drums gets them tapping their feet. But the younger ones look up and suddenly, the we-don't-really-care look is back on their faces and they move away to resume a game. The little ones, with either too short or too long clothes hang around and are silenced by the adults every few minutes. But the drums begin to beat and they cannot stop their feet from taking steps of its own. Uninhibited joy. A bored girl looks by, her eyes skirt away from the teen who is posing nonchalantly for her benefit. A slight twinkle though appears in the corner of her eyes. I turn back and see some eyes look at me with curiosity, some with other thoughts. Staring in front of me and on the sides is better, I decide. The speaker blares every now and then. A girl, Vijayalakshmi, I think her name was, talks to me. She passes on a rupee coin to her sister and gets a bubble gum. Her sister is still in school, she dropped out some time ago, she smiles when I ask her why. I guess I understand, she had to look after the house and the younger siblings; its a common story I hear. Her younger sister flirts with someone she definitely has a crush on; he seems to reciprocate.

In a little while, the place fills up. One of the organisers plops himself in front of the microphone and reels off a list of people that he wants to come on to the dais. Through the noise and my amusement, the programme begins. I walk out after a while, a girl smiles at me prettily. There is no longer anything there that interests me. I am through observing life on the other side of the road.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Damn! (not being Victorian enough to say anything else)

Pic courtesy: MK
I am feeling damn! today, for no particular reason. Oh before I rant, I love the above picture that says so much. I love eyes that speak and this man's eyes say a lot. Well, I know though that he was, at the moment of taking this picture, not as angry as he looks. He was curious, a little irritated even, at the departure from what was prosaic for him. Some people like that word, status quo, I guess.

I wish I could say that. I am irritated with...I am not sure what. I am angry, a bit with the world, a lot with myself. I am cynical, sarcastic when I speak of the universe I have around me, not the whole wide one with the millions of people and stars and planets, but the one that I have around myself, my life and the people who make it my very own universe. I feel like jabbing a closed fist at the rest of the world and saying Damn! I am angry at some things that will never change, at things that have changed, at things that will change. I hate monotony, yet I hate the change. I do not want to smile, or cry, or do anything at all. Would the world allow me to escape to a secure, warm, cozy little thing called a shell? Or would I be dragged out half way through and told to behave and be good to the world? I know I will drag myself out, the world has to only give me a hard look and I shall cower under its gaze.

Sometimes, even cynicism and a great deal of sarcasm is not self-defense enough to protect me from the rest of them. Why do I seek protection, from whom, when "them" are all actually my very own. Am I being philosophical here? Mere play of words that spill out again? Cynical again? Or plain not ok with that word, status quo?

I don't know. I don't want to. Like the man in the picture, my eyes supposedly speak. And are open. But like someone said, what others think about me is none of my business.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I Write on Sunday Morning about a Wednesday

Ok, all agreed, A Wednesday is a great movie by normal Hindi commercial movie standards. There is this fantastic clash between the two titans, Nasseruddin Shah and Anupam Kher. Made me realise how underutilised they are in all the other movies they normally act in. Two fine actors. Great looking and great acting cast. Fast editing, great cinematography. But A Wednesday is a movie I stop a little short from saying "that's a great one".

The first half is beautiful though. The suspense builds up, the background score is great, very professional and all that. But to me, the tempo simply did not remain in the second half. It was...well, not exactly preachy but maybe a tad too idealistic. I thought of Rang de Basanti and that fantastic plan to kill the defence minister, an idealistic solution to the country's corruption. A Wednesday is much more subtle, but too stereotypical for me. Kher, towards the end, talks of how he would never reveal the common man's name because with the name, you tend to recognise the man's religion and subsequently, attach an entire perceived identity and a host of stereotypical ideals to him. But previously, there are the terrorists, all Muslims. That was what irritated me the most.

"Manufactured Consent", Noam Chomsky called it. I love that term because it explains in a phrase the entire hogwash the world is fed with, the explanations that you are forced to read, the thoughts your mind is told to think by the media, the powerful, those others with all vested interests. There is this gross generalisation in the film, the terrorist rants on about "their country and their people and their fight", chiding the police officer of not being on his side. A religion is automatically supposed to give you an entire set of rules on how you are to think, about how you are to perceive your position as regards to the "others".

Isn't that the world view? They are bad, everyone else is good. Watching the movie reminded me strangely of certain intimidating issues. Last week, on assignment, I was passing by this minority populated area. Every few feet, there was a saffron flag with the Om on it. I am a Hindu, by birth. My introduction to even fundamentalism goes back a long way, though i strictly do not subscribe to it. And yet, it intimidated me, made me think of how the others would perceive it. If a white robe, a green shawl, long beard and surma on the eyes could make most people look away or at least inwardly cringe, wouldn't a saffron flag do the same. When it can strangely intimidate a person of the same religion, what would be the effect on the others?

I generally avoid the issue of religion. This is one topic you can never really get right. You can only be politically incorrect. I have never been religious either. At best, I believe in God, at my worst, I forget to remember God. Am I secular? Not always. There are times I cringe too, and I write this with a tinge of disgust, on myself, for being part of that manufactured consent on what I am supposed to think. But that engineering of views that remodels itself every few decades and sets the agenda for the policies and opinions you have on people other than your own selves is something that you cannot really escape from. Isn't it easy, an act of terrorism, blame it on fundamentalism. The 'ism's that crop up are the perfect excuse its perpetrators have to explain their actions to the world and in a way justify them. We all do that. We cringe, nod our heads in silent consent at the typifying of actions, of dastardly acts.

We walk out of a movie, all praise, technically great, yes, but a consent factory still. Silently views we are supposed to see the people of the world are reiterated. It is too subtle to note. Yet manufacturing consent is that continuous process, the survival of the greats of the world, the strength of absolute power and subsequent corruption depends on this. I refuse to think the way I am told to. And yet, I manufacture consent. Doesn't that make them the winners?

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Playing now....

[A post because I wanted to post something but did not have the time to write a long one!]

I used to think I was not much of a music person until I discovered the FM radio stations and off late, after I got my iPod. I love music now, cannot work with it. And I say it literally. To me multi-tasking is my iPod plugged into my ears, once in a while a little web surfing and work.
I love how tiny my little iPod is, love it that it can hold so many songs. There are some 200+ songs on it now, but the ones that I search for the most are these:

* Nee bandu nintaaga, nintu nee nakkaga, sothe nanaga: One of the most perfect songs I have ever heard from the film Kasturi Nivasa, sung to perfection by the golden voiced P B Srinivas and P Susheela. The lyrics, the tempo, the way it flows, perfect!

* Maathinalli helalarenu, rekheyalli geechalarenu: From the new film Bombaat. Beautiful lyrics, lovely voice.

* Tum ho tho, gaata he dil, tum nahi to geet kahaan: From the movie Rock On. Amazing film, great song, words that will remain in my heart for long.

* Jo pyar tune mujko diya tha, wo pyar tera mein lautaraha hoon: Sung by Mukesh, an eternal favourite of mine. I never fail to cry when I listen to this.

* Teri Deewani: By Kailash Kher. That man has the power to melt hearts with his voice.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Of Passion and Everything Else in Between

I once told ma, that when I took the decision to be a journalist, I also took the decision to not have much of a social life. Come to think of it, most people I know just do not get it that my work hours are not fixed, that I actually begin to seriously sit down to file stories when the rest of them are winding up for the day. Seen from an insider's perspective, I must say that it irritates me no end sometimes. But then again, there was a time when I picked up a newspaper and glanced through it, not really knowing exactly what goes into it. Trust me, now that I know, I have great problems making others understand it. All my salutes to my parents here, who went from "how can you even think of being a journalist, its not for girls" to totally understanding the crazy things I do, defending my timings, the places I go and the strange people I meet.

After a point of time, I just gave up. There is really no point you know, trying to explain what I do every single time, it is best to...I don't know, I am yet to discover what to do about it.

But you know, it is all worth it at the end of the day. The functions missed (never liked them), the books unread (to put it very cornily, life is the best book you could read), the plays and movies that go unwatched (I know I am not missing much), the other things. For the other things that I don't do, there are hundreds of others that I do get to do, experiences that only a very few get to live through. Like sit and pose inside a helicopter, be close to part of the country's defence weaponry, meet ministers and commoners, nut cases and the super talented, go to slums one day and to a fancy hotel the next, listen to a million stories and be affected by them, travel to new places and see things differently than as a regular tourist....never having a normal day with normal hours...routine and monotony being alien terms...never being able to plan more than a few hours in advance...not knowing where I shall be at what time the next day... No, I would not swap all of this for anything in the world.

I remember reading somewhere, 'I want to live, live, live till I die'. Yes, there are things I miss out. But a word of appreciation, that little byline, that story I hear but would not, cannot write in my reports, those experiences, the people I meet, the fellow travellers in my chosen path, the one that is less travelled by, all of that makes my life worth everything else. Perhaps, compressed into a single word, this is what passion is all about.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Of Friends and Some Questions

What do you make of friends? Are they the family you choose for yourself? Are they the ones you turn to when family or at least the semblance of family that society thrusts upon you to embrace fails you? Are they the only ones who will ever know you and still love you for who you are, unmasking the many faces that you put on yourself for the rest of the world? What when these friends themselves fail you? What remains? So is the only person you can truly trust and count on is yourself? I have before me today those two round pieces of the spectacles of cynicism. Perhaps the stories that I see around me everyday has made me cynical. Or maybe it’s the relationships that I don’t see surrounding me. Or maybe this is just the passing of a teenage idealism that the world is actually a nice place to live in.

I do not any answers. Questions are in plenty but that eternal search of every human who stops to think awhile has really been to understand why life is such, isn’t it? To find the elusive meaning of life, to understand where exactly we are heading. Can the “I” really be defined without the rest of “them” or the “Us”? Can my story be just mine without any other lives in it? When I talk about myself, can it be only about “me”? These are not questions that arise out of the last dregs of an amber-coloured drink on a cold rainy evening, not answers I seek to fill in the gaps between the things I do during my days. I don’t drink. Or have the luxury of time to think. These have just, off late, become questions that have begun to take centre stage in my relationships. How much can I give? How much can I meet up to? Why exactly? How? The entire gamut of the 5 Ws and the 1 H that we learn in journalism school.

The more I go on, the more questions crop up. Answers are what I would prefer, but then again, I am not one of those fortunate ones who can really think of the situation they are in and conclude in very straight lines how they got there and why exactly they are there in the first place. But I suppose it would be rather preposterous of me to think that anything in life is easy in the first place.

In other updates:
* I watched Rock On today. The verdict: EXCELLENT (though I wish I had watched it some other day when I was in some other mood.) Farhan Akthar should do us all a favour and act more. Luke Kenny is ok but looks hot. Purab Kohli: Cute! And Arjun Ramphal: Oh My God!! Greek God! Hot! I can only write with exclamations! Long hair on men, please may it come back into fashion. Ramphal walks on stage, hair flying, a guitar in hand, the drool factor cannot have shot up higher.

* Just finished reading Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan’s ‘You Are Here’, a total time-pass read. Though I must say, some parts of the book was really insightful into modern lives.

* That said, I notice that movies are getting more real by the day, moving away from the total make belief and overdose of fantasy. Life in a Metro, I remember was really good. And now Rock On rocks.
* Down with a cold. Got expensive hair treatment, looks great though. :-)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Life in a Neat Little Frame

If life could be clicked, sometimes with a Carl Zeiss 3.2 lens, framed, with a circled C that says picture by....the ones that make the beads of a string of simple, happy memories!

This was on my Gmail chat status message today. I must say, the shutterbug seems to have bit me big time. The last two days, I seem to be seeing everything in frames, composing my own pictures in my mind, not always storing the images I see, tweaking it a bit here and moving angles to get everything I want into the frame, just the way I would want it.

I don't claim expertise over the art of photography but I know I am better than a lot of people I know, better than even some pros; I say this with all immodesty; you cannot deny a fact right? :-) No seriously, if you ask me (and I would tell you even if you didn't ask), creativity, of any kind, is not too hard. I believe everyone has creativity, those who claim they don't just haven't found it in them.

To me, in a way, creativity is what earns me my salary, my words, the thoughts that stream out of my fingers. Some days I don't write, it is like a feeling that wells up somewhere in me, becoming bigger, restricting my journalism even, until I just have to write it out. I need to write, just like how I need to breathe, thankfully not so often though. It is a cliche but life sometimes is so similar among individuals that you cannot help but take refuge in words that all of us are bored of reading and writing.

Now why did I start this? Ah photography! Right. I have been taking pictures all along our travels. I think I began because I hated being photographed in the first place. I do not photograph well, unless the best friend takes it. That led me behind the camera. I did a paper on photography at uni, but I still do not understand focal length and apperture and all that.

Two days ago, I began to suddenly see things in frames. Happened to tell Manju, the best friend and the best pro I know, about it. And he is lending me his Nikon D100!!! Yeah! I have used it briefly and know that it is complicated enough for me to require further lessons. Technology of that kind does not go to my head very easily but he is a very patient teacher. I hope to eventually write with expertise about appertures and focal lengths and learn about the different stops in the camera and the lens types and all that. Shall probably put up more pictures here as well. That would be also to make up for the infrequency of words on these pages. :-)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Very Random

Life and my mind....at something past 11 o'clock this Sunday night, random, bullet-ed, in no particular order:

* Life is not too bad, after all, though it is sometimes awfully over-rated.

* Brida, Paulo Coelho's latest, pop-spiritualism apart, has helped me think, an act I seemed to have forgotten.

* My mind is clear, after several days.

* "Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life", a Casablanca line. So reminded me of the things I would have regretted, of some things I shall always cherish.

* Mungaru Male is a really good film.

* At this moment, I would have loved to think of something really profound to write here. But its Sunday, I have told myself not to think of anything except of the people I love. It is not a time for words....

* The lyrics of a song from a film resound in my head. A rainy night, the song, coffee....

* Nee bandu nintaaga, nintu nee nakkaga, sothe naanaga...No other song could be more perfect.

* Several pictures that are close to my heart, my most dearest memories in frames. The most precious ones, notes to myself in my mind.

* Faith in God is the most fluctuating factor right now. I wonder why? Remnants of a pseudo-communist thought process perhaps?

Just My Own

Red, ivy-clad
A few yellow lily
Wind in my face
Chill to my bones
Mist, the cloud of peace
Over my heaven
Stones I love, those
And the leaves,
The moss,
The asphalt road,
Every lane, twin
All mine.
My Madikeri
Is just my own.
My memories
The stories I lived,
The ones I tell
They are mine.
My paradise
Where I smile
Where my smiles
Are real and my laughter
My heaven is
A little place on Earth
Called Madikeri,
Just my own.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The BOSS! :-*

The plush interiors of PVR. A rather quiet crowd, ugh! The cool air conditioned air. Good popcorn and a tall Pepsi. Not the ideal setting at all. But when the BOSS comes on screen, there are a few stray whistles. I let out a small scream, it is not enough. The boss just demands that his entry on the screen comes with much adulation! For those who think I am talking about Bruce Springsteen, my drool factor here is restricted to Rajnikanth. I watched his latest film Kuselan today. It is not strictly a Rajni movie, his role is like an extended cameo and someone I did not see the punch in the film. But still, it was the Boss, anything he does would be in style.

I have always had this fascination to go watch a Rajni movie on the first day of its release. The best friend, Manju, goes every time for a first day show and I end up being incredibly jealous. I have always wanted to go to a rather down market theatre and watch it with the crowd there, not at PVR and sit with a boring crowd that discusses the heroine's make up and the film location! Ugh! The film should be all about the Boss!!!

If you have not figured it out yet, I am a die-hard fan of Rajni. I loved Shivaji, his previous film. We had gone to watch it at a multiplex again. My then colleague and I got so excited and made such a noise that the usher almost threw us out! That was fun. She learnt to whistle after that, I am yet to practise...Dad had promised to teach me, should remind him....

You know, I don't get some people. They would happily watch Superman and Spiderman and all those X-men and others but when Rajni does the same, he is dumb? Phuleeezz! I am all for him. His is a larger than life image. Why not see him just as an Indian superhero? The style, the charisma...ooh...(drool! drool!)
To me, the BOSS, the superman!
(Yenna? Chumma, aderedille?) :-)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I Salute You, Your Spirit

There comes a time in life when you begin to see a person or a set of people in a whole new perspective. I have what I call my own universe, a set of very few chosen people (I refuse to name them here. They know who they are.) the people who are my very life, the ones I will go to any lengths to love and protect. All these people I cherish, love and would gladly die for, the ones I take an effort to smile for, the ones I am happy for, the ones who can change my day in just a phone call, my support system.

I have always admired in them their spirit. Perhaps, nah, I am sure you would all know many others in your own little universes who are just as brave and worthy. To me, these are my heroes, because trust me, you need all the courage, the strength, the guts and the will you can muster to be happy and live a life. Today, several conversations later, several moments of knowing and loving, of bits of life that we lived together, the little things we did and did not do, the tears, the fears, the million smiles, the joys, a life later, I sit back and look at you, my little world. I am proud, yes. I am also thankful you are there. I know I am a very lucky one. But above all this today, so many moments of life later, I salute you all your spirit.

I salute ma for bringing me up the way she did, for loving me and for having the courage to let me go. I salute pa for hiding his problems below his smiles, for always being able to manage it all. I salute the best friends, Manju, Raksha and Vani. Each of them for the sheer will power, the strength they have, their spirit to live a life. I salute each of them their smiles, I don't think I would have managed it in their place.

I salute you all for the lives you lead, for the life you have all taught and shown me how to lead. Thank you. Love you all.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Memories, coloured brown tan

Brown tan. I think that's what you could call it, the new wallet I have. Well, its an old one. And that's the story here.

I have a thing for old wallets. Before the mobile phones, I believe that wallets were the most personal thing you could have, the ones that held those tickets to the movie you went with your best friend, a little piece of ribbon from a bouquet of beautiful red roses, some more tickets, some little poetry, a small note on a frayed piece of paper that you don't exactly know why you have saved, debit cards, ID cards, membership cards, often lapsed, little memories that you closet into the confines of a few folds of leather and some money of course! I have always been a wallet person, purses are fine, but too...I don't know...girly for me. I like my bags to be big to hold my world that I carry with me. I like my wallets to be full of my memories....

I have a thing for wallets, I have a thing for old ones that are worn out of use, that have seen the weary travails of the days it has helped a person hold memories. I got my hands on one such brown tan wallet today, the best friends' :-) It is a lot old, a little torn, a little dirty, smooth from having been worn out but I have had my eyes on it for months. Today, it is mine to hold my memories, my stuff, and once in a while, my money when I have it! The brown tan wallet, the one that I have now, will hold within its leather folds, my little life, the stories I make in my head, the ones I write, the little memories I collect.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

A Taste of Paradise

Food is a sin, you know. I just realized it again the other day when my hands were all greasy with some superb butter and I was licking, almost biting off my fingers, the food was that great.
The best friend Manju and I had limped across to this great Punjabi joint a little off Commercial Street. I say limped across because I have been nursing a torn ligament a few days now and my stubbornness has been demanding that I royally ignore the doctor’s orders and walk across the city. Anyway, I limp over and we ask for aloo paranthas. I have probably had them a hundred times before but my severely hungry stomach was not prepared for what was coming.

The best way people to eat aloo paranthas, take it from me. There were these aloo paranthas in front of me, a bowl of curd of the side of the plate. The curd was duly seasoned with two pinches of salt and a big dash of pepper powder. Mixed it. Dipped a piece of the bread, put it in my mouth and let out a sigh of happiness. More to come. A bowl of butter is brought in. Manju puts a huge blob on to a piece of parantha on my plate. I see it melt with sinful delight. There is achar or pickle on the side. I break a piece again, butter drips down from it, I further catch a bit of butter again between the piece, a bit of pickle and a generous bite from onion that has been soaked in vinegar and beetroot juice. And that people, was my first taste of heaven! A dieter’s nightmare, or probably the ultimate indulgence, all downed with sips of Thums Up! A bit of pickle on the tongue and a sip of the drink, that’s a high there!

Even as I type this, I can see the butter slowly melting on the parantha, I see a picture of how life should be lived. At Lalitha’s Parantha Point, near Commercial Street, very inexpensive, must must visit everyone.

Friday, April 04, 2008


I am told I have a penchant for high contrast pictures....
I love this picture that I took at Mandalpatti, a picturesque place about an hour's drive from Madikeri. Went there with my parents and Raksha the last time I was home. Breath-taking view, strong winds, greenery, there was me, and my thoughts. Alone.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Sunday Soliloquy (Written very early Monday morn)

I seem to have become a workaholic all over again, though the --holic'ism' has taken other directions at the moment. No I shall not think or write about work, I have enough of that all week long anyway.

Despite everything, I have been doing stuff lately. Finally managed to finish Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird again. I had read it several years ago and had identified with the character of Scout (Jean Louis Finch) a lot. Did so this time I read too. Also managed to watch Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera adaptation into a movie of the same name. I have always been biased about movies based on books, I never find the movie good enough. This was the same too. Wasn't too happy with the film.

I managed to think about a lot of things to write about this week. That's a big thing, trust me. Thinking takes up a lot of time and I don't have the luxury of time these days. I only wish I could now translate all those thoughts into writing, for now, thoughts that I know will flow as beautiful words are swaying along all corners of my mind, corners, mind you, the rest of the brain has other functions at the moment. I read a few blogs, discovered some great ones, studied a bit of science and defence, bought a branded pair of shoes, some clothes, a fiery looking very colourful little dragon mantle piece (one of those Feng Shui things I think, wouldn't know what its supposed to do, I just thought it looked nice).

Oh this afternoon, I went with the best friend Manju to a Korean restaurant on the other side of the city. On work, but the lady who owns the place, called Soo Ra Sang (that's the restaurant, not the woman's name) insisted that we eat. Now, I will eat to experiment anything, as long as it is vegetarian. The seating of the roof top eatery (its too small to merit the fancy tag of a restaurant) was authentic Korean, low tables where you had to sit cross legged, bamboo all around, some traditional musical instruments and strange smells. We ate (and I noted down the name on my phone) Dol Soth Bee Bim Bob and Jap Che. Ah! The names make me sound like some fancy diner.

The Dol Soth thingie is rice served on a very hot sizzling iron plate with several types of veggies in little bowls that are placed all around you. Jap Che is glass noodles with vegetables. Well, I suppose what we ate was very authentic but I have never had a fancy for bland food. South East Asian food is rather bland, I notice. It was an interesting meal though, with some veggies looking too strange for us to dare to eat them. The best part was what we got for dessert, it sounded like 'sojunga' when I asked the waiter what it was called. It was a kind of flavoured sweet and cold tea served in a glass bowl, very different and soothing.

The lunch reminded me of a restaurant called Little Italy that I had lunch in with my cousin and his wife a long time ago, was a good one. Great place, great food. Ah! I have also been keeping in touch with my cousins these days, feels good to chit chat with family, with no siblings of my own, my friends were my family most years I was growing up. Divya, I know you will be reading this sometime, just wanted to say, its great to be able to keep in touch with you!

That ah! a few lines before reminded me of another movie I watched, King and I, that endearing story of the King of Siam and the English teacher. The later version, Anna and the King, doesn't measure up to how cute this one is. And I swear I am in love with Yul Brynner, the King in the film. He keeps saying ah all the time, is full of attitude but oh-so-hot! He is what I call the lethal combination of hot+sexy+cute+handsome....

New food, old movies, new job, new books and friends....I shouldn't be asking for more right now, but I am, I am asking for much more!!!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Travels in My Head

This is not good, not good at all, the fact that I haven't travelled anywhere in such a long time. When was the last time I went anywhere at all, apart from home? I don't remember. And that is not good at all :-(

I suppose life has just taken over and I no longer have the time to travel. My parents have also abandoned me and travel without me these days. As for travelling alone, my My travels today are around the dusty city of Bangalore. I have to travel, have to have to have to.....

As of now, the only trip I took was down Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera, one of my all time favourite books. Watched the movie last night, predictably didn't like it much. I never, almost as a rule, like movies adapted from books. They are never ever as good as I would like them to be. The book, I recommend again, please read it, even if you don't read any other book in your life.

"It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love..."

Amazing book... And the lovely story is one that I travel on, for the moment.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Hello there

Hello there! On second thoughts, I wonder if there is anyone at all reading this for me to say hello to.....

Can I say life has been good? That would be an exaggeration. Has it been bad? Not really. I am somewhere in limbo, trying to sort things out, trying to do the things I love, trying to live a life. Hasn't always been possible of late. I suppose life is strange after all.

It is raining outside. The weather is lovely, though not to work! :-) Life NEVER turns out the way you want it to, that is one lesson that life seems to drive into me every other day. Changes are tough to deal with, even more so in my case. Maybe that is what everyone whose life is changing things.
This seems to be one random post.....

What have I been up to? Working, trying to settle in at the new place. Trying to keep my head above the things I am supposed to be doing. Getting used a lot of things....Confused, worried, trying to write....

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Moving On.....

A colleague and a fabulous writer, Bishwanath Ghosh, in his last column for The New Indian Express wrote about moving on. I so loved and agreed with everything he said.

I agree the expression moving on is a very convenient excuse. He had written....

"Any new dream, alas, has to be built on the grave of an old dream. Whether you rejoice at the new dream, or shed tears for the old — the choice is yours. But the bottomline is, you have to move on...."

I am moving on too. I am trying to weave a new dream out of the frayed threads of the old one. Its like that line from the movie Motorcycle Diaries where Che Guevara says (I para phrase) 'Every moment is split into two, you rejoice in anticipation of the new, even as you feel a pang of sadness at leaving something behind.'
I agree. The place I am in currently gave me so much joy. Lessons I here, stories I wrote here will always be closest to my heart. A heart heavy with all that I learnt, lived and wrote, I move on too, to newer stories, newer lessons and a newer life.

The journey continues.......

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Gin Update

My dog Ginger. Age 10 years. Spoilt to the core by a very loving family. Extremely arrogant. Sleeps 22 hours a day. Extremely fussy about food. And barks, once in a while, when he has nothing better to do!

The poor thing is growing old, and the delicate darling that he is, he keeps falling sick. And has been growing all the more arrogant and short tempered! Both pics were taken quite some time ago. He looks sly and cunning and arrogant in the first na? That's his real face, people, don't be fooled by the next one. That's his innocent, nobody-has-given-me-anything-to-eat, feed-me-I'm-so-cute face that he puts on to blackmail all of us in to giving him biscuits and sweets and anything that we are having. Uff, wonder where they learn such tricks!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Those Little Things Called Memories

I sit in my room on a lazy Sunday evening, thankfully the neighbourhood is quiet. I still wonder what I want to write about today. Rahul Sharma’s Ladakh- In Search of Buddha plays on my laptop and I close my eyes for a moment to imagine Ladakh and the stark beauty of its landscape, a picture drawn to me by my friend Naresh, a native of Leh. My eyes wander to the shelf next to where I sit. Ah! There is my topic for today!

The house I live in is a home to me because of this shelf, the one that has several books that I bought over the last 20 months that I have been living here. There are some soft toys, my silver jewelry, more books, a compartment that serves as my makeshift prayer alcove, a painting of Michelangelo’s Birth of Adam I picked up somewhere, a picture of Ruskin Bond that an old man who runs Select Book Store in Bangalore gave me, several of my journalism notes and souvenirs from I travels, little things with beautiful memories attached to them, the ones I want to tell you about today.

One of the things I rue every time I travel is that there is hardly anything that you can carry back with you as a souvenir, everything is available everywhere these days! You might as well have bought it from that fancy gift place in a fancy mall for a ridiculously high price. Still I try to pick up something from every place I go to, not because I can’t buy it in Bangalore or elsewhere but because I associate my entire trip and all my little anecdotes and memories with that souvenir and carry it my head, a visible part of my past adventures.

On my shelf there are two very beautiful miniature paintings, done on a gold leaf and framed in wood. One is of a scenery with two trees overlooking a hillock and the other is a view of a row of houses next to a lake with boats, a tower on the shore, some people, down to the last tiny detail. Somebody gave this to me when I went to do a story on this nice store (I forget its name) in Indiranagar, Bangalore. The store sells reproductions of old furniture, paintings, statuettes, guns and the like. That was a good story….

And then there is a little green hour glass that I got from a store in the rather desolate Konaje (that the village where the uni I studied in is). There is a Cross pen that someone who loved a story I wrote long ago gave me. A little red, rather gaudily painted piece with figures of tribal Gods from Orissa. A beautiful little silver box that Raksha gave me for my birthday. Another lovely silver soap dish that granny got on her wedding, some 65 years ago! A colorful toy from Channapatna.

Sometime back, my family and I had traveled to the Ajanta and Ellora caves near Aurangabad. We took a tour bus and I had had the misfortune to be seated next to the very talkative guide who told me his entire life story and insisted that I visit the caves again with my husband for my honeymoon! He was from some distant village and spoke with longing about his family and fields. From that journey, I have with me a little Buddha. Next to the statuette lies a little key chain in the shape of a hockey stick, from a small village in Kodagu where the Kodava family hockey festival was held last year.

My favourite among the things I keep are things I got from Dasara at Madikeri every year. From last year, there are two glass tubes filled with water and sequins, one gold and another in silver. From this year, there is a colorful and very noisy pipe. There is also a glass paper weight with a tuk-tuk inside that I got from Bangkok, silk cocoons from Ramnagaram near Bangalore. Best of all is a little model of a house that have had for ages, don’t even remember where I got it. It is this beautiful little thing, the perfect little house that I would ever want to build with the front door at the end of a long flight of stairs, another entrance in front, a stone wall on the side with a door leading to, probably, a library, ivy running up the walls, a skylight on top….I have always loved this model. Below all this stands an antique wooden box I bought recently, one with six little drawers and the cutest designs in bronze on top.

I hate admitting this, but there are also two McDonald’s Happy Meal toys that I keep, souvenirs from trips to that horrible place with friends (I hate the food there, the people I went with are the only reason I keep these). A metal deer, some Rajasthani puppets, key chains from Kochi, Singapore, Delhi, apsaras from Bangkok, a little Taj Mahal, a metal lamp, a coconut shell tray that holds my jewelry from Bangkok again, some wooden hand painted whistles, a framed tribal painting….. Gosh, I just realized, my house is rather full!

There is something about souvenirs that bind you to a memory, to a day long ago when you were at a different place with different people. Pictures capture the moment there, anecdotes enliven a conversation, people amuse you awhile but souvenirs are what help you retain that memory. To me, my travels are condensed into these little things, they hold my memories, reminisces of another me, of another part of the world, of beautiful lands and the stories that I tell.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Bangkok Story---Part II

Part two of my Bangkok story……

A bit of shopping and souvenir hunting done alone (the best part of it all), we had to go to this huge mall in the city centre. Since it was a work related trip, we had to take in several malls, despite none of us being quite interested in them. Malls there are just like those you would find anywhere else, though they were much more spacious than those in Bangalore. Some were so huge that our poor feet got sore walking from one end to the other.

We saw several international brand stores, some traditional Thai artifacts, listened to some pleasant music, saw tons of Thai youth… After a whirlwind tour of malls and some more shopping, we were taken to this show at Siam Niramit. And that was simply wow! It is advertised as the greatest show on Earth and though that might be disputable, it was certainly one amazing piece of art and technology I saw.

Read the story I wrote for Sunday Express magazine section about Siam Niramit here.

An exhausting day over, mot of us were done for the day, though some in our group went out to see the notorious Bangkok night life. The next day was more relaxing, the highlight being a nice, really nice and long foot massage I got. Thai body massages are very well known, by the way.

In all, it was a nice trip, I would say, though a very short one. Like I said earlier, there was nothing extraordinary I found about the city. It reminded me of several other cities I have been to. Though if you look closer, there are several uneasy things too.

Bangkok is known as the sex capital of the world and I could see why. Every few minutes, I saw an aging/bald/middle aged/fat/rich white man walking by the street with a gorgeous/skimpily dressed/very young/stylish/poor Thai girl. Politely they are called escorts of course. But just a cursory glance was enough to see what exactly was going on. The girls would cling on to the men, make them pay for their shopping and give them company in return for a few days and weeks. The girls I must say were all beautiful, often classy even, with beautiful clothes on, high heels, lovely skin and makeup. But when you examine the conditions they live under, it is heart wrenching.

At the airport, I picked up a book called Sex Slaves- The Trafficking of Women in South Asia, I forget the name of the author. In it, she examines the reasons and methods by which women get trapped into sexual slavery. A very disturbing book. Several examinations of the Thai society talked of how the flesh trade was not viewed the way it was seen in most other countries. Parents of little girls in rural Thailand seemingly even encourage them to get into the trade as it would bring in not merely food for the family, but also a TV for the house, better clothes and a better lifestyle. The beauty I saw on the faces of these girls were but another makeup they wore to accentuate their naturally straight hair and good skin, a fa├žade to the lives they led. What they get is momentary company, a small glimpse into a rich, jet set life, a diversion to the tourist on the look out for some fun during the holidays.

It was extremely disturbing to see such couples everywhere in Bangkok. Nothing is discreet. It was as if poverty and social conditions had removed even the last shreds of dignity and hope that held the Thai society together. A beautiful culture, a beautiful people, victim to that age old demon of poverty, of wants, of not having a means to a better life. It is very sad indeed.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

I'm Still Here

In one of Ruskin Bond's books I read ages ago, there was a Mexican proverb that went, 'Oh to do nothing and then to rest!' I admit I haven't been doing much, yet been kind of busy (or lazy, you could call it). The truth of the matter is that I am currently going through a phase in life, a not too kind one. Too many things occupy my mind....

Just to tell you dear readers that I am still here, the lazy me is posting two lovely pictures Manju took last year in Madikeri. The first is one of the town, a view from one part of the town I had not appreciated till I saw it in the picture. The second one is a stone arrangement he made in our garden, co-ordinating it with the sun ray pattern of the flower paths that I had designed for ma. The torrential rains of Madikeri have washed the arrangement away, but I intend to set it up again, some day. I love the arrangement and the picture. By the way, sun rays happen to be amongst some of my favourite designs/patterns/themes.

Speaking of Madikeri, I am just back from there. Spent some heavenly days there, went trekking alone, talked, took pictures, revelled in my beautiful renovated home, loved it there, as always.

Sunday, January 06, 2008


I was at Channapatna yesterday. Its a town 60 kms from Bangalore famous worldwide for its very colourful wooden toys. A great story is coming up about it...

I was trying out a much used technique with these pictures, going from a close-up to a farther view, a kind of perspective. The girl was very curious about us, we were so out of place there. It was great fun.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Bangkok Story---Part I

Was flipping through the Penguin Book of Indian Journeys, an anthology edited by Dom Moraes and was reminded about my own journeys that I have not written about, notably, my trip to Bangkok. Here goes……

The trip, a very short one at that, started off a bit tense as I had some problem with my passport and I wasn’t sure I would be allowed to go. But the press tag solved that temporarily. The flight was boring as usual. (I hate flights, except the taking off part) Way past midnight, I was woken up by the flight attendant to be given some bland noodles. Four and a half hours later, we were at the Suvarnabhumi Airport, a huge huge place that instantly impressed me after the ramshackle thing we have for an airport at Bangalore. This place is huge, all glass ceilings and huge structures. Traditional sculptures are strategically placed all over the place. The airport itself looked like a tourist attraction.

After a tedious immigration process (official at the counter hardly spoke English, a counter for international passengers!), we gaped around appropriately for a bit and were then met by our local host, a poor little thing who must have been glad to get rid of us two days later! The drive to the apartment we were to stay in was ok. Good roads but bad traffic again. The one thing that hugely impressed me was that no one was honking away to glory there! Everyone was staying in their lanes. Absolute silence despite the number of cars on the road! Coming from Bangalore, that was such a joy to see!

But otherwise, the city of Bangkok did not impress me much. It so reminded me of Mumbai in many ways. After getting settled in an apartment that I shared with another girl, we were out at the first instant to go shopping. There was a street close by where I went shopping.

Bangkok is a tourist haven. I bought several things I didn’t need and bargained to glory. The local currency baht is pretty much equal to the rupee, so you would not be paying through your nose for anything. In all my travels, I have seen touristy places where people know you can fleece off you and do that very rudely too. But Bangkok is different in the smiles of people. Oh, you get fleeced here too but strangely, you don’t mind here because the people are so friendly!

All vendors on the street greeted me with a smile, a genuine one at that. They have a very interesting way of bargaining. Most speak very less English, if at all. They all have calculators that have a sticker with the words “How Much?” written at the back. If you point out at something that you are interested in, they punch in their price on the calculator and show it to you. Bargaining is when you punch in how much you are willing to pay, the vendor’s hands fly to his mouth in a theatrical show of shock, he vigorously shakes his head and punches in another figure and you walk off when he calls out to you and it goes on like that, a common show of bargaining that is played out across the world.

The street had some fascinating stuff. Cute little cigarette lighters, stoles, clothes, souvenirs and what not. I ended up buying dozens of stuff, little gifts, silk pillow covers, scarves, figurines of apsaras that I treasure a lot. There’s another story there…

Walking down the street, I spotted these figurines at one stall and went over to ask the price, followed by the now familiar process of bargaining. The guy began flirting shamelessly. After my purchase, he wanted to know whether I wanted to buy some horrible shorts for my boyfriend. When I said I did not have one, he asked me to buy it for my husband. When I told him I was not married, he had this big grin on his face when he said he was not married either but had three children already! I had a great laugh, took his picture and walked away with a smile on my face too. Men!

Impressions of the city, its people, more thoughts, in my next post…