Wednesday, October 30, 2013

An Encounter with the King of the Reptilian World

Should we write about this? The whole of last night was spent worrying about this. Or should we leave this experience in its own happily-forgotten state? You know, the sort that goes away unobtrusively from consciousness. But when it stays with us and gets further reinforced, one thinks about offloading it somewhere.

So here it is.

We were returning from our morning walk yesterday, sweating, glad it was over. A small application on our mobile phone showed we had walked 2.5 kilometres and 3,500 steps. That will be enough for the hot morning, we decided, and descended a slight incline, a path, which led away from the mountains surrounding Artist Village. We were distracted and walking at the faster pace, now that we were done.

As we nearly finished the walk, and at the spot where the neatly-laid buildings and houses began, we moved a little to the side of the path and our eyes ran over a brown rope lying on the side. But the rope was moving, a slithery swift movement near us. The momentum had carried us past it and then we gazed back.

In one swift motion that can only be described as more than equal to a ballet dancer's it raised its hood, preparing to strike, if needed. It was a movement of warning, defensive, of preparing to defend onself, and we stared at it for a long time, transfixed by the beauty of the reptile.

Time froze.

Here's a rough sketch, since we didn't carry a camera.
Nag, cobra, moorkhan, the king of the reptilian kingdom was staring at us, as if we were the enemy, defending itself against its worst enemy. The gaze was challenging, unblinking. We were looking at a wonder of the whole animal kingdom, one that could inflict instant death. Yet, the movement, the graceful ascension on its coiled hind quarters was swift, matching the resplendency of a peacock spreading its tail. Now, we are a harmless sort who likes peace and walks away from conflict even to our own detriment, and what possible threat could it have seen in us. Yet, it was challenging us, this king of the wild, this dream of human beings, revered, respected, worshipped, and deified.

We stood there staring at certain death if we advanced, a helpless man, unarmed, looking at his worst enemy. It was only a warning and what an unspoken warning it was. Then we decided it was best to retreat, and let the king leave. We walked forward not taking our eyes off the magnificient object, and saw the hood slowly close, impercetibly, then resume its journey. We regretted not carrying our camera to picture this wonderful living being.

This happened yesterday and we can't forget it even today. The papers this day carries a story that human beings are wired to recognise a snake's presence and be alert. We certainly are. The incident left us shaking and we still remember the sight with a certain alarm.

Goodbye king! Hope we never see you again.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

We Are Back!

We are back, as said by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the terminator movie. But he said I will be back. What difference? None. 

At once all computers at home conked out. Our laptop, son's desktop, both decided to strike. Our laptop was beyond repair, the repair centre girl sweetly told us, noting the pain on our face. We realised then that laptops are delicate little things - like wives - and we were pretty rough on it. Our work and pictures and artworks were saved in disks and and something called "dropbox" which is amazing, so check it out. In the retired state that we are in, we can't afford to invest in a new laptop, though we hear the thingamajig costs a lot less than before. We had paid two salaries to buy our laptop and had starved to make ends meet. Well, ahem!

So, sonny has gone and upgraded his desktop, which working fine, thank you. Being a computer scientist he knows the insides of the scrawny thing we are writing this on. What we see as a mass or wires and blinking lights hold meaning to a computer scientist because, like a doctor, he can spot what is wrong. "The Hard Disk is corrupted," he says. While we know of corruption in high places we don't know what corruption has to do with computers. May be, the hard disk borrowed some money from the mother board and didn't pay it back. Which brings us to mother board, whoever thought of mother as a board is plain sick in his thinking apparatus. This one has a good stereo attached and listening to music is a wonderful experience. Not quite the experience we have had yesterday when we listened to the Bose stereo at Croma in Belapur. That music was so good, the guitar chords so pure, it brought tears to our eyes and a lump in the throat. (We always listen to guitar chords, as we play the instrument, at least, try to.)

Be that as it may, we were warned to be extra careful while using this desktop, don't download anything, said sonny. And who bought this contraption in the first place? Okay, we let it pass.

The landmark of our completing ten years of blogging has passed and no one took notice. We asked the newspapers who we know to do a story on us (so it will help with the novel) and none of them responded. Who wants to feature a pony-tailed blogger? Hm, the world has other things to do.

The pony-tail is growing fine despite the barbs aimed at it. We have drawn stares, comments, denunciations, anger, surprise, laughs over our pony-tail, which is also fine. Guess it will take some time to get adjusted to. Shahrukh sports one is our constant excuse. It looks different and writers should look different. We grew it to remind us that we have a novel to complete. We have not edited it for the last three days, which is being lazy. But our financial worries overtake our writing, which needs calm and intense concentration. Will we be able to give it (novel) that? What's the purpose of all this if it will be rejected? Should we go on? What difference will it - the novel - make. Will it alter our complacency, that smug all-knowing world where things are swept into the past without a thought? Does society need someone to document its stories? Isn't it futile considering there are hardly anybody who attends book readings? Aren't we wasting time as the industrial worker from the oil company living next door thinks. (He has a car, two bikes, a bungalow  lots of gold, Diwali bonus, what have you?)

A barrage of such questions almost floored us yesterday. Sometimes the loneliness of old age can be excruciating. Doubts can overcome one and cast a pall of gloom on our very existence. 

But we plod on regardless. As Ram Chander the securityman at the nearby newly-opened hospital in the neighborhood says, "din kat raha hai." We became acquainted on our morning walks. Meaning days are "being cut" from the gross total of our living days. That's a clumsy translation, but we will let it stand. We are hungry and lunch is waiting.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Thirteen-year-old Shilpa Runs Away from Home...

It's now five nights since thirteen-year-old Shilpa (name changed) left home. Without warning. We were stunned. It's one thing to read about such things in the newspaper and it's another thing to let to happen in your neighbourhood. Tongues started wagging: she has a boyfriend; how could she?; what does she know of life?; she is but a child; her parents doted on her; how could she betray all of us? So on, so forth.

The house filled with relatives. They came from all corners of the state, to find the little girl. They all looked shocked and stunned into silence. A police complaint was made, search teams were sent to all corners of the little New Bombay suburb. A small place, really. They couldn't find her. Neither could the police. The mother wailed, the father talked incoherently. Neighbours visited one by one to show their solidarity, offer words of consolation. They weren't consoled: how could she do this to us? She was the youngest and we loved her the most, fulfilled all her wishes. May be, we did the wrong thing by loving her. It was okay if a child ran away as she didn't get the love of her parents. But she was different, her father did all he could to keep her happy and spoilt as he loved his younger daughter the most.

Then what went wrong? It's said she had a boyfriend, a bad sort. May be, just may be, she eloped with him. He had already run away a few times and kept bad company. The boy became the villain and everybody cursed him. How could he do such a thing. His family was threatened.

The first two nights were sleepless nights, looking for her, searching for clues as to what must have happened. The police checked her cellphone number and found it was switched off. A phone call was traced to nearby location. Apart from that nothing, no clues. The parents became harried and harassed, the relatives started moralising. Instead of peace the family started arguing loudly. Neighbours were sympathetic to their plight when they argued through the night. Even they were shocked as they had young teenage daughters.

It's the entertainment industry, people said, she is a minor and has a boyfriend. We never had boyfriends at that age. Neither did we know anything about sex. Now every teenager knows. They have porn movies on their computers and they have cellphones to forward smut videos. It's a moral question not a criminal one, the neighbourhood know-it-all said. What happened to her on those two nights? Punishing her and him would do no good as they will go back to doing what they did before. But the boy should be taught a lesson.

On the third day Shilpa and the boy reported to the police station. It seemed his money had run out. They had gone to a party and since it ended late she was reluctant to go home. That's when they reported at the police station. The boy was taught a lesson. The girl was reluctant to go home so she went to live with an uncle in a distant place. The trauma had come to an end. The neighbourhood heaved a sigh of relief. Parents became more protective of their young girls. Remember Arushi?

Or, did it end? Who was responsible? What went wrong with a society that had lost control of its young people? Will counselling help? Will strictness and watchfulness help? Will they go back to doing what they did? If they did what should we do? There were a lot of questions asked and not many answers.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

At the mall

At the mall and its razzmatazz.

Onam suit

Here's proof that I can carry off Kerala's traditional dress of free dhoti and kurta, which, if worn well is the world's most comfortable dress. Am attired for an Onam feast. Do I look okay? Please comment.

Young girl sat on a bench in the mall crying!

Here's something heart-breaking heartless world. This young girl is sitting in a mall and crying! Tears amidst the tinsel and tawdriness?

Wednesday, October 09, 2013


(Wrote this after seeing disturbing images of the Syrian War on television. The poem [written as a song] is self-evident, so won't explain or exposition it here. Do please comment.)

There was peace here before the guns came
The birds used to sing before darkness became.

We had water to drink and food to eat
We had grains, vegetables, and even meat.

The days were peaceful, boring, and calm
And no nights of gunfire and napalam.

Our children went to school and men to work
Gunners didn't on street corners lurk.

Bring back those days; oh, bring them back
These difficult days are hard, bending our back.

We don't need your free clothes, food packets, and peace talks
We only need our freedom to take our children to the parks

Leaders, it takes a few hours to declare wars
But it takes people lifetimes to forget the scars.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Will Ranbir End Up Being Mannered As His Father and Grandfather?

Indian actors we have observed for three decades, ah, may be more, have a career graph that goes something as follows:

1. A good debut
2. A star is born
3. Success goes to his head
4. He becomes mannered

Almost all stars from Dilip Kumar to Rajesh Khanna to SRK have followed the above pattern, except, may be, a few like Aamir Khan. We haven't yet seen Besharam starring Ranbir Kapoor, but from what we have heard from the grapevine he will end up as mannered as his father and grandfather in acting. Yes, we liked the earlier Raj Kapoor and then he transformed into this mannered actor, as if he wasn't sure of himself. We also liked Rishi in his earlier days (remember Bobby, Khel Khel Mein, our coming of age movies), but then he too went for mannerisms of his father and uncles. Ranbir could be saved from mannerism, which, then, could go on to create a real good actor - a rare one - in Hindi filmdom. Somebody please save this newcomer because we see a lot of talent in him. This is the view of a dilettante, so it can be disregarded as pure blog fluffery.

Neways, we are bothered by the absolute lack of new ideas in Bollywood. They are making films to make the cash box ring, nothing original is dished out, it's always the rehashing of old ideas, ad nauseum. We watch a lot of films on UTV's World Movies and we would urge Bollywood directors to take time out and rest their swollen heads on cushions - if needed - and watch them days on end for inspiration. Oh my God! What great movies, what slick movie making. Today we saw "Janis and John" about a couple who do impersonation of Janis Joplin and John Lennon to fool a cousin into giving them money. Must say French movies are the best. Even the Polish movies have more polish (pun unintended) than ours.

Movies are all about story telling and if the story isn't right the movie will turn out to be trash. Really. We consider this as the absolute gospel truth, given what our critics might allege, our critics be damned. We need to pay for good stories and have good writers instead of hiring a hack to do a story in five days sitting in a five-star hotel. By the by, our neighbourhood scriptwriter is writing another story and we wonder what it will be all about. He is a talented film director who hasn't had a film so far, except for some Bhojpuri films. We wish him well.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

A Crying Shame: We Don't Have Good Copyeditors

We recently read a few pages of an anthology, one in which our short story was published. Then we put the book down and winced. Winced because there were a lot of mistakes, that even the most underpaid sub-editor (a tribe of which we used to be a member) would have discovered. We wondered if the copy has been "subbed" at all. That hurt us because it was our book, one we made our debut with. It made us feel like dirt. To our horror, we discovered later that these days publishers don't employ the tribe called "su-editors" or "copyeditors". They do an editing online and then it goes to press. There is lot of difference between editing online and correcting proof on paper. Online you tend to scan and not really read, many, many, errors thus get overlooked.

We think this was the horror story which was waiting to happen, putting the computer to work where it couldn't be of any help. A story that has killed the demand for good copy editors, which, partially, contributed to our downfall. The copy desk, once the privilege of well-read, all-knowing, grammar-proficient sub-editors who really controlled quality is now dead, as an institution or otherwise as a profession. That's why Indian novels turn out to be of atrocious quality, you turn away in disgust at the mistakes. Pick up a Bhagat or a Trivedi and you are spot on. Combined with this is the fact that there aren't anything called fact checking or research and the book becomes a poor cousin of those produced abroad.

In the mad scramble for releasing titles, publishing houses are forgetting a very important ingredient of the publishing process, the copy desk. No, this is not self glorification, this is the plain truth. Everyday we have to wince through the growing number of mistakes in newspapers and magazines and, believe us, the online media isn't free of them either. You don't have to skim deep enough, you will find the bloopers floating on the surface itself. I have a novel before me which begins "Only one death reported in the press," in the second line. It seems as if one death rose from some graveyard and reported itself to the newspapers concerned.

Don't worry, the meaning is clear, no? Why bother with grammar or syntax as long as meaning is clear? True not all writers (including us, yes, we need a lot of editing) are perfect, but a second opinion is what the publisher must seek and what could be better than the in-house second opinion of the sub-editor? I have worked under brilliant Chief sub-editors (the leader of the copy desk) who could point to a mistake though the entire team might have overlooked it.

Ah, those were the days! Could we bring them back please!