Sunday, February 28, 2010

To Write or Not to Write

To write or not to write. To be or not to be. Eternal questions, no answers. Especially the things that you consider could become controversial. A little controversy is inherent in a writer’s life, but have you thought of violence against writers, journalists, how it has been occurring frequently of late, of this sort? I know one should be fearless about opinions and thoughts. Writing, as I am the final chapters of my new novel, I am beset with these doubts.

But silence is the resort of cowards and fools. So one braves on valiantly, pen in hand, no fingers to keyboard, though the shoulder refuses to co-operate. There’s pain and the pain should be overcome. There’s Yoga which I do as a palliative, but the pain returns in the morning, on waking up, then it subsides.

Of Shahrukh’s Bollywood Quotient and a Lazy Sunday

It’s a lazy Sunday, I have promised to work on the novel and nothing else. Except for writing this post. I would do anything to see it through to THE END. Well, some sins are forgiven as the sinner doesn’t know that he is sinning. So got up at the usual time, read the Bible (as I couldn’t attend church), went for a walk, had a bath and sat down to work in my study on the top floor. Hm. The newspaper, I didn’t do the mistake of opening, or, I would have been stuck for another hour, the television is blaring downstairs, Ronnie is watching some show. There is plenty of hammering going on, and I can see the blinding blue sky and the Parsik Hills from where I sit. The days are turning hot though there is a cool breeze now and then. The coconut palms nod and quiver playfully, and the barking of dogs echo dully.

Here’s one more thought on what I said yesterday about My Name Is Khan. I have these moments of clarity as afterthoughts, quite a few of my posts are written thusly, I confess. Obviously it (the movie) is an attempt to ape Forrest Gump. So, why can’t Shahrukh say “Mamma says, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates’” simply like Tom Hanks says? See why can’t we be more simple and not totally Bollywood-like? Why does he have to turn his head this way and that and look blankly, as if he is mentally retarded and not suffering from Agoraphobia, which is a common enough malady? I am not blaming the actor, I guess the director should have thought along those lines and watched enough of Forrest Gump before filming. A good film and storyline has been ruined by something trivial and mawkish.

About originality and all that, why do we have to imitate Hollywood, Tollywood, Mollywood, etc., with such regularity?  I guess it is the Bollywood Quotient that is speaking up. 

Saturday, February 27, 2010

My Name Is Khan – What’s Your Bollywood Quotient?

Saw a part of My Name is Khan before I had to leave, because some relatives were coming home. I am not saying it’s a bad movie, but it does strike a chord, you go into sympathetic mode a la Forrest Gump – of which it is surely a copy – and it is technically superb, well co-ordinated story, but the little, little things that bother.

If it was to be like Forrest Gump why didn’t Shahrukh study the role played by Tom Hanks? Why did he have to make Rizwan into such a caricature like he does? He makes him into an unbelievable mentally disturbed person (Then, how many mentally disturbed people look with unfocussed eyes, walk his funny walk?), when he could be shown with the understated character of a Forrest Gump as essayed by Tom Hanks? May be, I am saying this with some optimism, he missed the subtlety of the original. Come to think of it, I also observed Hritik doing that in that movie, name of which eludes me.

Well, well, Shahrukh did play the role as he was expected to play by Bollywood. Guess, we all are Bollywood people. We have a Bollywood quotient in all of us – even I do – and that quotient is more in the kings of Bollywood. Well Shahrukh since he is the uncrowned king has a bit more than average of it, Navneet Nishan has lots of it. The only two people I found adorable have been in the industry for long times and they have matured so well I am still in awe – Kajol and Zarina Wahab. My God! I am still in a dither as to the huge talent of these two women, who with their charm carries the movie, for the time I was watching it. The make it bearable.

Well, I have to state this: Kajol and Zarina both have the least bit of Bollywood quotient in them. If King Khan is 60 on the Bollywood Quotient, these two actresses are 5 each, both of them. Some things will never change.

My Name Is Khan – What’s Your Bollywood Quotient?

Saw a part of My Name is Khan before I had to leave, because some relatives were coming home. I am not saying it’s a bad movie, but it does strike a chord, you go into sympathetic mode a la Forrest Gump – of which it is surely a copy – and it is technically superb, well co-ordinated story, but the little, little things that bother.

If it was to be like Forrest Gump why didn’t Shahrukh study the role played by Tom Hanks? Why did he have to make Rizwan into such a caricature like he does? He makes him into an unbelievable mentally disturbed person (Then, how many mentally disturbed people look with unfocussed eyes, walk his funny walk?), when he could be shown with the understated character of a Forrest Gump as essayed by Tom Hanks? May be, I am saying this with some optimism, he missed the subtlety of the original. Come to think of it, I also observed Hritik doing that in that movie, name of which eludes me.

Well, well, Shahrukh did play the role as he was expected to play by Bollywood. Guess, we all are Bollywood people. We have a Bollywood quotient in all of us – even I do – and that quotient is more in the kings of Bollywood. Well Shahrukh since he is the uncrowned king has a bit more than average of it, Navneet Nishan has lots of it. The only two people I found adorable have been in the industry for long times and they have matured so well I am still in awe – Kajol and Zarina Wahab. My God! I am still in a dither as to the huge talent of these two women, who with their charm carries the movie, for the time I was watching it. They make it bearable.

Well, I have to state this: Kajol and Zarina both have the least bit of Bollywood quotient in them. If King Khan is 60 on the Bollywood Quotient, these two actresses are 5 each, both of them. Some things will never change.

One-day Cricket Match Near Me

Today's one-day cricket match is at Wankhede, Bombai, and I am sitting here from where I can see the stadium through the window. That close. I have never seen a live cricket match, seen the excitement, the hype and hoopla of it, the fans going crazily fanatical, the scores ticking, the fortunes made and lost, the careers made and relinquished. So I wonder, really wonder, what it's all about. Why the country is going crazy like spectators in the Roman coliseum, why are they hollering like raving lunatics, what are the stakes of the people whose fortunes are made and broken in stadiums? All this happening within earshot, within walkable distance. Can't believe it? I can't.

All this and more, I would like to witness - poor man - who has faced rejection as blogger of an IPL team. The problem was: all friends who visited the site of Royal Challengers to vote for me were technically challenged and didn't know how to vote. Dang. Even then I had a few votes. Amen, to that. Hallelujah!

Friday, February 26, 2010

This Issue of Reservations – Teach Them How to Fish

I am against all reservation. In fact, I have great reservation against reservations. So the news of 33 per cent seats for women in parliament and legislatures comes as a sort of, what to say, a right step in the wrong direction. Before you brand me a misogynist, let me explain. When I say "right step" I mean women should be given more legislative powers, they should come into the mainstream, and all that tropes being regularly dished out by parties running out of genuine issues to champion. But why reserve a constituency for women. This move is like reserving seats for women in buses and trains. Give them a seat, give them an allocation, and forget about it. Go about abusing women in buses, in trains, and just because you gave them a seat in the bus, "aren't you happy?" that sort of thing, you know.

No. No. No. The right way of uplifting a weak section is giving them positive incentives to excel. Uplifting a weak section is giving them positive incentives to excel. Even after sixty years of independence reservation hasn't uplifted the lot of the scheduled caste and tribes. In fact discrimination is rife, the same perception and stereotype have been – quite unfortunately – reinforced and institutions are suffering because they don't have the requisite number of people to fill in the reserved seats. It's like reserving seats in buses for women and strictly enforcing it, not allowing men near the seats at all. That means if there aren't women to occupy the seats, the seats won't be used at all, it would rot and fall into disrepair and the agency running the buses would run into a loss.

In my native state of Kerala, many seats are reserved for women in the village panchayat and are actually managed by dummies (their husbands). So instead of empowering women, it is reinforcing the already existing stereotypes – that of women not being empowered. So if this legislation goes through it will expose another chink in the armour of an already bullet-ridden governance system. So I am not much impressed by the lobbying that is going on. Lallu and company are for reservations with a difference. He says actually 33 per cent seats should be reserved for OBCs.

What's better – giving them fish or teaching them how to fish?

Glad to say I am ranked number 3 on Indiblogger for the tag "Writer" and number 5 for the tag of "poetry." Feeling good about it.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

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Where’s the Age of “Pehle Aap”?

Most of my anger happens inside trains. It's a vile place, as it happened today, where people would do anything for a seat – push, hammer, kick, physically assault. Today I had some work in my bank at Nerul, and took a place near the entrance so that I could get down easily at Nerul, being two stations away from Belapur. When Seawoods station came a vile mob literally assaulted me as they climbed in. I had to literally push each one away from me, as they barreled in, cornering me between in the narrow space forming the corner of the door and the seat-divider.

Then when Nerul station arrived, I tried to jump out before the assault of well-fed bodies full of aloo-paratha began. And idli-sambhar, I might add. Too late! The aloo-parathas and idli-sambhars mobbed me, assaulting me, tearing at my clothes, pushing and shoving – for a place to stand, imagine! – something so selfishly narcissistic, I couldn't imagine what they would be like in their workplaces. Okay, okay, this is the age of the "I" and "me" generation, but where's the era when two Nawabs missed their train saying "Pehle aap", "Pehle aap" to each other? (To the uninitiated this is an apocryphal story where two Lucknowi Nawabs missed their train saying "After you" "After you" to each other.) I was left feeling upset, angry and disoriented.

Guess this is the age of say "Pehle aap ko mar doonga" rather than "Pehle aap." Hm.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sorcerer Sachin and His Magic Wand

That diminutive man deserves a word of praise. Sanchin Tendulkar is the man I am referring to. I have seen him batting, and I have seen flashes of his genius today, in the news, of course. The best impression I have of him is when he bounds forward, a tense ball of muscle, poised and ready, eyes narrowing on the trajectory of the ball, bat describing a huge wide arc, behind him parallel to his small body, then the whoosh of the bat through air as it describes another arc, a flash the eye cannot see, and then the “thwwwwaaaccccckkkk” as it strikes the meat of the bat, and the ball flies as if it has connected with a giant machine, one that can reverse the flight of the ball coming at a fearsome pace, and send it careening into the air, as if fear itself has been nullified, and victory has been established in a few seconds of sheer beauty and grace, of man and his instrument of precision.

That’s Sachin when he drives the ball over the bowler’s head into the stands, I am mesmerized, I am speechless, my eyes goggle, my hands itch for the hold of a bat, to ape him, imitate him, and try out the magic which is so effortless in his hands. Alas, not to be mine.

Congratulations Sachin on scoring 200 runs in a single one-day cricket match.

Nirmal Pandey R.I.P.

I don’t know if I did the right thing by applying to be chief blogger of Royal Challengers. I feel like withdrawing. Guess, it’s not for me. So I won’t be let down if I lose. Anyway, I find that online friends don’t fall over each other to support you. Rest easy, since it’s something you knew – all along – that you won’t have.
Knew from this obit by Shekhar Kapoor that Nirmal Pandey is no more. Here’s his profile on I have seen bits and pieces of his acting, now I find I haven’t watched any film of his in its entirety, a shortcoming I will redeem soon. Nirmal Pandey R.I.P.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Vote for Me as Chief Blogger of Royal Challengers

Just for the heck of it I am bidding to be Chief, um, Executive, sorry, Blogger of Royal Challengers. Well one has to blow ones trumpet in blogosphere, you know. Here's where you can vote for me, or, better still, write a recommendation, for the pleasure my blog has given you. Here's where you can vote for me on the Royal Challengers' website.

Given as I am not a great fan of test cricket, or, the one-day variety, however, I admire the 20-20 format because the results are instantaneous and consume less of my time. If I bag the role, I can take a week off and bring you the matches RC plays with a lot of background scenarios, which I am rather well-known for.

Ah, then, how shall I say it, here's my blog post, hm, about me overtaking Amitabh's multi-crore blog both in authority and ranking.

Indiblogger has ranked me 82/100 in blogosphere and in Google Page Rank I am 4/10.

So why not go here just now and vote for me. John Matthew Blog Zindabad!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Writers, Heed This Advise!

This piece of advise to writers comes as a breath of fresh air, a call in the wilderness, words of a guardian angel, the cloud (or star, I don't remember) that guided the Israelites out of Egypt.

Hm. Among the gems:

  • Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down. – Neil Geilman
  • Cut out the metaphors and similes. In my first book I promised myself I wouldn't use any and I slipped up during a sunset in chapter 11. I still blush when I come across it. – Esther Freud
  • Fiction that isn't an author's personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn't worth writing for anything but money. – Johnathan Franzen
  • Don't read your reviews. Don't write reviews. (Your judgment's always tainted.) Don't have arguments with your wife in the morning, or late at night. – Richard Ford.
  • Finish what you're writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it. – Neil Gailman

And so on. You will find it uplifting, in a weird, self-revelatory, sort of way. Have fun.

Self-obsessed, Self-centred, Megalomaniacs! Are We?

A fine morning, a fresh day in the life of me. It's about me, this blog post is about me. Read on, you will see why. Some thought that occurred to me randomly while on the way to work.

While I appreciate the value of not reacting to situations, as Stephen Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" advises me (confession: I am a great fan of self-development books, I devour them) I wonder if it will turn me into a completely cynical and hardened sort of person. That said, we are living in the age of hardening of positions, points of view, in fact, corporate life is full of such hardened notions which the corporate type (not me!) try to impose on others.

Then if this hardening, not reacting to situations, makes us better persons, where is it leading all of us? We will lose our compassion, our sympathies, and our sensitivity to others. Already it is happening on a mass scale. And it's (how shall I say it) scary! A contestant, a very vociferous sort, says in a reality show, "He is so insensitive, if only he will listen to me, why does he react to me that way, why doesn't he care for me." See the me's repeated in her angstful outpourings? Such discontent and disaffection, I have never seen. So its all about me,me,me! No one else. Are we fostering a civilization of self-obsessed, self-centred, magalomaniacs? I don't know.

Need to think about these things. I do. Anthonybhai has a solution: "Our children, men, they need to be more sensitive. Today if a man lies dying on the streets, or garbage lies unpicked, they will just walk away. Not react. Not good, no?"

Sunday, February 21, 2010

This Blog Overtakes Amitabh’s

I won't say "humble" anymore. Of course, I can be justifiably insouciant.

As predicted earlier, in what was a keen match, or, so I presume, this blog beats Amitabh’s blog. It must have been a keen contest out there in blogosphere, a tie which was resolved just now, with the following ratings as of today:

Amitabh’s Blog
Authority     -    129
Ranking       -    22920

John P Matthew’s Blog
Authority     -    130
Ranking       -    22058

Still Tied with Amitabh’s Blog; Manjul’s Novel “Before Evening Falls”

So your blog has tied with Amitabh’s blog, is it? They ask me in church today. As a church-going Christian I don’t know what impact it will have on how my fellow worshippers: as a radical, as an upstart, as a nerd and a techie, or what, I don’t know.

Meanwhile all I say is, “Wait and watch while I cross his ranking.” My ranking was up around 20,000 with an authority of 130, but it slid down, don’t know for what reason. I guess there is justice on the Internet, giants are but toddling infants when compared to tech-savvy smarties. Hehe! But I, sort of, used technology to do all the things you see on my blog. Knowing a bit of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) helped.

Meanwhile a few thoughts on Sunday. The sun is shining, the day is hot as I sit in my eyrie keying this in. There’re a lot of hammering sounds going on in the background. Guess, people are building and re-building their homes in Artiste Village. From my window I can see the planes going to land at Sahar and Santa Cruz, as it flies directly over New Bombai when it loops and then descends like a huge celestial bird about to land. Feels like Kerala, as I can see my neighbour’s coconut and betelnut trees through the door, has a pastoral feel to it you know.

Speaking of pastoral I am reading Manjul Bajaj’s pastoral novel, “Come before Evening Falls.” I just love her style, it takes you along so enticingly that before long you are a part of the picture, the story just drags you in, not brusquely but gently. Manjul and I were finalists in the Penguin-Sulekha short story contents “India Smiles” and she already has published her novel. Got to speed up mine, but how? We met recently at the Kala Ghoda where she read from her novel and also won the first place in the Kala Ghoda Poetry Slam. Some talent this!

I will go for a walk today, in the dam area. I must try and find a book to identify the birds in the locality (I read Artiste Village has a high bio-diversity of 329 species, which is the highest in the New Bombai area). My mornings are spent in a daze sitting on the terrace listening to the sound of birds. The crows are annoying, but I say they are birds, and then I look at them more compassionately.

One drawback of having a bigger house is the amount of cleaning involved. One hour today was spent with broom and scooper. The cleaning lady who comes on alternate days and the terrace is not in her work schedule. So neighbours were wondering what I was doing with a broom on the terrace. Ah, life!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

This Humble Blog Ties with Amitabh’s Blog for 23112nd Position in Blogosphere!

Go here, where it shows that the Amitabh Bachchan blog has an authority of 129, which, serendipitously, I found today, is what the authority of this blog also is. Yay! His blog's rank in the blogosphere is 23112.

And, and, you won't believe this, research on (the be all and end all in the blogosphere) page shows that my humble blog (well, nobody pays me a paise to blog, while, as rumour has it Big B gets paid a big packet to blog) also has an authority of, hold your panting breath, 129, and am tying with him in the ranking on blogosphere – a rank of 23112.

Wowwowowowow! I can't believe this. I really can't. And with this humble post, I intend to over take him. See the same page tomorrow!

Here's the Video "The World According to Monsanto" Directed by Marie-Monique Robin

Since the minister of state for environment has temporarily withheld the go ahead for the Bt Brinjal (after we all contributed brinjals for the world's biggest Baingan Bharta), here's a video that will damn the whole genetically modified crop lobby. It's already causing havoc among cotton growers who have purchased the company's Bt Cotton, leading to mayhem, crop loss, hybridisation of seeds, and, still more traumatically, suicides. Bt Brinjals will start a new chapter in genetically modified crops in India which cannot be forestalled at a later stage. So it's imperative action be taken now.

This movie was shown at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival in the movie section.

"The World According to Monsanto" directed by Marie-Monique Robin

Parents: Pay Heavily and be Taught by Underpaid Teachers!

I have applauded Kapil Sibal, mananiya mantrimahoday of Education before. But this time I will not. Today's Times of India has an item on page 13 "Pvt (sic) schools free to fix fees, teachers' pay: Sibal" in which he says private schools can fix their own teachers' salaries and fees.

Now this I object, erm, conscientiously, mananiya…. Wifey has been slaving in a school, rather patiently I might add, for more than ten years and she hasn't received her due, though she is the head mistress now, considering all her experience. What she receives is a pittance, plus, she has no any retirement benefits. She knows she is lucky to have a job when thousands of qualified teachers are jobless and wander from job to job drawing salaries of Rs 2,000 or Rs 3,000. Is this what the mantrimahoday wants?

What add salt to the wound is that schools are enriching themselves, lining their khadi pockets with pelf (Most of the educations institutions are owned by politicians in Maharashtra.). A friend is looking for admission for his three-year-old and he did a research of the schools in his area:

  • School 1: Donation: Rs 80,000 monthly fee Rs 600 (below par teaching)
  • School 2: Donation: Rs 1,00,000 monthly fee Rs 800 (Okay teaching)
  • School 3: Donation: Rs 30,000 monthly fee Rs 400 (absolutely bad teaching)

It's unbelievable people shell out such amounts for their children to be taught by grossly underpaid teachers, who have no incentive to perform. Sibal-ji please rethink, please.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Hm… My Adword Experience Today!

(Sorry those who can't understand the Adword mumbo-jumbo. Please ignore this if this sounds too technical.)


Rejoice! That's what did when I got a free coupon to use Adword advertising worth Rs 2500. But when I go thither, I find that though the deadline is February 28, I am told that the validity of coupon has expired.


I write a fairly detailed complaint on Adword support. I want to try out the full power of my Adword account. The following is what I get by email, through a link, obediently.


"Thank you for providing feedback about the AdWords product. While we won't be able to respond to your feedback personally, we'll make sure it reaches the appropriate team. Please note that if you have a question regarding your AdWords account and need help, please contact us via the 'AdWords Support' link in our AdWords Help Center at":


So all my effort to give the situation some clarity went for naught. Hm… I go to the link to find this:


"On Saturday, February 20th, 2010 the AdWords system will be unavailable from approximately 10AM to 2PM PST, for maintenance."


It's only 19th, it's a Friday today, I shake my head and check again, yes, Friday, not Saturday, so it can't be maintenance time. So what's the problem?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Scary Stories, Continued…

A friend casually remarked during the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, seeing more writers (and the aspiring variety, including yours truly) in the audience, "Seems, only writers are interested in writing these days." Attended the Kala Ghoda poetry slam and most of the audience was composed of poets, aspirants, and relatives of the respective poets and aspirants.

It's a scary (sorry, for the overuse of this word, but that has been my state of mind the last few days, after what I mentioned a few posts below, like, like, Max's providential escape) scenario. Imagine this futuristic dystopia:

Poetry readings – attended by poets and aspirants

Novels – read by novelists and failed and aspiring novelists (the second category, I would name as "critics.")

Newspapers – read by journalists and aspiring journalists and space sellers, of course.

Television – seen by politicians, aspiring politicians, cricketers, film actors, and their aspirants.

Scary isn't it?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Love Is…

Here's something I wrote on the daily crowded train commute on Valentine's Day ….

Love Is…

They said:

Love is sacrifice,

Love is service,

Love is selflessness.


We say:

Love is manipulation,

Love is co-ordination,

Love is synergy.


What the world says:

Love is dead,

Love is lost,

Love is an illusion created by sexual desire.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Will It Be the End of the Kala Ghoda Festival?

Is it the end of the festival – Kala Ghoda, I mean – as we knew it all these years? The area which reverberated to sounds of flutes, loud thumping drums, loud wailing guitars – lead, bass, rhythm – dancing, is now silent and sedate with only the steady roar of traffic. Will Kala Ghoda, in the present avatar – huge success has come only recently – be told to shut shop and move on? I guess any success brings detractors, people who see success as a threat, a challenge to their existence. I loved the Kala Ghoda Festival because I was a part of it right from the beginning. I used to work in the area when I was editing the management magazine – Ambit – published by the Bombay Management Association, situated in Army and Navy Building. (Actually, long ago, in the British era, the building contained the Army and Navy Stores, right where Westside is located now. Contrary to what its name suggests, the Army and Navy have nothing to do with the building, it is owned by Tatas now.) Then I moved on to New Bombay, Andheri and now I am working in New Marine Lines. So I found it convenient to attend the festival every day, catch a very eclectic variety of movies at the Max Mueller Bhavan and Goethe Institut, visit the Jehangir Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Modern Art. I would drop into the David Sassoon Library to write my novel after work and it was a peaceful haven for me – though outside the noisy traffic plied, somewhat erratically – in those days. It still is. And, there is Samovar, where the staff was friendly and superstars dated – it's rumoured that Amitabh and Jaya dated here – and films were shot. Come to think of it, the success of Samovar was also resented and the owner is in court to save it from being evicted. Hm. Its like a successful rapper once said, "Mo money, mo problems."

The latest news, via Peter Griffin (curator of the literary section of the Festival) is that the whole area has been declared a silent zone, by whoever, I don't know. Actually, I think, some stupid old rule is to blame. So there can't be rock, music, dance and other performances, unless the authorities relent. I don't think they will relent as Rang Bhavan where I saw rock and Jazz shows is now closed for ever. However, there may be shows and programs inside the halls and the David Sassoon Garden, but not outside. Sad.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Three Scary Stories, No, Actual Incidents!

It's scary. You only realize it when it happens before your eyes. Last week, I think it was Friday; I was standing on platform 1 at Victoria Terminus. The train was a short distance away, approaching fast, I am getting ready to jump in, suddenly a flurry of motion and shouts. A man had jumped on the track to cross it to the other side (a short cut), and was barely ten meters away from the fast-approaching train. A gaggle of people, commuters like me, spring into action, hold his proffered hand and drag him out of the tracks, at a lower level. He is saved by seconds, by hardly a few centimeters.

It's scary.

Inside the compartment I encounter, before my eyes, something even scarier. A man from a certain community is trying to convert me to his religious sect. The conversation begins innocently enough with him asking for my permission to speak to me. I don't grudge such permissions. So he starts a spiel on how I can achieve salvation, truth and paradise through his beliefs. The exhortations get almost threatening and rhetorical. He is quoting chapter and verse to convince me. I said I am okay being a Christian as I find it a very inclusive and accepting sort of faith that teaches people to love one another – though this not may be the case in practice. But he tells me, rather vehemently that I must think it over and change my mind. It is scary because this is a free country and such people are getting virulent and is trying to impose on another's faith. I say, to get rid of him, I am comfortable as I am, this being a free country, and all.

It's scary.

Friend Max had a narrow escape in the German Bakery explosion. He was going there for coffee and stumbled on something, which saved him. Imagine. This stumbling proved providential, it saved his life. Real life is scary, it really is.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Kala Ghoda – Two Disturbing Movies – Murderers and The World According to Monsanto

Yesterday I saw two disturbing movies, firstly, Murderers, a French film about two girls out on their own in the vile world of rapists, kind people, potential molesters and bad people masquerading as good. I love French films, they are more subtle, tell a story with some sort of real life authenticity, and have good actors, not to mention good directors and technicians.

The other disturbing movie I was "The World According to Monstanto" about which I have taken notes and will be posting a detailed article soon. Meanwhile friend Dan is Performing Dastangoi tonight at the David Sassoon Library. He is a consummate story teller. Go, watch!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Kala Ghoda Today

On hind sight, what I said about yesterday here about the festival being a "mela," you know, sort of Kumbh Mela where you can get lost – remember the brothers/sisters getting lost in movies? – proved to be genuine yesterday. I told a friend and former colleague to be there one minute and the next he was lost in the swirling crowds. When I phoned him he was safely ensconced in the Max Mueller hall watching a cinema, "couldn't resist," he said.

Today want to catch on the following:

  • Murder – Movie – 4 p.m. (Cama Hall) There's a Literary Quiz happening concurrently at the BNHS happening at 4.30 p.m.
  • Symphony Music – 6.30 p.m. (Asiatic Library Steps)
  • Visual Story Telling – 8 p.m. (David Sassoon Library Garden)

There are lots happening at the same time, too hectic for you to catch everything. That why Kala Ghoda Association should break them up into individually focused festivals over a period of the year.

See you there. If, you are there.

Kala Ghoda, Yesterday

Yesterday at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, Literary Section, Facebook and Twitter friend Sidin Vadkut stole the show, as did friend Manjul Bajaj along with three other authors, I don't remember names too easily, and forgot to take notes. The way Sidin was mobbed I guess he is on the way to stardom, fame and glory. I am glad. By the way, he doesn't look at all like the Twitter picture of him, he is more rounded. I mean he is nicely rotund, not mean and lean like his Twitter caricature would indicate. Hehe. I had told Manjul I would attended and ended up asking Dhara if she was Manjul. Oh, God, what a gaffe, sorry, Dhara. Also met Kareena Merchant, Jugal Modi and Hemant Suthar. Not name dropping, only recording their presence. **Grin**

The discussion was moderated by Samit Basu (another Facebook and Twitter friend, to whom, I couldn't say hello, as I was caught up in a kind of whirl) who said "I am saving up for my cosmetic surgery" when an author (I think, Bulbul Sharma) mentioned that authors can be marketed better if they are better turned out. That was good Samit, I too am. Manjul had a word for struggling writers trying to find publishers. She said, to the effect, "Don't give up, if a publisher rejects you, polish and resubmit, and don't hesitate to make changes they suggest."


Now that the festival is drawing to a close, yesterday witnessed huge crowds because of the holiday, I guess. There was no standing room as I, Manjul, Jaggi and Deepti Chavan went for a stroll in the "fair ground," actually it was more like a "mela" or fair, than an "arts festival." Don't quote me, I am quoting someone. The stalls and shops couldn't be accessed because of people standing five and ten deep. Lot of firangs too, toting fancy-looking cameras and tripods. Guess Kala Ghoda Arts Festival is making its mark, on the world scene. Why not have a separate literary festival at Kala Ghoda, only for literature? Yes, why not?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Dilip D’Souza on Biddu

Apropos of Biddu's appearance at Kala Ghoda to promote his book "Made in India" here's a report by Dilip D'Souza who interviewed him on Caferati's Kala Ghoda Gazette. Must say Dilip has a way with words and himself did a charming rendition of "Happy Birthday" for Biddu (his birthday was the day before the event), which also happened to be his (Dilip's) daughter's birthday. The sad part is that Biddu didn't offer Dilip a recording contract. Biddu sang "Aap Jaisa Koi," which lyrics are here.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

An Award, a Personal Disappointment

Imagine this: Do you invite a guest, who accepts with great difficulty, who leaves important work, commutes an hour and a half, arrives at the function, and then make him walk through a black entrance – because his invite is a black colour – and then sit him on a black chair, in a section marked "black passes," and then switch off the lights and complete the dinginess of the whole episode? Compound this with the bites of mosquitoes as big as flies. Hm. Also imagine: the this guest is an advertiser, a valued customer, an ardent fan of their radio shows, who is the reason for your prosperity, who has an idea, though vague, of how a customer should be treated, also he is a creative guy an aspiring – though pretentious – poet who loves music.

Yes, I mean this in the not too negative sense, this is what happened to this blogger at the awards night he attended yesterday. On reaching there I find that I am holding a black pass, not a gold pass, my invite is a stygian colour, am heralded through a black door, down to a seat done in fashionable black. In front of me is another world altogether, a gold door through which sashay the have-it people in black and colourful dresses, the friends and extended families of the radio people, some of them drop-dead gorgeous in solid black, like a black wall, excluding the likes of poor me, advertiser, blogger, seemingly beaten poet. When I looked ahead what I see is the trendy black backsides of silhouettes standing against a metal enclosure, also black, and I can't see any part of the stage at all. Before me is a barricade shielding me from the glitzy razzmatazz of people in the front, musicians, a poet (in a resplendent multi-coloured dreamcoat jacket) and chairman of the jury, a few movie directors, songwriters, singers, a faded star with only a wan halo around her (she used to be my heartthrob), and behind them stand a motley group who don't have gold passes, but are related to those who have.

The very important people need special seats, I understand. But do they need to be cordoned and barricaded from the rest of us? Especially when most of the seats meant for them were vacant one hour after the program started. I guess, therefore, the tardy get encouraged to be even tardier.


Why the barricade? I ask my colleague. Are they creating a new class of people who are, sort of, grudgingly invited? I note through the camera panning wildly that most of the seats in the gold enclosure are vacant. Still waiting? So, the idea is even if those seats are vacant the barricaded, "black pass," lower caste of people (i.e. yours truly) shouldn't occupy it. There are hefty beefcakes guarding the only entry. Then why were we invited, walked through the black door, given black passes, only to suffer mosquito bites in the dark area meant for the lower-than-the chosen people (several guys had brought their wives also, I could imagine their embarrassment) along with what looked like ad agency guys and advertisers. Or, were we graded according to the volume of advertising we gave the radio channel, which wasn't a meager amount, by any reckoning. After all, I was the one who recommended the radio to my higher-ups.


On the whole an event that left me a bit disappointed, a tad too much introspective. Needless to add, I walked out an hour after the proceedings began, chastened, I might add.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Will Be There at the Mirchi Muzzak Awards

Got an invite for the Mirchi Music Awards. So, I am off there. Watch out for a report here, with all the jazz and razzmatazz. Watch, please, watch, this space, as they – so clichéd-ly – say.

Kala Ghoda Today

There are interesting things happening at the Kala Ghoda. The literary section for instance. Interesting things are happening though till yesterday it took a bit of warming up, as usual. Today there was an interesting discussion on travel writing in which every writer contributed so wonderfully. What makes travel writers so articulate and interesting, I wonder. Is it because they have seen life, so much of it raw, and uncooked, well, sort of? There was this writer - as witty as they come - who made a 4 a.m. visit to the loo so interesting by the mere mention that his fart almost blew off the toilet door. Hehe.

But, uh oh, there was Biddu, yes, that Biddu – you know Aap Jaisa Koi guy - with long straight hair, and a well-maintained body which he took pride in showing off, me thinks. He was there to launch his autobiographical book. And he jived, and shook on stage, and imagine this, actually sang Aap Jaisa Koi. If you weren't there, eat your hearts out. Yes, it was Yesterday Once More, and I went all mushy and maudlin.

The much needed police jeep is positioned at the intersection before Jehangir Art Gallery but the cops are not to be seen anywhere.

Monday, February 08, 2010

The Gyan of an Indian Best-seller

Aaah, missed the Kala Ghoda lecture by Chetan Bhagat. No worries! Apropos this post about Anita Roy's observation that the Indian mid-list writers are making it good (after all, more than 10,000 copies sold is a good figure in India, as Chetan's and Amit Varma's books have demonstrated), I feel the Indian publishing scene is a different brew altogether. The English love tea, the Americans like coffee, but India is brewing another concoction altogether.

Write in a simple style, nothing high-funda, add a bit of angst, position it to appeal for the youthful class (Yes, my son worships the deity of Chetan Bhagat, he says he is cool and hot. He has read extensively on Chetanspeak. Natch he doesn't like what I write. After all, dad is "ghar ki murgi," or, "murga.") and price it not more than Rs 200, the price of a film ticket, or, a CD. And if you promote it a bit, I am sure you can sell 10,000 copies because the book pirates won't duplicate something which is so cheap, no fun, yaar. Sell at pavement stalls ("This book is original, sir, not nakli."), college fests, youth jamborees, whatever. That's a cool profit, hai na?

I guess the publishing industry that priced books at Rs 395 got it all wrong. They were aiming at the higher income, inner city (I don't mean this in the pejorative sense, Malabar Hill and Colaba crowd), convent educated class (who speak in accents) while the real readers were from small towns and suburbs. Don't aim for the 300 million middle class. The MTV guys got it right the first time. The reality show participants are from Chandigarh and Bhopal, not Breach Candy and Pedder Road. The middle class is hugely segmented, and if you target the young you will at least get a 0.003 per cent of the readership which will assure you "best-seller status."

That's so much gyan. Can you digest it?

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Day One at Kala Ghoda – A Report


The chairs in Cama Hall are vintage, comfortable, the fans are mounted horizontally, the long stem protruding from the side walls, giving a cool breeze - better than the stale air in multiplexes - the audio is not very clear if you sit in the back, but up in the front it’s lovely.

I caught Costa Gavras’ Amen and 3-iron directed by  Kim Ki-duk, a delightful Korean movie about empty houses, wherein the hero and heroine don’t even speak a word to each other, but their actions, emotions can be seen on their faces. (Please, watch this, Bollywood guys and gals, you will feel that you are wasting your plotlines by filling it up with inanities about “love for ever,” “love ho jata hai, kiya nahi jata,” and all that crappy crap.)


Later on at the David Sassoon Library, I go through the delightfully restored library which is a favourite haunt of yours truly. I did most of the writing of my first novel here. Then I go down to the library garden where a tribute to Facebook-friend Dilip Chitre is in progress with poet Sanjay Khandekar reading Dilip’s poems, with the right nuances, I might add. I haven’t met Dilip, which is a great regret I have. Sanjay says he was active till his final days. His poem “Has my time come?” rightly captures the anguish he felt in his final days.

Later on Nilanjana Roy does a well-researched presentation on Books of the Decade in which she pretty much wraps up the decade in retrospect – book-wise and publishing-trend-wise. Her’s was a presentation filled with humourous asides: “I combed my hair, but the fan did things to it.” Nilanjana, if you are reading this, “Your hair looked all right to me.”


Following this editor Anita Roy and writer and fellow blogger Amit Varma came on stage. Anita said, “The Bloomsbury guys said we are standing on the edge of a precipice, a bottom-less void,” or something such, I don’t remember, vis-à-vis the online digital prospects of books. I guess publishers have reasons to be scared as she herself said, “People don’t like to pay for something they can download for free.” Or, are available on the net cheaply. Peter Griffin has an aside to this, “Somebody said at the Jaipur Literary that you can’t take a Kindle to the bathroom, to which somebody retorted, ‘Yes you can.’”

So those who have perused the Kindle in the bathroom please let me know in the comment section, right below this post, what you did when washing/wiping your posterior. Left it on the bathroom floor?

So where does it take the book-printing-and-publishing industry?


I stand outside David Sassoon Library and look at the mess the traffic is making. As expected there is no cop at the intersection of Dubash Marg with M.G.Road and I see a situation typical of Bombai. Cars squeeze themselves into an unseemly pile on both crosses of the intersection and the drivers vent their spleen on their horns. How’s this for doing a rap-thing on the streets:

Horn baja de, horn baja de
Baap ka rasta hai, baja, baja!

I am tired, now I need sleep. Keep tuned for tomorrow’s report. Till then, bye.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Kala Ghoda Festival Opens Today; Some Great Films on Show

The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (KGAF) is opening today and I intend to be there in the afternoon and evening. I intend to catch Costa Gavras film "Amen" at the Cama Hall. I have never seen any Casta Gavras film, about which I have heard such a lot.

Facebook friend Vinta Nanda is curating the film section and I can see from the program (the program at kalaghoda association website wasn't opening so I had to get it from friend Ignatius D'souza) is excellent with the likes of Kurosawa's Ran (not to be confused with Rann, running (alliteration, hehe) in theatres). Some great films have been put together by Vinta and I, a film addict, full support her efforts and will try and catch as many as I can. (After all, one can't see these classic films in multiplexes, can one?)

So "hie thee thither" (as the Bard would say) and sink into a chair and catch great sights and sounds happening before you on the silver screen.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Into which Tukaram Shinde Gives, that Which One

This is another sad story. Tukaram Shinde drives a rickshaw, the three-wheeled contraption you see on Indian roads (aside: I may call it that, but it's my favorite transport). Seeing his rickshaw was new I asked him what it cost. He said Rs 2,30,000 (USD 5555). I say it would have bought him a proper car which he can run as a taxi cab, for a higher income, of course. He looks at me as if I am a squirrel who has lost his nuts (Andiillatha annan, is the correct phrase in Malayalam). But I hadn't reckoned on the basic economics of his beetle-shaped rickshaw, so adapted to the Indian scheme of things: in affordability, maneuverability, mobility, a wholly Asian concept in which short-limbed, bulging-torso-ed people with big plastic bags could fit in with ease. Just, move in, adjust paaleeeej! My son used to travel in one to school with ten other children squeezed into the back seat, some standing in front, and on child seated on the driver's lap between the hands that held the steering rod. Whew! The rickshaw can transport a family of three comfortably, which is my family: my wifey, Ronnie and me. Though, I must confess I have ridden to work in rickshaws with eight people including me and the driver. Economics, again, of an under-developed country with lopsided theory of development, which I abandon to economists like Amartya Sen.

Hm. Be that as it may!

Tukaram shared with me the economics of his new rickshaw, thusly:

  • Cost of rickshaw: Rs 90,000 (USD 2000)
  • Cost of getting a permit to run rickshaw (including bribes): Rs 80,000 (almost equal to the price of the rickshaw!) (USD 1777)
  • CNG (compressed natural gas) fittings and accessories: Rs 60,000 (USD 1333)

I will be dammed. Because for that money he could have bought himself a new Hyundai Santro or a Wagon R. Why didn't he? He could have ridden in style in air-conditioned comfort.

Because, he tells me, what will he do with a Santro in New Bombai? With a rickshaw, at least, he will get business, besides CNG is cheaper than petrol.

What I can't understand is the Rs 80,000 he has to pay to get a permit. Where does the money go? Into which Tukaram Shinde gives, that which one (sorry, got carried away!).

Thursday, February 04, 2010

We Read Less, We Communicate Even Less

This blog post really made me think. Why don't we read anymore? I mean I read only when I am travelling and am not near a computer or a television. I have set aside my commuting time as my reading time as it uplifts me, transforms me into the multi-layered, multi-faceted world of characters as diverse as Harry Potter (yes, I enjoyed one book of Rowling), Salim Sinai (Midnight's Children), Pierre (War and Peace), Humbert Humbert (Lolita), Humboldt (Humboldt's Gift), and so on. Reading fiction involves deep thinking, analysis, longer memory, better analysis of character. But with television we have become that much more superficial. We have mobile phones, but we communicate less, we have internet, but we write mails without a proper address and even a proper thank you.

In spite of having the latest phones, it's difficult contacting a person. We invent reasons for not answering someone's call. "Left mobile at home," "was driving," "battery ran out," "was in a meeting," etc. We cut off a person in the middle of a call and say "the network is bad," we scream, "hello, hello, hello," when we can hear his/her voice clearly, we have become more inventive and less dependable, we are inspired by foul-mouthed pseudos than genuine characters who fight for justice and fairness.

So, therefore, I was pleasantly surprised when I read this post the Guardian blog. Yes, the very thing I was thinking about, why are we so superficially glamour- and celebrity-oriented, running after mindless and bad-word-filled reality shows, thinking we are gods in our blogging, social networks, and not displaying any qualities of deep introspection from which all works of art are born? Even writers these days depend on quick-success formulas of mango orchards, pickled phrase jugglery, a laugh or a witticism a sentence, and assorted, in Bollywood parlance, dialogue-baazi.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The Sad Case of Ramprasad Pandey

This is the sad story of Ramprasad Pandey. He sells cut papayas in Churchgate, sitting under a pretty-looking gulmhur tree. On a good day he makes Rs 600 (Rs 18,000 a month), on a bad day hardly Rs 100. But the agents of the police, the municipal corporation come and take away Rs 100 a week as an unofficial tax as they fall within their area of jurisdiction. That's Rs 800 less every month. Ramprasad doesn't know law so he pays up without grumbling. He buys papayas from the wholesale market at Rs 20 per kg, and he sells them for Rs 40 per kg on an average. So that's Rs 9000 shaved off his income. From the balance Rs 9000 Rs 1000 goes in bribes, Rs 3000 goes to an assistant who transports papayas, leaving him with Rs 5000 a month. With this he has to manage himself, his family in distant U.P. yet, he is better off than this guy I profile here nearly a month ago who works for Rs 4000 for 12 hours each day 7 days of the week.

It's all right for Manmohan Singh to harp about 7 to 9 per cent growth. Wherein he says platitudes such as, "We are rapidly moving forward. We have faith in ourselves. We have political stability. Our democracy is an example for the whole world. We are gaining in economic strength. Most importantly, we have confidence in our youth... I am sure that they will take our country to a new glory." But what has it done for Ramprasad? He is a broken man, most always in tears and blabbering against the corrupt establishments that extort his hard earned money. I will bring you more such abject poverty abounding within our own city walls. What then would be the case in the dirt-poor villages? Development, growth rate, per capita, are all mirages for them.

What gets Ramprasad's gall is after paying the police and the municipal authorities, when the municipality's trucks come to check for unauthorized hawkers, he still has to lift his papayas (no pun, please!) and run into the nearby building, while the official of the ultipalti (topsy turvy) leers from the front seat. Some unsavory joke this?

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Waiting for Mr. Right?

Whether women should wait for Mr. Right or settle for second best is a raging controversy going on on Facebook these day. Got to read this interesting account by an independent IT Project Manager which talks of her travails in the matrimonial realm (which includes matrimonial sites, dating sites, the works). Seeing as how much inexperienced I am in this front (I married the first girl I saw, whom my parents had chosen for me! Those were the pre-matrimonial-site days), I find the whole process fascinating. But there’s a positive side too. Recently a niece got married to a man she had met online. She is the independent type and he, poor chap, is a “Joru ka ghulam”. “No drinking, no cigarettes, okay?” is the first condition she laid. She won.