Thursday, December 28, 2006

Meeting Dalai Lama

Early, very early this morning, when the alarm starting ringing, I got up cursing the alarm, myself and the world. I do not like getting up early, unless it is to travel someplace or simply get up, do some yoga, grab a hot mug of coffee and relax with a book. But work beckoned, unfortunately. I was to go to a meeting of the Dalai Lama with the Governor of Karnataka T N Chaturvedi.

To worsen my early morning blues, this programme was at Windsor Sherton, one of the best hotels in the town. Now, these 5-star hotels are all extremely lovely. I especially love Taj West End and The Oberoi here. I wouldn't voluntarily go to any of these places. But the thing is, all business press conferences and other corporate events are held here and I am invariably forced to go.

My only problem is that I need to dress up to go here. My usual half crumpled kurta, a dirty pair of jeans won't do and that is what I hate, that dressing up part. And also the stuffy feeling I get at all these places. Snobbishness is something I cannot tolerate.

Anyway, this morning I got to the hotel and we did get to see and talk to the Dalai Lama. I took some pictures on my mobile that I will download and post soon. My impressions of him? Hmm.... I don't know. He came across as very dynamic with a smile ever ready on his face. He was very willing to mingle with everyone and posed for a number of pictures with tourists there. That is something I liked about him, that he was ready to mingle. A lot of religious gurus keep everyone else at a distance.

But somehow, he did not come across as the spiritual head that he is. I guess I was expecting him to be distant, formal and with this air of religious superiority. He was none of those, and quite nice because of that.

Dalai Lama, hmm! What, or rather who next, I wonder. :-)

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy Holidays

Hello people!
Just a short post to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a very Happy and Prosperous New Year.

Now, the above picture doesn't really convey festivity, but I just thought it was a nice picture and wanted to share it with you all. By the way, it is a picture of the Elephanta Caves near Mumbai, taken when I was there a few months ago.

The end of the year calls for some introspection, some stock taking. But I will let that wait for a while. My family is here with me and I am having the time of my life. So no blogging. But do come back, I have a long post about the wedding coming up.

Happy holidays! Stay beautiful.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Wedding

I love the mehendi. This is the bride, by the way. Decorating hands and legs with henna is not a South Indian custom like it is in the North, but all the brides wear them anyways. My cousin was glowing that day, and not just because she had got a golden facial (whatever that means!) done. She looked simple and more beautiful because of that.

This is the bride's hair, all decked up with flowers and jewellery. Because hardly anyone keeps their hair long these days, false hair is tied on and decorated all the way with flowers. The room where her make up was done was very badly lit and the picture did not come out very well.

The mantap. It was a very simple one that further highlighted the beauty of the entire ceremony. The board spells out the names of the couple.

Most weddings today have the latest numbers from Bollywood movies blaring out of loudspeakers. In others, even that is missing, replaced by the cacophony of a thousand voices, all talking and none listening. In a select few, a troupe of traditional musicians like the above are hired to play. I must say they did play tunes of old Kannada film songs once in a while but on the whole, it was good music. When the groom finally garlands the bride and the marriage actually happens, something called the "Gattimela" is played. This is when the couple become man and wife.

A really bad picture, too much light. Now after the actual wedding, what follows is a series of rituals that I did not care to try and understand. The priest officiates the ceremony, assisted by others, in the presence of the couple's parents and everyone else who care to sit around the mantap. I have never sat anywhere close so I cannot tell you what the rituals are.

Feasting! Every wedding, in fact, every Brahmin function is an excuse to feast. Brahmins love to eat and sweet dishes are a special favourite. Functions such as weddings need a lot of preparations, food-wise. You see above the kitchen with the huge huge vessels and the cooks. As far as I know, there are no women cooks for such functions.
As kids, we would have great fun at these places. We would steal bits of food, the dough of `holige', a sweet dish (the dough is yummy too!) and other snacks. And then we grew up. Now we have all become boring in the process of maintaining decorum. :-(

After the wedding and hours of rituals, after the feasting and after everything else (Ahem!), the next day is the 'grha-pravesha', when the bride's in-laws take her into their home formally. The wedding is held at the girl's place or at a place of mutual convenience. If the groom's house is far away, this puja might take place after a couple of days. In my cousin's case, her husband's house was close by.
The 'grha-pravesha' is again a series of rituals that I did not understand. Actually, I was too busy talking to my uncle and my cousin to bother. From what I understand, this is where the in-laws accept the girl as a daughter of the house.

The 'kanyadaana' takes place here. What strikes me as really bad is that the mother who bears the child and looks after her for all those years has no part in giving away the girl. That part of the entire ceremony is really sad.
By the way, what you see above is a `kalasha', an arrangement of coconut, rice, betel leaves, etc that is used for many rituals. It has some significance. I will write about it if I ever find out. :-)

A very bad picture. These are little pitchers filled with `paneer' or fragrant water. This is sprinkled on the heads of the bride's party by the groom's family to welcome them. Kids in the family are usually given this task. I did it, and must tell you, it is great fun. In the plate is 'tambula', an arrangement of betel nuts and leaves.

Again, the rituals around the holy fire. There is my little cousin and her husband. The priests are officiating the puja and in front is a 'rangoli', an intricate drawing to bring good luck and ward off the evil eye.

The rituals, though I do not understand most of them, are beautiful nevertheless. The rhythmic chantings from the Vedas are soothing and makes me proud to be a part of this over 5,000 year old tradition.

The bride smiles. Her entire happiness reflects in her eyes. I know then that she will be happy. I know her husband is a nice person. And I couldn't be happier for them.

Here is to their happiness. God bless them.

The Wedding

My cousin's wedding was beautiful. I think in the last post I had written that I would watch the rituals and report back. That is not happening because, 1) I was too busy talking to every one of my extended family members and 2) I did not have the patience to sit, observe and understand. Anyone who has been to an Indian wedding would know how intricate each ritual is. It is more advisable to just watch the rituals, listen to the chants and be drawn into the beauty of a tradition that has been carried out for millenia now.

I give you some random shots of the wedding, taken with my phone between trying to walk with dignity in a saree, between conversations and between being busy.... well, just being busy!

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Great Indian Wedding

My little cousin is getting married in two days. I say little because she is the kiddo in the family. The forever kid. The one who gets away with everything. To be frank, all of us in the family are so pampered that all of us have gotten away with everything.

She is getting married on the 13th. It is hard to imagine her as a married woman. It is going to be a grand wedding. Looking forward to it because I haven't gone to a good family function in ages. It will be great fun. The entire extended family will be here. In our weddings, the bride's family had to oversee all the arrangements, entertain the guests and manage the wedding. I and this cousin would always do that at all other functions. This time, its just me there. Will be fun.

I have always wanted to write a post on weddings in my community. The wedding is a sober function, no dancing like in North Indian weddings. But the rituals and the meaning behind them are beautiful. If I ever manage to observe everything, I will come back and write.

I am off to some fun, and a break from work! Yipeeee!
Tata my dear readers, stay precious. Life is Beautiful.

When Its All Worth It

Yesterday, a colleague and I were cribbing about how not-so-interesting life was. Suddenly, we said hey! If we journalists call our lives boring, how it must be for others. I mean, we get to experience something new every single day in this profession. We have flexible work hours, get to meet new people every day, go to funny, amusing events, so much happens in life. This colleague had just met all the top film stars at a press conference that day. I had gone to a military school event where I got to watch a hardcore patriotic play. Our lives are not boring, it is just that we don't appreciate how much we have going for us.

Journalism is all about something new everyday. That military school event was great fun. It was an early assignment and I had to wake up early too, something I loathe. I dragged myself to the Defence PRO's office and we went to the school in one of those huge military buses. I love those army types. They look so dashing in those uniforms. It is not that all of them are good looking (most are). Just that there is something so Indian about them. Maybe the uniform, maybe their discipline. Everytime I see one of them, I want to salute them, then and there.

Anyway, this event was the diamond jubilee celebrations of the military school. The alumni were all shouting across the hall to greet old friends, typical school alumni meet atmosphere. The chief guest was the Governor of Karnataka. The moment he entered, the school band began to play the national anthem. It was one of the best I have ever heard. Patriotism, at least an outward show of it, is largely restricted to August 15, January 26 and Indo-Pak cricket matches, I feel. I love my country, but it is not often that I feel a surge of pride in how beautiful India is. Perhaps when you are living here, you take it for granted. But there, listening to the anthem, I actually got goosebumps! It was just.... overwhelming in a way. I felt so proud of my country then.

Yesterday, I was assigned to go cover an exhibition put up by the graduating students of Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology. I have always been inclined towards the arts, though I don't paint, draw, dance or sing myself. (Well I do sing in the bathroom, dance like crazy sometimes and draw, doodle rather when I am waiting. But this doesn't count.) Give me the jhola, chappals, arty stuff. Works for me over formals, leather bags and pointed shoes.

The arty types, though I don't like typifying them, are different in the way they dress, behave. For starters, they are extremely creative. But then, probably if you are in an atmosphere that induces creative thinking, it shouldn't be too hard.

Anyway, I did go to this event and spoke to a lot of students. Some of their projects are amazing, some weird, some too complex. But on the whole, it was a great break from covering dumb politics, boring speeches and mindless events. I did get some byline stories too, to take care of special story demands.

Moral of the story: Journalism and writing is just another job at the end of the day. We get bored too, we crib about life, just like every other person in every other profession. But at times, like the two examples above, it all seems worth it. I understand that going to such events and meeting different kinds of human beings and different kinds of people (there is a difference, believe me) does not happen to everyone. I appreciate the opportunities I get. Well, sometimes I don't. Come on, it is almost a given that you need to crib about work, your boss, salary, etc. I am just following the rules of the working world people!

I ramble too much here. But it is all worth it. Life, in spite of everything, is worth living.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Journalism at Express

This is what my colleagues do when state matters, murders, gossip about people in power, scandals and exclusives get boring! This is an old picture so I am not sure whose creativity this is.
And below is an SMS one of my colleagues, Jaunet, made up and forwarded to everyone else during some boring assignment. I wont say its 100% true all the time, but this pretty much sums up what all journos everywhere do. (I know everyone will deny this now, but I, as an insider, know this statement to be true to the best of my knowledge people).
The SMS:
........Deadline pressures, special story hassles.
Loads of coffee, with occassional beers.
Dumb state politics, serious office gossip.
Crushes on CRs, criminals, crime reps n cops.
Infinitea to canteen ka tea.
Bitch about appraisals, yet swear by Express.
Walk in to work at 1 and walk out for shopping at 3.
Others call it time pass, we call it
Journalism at Express!!!

Days of My Journo Life

DAY 1: I have a very early assignment at 8.30. That means I have to sleep walk out of my house by 7.30. Ugh! Thankfully, a colleague is going that way too and says he will pick me up. That means I go out by 8 am. Not too bad but its cold and the bike ride is not something I want to repeat. The assignment is a ok one, followed by breakfast at Koshy's again (reason is that no other decent restaurant is open at that hour on M G Road). I go to this book festival near office and blow up a lot of money on some great titles. I am happy, relaxed, in spite of the early hour. The wind is slightly cold still and am I the first person to walk into the office. It is quiet.

Two hours later, chaos begins. The rest of the day is hazy. The only thing I remember is that I had toooooo much work, frustrated at having to come up with new ideas every day, just cribbing about work. When I call home like I do every night and look forward to cribbing some more about life, office and work to ma, she tells me that she is down with fever and feels terribly weak. That unnerves me further. By the time I get home, I am so frustrated I just want to scream out, cry, whatever. That, when crying is a very very huge thing for me to do. I never cry, even when required, which is bad I know. I end up bottling up all this and drop down to a bad night of sleep.

DAY 2: The same thing repeats. Actually pretty much of the first paragraph repeats. By evening ma is better. I still have toooooo much work but I am relaxed. The frustration is there but I will it to go away and it does. I come home, read a book and sleep deeply.

What made the difference, you ask. On day 2, I forced myself to wake up half and hour earlier and practised my yoga. I meditated for just a while, told myself it would be a good day, prayed and stretched my body in all ways possible in postures. And that made all the difference.

DAY 3: Same as above.

I wonder why I ever stopped yoga. Even as I type these words, muscles I didn't know I had are aching from having stretched them after ages. But it feels good. I feel alive. I do not advocate the benefits of yoga here.
Actually, I do. Yoga, or any other form of exercise, does wonders. Now this instant use like I got may not be possible. For me, it has been an on-off thing. But keep at it and even those dirty politicians, mundane press conferences and the mindless people wont unnerve you. No wonder Indians have always been cool!