Thursday, December 31, 2009


Jimmy, my maid's pup is like a little ball of joy that actually rolls. My Gin is slightly tolerant of him as long as he stays out of the way.

Adorable puppies and the year gone by. So much has happened in this year, I shall dwell not on them.
2009 is over, thankfully. I have some hopes from 2010, like they say, what is life without hopes, no matter how false, how whimsical, how unlikely.

Happy New Year everyone. I hope you all smile enough. Much joy and happiness.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My 15 Minutes of Fame

December 27.

Somehow, a lot of important people and many memorable events in my life revolve around this date. 26th is Raksha, the BFF's birthday, 27th is the other best friend Manju's and my favourite uncle's birthday. There are also many anniversaries in the extended family. New Year's close, its winter. I have all the reasons to like December and that particular date.

There is another one now. December 27th gave me my first 15 minutes of fame. Here is the full story:

You know how family can be; they sweet talk you into the most embarrassing of things. My parents and my uncle are super good with this. After my defence correspondent's course, before I knew it, I was almost coerced into agreeing to deliver a lecture at the annual function of the trust that the family has. Two months ago, it did not seem a big deal. Even last Friday, it didn't seem too frightening a prospect.

My late aunt, Mani Malini, was a writer, a very very good writer, the only 'writer' as such in the family, apart from me! (Wink, wink!) My uncle, also a well known personality in Kannada literary circles, established the Vasudha Pratishtana trust and every year, there are a few cultural programmes held under this banner. Every Dec 27, there is a ಹೇಮಂತ ಹಬ್ಬ (Hemantha Habba), a celebration of culture and literature with several writers, intellectuals and art lovers congregating at his lovely house in Panjala, near Puttur in the South Kanara district.

This Sunday was the second of this festival. Every year, achievers from various fields are honoured, there is a formal stage programme followed by a Yakshagana performance and then a lovely dinner. Much to my chagrin (it finally hit me a day before the event that I would be addressing my professors and writers that I have long admired, not a heartening prospect), I was to sit on stage with the other dignitaries throughout the event!

Well, all said and done, when my turn came to speak, I wasn't as scared as I thought I would be. There are some moments when you are concentrating so much that you don't quite notice the hundreds of pairs of eyes that are on you. This was one such moment. The title given to me was ಸರಹದ್ದಿನ ಸದ್ದುಗಳು of 'The Sounds of the Borders'. I know I could have done it much much better, but I was told I wasn't too bad either for the first time.

It was much appreciated. And you know what? I loved doing that. I loved being up there and talking. It is a heady feeling, the remarks, the appreciation, I loved all that. I know why literature and writing is so heady for some in my family. And you know what? I am ready now to take up the mantle.

Recommended. And Other Things.

The Kannada superstar Vishnuvardhan passed away this morning. He was a good actor and acted in some fantastic movies. My generation kind of grew up with his movies every Sunday on DD1; his Nagarahavu is a particular favourite. May his soul rest in peace. Yesterday, Kannada singer C Ashwath passed away. He was a very good singer too.

Somehow, personally and otherwise, 2009 has been quite the worst year of my life. I am glad it is over. I am glad it is not going to come back.

I have things to recommend today.
If you have not yet watched James Cameron's Avatar, do so NOW. It is way too good. Bharadwaj Rangan has thrashed the movie, but then, he thrashes every movie. The story line is old, but then, even Titanic had one of the oldest story lines ever---the poor boy-meets-rich girl. So watch Avatar, if only for the graphics.

There is this online library called that I am a member of. They have branches in a few cities in the country. The monthly plans are great, as little as Rs 139 for three books. And the collection is amazingly good. The best part is that they have free pick up and drop facility for books, all you do is choose the books online and you get them delivered anywhere in Bangalore within 24 hours! Things like this is what makes living in a large city bearable. Check it out.

I don't quite remember if I wrote about Nicholas Sparks here. He of The Notebook fame that was made into an ok-ok movie. He has written several others, though The Notebook remains the most well known. All his books are pretty much the same, nice, candy-like, the boy always gets the girl, there are no too-evil people in the story and its most often a happily-ever-after. But the way he writes his stories is lovely. And I am not ashamed to say that his books always make me cry, for the beauty and tragedy of it all. I like happy endings in such books, life isn't like that, so why not expect fiction to be all the way good?
So read him sometime when life is depressing. He makes you feel good.

There is a new cafe that has opened near office, an international chain called Au Bon Pair. I loved the Parisian feel to the place, wrought iron chairs and tables and all. Not too expensive a place, rather sinful pastries and good salads. I am a lot into the Parisian theme these days; the image of a little cafe where you can sip a coffee and read a book and bump into writers and artists is on my mind a lot these days. On that note, UB City Mall has this place called Toscano, run by a former 5-star hotel chef called Jean Micheal Jassarand. I had met him for a story I had to write and he made me taste some chocolate mousse there. Out of the world good! I shall head there soon for more espresso. The chef is French, the food all Italian, the ambiance is great, a little expensive but great for a special day.

That said, Happy New Year everyone.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

No Place Like Home

Just a quick thought.
I haven't discovered anything new, just that there really isn't any place like home, like Madikeri where I discovered that I still belong.
This time here I learnt again to have faith in the people who saw me grow up. There are still plenty who still smile for me, those people I can be a small town girl with. It is still the place where I can hear myself think, where the mountain air does me and my soul good. It is still where I belong. And that makes me smile.
Madikeri, I love thee :-)

And here is a teaser. This evening, I randomly took a picture of a window in my room; the window sill is where, like in Jean Webster's Daddy-Long-Legs, I used to perch up with a fat book in my hand and read into the lazy Sunday afternoon. The picture, in black and white, turned out interesting. For sometime after that I was taking several rather unusual B&W pictures, my favourite medium of photography. You will see some of them here soon. :-)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

You never quit on your music because anything bad happens to you, it is the one place you can escape to and let go.

- from the movie August Rush

I would say the exact same thing about writing. The exact same thing.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Audacity of Those Dreams

There is a rather complicated way in which Indian society works, the classes, status, religions, sub-castes and sub-sub-castes. But if there are two things that probably unite the most varied citizens of my country, then they probably are cricket and Bollywood. Cricket, I am told, no longer grips the nation’s imagination the way it used to. Or so I gather from what columnists write; I wouldn’t know myself, the late 1990s and then Lagaan was the last I watched cricket myself.

But Bollywood in particular and other Indian movies in general, as far as I know, still rules. Cinema, beginning from my favourite professor Dr D S Poornananda’s film studies classes, continues to fascinate me. Even as I write this, I am watching a Kannada film called ‘Cheluvina Chittara’, a very controversial film at one time. And it is, for now, the perfect example of how influential a movie can be.

This film, starring Ganesh, a popular actor and Amulya, a then 15-year old girl, is about the two of them, him a mechanic and her, a school student who fall in love and elope. She is the proverbial rich man’s daughter and he is, well, the mechanic. At the time the movie released a couple of years ago, there was much hue and cry for a) getting such a young kid to romance a man on screen and b) for the messages it was conveying. Someone the other day was telling me that in his town, there were at least four girls who had eloped with mechanics, bus drivers and the like after watching the movie.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with two people in love. But looking beyond the hormonal charged impulses of teen hood, there is that practicality, that thing that makes you doubt how happy Jake and Rose (of Titanic fame) would have been if they had gotten off the ship and gotten married. We all like happy endings, but then movies never show what happens after the ‘happily ever afters’.

Now this is something I have always wanted to write about movies and especially Bollywood. I speak of myself here too. Any Indian, with access to at least a bit of television or radio or the internet, would know at least a few Bollywood numbers. It doesn’t matter what language you speak, Hindi movie songs are something everyone hums all the time. There are of course the other regional songs too but travel to any part of the country and you can be sure to connect over Bollywood.

When I was on my defence course recently, there were journalists from every part of the country. Even the armed forces we interacted with was drawn from every state. But be it during the baraa-khaana (an evening when all ranks of people in an Army unit eat together; the Army is otherwise very hierarchical) or during the famous Indian pass-time ‘Anthaakshari’, Bollywood was what would bind everyone. If you start a song, you can be sure that someone will sing along or at least hum.

Bollywood works in this country and it is not too difficult to see why. It gives you a dream, a dream that you can be in love too, whether you are rich or poor. It is a dream where you can be a millionaire within three hours, where hard work still counts but unattainable things are within your reach. It is a dream where you wear good clothes even if you are poor, where the good always wins, the villain is always caught and the hero always gets the girl. And if you ask me, I don’t see anything wrong in that.

Most Bollywood films defy logic. But then, how many dreams can you call practical always? The audacity of dreams is what makes these films work. Forget the nuances of cinema, leave out the techniques, the montages, the pan, the neo-realisms, the importance of music, the sophistication of the plot. A typical Bollywood movie would have a rich girl meets poor boy story where after much fighting the bad guys, they live happily ever after.

Bollywood is audacious. But then so are dreams. They work. They unite the country in ways that no religion, no nothing else can. That is because we all believe in dreams. We all want the good guys to win. We all want happy endings. The audacity of those dreams never really has anything to with ‘reality’, you know. Practicality is boring, even if the dreams are audacious.

As for the movie that I was watching, for a change, the boy does not get the girl and goes insane but is rescued by the girl and her husband two years later!


One of Those Journeys...

I am on one of my numerous, not-as-often-as-I-like journeys. Nowhere too great, just to that lovely paradise of mine, Madikeri. All no thanks to my nasty foot. Typing this on the bus now reminds me of another journey when I was typing a post, a very different post…

The journey now. I don’t quite like clichés now. But then sometimes, there is nothing truer than a cliché, I notice. Wasn’t it a cliché again now, that thing about the journey being the destination? On a day bus, something I religiously avoid normally, with a Kannada movie in the background grating, many varied voices about me, I look out at SH 17. There are many more voices in my head too; for a while, I try to ignore them. There is today, much to see.

Many fields. Corn and maize and sugarcane. Villages. I like those that dot highways. It is like they cropped up just to break the monotony of roads and green fields. The roads on this stretch used to be bad; I have traveled here many years. Smoother stretches, better buses, worse traffic. The villages remain the same, save for crude advertisements on huts and their roofs, the people flashing mobile phones and an odd internet/cyber games/DTP/ typing/e-mail centre.

What do I spot? Several cattle grazing, some along the roadside, some in the fields. A farmer still ploughing the fields, even as the sun rises higher above his head. Coconut trees. A small fire. Earlier, another fire warming up a little boy. Tender coconut vendor. A tiny hut. Sheep in front of the thatched hut. A little temple for the little village, brightly painted in pink and blue and green, the oddest of colours. Little boys still at a game of marbles; they actually play that still! A Panchayat katte, they still have those! Farmers. Their wives. The children. The lives so different from what we otherwise perceive as ‘real’ or ‘developed’ or ‘modern’. Lots of fields and farms and beautiful landscape. Makes me wonder…what on earth am I doing in a city?

Most times, I blissfully sleep through the journey home. I prefer the mundanities of a usual journey to pass that way. Today, with my thoughts and some music and some audacities that I subscribe to what I am dreaming of, a journey becomes a destination again.

Isn’t this the vestiges of a nomadic culture. Isn’t humankind, most often than not, nomadic, be it in thoughts or otherwise? Am I not a nomad by those parameters too? It is not the romantics of the idea that inspires, it is the idea in itself.

A nomad.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Randomity of a Confinement

And so I shall be writing here very often. Do I hear you asking why? Well, since I am in a rant mood, I am going to answer the question anyways. I have a nasty injury on my right ankle and I am off work, confined to the house, for the next ten days. L Yes, life is a bummer right now.

You know how we all, the working class so to speak, have grouses against work in general. And so did I, day dreaming what I might be able to achieve without going to work for a few days. What do you know! I am doing just that, all strapped up in a fancy bandage and feeling bugged about having to keep my ankle up all the time. The leg hurts really really bad though.

Perhaps for the first time since I started working, I am at home doing nothing except lazing around. All my previous days off from work were spent traveling. In nearly four years, I have so much me-time that I am still wondering what to do with it.

(This is a mindless post, bear with me please.)

Bangalore’s famous Strand Book Stall has a sale again with the usual amazing collection. I finished The Abduction of Sita by R K Narayan (a flamboyantly titled ‘The Science of Ramayana’) will be up here soon. Right now, I am with Transmission by Hari Kunzru. I liked his ‘My Revolutions’, I like the way he writes, random sentences, a rather interesting style. I also like the way Mohsin Ahamed and Daniyal Moinuddin (good looking guy too!) write. I am into trying new authors I haven’t previously read these days.

Where was I? Ah, Transmissions. I have finished only chapter 1 so I can only tell you what the blurb on the jacket of the book says. It is about this young boy who gets to go to America, the land of his dreams. He gets laid off and in a desperate bid, he unleashes a computer virus that creates a havoc around the world. I haven’t yet reached the part where he takes off to the US in the first place.

That apart I have a stack of magazines to keep me company. The usual Open, Outlook Traveller, Geo this time (has a interesting piece on India’s tribes--I wanted to do tribal studies at one point of time; a part of me still does) and for the first time ever, the glossy People magazine. That is one yummy issue, I tell you! All my eternal favourites, Johnny Depp, George Clooney, Hritik Roshan (his new beard and long hair look soooo works!) and Milind Soman! I can imagine how two of my dearest friends (stop smirking you both, now!) will be grinning when they read this. Well yes, Milind Soman is my permanent crush, I confess. I don’t care what you say, he is simply Greek God gorgeous. I must have had a crush on him for the last 20 years at least now.

I so digress here. And yes, I continue to read Jean M Auel’s epochal Earth’s Children series. I simply love her research, I love the story for the way it whets my old interest in anthropology. There is also Jeannine Auboyer’s Daily Life in Ancient India--From 200 BC to 700 AD that promises to be interesting.

Movies too. I picked up some old favourites recently, The Blue Lagoon, 10 (Bo Derek wow!) and The Mirror Has Two Faces. I recently also loved August Rush (the music is super good and of course Jonathan Rhys Meyers), Nicholas Cage’s Next (I so want hair like Jessica Beil’s in the movie) and Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani (a mindless entertainer that I watched with the parents). A lot of old ones, I need to be goaded to watch movies most of the time, especially the mainstream ones. Next to my TV sits Top Gun, The Bicycle Thief and some of Satyajit Ray’s films. Oh yes, except for that nagging pain in the leg, I quite like this forced confinement! Pity I just can’t move.

Well, so far it has been a mindless post. But, watch this space, you will see a lot more of me.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Best Breakfasts, the Best Meals--II

Continuing my random list of some of my most memorable meals... (The first of the list is here)

* FALAK, JAMMU TAWI: BK and I were staying at this government tourism guest house place in Jammu, just after the course that I was on. Javaid mian was immensely disappointed that we boring vegetarians. None of Kashmiri food, except for kahwa chai, could we have.
Anyway, near where we were staying was this place called Hotel K C Residency with Falak restaurant. The food was very Mughalai and not exceptionally great. But what I most loved was the fact that it was a revolving restaurant! I was super thrilled about the whole concept. You don't much feel the movement unless you look outside. Jammu in September was terribly hot, so comfortably, from the top floor of Falak in the middle of the older parts of the city, we saw all there was to see in Jammu and spent the rest of the time shopping like mad. Every thing is so darn cheap! I loved this place for its shopping (but of course!) and the whole concept of revolving!

* FRESH AND NATURAL, BANGALORE: This is a little chain of salad and juice bars. I frequent the one in Sadashivnagar. This one is all for the amazing variety of healthy food you get here, the most strange combinations of fruits and vegetables, all fresh, rather inexpensive and super-yummy. All you Bangaloreans, please try!

* QUEEN'S, CHURCH STREET: This is an easy one. I love the food, I love the ambiance, I especially love the paneer-tikka, served with a tiny lit candle inside a tomato, I love the company I often go here with, I love the food. Simply, my most favourite place in this part of town.