Thursday, October 11, 2007

Errata: The movie that I wrote about in my previous blog entry is called Saraansh and not Sangharsh. The error is regretted.

I realised I made a mistake when I was reading a critical text this afternoon sitting on the very same bean bag I had mentioned in my previous blog. To take a break from reading, I looked at the ventillator and the name came to me.

There is a movie called Sangharsh too but I don't remember whether I have seen it and who is in it. I guess I'll get some info about it if I google it but then who cares? When you don't remember it, I guess, you didn't find it worth remembering.

This mistake however is a good case of Freudian slip. There is so much sangharsh in Bhatt's movie that I am not at all amazed that I remember that as the name of the movie.

By the way, I don't think I figured out, ever, why that movie was called Saaransh. This word loosely translates to the word 'essence' and in Hindi it is used most frequently in the phrase jeevan ka saaransh which can be replaced in English by the often heard, rather resigned, rhetorical question "Is this what life is about?" I remember one of my brothers, aged about 20 then, was hugely disappointed and visibly upset when a friend of the family, whom we were are all rather fond of, chose to call his newly built house Saaransh. Being a graduate student in a competitive English department then, I promptly wondered about intrepretation and misintrepretation but somehow my brother and I never got around to talking about that again.

In our Hindi speaking consciousness this word has a negative tinge if not a totally negative connotation. Just as most English speakers are uncomfortable with the word 'clever' becuase they promptly associate it with 'cunning' and not with 'intelligent'.

Now the question is, why did Mahesh Bhatt choose to give this title to this movie? Especially when the last shot is of the old couple sitting on a park-bench in soft sunlight and the pleasant cliche of their son's ashes turning into grass after all those grey and dark frames of a bleak corridor, ventillators and ceiling fans? Bhatt must've been a rather young man when he made this movie. I would say somewhere in his mid-30s. The question I'd like to ask Mr. Bhatt, if I ever meet him, would be this: Why call that movie Saaransh?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Well yes, when all the regular hibernators must be preparing their cosy nooks to go into hibernation, I am coming out of hibernation! And you would think that I would have some earth-shatteringly significant announcement if I chose to come out of hibernation. Never fear! It is just me with my random observations about life in general and things in particular.

We have recently created a makeshift dining space in our new home. This is not only a dining space it doubles up as a pleasant space to sit around and chat or pontificate. On a rainy morning, when the weather was totally uninspiring for anything but whiling time away, I was sitting on my beanbag reading the capers of a boy who was created in England between the two World Wars. Now, however well written mischief is, you either have to be a mischievous child or have to be have been one to read William's doings with rapt attention. My eye wandered to the ventilator above the door. I was sure I had seen that ventilator before. I mean the same patter on glass as was set in that ventilator. No, not some time previously in the same house and no I don't mean deja vu. Having nothing better to do I let my thoughts wander toward the sighting of that very same pattern in a ventilator. Was it a photograph? Was it something on a screen? Well yes, it was on a small screen. In a flash, a la Bollywood, I knew where I had seen. In a Hindi movie of course. And not at all the typical Bollywood movie. This movie was made by Mahesh Bhatt and it launched one of the best actors in Bollywood - Anupam Kher. It was called Sangharsh and was an account of the crazy struggle of a retired schoolteacher trying to get the typically corrupt officials of some government enterprise to release the urn that contained the ashes of his son who was killed in an act of racist violence in the US. This movie was made before globalisation and before Indians migrated to the US in planeloads. And if you think that was enough to depress you, this movie also dwelt upon the power of politicians, ideals of youth, star-crossed lovers, right/desire of a woman to have a baby conceived out of wedlock and madness. Wow! Quite a list that! That is ten movies even for Vishal Bharadwaj!
I saw this movie on DD when the goras who we saw were the ones heading from the airport to the only two luxury hotels in our town and was not old enough to read about racism and the various theories and ideologies it generated. So, the movie left a huge impact. I think I can recall every frame if I set myself that exercise.
How is that my middle class home has the same ventilator glass that was there in a movie? Well, yes the movie was set in Bombay (it was Bombay then and not the relatively new Mumbai) and it was about a man who must have put in his life's savings to buy that flat. Also, I always suspected Mahesh Bhatt shot all his movies in actual homes and not on artificially created sets or hotel rooms. However, the uncanny resemblance was firmly ensconed in some back recess of my mind. And I started noticing ventilators in various houses. Most of them looked like mine!
So, if you are living in Bombay and you are not Amitabh Bachchan then you live in a flat, in a building, in a colony. Even you cannot pick either your flat or even your building among all the others for having some unique quality. If living in Delhi is like living in a sarkari colony, living in Mumbai is living in a sarkari colony minus the amenities.
For more on Mumbai, look at this space every once in a while!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Friday, June 29, 2007

The rains are at last here. And I thank my good sense in choosing this house that is "inconveniently located" "far away from all the action" "at the other end of the world" each time I sit on my little coir charpoy reclining against a pillar on my porch and watch the rain. Well, this is not another one of those bored bloggers writing about the wonderfully welcome rains. I have never been a huge fan of monsoon. Though, I am must admit that the two essays that made my English and Hindi teachers take me seriously were about the first day of monsoon. I have absolutely no recollection of that legendary first day of monsoon that made me a favourite with my language teachers and gently drifted me to English studies. A good guess though would be that I was sitting on my bed engrossed in an Enid Blyton or a Nancy Drew oblivious to the rain.

The rains and the monsoon story were a precurssor to a narrative on the advantages of my glorious portico and to reveal that I was not a particularly boisterous child. Other than the fact that we rang out 2006 and rang in 2007 here and had other cosy little parties, my portico is my strategic position to notice the rare passerby in my isolated colony and theorise about the trends in society. While there is hardly a passerby there are a lot of children around. Most of them engrossed in their games and in their world of playground politics. They do not bother me. The ones who bother me are the pre-pubescent over-weight boys and girls trudging up the road, turning back and draggging their feet towards other lanes in the colony. They hardly look like they enjoy the excellent weather. It looks like this is a part of their homework (wonder if schools do give homework even now) or some such 'duty' that children regularly do in exchange for getting undisturbed playtime.

Last evening, I was lost in the tale of Husrev and Shirin that was woven into the tale of a 'modern' 16th century romance in Istanbul, sipping pipping hot tea, munching on a crunchy snack, enjoying the pre-rain breeze, reclining at my regular viewpoint on my porch. I look up to give my eyes a treat of looking at green rather than black print on white and what do I see -- child after child about 12-13 years of age, with various degrees of a weight problem, sadly walking around the colony. I promptly twisted my packet of crunchies into a temporary knot and lay the book aside. And began thinking, how does this happen? Is it home-based recreation? Or the supermarkets? Or ultra-busy parents? Or fat wallets? What is it?

Are we now going to have seminars, academic papers and eventually consumer goods to battle childhood obesity? Is this how contemporary economy sustains itself? Create a market then develop goods to keep the market going? Children have already been dragged into conspicuous consumerism not only as prime consumers but also as ambassadors for various products ranging from chocolates to life insurance. These lonely pre-teen 'walkers' are walking away all the junk they enjoyed eating. Their parents cannot deny they complicity, even if it was not deliberate, in letting these children harm themselves. At least now, these parents should do themselves and their children a favour by thinking carefully before pushing them out of the house on these lonely walks. Pre-teens do not forget these solitary walks and find it difficult to forgive the people who put them through it.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Would you agree with me that Eliot is extremely quotable? Somehow, I have always noticed that 'scholars' usually throw Eliot at you and hold their breath expectantly. When they see that particular light of vague recollection in your eyes they start talking to you in their language. If they see blankness in your eye, you can bet they will start their patronising act and if you beat them at it with "oh, not old Eliot again" they will promptly recognise you as one of their kind.

I started with Eliot, at the risk of being labelled a 'scholar', as I remember lines only from Eliot; the exceptions being "...dances with the daffodils" and parts of "The Second Coming". So:

"There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;"

(By the way, I googled that to save myself from pedantic friends who will insist on correcting it to the coma in a comment for this post)

Now, why am I talking about faces and preparing faces? I am surrounded by faces, prepared ones. And I watch them go about their act for that one moment when that face slips or is undermined by a gesture. That one moment when Aishwaraya Rai tripped on her evening gown and went on to become Miss World rather than Miss Universe.
Where do they come from? These people? I often wonder. And how can they go about replacing one face for another seamlessly till they their bedroom lights are switched off I imagine. Would you call this an art or a skill? Whichever it is I am rather awed by it. Having not acquired here in all these years and having given up the hope to acquire it.

So, I go about collecting all those little moments when these faces fail. And I do not mean catacylsmic or even dramatic moments. Completely insignificant ones where a very tall, stern and thoroughly professional manager of a section of a multi-national company casually brushes his hand against a silly piece of office-decoration and a glamorous scholar tastes a new flavour of ice cream and can only utter a shocked "where do they make this?" and a scholastic friend crunches dry leaves under his cycle-tires while seriously discussing Matthew Arnold. These little moments remain in my mind. As I feel a little closer to these people then. That little slip where the face shifts enough to see a less grown-up face gladdens me.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

You get back from work. You are very tired. The idea of picking up a book or the newspaper is not very appealing. You switch on the TV, lie back on your beanbag and pick up the remote. Then, you begin surfing channels. Sounds familiar?

You must have noticed that I mentioned ‘surfing channels’ and not ‘watching TV’ in the previous sentence. That was deliberate. That was to reiterate that we do not watch TV anymore. And that is the wonder of TV. We do not need to put in any effort to feel relaxed.

The disjointed images and sounds that zip past us, like a slideshow put together by a whimsical child or an insane person, are similar to the disjointed images and sounds that we were participating in throughout the day. The one difference, and that is where the genius of it lies, is that we do not have to actively participate in the later disjointed slideshow. In the previous one, we have to keep checking if we are in the same page as the others around us. The ‘real world’ – the one where we work, talk, negotiate, meet, and interact – expects us to make sense of the disjointed images and sounds that come our way. The world of 500 TV channels, on the other hand, gives us the tool to simulate a familiar environment where we can simply sit back and relax.

When walk into your home and switch on the TV, what you are actually doing is changing the silence of the home environment to the one that you have just walked out. While you get the comfort of familiarity, you also get the advantage of passivity.

If you thought 500 TV channels were there to satisfy varied tastes, think again. Try to recollect the time you got back from work and actually watched an entire program on TV.

Monday, March 12, 2007

I was looking out of the 10th floor of a high rise building. This action constituted my 'break' from work. That too a recommended break. My doc asked me to look at "a green patch of land" every hour or so. Well, not a very difficult thing to do, I presumed. Till I actually started looking for that elusive patch of greenery around my office.
I realised that I was enveloped by high rise structures or upcoming ones in every direction. Startlingly though, there was no building right next to ours. There was a discarded doll's house; whose lid had blown off.
Surreal as it may sound, my bird's eye view rested on a doll's house in the middle of a corporate jungle.
I have always been fascinated by doll's houses. I suspect the fascination arises from not having played with one. Doll's houses were under those category of toys that were part of the nurseries of kids in Enid Blyton books as far as my childhood pals and I were concerned. And the first time I saw a three dimensional one was, during my teens, in a Bollywood movie; where, ironically, it was used as a symbol of a slow erosion of childhood.
One of my fantasies, as a child, was to take off the lid of a doll's house and look down into it. Yes, children have incredibly high egos; dreams of godhood!
On this particular 'break', I saw this long-forgotten fantasy come true. There it was, a rather carefully built doll's house. Unlike a typical one though, there was a careful structure but almost no furniture. There was just broken down furniture, discarded clothes, outgrown toys and all those boxes and paper that a thrifty homemaker collects to be recycled as emergency packing material. I presume, when the ex-residents of this house left, their burdens were too heavy for thrift, planning and hoarding.
There, in the middle of a room, I saw a huge rangoli. Painstakingly and skillfully painted by some family member. As soon as I saw that rangoli, my brain stopped registering other details. I cannot recollect, for instance, if the walls were semi-destroyed or if the windows had shutters or not. The rangoli jarred me out of my cosy nook, where I was fulfilling my childhood fantasy. It flung me into a sudden empathy towards the erstwhile residents of that house. People who abandonded the familiarity and comfort of their home due to 'development'.
I cannot bring myself to take a 'break' now. For fear of the story the next 'green-patch-of-land' might tell me
PS: It is Ground Zero now, at the 'doll's house'. When I was hiding in my cubicle, the house was levelled down. I might find my 'green-patch-of-land', come rains. If the cranes don't get there before the rains.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Happy new year and all that. And let's not talk about career prospects and such stuff. That is about the only thing I get to overhear each time people are ringing out the old and ringing in the new.
And no no. My disinterest is not out of dissatisfaction. I do not dislike what I do. Suits me fine actually. Standing right there behind that curtain, I get all the stories I want. Keeps me going.
I remember saying I will tell you about my little game. The one I play on days when I do not need to do many dishes. I can afford dawdle then, so I notice the hands that place those dishes on the counter.
Did you know you could fall in love with hands? And the stories hands can tell! No man, not eyes! I am keeping out of that zone for a while. That zone demands too much of you.
There are hands and then there are hands. When I started out, I'd try and guess the gender. Oh no no! Don't brush that off! It is not as easy as you might think. Jewelry was never much of an indicator, I suppose. In my opinion, it does not give any clues. You either wear jewelry or you don't. I saw a big silver ring with intricate filigree work worn by a guy and a sturdy topaz and gold ring worn by a girl. The gender comes out in the way those hands are handling that plate they keep on the counter. Okay, hold on, I am not going to start on cliches now. I am not even going on that sherlockholmesian trial. You go play that game when you have time to kill. Why should I spoil your fun?
There is this guy with neatly clipped nails. The strange thing though is that they are clipped to look pointed. As if he takes the clipper and goes click from the right and then click form the left. Original! What do you think? Now is this guy like that with all that he does or is this a one off thing. Like you know, follow the book, day in and day out -- and there is all this originality itching to burst out. It comes out in one of the most 'mundane' chores.
And then there is this girl who carefully picks up her crushed paper cup and serviette from the plate, dumps them in the dustbin and then slides the plate carelessly over the counter. Reminds me of those drivers who rush into the traffic and drive recklessly till the traffic scares them. Then they dramatically slow down and start behaving like they are driving to qualify the driving license test. Oh yes, before you point out -- she does the exact opposite. But of course, the essence remains the same. Getting too scared of your impulsive actions and then zooming into the opposite direction. Similar to that glamourous mommy who darts her eyes in all directions before quickly wiping the mess created by her toddler. Really! How can she be seen bending in her designer jeans to behave like the women she despises?
My favourite though is the hand that gently places the plate on the counter and holds it, waiting for the pressure from my end, figuring out whether it slides into a machine or is picked up by a human hand. This person is interested in my existence. Are you surprise I wait, everyday, for this hand?