Tuesday, April 28, 2015

My Morning Walk

Every day I go for a walk in the morning, in the valley where I live, part of the routine now. I have a cane, which I use not because I need it, but because of the dogs that inhabit my route. They have become friendly, however, the odd one still barks at me. I go around 10 a.m., which is when I finish my yoga and breakfast.

There’s a curious mix of people I meet on my walk. One is a neighbour, the wrecker of the hills where I live, the local rich man. He owns a stone crushing business and has denuded the hills around my house with his industriousness. Through the night and day he mines the granite in these hills and sells it to the railways. He owns half a dozen cars and says he is doing well. Whenever I pass his house, I hear the loud admonitions of his wife, a dowdy, querulous lady. His is a joint family, which means his sons and wives and grandchildren live with him.

Sometimes he waves me good morning. Sometimes he doesn’t. That may be because he is planning his next business move to take notice of me. Gujjus being quite admirably money minded they always think about business. He bought another plot of land and is building a huge bungalow there complete with lift and lots of glass. He is the uncouth kind of man, rough of character, who, though he owns several cars, wouldn’t spend money to have them washed.

Then there is Ramu, the ironing man whose job is to iron all clothes in the locality. He is a resident of the valley for a long time, having been born here. He didn’t study beyond fifth standard preferring to loaf around with friends. Now his father has gone to his village and he looks after his ironing business. He and the eunuch, sorry, transgender, about whom I wrote a story (Lalla: the Eunuch), live in adjacent shacks.

Then there is this distinguished gentleman from Kerala, who tells me stories about VK Krishna Menon and KPRS Menon, because he himself is a Menon. He worked in a corporation for a long time and is in his eighties. He has maintained his health very well though he has a back problem, which he is bearing with admirable fortitude. He reads a lot and we discuss some writers and their works.

Then there is this gentleman who is a Bengali. We greet each other, in strict cordiality. He has never asked me about my background, nor have I about his. From general appearance he looks like a government servant, a babu, the sort who pushes files in government offices. He speaks with great care, mincing each word, cautiously avoiding any unpleasantness. He also is quite well off and has a big car and lives in a big house near the gymnasium. We only say “how hot it is,” or “how cold it is,” to each other, after our morning greetings.

I rest myself after my walk on a garden seat near the gymnasium. There is a steady stream of people in cars and bikes who visit the gymnasium to work on their bodies. I look at them and marvel their rippling muscles. I wish I was like them. One lady, a nicely muscled one, comes with a packet of biscuits which she distributes to the dogs, who, not being hungry in the morning, grudgingly hover around her gift. The dogs brawl over the food, but don’t eat it, leaving the biscuits on the street. I guess they are learning to hoard food from us.

Then there are two Malayali friends who always walk together. One is known to me, therefore he greets me. They talk all the while about politics, Kerala politics. Now, to be honest, I don’t know much about Kerala politics except that Oommen Chandy is the chief minister and Sarita Nair is somebody involved in a scam.

The dogs bark at me even though they know me. I wave my stick at them, a sturdy Wildcraft climbing stick. They seem unfazed. It’s their privilege to bark, let them enjoy their entitlement. I am not bothered.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Launch of CP Surendran's Novel Hadal at Palladium

Was at friend CP Surendran’s novel launch yesterday. His novel Hadal was being launched at the tony Palladium in upper Worli. Upper worli for those who don’t know it is Lower Parel, the mill district. They have cleverly manipulated the name to upper Worli to save them from the blushes of saying they live in Lower Parel. So you live in Lower Parel, does your father work in the cotton mill, eh? What could be more insulting than that?
It was an evening of drinks and discussion as the author interacted with film maker Anurag Kashyap and Ravi Subramaniam. Ravi had read the book overnight, he said. Earlier actors Suchitra Pillai and Denzil Smith had done a dramatic reading of a chapter from the novel. The banter was pleasant and the paparazzi were present in great numbers sensing some great story was up. But the news never got the coverage it could have. I scanned the papers today and found nothing. Surely, DNA will not carry it because CP – I call him that – had just left it. The Times didn’t carry it also. Some media shenanigan behind this? Then why was the paparazzi so strongly and intrusively present? They were all over the place. They were building their photo portfolio on CP and Anurag, or, so it seems. Nothing succeeds like success.
Ravi Subramaniam, CP Surendran, and Anurag Kashyap
CP said that these days people go by phonetics of language and not by their etymological origin. So you becomes “u” and we becomes “v.” Ravi also read out a passage from the novel which states that Indian men are over-sexed and underfucked. Yes, agree with that. What else would make drivers and bus attendants so horny that they would abuse small children? We are an underscrewed nation. Where do we have the time or the place? In a one room kitchen flat, in which most of Bombay lives, where’s the place for decent conjugal bliss? Even married people have to look for a vacation or a room in a seedy hotel to consummate.

Hm. I don’t know; this must be the way launches are done these days. The paparazzi, the drinks, the verbal jousts, the humour, the fun. CP shone with his intelligent asides. You are doing great man! A good evening of intellectual stimulation was had by all. 

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Some Cogitations on Vishu

The Konna, Cassia Fistula

On my morning walk today I saw this regularity, rather, miracle, of nature. The Konna (Cassia Fistula), a flower like dappled sunlight, a profusion of them looking like the sun glittering on a placid lake, is blooming again. That means the Malayalam new year Vishu is here. Vishu is on April 15, in case you would like to know. It’s the day on which farmers begin their farming activities in Kerala ending in the harvest season during Onam. So it’s a time for Vishukani and Vishusadya.

Sunlight when it falls on the Konna makes it even more beautiful. It’s like heaven on heaven, a two-fold blessing to sore eyes that missed many a bloom this spring. The mango tree which should have been full of blossoms is dry and devoid these days, the jackfruit tree in the courtyard is forlorn and a few jackfruits in its branches have turned black and fallen down.

This spring I didn’t see the gulmohurs blossoming in my locality. I don’t know why. Even some of the plants in my garden have wilted. The heat is harsh, the wind is dry, a few days of rain hasn’t mitigated the heat. So global warming is a reality isn’t it? How do we cope with it? Are we prepared?

Yesterday, out in the sun to do a few things I was putting off, I visited Vashi. The heat was so intense that I had to escape to somewhere in the shade, probably with air-conditioning. So I went to Inorbit mall, Vashi, and did some shopping. Bought a large-size green shorts and a size XL tee-shirt. I would have never done that in my earlier days. Nowadays, with a bulging tummy those are the things I wear at home.

Came out at 3 p.m. and the heat was still intense. My skin seemed to scald, the tender organs of the body seemed to shrink, I was feeling dehydrated. That’s when I decided to hire a taxi, though I usually take a train. The heat seemed to have exhausted me. I had a butter milk after reaching home, as I am not in favour of aerated drinks.

There’s about Vishu much more than meets the eye. It’s Bikhu in the Kumaon area, Baisakhi in Punjab, Bisu in Mangalore, Rongali Bisu in Assam, Maha Vishuva Sankranti in Orissa, Naba Barsha in Bengal, Navreh in Kashmir, Sinhalese New Year in Sri Lanka, Official Nepalese New Year in Nepal, Songkran in Thailand, Tamil Puthandu in Tamil Nadu. All these point to the unified legacy and anthropological origin of the people of the sub-continent, which should make for an excellent anthropological study. Anyone?