Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Shakespearean Report - Akira Yamashita

Now, this is a ritual members of Shakespeare and Co, is familiar with. Those who aren't do peruse the following for the incidental merriment, it might provoke.

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My friend Akira Yamashita who was present at the Shakespearean Round Table Meet at Tea Centre on 19/5/2007 has requested me to post this report of the proceedings. Akira is taking a short break from Shakespeare and Co. at the Mount Fuji retreat of his uncle, Morita.

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Report of Shakespearean round table meet in Bombay on 19/5/2007.

- By Akira Yamashita, chairman

I write this report on the request of my good and trusted friend John Matthew. I had great pleasure chairing the meeting of the august company of writers that is the Bombay chapter of Shakespeare and Co. So, herewith is my report, for your reading pleasure, and, maybe, merriment.

The harsh summer sun plays on the leaves of the trees in Bombay University’s compound, and the roads have the element of summer written all over it as I lug my cloth bag and wend my way towards Tea Center, where the august assembly of Indian writers is to take place. I am all humbleness before these writers who have much more talent than I. In all meekness I accept that I am not worthy of chairing such exalted gathering of writers. I have never chaired a meeting in my life back in Nagasaki. But when John Matthew-san is so persuasive I cannot but oblige.

The great writer Maya-san, she of the writerly angst and animated expressions, calls me to say she is sick, and therefore asks for leave of absence. I grant it forthwith. When I reach Tea Center, John-san, early as usual, is waiting for me clutching a Diesel handbag which I immediately recognize as fake. They are made in China, John-san.

I bow to John-san who bows in return. John-san and I have one thing in common which is our bald heads, shiny with the sweat of the summer afternoon that continues to simmer. I look at John-san, our eyes meet after our bows are complete, and realize that our friendship has grown in spite of the various spats we have had on the board of Shakespeare and Co. I offer my profound apologies for criticizing his poems as tasteless and insipid, which he gracefully accepts, reasonable man that he is. His creased forehead shows he is vexed by several pressing problems which we discuss, before the other members of the august association arrive.

Then I espy Anil Siqueira, in characteristic printed tee-shirt and an air of distraction about him. Anil-san was John-san’s boss in a previous corporate incarnation. We bow and greet each other. Meanwhile Pushpa Moorjani, a regular at Shakespeareans’ meetings arrives and we decide to go in and occupy a table in Tea Center which is filling up fast with people. The Saturday crowd is similar to the one when I had given Shakespeareans a tea ceremony some days ago. There is a balding man and a rather buxom and attractive lady in a corner, engaged in what I could deduce must be clandestine talk. I let them be. But I keep a watchful eye on them. After all, I am interested in Indian courtship rituals. It will be useful when I am searching for the perfect “Mami” to cook “Rasam” for me.

C Ravishankar, who in the meanwhile, is having a masala dosa somewhere nearby bustles in. He is wearing a black shirt. I bow to this man who is unleashing his talent on SandC like a Japanese tornado. Why, he even takes his laptop to bed, poor chap. I admire him and his poetic talent, which might run deep, though by profession he is a management consultant.

Pushpa Moorjani has written a poem about that day’s bomb explosion, which appeared prominently in the papers. I am amazed by the woman’s presence of mind. Well, she must be admired for having written a poem so soon about an event that happened that very day. The poem is titled “Hyderabad Blues” a link to which is appended below.

Pushpa-san follows it up with “Charminar” which is, as you have guessed, about Hyderabad. I am totally charmed by this lady’s prowess with words. I execute a deep bow, and invite her to drink the tea that is served by the waiter dressed in green livery. His ample paunch is proof that Tea Center is generous to its employees. The couple in the corner have not made much progress. This frustrates me a bit, but I carry on chairing the meeting nevertheless.

And right when things are getting a bit cool, and conversation is faltering, I see Jane Bhandari escorted by a dashing gentleman by the name Lt. Col. (Dr.) KK Puri whom I will call Puri-san. John-san tells me that Puri-san is the son of the former-movie-hero-turned-villain of Bollywood cinema -- Madan Puri.

Puri-san is a poet too, and in his clear diction reads his poems. Bye the bye it is turning out to be quite a poetry evening, I observe. His poems are “Who Do I Mourn for” written to his beloved wife who passed away three years back; another poem full of mischief titled, “On Sundari’s Paunch” dedicated to his daughter; and finally, “To My Father” for the above mentioned Madan Puri. His father who used to inspire awe and fear in John-san (in movies like Roti, Kapda aur Makan) was, according to his son, quite a pleasant and lovable chap.

Jane-san reads us poems “On Moving Day” and “Night Trains in Matunga,” which carry her stamp of primness and precision. “Night Trains…” is part of a collection she is working on about living in the big, bad city of Bombay -- the tragedies of which are too numerous to mention here. This lady too deserves my utmost reverence and adulation for her poetic skills.

I look at the couple in the corner. Well some progress has been made and they are canoodling, their hands hovering over each other in unconcealed passion. Oh, the sweetness of infatuation! Indians after all are the ones who taught us staid Japanese the art of making love. I must recommend the book Zen Sex (God, no, not Sensex!) to my worthy friends of Shakespeare and Co.

And then in breezes Yogesh Chabria, who narrates a very interesting story in the oral story telling tradition of Mukashibanashi. His story is about a railway tea vendor who, in the middle of the night shouts at a station, “Chayee, chay, drink the world’s worst tea.” Needless to add, people sit up in their bunk beds in the small hours of the morning to drink this man’s heavenly tea at Rupees fifteen a cup. That’s Indian ingenuity for you. I think there is a lesson for us Japanese in this. John-san says this is called “negative advertising” in advertising argot. I will put this idea to my friends Suzuki-san and Toyota-san.

Then the discussion veers to clichés and such like. Ravishankar-san wants to know what a “cliché” is and someone says “Raining cats and dogs” is a cliché. Siqueira-san immediately interjects, “When it rains cats and dogs, you step into a poodle.” Actually it is a “puddle” but I will give this learned gentleman, this Anil Siqueira, his due. The brilliance of his repartee has me astonished at the inventiveness of Indian writers of Shakespeare and Company.

I look at the couple in the dingy corner who get up to go, I don’t know where. By now they are cosying up to each other and are holding hands. I don’t know if the other Shakespeareans have noticed, but the night is still young for this “lovey-dovey” couple; (beg forgiveness for using the cliché), profound apologies.

Though myself, Akira-san, hasn’t been able to woo the perfect rasam-making, sitar-teaching south Indian mami, there is still hope. Bengaluru here I come, after reading all about Zen Sex on Mount Fuji.

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