Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Invisibles

Yesterday, I caught up with a colleague who had started his work stint under me four years ago. Since then, I have moved to Gurgaon, and he’s jumped two ships. Along with him came a silent colleague who, incidentally, was my replacement in the team I left in Bangalore.
We chatted over dinner for a couple of hours and then headed for a CCD at 11. After half an hour there, the silent colleague finally spoke something. My friend then stepped in and told me that the guy was very well read in spiritual texts, especially Osho. A few questions revealed a man not very materialistic, high work ethics and a philosophical bent.

I empathize with the man. Much of what I have done and read in the past five years are outside the domain of the mainstream discussions. If I follow a famous rape case, see a popular movie, or the exploits of a tycoon – I am immediately in currency. Not so if I am reading about dead civilizations a couple of millennia ago, the theory of absurdism, impressionism, and offbeat literary fiction. The five years have taken a severe toll in my social confidence and only a thing line separates me from a recluse – perhaps it’s been crossed. A month ago, I was sitting at a colleague’s place and he mentioned the date of his marriage anniversary in a gathering, and I mentioned that the date was the very date of a very seminal event in human history and that I’ll never forget it. Immediately, there was an outburst of laughter and shaking of heads. In other times, I would have grinned sheepishly. But inexplicably I felt a surge of anger, even disgust, and only my closeness with the gang kept me seated and silent.

My team in Bangalore had contained four people – one of the guys was a silent sort too and considered a little “weird”. In an offsite, we happened to be sharing a room and while games like Queen of Sheba were being played, we retreated to the room to read. I discovered that this guy was very well read, far beyond me, and had a deep understanding of Urdu literature also.

There is no resolution to the post here. Just points.
The mainstream brings people together in shared tastes and passions, but at the very same time, excludes those whose tastes differ. Some of those, who can afford it, turn snooty and are rightfully called elitists. Elitism is often a disguise for snobbery and I have met very few elitists who actually have substance. But on the other hand, anyone who has a word against the mass taste is unfairly termed an elitist. This is the field of mainstream contemporaneousness with the actors as men. Now in the field of politics, this becomes a fascist tendency to converge in a same identity, a forced syncretism, and the elitists become the worst stereotype/minority sects of the excluded population – jehadis, jews, Up/Biharis.
You might feel that this is an exaggeration but, if you have the wherewithal, think again. Our tendencies and character remains the same in many fields. How I express myself in work has a very strong correlation to my other fields – family, personal space, etc.

A muslim friend once said to me that no matter how much I empathize, I cannot really understand what being a minority meant. True. In the same manner there is an intellectual minority also. By this I do not mean that they are intellectually superior, but just different. Mainstream commercialism, whose mechanism is to fill all the space in search of quantity and use marketing as propaganda to align all tastes to a single consumable commoditized whole, leads to latent ostracization in the same way one of the worst mental punishments in school was when the teacher asked all the other classmates to ignore you.

I always feel a little sad when I meet someone young quite and gauche because what he has to say has mostly no currency in public space. Because there is always a strain of tragedy in their silent dignity.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mandatory voting?

http://news.rediff.com/report/2009/dec/22/bjp-seeks-national-debate-on-compulsory-voting.htm
Has the BJP lost its marbles completely?!

Even I remember from my civics, that there are directive principles and there is the law.
The law is to curb our criminal instinct, the directive principles to suggest our civil responsibilities.

Even if voting is our responsibility (which I disagree upon), it can not be implemented as a law. Would I be jailed if I do not vote? Would all the people on the street be jailed for not coming to rescue of a victim being bashed by goons n the streets? Would people be jailed for leaving the tap on after use?

All these are valid punishments if the argument of implementing mandatory voting is gone ahead with the BJP’s argument of voting is "both a right and responsibility." Since, being responsible citizens goes far beyond just the act of voting in a sham feudal democracy.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Avatar


I came out of Avatar with a headache but that was only the glasses. the movie passes well for a timepass.

But a lot of hype has been created about Avatar and somebody needs to let some of the hot gas out.

First of all, Avatar is not going to sweep you off like they tell you. Pandora looks like a video game world and we have seen enough of that.

That Australian lead star (why are all the Bollywood actors now Punju and the Hollywood ones Australian: have the "brawn without brains" stereotype finally won?) passes well but I have read people rave too much about his anonymity. i hardly think having ben affleck, which worthington resembles a lot, would have made any difference.

the only hype justified is the luscious saldana. who had already fired all the space ships enough in star trek. I suspect, if she hadn't been black, after these two stunning appearances, she would have been crowned as the next Julia Roberts (tho' it still beats me why JR got crowned in the first place). And make no mistake - color still does matter in a still largely WASPish Hollywood mindset.

As for the plot, it's Dances with the Blues in the 3D -- the only difference being that the natives win and manage to transfer the white Costner to a red native in the end. But it still fares against the cliched plot of Cameron's last outing - Titanic.

In the end, Avatar is a watchable flick about everything which is already done and everything which is fashionable - a story against imperialism (only about a half to two centuries late in its time) taking its inspiration (and admitting it) from a 3-D Gollum conceived about seven years ago and a concept - Avatar - which is as mundane in the digital world now as a tweet.

Now digitialising the original Avatar with a panting-blue Shabana Aazmi (her male Avatar spelt as Shabana Aadmi) trekking along with Kanchan screaming about a call which came beyond nature -- that would have been far more interesting. I have always dreamed about a pink Rajesh Khanna in jock straps. Blue is close enough.

This is my 100th post for the year.

By the way, Na'vi (what's with the frigging apostrophe) spells Ivan in reverse. Is it again one of those tiresome tributes HW keeps patting itself with?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Confused

Bollywood and Shiv Sena under LET's target

But aren't they supposed to be an outfit against our national interest?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Transparency in Media coverage - IE Editorial

Link

Indian media needs remedial action, and needs it now. As evidence had poured in about how election reporting is widely up for sale (methodically exposed by The Hindu) and how articles and programming all too often do not carry disclosures on sponsorship (as detailed in two reports in The Sunday Express), the media have been forced to look harder at our own linty navel. It is perhaps no surprise that there exists a sophisticated persuasion industry, spanning politics, business, sport and entertainment, which aims to use the news media as brand battleground — to shine a politician’s image right before an election, sell a razor or provide publicity for a movie — and do it sneakily, pretending to be a straight piece of news.
There is an entire range of such insidious practices, from private treaties to advertisements in return for buying up newspapers and inflating circulation, besides more complex kinds of implication — impacting both the reportorial and editorial fronts. For too long, much of the mainstream media in India has gotten away with prissy exhortations to transparency, responsibility and ethics even as their own marketing departments are busy shilling. TV networks which never tire of meta commentary on the lines of the New Yorker cartoon — “Welcome to All About the Media, where members of the media discuss the role of the media in media coverage of the media” — have an even harder time living with themselves, as their sanctimony clashes with brand partnerships that make it hard to separate truth and marketing lies. It is public faith in the need for a free media that guarantees the freedom of the press and checks against interference by government. It is this faith — and therefore this freedom — which is at stake. To be fair, many newspapers and TV networks are now instituting a verifiable set of norms, but they need to be held to their word.
Sections of the media that are complicit in this selling might feel clever about the way it swells their coffers, but are oblivious to the way it imperils their very foundations — and devalues the very space they put on sale. At a time when media outlets are staving off the avalanche of amateur content and trying to convince the world how desperately it needs them — that journalism is a vital public trust, an essential for a full-throated democracy — this is exactly the kind of practice that punctures the grand talk. The Indian media is so far insulated from the larger industry crisis, but one would think that in the interim, they would try and shore up a sense of professional credibility. It’s all we have.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

first rains - 3

A word: Thank you for reading the earlier bits. I like to kid myself that I write for myself alone but your words matter a lot. They always have.
i am posting these as I write them with little editing.

Continued from Part I and Part II.


I rise from the bed and gulp some water from the bottle. I pull in my slippers and slip in a jacket and grab the cigarettes pack. A slight shiver runs across me as I open the door to the balcony. The rain has stopped. I lean over the railing steel, with a jacket padded elbow – the icy wetness of the short shower quickly eats through it. The cigarette burns quickly to a stub. (Sudda inspects the stub in his hand and asks me in white vapory words, ‘Why do cigarettes finish faster in the winters, yaar? You ever noticed that? Oxygen?’ I ruminate, ‘Nyah, I think they burn at the same rate. It’s only you want them to last longer in the winters.’) I smoke another one. Halfway through, I turn to rest the other elbow on the railing and hold my head in my hands, and knead it. I don’t want to remember. A door long closed, its key lost, opened a crack and a heap of images rush out: chachi breaks from a conversation and rushes to the kitchen filling with the stench of burnt milk, Abhay pulls the legs out of a grasshopper with Bua’s tweezers, Ba catches me draining the milk in the commode and I wither under her cold silent stare, Badi ma sits still at the puja after her bath smelling like the first rains, the sunlight from the window falling in rhomboid patterns over her white sari, I race behind Preeti and we rush into a visitor defecating behind a bush who brings down his dhoti at the last minute, the dark cool inside of the fireplace, the chipped end of the takhat in the courtyard leading to the kitchen which always caught my shorts, the strong fermenting smell of pickles in the larder, the termites like dark brown tear-stains on the dank walls, the corners behind the curtains and sofas where we hid in our games, the edge of the clouds I peeped over – fascinated by the doll-house world beneath but purblind to the uncoiling serpent of its dark intents: the hush-hush of conspiracies, the tense tussle of power, and the game of gnawing attrition.


Slowly, the desert receded from my consciousness. Every afternoon while the house slept, I tiptoed around, learning to slowly push the old doors without making them creak, and explored its secret corners. I climbed the tin trunks in the store-room and discovered a row of stone slabs built into the wall behind where I could sneak in and never be discovered in all the hide-and-seek games. I climbed over the window mesh to explore a cylindrical hole below the sky window and discovered an abandoned nest. I discovered behind the big clay pot in the drawing room the cool dark alcove under the chimney of the fireplace where one could stand and raise his eyes to catch a chink of daylight in the distance and hear the warbled echoes of the winds. I climbed over the rails of the closed doors and peeped over their lites to discover roomfuls of furniture covered in dusty blankets. I discovered colonies of ants in the cracks of the stone steps of the verandas and secreted sugar crystals from the kitchen to watch them discover the cache, hurriedly send for reinforcements and then lug them away. I discovered the books of my grandfather, inside storage cupboards over the built-in almirahs, wrapped in thin diaphanous cloths smelling of the naphthalene balls which had been dropped inside. But all these discoveries were nothing till I mastered the skies. The silent world of skylights that dotted the walls of each room, dropping a feet below the high ceilings, and with their open shutters, half-rotated on their hinges, looking like the eyes of Ents keeping a silent vigilance over the bustling intrigues of the small humans, with bored sardonic eyes.


The house was a single storied bungalow with high ceilings and painted a cream yellow outside every Diwali only to turn a mysterious green by the time the summers came. The roof was reached by a makeshift bamboo ladder which wobbled madly on the mornings, twice in a year, when Madhav would climb it to put on the tricolour on the flagstaff standing over the portico, and in the evening to take them off. Sometimes, after the rains, he would be sent up to clear the water-clogging. But no one else was permitted to climb up, least of all us children – the only time we secretly tried, managing to prop the ladder against the roof after several tries, the gaps between its rungs were too much for us, and we fled after it came crashing down. After that, Badi ma had the ladder kept chained to one of the pipes.


We even tried climbing up the pipes but they were too slippery under our fingers. After that we gave up trying to find a breach to the roof. Or rather, they gave up. I persisted alone, in these hours of family siesta, and one day discovered a purchase in a deep crack on the wall of the guest room opening to the courtyard, the chabootra, overlooking the back garden where an English couple had once sat; it had been the room from where I had watched my first rain and usually remained unoccupied at that hour. I climbed the jaali of the window which ran through the entire length of the room ending in a door on the other side, biting my lips the first few times when the splayed fingers of my foot pinched against the metal mesh, and, with a hand slipped inside the crack, swung my other leg to a brick protruding at the edge where the wall of the room met the low wall dropping down the stairs and partitioning the garden from the inner courtyard, and clambering up to the top of this wall, heaved myself the two feet up to the roof over the guest room. I sat tired and proud on the parapet, turning my head slowly and taking in everything – the kitchen, the courtyard with the old wooden takhat, the passage boxed between the drain and Badi Ma’s bathroom, the door opening to the back garden, and from there to the farthest tree at the edge of the wall – in a single sweep. The door to the far side, leading to the servants’ quarters, opened and I ducked out of sight.


The flat tar and gravel roof, I discovered, was built in three ascending layers of roughly four-feet height. At the brink, stood the smaller outer rooms, the guest room I had just climbed over being one of them. These hemmed in the middle rooms: the four large bedrooms, and the cavernous dining room with the elongated eight-seating dining table in the middle (how often I would be reminded of it in the early days at the boarding-school when I would see the burnishing patches of sunlight on the long tables in the refectory) and the heavy sideboard pushed against the wall separating it from the drawing room; the wall broken by a heavily-curtained door at each end. Thrust in the middle of these rooms, and rising over the layered planes like a pulpit, was the flat hexagon of the drawing room – two of the bigger bedrooms on its either sides, the dining room abutting the back and the front dropping steeply to the low roof over the portico. It was the room where the chain of the heavy chandelier and the downrods of the fans dropped several feet below resting about fifteen feet over the sofas; it was almost a custom with the guests from the village to hesitate at the doorsteps of the tall front door and then enter with a humility and awe reserved for the great cathedrals, their eyes slowly taking in the vastness of the room – the maize-coloured terrazzo dominating the floor despite the two sets of sofas over thick carpets thrown against the walls, the mantelpiece facing the door half-hidden behind a giant pedestal holding the plaster bust of grandfather’s father, the tall portraits of the Nehrus and the Gandhis dominating each face of the walls – and then slowly rise to the ceiling, and invariably fixing open-mouthed on the Raj-era crystal chandelier that filled the view, unmindful of the dark shadows under the skylights beyond from where we watched them.


The skylights were on each face of the walls where the middle rooms met the outer rooms and the drawing room met the middle rooms. Flat rectangles about a feet high and three across, the frames rotating a quarter on hinges, opened and shut by cords passing through a metal loop and dropping in the room to be secured and twined around a hook; outside: an awning of falling cement between two brackets to check the rains and the mid-day sun. From below, we hardly noticed them despite the chinks of light that sneaked between the awning and the slat and, leaving debris of dancing-dust on its trail, lit warm patches on the floor. Even if one would lift the eyes towards them, one would have to squint and shade them with a palm, for the sunlight was white and near-blinding, and the rest dark in the shadows of the awning. From the above though, one did not have to squint. Once, squatting, the head had been pushed under the awning and over the horizontal slat, and after one had pulled away the cobwebs from the face and held the sneeze, the rooms below opened like tableaux; and one could suck leisurely into the lives bustling below– silently, unseen, undetected.


Sitting on the front seat of the double decker, we watch the bus part through the flooded lanes like a ship strayed into the heart of a city along with the high tide. ‘I have always understood the world from here. Hovering a little above it, watching its machinations and thus slowly understanding them. Below, with them, I feel – overwhelmed.’


Understand me, Shaz. I was not born in the chaos like you. I had been suddenly thrust into the Manor. Even, the reception party waiting for us at the platform had numbered at least thirty-three, if the photograph – papa standing in the middle, his face hidden behind three thick garlands, one hand over Preeti’s left shoulder, who stares at the camera confused yet defiant, Badi Ma’s hand on her head, swathes of aunts cousins uncles kids in a wide semi-circle around, and the train still steaming behind – did not miss out too many of them. (I am that bundled form across Ba’s right shoulder; fatigued: the pink doctor’s first diagnosis.) Even after they scattered, the house remained too close to my face for me to pick out its features. I looked up the ceilings till my neck hurt but instead of reverence, I was filled with dread at its enormity. I would find myself in a strange room and run around frantic for a familiar face, pushing doors at random, but each door would bring me to a similar room with another four doors leading away from it. Slowly, I adjusted – the strangers assimilated into a familiarity. I learnt to find my way through the rooms. And yet my understanding came with the exhaustion of a non-native speaker listening and translating in his head.


Once in a coffee-house in Chicago I had heard a noise, a thud. Everyone else had known that sound well enough to be not bothered by it and had, without a pause, continued with their books, conversations and thoughts; only I had raised my eyes and was looking around uncomprehending. In that moment, I had understood what being an alien meant. My fascination with the house, the discovery of its secrets one by one, never quelled my anxiety of still not having understood it; of my still being a tourist – an outsider with no claim.


The skylights were like a mesh of surveillance screens and the house, suddenly bared, a doll house with its roof carefully plucked away, finally revealed its true shape and geometry to me. They opened in all the main rooms of the main wing, except for the outer ones, which included the box rooms, and the dressing rooms and the bathrooms – the canny Englishman had realised and pre-empted their threat in these private rooms. The bustle and activity became the games of Lilliputian people, held in giant invisible hands – my hands – and accoutred from a choice of stuff – what I chose – scuttling across floors, acknowledging each other when they came across by stopping and exchanging platitudes (‘Sarla ko dekha?’ ‘Nahin, puja ke kamre mein to nahi hai?’ ‘ Haan, wahaan dekhtee hun’ – figures part in different directions), and then pushing the door to some another room, with I rushing above them to the window to the room being entered, and continuing with their same silly game.


I do not remember how long that phase of initial excitement lasted. The Manor at last sunk beneath my consciousness and then disappeared. The games inside became quotidian and boring. I turned away from the windows and walked to the edge of the parapets and looked at the world beyond. It was a world more accessible, a foreshortened panorama, not the distant sweeps of sand dunes that I had seen from our fourteenth storied flat. The back garden, the front lawn, the wall running like a track and dividing them, the wild orchard filling the back garden, the trimmed and hedged front lawn, and beyond, over the wall, the might red walls of the governor’s residence; a stray cyclist, rickshaw, sometimes a car, drifting along the road separating the two high walls. The flatness of this world, its enoughness was strangely comforting. I climbed up one day and instead of the skywindows just walked along the parapet to the middle of the room, and sat down. The chabootra a few feet of drop below me, a parrot pecking at a guava in a tree, the air still. I brought my knees together and hugged them. At that moment, the Manor and I were one.


And then Preeti heaved herself up the edge of the roof I had just climbed over.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Fight Club Revisited

Am I getting old?

Revisited Fight Club and found the mindless anarchy (mayhem, as they call it) and some of the dialogues a bit juvenile.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

On Ben playing Shah jahan

Gandhi at his charkha sitting and spinning a yarn (a cottony one, that is) in a dawn full of pink (as a mark of respect to World AIDS Day).

‘Ah, Mr. Gandhi!’

‘Yes?’, Gandhi asks testily.

‘I had a dream last night!’

‘Not again, Jinnah!’, Gandhi leaves the charkha and moves away, ‘Not another of your dreams again! I don’t want to listen to them.’

‘But Gandhi ji, wait na! Please hear me out.’

Gandhi pauses, ‘Was it dry?’

‘Huh? You mean the morning bowel movements?’

‘No, the dream! And what the Vaishanavojan are dry bowel mov – no! don’t tell me!’

‘Yes! It was dry! As dry as – as dry as your loincloth!’

‘What the? Are you the one who’s picking them from the washing line and using them as towels? Are you? Don’t put that innocent PussinBoots look – if only you could see how horrible you look doing that. Do you know how it feels going to meet world leaders with a wet cloth shrink-wrapped around your loins? Nothing can be more embarrassing!’

‘Oh yes, there can be.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘You could have an erection. That’s why I always say these Savile Row trousers are the best.’

‘Paah, don’t have them anymore. The condition -- and the suits.’

‘You’ll have one after you hear this one.’

Gandhi squints hard at Jinnah, ‘I thought you told me it was a dry one.’

‘Oh it was, Mr. Gandhi. You figured in it after all.’

Gandhi moves towards Jinnah and stares hard at him, ‘I?’

‘Indeed.’

‘What the IshwarAllah was I doing in your mind?’

‘Search me. I imagined you in a Mughal costume – or perhaps it was your Bhanji (Gandhi: ‘My niece? But she was sleeping besides my mat all the time!’) – no some guy called Bhanji who looked like you – a more sculpted nose though – yeah, and the guy who was you was chasing a damsel in veil around marble pillars, and pining for her.’

Gandhi ji’s eyes milk over, ‘Ah, that must be Lady Truth then.’

‘Hmm, I never knew Truth was so well stacked.’

‘What else, Jinno? This is interesting.’

‘Then you catch hold of that damsel and get 14 kids out of her.’

‘14? Are you sure it was not 3?’

‘Nope, 14. I drafted a point every time one came out. Believe me, I had to pad up the list a lot for your sake.’

Gandhi frowns and paces about, ’14? Even if I add the Middle Way, as Ambedkar keeps pushing me to, I can only push it to 11… where can I get the other 3? What sort of message is this?’

To Jinnah: ‘what else did you see, Jinnah?’

Jinnah scrunches his eyes and tries to remember hard, 'While you were getting these 14 ways with that buxom honest woman, there was this man - behind one of the white pillars - singing - singing?'

Gandhi's eyes light, 'Vaishnav Jan?'

'Nope, something more like - 'Yeh kya ho raha hai, yeh kya ho raha hai... I think the guy was the father of this Truth babe or something like that.'

'Ah, He must be Conscience then, the father of Truth!'

'Conscience has a white goatee?', Jinnah pulls his trousers out a little and stares down his crotch, 'I think I also have a conscience then after all.'

Gandhi gives him a disgusted look, 'Forget that. What else did you see after that?'

Jinnah releases his trousers and it snaps back against his stomach, ‘Then I saw you nuzzling between the breasts of a Spanish girl.’

‘What?!’

‘Yeah, call her Lady Peace if you want, but she was some piece, man.’

‘You told me this was a clean dream.’

‘It was. The main bits were blocked out with a red tag offering me a free 3-days trial.’

***Have deleted the rest of the story as it gets nasty on a guy I admire – Gandhi.***

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Luck -- The review

It’s tough to dispute a movie which sticks to its promise so tenaciously.Luck is about luck and it will keep reminding you about that after every 15 seconds.

Sample this one exchange:

Sunjay Dutt (who, being Musa, is always accompanied by an Arabic sort of music whenever he makes an entry, which is all the time, or does something like whirl a pistol in his hands in silhouette): Maqsood ki taqdeer (luck) ko nazar lag gayi. Who kehte hain na: duniya saali jalti hai, jab taqdeer(luck) chalti hai. The only things sure about luck is that it will change. Luck saalaa ek hi cheez ki guarantee ke saath aataa hai – ki who saalaa kabhi bhi badal sakta hai. Kyun Major?

Mithun (Major): Na luck badalta hai, na insaan ki taqdeer (luck). Insaan ka waqt badalta hai, Musa!

Despite hailing from “Luck”now, I have never heard “Luck” so many times in my entire life as I did in these two hours.

Luck is about a Roadies type game where the girls do not fight and the contestants are, thankfully, allowed to die. It is impossible to review the movie by conventional measures – just like a triple rated adult movie would be. (Though I am reminded of a friend from college whose comment after one such movie was – “Story mein dam nahi tha.”) Acting, character development, and even thrills are all incidental. This movie is about luck – its different forms – and in how many corny manners it can be spoken of. It lifts its material from famous short stories, B-grade Hollywood flicks, and the cheesiest Bollywood fare.

In short, I enjoyed Luck. It’s like Ghaayal showing major yesterstars in a series of hospital beds, all ghaayal, exchanging dialogues about how they got there.

Sanjay – Major, meri yeh yalgaar thi ki main kabhi gaar-yal nahi hunga.

Mithun – Musa, insaan hosh mein tab aataa hai jab woh disco ki stage par ho aur Rajesh Khanna usse Gaa-yell kar raha ho.

Ravi Kissen (to Imraan) – Oye chikane, hee-hee-hee, tu banegaa meri paayal?

Imraan – Nahi. Tab tu karega mujhe peechhe se ghaayal.

Danny enters – Generator mein tel khatam ho raha hai. Tum sab logon ka life support chalaa jayega. Kisee ke paas ho–gaa aa-yal(oil)?

Yes. It’s something like that. If you think there is anything in Luck other than word-play around kismet, taqdeer and luck, do find it and let me know. Even the songs are about luck aazmaa-ing and choreographed with the actors cramped in giant letters of – take a guess – no – not that – what? Why the hell would.. anyway.. not that too – give up? LUCK.

Sanjay Dutt is the lucky man – which has nothing to do with the fact that he’s allegedly humped every moving thing of the feminine persuasion in Bollywood – who arranges lucky men to test their lucks against blank cartridges, non-functioning parachutes and sharks (Other than the Citifinancial ones most of them are trying to evade). He chooses Ram, via his hechman Danny – again this has nothing to do with his having exhausted with all the females and Imran with his luscious lips being the next best thing – for a game because he’s so lucky. So lucky that he was born in the house of Aamir Khan. In the movie though Imraan has one bad luck – his father – who dies after, as the policeman, tells doing what harshad did in 1992. this is the director’s way of showing that the story is as grounded in Indian reality as Sunju baba's helicopter landing in the middle of a Bombay Coffee Day; even Dhanbad is mentioned in passing. Ram’s mom is Rati Agnihotri and Ram does as many facial expressions as her prolific cousin, Atul Agnihotri, once did in Aatish, again with Sunju, and which has since inspired countless such no-brainers.

Mithun is an army major who never gets killed (Indian fauj's lucky mascot) though a rather incompetent one, always ending up getting his entire batallion massacred. Rupa Ganguly, who with every passing year reminds me more of Anju Mahendru, his wife refuses to die and he has to arrange some 20 lakhs for an operation, the details of which are never made clear to even Mithun. Mithun fishes out the calculator and makes the right choice of getting the money by risking his life – and luck. He figures that the cost of the kilometres of kafan needed to swaddle the erstwhile Draupadi would be much higher.

Ravi Kissen is a serial killer who is hanged for murdering some 11 girls but the knot of the rope of his noose slips – which again reminded me of the chain of a rickshaw in Lucknow which slipped at least a million times the day of my ICSE board making me an hour late. Unfortunately, I was never pardoned from that exam; but Ravi is because of a loophole in the law that no man can be hung twice (yes, it’s illegal to be twice hung – in case you were planning to get an extra implant). A distortion of “can’t be tried twice” but hey! This is Bollywood. And, to think of it, Indian law.

Now Ravi wants to loosen some other knots – those of the bikini of the debutant Shruti Hassan who passes muster (Her being Saar’s daughter – how can I say otherwise?!) and thankfully looks more like Sarika than Kamal. Otherwise it would have been really disturbing seeing Imraan woo her and Ravi try to rape her.

There is that Haryanvi girl from Chak De who does a good job in a role written as an afterthought. As part of her contract she has to speak about camel, since she rode camels (in a decent way) in Pakistan, every now and then and that’s understandable.

Then there are the extras, black white and yellow contestants, who never know they’re dead the moment they signed up for a luck-to-death game in a Hindi channel. I have heard that Tom Alter is livid he did not get an opportunity to recite some Urdu poems on taqdeer.

Did I miss anyone?

Yes, there was Mr Mukku Ambani doing a cameo (a cameo and not a camel – and no, Miss Haryana doesn’t ride him) as a South Indian don as the picture on the right shows. Nice try, Ambu! You thought you would escape unnoticed? Bad times, huh?

The one positive I got from the movie is that Danny and Mithun are signing up movies. Somebody please take these fine actors and give them the movie they deserve while they last.

Given that there was little to look in the movie other than the letter Luck (which, like Tyler, appeared in blinks throughout the movie), I still managed one astounding discoveries.

The Chosen. Nothing less.

For years I have despaired that Kishan Kumar never had a worth successor. Just like my grandmother hints at my marriage by asking me to show a pota before she ummm you know (It’s been a shock for me in the past couple of years in how many elderly relatives in my family have turned out to be salivating paedophiles), I know I can die peacefully now.

I had heard about Imran but this is the first time I am seeing him. Why the hell didn’t anyone tell me about his fantastic eyebrows? You can lose a wallet in them! Of course, the greatest of them still remains untouched as the snap below amply shows.

You don't have to be a big high-brow to join us -- just big eye-brows would do.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

being honest

Sometimes I find an unexpected affinity in a blog and later realise htat the blogger is a decade younger to me.

Why?

Is it because after an age it doesn’t matter? Is life happening faster these days? Or is it just me who is still somewhat stunted in my imagination and realizations? Or was I too blind earlier? Or is it just talk whereas I come from the walk?

One of the blogs I silently followed has called it a day. The reason, the writer says, is that too many people who know the blogger in real life know about it and she’s too conscious to write about the truly personal stuff.

It is eerie as I face the same dilemma. Something happened to me a month ago, a knowledge, that laid to waste the best years of my life. It is impossible to paraphrase it without dragging some people here but I feel an innocence, a belief in goodness has been permanently washed away from me. It’s made me a colder, more mistrusting man than I was.

One epiphany, linked to my writing is, the idea that people who tell everything are basically honest and open is crap. This is not a rule but I feel people talk and talk because by doing so they feel they can control whatever happens. I am talking about the kind of talking where a person pushes you towards an opinion (there is a kind of talking where the person is just bursting with ideas and using you as a bouncing board and that is different).

‘You know, I saw Ram also there. Tch tch, poor fellow, he’s still heartbroken his wife was cheating on him’ sort. Where you're told that ram is the person to pity and his wife a villain.

I have always been disappointed in my habit of letting out more than what I should have. I always admired people who knew what to say and not what to. Now, I realise it partly arose from the compulsion to be honest. Telling someone, ‘I went to goa with a couple friend, the guy is my best friend. We had a great time.’ is a helluva lot different from ‘I went to goa with a couple friend, the guy is my best friend, but I was secretly screwing his wife nevertheless. We had a great time.’ and yet I have seen people who have been very close to me do exactly that. I pause here as the temptation to reveal the extent to which I have been misled is too much here.

There are two extremes in me – either I remain totally silent and wrapped in a cocoon if there is even one person in the crowd I do not trust; or I am obscene. Fortunately, I have found friends where I can be the latter and they’ll still call me back. Coming from a joint family, I have seen how unconsciously and innocently your darkest confidences can be the grist for the daily dose for gossip and intrigues.

I wish it hadn’t happened because I knew it had but I had trusted the person too much to heed my instinct. Now I know I am incapable of trusting that much. Whenever I will see a father wrap his paw around a girl I would believe that he has a hard on – unless proved otherwise.

I never respected Gandhi before I read his autobiography. I gasped when I read how he described that he was screwing his wife while his father was dying and sleeping nekked with nieces revelation. That is honesty. Giving the axes to his detractors forever and yet telling everything or nothing at all.

Honesty is a pact we keep with ourselves, and no one else.

I hope I can follow the path of Gandhi – or remain silent. But nothing between.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Hungry Tide

I finished “Hungry Tide” in the morning today.
This is not intended to be an extended book review. I was not underlining passages and never paused to ruminate over the motifs and themes – and simply, I do not have the stature to do so.
In this plethora of so much self-indulgent fare, and I include the Banvilles and Rushdies partly here, it is wonderful to have a writer like Amitava Ghosh. HT reveals the story of the Sunderbans from the eyes of so many stakeholders – a foreign ecologist, the fishermen who know every creek and shallow of it and believe in the miracles of the guardian of the forest Bon Bibi, the idealist revolutionary, the pragmatic wife who builds an institution, the cynical townsman, a community of the displaced, the long-dead Englishmen who came to conquer the tides – and reveals it in songs, poems, massacres, typhoons, history, legends. It is amazing how each of these narratives stands distinct – only an utmost humility and complete detachment of the self from the message could have made this possible. The story gives the bans the immortality it deserves – and the author never aims to bask in it; he’s merely the translator.
Wrapped as I was in the beautiful descriptions – the mohanas literally alive in my imagination – I wondered if the story of the men is not merely a wrapping around the store of the tide country. Of all the characters, Kanai, on whom every alternative chapter in the first quarter of the book is focused, stood as a weak link – his motives, other than those of sexual conquests, nebulous; the man himself half-sketched. In sharp contrast, Piya and Fokir were as flesh and blood as Lusibari itself.
That concern was answered in, from the point of view of the story of these men, the most magnificent chapter when Kanai is briefly left on an island – to be judged by the Bon Bibi. It is one of the most brilliant chapters I have read recently – the sudden juxtaposition of two prominent characters who till now have stood at the opposite ends of personalities, beliefs and motives, drifting in a silent vigil at the ends of a boat, alone. It strangely reminded me of the genius of a climax from “Hazaaron Khwaaishein Aisi” where a city-bred cynic is suddenly pushed into a context where, as the book describes, all words drown and only the primal fear and incomprehension suffuses the man.
This one climax was enough to ensure the book’s greatness but Amitava follows it with another equally brilliant one when Kanai and Piya cling to a tree to ride out nature’s most volatile fury.

Read Hungry Tide. Read it slowly. Savour it. And you’ll fall in love with the tide country – like I did.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

first rains - 2

I don’t remember much of the fever which had gripped me for two months; I was told I was running a fever already when we came back. Measles followed mumps and a host of other things which were barely diagnosed. It was a tale I heard many times but do not remember; but I do remember a displacement once, an upheaval, and pounding panic: a paralyzing fear of loss and spaces, and the fever-maddened clamour for a familiar skin and smell to burrow in and shut my eyes and ears to the new world roaring with strange sounds and images. Perhaps, it belongs to this time; or perhaps it’s from bits of many nightmares – I have never slept easy. The parched ache for water in my throat is stilly vividly real though, much like the crumbling dust outside waiting for the delayed rains.

My fever broke the day the rains came. Ba sat at the edge of the bed feeding me something from a bowl when the outer door banged suddenly, startling us, and spilling the watery contents of the bowl on my shirt. In a single sweep, Ba rushed to gather the clothes in the washline, close the windows and the doors and unfastened the buttons of my shirt and wash and rinse it under the washbasin, and pull in a new shirt over my head. Outside, a howl arose and the windows and the door started to rattle on their fastened latches. I sniffed – my nose, reopened after days, alive to the fascinating world of smells which usually lies in the blind spot of our consciousness.

‘What’s that smell?’

‘It’s the earth. It’s calling the rains’, her eyes shown. Many years later, I would wake up from a cold again and smell her hair in the empty room, and remember this.

The pink doctor pressed against my neck and asked me if it hurt anymore. He then checked my eyes and tongue and then rose with a smile; I noticed that the cuffs of his trousers were wet. ‘Seems like he was waiting for the rains to get well’, he told papa, and they laughed. ‘He’ll grow up to be a poet.’ How wrong he was.

I was six when we came back to Lucknow, but it was not my first visit. A couple of years ago, when I was four, we had come for a month in the winters following grandfather’s death, but I have no memories of that time. Even of this homecoming, only a blur remains of its early day, wispy and fragmentary. A daze of hands wanting to lift me in their arms, an untiring gabbling stream, a relentless procession of doors opening and shutting, intimacies hurtling at me from every corner. The first day at the school – the forbiddingly massive iron gate, the brick paved courtyard of the assembly, the dank airless classroom, the dirty yellow tables and chairs, the smell of urine and even faeces everywhere, the mousy teacher who frightened the bunch of us to silence after she slapped a boy’s knuckles with a wooden scale, my partner who continued to wail, tears and running nose like two streams joining a mighty river, for many days before he mysteriously disappeared altogether. The rush of panic and tears when papa was not standing at the gate as he had promised he would, but before I could cry a hand touched my shoulder, and I turned and lifted my smiling eyes to his.

‘Why doesn’t he speak?’, Ma’am D’Souza, my teacher from second grade leans forward and asks Bua, as I look on. (I do not remember if she had already started living with us then or not, but I know that the task of attending the parents-teachers meeting was relegated to her by Badi Ma from the start.) Bua looks at me and pauses for words. ‘He’s still – adjusting.’ ‘But it’s been more than a year!’, the teacher leans forward and gesticulates exaggeratedly. It’s this vivid moment remembered inexplicably verbatim which gives me some anchor to say that it took me a long time to adjust. To Lucknow. To Windsor manor.

Windsor manor was built in the last years of the nineteenth century by an Englishman – how it came to us was never made clear; most probably, it exchanged hands with the Englishman and my grandfather’s father, or probably his father, sometimes in the thirties. The house had so utterly taken the shape of our family by the time we came that the fact of its origin was something we knew but had forgotten; to be reminded the day a couple from New Zealand tremulously knocked at the door carrying a daguerreotype: the photograph was taken from the back of the house of a low, sprawling turn-of-the-century bungalow, looking recently white-washed, with the granite courtyard dropping to an English garden in the front, complete with a saheb couple at a white round wrought-iron table and a liveried native waiting on them. I laughed when I read Preeti’s description of the couple’s complete bafflement as they walked across the portico with the mango leaves still hanging over the door from some earlier festival, the tint of the rangoli at the door steps, the fireplace invisible behind the huge potted plant, the life-size portraits of grandfather and Nehru gracing its either ends, the maze of inner rooms, picture of gods lining their walls, the kitchen courtyard where Ramdei and the others must have sat grinding the spices or separating the rice from the husks, the door, falling on its rusted hinges, which opened to the outer granite courtyard covered, I was sure, with quilts being sunned for the winter nights, and the sprawling English garden all but disappeared in the wild orchid of guava, mango, neem, papaya, pomegranate and lemon trees, and bushes and bushes of tulsi where the roses had bloomed a neat copper-brown. The contrast between the prim and starchy Raj sense of order and the commoving spicy spectacle of life could not have been bettered. Indeed, their bafflement, and I am sure, their eventual disappointment was so complete that they left the photograph with Preeti. Badi ma and chachi, with rictuses of confused politeness and yet infused with the sense of a moment, of being mapped in history, insisted that the couple wait for papa who would surely explain whatever it was; but they smiled politely and silently went away. Putting down the letter, amusement gave way to a mild surprise. Years later, long after the thick marble slabs had been laid over the rubble of the orchards and the bungalow, I would feel it again: when she would describe her own ancestral haveli – the side-entrance from the gali hidden behind the pillars, the inner courtyard, zenana, with the open pavilion and ornate arches – and I would suddenly and vividly remember the contrasting details of the Manor – the curving pot-holed driveway leading to the portico, the chandelier in the drawing room, the high ceilings, the mantelpiece in the drawing room, the closed mesh of rooms inside, the louvered windows in the older wing of the house, the sky lights, the pitched roof – and wonder why we ever forgot its Englishness. And then would I remember something Preeti wrote – about the way the couple took tentative sniffs at first in the drawing room, and when being escorted across the dining room and the inner rooms, they had briefly held a hand over their noses. They must have smelt the oil below.

The oils had been stored in the basement, I was told, for about a decade before grandfather inherited the house and the oil business went to other relatives; I imagined the basement had been built to preserve food against the summer heat. I only caught a glimpse of it when Mahadev once left the door, almost forgotten in a recess of the granary behind a heavy rusted padlock, open and Abahy and I had ventured inside. A curling flight of steps led to a mildewy cellar, wrapped in an oleaginous darkness, where I could just about make out a row of pillars extending to as far as eyes could see, an indecipherable jumble of stuff, a silhouette of an armchair on a trunk, before a sound behind us had sent us scurrying back, our hearts in our mouths.

The house had been bought to function as a sarai for the business pushing from the hills to the plains, the patriarch building a rudimentary base in the smaller outer wing of the house, while the rooms in the main wing served sometimes as trade floors but otherwise stored a horde of rope charpoys to accommodate the travellers from the village who came to sell the oil. It was only in the late forties that the family moved into the main wing, while the outer wing was restructured to house grandfather’s burgeoning library – bulging law digests standing like mute supplicants around the pit of a courthouse in rows and rows of shelves on three sides of the room. After his political career picked up, the rooms to the side of the portico and the drawing room, were converted to an extended office, where grandfather met the burgeoning stream of visitors; a small door on the side of one such room led to the inner sanctum of a wide airy verandah leading to badi ma’s puja, where some of the petitioners found in her more pragmatic and patient ear an alternative to grandfather’s strict Gandhian ones. But even after the decades of the settlement and the emptying of the oily pits of the house, the house still faintly smelled of the oil – like mildew it had eaten into the very thickness of its walls. Its faint tang had become the very breath of the house and we barely noticed it; in fact, I started noticing only when I came back in the summer months from the hostel, suddenly overwhelmed when it enveloped me at the portico – sniffing, probing and welcoming me back like many Argos at the doorstep.


Perhaps, the undefined sharpness of the tang added to the delirium of those early months, adding to the brimming fullness which so overwhelmed me. I longed for the desert, its brown silence, the assuring smallness of the flat where you could stand at the door and see the insides of all the three rooms, the tautness which enclosed and kept us together like the skin of a drop of water. Perhaps, it was the rains which brought me out of it. That first day, I suddenly realised that the sky was actually a brimming ocean, the water below – the rivers, the ponds, the puddles – chunks of it which had fallen down. I had seen water being dug out of wells in the desert village, surfacing in small puddles staining the sands with its wet darkness; here, it rained from the skies. Either we had come to a world below the arid world of the desert, a world where the water which so reluctantly surfaced in the upper world dropped so generously, like the crumbling plaster falling from the ceilings in the older rooms of the house. Or, the world had simply shifted.


And with this thought I opened my mind to this chaotic yet fantastic new world, the Manor the monolith around which it revolved.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

first rains

The first memory of coming back is the rains. They came gushing in torrents, thick clumpish cascades rippling against the buffeting winds like billowing saris on the washline. They rushed along the sloping courtyard, washing away everything that came in their way; an eddy swirled and rippled at the corner where a granite slab lay an inch lower than the ridge dropping into the garden; the sound of them, on the tin roof shed across the garden, on the leaves, on the stone, on the flooded lawn and the drains in spate, on the sky-windows and the walls, dripping on buckets under leaking ceilings, the occasional rumble in the sky – relentless, unceasing, cathartic; filling and drowning every other sound, like the inside of a blowing conch shell. Colours burst in the gardens, the grey dust turned a deep brown, the leaves a livid green, redolent with the heavy tumescent fragrance of wet earth. I watched, fascinated and silent. It is this image – a room half-dark and lit from the outside, billowing white sheets of rain seen over a knot of fingers laced in the mesh of the rhomboid window jaali, and a steady drumming all around – that is my first memory of coming back to Lucknow. I had never seen a rain before.

Friday, November 20, 2009

what the

I don't own a television and just glance at the headlines on most days. But I know about Rakhi Sawant, of course. Tho' I have never seen her live - anywhere I think.

Somebody, tell me what the hell is this. Is there more of this shit going on in television? If so, I think I better buy a TV soon.


Sunday, November 08, 2009

good morning

why does insomnia strike the sunday i have to get a million things done?




Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Truth about London Dreams

It has been widely reported that London Dreams is Rock on revisited. Nothing like that. The movie is a straight lift from The Comparative Study of Class Struggle in Eastern India in the 1870s and the rise of the Balban Movement in Ghaznavi in 1110 by KA Rizvi – especially the bibliographic bits.

The plot stays static but three characters revolve around it. Ajay Devgun plays a young RSS scholar searching for the relics of a lost civilization which he claims created the zombie disco-dance a couple of hundred years before the rest of the world. His belief in his own claims is fortified when he find what he is sure is a yellowing parchment with – Hello! – English script that he is sure belongs to this greatest of civilizations. But at the ASI institute, the scholars throw him out with the lie that the parchment was just a torn scrap from the TOI which had been subjected to disgusting nocturnal emissions around a year ago. Ajay picks up himself from the street he’s thrown on and brushes the dust off his coat – a gang of IronMaiden wannabes headbanging to “Betty bought a bit of butter… bitter” in the background underlining his bitterness all the more. Ajay swears to never wash the right side of his body till he gets his revenge.

In the meantime, Salman Khan is Ajay Devgun’s chawl neighbour, unknown to each other, but known to Amitabh Bachchan who makes a cameo at the end as a camel smoking Camel. Salman is in love with a hole on the east wall of his room for five years now but can’t muster the courage to confess his love. He orders take home chai and vada-pav one evening, lights an agarbatti and proposes to the hole finally one day. The hole remains silent and Salman interprets the silence as acceptance. In the first such scene between a wall and a man, or any inanimate object and a man for that matter, they make love that night – picturised to Kanchan’s mata bhajans and a Parindaesque blueness. As Salman enters the hole, he hears a sob and realises with a shock that the hole had been a virgin all along. But the sob actually comes from Ajay, his neighbour at the other end of the wall, who’s come back to his room realising that the bastards didn’t even return him his treasure – the parchment.

The two heros get eviction orders; the chawl is to be brought down to pave way for a pavement. Salman panics and approaches his neighbour, an inconsolable Ajay, to help take down the portion of the east wall with the hole in it. The two delicately saw off the portion and start lugging it away when, with a cry of “Joy Mukherjee!”, Ajay discovers another portion of the parchment under Salman’s bed and lunges towards it, dropping his end of the wall. The hole cracks, and becomes a hol-aa, and as Salman stares shell-shocked at the widened rift – he realises that the hole had been sleeping around in his absence. Anger follows this discovery of treachery and he wheels towards the man he is sure is the man who destroyed his love’s intact and tight virginity, Ajay. In the meantime, Ajay has also realised that he has been tricked, the parchment is HT and not TOI, and he wheels to face his nemesis also. (This part of the movie is sponspored by a blining Wheel neon seen from the open window separating the estranged heros right now.) The two heroes face eachother, fire in their eyes, their breaths angry snorts, bending and digging in for the final charge – when suddenly the door flies open and a bare breasted Asin rushes in with a banshee-like cry and buries each of their faces in her ampleness. (This part of the movie is never fully explained except that she is the daughter of the owner of the building, Asit Sen.)

And these are the first five minutes of the movie.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thots

Success is doing what you want to do, most of the times.

Is it ok to steal the crutches in the jootaa-churaayee when the dulha is lame? If yes, where do they hide them? The traditonal mithai box is of course ruled out here.

Never kiss a gift horse in the mouth.

If they have a world record for the longest hair around the nipples, or in the armpits, I don't want to know it!

Before cutting the crap, do you have to blow out the candles first?


Friday, October 23, 2009

Tremors

I wrote about a horrible dream today I had had some months ago - the face of an old estranged friend, dead in the dream, and features screwed around a bullet entering the eye (I think I had seen a gruesome encounter picture in the papers that morning). Recalling that dream did not make it easy once I got up from my seat at around 1:45 AM in a silent and empty 3-bedroom flat. The fact that to enhance the imagery, I had been looking at images of people with their faces full of lead did not really help.

I collapsed on the bed, and realised that my hand, resting on a knee, was shaking. In fact, the bed was shaking. Some years ago, I had what can only be called a fit, a singular case, but I have never been sure of these things since. Something like sitting in a train and watching another move and the doubt whether it's us in motion (rather, the train we sit on) or the other train.

I pulled my jeans (an unfortunate habit I have if attacked by some monsters hiding under the bed) and stumbled outside. The building silent and eerie in its whitewashed emptiness. I touched the edge of the balcony facing the lift and felt the tremor again. Again, I was not sure.

I started climbing down the stairs, and found a couple standing with a child on the landing below my floor. The man, bare-chested, and wearing a vesthi or a pajama (I don't remember), started telling me about the dangers of using a staircase (so it was an earthquake!) and I walked back to my room, shutting three doors in between.

O, to see a face in these godforsaken empty hours.

Friday, October 09, 2009

2 states and 1 UT

After a long time, I am reading - or rather trying to find some time. Every day, for half an hour, I read, aloud for most of the time, McEwan's Amsterdam and Banville's The Book of Evidence. It reminds me of Carlin's grandfather (I think), whom he spoke of, who wrote all of Shakespeare to savour him all the more.
It was McEwan's Atonement perhaps more than any other book which triggered my reading five years back. I have heard some people associate these novels with cold intellectualism but it is the bungling and erring human element which more than anything underlines them. Of all the mediums, literary fiction alone has the power to capture to the finest detail the almost invisible littleness of moods and whims, the stray kindnesses, the random cruelties, the imagined offences, the memories of beauty (I lift this phrase from Amsterdam) which make us more than the grand milestones of even the good (auto)biograpies.

Talking about books, apparently Chetan Bhagat is now onto his fourth novel - sure to stay on the top of the charts for a few months.

With the pace with which he is churning books (where does he find those eight hours?!) and the rate people are reading there would come a time when all the bookstores will only be filled with CBs and all the gRls and boyZ wLl b hnGng arNd thr, drooling from the end of their mouths. It will be a time when the show with the highest rating would be Rakhi Sawant picking her ass, Salman Khan's movies will be considered too arty and KJohar will be up for the Dada Saheb.

The synopsis for the book, 2 States, goes like:

Love marriages around the world are simple:
Boy loves girl. Girl loves boy.
They get married.

In India, there are a few more steps:
Boy loves Girl. Girl loves Boy.
Girl's family has to love boy. Boy's family has to love girl.
Girl's Family has to love Boy's Family. Boy's family has to love girl's family.
Girl and Boy still love each other. They get married.

Luckily I was wearing my shades as the flash of genius and wit nearly blinded me here.

Actually, there are still more steps, CB.

Girl's family runs a video store. Boy's family pierces nipples.
Girl's papa is a closet homosexual. Boy's mama is klepto.
Girl's papa rapes boy (in a Union Territory). Boy's mama steals the used condom.
Girl's family films the rape. Boy's father buys the video.
Girl's mama shags the boy's father as he watches the video. Boy's mama steals the VCR.
But...
Girl and Boy still love each other. They get married.

Though the girl insists on playing the male lead, using a strap-on dildo.

The novel ends in the evocative and romantic scene of their wedding night. The girl takes a woeful look at the ripped O of the boy (pictured poignantly as lying on his back and spreading his hairy legs, the red welts where the brute had gripped and pinned him still showing, for the girl), clucks her tongue and shakes her head; the beautiful mane the boy had first seen in the second chapter, and described as a mass of silk curtain ( another original CBian metaphor), bouncing lightly on her shoulders.

'Well', she reaches for the strap-on, 'I am sorry for what my father did to you.' Strap-on in place. 'You should have seen what he did to my Sanskrit tutor.' The girl edges to the bed and the boy, his eyes widening in horror brings his legs back together (too late!) and pleads in sobs. 'But know what -', the girl grips the boys legs and tears them apart, 'It is too beautiful a hole to let the turds have it alone.' The girl pushes and the boy howls.

And they lived happily ever after.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

A treat

Yesterday, a colleague of mine got a promotion. I got to know of it in the evening when I caught up with him reading the letter.
A couple of years ago, this very person, a silent chap, had bought a car – his first I believe – and just like yesterday, I happened to be standing in the parking lot when he was taking the possession. I saw him take the possession awkwardly, an embarrassed rictus in reply to the effusive delivery person in the lookout for some baksheesh, and then walk away.
A couple of days later, I caught up with him and asked him if he’d celebrated that night.
‘No.’
‘Did you tell (I realized I didn’t know anything about his family or whether he lived with them) anyone?’
‘No.’

Yesterday, it was already late evening when I caught up with him. This guy is pretty senior and was actually working on a surprisingly junior role and hence the promotion was more like a correction.

‘So what are you planning to do?’
‘Nothing’, he shrugged.

Since he had to leave early, this time, I made him drive us to the nearby market and share a plate of momos.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Snippet

Man introducing a woman to another man [as dissimilar looking as possible]: 'Guess who this is?'

'Your sister?'

'No! She's my wife.'

'You married your sister?'

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fiddling on Youtube

One of my all-time favorite cinema moments. Nothing can underline the harrowing loss in tragedy more than humor and a celebration of life - think Chaplin's tramp - and Fiddler on the Roof is one of those rare achievements.

I have always thought Fiddle on the Roof would translate so perfectly to our own story of Partition. I imagine Tevye as a big Sardaar!






Thursday, September 17, 2009

Pure unadulterated question

I recently came across the term "pure unadulterated shit".

What is pure shit? A shit comes from everything you eat - which is the purest form of shit then?The shit that you get from eating shit alone?

And who would try to adulterate shit? And what would they adulterate it with? Milk, cashew, raisin, chocolate nuggets?

I advise you to take the rest of the day off, ignore your parents, spouse, children - in fact thrash the hell out of them if they dare disturb you - and mull over these deep metaphysical questions.

Cutlery




Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ten things that might happen if you read this...

  1. You will get confused about your sexual orientation.
  2. You will be in your job for another five years.
  3. Your kids will grow up hating you.
  4. Your sexual organs will shrink an inch a year.
  5. Your lack of congress will lead to prolonged chintan baithaks.
  6. You will be molested by a six year old - and, no, you won't enjoy it.
  7. You will discover that you have overestimated your bankbalance by a factor of ten.
  8. Your mother and sister(s) will abuse you with mother-sister stuff.
  9. You will ram into a jeep full of Jat policemen and your car will stall and you cell phone battery will die.
  10. The only thing that will keep you from killing yourelf is your conviction that you'll fail even at that.
So do not read this.

PJ (Plastic Joke)


No diamonds in the earrings tho'...

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Thots on blogs

A debate ensues here regarding whether a blog, or to generalise, a writing is big because of its popularity or content.

The debate was sparked by some of us who have followed GreatBong (I personally have followed him for three years) and witnessed his rise in the blogworld. It followed an addendum to an earlier post of his regarding leveraging blog hits via marketing gimmicks.

It's the popular vs. meaningful debate. Does trying to cater to too many at one go mean the lowest common denominator of actual meaning? Does attention per se sometimes takes away the original spark of originality and genuineness?

A couple of years ago, i was in a funk and some blogs helped me come out of it. One of them belonged to a guy who had come out of a similar situation as me, was the same age and trying to rebuild his life in a new place too. every day he wrote about some very little thing. i discovered the blog after a year of its posts and sat through the night reading it. sounds very reader digestish but the resonance the guy unfailingly evoked was very deep. things which had mattered to me and i had always discounted, been almost ashamed of. i lost the link soon after; and i remember that the blog had no comments.

Similarly, i remember a single post in a blog of a NRI sitting in a cafe missing his homeland which moved me very much. it remained the single post without a comment for almost a year till i stopped logging to it.


And there have been bloggers who I have seen fall in the trap of popularity, who try to reach out to so many, that there is none they touch deeply enough.

One of the comments in the discussion mentions the need of the blogger to respond to comments. It made me feel guilty two-ways - not responding to the comments on my own blog which touch me, and not having encouraged those bloggers whose blogs I avidly and silently follow. Perhaps, the point is more relevant to a discussion - the sort GB initiates, objective and usually impersonal. I feel lost many times for words and feel silence is the most respectful comment. I remember a photoblogger I almost followed from scratch who got very popular who irritated me immensely with her inane replies to some very deep comments, often clubbed together as responses to 7-8 comments at the same time.

I really don't know where this is going.


Perhaps, it's like a basket of our needs. We need somewhere a resonance in the universal themes which go with our identity as a culture, a nation: news, discussions on national themes, popular culture -- the bigger the agglomeration, the more superficial the resonance. Every outer layer of our identity and self which unpeals reveals a deeper self within, seeking a deeper resonance. As the self contracts, so does the possibility and the resonance is rarer and more specific to that self. perhaps, it's a balance; and always has been.

But so many people remain unaware of those layers within, and the beauty their resonance evokes.

My own following of GB was partially evoked by the uncanny similarities of his style and thoughts to my best friend from college. Many things he said seemed to come from that friend. Now that personal flavour is mostly lost in his writing; I almost hear him clearing his throat every time he climbs the pulpit of yet another blog post.

American Idol's Devarshi

Monday, September 07, 2009

Light my Fire

One of the daily hazards we smokers (smokers of cigarettes that is and not smoking hot) encounter daily is an uncertain mix of sulphur and clay at the end of a stick of varying curvature along its length. Otherwise known as a matchstick.

First of all, the stick is liable to break as you strike it and as each stick carries its own peculiarity as to where its weakest point is, you can never predict if the flaming projectile unleashed lands on your crotch or your favorite tie.

Then the explosive mixture itself. If there is too much clay, as is usually the case, the confounded thing refuses to stay alight even in the brief flare – sometimes dying halfway through it. Meaning that you have to bring your hands closer and get the paper of the tip of your cigarette as close to the brief flare.

And that’s when comes along the matchstick with more sulphur to blow Nigeria than a mere cigarette – the one whose mushroom flare extends to the whole length of the matchstick; and which takes half your face and both your hands with it.

As one of them did, maiming my right hand for life, a few minutes ago.

I plan to start a campaign for Safe Smoking, similar in theme to Safe Sex.
Wear a condom while having sex (other times, optional).
And gloves and an acetylene torch face-mask while lighting matches.

PJ from retail


In retail, either you're instock (you have it) or out of stock (you don't).

Does that go for inution too?


Watching Halla Bol

I just finished watching halla bol. The inspiration came from an evening at Safdar Hashmi Marg in Delhi and remembering the name of the street play he was murdered performing – Halla Bol. But the movie is not a biopic on Hashmi as I naively expected. In fact, what had struck me the irony of how the government which had had Hashmi murdered in cold blood in public view, and never had had to face any difficult questions for it, had now so graciously granted a road’s name to the man – I believe that these rich narratives will only be discovered two hundred years from now. Instead it’s blatantly about the Jessica Lal murder case, where a rag-to-riches actor Sameer Khan and a witness to the murder rediscovers his conscience and fights the “system” to speak the truth. The last scene is a tribute to the memory of Hashmi tho’ – and despite being delivered with the bollywood stridency of Sukhwinder shouting in the background, is well rendered and a fitting tribute to the courage of that man.

I have followed Santoshi with a slient wait – waiting for the time when he would rise above his Bollywood mindset completely and do justice to the bold themes he chooses. In Daamini, a movie where the script held the promise of making it one of the most important movies of those times, he squandered the chance when he chose the thousand-expressions-a-minute Meenakshi Sheshadri, whom I’ve heard he was desperately wooing then, to essay the role of a woman who undergoes a thousand-revolutions within and that multiplied meant a million expressions every minute of the movie – like watching Jim Carrey essay the role of a neurotic hyperactive man with multiple-personalities; thus he traded the promise of celestial fame for a celestial lay – something I would have done too. I liked China Gate, despite Mamta Kulkarni, a more faithful copy of Seven Samurai than Sholay, even though he drew the Hindu-Muslim conflict in Amrish Puri and Naseer to the point where the audience wept every time they came on the screen together.

Raj Kumar Santoshi somehow reminds me of Sudhir Misra in terms of the themes he chooses. But somewhere his desperation to keep it mainstream makes him keep committing mini hara-kiris in between.

In his working, a more apt comparison would be Vidhu Vinod Chopra. The difference between the ranting VVC (this is the VVC network vrought to you vy Johnson Vavy Powder) and RKS is that the former is a technically-proficient mostly-mediocre person who fancies himself a genius and blames the junta for not understanding his pathetic mix of “commercial art” (in Mission Kashmir, Hrithik, to pave way for his eventual deliverance, is a feared terrorist who never kills the soldiers but just kicks them around – and with that condition he flushes the movie into the realm of the comically absurd and then expects the audience to lap it as serious cinema). RKS is a man with genuine talent for finding good scripts and characterisation and yet he fails to live up to the promise of his scripts by riddling it with many mediocre plot-points, letting some characters become caricatures, bad music, and inability to escape the mental clutches of Bollywood masala.

Santoshi’s success has always come in the subplots of the powerful plots he squanders. In Daamini, Sunny stumbled halfway into the movie as a has-been alcoholic lawyer and lit the screen. In China Gate, it was the Amrish-Puri-Jagdeep chemistry which was the crowning point (a similar chemistry was evident in the now forgotten Muskuraahat, a remake from some SouthIndian movie starring Revathi and the launch pad of the producer-son hero). Even though these themes work, the movie hinging on the central plot gets lost.

The subplot here is Guruji.

Here, the director very intelligently chooses Pankaj Kapoor for the role (Any other country, and Pankaj Kapoor would have had the top billing, above Ajay Devgun and Vidya Balan.) It is Pankaj Kapoor who elevates the movie to its moments of greatness every time he is on the screen. (He even makes a re-entry into the script in the fashion of Daamini’s Sunny Deol when the hero hits the nadir of no-hope ala Daamini.) Pankaj’s character too is very well fleshed out. A dacoit who had his change of heart while slipping into a play performance (but did it have to be the totally literal ‘Raja Harishchandra’?) while evading the police and became a theatre actor – a nice and full sketch except for the RHC part which made his eyes water even after decades (maybe a nukkad-naatak on second chance would have sounded more credible.)

If I see the movie a second time, I will keep fast forwarding the movie till I see Pankaj Kapoor on the screen, watch it till his exit and then hit the remote.

I wonder why RKS lets subplots dominate his Bollywoodishly-rendered plots. Subplots are supposed to bolster the central plot, to add nuances and dimensions to it, and not to take away the spotlight from them completely. The central plot and dialogues is like any other Bollywood movie. Since the hero is a Muslim who marries a Hindu, vignettes from his past force down the harmony of his M parents with their Hindu neighbours though, and this is a Bollywoodian dichotomy only the Indians can understand, by Bollywood standards it is actually subtly done. Vidya Balan’s character is a character in wait to play the role of the wife-standing-behind-the-husband-on-dock in the latter part and the romantic bits in the start are recommended to be followed while talking dirty to a stranger over the phone and cutting your toenails. Anjan Waagle Srivastava essays the role of the father with the same innovation with which Alok Nath essays his. Ditto for Sulabha Arya. * as the actor's secretary repeats an old act, but you don’t mind it, since he does it with the same finesse as he’s done it earlier.

Actually, the choice of characters points to the same lapses of imagination which plague RKS. He takes fine actors by the roles they have already essayed instead of discovering a Langda tyagi in Saif and Deepak Dobriyal in Rajoh. If there had been a grandfather, it would have been AK Hangal who would have midway through the movie made a heart-wrenching statement about fighting for ethics to the hero while the other characters stood around, heads hung in shame, and then left after hearing the azaan.

The new element is Darshan Jariwal, who takes over from Amrish Puri to play the villain of the same mold as those of Ghayal and Daamini. There’s even a tribute to ‘Jhatakna bhool jaoge’ with a ‘ting’y confrontation between Ajjay Deol and darshan Puri. Darshan is totally out of elements – the more I see of this actor, the more I realise that earnestness is not quite a perfect substitute for aptitude.

The movie moves from one screaming level to another, like all BW fare. When the hero in the start is a dissipated soul, within minutes he lies to old out-of-luck directors, screws starlets, tramples on other people’s careers and acts like Salman Khan all the time. Then after a murder most unsubtly-rendered his pangs are still suitably shown. But once his isolation starts, the hysteria of the world against him becomes absurd. The politician dad incites the public opinion against the hero and he’s thrashed unrelentingly by the press and the public; Prabhu Chawla does himself no favours in a badly-scripted talk show where he attacks the actor for changing his stand and speaking out. I feel a lot of people would have dismissed the movie here. Since when did people start believing in politicians, other than the managed goons who burn books and thrash couples on their behalf? The day YSR’s chopper got lost, discussion forums were flush with gloating glee that a politician, usually surrounded by more police than our smaller towns, is in any sort of physical danger. In fact, Jessica Lal case has brought to fore the estrangement of public opinion with the feudal system – the politicians, the police and the ineffectual judiciary. A grave error, I think.

Also the irony hit me again when the movie, after showing for half an hour how easily the politician schemes a superstar’s reputation to the dustiest and brownest of dust in weeks, despairs over a street-play performance announced to be performed. Ironic considering how easily Hashmi’s own death was effected and how easily the dust of its protest and public memory swept away and buried beneath the well-paved road bearing his name.

Part of RKS’s dilemma, and people like him who want to inject some discussion on our society in the distorted escapist world of cinema which surrounds us all the time, is the total dumbing of the audience that BW has effected. In a scene where the hero is approached by some Muslim-brethern to give his victimization a communal angle, the hero rises screaming to the duo, caricaturised from the beard to their tummy and the gamchha on their shoulders, telling them it would be a disgrace to cite his Muslimness as the cause of his being targeted (as opposed to his standing to a system of lies and feudal tyrannies) when the PM is a Sikh and the Prez a Muslim. Loud as this scene is – how else do you communicate a scene to the Indian masses – I write this after reading a report where a Mumbai college-student derides HallaBol as being too arty.(!)

In the end, Halla Bol is a movie which disappoints like a book where the author, in haste, dissipates a good plot and idea. And yet I would rather read it to the end, perhaps even buy it, than a sanitized bestseller.


Friday, September 04, 2009

Why statisticians are bad conversationalists

Some1: And you know what! This has never happened to me!

Me: Well, that's why it happened. The odds were piling up (though each individual event starts with the same odds, of course). Continue.

Some1: Forget it.