Friday, March 28, 2014

A Missing Aeroplane in the Indian Ocean and Other Musings....

Some things just upset me. Like this one: a jet plane from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing veers away and is not seen again for more than two weeks. Information comes very slowly over the media: much tom-tomed (yes, that's the word) as on-the-spot reportage and live coverage. I think of the relatives of people on board, their desperation, their stoicism, their occasional outbursts. Is this the modern world we live in? Is this the technological advancement we have made - making soldiers, most likely to be soldiers, looking out of windows to spot some tell-tale sign of the jet. Has the suicide/terror angle been investigated? Is this some kind of modern Hara-kiri?

Well, no one knows.

India said it will join the search and quite forgot about it. Well, um, it happened in our back yard, the Indian Ocean and we forgot about it. How else do you explain the virtual blanking out of India from the references by the experts. "!@#$%^&* unka plane gaya hai, hamara kya jata hai," they must have said in hushed voices. But there were Indians on board and Indian planes should have been sent for the search in the Indian Ocean. Of course, a great public relations opportunity of making use of a much international aeronautical disaster to display our advancements and achievements was lost. An Indian plane should have reported that it has spotted debris. We owed it to the world and the families of the compatriots on board. Largely situational albeit a significant positioning as a power of consequence in the Indian Ocean. On the other hand China offered to snoop around in our territorial waters (the ingenious Chinese know their diplomacy and war tactics much better).

Well, we wait, we wait for what? For Godot? For some news from Australia, China, Malaysia, even Thailand. No, not India.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Man in Light Bulb Is No More! R.I.P. Khushwant Singh

I saw him at Tata Litlive, a frail old Sardarji, talking to someone at the Experimental Theatre where he was going to receive a lifetime achievement award. I wanted to go and introduce myself. But what do I introduce myself as? As a writer I don’t anything substantial to talk about, all I have is a bunch of short stories, poems, a blog, and a novel permanently in a state of suspended animation. Well, er, hum. Here is a man of substance, considerable amounts of it, charm, wit, and achievement and I was overwhelmed. That is to say I didn’t muster the courage to speak to him. And, damn! I bungled that opportunity, which will never come again. I thought writers like him are immortal, they don’t just die. So, no worries, maybe, after the novel is published I could introduce myself and give him a copy of my magnum opus.


Alas and Alack, that’s not to be! The sardarji in a light bulb is no more. Mario’s cartoon of him, pictured him in a light bulb. Why I don’t know, because Mario is also no more. It could be that he wrote at night, or, it could be that ideas for his columns spring to mind like a light bulb, a sixty watt one. Writers are such mysterious creatures.


My first acquaintance with his writing was through the Illustrated Weekly of India which he edited. My dad would bring the magazine home from office and immediately all the neighbours would want to read it. (Actually they wanted to ogle at the semi-nude pictures.) It contained salacious bits of information no newspaper dared to print in those days. He would not spare the holy cows of society. He satirized Amrita Sher-Gill’s paintings, he rubbished Godmen like Rajnish, he spoke boldly against Bhindranwale. Nobody was above his acerbic wit, he spared no one: neither self-styled gurus or punch-drunk divas. Sometimes you hated him for his frank criticisms; sometimes you loved him for demolishing an icon. His style was simple and he gave his journalists full freedom. I have read his articles and columns but not his novels. I mean to, soon. This is a loss that must be recorded in letters of black in our literary history.


As I am writing this I receive a call from a friend who worked with him in the Times group. He says he used to come to office in a tee-shirt and mostly his pheta would be either blue or yellow in colour, and that he was jovial with the staff. This is quite a departure from the norm because those were the days of casteism in the editorial echelons. Forget editors, not even assistant editors would drag their stiff asses to the copy desk to see how a story was going. But he changed it all and we got a new crop of editors – Akbar, Karkaria, Nair, D’Monte – all who believed in his style of running a publication.


Rest in peace Khushwant Singh, man in a light bulb!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Working Hardly on the Novel - Love Writing; Hate Editing

Sorry for not being in this space for some time. It's that I am reading the novel on my Kindle and have noticed a lot of printer's devils - hm, the abominable creature's guts - in them, which I wouldn't have noticed otherwise.

I love writing. But it's the editing that I hate, no, detest with all my being. While writing keeps you entertained and innovating, it's the editing that kills. I have edited the novel four (repeat four) times and I guess there is one more editing to go. 

So there goes me, a doddering old idiot, a tottering fool, a cranky and bankrupt writer back to another editing. I should have gone back to painting which would have been more lucrative. Ho, hm. 

Wish me luck, because, sorry folks, it's going to take a while.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Honoured to Be Felicitated by David Sassoon Library

I have only served in two managing committees so far: the church committee and David Sassoon Reading Room and Library (see pic), the iconic library in Kala Ghoda where the literature section of the venerable Kala Ghoda Festival takes place.

The David Sassoon Library
The Certificate of appreciation
While my service to the church is understood and appreciated, I was pleasantly surprised when Adv. Vivek Ajgaokar, President, David Sassoon Library (DSL) decided to felicitate me along with other who have rendered service to it. Ergo, the neatly gilded certificate was conferred to me at a function in the refurbished library in the presence of dignitaries, an MLA, judges, lawyers, and sundry others.

Accepting this in my own humble way (IMHO), I said a few words about the library and how I came to be associated with it. (I confess I didn't do much good for the library except select some good books for it.) Which went thusly:

I was appointed editor of the Bombay Management Association's journal AMBIT by none other than Mr. M.B.Bhaskare, former MD of Greaves Cotton. The association is situated in Army & Navy Building, where Westside is at present. Actually Westside used to be the atrium of Army & Navy Building. And further, in actual fact, this atrium was the entrance to the Army & Navy Stores back in the halcyon days.

Ah, how the memory wanders over these stray threads of my past. Those were humongous times spent reading in the DSL and watching shows of Hussain, Raza, Monet and Picasso at the Jehangir Art Gallery and the NGMA, National Gallery of Modern Art for those who came late.

Thanks DSL and Adv. Vivek Ajgaokar for this honour.