Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cuteness

Jimmy, my maid's pup is like a little ball of joy that actually rolls. My Gin is slightly tolerant of him as long as he stays out of the way.

Adorable puppies and the year gone by. So much has happened in this year, I shall dwell not on them.
2009 is over, thankfully. I have some hopes from 2010, like they say, what is life without hopes, no matter how false, how whimsical, how unlikely.

Happy New Year everyone. I hope you all smile enough. Much joy and happiness.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My 15 Minutes of Fame

December 27.

Somehow, a lot of important people and many memorable events in my life revolve around this date. 26th is Raksha, the BFF's birthday, 27th is the other best friend Manju's and my favourite uncle's birthday. There are also many anniversaries in the extended family. New Year's close, its winter. I have all the reasons to like December and that particular date.

There is another one now. December 27th gave me my first 15 minutes of fame. Here is the full story:

You know how family can be; they sweet talk you into the most embarrassing of things. My parents and my uncle are super good with this. After my defence correspondent's course, before I knew it, I was almost coerced into agreeing to deliver a lecture at the annual function of the trust that the family has. Two months ago, it did not seem a big deal. Even last Friday, it didn't seem too frightening a prospect.

My late aunt, Mani Malini, was a writer, a very very good writer, the only 'writer' as such in the family, apart from me! (Wink, wink!) My uncle, also a well known personality in Kannada literary circles, established the Vasudha Pratishtana trust and every year, there are a few cultural programmes held under this banner. Every Dec 27, there is a ಹೇಮಂತ ಹಬ್ಬ (Hemantha Habba), a celebration of culture and literature with several writers, intellectuals and art lovers congregating at his lovely house in Panjala, near Puttur in the South Kanara district.

This Sunday was the second of this festival. Every year, achievers from various fields are honoured, there is a formal stage programme followed by a Yakshagana performance and then a lovely dinner. Much to my chagrin (it finally hit me a day before the event that I would be addressing my professors and writers that I have long admired, not a heartening prospect), I was to sit on stage with the other dignitaries throughout the event!

Well, all said and done, when my turn came to speak, I wasn't as scared as I thought I would be. There are some moments when you are concentrating so much that you don't quite notice the hundreds of pairs of eyes that are on you. This was one such moment. The title given to me was ಸರಹದ್ದಿನ ಸದ್ದುಗಳು of 'The Sounds of the Borders'. I know I could have done it much much better, but I was told I wasn't too bad either for the first time.

It was much appreciated. And you know what? I loved doing that. I loved being up there and talking. It is a heady feeling, the remarks, the appreciation, I loved all that. I know why literature and writing is so heady for some in my family. And you know what? I am ready now to take up the mantle.

Recommended. And Other Things.

The Kannada superstar Vishnuvardhan passed away this morning. He was a good actor and acted in some fantastic movies. My generation kind of grew up with his movies every Sunday on DD1; his Nagarahavu is a particular favourite. May his soul rest in peace. Yesterday, Kannada singer C Ashwath passed away. He was a very good singer too.

Somehow, personally and otherwise, 2009 has been quite the worst year of my life. I am glad it is over. I am glad it is not going to come back.

I have things to recommend today.
If you have not yet watched James Cameron's Avatar, do so NOW. It is way too good. Bharadwaj Rangan has thrashed the movie, but then, he thrashes every movie. The story line is old, but then, even Titanic had one of the oldest story lines ever---the poor boy-meets-rich girl. So watch Avatar, if only for the graphics.

There is this online library called www.librarywala.com that I am a member of. They have branches in a few cities in the country. The monthly plans are great, as little as Rs 139 for three books. And the collection is amazingly good. The best part is that they have free pick up and drop facility for books, all you do is choose the books online and you get them delivered anywhere in Bangalore within 24 hours! Things like this is what makes living in a large city bearable. Check it out.

I don't quite remember if I wrote about Nicholas Sparks here. He of The Notebook fame that was made into an ok-ok movie. He has written several others, though The Notebook remains the most well known. All his books are pretty much the same, nice, candy-like, the boy always gets the girl, there are no too-evil people in the story and its most often a happily-ever-after. But the way he writes his stories is lovely. And I am not ashamed to say that his books always make me cry, for the beauty and tragedy of it all. I like happy endings in such books, life isn't like that, so why not expect fiction to be all the way good?
So read him sometime when life is depressing. He makes you feel good.

There is a new cafe that has opened near office, an international chain called Au Bon Pair. I loved the Parisian feel to the place, wrought iron chairs and tables and all. Not too expensive a place, rather sinful pastries and good salads. I am a lot into the Parisian theme these days; the image of a little cafe where you can sip a coffee and read a book and bump into writers and artists is on my mind a lot these days. On that note, UB City Mall has this place called Toscano, run by a former 5-star hotel chef called Jean Micheal Jassarand. I had met him for a story I had to write and he made me taste some chocolate mousse there. Out of the world good! I shall head there soon for more espresso. The chef is French, the food all Italian, the ambiance is great, a little expensive but great for a special day.

That said, Happy New Year everyone.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

No Place Like Home

Just a quick thought.
I haven't discovered anything new, just that there really isn't any place like home, like Madikeri where I discovered that I still belong.
This time here I learnt again to have faith in the people who saw me grow up. There are still plenty who still smile for me, those people I can be a small town girl with. It is still the place where I can hear myself think, where the mountain air does me and my soul good. It is still where I belong. And that makes me smile.
Madikeri, I love thee :-)

And here is a teaser. This evening, I randomly took a picture of a window in my room; the window sill is where, like in Jean Webster's Daddy-Long-Legs, I used to perch up with a fat book in my hand and read into the lazy Sunday afternoon. The picture, in black and white, turned out interesting. For sometime after that I was taking several rather unusual B&W pictures, my favourite medium of photography. You will see some of them here soon. :-)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

You never quit on your music because anything bad happens to you, it is the one place you can escape to and let go.

- from the movie August Rush

I would say the exact same thing about writing. The exact same thing.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Audacity of Those Dreams

There is a rather complicated way in which Indian society works, the classes, status, religions, sub-castes and sub-sub-castes. But if there are two things that probably unite the most varied citizens of my country, then they probably are cricket and Bollywood. Cricket, I am told, no longer grips the nation’s imagination the way it used to. Or so I gather from what columnists write; I wouldn’t know myself, the late 1990s and then Lagaan was the last I watched cricket myself.

But Bollywood in particular and other Indian movies in general, as far as I know, still rules. Cinema, beginning from my favourite professor Dr D S Poornananda’s film studies classes, continues to fascinate me. Even as I write this, I am watching a Kannada film called ‘Cheluvina Chittara’, a very controversial film at one time. And it is, for now, the perfect example of how influential a movie can be.

This film, starring Ganesh, a popular actor and Amulya, a then 15-year old girl, is about the two of them, him a mechanic and her, a school student who fall in love and elope. She is the proverbial rich man’s daughter and he is, well, the mechanic. At the time the movie released a couple of years ago, there was much hue and cry for a) getting such a young kid to romance a man on screen and b) for the messages it was conveying. Someone the other day was telling me that in his town, there were at least four girls who had eloped with mechanics, bus drivers and the like after watching the movie.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with two people in love. But looking beyond the hormonal charged impulses of teen hood, there is that practicality, that thing that makes you doubt how happy Jake and Rose (of Titanic fame) would have been if they had gotten off the ship and gotten married. We all like happy endings, but then movies never show what happens after the ‘happily ever afters’.

Now this is something I have always wanted to write about movies and especially Bollywood. I speak of myself here too. Any Indian, with access to at least a bit of television or radio or the internet, would know at least a few Bollywood numbers. It doesn’t matter what language you speak, Hindi movie songs are something everyone hums all the time. There are of course the other regional songs too but travel to any part of the country and you can be sure to connect over Bollywood.

When I was on my defence course recently, there were journalists from every part of the country. Even the armed forces we interacted with was drawn from every state. But be it during the baraa-khaana (an evening when all ranks of people in an Army unit eat together; the Army is otherwise very hierarchical) or during the famous Indian pass-time ‘Anthaakshari’, Bollywood was what would bind everyone. If you start a song, you can be sure that someone will sing along or at least hum.

Bollywood works in this country and it is not too difficult to see why. It gives you a dream, a dream that you can be in love too, whether you are rich or poor. It is a dream where you can be a millionaire within three hours, where hard work still counts but unattainable things are within your reach. It is a dream where you wear good clothes even if you are poor, where the good always wins, the villain is always caught and the hero always gets the girl. And if you ask me, I don’t see anything wrong in that.

Most Bollywood films defy logic. But then, how many dreams can you call practical always? The audacity of dreams is what makes these films work. Forget the nuances of cinema, leave out the techniques, the montages, the pan, the neo-realisms, the importance of music, the sophistication of the plot. A typical Bollywood movie would have a rich girl meets poor boy story where after much fighting the bad guys, they live happily ever after.

Bollywood is audacious. But then so are dreams. They work. They unite the country in ways that no religion, no nothing else can. That is because we all believe in dreams. We all want the good guys to win. We all want happy endings. The audacity of those dreams never really has anything to with ‘reality’, you know. Practicality is boring, even if the dreams are audacious.


As for the movie that I was watching, for a change, the boy does not get the girl and goes insane but is rescued by the girl and her husband two years later!

:-D

One of Those Journeys...

I am on one of my numerous, not-as-often-as-I-like journeys. Nowhere too great, just to that lovely paradise of mine, Madikeri. All no thanks to my nasty foot. Typing this on the bus now reminds me of another journey when I was typing a post, a very different post…

The journey now. I don’t quite like clichés now. But then sometimes, there is nothing truer than a cliché, I notice. Wasn’t it a cliché again now, that thing about the journey being the destination? On a day bus, something I religiously avoid normally, with a Kannada movie in the background grating, many varied voices about me, I look out at SH 17. There are many more voices in my head too; for a while, I try to ignore them. There is today, much to see.

Many fields. Corn and maize and sugarcane. Villages. I like those that dot highways. It is like they cropped up just to break the monotony of roads and green fields. The roads on this stretch used to be bad; I have traveled here many years. Smoother stretches, better buses, worse traffic. The villages remain the same, save for crude advertisements on huts and their roofs, the people flashing mobile phones and an odd internet/cyber games/DTP/ typing/e-mail centre.

What do I spot? Several cattle grazing, some along the roadside, some in the fields. A farmer still ploughing the fields, even as the sun rises higher above his head. Coconut trees. A small fire. Earlier, another fire warming up a little boy. Tender coconut vendor. A tiny hut. Sheep in front of the thatched hut. A little temple for the little village, brightly painted in pink and blue and green, the oddest of colours. Little boys still at a game of marbles; they actually play that still! A Panchayat katte, they still have those! Farmers. Their wives. The children. The lives so different from what we otherwise perceive as ‘real’ or ‘developed’ or ‘modern’. Lots of fields and farms and beautiful landscape. Makes me wonder…what on earth am I doing in a city?

Most times, I blissfully sleep through the journey home. I prefer the mundanities of a usual journey to pass that way. Today, with my thoughts and some music and some audacities that I subscribe to what I am dreaming of, a journey becomes a destination again.

Isn’t this the vestiges of a nomadic culture. Isn’t humankind, most often than not, nomadic, be it in thoughts or otherwise? Am I not a nomad by those parameters too? It is not the romantics of the idea that inspires, it is the idea in itself.

A nomad.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Randomity of a Confinement

And so I shall be writing here very often. Do I hear you asking why? Well, since I am in a rant mood, I am going to answer the question anyways. I have a nasty injury on my right ankle and I am off work, confined to the house, for the next ten days. L Yes, life is a bummer right now.

You know how we all, the working class so to speak, have grouses against work in general. And so did I, day dreaming what I might be able to achieve without going to work for a few days. What do you know! I am doing just that, all strapped up in a fancy bandage and feeling bugged about having to keep my ankle up all the time. The leg hurts really really bad though.

Perhaps for the first time since I started working, I am at home doing nothing except lazing around. All my previous days off from work were spent traveling. In nearly four years, I have so much me-time that I am still wondering what to do with it.

(This is a mindless post, bear with me please.)

Bangalore’s famous Strand Book Stall has a sale again with the usual amazing collection. I finished The Abduction of Sita by R K Narayan (a flamboyantly titled ‘The Science of Ramayana’) will be up here soon. Right now, I am with Transmission by Hari Kunzru. I liked his ‘My Revolutions’, I like the way he writes, random sentences, a rather interesting style. I also like the way Mohsin Ahamed and Daniyal Moinuddin (good looking guy too!) write. I am into trying new authors I haven’t previously read these days.

Where was I? Ah, Transmissions. I have finished only chapter 1 so I can only tell you what the blurb on the jacket of the book says. It is about this young boy who gets to go to America, the land of his dreams. He gets laid off and in a desperate bid, he unleashes a computer virus that creates a havoc around the world. I haven’t yet reached the part where he takes off to the US in the first place.

That apart I have a stack of magazines to keep me company. The usual Open, Outlook Traveller, Geo this time (has a interesting piece on India’s tribes--I wanted to do tribal studies at one point of time; a part of me still does) and for the first time ever, the glossy People magazine. That is one yummy issue, I tell you! All my eternal favourites, Johnny Depp, George Clooney, Hritik Roshan (his new beard and long hair look soooo works!) and Milind Soman! I can imagine how two of my dearest friends (stop smirking you both, now!) will be grinning when they read this. Well yes, Milind Soman is my permanent crush, I confess. I don’t care what you say, he is simply Greek God gorgeous. I must have had a crush on him for the last 20 years at least now.

I so digress here. And yes, I continue to read Jean M Auel’s epochal Earth’s Children series. I simply love her research, I love the story for the way it whets my old interest in anthropology. There is also Jeannine Auboyer’s Daily Life in Ancient India--From 200 BC to 700 AD that promises to be interesting.

Movies too. I picked up some old favourites recently, The Blue Lagoon, 10 (Bo Derek wow!) and The Mirror Has Two Faces. I recently also loved August Rush (the music is super good and of course Jonathan Rhys Meyers), Nicholas Cage’s Next (I so want hair like Jessica Beil’s in the movie) and Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani (a mindless entertainer that I watched with the parents). A lot of old ones, I need to be goaded to watch movies most of the time, especially the mainstream ones. Next to my TV sits Top Gun, The Bicycle Thief and some of Satyajit Ray’s films. Oh yes, except for that nagging pain in the leg, I quite like this forced confinement! Pity I just can’t move.

Well, so far it has been a mindless post. But, watch this space, you will see a lot more of me.
Cheers.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Best Breakfasts, the Best Meals--II

Continuing my random list of some of my most memorable meals... (The first of the list is here)

* FALAK, JAMMU TAWI: BK and I were staying at this government tourism guest house place in Jammu, just after the course that I was on. Javaid mian was immensely disappointed that we boring vegetarians. None of Kashmiri food, except for kahwa chai, could we have.
Anyway, near where we were staying was this place called Hotel K C Residency with Falak restaurant. The food was very Mughalai and not exceptionally great. But what I most loved was the fact that it was a revolving restaurant! I was super thrilled about the whole concept. You don't much feel the movement unless you look outside. Jammu in September was terribly hot, so comfortably, from the top floor of Falak in the middle of the older parts of the city, we saw all there was to see in Jammu and spent the rest of the time shopping like mad. Every thing is so darn cheap! I loved this place for its shopping (but of course!) and the whole concept of revolving!

* FRESH AND NATURAL, BANGALORE: This is a little chain of salad and juice bars. I frequent the one in Sadashivnagar. This one is all for the amazing variety of healthy food you get here, the most strange combinations of fruits and vegetables, all fresh, rather inexpensive and super-yummy. All you Bangaloreans, please try!

* QUEEN'S, CHURCH STREET: This is an easy one. I love the food, I love the ambiance, I especially love the paneer-tikka, served with a tiny lit candle inside a tomato, I love the company I often go here with, I love the food. Simply, my most favourite place in this part of town.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Being a Girl :-)





I was going to write a philosophical piece about birthdays, growing older, wiser and all that jazz. But then, what the heck. They do matter. This year, in keeping with the many many other significant changes in my life, has been the most girly birthday I have ever had. I continue to grin silly. It is, despite everything, sometimes great to be a girl :-)
Oh yes, it is nice to be a girl! :-D

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

No More...

There is got to be a bit of blood in the ginger-bread man for him to come alive.

-Margaret Atwood

I found this quote this morning, about how fiction often has a strain of the real life in it. And incidentally, I also had a nasty argument later with someone very dear about something I wrote. This is not the first time, there are many who have accused me of not writing what they want me to, not writing enough about them, even writing about them...I sometimes wish I had named my blog something else.

I simply cannot seem to emphasis this enough. Yes, everything I write is real, from my life, except for the fiction. I admit I have written only a few pieces of fiction here. By the looks of it, I shall not be writing more. The fiction I write is, like Atwood said, derived and inspired by what I see and hear. I have always believed that a writer can write only through deep observation of surroundings and an attempt at studying people around. For me, imagination is not so good as that of, say, Rowling, to conceive something of a whole new world. I can write of the world I see, the places and the people I know.

Again, I want everyone reading this to know that I simply mix what is real with a bit of my imagination to create something new. It is not an attempt to mask the truth or to trick or deceive anyone, least of all, it is not meant to hurt anyone. But maybe it is because most people who read this are those who know me closely, fiction on these pages has led to problems with those that I love dearly.

My apologies to everyone who has been inadvertently hurt by the words I write, yet again. I write of some feelings, that does not mean I don't understand other feelings. I write because to me, it is therapy; I need to constantly write; and not because I want to hurt anyone in any manner. If hurting was my intention, I wouldn't be much of a writer, would I?

And again, what was meant to me a short one paragraph post runs along... I shall stop now.

No more fiction here. Period.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

For 01 year

My views on religion and God set apart, I know that there are special angels that are sent down to make someone happy, to be that special person you can call up, use as a punching bag when you want to rant, someone who will be happy for you and sad with you. You know the kind I mean, those lovely people who make the world a more tolerable place just by being in it.

I am luckier than most people, I have more than a few of these. One of them is a dear darling friend Liz. When she and her colleague walked into my office last November, I was asked to meet them just because it was something to do with the Aero Show 2009. Never once did I think that we would talk to each other again, let alone become such great friends. But it so happened that I needed some information and we began chatting over Gtalk and the hours of chatting turned into one of the best friendships of my life.

It has been a year now. And Liz, one of the most adorable girls I have ever met, I know, will be just a phone call and just a 2-hour flight away. Like she loves saying, “we will grow old together!”

She sent me the most lovely flowers this evening, part of her ‘making me a propah girl’ plan I suppose! It was that little ‘anniversary’ joke between us.

It was a lovely surprise, one of the sweetest things anyone has ever done for me. Thank you Lizzie for making life so much better, for the ice creams at 2 am, for goodie bags and advice and gossip and girly stuff. Love you for all of that.

For one year! :-)

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

As November Sets In...

I am out and out a winter girl. Maybe it is to do with the fact that I was born in November during a particularly cold year. Or maybe it is because I am from Madikeri where the winter is harsh and incredibly, almost starkly beautiful. Now Bangalore has famous weather, but my only grouse is that the winters here are a huge puff! It starts off so slow you hardly notice, fizzles a bit, threatens to grow colder, and then, just when you begin to think it might get cold and nice, one morning the sun is all bright and shiny and summer descends to torture the life out of me. I hate Bangalore for not having good winters.

That said, for the record, this morning looks promising. I don’t see the sun as yet and with the fan on, the recreated winter in my room brings back days many years ago, in that paradise of mine.

My hatred of getting up early in the morning continues. It was all the more worse when I had to wake up for school. My room back home was a cozy one overlooking a hedge which was (and still is) home to several rat snakes who sun themselves in the afternoon. One would often slip into my room and create a flurry around the house. But then, those are tales for another day.

So my cozy room, the best in the entire house (but of course!), sprawled across my bed under my favourite red and black velvet blanket and some others, I hated every morning. But once I managed to wipe sleep off my eyes, every morning was a new marvel. It was too cold to stand on the veranda, but through the window, you could just see one plain screen of mist, so much sometimes that it was hard to see few feet ahead of you. Sometimes we would open the door and the mist, grateful for a new place to settle in, would waft in, gliding along with the cold breeze.

After about ten o’clock, the mist would slowly clear and on some days, the sun would be out. We would have been so cold by then that despite knowing that the sun and the wind would spell disaster for the skin, we would be sunning ourselves to the point of nearly getting burnt. Maybe that it why I rarely get sun-tanned; much to the envy of others. The mountain air must have done some good, unless I am roasting in the sun for more than half a day at a stretch, my skin is sun-happy.

Cold creams, litres of moisturisers don’t help there. Even if you are decked in wools and caked under creams and lotions, your knees and cheekbones and elbows will still crack. Oh goodness, I miss all that! One year I remember, we had such a long monsoon and a longer winter that we didn’t see the sun for months on end that year. By the end of it, we all had had wrinkles all over. Another year, it got so extremely cold in December that we had to actually carry hot coals into every room in the house.

Nothing beats the joy of getting wrapped in sweaters and boots and walking into the mist. And again, for the record, I hate Bangalore for not being cold enough.

Winter, for all its worth, looks like it has begun. For the ghoulish nightmare that 2008 and most of 2009 was, November, my favourite month, is looking nice, despite everything new, despite the skeletons of the old.

My morning walks are proving to be a delight; I have started writing again; there are plans to start running soon; green tea is proving to be a blessing; my soul is thanking me already for waking up to its needs. New friends, new understanding of who are not friends, or family...There are still many ripples that need to be soothed. But it is winter. And for better or for worse, the seasons will change.

I must quote here, Ann Trason who said, with reference to running, that “It hurts up to a point and then it doesn't get any worse.” I find that it applies to life as well.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Just Another Day in Paradise


No, there wasn’t anything she had to do or say or think that day. The grass was, sure, growing a bit higher that she would have liked. The flowers though were still in pretty shades of orange and pink and yellow. Her little stream was looking a little dry that morning but then the sun too had been out for a few days now, she supposed that with summer coming, she could expect to see some bit of dip in the water level. The pebbles had changed their tune too, the rhythm seemed a little more pronounced, on a higher note, slightly faster. Or maybe it was just her mood that day, upbeat.

Once the sun was up, she walked out of the quaint little cottage she lived in, a home she had made out to look like the postcards she collected in her childhood. A dull white picket fence was at a distance from the house in the clouds. The blue walls, parts of which entangled with ivy, a stark green and the wooden windows and doors let in the purest breeze. She liked opening the doors in the late evening, lighting up the fire and snuggling under her favourite red blanket with a book to write, or to read, or just with her thoughts. Some days, the chill was all the more heavy in the winds, but pahadi that she was, she knew she could take it.

The path that led down from her house was tiny, just enough for one person to walk by. Deodar trees grew at a distance, and through their branches she could hear the giggles of beautiful girls with cheeks the colour of plums, laughing shyly at the silly jokes a hapless boy was trying to make. A dog passed by, suddenly afraid of her, barking, suspicious. She walked past, hurrying to get back to her favourite spot.

That place. She must have spent a lifetime there, dreamt dreams for thousands of lifetimes. Past the deodar trees, down her little slope, the path turned and suddenly she saw them. Her beloved mountains. And the corners of her mouth smiled again, just like the first time she had seen them, just like that moment when she knew this is where she belonged.

White clouds had settled down on the mountains, she knew that they would lift soon. Her view of the
mountains were never obstructed for long. She knew that some of their tips would still be snow capped, some would have allowed the sun to rest a few of his rays on them, delighting themselves in the magical play of yellow gold and a shadow here and a black rock face there.

Her walk would take her along the route. But all she wanted was to sit today. Sit and look at them. Wasn’t it the thousandth time she was doing that? She could have done it for a thousand more. It was not often that she thought much there. The mountains left her blank, for some reason. Beauty of that scale had that effect on her. She could just sit and watch the mountains, day in and day out.

Watch the first rays kiss the tops of the snow and welcome in a new day. Watch as the sun got higher and force her to retreat a little back under a tree. Watch as it got hotter and the clouds lifted. Watch the sun go down and leave behind a warm glow of pink and purple hues to frame the peaks. Watch the space even when she couldn’t see the faint outlines in the dead dark of the moonless night. And watch she did.

The mountains were there. Tall and silent. Beautiful. Almost profound. Overwhelming her with their bearing and the scent of the breeze they sent by. They were just there, always.

And it was just another day in paradise for the girl of the mountains.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Frames of Days Gone By

So, my phone camera is not too great. But that has not stopped me from taking shots of things that strike my fancy, inspire, touch and remain somewhere in my mind as a pleasant frame, scented with flowers and blue borders (since I can't stand the colour pink).

Some frames here, of days gone by, some deep memories.


Cute!


Colour along the streets of Hampi



A rose by any other name, a rose of any kind, even clay...I love, I love!


This ring I love, this picture, an experiment.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Dear Readers,

The other day, to search for a story of mine, I Googled my name (there is even a name for the condition which leads you to search for your name online.) and the results threw up several links for my blogs. That Live Feed thingie along the side bar of my blog also led to me a few blogs. What I noticed was that many of you, my dear readers, have put up a link to my blog on your blog rolls. Thanks you for that, it is always good to know my ranting is read by more people.

But what I appeal to you all is that when you do link my blog or add me to your reading list, please do let me know, Drop in a comment and I will be able to read your blogs too.

Thank you for all the support.

And keep reading. :-)

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Best Breakfasts, the Best Meals

The other day, or was it yesterday, I was trying again an experiment with food at home. No, that is not the story here. I got thinking about food and what came to mind were some of the most memorable meals I have had. Those memory, I realise, are not entirely about the great food alone. Sometimes, the food was ok-ok; it was more about the moment, the company sometimes. Here they are, some of my most memorable eating experiences, in no particular order at all. These don't include meals at home or at homes of friends and family.

* CAFE COFFEE DAY: The coffee is perpetually bad. But the only reason I include this is because I have spent a lot of the last three years in these cafes, most particularly at two of their outlets in Vijaynagar, Bangalore. And those were some of my best evenings. The coffee, the company and the conversations. A lot does truly happen over coffee.
Recently, during my defence course, fed on greasy paranthas and northie-type dishes everyday, BK and I saw an outlet somewhere in Pathankot. We didn't go but the joy of seeing 'namura-hotlu' (!) had some smiling for a while.
Though I don't go in often, some familiar CCDs never cease to rake up several memories.


* MAAKUTTA, somewhere along the KODAGU-KERALA BORDER: In the last year of college, we B.Com students went on this trip to Kochi. As all college trips go, it was fun, with all its trappings. On the way back, it so happened that there was a day long strike in Kodagu and our bus was not allowed to enter the district. Some 45 of us spent the day in a little non-place called Maakutta where there was one police outpost (without any police), a tiny run-down hotel, a school building and a stream. We washed by the stream, some slept the whole day, some of us laid down on the grass in front of the school and starred up at the sky, some fished with shawls. We also shocked the hotel owner saying we wanted food to feed 45 hungry youngsters. But the poor man did rise to occasion and we were fed. Everyone had fresh fish, I and the only other veggie classmate had some vague curry. But I do remember that it was one of my best meals, further consolidating my opinion that little places make the best food.



* PAANCH PULA, DALHOUSIE, HIMACHAL PRADESH: A bunch of us DCC 2009 classmates set off on our own course early in the morning. I will not write again how I get when presented with the package of mountains, crystal pure mountain air, a bit of cold and the rest. We walked about without any particular direction in mind, stopping by for cups of sweet, milky tea. On a map painted on a wall somewhere, we saw Paanch Pula; the only reason we chose it above the others being that it was the closest. Down amazing paths, framed by deep ravines and green valleys, we reached this place.
A huff and some catching our breath later, we also walked up to the cutest water fall. Hunger struck soon and the one option was the Cafe Snow Bell, really just a little room with shaky tables with plastic flowers and once-white plastic chairs. But the mooli-paranthas (radish) there were the bestest I have ever had. The radish was fresh from the neighbouring village and the pickle too, the yummiest. Between mouthfuls of the large paranthas, we heard an old man talk of how he jogs everyday and about not getting enough people to talk to. Between that, we exchanged stories too, of our treks, planned trips and accumulated experiences.
The cafe was all about the food and the mountain air.


* CHICHA BANDI, POONCH SECTOR, RAJOURI SECTOR, JAMMU AND KASHMIR: The food was the Army staple, dal and some curry and rotis. But sitting so close to the Line of Control around a camp fire, singing soulful songs and listening to the soldiers will remain a melancholic memory. This one was all about that moment.

* AUROVILLE, PONDICHERRY: I think the name of that place is Indus Valley, between the Indian and Tibetan Pavilions at Auroville. Red rice, some vegetables, curry and some drink, with Kalsang from Tibet, her daughter, some other hippie-types was fun. This one was all about the concept of the place. Here, the food is essentially free and you are asked to pay only what you think you can afford. The idea is that you pay for the next person to eat. A 1960s remnant of an idea I suppose, but I loved the concept.

* CHICAGO, USA: For the sole reason that I practically starved there with the bad food, suspicious looking vegetables and horrible mash potatoes. I swore off bread for a while after that. And no, I did not have the time to hunt around for good places to eat decent edible food.

* OTHERS: There are of course the many others. In Bangalore itself, there are dozens of lovely places we chanced upon, several others during my many travels....

The list will be added to.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Its a Tea Thing!

At the time I began this blog, I was a heavy coffee drinker, a self confessed addict, no thanks to those years and situations at uni. Four years later, I write to you about being fully off that addiction, so much that days go by without me drinking a cup of coffee. This, I must say, is also thanks to better situations, fuller days and mostly, the fact that I don't get good coffee in office.

Ah well, the urge to hold on to a habit has now shifted to a healthier one, that of green herbal tea and morning walks and yoga. And I happily confess to being an addict of all three.

The problem with herbal tea is with the herbs, I am yet to find a place in Bangalore where I can get some fresh herbs. As for now, here's my twice a day ritual:

Water set to boil with bits of cinnamon, sprinkles of parsley, generous amounts of rosemary and then green tulsi tea leaves with a dash of honey. Healthy and great with a book and music in the background. Trust me, health shows on the face.

Like ma has taken to saying these days, it took the efforts of India's armed forces to whip some discipline into the days of my life! :-)

Of Little Girls and Anecdotes

Something weird has been happening....I have started to enjoy cooking and several things girlie! Like I was telling my cousin Sara, I hope whatever it is goes away soon!

That apart, even as I am typing this, I realise how much I was missing writing here. I have managed to ignore my blog quite a lot, but just as always, the addiction to write seems to be gripping again. Good!

That apart, too many things have been happening and I have been telling myself that I don't have the time to write about them. For one, I have been spending beautiful moments with family, the extended kinds, with the most adorable nieces (we seem to have an abundance of beautiful girls in our family! Wink wink!), cousins who have become sisters (you all know who you are!) and friends who have become family. There have been many episodes of bonding and friendship and goodness in life, all of which I so needed, still need.

I must say, thank you all for all that you continue to be, each of you precious people in my life. Hmmm I almost feel like picturing sunflowers and sunshine and pretty dresses and smiles and perfume and good food and music and conversations... (whatever is happening!?)

That apart again, I know that I am not going to write about my pan-India trip in detail, it will spoil the joy of discovery and moments of experience that made up that one month. Instead, read anecdotes from that trip, little incidents and stories, bit by bit.

As for now, the days ahead await me living them, day by day, bit by bit.

Monday, October 12, 2009

When Alice Went to Toyland

There is a belief among the media, an informal one, that once you work at Indian Express, there is this strange attachment that you develop, something that only a person who has worked there will ever understand. A while ago now, I was flipping through something and came across this old article of mine that I had written for Sunday Express. I remember that trip so well, the one to Channapatna.
The toys from there that I grew up playing with, so the place was especially moving for me. I just had to paste it here.

Read the story here, originally published in the Sunday Express on Jan 13, 2008.

And here is the story, in case the link does not work:


Alice in Toyland:

Does the survival of art mean art in its original form, I wonder. To a puritan, the digression of the artisans at Channapatna could mean the shameful fading out of an institution that staggered on for almost a dozen decades. But can that evolving tradition be seen as one last desperate attempt before the final blow of modernity, of Barbie dolls and GI Joes, strikes? That is the question I want to seek answers to at the lazy little town of Channapatna, 60 kms from Bangalore, home to the world renowned, very colorful wooden toys.

We travel to Kalanagar, just off the state highway. It is the main production hub for the toys, we are told and even before we can stop to ask for directions, we spot the Lacquerware Craft Complex, a common facility owned by the Karnataka State Handicrafts Development Corporation Limited. Predictably, the officer in charge reels off a list of statistics: 6.5 acres of land around the facility, 254 houses leased to artisans, 1,000 registered workers, 6,000 who know how to make the famed toys, 3,000 of whom are currently working, about 150 exporters, between Rs 20-25 for one kg of ‘Aale-wood’, which is used to make the toys. The officer points out that wood is supplied not by the Forest Department but by private parties. He is quick to assert that almost all of the artisans are “comfortable” and earn well, with the generous help of the government, of course. It is one fact that we are soon able to refute, after some digging around.

The common facility is a blessing for several artisans though. It houses several power driven machines that saw the wood and help shape it to the required design. About 15-20 skilled artisans each pay Rs 90 per month for one machine, and share the electricity bill. They also buy their own wood and their own colours. And therein begins their tale of woe.

Siddappa looks very old, the deep lines on his face filled to the brim with saw dust from wood shavings. His father was a potter but government training got him inducted in the toy making industry. Misty-eyed, he rues the fact that he can now earn only Rs 250-300 per week, while the younger workers could earn that amount in one day itself. The pinks and oranges and yellows are made from lac and colours that cost up to Rs 200, he says. Contrary to my assumption that it is a dying industry, Siddappa says that the demand for Channapatna products is growing, more so in the international market, but what is crippling is the raising costs of production.

The craftsmen shape the wood at the factory and colour it. The final product is made at their homes, where, most often, several other members of the family are also involved. The finished artifacts are then either sold to the government units or to private parties and exporters. Several households in Kalanagar engage in ‘‘patri-work’, shaping and making the toys using hand driven devices quite similar to a lathe.

On any given day, the woman of a household would be juggling her cooking, minding her children and using the Patri to make colorful key chains and toys, her hands working the Patri at the blink of the eye. Most, like Rukkamma, try to maintain strict “office hours” and work before the “kids come home”. Though she happily demonstrates for us, Rukkamma finishes her work earlier than usual because work went on till midnight the previous night, she says. For all of this, her family would take home up to Rs 150 per day. “It is a very profitable field if we market our produce but we choose to sell it at low rates in the wholesale market rather than get into the hassle of marketing,” says her husband Papanna. I spot a tinge of pride in his voice when he says his daughter Ramya learnt the art by observing, just like he did from his father. She goes to school though.

The art of making Channapatna toys has been around since 1924 when one ‘Iskul Babasmia’ (called so because he started a school to train artisans) learnt the art in Japan and brought it to the then Mysore state. It is another story that the patriotic Mia committed suicide because he did not want to serves in the British army.

In the late 1980s, the government leased out houses to the artisans under various schemes. Most continue to sit for work under weather-beaten, framed copies of the lease document that occupies center stage amongst collages of local film stars and other entertainment paraphernalia. Nearly half have repaid the lease amounts but the houses have not yet been registered in their names. Amanulla Khan of Shahid Handicrafts, a largely export oriented unit, initially feigns indifference at having to give yet another interview. But soon he begins to list out a set of problems that he says are ruining livelihoods.

Contrary to the peachy view the government officer was trying to feed us with, Khan tells us that it is a wonderful and very profitable field to be in, but he would not encourage people to get into it because of the obvious lack of facilities from the government. His lament includes a mention of the lack of wood, unscheduled power cuts, subsequent delay in supply to exporters and the ensuing problems. He is also setting up a union of artisans to regulate prices and fight for their rights. Md Sayeed, another artisan, talks of the strict export requirements that he has to adhere to when he sends his painted bracelet pieces to Delhi for assembling and exporting.

If there was a cataloguing of hues, the products of Channapatna would cause a riot of colours. From Russian dolls to bullock carts to rocking horses to intricately designed vintage cars and spinning tops to whistles, pipes, slices of life depicted in wood, baby rattles, curtain rings and mantle pieces to fashion accessories, the stores of Channapatna present a invasion of every conceivable colour to the senses. The kind of toys that I played with when I was little now occupy a much smaller shelf space. What sells is stuff that fashion sensitive households want to keep in a discreet corner to add a dash of ethnic colour. The lacquering technique is being passed on, though the original products are no longer wanted in the market. At least the technique survives, I keep telling myself. Near blinded by the fantastic vortex of hues, colours that are drawn from lives in India, I cannot make up my mind if this manner of survival is good for the art form in itself or not.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Thoughts of Pahadi Dudes!


I've eaten your bread and salt,
I've drunk your water and wine;
The deaths ye've died I've watched beside
And the lives that ye've led were mine.

-- Rudyard Kipling

The hills behind, parts of them, are with enemy Pakistan. The boys, sitting outside their humble hut, were reluctant to pose, but soon their smiles turn wide. And free. They must have once slept to the lullaby of guns...They must have been watched from other forward posts when they went shepherding their cattle in the afternoons....

The LoC was such an overwhelming, intense, humbling experience....


For no apparent reason, the song 'Tujhse Naraz Nahin Zindagi, Hairaan Hoon...' from the movie Masoom (listen to it here) is playing in a loop in my mind.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Peek


Hello everyone, I am back. The picture you see above is a peek into what I was doing the last one month.

There is much to write. And write I will, for my memories to stay afresh, some dark, some humble, some others.
Highlights you ask?

The top one was patrolling with Indian Army troops along the LoC at Poonch sector, Jammu and Kashmir. There was a tanker ride. Then a day at sea getting burnt. Close to Pakistan, the 'enemy', talked about with contempt and hated with passion. The jawans who shared their rotis and stories of home. Melancholic songs of longing around a midnight fire.

A month of rajma and dal makhni and aloo parantha.

Humility, almost a reverence.

Yes, I have a lot to write about. And I will, very soon.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A File That I Opened, Only to Find Many Memories

I wonder what it is about nostalgia that strikes a chord. That tug at the heart beat, that smile that invariably creeps in...

Last night, nursing this sudden insomnia of mine, I was going through an old file and it opened up a torrent of memories. I found some old letters, some bits of college that I had managed to preserve in those folds.

A friend of mine, one I no longer keep in touch with, had written a letter when I got my first job. Reading the letter brought back memories of the day when the then resident editor had personally called and told me my appointment was through, the euphoria of the first job! Nothing can possibly replicate it. I also remember ma's response, a cool huh! given that she was so confident that I would get it! Mothers!!
It brought back thoughts of that day when life was suddenly nice and I felt all important. That first job!

Then there were issues of Campus Courier, a daily newspaper sheet we had to bring out at uni. That made me think of the hours we would slog there, typing away and then learning to make the pages in Quark Express. Then there was the special issue for independence day, a colour one, of Madhyama Mangala, another mag broadsheet we had to bring out. I remember the days and nights we had slogged for it, the hurried walks in the late evening back to hostel, the high that work used to bring.....good days, idealistic days, simple days.

In another part of the folder were some old stories and articles I had written for college assignments and others. The best one that brought a huge smile was a "ghost story" that I wrote when I was probably 11 years old, one of my earliest 'surviving' works!! I must put that up here sometime....

Then there was the Kannada story that I had read out at All India Radio some years ago when I was interning there briefly. Those were super fun days when computers were first introduced in the station at Madikeri and all of us were learning to work them together. Often, I would end up exploring Cool Edit Pro and passing it on to the seniors. Radio perhaps touches people more than any other media. I remember reading the letters we would get from remote villages about how they loved all the programmes and how AIR was their lifeline. I remember that some bed-ridden listener had sent in a postcard appreciating my story after it was broadcast. Those first thrills!

Then there were the first college assignments. The parents, Raksha the best friend and I had gone in search of Jenu Kurubas, a tribe in Kodagu and spoken to them. One of them, after letting others of his tribe talk about their problems, had remarked that in the end I would only write in black on a white paper; their lives would remain the same. That line continues to haunt me.

Then there were the words that I wanted written on my tombstone! How morbid!! Some other stories and articles.
It sprang to my mind several little parts of my life so far, not forgotten, but those that had slipped into far corners when my mind was making other memories.

Titiba the birds, the food that I grew up on, writing, old poetry, friends and several memories. All of which will soon make many more posts on these pages :-) Ah nostalgia!!


Meanwhile, I am going to be away for a while. This weekend, I go to Kochi and from there to different parts of the country for a month on a defence correspondents' course :-) One month is a little too long to be away from some semblance to routine, but well...So there you go, my dear readers, I shall be back with lots and lots of tales to tell. Take care, dear people.


Tuesday, August 04, 2009

I Found My Chennaiah!


The bangle seller has always fascinated me and I have tried to pay tributes in these pages. Last, I wrote about two folk songs with the bangle seller at the centre of them here. Then, I wrote about how much I loved a play here, again the bangle seller was the protagonist there.
And then, just near where I live, the best friend and I chanced upon this bangle seller. Lovely colours, the nostalgia, the songs that ma taught me. The best friend took the pictures and I had to buy a dozen bangles.
The man had a very amused look on his face. Muttering to himself, he walked away. I did not ask him his name. He will always be the Chennaiah of my songs for me.

Friday, July 24, 2009

At the best of times, it doesn't really matter.

At the worst of times, by flux or otherwise, at least in the meta physical sense, I tend to be standing alone in the face of the stormy winds. Those times when the moral support of the loved many fills but three fourths of the void. Those times when all you crave is a simple smile, a warm hand, if not a full hug.

Times like those, you get a chance to see what it must feel like to be really poor, to be standing outside a restaurant and not have money, you know, those sad, sad things....

Those times....
What is it that they say? History repeats itself. And there is a pattern to that as well....

Damn!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Along Life's Journey

Life, I mention somewhere in posts before this, is the greatest journey I have ever been on. And it continues. I have, in this journey, met hundreds of people. Some I remember enough to become footnotes for me. Some stay on, some, despite all efforts, don't. Or rather cannot. What do you say to them those who get off mid-way?

My journey has been, for lack of a better word, an incredible one. And I include the good and bad part of it. Family is something that you are born into. My friends....except for perhaps the best friend Raksha, I met the rest of my bestest friends in the most unusual of circumstances---on bicycle rides from school in another state to an assignment to college to another random meeting at work. I have been told off for the friends I have, well, that's another saga for another day. I shall not talk of them that form my support system.

What can I say today? People come in, travel a while in this journey with me and get off. There is often pain at that, in various degrees. There is shock at the unexpected, at the unannounced. All I have today is the best of wishes. A hope that all lives that touched mine are happy always. Goodbyes are never nice words. I would prefer good wishes, good luck and take cares.

And that is all I have, all that is left. No clever quotes, no lines of melancholic songs, no screen of mist before my eyes, no smart lines to write. Just a take care. Just a wish for happiness and peace forever along other individual journeys.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Life is Beautiful (Though Conditions Still Apply)

Rambling is easy, isn't it? Just pull all thoughts from your brain and throw it out there, out wherever, and breathe in relief, its no longer screaming at you in your head. Well, the thoughts are "out there" but the reasons and the issues never really go away.

Sometimes, life or people in it try to teach you something. Rebel that I am, I resist and scream and shout, but life wins, most of the time. At other times, it lets me have the delusion that I have won, but the lesson I learn either ways.

If I sift and sort through all the layers and peel apart the many worries that plague the days and the brief nights, I notice that, conditions applied, life is still beautiful. Not screaming from the rooftops, jumping with joy kind of happiness, but there is still a lot to smile and laugh about.

There are beautiful people, lovely times, each memory a page I can later turn back to and smile again, fleeting moments that, collectively, make it all worth it.I might not agree with myself on some days, but given a choice now, I wouldn't have wanted life any other way. It is, after all, a strange ride. And I can proudly tell the world, I survived.

And that is what makes life, my life, the greatest journey I have ever been on.

Originally posted at http://thoughtsthatcomeby.blogspot.com

A Sigh of Peace and Paradise



"This is what happiness was---he'd never known it before; this melting away, this exaltation, your guts spilling into your head, filling your eyes---your mind transformed into your body, your body instinct with the joy in your mind; this sensation of reality having met its end." Amitav Ghosh, The Glass Palace


It hasn't been any time lately that I felt this way, this happy, this exaltation, this utter joy. Life, I find, has other plans for you; such exaltation just a rare treat when you are good. Not that I have been the picture of goodness often. But happy I must say I am. If not over the top, cloud 9, yippeeee kind of happy, at least peaceful, I am breathing again kind of happy.


The latest one was going home. When a place looks as alive and beautiful as it does in the pictures above, you cannot but feel that pang of joy. We have a little stream in our fields below the house. Ma was telling me one night about how it had overflown in just under three hours, its tiny banks bursting, after a bout of lashing rains. I just knew then I had to revisit childhood again.


I have always wanted to be in Cherrapunji during the monsoon, even after it has been usurped from its wettest place on earth post. I like to believe it would be just as beautiful as Madikeri during the rains. Wet, very very cold, misty. It was through all this that we forced ourselves out of bed every morning for school. It was quite impossible to stay dry; I don't think I ever went to school dry, unless Appa was dropping me. The rains thunder down from the sides there; with strong rains, it was impossible that you could keep yourself and the books dry. The books invariably won that battle.

But I tell you, monsoon in Madikeri is as romantic an image of paradise as you can get. It gets cold, very much so. Forget rain dancing, a single drop is enough to start shivering there. What seems fantasy now was what I did almost every afternoon, curl up in bed with a book, a hot cup of coffee, a thick blanket, possibly a diary too, for those rushing thoughts. It has remained, the epitome of romanticism, the urge for every rainy day thereafter.

And there I was, soaking it in again. The cold. The rain. Getting wet. The gush of wind on my face. The wetness. Green the colour of live. Home. The joy and exaltation of being a pahadi, a girl of the hills.

The mountains. There was a peace and a brief peep into childhood, its simplicities, its dreams.

And it was raining in paradise.

Monday, June 22, 2009

When Chennaiah Came Home

ಬಳೆಗಾರ ಚೆನ್ನಯ್ಯ ಬಾಗಿಲಿಗೆ ಬಂದಿಹನು
ಒಳಗೆ ಬರಲಪ್ಪಣೆಯೆ ದೊರೆಯೇ?

Chennaiah, the bangle seller, comes home and seeks permission to enter. He is from the town of Navilooru, where the women are known for their beauty and the jasmine for its fragrance. The lovely town is where the master's wife is from, where the smell and soul of the earth emanates. An old man, with a cloth bag full of the most colourful glass bangles, hunched from age, walks down the flight of steps to the background of those famous words and sits besides the house of the master. And thus begins one of the most beautiful plays I have seen in recent times, Mysooru Mallige (ಮೈಸೂರು ಮಲ್ಲಿಗೆ) based on the poetry of Dr K S Narasimha Swamy.

The parents and I were at Ranga Shankara yesterday, a delightful place, a brilliant concept. The play, directed by B V Rajaram, is a musical by the playwright Rajendra Karanth who plays Chennaiah. The story, interspersed delightfully with poems of Narasimha Swamy, was humourous and touching towards the end, though it dragged for a wee bit in the middle when my mind went wandering. The play follows the life of the poet from the time he gets married till he grows old, when the children are away and his life's work sold off to buy medicines for his wife.

Most of the actors were good, especially Chennaiah himself. The bangle sellers have always fascinated me. I last wrote about them here. The play brought it all back, the large doses of nostalgia and memories of all those lazy afternoons spent listening to Ajji's stories, humming these songs that my mother taught me or letting my imagination run amok.

Narasimha Swamy's poems are mainly on love, at least that is what he was most famous for. From ನಮ್ಮೂರು ಚಂದವೋ, ನಿಮ್ಮೂರು ಚಂದವೋ where there is a tussle between the girl and the boy, during their courtship, as to whose town is better, to ರಾಯರು ಬಂದರು ಮಾವನ ಮನೆಗೆ ರಾತ್ರಿಯಾಗಿತ್ತು where the son-in-law rushes to his in-laws house where his wife is visiting and is not allowed to meet her for a long time.

Well, you know what, I simply cannot translate those words. His poetry was known for its simplicity and I shall not do any further injustice by attempting a translation. I just wonder how long these poems will survive. Chennaiah is slowly walking away with his bangles, the earth does not emanate the smell of its soul anymore, no one wears jasmine flowers in their hair or wears bangles. Love is no longer waiting for long letters and being happy with a glance from beneath the eyelashes.

Nostalgia? You bet. I am as much a part of this guilt as the next person. These are all songs I knew the whole lyrics of once. I rarely sing them, most people have probably never heard of the poet. What do I do about it? What does anyone do about it? Zilch. We are all so involved in trying to earn a salary that there is scant attention that the practice of living gets. Of course there is that easy way out, that dubious front of 'excuses' we all hid behind and pass off the "burden" of carrying forward culture and tradition. Tradition is nice, to explain away that saree you wear and the rare bindi you sport. Culture is nice too, on a Sunday evening when there is a music concert (most likely a fusion or some esoteric music form) you can attend in a little room with wine and loud speakers. But no, it is not your responsibility to ensure you teach others the songs your mother taught you.

You and I continue to chase the Chennaiah with his bangles away. How pathetic can culture get?

Friday, June 19, 2009

When is a Smile, Just a Smile?

A Bengali colleague of mine smiles a lot at people in the office. Apparently, (and I might be totally wrong to generalise here) Bengalis are taught to smile at people and be friendly and all that. Maybe they didn't quite think of the consequences. Or, more likely, the ones who taught these little nuggets that made for good upbringing were themselves born in another era when smile was, innocently, just a smile.

No, I don't volunteer a smile to a stranger; not even to those I see everyday in office, the ones I don't talk to. That's not too nice a thing, and I am not doing this for that necessary surge of my otherwise little known cynicism about life in general and nicety and smiles in particular. I just probably learnt lessons, got drummed down that a smile---how dare you think otherwise---is rarely just that.

I have got myself stuck with dumb ones, irritating ones, lecherous ones, the whole gamut of varieties humans take shape in because of little smiles and a hi, hello now and then. And yes, I mainly mean men here. (And no, I am NOT a feminist, no matter how many times or ways you accuse me of being one. I truly believe men and women are different, not better, not worse, just plain different with different strengths and weaknesses.)

So back to that elusive smile. Have you been in a situation where you, most likely totally by accident, caught a colleague or someone you see often's eyes and couldn't turn away without that bit of awkwardness creeping in? You try and salvage a bit of what is soon turning even more strange by smiling, not a 'happy to see you' one, but more like a 'ok, I see you often and this was a little strange, so I might as well smile' kind of smile. And then, that colleague will see you again another day and smile and then some days later a hi creeps in and suddenly, it is all spiralling out of control and that person thinks of you as a new best friend! Eesh! (Another Bengali expression another colleague amuses me with.)

I would like to be cynical. But these things do lead to good friendships also, no denying that. But the scales tip towards the other lot who see this as a license to flirt and pass snide remarks and then the offer for coffee. Eesh again!

For heavens sake, a smile is a smile. Full stop. Period. Doesn't mean you are my new best friend. Doesn't mean we will be having dinner together two days from now. Doesn't even mean you can text me asking if I had my breakfast/lunch/dinner/tea/whatever, as if all these days I was starving, given that you were not asking before. It means nothing, no invitation, no nothing.

And then, suddenly, with more embarrassing moments, you have to begin to ignore that person like there is a direct chance of contracting swine flu (H1N1, politically correctly!) and find excuses to look away and the rest of the story....

But then, when people choose not to understand, you can scream down their throats and they will still not get it. It is just safer to look away and not relax your muscles upwards. Whoever said smile to brighten up someone's day, smile--someone might be falling in love with you and all that super sugary quotes lived probably in a children's/teen's novel.

And this was another surge of the little known streak of cynicism that I previously mentioned.
This one was entirely for you Sa.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

You know what, they (don't ask me who "they" are) say that a picture can speak a thousand words. Now, the other best friend is a brilliant photographer and I have been across some brilliant pictures of his, and others. I like to believe that I take ok-ok pictures too. So ask me about the power of pictures and I could tell you my two-bit opinion. Now, I know all that, but somehow, it is nothing compared to the memories you get.

I went to the best friend Raksha's house today, newly married girl and all that. As is our practice, we talked too much and I forgot to check the time and ended up horribly late in the office. Also, as usually, I was out taking pictures of both of us, precariously holding my mobile (I DON'T like the camera in E71) at a distance, trying several angles, exasperating her, again as always.

And so one of the good ones has landed up on my mobile wallpaper. It has us showing all our teeth and giggling. I love the picture but it comes no where close to that moment, and many such, where there we are, laughing over something downright silly, cribbing about everything but ourselves ;-) and being girls. No matter how good the picture, it can never capture moments, the sounds and the smells and the whole moment that buries itself soon in the banter of everyday life, in the folds of pages that you live through.

You visit a place, a lovely range of mountains, a brook, a whatever that catches your fancy. For me, no picture can be equal to the memory of me being there, the people I was with, the moments.

It was good, being with the girl friend. Sometimes there is no better mood-lifter than talking to the girl friends.

That apart, Rishi sir told me how to use the Google transliteration tool. It is so super cool for the me who can't type otherwise in my own mother tongue. I was also humming the lines below, apart from several others. Here's a little secret: I hum or sing a lot all day long, I need music when I am working at home and I do love music of strange kinds. (Not that this 'secret' should make any dents to your lives!)

ಅತ್ತಾರೆ ಅತ್ತು ಬಿಡು ಹೊನಲು ಬರಲಿ

ನಕ್ಯಾಕ ಮರಸತಿ ದುಃಖಾ

ಎದೆ ಬಿಡಿಸಿ ಕೆಡವು, ಬಿರಿಗಣ್ಣು ಬ್ಯಾಡ

ತುಟಿ ಕಚ್ಚಿ ಹಿಡಿಯದಿರು ಬಿಕ್ಕ

Roughly translated it means:

Cry, if you have to, why do you try to forget pain by laughing, open your heart, don't keep your eyes wide open, don't suppress the cries with a bite on your lips.

Immortal lines, written by the Kannada poet Dattatreya Ramachandra Bendre. And but of course, the translation does no justice to the original.

Sometimes, it would be nice to just let yourself go. Cry. Smiling would be easier then, I suppose.