Thursday, January 29, 2009

Life's Painful Transitions

In reply to this post by the venerable James Joyce who mourns the closing of the landmark Premier bookshop in Bangalore, I wrote the following piece, which is (I hope) as evocative as his. It's all about transitions: how shops close and shopkeepers migrate, buildings are pulled down, friends/relations die and are replaced by newer ones. This is one is all about renaissance and the renaissance man I hope to be remembered as, some day. Any day!

"Wonderfully moving piece this, very evocative of my own life, the places I have moved to, the people I once knew and now miss, the countries I have visited, the colleagues I have worked with, the landmarks which once were thought to be indispensible.

"When my parents died I thought there was nothing worth living in the world. There was such pain thinking about their struggle and my acceptance of the inevitability of their death. It took me a long time to come to terms with the loss. The ancestral home didn't have occupants and descended into dust and disuse, the children migrated to far places, cobwebs invaded the once inhabited places, the courtyard was overgrown with weeds, and the surrounding fields were untended. No cows sauntered lazily in the field, no hens and cocks clucked or crowed. But new things replaced the old, new situation gave rise to familiar family situations, new friendship and enemity kept me occupied (a kind of balance exists, the more friends I get, the more enemies I gather), as did personal growth or the lack of it. I guess everything in life is in transition, always. We must keep moving, else it's over for us. If I go on vacations for a month and come back I can see the place change so much that I have to struggle to adapt. There's a new building that has sprouted out of nowhere in my locality, a tree has suddenly shed its leaves and another has sprouted new ones, a neighbour has suddenly become remote and unfriendly, a new financial crisis looms ahead.

"I guess all this is a part of life, a churning, a transition which is life itself. When I was younger and living in the Bombay suburb of Chembur I thought life will go on as I had imagined then, which was for ever. But now the old buildings have been pulled down for multi-storeyed apartments; new people, new shopping complexes have replaced the grounds where we played cricket. Sleek multiplexes have replaced the place where we used to watch public screening of movies - sitting on the grass or kneeling in dust.

"One thing is certain: a void will not replace the old, but new things, new circumstances and new communities will emerge. If your favorite bookshop is pulled down somewhere down the road, a bigger and newer bookshop will come up, all it would require is for you to change your perception just a little bit."

Caferati’s First Open House Performance

Caferati’s first Open House at Prithvi CafĂ©, Juhu, gave me my first opportunity to perform my poem, “Goodbye Shakti Bhatt.” Obviously, since I have been looking at the prospect of performance versus reading, which, you will agree, is dull and uninspiring.

It wasn’t easy. I practised a lot for a “one minute” appearance and I suddenly knew what pop stars and other performers may be going through before they come on stage and do their bit. Its tough work guys! But I had some training in that I had attended the “Celebrating Shakti Bhatt” workshop (Thank you Tarun Durg, thank you Mukul Chadda), also conducted by Caferati.

The assembly of such talent was a bit awesome, my any reckoning and I was somehow cool because I had rehearsed a lot and therefore knew it wouldn’t be the fiasco it was at Oxford. (That’s another story you will find here!). Writers and poets really performed, one even rolled on the floor to act the police’s “third degree”. It became, sort of, a live testimony to the archaic interrogation methods followed by our law keepers. I have harped here before about the needs of a radical overhaul of the entire policing system. It’s only when we are subjected to the system that we realise how wrong it is and we feel sorry for the ones caught in them.

Laws are for our own good, and the law keepers should ensure that law-abiding citizens shouldn’t be harassed. But how do we define law-abiding? I often wonder if our legislators shouldn’t sit one day and purge all outdated laws, such as some that deal with sexual issues.

Well, that’s beyond the purview of this post, so, sorry, khed hai!

In Passing...

The participants of “MTV Roadies” swear in such colourful language that they must be giving the tape editors a tough time blanking the swear words with “toong, toong.” Sometimes, I guess, they don’t know it when an obscenity has slipped out without their knowing. One vociferous Roadie said “pachade pe...” several times and it wasn’t even blanked out, making me wonder if the editor knew what she meant. Obscene, obscene, utterly obscene, and that too on NATIONAL TELEVISION, watched by millions of very impressionable minds. Talk of corrupting young minds.

What are we coming to, anyway? Shouldn’t there be something like a strong “National Communication Commission (NCC)” to take up such issues like they have in the US?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Sow Confusion; Reap Chaos

Three instances that show the way India operates to those of my readers from abroad. I wouldn’t say this is the norm but I am writing about it because all of this happened today and something struck me as typically Indian, so, ergo, I am blogging it for posterity.

An Inauguration
First was the inauguration of the benches in Valley Park where I go for my morning walk. During my morning walk I was capturing a few thoughts on camera and I thought I would capture this too, so I became a part of largish audience. The very, very important people came and gave speeches and bouquets were handed out. Then a man came with countless number of roses and a long list. He started handing out these roses to all present. Now, I wasn’t presented a rose, so this may be the proverbial “sour grapes,” I don’t know, and before my eyes I saw the assemblage turning into a very confusing aggregation of people calling out to each other, laughing, joking and, um, sort of, “scratch my back while I scratch yours” show. It was then I decided to make my exit, like the fox who said “the grapes are sour.”

Bollywood Blast
Kairali in CBD Belapur is celebrating its 25th anniversary and on stage was Bollywood Blast with some very talented performers. The sound was magnificent without being loud, the songs took me to another era and then back, and Mamta Sharma was holding the audience spellbound with her performance. Then she decided it was time to become more popular and let the show descend into mayhem. More confusion ensued, all the children were called on stage, being natural dancers, they started dancing and they in turn became the performers. The result was that the show descended from well-planned affair, which was what it started out as, into one where even completely bald men and geriatric women came on stage and began dancing their arthritic dance. Ho hum!

Star Screen Awards
I came home to watch the Star Screen Awards and here again absolute ad hocism prevailed. I have always been reserved about the unconventionality of Sajid Khan’s compeering. He tries to take it upon himself to entertain the audience at the cost of embarrassing the guests, which is not a good thing if guests are a bit reticent or shy. In this awards ceremony he went a bit over the top and director Ashutosh Gowarikar got very angry and when he came on stage to receive the award for best picture for “Jodha Akbar” he expressed his concern and when Sajid tried to interrupt told him to shut up.

That wasn’t all, more angry words passed between them and all the stars, the good actors that they were, sat in open-mouthed embarrassment at the exchange (Hritik, Priyanka, Arjun, etc.). Some even shook their heads in utter disbelief. In these days of “reality television” the channel saw this as a good way of making some good small change for their cash boxes. They showed promos and spots of the face-off so as to gain more TRPs for the program. And just before they showed the confrontation they had an overlong ad break which had me really biting my nails in frustration.

Why, oh, why can’t we organise these things better and let it draw to its pre-planned conclusion. Is it in our genes or something? I have seen worse, but when these three happened in the same day, in the space of a few hours, I was sort of dazed. It really took some getting over, these shenanigans.

An amazing sunset on Marine Drive


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Received this in the mail: a New Con Game

I am so happy! It's a dream come true! I never imagined in my mundane uneventful life that I would be a filthy rich dollar millionaire. But now my friend Mr. Smith Raymond [why is a surname masquerading as a first name, the whole thing takes on an aura of suspicion] informs me that I have an ATM card with $ 6.8 million in my name. Hurray! But being the compulsive spender that I am I think I will gift it away. Anybody want 6.8 million US greenbacks? Write to me at your own risk. Now for some grammatical nitpicking which I often tend to do as a habit:

This is to officially inform you that (ATM Card Number; [wrong punctuation should have been a : not a ;] 5278763100030014 with a fund worth 6.8 Million Dollars has been accredited ["credited", Mr. Raymond not "accredited", the latter means "being recognised"] in your favor, [sacrilegious, no space after commer] Please Contact Mr Smith Raymond ( [if you are such a big millionaire giving away millions why a humble account?] With the following, Full Name: Delivery Address: Age: Occupation: and Phone Number: [care to explain why you think I am so dumb as to give all this information on the Internet?]

Best Regards.
Mr Smith Raymond.

Thank you Mr. Smith Raymond, but much as I would like to (being the gullible guy that I am), anyway, I am a bit reluctant to take your offer as our income tax guys would take away 30 per cent of that huge amount and the balance is not worth the trouble. But I am willing to pass the chance to my readers! Anyone? Write me.

Atavism, the Cavedweller Mentality

I guess we are a primordial, primitive society still. I mean we have not overcome the jealousy factor. Early in my career when people realised I wanted to be a writer the first thing that came out of their mouths was, "You can't be a writer." Then again this refrain was repeated in my first ever job as a journalist and writer, then again when I started my corporate writing career. A friend a Veepee no less told me that they told him he didn't know his job. "So you want to be an actor? Why, you can't act." "You want to paint? You can't paint" seems to be the constant refrain we cavedwellers have been subjected to by our club-wielding neighbours. Such atavism prevails!

Nobody, well, nobody, ever said to me, "Don't listen to those buggers who say 'You can't write' and keep writing." So, ergo, this is a vicious, embittered world that tries to put you down, and dishearten you. As a boy I loved to read. So when I would retreat to my room with my books they would say, "Why is this boy reading all the time?" (If I went out and played, they would say, "why is this boy playing all the time?") Well, primitive societies used to keep each other's ambitions in check by criticising each other viciously, it hasn't changed much, it still prevails. We haven't changed a bit, the Bombay terror attacks and the Gujarat genocide proves that we will not change, however much we try. And now they say the perpetrators of the Malegaon blasts wanted to change India into something like Hitler's Their Reich.

So to anyone working hard in their own profession I would say, "Don't listen to them who say you can't do it. Just go ahead and do it." This happens a lot in my own chosen profession of writing and I now have enough confidence to thumb my nose at people who said I can't write. Maybe I can't write but I have tried (A novel, countless short stories, poems and travel pieces) while you have sat on your ample behinds and not even tried. If you are feeling a trifle smug because you haven't tried, you are deceiving or have deceived yourself. Our loss is yours, too, so let us wallow in our respective mediocrities. Here's my spell to you all: the curse of history will befall you and you will rot in the hell of mediocrity as the aspiring writer who didn't have the guts to even try. You tell me you have done a great thing by starting a vanity publishing press, I say I am not impressed.

Sorry, guys, couldn't help this rant! A bit muddledheaded here, but that's a temporary thing.

In Passing...
I am surprised and awed to note that I figure in this Directory of Top Blogs in India and Most Widely Read Indian Bloggers. Guess it justifies my ramble!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Got the Winter Sniffles

The winter weather has got to me and I am sniffling and my mouth feels like it is stuffed with straw and the lips are dry and needs constant care. I had escaped the chills till now but the winter has got to me, a bit late though. So took the day off to relax at home, saw at least five movies back to back courtesy of Kuku who offered us a set-top box for free and a DTH connection at Rs 50 per month. The picture clarity is amazing, the reception clear, and to think that I was going to pay Rs 3000 for a set-top box. I will restrict this post to some things I have noticed during the day:

MTV Roadies latest episode is about the participants cleaning some dusty back of nowhere by picking up human execreta, yes, you read right, h-u-m-a-n e-x-c-r-e-t-a, and they were swearing at each other so badly after it that I had to switch channels. I know how humiliating it can be picking up another person’s excreta… yetch… I am retching. At least this should dissuade hopeful from dying to be in the reality show.

Saw a Maruti Swift car in the morning painted with Warli tribal paintings and it looked so out of the ordinary it pleased me greatly. I tried to photograph it for this blog but the driver overtook me and disappeared.

I had written a laborious “one letter” to Obama which I wanted to post here but it got deleted and I will have to do it again I guess. It’s a custom of mine: I write to every democratic president of the US after they are inaugurated. I did it when Carter was inaugurated and ditto when Clinton was inaugurated. I don’t want to break this tradition, so watch this space.

A bird is building a nest on the airconditioner of the flat opposite mine. I can see it but the residents of the building cannot and I marvel at their ingenuity, putting together twig after twig, and weaving them so artfully.

The cashier of a medical store in the locality said, “People give Rs 100 when all they have to pay is Rs 10,” rather sarcastically, as I pulled out a Rs 100 note to pay him. I didn’t want a fight at the end of the day so I pretended I hadn’t heard. Sometimes it is good to “walk away from trouble if you can” as Kenny Rogers sang in his song “The Gambler.”

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Vegetable Shop and the Mumbai Marathon

A man, a neighbour has started a vegetable shop outside the building where I live. He has arranged the vegetable neatly and is standing beside it waiting for customers. I guess, as a person who had a business once (at least tried to), this is the harshest and most frustrating sort of wait, a businessman waiting for the first customer, and more. Starting a business needs guts and the ability to be quick on the feet and doing things. Not all have this ability, this taking of the callousness of customers, their fear whether they are being cheated by a novice, a new comer, who probably knows nothing about running a business.

But my heart goes out for him. Seeing his impatient wait, I ask wifey if she needs anything, some vegetable: aubergine, ladyfinger, drumsticks, tomatoes, anything that I could buy from him, but she, the common-sense-hardened housewife that she is says, “Why does he want to start a shop at his doorstep, maybe he is expensive, maybe he is selling discarded vegetable from the wholesale market.”

Women and their logic! Hats off!

They are running for a cause, I mean citizens (which includes celebrities, socialities, film stars, and stray other wannabes) and the whole of Azad Maidan has been cordoned off into "Media Centres", "Broadcast Vehicles", toilets, barricades, observation posts, and police bundobasts. I wonder who is paying the bills for all this. Couldn't it have gone into building toilets or in keeping whatever toilets there are clean and in usable condition? Have you ever gone into a public toilet without feeling puky and holding your nose and choking yourself in the process?

But who listens to writers anymore. Hmm, grumble, grumble! "Hey don't you worry, men," says Anthonybhai, "I am wearing my chamko sneakers, shorts and tee-shirts and going to ogle at the girls, men, what girls, men, lovely ones in those leotards. They so much like model-bidel, men (wink)".

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Lightning on Al Burj Tower, Dubai, Scary!

A bit scary! Lightning on Al Burj Tower during a stormy night. A bit scary if you are living or working in it. But I don't, so why worry? Are these buildings well protected or will they be another Babel? While the craze to create the tallest building is good, care also to address security issues, terrorism and plain old commonsense issues.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Amitabh Bachhan on "Slumdog Millionaire"

Here's Amitabh Bachhan's much tom-tom-ed and much trumpetedcomment on "Slumdog Millionaire". The Big B is upset that a "murky underbelly" exists in most developed nations. Yes, it does, but is Bachhan aware of the "murky underbelly" in Mumbai? In the above post is a description of the larger-than-life existence of the "Superstar of the Millennium". Oh, it's all about the attention, the sneer turning to admiration, the ice melting, the "ladies with large and affectionate smiles," oh, really? What wouldn't I give to be in his place. But on second thought, the guy needs it all, remember how he got hauled over coals for the wedding of his son and then some thing or the other he says.

"On blog, comments for the film ‘SlumDog Millionaire’ and the anger by some on its contents, prompt me to say the above. If SM projects India as Third World dirty under belly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots, let it be known that a murky under belly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations. Its just that the SM idea authored by an Indian and conceived and cinematically put together by a Westerner, gets creative Globe recognition. The other would perhaps not.

"The commercial escapist world of Indian Cinema had vociferously battled for years , on the attention paid and the adulation given to the legendary Satyajit Ray at all the prestigious Film Festivals of the West, and not a word of appreciation for the entertaining mass oriented box office block busters that were being churned out from Mumbai. The argument. Ray portrayed reality. The other escapism, fantasy and incredulous posturing. Unimpressive for Cannes and Berlin and Venice. But look how rapidly all that is changing. Retrospectives in Paris and New York. Dedicated TV channels running Hindi cinema on prime timings. Premiers at Leiscester Square, the home of all Hollywood royalty, thronged by hundreds on the street in cold biting weather. Affable recognition at most corners of the universe… And a dear friend from Los Angeles wires in that Hollywood is abuzz with India and the phenomenal talent that exists there. We’re talking cinema still!"

Today I came across Shobhaa De's blog article defending Bachhan and here's her view, linked here in an attempt to be democratic, of course. I too am a big fan of Bachhan and Bollywood (but to escape from the tedium, and have revel in some intellectual slumming once in a while) but when a movie like Slumdog Millionaire makes it to the marquee there's no point in running it down by saying that our third-rate, playing to the gallery, completely nonsense entertainers are the standard bearers of good cinema. Grow up, will ya?

Anthonybhai, ever respectful of the Big B's big reputation asks, "Sir, sir, which Bollywood movie won an award? An awkwardly created movie called "Lagaan" tried and failed. How are things changing in Bollywood, sir? Can we attach some realism to movies like CC2C?" I say, "Shhhh, Anthonybhai..., Big B will be angry if he reads this."

And then this appears on Bachhan's blog today: "What a colossal joke this is all turning out to be !! Without reading the text of my blog or the purpose behind mention of ‘SlumDog’ an entire machinery of abuse has been directed towards me.

"Fact is. Some one mentioned the film on my blog. Some expressed opinion for it, some against. And yes they contained some strong assumptions. I merely put both of them up and invited debate. I have done this many times on several issues and there has been great involvement. Media, in India has taken the pros and cons of OTHERS, as MINE, built their headlines and put it safely out, thereby, causing the consternation. All the expressions that have been attributed to me are in fact the expressions of others. Or perceived impressions of others. Where is the indication that this impression is concretely mine ? There is none !! And now after having castigated me for something not attributable to me, it has made my real opinion on the film after seeing it, impossible. If I do not like it there will be greater abuse. If I like it, there will be abuse." Seems, the guy was misunderstood, for which my sincerest apologies, Bachhan-saab, but I will let the above blogpost stay.

And to add more mirch masala, this appears too, "Amitabh Bachan was specially invited for the premier by Akshay Kumar. Although being a special guest, Big B arrived in his escorted mercedes at the venue 25 minutes late. He walked straight through the carpet leaving the crowd disappointed." Fact is Bachhan arrived an hour earlier than Akshay and Deepika and had to drive around London as the organisers told him Akshay hasn't arrived and therefore to go sight seeing around the venue. Poor guy, he is really misunderstood and people like to take a swipe without even thinking, even me!

Satyam, Oh! Satyam!

Satyam! Oh, Satyam! The word means truth, but what a pack of lies it has dealt to investors, the people who sunk the sweat of their brows, harvest of their fallow fields. I don’t have to say much about it, it’s already no brainers by now, I guess. It’s shocking how a company that had ranked with Infosys and Wipro in the IT space has fallen so low and its chairman is now in jail. Investors used to boast they are buying Satyam, Infosys and Wipro at one time. Why did this goliath of the stock market, so full of hope for the future, so fattened by profits fall from grace all of a sudden. It focuses on the muddle that the Indian financial system is reeling under. I guess there are more skeletons in the closet that would tumble out soon. I got this in a joke forwarded to me this morning “PROFIT -- An archaic word no longer in use.” Yes, only if corporations concentrated on making profits for themselves instead of using people’s money to make losses and manipulate figures to drive up market capitalisation. Tall order? Not exactly!

Some days back I attended a reading of poetry organised by P.E.N. at the Theosophy Hall, near where I work. All the known names in poetry from the city were there and Jeet had come from Bangalore, and Ravi Shankar had come from the US (He is founding editor of the international online journal of the arts, Drunken Boat ( Wonder why poetry readings attract a sparse audience of the city’s ageing, greying population. One greying gentleman wore his wrist watch, not on his wrist, but on his belt. The occasion was the reading of Ravi’s anthology “Language for a New Century,” a weighty tome costing Rs 1350, available at a discount for Rs 1250. Can’t afford it at that price! Was poetry being ignored because books of poetry were so expensive? I saw Jeet Thayil read for the first time and I think he is a good performer. Nodded at Annie, Jane left early, Adil, Sampurna, Priya were the people I could identify from photographs.

On the way home a thought struck me and I wrote it down. There’s a passage in the “White Tiger” (Guess I am too much in awe of Balram Halwai and his character) that I will use to illustrate this. Adiga compares lives of people who live in flats and cars to eggs with a hard shell on the exterior and all mush inside. He talks of how the hard shell breaks and exposes the tender inside to the tough, inhospitable outside and how this involves trauma and dithering. Adiga ably captures how Ashok goes into depression and dither after his wife runs her car over an urchin on the road and then leaves him – meaning Ashok. The egg had broken and the yolk was all out and exposed.

When the terror attack occurred something similar happened in Bombay. Rich men (builders, businessmen, leading luminaries) found that their money couldn’t buy them security and that they were equally vulnerable to the twenty-first century’s biggest bane – terrorism. Most of these people have been living in their own air-conditioned egg shells safely cocooned by their servants and security officers so far and didn’t know their lives could be in danger. What a big shock it must have been for them to see their egg shells smashed!

In Passing...
A few days back I saw the movie “Idiocracy.” A must watch for all those spelling challenged morons who are growing up writing and thinking in SMSese. Could be the dystopia we all fear could happen if SMSese is given much tenure in this world. And now they have SMS poetry, too!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Thought that Struck Me about Criticism

A true measure of criticism is "can you create something better or more beautiful than the one you are criticising? Then do it and show us!"

After a writer spends hours, days, and years creating something of beauty, a critic tears it apart in minutes and it loses all value and relevance. So my question to all those who says "such and such should have been done", "it would have been better this way", "I would have done it much better", "If you could have done it better, why not make a beginning and do something, instead of just talking pfaff about it. Show us you have more than just wind in the digestive system waiting to exhale, show what shit you can put out along with, obviously, your farts."

This goes to all those slobby, thick-in-the-waist critics who judge short stories who haven't written a single decent short story, poem, or work of fiction in their mis-spent lives, who sit and judge short fiction, short shorts and such like. I know of a few idea-challenged deceitful scoundrels who like to pontificate loudly about fiction and literature and would like to ask, "what fiction have you written lately, can I have a look?"

A Professional's Guide to Commuting in Bombay!

To this post about commuting in New York by Pragya Thakur (Oh! no, not that one, this one moderates Shakespeare & Co. with the dedoubtable James Joyce alias KVK Murthy). I am regular griper on Twitter about the morning commute. Only today I had a huge fight with a man who tried, successfully, to block me from occupying a vacant seat, a precious piece of real estate in the morning madness (sorry, rush). I became so mad and all het up that I shouted at him, which is what I do when I lose my abundant cool and zen. Hmm, created a scene, sigh! Lost my zen for a few minutes as I stood there quivering and arguing while an opportunistic smart fart coolly sat on the seat in question.

Here's my reply to Pragya Thakur:

"Common problem, rain here sleet in New York. What I do is make sure I have only one piece of luggage with me, i.e., a biggish haversack that can hold a laptop, an umbrella, a purse containing chequbooks and stuff, a torch (yes there are powercuts to think about), glue stick, diary, notebook, stray credit card payments that i have forgotten to drop in the ATM box, lunch box, all this nicely tucked into one big haver sack that I can sling around both shoulders (so no slipping and sliding you see!). I also do a risky jumping into the compartment before the train stops at Victoria Terminus (the station which terrorists attacked recently), and this would be impossible without this contraption - I can bash my competitors for a seat (by the window) with my biggish haversack. I smash into them, hold the dividing rod, push myself in and then do an impossible dive for a window seat. It's risky, don't try it if you aren't an expert in it.

"As for umbrella I buy sturdy three-folding "John's Umbrellas" when I go to Kerala, which are very good, as they are made from some carbon-titanium alloy. All decent Mallus swear by this modern invention of tropical-climate-oriented ingenuity. They fold three times and is neatly tucked into a side pocket of the haversack so that I don't have to open my bag when it rains. Rain? Draw, unfurl, switch the button, it opens like a dream! Would suggest you buy this marvel of tropical thunderstorms when you are in India.

"As for shoes my Bata "Hush Puppies" are so sturdy and sleek that I can step into water with it, give it a shine the next day, and lo and behold, it shines as if it is new! Would suggest you buy sturdy Bata shoes when you are in India next. On casual days I wear "Woodlands" shoes which are comfortable, tough, has traction on soles, and feels as if I am floating when I walk.

"Remember, carry only one piece of luggage, big enough for all your things and you commute like a professional. After all, this comes a professional with twenty nine years of experience. I can vouch that the Bombay commute is a bigger hazard than the New York one."

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Movies, Expensive Lunar Properties, and Shekhar Kapoor on the New Media.

Yesterday was son Ronnie's last exam. Phew! When there's an exam it's we parents who are more tense and edgy. He started the exams with a bad eye infection, starting with the left eye, it gradually spread to the right and his eyes were like swollen pinkish tomatoes. Really, I got so scared, I took a day off to take him to the doc who assured me it's a usual thing. But it took its own time subsiding, leaving me a blubbering mass wondering if my only offspring, the carrier of my legacy will become blind because I was careless. Yeah, you think such stuff when you are angry, upset, depressed. Yes, I was depressed with all the worrying.

Now his exams are over, he wanted to go for a movie. He asked me for Rs 500. Rs 500 is too much money for a movie! "Papa, you are living in another age, grow up," his eyes seemed to say. Yes, those days I remember returning from Sterling because I had only Rs 3 with me and didn't have 30 paise, as the ticket was priced at Rs 3.30. The reviewer had written a glowing review and I very much wanted to see the movie. I literally had tears in my eyes when I had to return disappointed, but what could I do? Beg for 30 paise? Where's Rs 3.30 and today's Rs 270 for a seat in the multiplex?! Entertainment has become expensive, glitzy, and only a few can afford its guilty pleasures. Rs 5, a princely sum those days, used to cover a movie, two samosas and taxi fare to and from Eros/Regal/Metro to V.T. I prefer watching HBO and Star Movies, these days.

A movie addict that I am, recently I saw Apollo 13 on HBO, or was it Star Movies, I don't remember. Some good acting by Tom Hanks and others made this movie so life-like and scary. The thought of astronauts orbiting earth, unable to break from their paths, helplessly cooped in the narrow confines of the spacecraft, without friends or familiar things around them was disturbing, not to say the least. I don't want to be an astraonaut, ever... scared the shit out of me. But it's worth a watch because that was the Apollo mission that put paid to manned flights to the moon. So, those among you who have bought expensive property on the moon (Yes, some smart fart has started selling them!) will have to hold on for a little more.

Among other things...
Writer, director and blogger Shekhar Kapur (He of "Elizabeth" and "Masoom" fame) in his article "India as the world's leading 'Influence economy'?", an article which Hindustan Times commissioned him to write, writes:

"Shall I pretend to be an ‘economist’ and put some figures to it - make predictions? India in the 21st century will be centre of the world’s New Media economy. Its vast technological resources, the suppressed desire of its people to freely interact with the world combined with it’s youth demographics will drive New Media revenues almost equal to the whole of India’s current GDP. That’s about one trillion dollars of annual revenue (yes, I did say a trillion) either generated in India or provoked world wide by Indians. That includes all Film, TV, Music, Social Networking sites, Youtube and its new variations, Video Games etc, and on any delivery system – be it computers, TV screens, cell phones or any other new technology that enables people to communicate with each other." Read more here.

I say: "Wow! I see it already happening!"

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Don't Stand So Close!

Sometimes we behave in a cultural stereotype unknowingly, not realising that we may be inappropriate to the given circumstance. I am constantly on the watch for such inconsistencies as these days I stumble into cultures, sects, cults of various types: a week back I was with writers and with a full-sleeved shirt I looked out of place as almost all of them wore grungy round-neck tee-shirts; a few days later I was with poets and they were all wearing ethnic clothes with khadi jackets, jholas and the like; and in the office I am out of place if I don't wear a long-sleeved shirt and tie (yes, that's my workplace dress code!). 

Just yesterday I was in a multinational bank with a friend and I was told by the cashier that I was standing too close to the man in front. Whoa! The diminutive cashier (she was so small she would be almost invisible if she sat down, so she stood all the time, talking to her colleague in the adjacent cubicle. 

Used as I am to standing so close to men in the sardine-packed confines of Bombay local trains, I was chastised and offended, but I corrected my thinking just in time. In other cultures Bombay local trains would be a wholescale violation of someone's space. Today I stood in a little space my chin on someone's shoulder, my tummy dovetailing into someone's back, my chest feeling the vibrations of a standing man as he talked to his friend (and shaking as he laughed!), my feet stamped by a hundred others, my nose held up vertically so as to catch some movement of staid air. Oh God! I would make a perfect caricature to whoever is watching. 

Yes, we as a people are oblivious of personal spaces and personal boundaries we shouldn't transgress. Comes with the culture, I guess. Or, is it poverty that makes us disobey the rules of civility such as: standing in a straight queue (a man once insisted that since he has been standing outside the queue for longer than me, he should be given preference at the window), averting eye contact and not staring at people, not yawning/coughing/grimacing in the face of those in front of us, not spitting, etc.

Says Muchkundji Dubeyji, "All this is like 'Bhains ke aage been bajana.'"

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year, Readers!

Wishing you, all dear readers, a happy new year! Full of expectations I wait to turn a new leaf, to organise myself more, spend less time in front of the television, to let things churn, to write more and think less, to be more friendly, to laugh more, to thanks God for small mercies, to blog more, to... to... to....

Today on the way to work a South Indian was calling everyone on his cellphone and wishing "HAPPY NEW YEAR" in a thick Tamil accent. I like his enthusiasm, accent and all, because it is for goodwill, and I am not against goodwill of any sort, hmm, you can say I am a "Goodwill Hunter".

Enough! We screwed up 2008 badly. It's a carcass lying outside the door of 2009, a witless, dim apparition full of bitterness and forebodings. What I remember about 2008 is falling sick on the very first day of the year, having had a bottle of white wine (my favorite) and then spending four days in hospital with a gastric infection. Wonder what the b******s mixed with my white wine, some local hooch? Yetch!

So we will not drink wine this year, in fact, I went to bed at 10.30 p.m. on 31st and told wifey to wake me up at 11 p.m. to hear the cracker bursts, the whizzing rockets, the assumed jollity on television and the trumped up shows the channels put up. But I am a deep sleeper and woke up in the morning and asked wifey,

"Why didn't you wake me up?"

"I called you several times!"

"I didn't hear anything, no rockets, no crackers, nothing!"

"Because there weren't the usual midnight revelry this year. It was a quiet welcome to the new year."

Amen to that!