Sunday, December 09, 2007
A couple of days ago, I was in Pune on work and got to stay the night in a resort in Lonavla overlooking the Grand Canyon-like Khandala valley. The trip was nothing to write home about. Waking up early the next day, I ran to open the curtains and was again amazed at how beautiful Earth is. Honestly speaking, coming from a hill station myself, I would not recommend a visit to Khandala. You can see all there is to see just driving down the amazing express way from Pune to Mumbai. But that morning, it was not misty, not cold at all (must for me if I have to convince myself I am at a hill station) but the flat topped mountains did present a pretty picture. I clicked a dozen pictures on my new phone (its amazing). After a while, we went sightseeing and came upon Shooting Point in Lonavla where the wind was so strong that even the heftiest among us struggled to keep his balance. That was the only thing I will probably remember about the place, the very strong winds, stronger than I have ever known.
The Tiger Valley of Khandala was ok too, made for some good pictures. But the place failed to impress me much, contrary to all expectations. The weather was barely ok, the resort was tolerable, though I found the staff, including a man I so thought had to be gay, very nice. The trip to Mumbai was good, beautiful road and amazing speed. I feel the need for speed, by the way. Mumbai was dirty and crowded as usual (never liked that city, except the kulfi you get there). The flight was good, very smooth and a spectacular view. I managed to sneak and take some pictures to show my best friend. :-)
It was not the much needed break for my mind that I hoped it would be. But all in all, was not too bad. I can now tolerate Bangalore for a few more weeks before I start getting claustrophobic again and begin to itch to travel again. Is some travel magazine listening? :-)
PS: The flight from Mumbai to Bangalore with overly made up flight attendants (aren’t they all?) took 1 ½ hours. The drive from the airport to Press Club, a distance of less than 10 kms, took nearly two hours. How I LOVE this city! L Am I ready to move out, you ask? Hell no! Not yet, this place has that effect on you.
The above pic is of the view I had from my room at the resort. The second is taken from the plane, amazing na? I love this one, so amazing is the Earth and everything in the universe.
Traveling on work has lost its charm though, not that the next time it comes up, I will pass. In the nearly one year that I have been working as a business correspondent, I have traveled to several cities, some that I had never been too, some familiar haunts. One thing I have realized is that all the metros look the same, another reason why I hate globalization. All the cities have the branded stores, the Baristas, Coffee Days, the beggars, the swanky offices, the squares, the malls. The result, MG Road in Pune looks like Commercial Street in Bangalore that reminds you of Banjara Hills in Hyderabad that could pass off for Connaught Place that is quite similar to whatever is the equivalent in Mumbai and Chennai. If you ask me, cities have lost their charm altogether, there is absolutely nothing that distinguishes one from the other. Not even the language these days, no thanks to IT and the rest of all that is not too right with the world.
I sound cynical. I am. I hate the way cities are losing their character. Just for arguments sake you could say that Mumbai has its dabba-wallahs and Dharavi, Delhi its Parliament House, cheap clothes and Dilli Haat and Bangalore its weather and all that. But if you were to be taken, blind folded, to some city, deposited in the middle of the teeming traffic or taken to the hip area and asked to identify it, chances are that you would only be able to try guessing. I hate the way you get lac bangles at every souvenir store, the way you can buy Karachi biscuits everywhere. I loathe to realise that I can not take back any souvenir from any city, I might as well buy them at convenience in another city, maybe for a slightly higher place.
I like tradition and nostalgia, I do not think they are in any way a hindrance to development. I have a list of things that I wish had not changed with the world, they include writing letters, meeting friends physically and other simple things. I have just added the lack of joy in traveling to a city to that list.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
And thus I begin to read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera. I know it is a great book, the first few pages are evidence to that. I have never read Marquez, though I love the way his name rolls on my tongue. Actually I love the name most Latin American names sound, be it Che Guevara or Antonio Banderas. Anyways, I bought myself the book for my birthday. The first few pages made me feel like going slow on the book and really savoring it, like the way I read Alex Haley's Roots. (Ok, ok I admit it, I am too preoccupied and busy with other things to read for long!) Roots was one amazing book…… screeeeeeech!!!! I am losing my train of thought here….
Anyway, this post is about what I am currently (pretending) to be reading. There is Marquez, a book of poetry called the Satsai by an ancient poet called Bihari, translated from Brij to English. Also Paulo Coelho’s Eleven Minutes (second time reading, wait, I think it is the third) and the best of Ruskin Bond for some stress buster reading. Also a Kannada book on Queen Shantala by G V Iyer. Phew! that’s a long list, only wish I could finish faster than I can manage now.
Off late, I re-re-re-read Jean Webster’s Daddy Long Legs (a beautiful, light hearted classic) and Moth Smoke by the Pakistani writer Mohsin Hamid. It was a strange book, all about the characters being high on drugs. I guess I could say it was an ok book, though it is not much of a recommended reading.
Also read Racists by Kunal Basu. Now when I read the blurb on the jacket of the book, I just had to buy it. It is a story set during the height of the slave trade in Britain when two scientists decide to conduct an experiment. There put a black boy and a white girl, both babies on a deserted island along with a nurse who is deaf and dumb. The idea is that the children grow up without any intervention and without any emotions. The scientists study the “samples” periodically to see whether nature intends white supremacy over the black as was the accepted norm of that society or whether racial differences sprang up due to upbringing. Sounds very interesting, right? The book build up beautifully but was extremely disappointing towards the end. Bad! That’s what it was.
I so miss reading books sometimes. The days when I would perch up on the window sill in my room, hear the pitter-patter of the rain drops and be engrossed in a novel. The nights when I would stay up and read into the wee hours. The times when ma would yell at me to switch off the lights and I, very naturally, disobeyed her and read under a torch light… I miss all that. I miss the times that give me these warm thoughts of nostalgia, the times that give me memories that I weave with the threads of my dreams and store away in a corner of my mind, the cozy blankets that warm me on a rainy day, a hot summer afternoon or the winter morning….I miss those…..
Saturday, November 24, 2007
What hit me when I was reading the article was a line that mentioned her as this 42-year old. She is 42? One, she doesn’t look that old. More importantly, it made me think of myself in a different light altogether. Madhuri was the idol, ideal woman when I was growing up. She starred in all the films that was, for us, the cult films of the day, Hum Aapke Hain Koun and the rest. We grew up admiring her clothes, her looks. If she is 42, what does that make us?
My friend Raksha is forever cribbing about us growing old. Today was a reminder on the same lines too. Age is catching up, I suppose. I no longer drool over the latest teen obsessions, be it Ranbir Kapoor or the latest music sensation (are there any boys on the scene? God I don’t even know that!). I no longer care to giggle except with really really close friends. I am not a teen, I don’t read chick-lit, I don’t watch school/teen movies anymore. I prefer a set of close friends only. I look around at Café Coffee Day and see that most are much younger than I am. I no longer copy the latest trends/phrases from the latest teen flick. I no longer think trousers that droop dangerously below the waist for guys is cool. My parents, like all parents, are hankering after me to "settle down"; I admit they sometimes make me think I am already an old hag. I am almost two years into the profession I am in. I like intelligent conversation, I read more "mature books", I like films that make me think (ok, most times at least).
I still think of Madhuri Dixit as someone from my time. I am still nostalgic about her films. I am quite looking forward to watching her new comeback movie. I will turn all of 24 in exactly three days time. Does that make me old? I don’t think so, I don’t feel old, maybe just a little older that’s all.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
There are people who come in and literally demand that we write about them. We once had a girl call the office and claim that she could change the shape of her face to look like actresses with the help of get this, mathematics! No, don’t ask me to explain this, it was that crazy! We had a whale of a time while it lasted, the girl was willing to demonstrate too, though she asked that a reporter come to her house. But at the end of it, it turned out that the poor thing was mentally ill.
Then there is a really crazy man who thinks of himself as an astrologer. I have been forced into writing about him once. The man went on about breathing and how he could predict future just by observing the person’s breath or some such thing. At the end of that, I did not understand a word of what he said.
And then there is a dance therapist. And another septuagenarian who comes up with the weirdest of citizen initiatives. There was once a schizophrenic woman who claimed that people with backpacks driving around in cars were stalking her.
I am not making up these stories here. On a good working day, there is at least one weird story that walks into the office. The chief reporter asks one of the reporters to talk to them and see if there is really a story there. Once the person leaves, we all have an update at what the whole thing was about. There is a lot to laugh about sometimes, there are even times when we feel sad. Not all people come in to get attention. There are several amazing, talented people too. At the end of it all, the diversity of the ones who walk in, the stories that they tell and the ones who don’t tell, that is what makes the newspaper. That is what I love most about journalism.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Anyways, where was I? Ah, yes, I woke up to the noise, read the newspaper, had breakfast, cleaned the house a bit, relaxed, surfed the net, cooked, talked on the phone. Then watched an old Pooja Bhatt starrer called “Tamanna” about a girl rescued from the trash bin by a eunuch who brings her up and who then fights with the father who abandoned her for justice. A socially themed film that I initially though was provocative but turned out rather drab towards the end, couldn’t really feel for the girl there at all.
I finished the movie and the noise outside was just getting louder. Some good Kannada songs were playing but it was being repeated so often that I was just about ready to scream. Just had to get out. Decided to do something I used to do a long time ago. Took a book, P Sainath’s ‘Everybody Loves a Good Drought’ (had started on it a long time ago, found something else along halfway through the book, moved on to another and picked it up again today. Fantastic book, highly recommended reading for everyone.), put on some music on my phone and went to Café Coffee Day. Talked to ma for a really long time, had hot and cold coffee, read the book. Listened to a new play list on the phone, one that has ‘O Mere Sanam’ from the classic ‘Sangam’, (rediscovered it recently, much to my delight) Dido’s ‘Here With Me’, R Kelly’s ‘I believe I can fly’, Sheryl Crow’s ‘I Shall Believe’ and other old favourites of mine.
I was walking back later, happily listening to good music, cut off from the din of Bangalore’s roads. Along the way, it was a familiar scene. I passed by a slum where a dark-skinned child was playing by itself, a mother was feeding her baby while another was looking on as a kid was trying to stand up and walk. I passed by a dark street and saw the face of an old woman bending down to look into a vessel, her face lit only by the shadows from the fire that was cooking her evening meal. I passed by a couple on a Sunday evening walk. I passed by children, boys on their bikes, older men washing their cars, a girl look up shyly at her boyfriend, a group of women fussing over a little boy. I passed by a group that was taking an idol of Lord Ganesha for immersion,led on by a band of drums that made me instantly begin to tap my fingers against the book I was holding and mentally do a little jig (I love the sound of drums, awakens a feeling of primitiveness in me). I passed by a garment shop and slowed down to look at the salwar suits on mannequins, some good, some gaudy. I passed by old women with wire baskets filled with flowers on their way to the temple, old men out on a walk with their grandchildren holding on to their little fingers.
I passed by life as it was happening, at that very moment, on streets across Bangalore, across other cities, across probably the country. Shut out from the honking of the buses and the high-pitched conversations of the people on the street, I suddenly realized that people are not really that very different from one another in this country. They might wear different colour of skins, speak different tongues but in the lives they lead, in the way they spend just another evening, in their hopes and dreams, there isn’t much difference. Probably this is what it means to be united in diversity.
A very well spent Sunday indeed.
Friday, October 05, 2007
Shivanna, who works at the City Civil Court, takes us around the area that made Gabbar Singh’s hideout. The entire town of Ramgarh that was built for the film is today a ragi field. A part of it is a parking lot for the several adventurers who descend on the sleepy town every weekend for para sailing and rock climbing activities. All that remains today is a dusty road leading to a temple at the top of the mountains, a road that Ramesh Sippy’s crew built, and distant memories of the beautiful Hema Malini, the gentle and friendly Amjad Khan and the other stars who relaxed under large umbrellas under the scorching sun.
Shivanna has a closer connection with the film. His brother Naganna left to Mumbai with the crew after the movie was made and continues to be associated with the film world. Shivanna, as a student, also found odd jobs at the unit during vacations and hung around, bunking school, to watch the shooting. He is unaware of the new Sholay too. He shows us the place where an air conditioned room was built for Hema Malini and her mother. He poses for photographs atop the rock where, in the film, Samba was crouching when he was asked, famously by Gabbar Singh, ‘‘Are o Samba, kitne aadmi the?’’ Jumping over the rocks with ease, he spiritedly describes the shooting, the techniques used during the fighting scenes, the famous dialogues.
We are at Ramanagaram on a festive day. Several devotees line up to pray at the Rama temple on the other side of the hill near where Thakur’s house was set up for the film. Over some cool cucumbers and cut mosambis spiced with masala on top, we ask several other villagers what they think about the new Aag. Most are hearing about it for the first time. The only one who knows about it has not seen it, neither does he intend to, he says.There is talk of an old photograph of a villager posing with Dharmendra. We ask to see it. A mad hunt later, it turns out that the photo has, somehow, reached the Andamans and we could see it after a fortnight!
From Passage to India to the latest Kannada flick Nenapirali, several movies have been shot here.But Ramanagaram holds on to Basanti and Veeru and the rest of the motley lot. They do not know Ram Gopal Verma, do not want to hear about Aag. All that they want to remember is the Sholay, the flames that engulfed their little town over three decades ago.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
The often heady, sometimes haunting notes of the 'vaalaga' (a type of wind musical instrument resembling shehnai) of traditional Kodava music wafts through the hot summer air, mingling with the slight breeze. It is a strange cauldron of sounds and smells at the venue of the Mandetira Cup 2007, the annual hockey tournament organised by Kodava families.
At once, the venue represents everything that Kodagu is known for. The enchanting smell of the freshly blossomed coffee flowers, almost milk white in a sea of deep green Robusta coffee plants intermingles with the traditionally made 'pandi curry' or deep fried pork. Visitors and players hang around a stall that sells authentic chicory-free coffee, taking in the aroma of freshly brewed coffee powder, even as they meet up with old buddies, make new relations, listen nonchalantly to the commentary in chaste 'Kodava-takk' or Kodava language and discuss the coffee blossoms and the monsoon or the lack of it. It is a strange mix indeed, but then, the event, unique in its own way, calls for such idiosyncrasies.
Kodavas or Coorgis are indigenous inhabitants of Kodagu, Karnataka with a culture and lifestyle of their own. The fast diminishing sect speaks Kodava-takk, a dialect that is a mix of most Dravidian languages. Each Kodava family belongs to a larger unit that functions under a patriarch. Each clan has a name and all the members go by it, usually prefixing their clan identity to their names. The 'Ain Mane' or family house is, for the entire clan, a sacrosanct place, the place where disputes are settled, festivals celebrated and generations lived.
If two words could say what Kodavas do best, it would be 'defence forces' and 'hockey'. Over the years though, both the number of youth joining the defence forces and those taking to hockey have diminished, aggravated by the prospect of greener pastures, IT salaries and a more urbanised manner of life.
It was a hunger for the 'good old days', the passion for the game and the practicality of keeping the clans together for basic survival that led to the conception of the annual Kodava family hockey tournament ten years ago by Pandanda Kuttanni.
The eleventh such tournament, an event that sees thousands of Kodava players and spectators participating, is currently underway in a little village called Kakotuparambu in interior Kodagu.
The tournament is organised by one family every year. This year, a relatively small family of about 180 members called Mandetira has taken charge. I climb up to an elevated area reserved for the media, the commentator and am instantly welcomed by the members of the family, in true Kodava style. The men, all wearing green shirts with their family names on them, enthusiastically explain the event to me. It is only when I tell them that I am a native of Kodagu myself and know about the event that they pipe down a bit.
Sunil Mandappa, a member of the Mandetira family explains that there are 186 families that are playing this year. Three years ago, 280 families participated and this record found a mention in the Limca Book of Records.
The Kodava Cup is said to be the only one of its kind in the world that is organised by clans at such a large scale. Each team that plays can have players in the age group of 8-65 years, although there have been younger and older players in the previous years. A team can have men playing with little boys, girls and married women too. Married women or 'Taamane Mudiyan' can play for both the husband's family and the paternal clan. The entire expenses of the tournament is borne by the organising clan, though sponsors pitch in too. Government aid is small, the utter lack of political presence welcome.
Months before the summer event, stadiums are built, ground cleared and players are trained by the Field Marshall Cariappa Trust. Another member of the family, Suresh says that the idea was to get all the families together and keep them united. A great deal of match-making also happens, he admits with a slight smile. The event helps to promote hockey too, he says, though adding, almost as an after thought, that he is a cricket player.
As we sit watching a match between the royal Apparanda family and Armanamada family, Suresh says that summer is the best time for the event, after the coffee blossoms and during school vacations. Looking back, he says that the event has seen several Olympians, national level players, amateurs, little boys and septuagenarians playing. Several have gone on to play professional hockey too, their hockey skills landing them in jobs elsewhere.
The stadium, with a seating capacity of 17,000 plus, is sparsely occupied. The exciting matches are yet to begin. Meanwhile, for the families, it is a festive time. Many live outside the district, many in bungalows buried deep within the folds of coffee estates, many in villages with thatched huts and a little government primary school where students do not often see cars. This is one time of the year when they meet, gossip, party and forge bonds. Hockey seems just a very good excuse.
As they sip coffee, sample the pork and talk of the weather, the commentator announces that the Armanamada family has won the match. The players shake each others' hands, there is polite applause. In the backdrop, the 'vaalaga' soars and culminates on a high note, reminding the clans for a moment of their warrior antecedents. And then the clans get back to the business of catching up with each other. There is, after all, a lot to talk about.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
I really stand out there with my jeans, kurta and sunglasses with a backpack on my shoulders. I would stand next to a market that sells all kinds of colourful flowers, buy some chocolates for Gowri, my friend's daughter and look around. As I often say, I am fascinated with villages. Madikeri is a place where a stylish person is gaped at too, but then it is my town and I don't really stand out there. All the other villages I have been to, I have been greatly amused by the people there. The villagers have been equally amused with me too. When I was in my early teens and that rebel streak was just emerging in me, I would deliberately dress up in shorts and wild hairdo and junk jewellery for that shock value when I went to my cousin's village several miles away from Mangalore. And shock I would, much to my aunt's horror!
I no longer do that of course. But I have become legendary for my antics there, so no amount of prim and proper behaviour helps now (Thank God!) ;-) Going back to Nelamangala, I continue to interest people. So much that, there was once a man there who actually stopped his bike and stared at me for a full two minutes! I laughed my head off later.
To be honest though, I don't mind all the attention I get. It is not vanity. It is just a genuine, almost innocent interest that these people have that really does not bother me. They are unabashed, not conscious at all that they are staring and that it is not polite to do so. It is that innocent, almost child-like curiosity that amuses and interests me no end. I now tell my friend to be deliberately late, so that I get to look around, get nostalgic about Madikeri, look at the couple who are flirting quite discreetly in a corner, listen to the crude, and loud, language of the countryside, watch people haggling, look at shops filled to the ceiling with cheap wares and plastic toys, smell the mud, see the colours, feel the pulse and be back in a village, where I sometimes think I really ought to be.
I tell him to be late every time for it makes for a new story, a new discovery, an interesting day.
I have had some crazy desires behind me. There was a time I wanted to be a hippie, minus the drugs. I even used to dress up like one, at home of course, because ma forbade me from venturing out looking like we could not afford to buy decent clothes for me! I would wear weird clothes and several beads and look rather silly, come to think of it. Raksha and I have experimented quite a bit over the years with looks, jewellery and clothes, very often with disastrous results.
All my life, I have wanted to do a lot of things, apart from the usual traveling around the world bit. When I was a girl, I had planned this world trip I would go on after I was all grown up. I had a little book in which I had charted out a route that covered all the continents. I had the complete itinerary ready with the number of days I would spend in each country, what I would need to carry with me. I was to go on this trip alone, of course (I grew up alone, so probably the thought of taking company never really struck me) and I had even decided that I would need Rs 3 crores for the trip!!! Don’t ask me how I arrived at the figure and where I proposed to get it from! I suppose I expected dad to pitch in with the money!
The famous Tamil film ‘Roja’ has this song about the little desires of a little heart. That is how it is with me. Over the years, I have wanted to go on a fishing trip with fishermen out into the sea, ride on a road-roller, graze cattle for a day, milk a cow, sell wares on the street, yelling out the names of the wares in a weird voice, live and travel with nomads, especially the migrant workers, drink hot coffee in glass tumblers from a very dirty looking tiny hotel on a highway, plough, sow fields, bungee-jump, sit up all night talking, go trekking when it is raining (not very safe, I know)…. More seriously, I have wanted to quit my job and become a writer, honestly. I have wanted to start something really really off-beat, travel around the country clicking pictures and writing, start farming, get involved in agriculture, study something, write a book……Phew! The things I have wanted to do! I have done some, will do some others, I know. There is something about these little dreams that makes life so nice, something to look forward to. And moreover, these are not really hard either, nothing impossible, just crazy, weird perhaps but definitely possible.
You know those little multi-colored houses that dot highways and inner roads all over the country? The small houses with the blue doors, mud walls, thatched roof, a stone to wash clothes on one side, clothes hung in the front to dry, a thin dog that has been tied with a piece of string, naked children running around, that strange whiff of something cooking mixed with smoke, a young girl washing clothes or vessels, bright, gaudy plastic flowers stuck in a cane vase on the shelf, a couple of toys lying around, pictures of Gods and Goddesses from the Hindu pantheon cut from calendars hung on the side….you get the picture. I have always been fascinated with such houses. every time I travel and we pass by villages that lead off the main road, I try to peep into the dusty lanes and catch a very quick glimpse of the lives that are lived on those streets. I have always wanted to stop by and walk into one of those villages, but never did. Last Saturday, I was sent to Ramanagaram, about 40 kilometres from Bangalore, to do a story. I walked into Wodeyarahalli, one such village that I had always fantasised about. I got to walk about a bit, I even went to one such house. With our sunglasses and modern clothes, my friends and I were a source of great amusement to many little kids who openly gaped at us, to shy women who peeped from behind doors, to old men wrinkled with age and experience and to the rest who simply stared at us. Period.
I was telling Manju about my long time desire to go to a village, a house that was fulfilled that day. He could only shake his head, finding my crazy desires a bit amusing. One more down, several to go, my desires, my dreams, my wishes….
Sunday, September 02, 2007
The population of Madikeri is some 40,000 people and a lot of them know my family and my father. But it’s ok really, there is a sense of belonging there, something I write about constantly. If I go for a walk on the main road, I can be sure that at every other shopkeeper there and many others on the road will stop and ask me how I have been, where I work now, whether I am on holiday….That’s the beauty of my place for me. What I previously thought was intrusive is a concern and a genuine interest in everybody’s affairs, I understand now. Of course, there are several scandalous people and families that get gossiped about and do not mind it. There are ways to get by without being “caught” too but then….you learn to curse it for a while and then succumb to it too. What was that about if you can’t stop it, join in…?
I remember when I was growing up, I hated it to the core. How my every trip to town would be reported back to my dad without fail. Raksha would crib about how you could not run away with anyone too, jokingly of course! In many ways my Madikeri will never change, thank God for that! There are a lot of new people in town these days, little kids who studied in the same school as me are now grown up and are the latest hip and happening crowd. I don’t recognise most of them when I go back home. But the old faces are still there. My classmate’s dad still calls out to me and asks me how I have been, the guy who owns the only big newsstand in town, the guys from the Bata store, the old man from the supermarket, the guy from Shahin’s who used to carry me while mom shopped, ages ago, the uncle from Komal’s, the one time most happening store in town, my classmates who run shops now, the vegetable seller, the chubby old man from the video rental store who always mixes up stories of movies and ends up recommending the worst of films to me, the lanes, the same old stores, everything is there.
I remember the few quite unsuccessful attempts to make the town modern. Some brave people opened Periyan’s restaurant when I was in high school. It was the only place where you would get a burger and was very popular with the young crowd. But eating out is not a culture we follow there and despite initial success, it went down. There is a new place now, I have never been there. Another place announced that it would sell pizzas and burgers but as far as I know, nobody ever bought anything from there twice. Another that became popular with us when we were in college was Juice Point which served milkshakes and ice cream and had some computers along side with internet. We thought Madikeri had arrived until it shut shop a few years ago, almost the time we moved out of college too. The point is there is today no place where people can “hang out”. There is Raja Seat of course, but we are all so fed up of it that only young boys go to try and spot a pretty face from among the tourists. All you can do is walk around town and go back. East End, the best and most elegant restaurant in town, is too far.
Growing up, we never used to “hang out” except at each others’ houses. Even today, when I go back home, Raksha comes homes or I go to hers. There is no where else to go….But because of this, friends became family friends, you know. Raksha, for instance, talks to ma and goes home even when I am not there. There is this whole relationship that builds up around the place, the people. I can never ever hope for anything of that sort in Bangalore. And that is what I miss the most....
PS: When I began writing this post, it was meant to be about a totally different place but somehow ended up being about Madikeri.....
Sunday, August 05, 2007
Washed by the
Tears in the moat
Are all that remains
Of Tughlaq's dream.
The walls remain
Un-guarding the dream
The moat is full
Of tears, of the Mughal
And others after him
In other places
Who have seen,
Seen tears drown
Many a dream.
I feel like a voyeur
Like others beside me
A private window
At Tughlaq's centuries-old
The tear, the disgrace
The walls break away
As tears flood the gates
I wrote this in March this year after a visit to the Daulatabad Fort in Aurangabad. Tughlaq was a famous, infamous rather, Mughal ruler who tried to shift the capital of his empire from Delhi to Daulatabad many hundreds of miles away. In the process, several of his subjects died and he was forced to shift back to Delhi. In the process, he gained the wrath of his subjects and the criticism of historians thereafter.
The fort itself is nothing great now, just a mass of ruins that presents nothing much for the tourist except a sense of witnessing a paragraph from history. For me, I had read about the ruler, we had to study this excellent play called Tughlaq by Girish Karnad in college. It was only when we were coming down from the fort that it stuck me that this was the fort I had read about. I just had to write this poem then, while my family was looking at the souvenir shops and drinking tender coconut juice under the scorching heat.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Corn being burnt on hot coals is one street food that is quite typical to Karnataka (don’t really know about other states). The wrapping around the yellow corn is taken off and the corn is smeared with lemon juice, salt and pepper or chilli powder and is placed on coals until is almost burnt. When well done, you can suck at salt and chilli for hours. The yellow corn gets stuck between your teeth and your hands get soot on them, but the taste makes all these little things inconsequent.
And then there is the eternal favourite chaat food that you will find in every other corner. Must say this about Bangalore, people here simply love eating out. No where else have I seen so many eating places doing so well. Coming to chaat, there is one cart that sells paani puri, samosa chaat, masala puri and the rest of the fare just opposite my office. Divya and I go there all the time. It tastes horrible out there but we don’t have better options. Sanman nearby (excellent coffee there) makes chaat too but there is something very undesirable about eating chaat in the confines of a restaurant. The chaat-wallah near the High Court, on the way to the Press Club makes fantastic chaat items. Another great place that I keep recommending to people is the Calcutta chaat store near Swastik Circle in Seshadripuram. It is this obscure little shed behind a now fancy eating place. I have never had better chaat anywhere else. The people there came from Calcutta many years ago, still don’t understand Kannada but make some mouth watering variations of the usual stuff you get.
There is a place in Malleswaram where gulkund ice cream is sold. Not really street food, but it’s a tiny shop and you need to stand on the footpath and eat. Gulkund is dried rose petals soaked in sugar syrup and makes a gooey paste. You get a bowl of this, topped with two scoops of vanilla or strawberry ice cream and dry fruits and a huge dollop of butter. Absolutely sinful!
There is something about street food that has always drawn me to it. Back at uni, a friend and I would hog on pani puri whenever we were in the city. This was from those mobile paani puri places; a stool, a big pot, a bucket to wash plates, a red cloth to wipe hands, plates and what not and the puri in a big plastic cover made up the “shop”. Utterly unhygienic but man it tastes good!
The thing about street food is that hygiene is the last thing on your mind while eating there. I agree it is not very clean, but my logic is that when you eat at hotels, you can never be sure the kitchen is clean, so what is the difference? Street food is cheap (the best part!), often tastes divine (if you know the right places) and somehow makes you feel happy to be alive and glad to be living a beautiful life.
Best had with my best friend by my side! :-)
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Man, I get quite philosophical sometimes, don't I? ;-)
Friday, July 20, 2007
I never cease to be amazed at the fortitude of a human being to move on, no matter what happens in life. The worst tragedies, the hardest heart break, the supreme joy, all pass by. What remains is survival, through it all, despite of it all. Life simply goes on and so do people, even if they sometimes do not wish to.
Monday, July 16, 2007
The first two pictures are from the Suan Lum Night Bazaar in Bangkok. This bazaar goes on till around midnight. Mostly has a lot of souvenirs, mainly for the tourist crowd. The first picture was a doorway that looked beautiful and the second one is of a little babe who was the daughter of one of the shopkeepers. I asked if I could take a picture because I found her very cute and she all too willingly posed, apparently the hand sign means 'I Love You', I wouldn't know.
The third one is a picture of one of the roadside vendors from whom I bought a pair of beautiful black apsaras. I just had to take his picture because he was flirting outrageously with me while bargaining. I am generally very bad at bargaining but I loved doing it in Bangkok. Most barely understand English and use a calculator to punch in their price for an item. You then punch in how much you are willing to pay and it goes on till you huff and walk away and the shopkeeper calls you, tries to talk you into paying a few baht more, the usual. But I found the people very very sweet and always willing to smile, something so rare in a place that is so full of tourists.
The fourth picture is one of a performer at the Siam Niramit show, a pantomime that portrays the life and culture of Thailand. It is one the best shows I have ever seen and deserves a full post written on it. Until then, these few pictures with a promise of more updates......I sign off.
Monday, July 09, 2007
There was a special personal reason why I got it pierced. All my life I had sworn that I wouldn't get my nose pierced and there I go, getting it done! But there was a reason and the pain is definitely worth it.
Body art has always fascinated me, although from a safe and painless distance. Tattoos, part of every civilisation, always made me think of its age-old connotations. For years I wanted a tiny little tattoo of the symbol of infinity, a little horizontal eight but ma simply freaked out when I told her the idea. A very dear person yelled at me too when I thought about it again last evening. I wanted to get a piercing yesterday but really mustered up the courage this morning. It hurt bad, though the guy who did it was amazingly good at his job. I know have a little silver and white stone stud, it looks pretty but I reiterate here, it hurts! :-(
The guy, Simon, was telling me and my friend that people come to him to get their tongue and other unspeakable parts of their body. He was also telling us about this one customer of his who has 25 piercing in each ear (where is the space?), 15 above each eyebrow, about 5 on his nose and a few running down his neck! I mean, WHY? Why on earth? Its not fashion, its not hip or hep, its plain ugh!
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
I could not call it a writer's block. If I could afford to have one of those, I couldn't have been working as a journalist. All these days, for some scary reason, the things I saw, the places I went to, my life I led inside my head and through words spoken to people, not through words written for posterity. It is scary because I am not a good speaker at all, I prefer to take refuge in words and let people know me through those. But then, change, the one element we are all scared of, yet unconsciously anticipate, was inevitable.
A few months ago, I went out, on a normal day at work, nothing unusual, except perhaps the nature of that day's assignment, announcement of the financial results of a major IT company. I went out, finished the assignment and also got myself a social life.
The last few months have been wonderful. I found myself a beyond-description kind of friend, a dear dear soul, the strongest base of my support system. I have begun to look outside the realm of work a bit, been going out shopping, socialising, having great fun. All the while, I no longer felt the urge to write, to just let out my thoughts into the world, if only to be free from their constraints. I could write a "Dear Diary" in spoken words, say anything I would normally want to write in this blog, describe my day, voice my dreams and fears, laugh it all off and live a life. Words began to seem irrelevant, they still do. But after well over a month of not writing, I realise that writing is its own release in itself. I can and will continue to talk on for hours but writing is in my blood, I cannot for long go against my nature.
So I shall be back often, I shall write again, living my life, a one that is just oh-so-beautiful. :-)
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Long time since I wrote people.....Just been so neck deep in trying to find my way around my new beat that I just cant find the time. Today I had to write. The words in my head were becoming too loud, unless I let at least some of them out, I can not rest easy.
In the meanwhile, when I was not writing a story, doing an interview or just getting lost in the maze of work, I have been spending a lot of time in the above place, the Press Club of Bangalore. (The picture doesn't do even an iota of justice to the beauty of the place.)
The Club, adda, PC, call it what you will, it is the place to hang out if you ask me. The club is located bang in the middle of the city, just five minutes walk from the Vidhan Soudha (the seat of the government), the rest of the government offices and my office too. It is inside Cubbon Park, one of the best places in Bangalore. Just one road away is a very busy intersection, with horns honking constantly, vehicles, the crazy Bangalore traffic and the pollution. But inside the club, it is a totally different ambiance altogether. You would never know you are in the heart of the city. The only noise is those of journalists, photojournalists and others calling out to each other, yelling at the waiters or just hanging around.
Over the last few months, I have had the good fortune of meeting and interacting with a tribe of people called photojournalists. I have met some of the craziest, most creative, most disgusting people among them. Some, a very select few, have become great friends. It is with them and some others that I sit in the club once in a while.
Oh it is a great place. Late in the evening, it starts to get a little rough with most people hanging around only for the alcohol. I never make the mistake of going alone after that. But during the day, it is great fun. The waiters, all of whom know the regulars well, have an attitude that is endearing. They fight, refuse to serve you but end up giving you the best deal, very charmingly.
Outside, there are round iron tables and plastic chairs strewn all around. There are squirrels that very boldly climb up on the tables and nibble on your food from one side of the plate, even as you are eating! There is an in-house cat and several dogs. One dog, I am sorry to say, has been christened Mallika Sherawat!! She recently littered. I don't think anyone knows why she was named so.
There is a TV set and an aquarium next to it. There are deep worn out couches and tall wooden boards hanging above them with the names of past presidents and office bearers of the club. There are wrought iron tables, wooden ones too and a grandfather clock. This is just the 'lobby' of the club that I am talking about. Inside the club, I am told, is a library and carrom boards, a bar on the side and a whole lot of other things. I have been inside only once and I don't quite remember.
The food is nothing to write home about, there is forever a layer of smoke in the air from all the thousands of cigarettes that everyone seems to be smoking. But then, it is a nice place, I am told one of the best press clubs in the entire country. Friends catch up, interviews are conducted, hours spent, lemon tea and whisky and beer and bad coffee drunk......It is such a peaceful place, peaceful only in ambiance. There is noise all around, yelling, laughing, friendly fights, just like a very full house. :-)
Sunday, April 01, 2007
Nothing unusual, just a lazy Sunday. But I seem to getting the hang of actually switching off from the work mode. It is tough forcing myself to not think of work or do anything that is connected to office. Workaholism is great, it is just when you are not at work that it begins to hurt.
Anyway, this Sunday was ok. Last weekend was better. I started on this book called The Blue Bedspread by Raj Kamal Jha that I borrowed from a colleague. It is one of the weirdest books I have ever read. I think about it and I cannot classify it as any genre of writing. The words are strange, the sentences disjointed. Yet they make so much sense. Have got to finish it tonight.
Thankfully, work begins again tomorrow. Back to my work, my writing, the life that I absolutely love living.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
I guess the city has just grown on me. I am a small town girl, never too comfortable in a big place. But Bangalore, my little home, work, office, this little universe that I have created around myself, this is good.
I suppose I have been Bangalored!
Another reason could be the times I am going through. Like Dickens said, it is the best of times and the worst of times.
Best because I am having a great time work-wise. I love my new job profile. I have been writing a lot of things I have always wanted to write about, meeting some amazing people and doing great. Music has again found a place in my life. I have started making use of my phone to capacity. Bought a 1GB memory card and loaded a lot of songs. Have been greatly enjoying music lately.
As for food...yum! I have been eating so much variety that it is almost sinful! Had some amazing chaats, gulkhand with butter and ice cream, holige with bananas and what not! Loving food right now. Last Sunday, on my day off work, I even make mint juice and dum aloo, an elaborate dish with potatoes. I mean, when have I otherwise known myself to actually look forward to cooking!!! This change is good I agree, but a little scary too.
So professionally, it has been going great. I went on a holiday to Mumbai and Aurangabad (pics up soon), was good to travel again. Been socialising a bit with some amazing people, health is good, got a hike in salary, friends are fine, writing is good.... It is really the best of times.
And no, I am not going to write about why these are also the worst of times. It just is, for several reasons...... Let me leave it at that.
As for now, I am still standing.....
Monday, February 26, 2007
Point number 2. Read the rest of the story to know what it means! :-)
I have had a great time this weekend. Yes, I was working but it was real hard work, not the usual pace of weekend stuff. The Coffee Board of India had organised India International Coffee Festival over the weekend. It was coffee all the way. And I was in heaven!
In office, it is always a given that I cover everything coffee-related event. Since I have a personal connection too, having come from a coffee growing family myself, it is all the more personal for me. And of course, there is my addiction to coffee.
I was naturally in my element there. It was largely a business event with delegates from various countries, seminars, workshops and the like. There was also an expo with several coffee chains and players of the industry putting up stalls AND giving free samples of coffee. And that is how I got drunk....on coffee. Most were the usual cappuchino and filter and cold coffee but at one place, I was given this authentic espresso from Italy. It was in a tiny cup and I thought, oh ok, just a sip. I take the sip and whoa! it hits me right in the head! I have been known to drink quite strong coffee but this beat everything I had had before. Must say it was good, though I will think twice before drinking something like that again. By then, I had had so much coffee that I was feeling quite high. I got back to office and made the mistake of telling someone this. Ended up getting my legs pulled the entire day and the next; my obsession with coffee is well known.
Before this, I modelled for a friend at the venue there. I am not sure I want to give out details. This friend is a photographer with an international news agency and the picture was picked up and circulated all over the world! Ah well, all in a day's work!!!!!!!!!
Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend. Smelt the coffee, drank a lot of it, carried some home to get drunk again, met some great people, wrote some nice stories, met a fellow blogger......
Life was good.............
Saturday, February 17, 2007
I was supposed to go meet John Nash, the mathematician, today. Or rather, he was to come to Bangalore and I thought I would just go and be content if I could at least see him from a distance. I had watched 'A Beautiful Mind' recently and was simply awed by his story.
Anyway, he didn't turn up, his visit got cancelled and here I am in the office with no work. So just a quick post.
The pic that you see is of a traditional meal served on a plantain leaf. The smell and taste of food multiplies hundred fold when you eat it on the leaf. It is also hygienic as you just eat and throw them away, eco-friendly and inexpensive too. I talk here about the food, not the plate.
There is a restaurant in Bangalore called Vidyarthi Bhavan, I think. I was introduced to the place by an uncle. For Rs 60, you get to have unlimited jollada rotti and rice and yummy curries and mouth watering sweets.
I also write here about my new-found interest in food. I have never been a foodie and I eat only because I have to survive. Lately, this very very dear friend, someone whom I have adopted as a brother (I don't have any of my own), has been introducing me to amazing food every other day. I almost feel like my taste buds are waking up after a long slumber.
In just over a week, we had Mexican Nachos, spiced tomato slices, bhel puri, cheese masala dosa, all washed down with Coke and Pepsi. I love that combo, having something spicy and drinking Pepsi later. There is a "symphony orchestra" on the tongue, my brother calls it. I agree, I just love it.
Even made me realise that joy and success in life is in the smaller things, be it a good movie, street food, poetry, music or just a beautiful smile. Life is made up of these little wonders and I recognise that now. My only problem about starting to like food is that I have to actually take the trouble to cook everyday at home. Can no longer make do with instant noodles and take away :-(
But ah well...... As for the success that I was talking about, I don't know, maybe I am being naive or just presumptuous, but in my eyes I have succeeded. I have a beautiful family, the most amazing friends, all of whom pamper me to the heights, a great job that I absolutely love.... As of now, at this very moment in the vast expanse of time, I am happy.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
I got myself a new job, well I am still with the same newspaper. I just got a transfer from the general reporting bureau to the business bureau, for a number of personal reasons. I will henceforth be reporting on business, all the while writing features for other sections of the newspaper.
It has been a couple of days since I shifted. I already love the job. It comes with a great deal of perks, nothing material ;-(, but things that are more important to me. I now get Sundays off, lesser working hours and more chance to travel, on work of course. Plus, my boss is the sweetest man ever.
Hmmm.... life is strange, come to think of it. Some years ago, I decided commerce and business was not my scene and pursued journalism. I couldn't be happier that I rebelled against the entire set of conventional behaviour laid out by my extended family and society for the rest of my cousins. I was deemed to be the crazy one, for rejecting science and engineering studies. But here I am today, living a dream, with a little place for myself under the sun. The country may not know me yet :-) but I am happy, with love around me, the best people pampering me, a great job, a good life. To m family and to conventional society, I say....HA! I WIN!
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Some more pictures. Actually, I must admit, I have been posting photos mainly to make up for all that I don't have the time to write.
Anyway, the first picture is that of my Chikku's house, that's ma's younger sister. This is a village called Pariyaltadka, Manila in South Kanara district. There is a motorable road but it is much easier to walk from the main road.
I love the house. It is old, creaky and whispers the memories of us cousins playing within its walls. I would go there once or twice a year. The best part of those vacations was that there was always something to eat there. Be it snacks, fruits, meals, wild berries, raw mangoes, cashew fruits....you name, we would eat it, and have place for a full, hearty meal. God! How much we would eat!
The house has an attic that was my favourite place. There used to be a lot of palm leaf scriptures lying around, I think they were written in Telugu. None of us knew how it landed up there. Only my cousins' grandfather knew. By the time I had wisened up enough to try and ask him, he had passed away.
The architecture and the shape of the house is very typical to these parts of the state.
The second place is where they used to tie cattle. Now it is just a storage area.
Apart from my own house, I love this place a lot, for a lot of things. It is old, full of strange sounds, far away from main roads... except the weather is very bad. But then again, lazing around in the heat is a beautiful thing too. I am reminded of a Mexican proverb that says: "Oh to do nothing at all and then to relax! What heaven!"
That was us years ago. Lazing around, eating, being naughty, doing everything we were not supposed to, living life, being totally, really, really happy........
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
This was the usual city school, tucked away in the folds of a quiet residential street. It is in Besant Nagar, Chennai and is surrounded by old and large bungalows. i wonder how people living there must have hated us for the noise we made on the streets.
The Vidya Vinaya Vinoda Matriculation Higher Secondary School was founded by R N Jayagopal, a lyricist and film personality from the Kannada film industry and his wife Lalitha Jayagopal. This was the only school back then where they taught Kannada as the optional second language. I did not have to learn Tamil because of this. I and this girl called Bindu were the only two Kannada students in our class. We did not have it as tough as the Tamil and Hindi students and would have great fun in the Kannada hour. I lost touch with Bindu after I left Madras.
And this was the house we rented out, where ma and I lived. Back then it was a lot more better than this. Not dingy and run-down like it looks now. There were only three families in the entire building. One was a doctor couple from Andhra Pradesh who would always defy the very principle of hygiene. Then it was us and the other was a family closely related to the owner of the building.
The family of parents, three children and a grandmother lived in two tiny rooms. Whenever the granny was sick and the kids were not home, she would ask me to go buy 'roti' (her word for bread) from the nearby grocery shop, which, by the way, was still there when I went. I would play with the three children, all much older than me though. I would try to teach them English, play house and the other things that kids play. I think their names were Rajesh, Jyothi and Bharathi. They wrote once after I left. They must all be married or working now.
The house is in Laxmipuram in Thiruvanmiyur, on the way to Kalakshethram. The house looked quite unfriendly and uninviting. We did not go inside, though it would have been nice to see who lives there now.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
For starters, I stayed with a Sri Lankan family, my friend is a Sri Lankan settled in Australia. That was some experience. Now Vani and I have been friends for nearly 14 years (unfortunately, as we keep telling each other!). Never once did I think of her as 'foreign'. But staying with a family showed me how so very different they are.
I stayed with her cousin's family. They themselves live in London and keep travelling all around the world. Yet, the culture, bless their lot, is intact. Right from the way they dress to the colour and prints on their clothes. Right from the Tamil they speak to the kind of chutney they make, they are different. The differences are not too distinct I agree. But it is those subtle things that put them apart. I am against comparisons of any kind normally, but I could not help but compare here because it was almost a jarring effect. All these years, I had not thought of my friend as belonging to a different nationality, save for the lovely Tamil she spoke (very different and more beautiful that what you get to hear in Chennai), but seeing her in her own surroundings, I saw her differently too, not good, not bad, just different.
The stay was lovely. There were little kids around. Three extremely naught boys and a little girl who bore the brunt of the boys 'torture'. A little angel she was. I learnt how to make pongal and had some very different chutney. Could not learn how to make it, though.
My friend and I walked the old lanes. I took pictures of the house we lived in, saw the old shops, the new buildings. I pointed out my dream house to here, one with the flight of stairs leading to the front door with parking space beneath. Long ago, I had decided that if I ever built a house, it would be like that.
We talked. A lot about those years, about me trying to learn how to ride the bicycle, about our fights on the way to school.... We even went to the old school we studied in and took a lot of pictures again. My friend is great at keeping in touch. After a lot of sweat, a number of international and local calls, we met up with a few of the guys we studied with. All were very nice to talk to, well placed in good companies, stylish, carefree, doing and looking good.
We walked down the beach, we walked a lot, in fact. Went to the Vailankanni Church, prayed at the Amman Koil from outside, talked some more. I went in hunt of some of the old shops I used to go to. Maharaja's, a supermarket, was still there, though it was shut. Golden Smiles, a fancy stores, was gone. In its place stands a CD store, from where I bought some excellent CDs. Next to it used to stand Veena Fast Food, where you would get the best uttappams and some great noodles. Now there is a Kerala style restaurant. We didn't bother going in. Sea Rock restaurant, where I tasted my very first piece of chicken, is gone too. Fashion Folks, a little shop that grew to become a brand, has a bigger, more expensive shop.
The trip was short, too short, but I had the most fabulous time. Met some great people, had really good food. Talked a lot. On the whole it was one great trip.
Re-visiting memories need not be bad always.....
One of the Dalai Lama's pictures. This is him very happily posing for some pictures with American tourists. Later I heard one of them gushing in a squeeky, high pitched voice about how holy he looked. I beg to differ. I found him very down-to earth and ready to mingle with everyone, not like most other spiritual heads who keep their distance.
I did have a few other pictures but they looked too grainy.