Monday, December 16, 2013

Be in Peace, Sarasa Gopal, Our Friend

In school she showed glimmers of brilliance. When we would ask her to be on the Green House’s debating team (we were the captain) she would agree and come prepared. From then on she would call us “captain” and the name stuck. Years later when we met and decided that we school chums should meet she was the most enthusiastic of the lot. From then on we classmates of Adarsha Vidyalaya (Ganga, Ajit, Sanjeevan, Murli, Geeta, Sarsa, Chandra, Ravi, Anil, etc.) would meet every few months for a few friendly tipples and sharing of old jokes. Over the past four or five years we have become a tight-knit community inviting each other for children’s weddings, wishing each other on Onam, Christmas, Diwali.

Every meeting she would come armed with something to eat, cooked by her. She was working for a hearing-aid-manufacturing company and when the boss died he gave the business to her. But there were problems running the business and she gave it up and settled in Coimbatore with her husband Gopal. We, sort of, drifted apart as people living in different places in the sub-continent can only do, not out of will or volition, but from laziness. We thought of calling her many times, but something petty would intervene. Then from Coimbatore she sent us an email that stunned us. Both her kidneys had failed, she informed us, and she was undergoing dialysis.  

At Krishna's Wedding. Sarasa is second from left.
Then Ganga broke the news: Sarasa Gopal is no more. Few months ago when I met her at Ganga’s son Akash’s wedding she was her usual cheerful self, laughing and joking. After that came her son Krishna’s wedding and we saw her in her gayest mood. “Dhabake khana (eat well),” she told us. We couldn’t because we all looked at the sweetmeats spread before us wistfully and with regret.

All of us have our own problems and are wondering about our futures. The news is not good on the medical front. There is no cure for old age and the wearing of overworked organs. We have abused our bodies commuting and sitting in front of computers. Illness and its attendant problems can strike at any time. When it strikes there are a series of unbelievable discoveries you make about your body. The problem is, despite what they call the advancement of medical science, it remains a science of cutting and joining body parts and treating of the symptoms with antibiotics and pain killers. It disillusions you after some time. This is the plain naked truth from a sufferer himself. We can’t believe she has gone into the vast space yonder and left us all in pain. All we can do is try and be cheerful like Sarasa.

Rest in peace, Sarasa Gopal.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela R.I.P.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is no more. He died on 5th December, 2013, at the ripe old age of ninety-five. Another leader of world ranking, whom the world loved and admired is no more. Not merely a leader but a patron of sports, a statesman, and an individual who had achieved the aspirations of his people. The aspiration in this case was freedom from an oppressive rule by the formerly racist regime in South Africa (SA).

We saw an interview with the captain of the SA rugby team, a white man. He talks of how Mandela, also called Madiba – a Xhoso clan (his clan) name which mean “father” – was instrumental in promoting his sport and was also protective of the cultural diversity of the country.  Without him white South Africans could have been the target of rampaging mobs as seen in his neighbouring country Zimbabwe. He was a pacifist and one who believed in human values and therefore eschewed any feelings of revenge. It paid off well, too, because SA gained from this policy of tolerance and democracy. Our cricket team which is in SA should pay homage to this leader who displayed a more than normal interest in the game.

Altogether he spent 27 years in jail fighting for his cause. His cell wasn’t very luxurious and he slept on the floor (we saw this on the BBC), sometimes wracked with fever. The long incarceration must have taken a big toll on his health but he remained cheerful till the very end. Yet, he suffered all this because he knew his dream would one day come true. Under him the African National Congress (ANC) became a multi-ethnic and tolerant organization. He also built up an impeccable hierarchy of leaders who are leading the country now.

Admittedly, Madiba was the father figure whose word was still held in high esteem.  He could have remained President but preferred to pass the baton to younger men. After all, he didn’t believe – unlike Indian leaders – in dynastic rule. Now how the SA political narrative unfolds – in the post-Mandela scenario – no one knows. There is still poverty in the slums and ghettos and immense unrest. There is also violence. How the country will deal with these problems will unravel only in the coming months.

Meanwhile, here’s raising a hand to salute the father, the Madiba, who led a people to freedom from his jail cell.

Some Pictures of Times Literary Carnival

Hanif Quereshi, the man, the writer, the script writer, the cool unruffled one. "We artists belong to an ecosystem," something such.

Urvashi Butalia, Eve Ensler on the male sexual predator. I don't know the others.

A young admirer talks to the one being admired.

Some day!

Mikes on stage.

The historian Ramchandra Guha

Jeet Thayil interviews Hanif Quereshi. 

Some Pics of Tata Litlive

The stage at Experimental Theatre. Wonder why Times didn't cover Litlive at all. A case of not promoting a competitor?

Anuvab Pal, Amish Tripathi and Vikas Swarup in a discussion. Amish recounted how he wrote in the back of a car on the way to work and Vikas said he wrote his entire first novel when his wife was on a holiday to India.

The Amish Tripathi making a point, whatever it is.

Nik Gowing of the BBC on how the humble cell phone is making a difference in reporting. He recounted how a man inside an aircraft mentioned as he was broadcasting how he didn't like Nik's tie by Twitter. That shows how mobile technology is revolutionising reporting. Most of BBC's coverage of events in Syria were shots taken by amateurs on their mobile phones. 

Ashwin Sanghi, Peter James and Anish Trivedi (no, that was Amish Tripathi) in a discussion about the who-done-it. Peter James recounted how friendship with a few police officers gave him material for his novels.