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Showing posts from June, 2009

Ab Ke Saawan: A Chronicle of the new rains

It is 10:00 a.m. and it has been pouring since morning. The BMC failed once again as usual. On a rainy day like this, I had to reach college to buy the admission forms and pay the MTNL bills. Finally, I got an opportunity to rejoice over two things: I am through with my school life and secondly, I am pretty much excited to start commuting once again after a gap of nearly three months.

Rainy days have always meant a piping hot cup of steaming coffee, my music and my musings. The rains always begin as a drizzle at first which slowly expands till the rains finally open up. The combination of it all creates one of those rare, inexplicable moments that makes one feel so alive!!

The rains have a way of putting me into many moods, all at the same time... from a melancholic to a romantic mood and from a "I-don't-wanna-reach-college" to an "I want to sit on the window sill and have a cup of hot coffee and bhajiyas" mood. We've had quite a heat wave in Mumbai for the…

The Hands That Build A Residential Complex

The mill that can be seen from my window is being demolished to make way for a commercial complex. The last three months have been an esoteric experience--seeing bricks, sand, dust, wood, stones and a JCB machine have been regularly spotted in the mill compound.

The sound of the drilling machine is full of rhythm and the carpenter's saw has a very melodious tune!! If I close my eyes, I well imagine the construction site to be a big musical show where a collage of drums, metals and cymbals play in harmony with harsh human sounds. At any hour, there are groups of people undertaking tasks like demolition, hammering nails, drawing blueprints and shovelling the course sand over a thin net filter. All around, hands covered in grime, cement, wood shavings move animatedly.. hands that are skilled, hard and sinewy. These hands hang off sturdy bodies of men who have migrated from different parts of the country.

The history of any city skyline is a story of the freedom of human migration, ente…

Cracked the Boards or yourself?

I have always been an average kind of student. Even though, I excelled in co-curricular activities, I was always in the shadows (read: ignored) by my school teachers. The reason given to me was poor grades. Initially, I was very vocal about the decisions and so when I blurted out the way the most undeserving people were elected as house captains, I was asked for a justification on why I blurted out the truth. Later, I started learning to take these things in my stride by just remaining a mute spectator.

I was always head-strong on what I want from my life. I personally believe that the marks scored in examinations matter to a very limited extent in the overall scheme of one's life. These results bring an initial euphoria, or a surge of disappointment, based on not what we have scored but on what others have. I personally think in our over-drive to compare ourselves with others, we've forgotten the basic truth that the purpose of examinations is to better your own performance, …

Reflections of our times: Morning Raga

Morning Raga is a simple plot really very well told. Morning Raga tells the story of Swarnalatha (Shabana Azmi), a gifted Carnatic classical singer, whose ambitions of performing in the city gets thwarted because of a ghastly accident on the bridge that connects the village to the city. In this accident, she loses her son and Vaishnavi, the one who plays the violin. Swarnalatha holds herself responsible for the tragedy and now spends her time in a self-imposed exile, never daring to cross the bridge.

Twenty years have passed now and her friend's son grown up son Abhinay (Prakash Rao) returns to her life. Not satisfied with his job as a jingle composer, Abhinay sets out to start his own music band. Priyanka (Perizaad Zorabian), a city bred girl, finds herself drawn into the same village since she is also affected by the tragedy. Her father, driving the car that hit the bus in which Shabana was travelling, was responsible for the accident. Abhinay and Priyanka start a music group, b…

Movie Review: Parzania

My friend Anvika asked me, "I read your movie review about me about Firaaq, so why haven't you written the movie review of Parzania?" I replied, "I agree that both films were based in Gujarat about the communal violence but then, it is not mandatory that I should have watched Parzania." She refused to believe me, so I finally succumbed to Anvika's request and decided to watch the film all over again. Anvika, here's the review for that:

When I first heard the word, "Parzania", I wondered what it really meant. The answer to the question lay in the film itself. It's the name of an imaginary world that little Parzan creates for his sister and himself. Now, Parzania is not the greatest film I've seen and its not even the kind of movies I would keep watching till I die. Parzania is a film set in post-Godhra Gujarat, about an innocent Parsi family whose sanctity and peace is lost forever, after the horrifying communal riots. Based on a true in…

Movie Review: Mazha

I suddenly developed an urge to watch movies which were centered around rains. We in Bombay were really deprived of rains for nearly half a month in June and I literally started praying that it should rain. Thankfully, it did. Since rains are always dampeners, as they just don't allow one to do anything else, I plunked myself on the couch to watch a Malayalam movie--after a lot of channel surfing (that included the Hindi ones too) and finally I chose the best movie--Mazha. The title of this movie, "Mazha" means rain in Malayalam. The film is based on a novel, "Nashtapetta Neelambari" by the controversial Malayalam writer Kamala Das or Madhavikutty. The name for the novel was taken from the ragam, "Neelambari" which is the favourite ragam of the female protagonist of the novel.



The movie begins with teenager Subhadra (Samyuktha Varma) getting infatuated with her music teacher Ramanujam Sastrigal (Biju Menon). Her creative talents for poetry start to fl…

Movie Review: Khamoshi: The Musical

The movie begins with Joseph (Nana Patekar) and Flavy (Seema Biswas) waiting for their daughter Annie (Manisha Koirala) and Raj (Salman Khan). Annie goes into the state of coma after she crashes into a truck. Subsequently, we are taken into a flashback told through Annie's eyes. Although her parents are deaf-mute, Annie's grandmother Maria (Helen), is the ultimate singing-dancing, life affirming woman. Annie's brother Joy, however, dies very soon after his birth. Annie's world is shattered when first Maria dies and then her younger brother falls from the bell tower of the church. Her parents Flavy and Joseph lose faith in God but Annie becomes more serious and devout.



Raj (Salman Khan) comes into Annie's sad life from Bombay. He is a composer and has used her as inspiration for his music from afar. Their love blossoms, but not without complications, mostly involving Annie's parents who have come to depend on her. A poverty-stricken, deaf-mute fisherman and his f…

Where there's a day

Political correctness is all that we care about these days. Children who have entered schools from this week will not learn the days of the week by their names as we but by new avatars like Wife's Day, Bosses' Day, Mother's Day or Environment Day. Before you jump out of your beds and start dialling the number of the HRD ministry to sue, I would like to assure you that I am just joking: no such threats exist as yet.

The way we are going, we might have a course correction soon considering how each day of the year has a tag attached to it: March 8 was Women's Day, June 1 was Flip a Coin Day, June 5 World Environment Day, June 7 is Chocolate Icecream Day and December 22 is, believe it or not, World Orgasm Day. Added to these, certain months have tags too. Among other things, June is Lovers' Month in Turkey. Plus, there's Halloween, Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day and numerous others.

Why this fetish for tokenism? While on all other days, each one of us leaves no …

Not without my mother

My parents are divorced and my father never cared about what I was doing or whether if he still remembered me. His apathetic nature towards me affected me a lot until I discovered the fact of having two twin stepbrothers. Sixteen years without the presence of a father was really annoying but then I had my mother and my grandmother with me for adequate support. I shrank from discussing the past, and the dread of a lonely future. She, however, was ready at last to speak about her complicated and a failed marriage with my father.

Sitting down for dinner with her, just the two of us, night after night, I began to understand how well she had kept things away from me. Struck by the quiet acuteness of her observations, I winced at my own failure to defend her hurt. The easy option had always been to take my father's side as he mocked and criticized her for his life. My father, an unusually dominant personality, had always been doing what his sister and his mother did. His mother called th…

Grass is greener...

I was just making small talk with a group of people. One of them said that he had lived all over the country and abroad, since his father had a transferable job. To me, who has been born, raised and lived in the same suburb of the same city, that seems like a dream life. The guy shrugged, "The grass is always greener on the other side." Although the adventure bit and the opportunity to see new places were fun, there was not the constant adjustment, not building long-term friendships, not getting stability and always being the perpetual outisder. I suddenly remembered an honest cop's wife saying that they had moved 32 times in 25 years, which is the grim side of the picture.But the oft-used, "The grass is greener...," line reminded me of a silly line which kids to write in one another's slam books--"When it's hot like you like it cool, when it's cool, you like it hot, always wanting what is not." In Hindi they say, "Ghar ki murgi dal b…

The Naming Game

What's in a name? We have always been assured that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Of course, it would. Except that this misses the point somewhat. The truth is that names do matter. Think about it. We would have a hell of time locating a street, city, or even a country if we didn't get the name right.

This was brought home to me by two incidents. The first incident went like this Simran who was actually trying to locate Naushad Ali Marg, which incidentally was Carter Road in Bandra at one point of time. Soon after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks ended and the endless recriminations began, reliable sources had it that the transcripts of the terrorist intercepts ad indicated that they were going to attack a target on Mathuradas Vassanji Road, Mumbai. At the time, this information caused some confusion among the ranks. Nobody could quite figure out where Mathuradas Vassanji Road was. It took some time before it was traced: this was the road on which the Taj Hotel …

Movie Review: Naseem

The way this multiplex strike affected me so badly that I was forced to watch some old movies on DVD. The film I watched turned out to be an important socio-political movie that marked a turning point in the Hindu--Muslim dynamics in India. The name of this film in Urdu "Naseem", which literally translates as "The Morning Breeze" in English is directed by Saeed Akhtar Mirza. It is centered around the Babri Masjid demolition of 1992. Being a hardcore art-movie fan, I decided to give this a try.

The film charts the story of a young school going girl Naseem (Mayuri Kango) in the months leading up to the demolition of Babri Masjid in December 1992. She shares a deep and loving bond with her ailing grandfather Anwar (Kaifi Azmi) who represents the era of communal harmony between Hindus and Muslims in India, as he fondly recalls the times he spent in pre-independent Agra. As communal tension erupts in the city of Bombay, Naseem gets increasingly bewildered by the changin…

The Wonder Years

Old school ties can be very, very strong. Why shouldn't they be? Schools are the places where most of us began to discover ourselves and our places in the world. It's one place that aside from our families at home firmly established our values, our ideas of how life should be lived, and our concept of what a good education is.

Schools are also the place where we made the first good friends of our lives, where we indulged in masti and mischief, where we learned how much we are capable of achieving as well as our limitations. It was where we grew up. Since it occupies most of our lives before we become responsible, grown up people, it's also the place that made some very strong memories.

Nostalgia is surely a big factor in old school ties, specially when you bump into a classmate and you can't really recall his/her real name as opposed to his/her nickname he/she had all through school, there are shared memories. Nostalgia exists in various degrees. For people who haven'…

Virtual Loss

At the fag end of a fabulous holiday in Cochin, I lost all the photographs I had clicked from my digital camera. It happened like this. I was travelling from Wellington Island coming to Ernakulam and suddenly, I had a feeling that I dropped my camera into a backwater of Cochin. The wedding frenzy of my cousin set up the mood and I was rejoicing that I got to drink pal payasam after nearly two years. The pal payasam was as cold as ice and I was happily clicking photographs on my digital camera.

I set it down beside me so that I could gulp one glass of pal payasam into my mouth. And just then, the memory in the camera crashed and I lost all the photographs I clicked including the rare pictures of the extinct Cochin Harbour Terminus. In that instant, the euphoria generated by the beauty and serenity of Cochin, the sense of well-being engendered by several hours of happy memories and serious fun moments, was destroyed, leaving me devastated and near-tears. Overreaction? You might think so,…

Romancing The Rail:

Given the way the economic recession brought us to our knees, while looking for ways to cope up with a bleak economy which can actually better our lives, I touched upon the romance of train travel and Sejal suggested that we needed to introduce our children to its charms. Watching videos of Indian trains on Youtube triggered instant memories and reminded me again of why trains have such a special place in our lives. Well, perhaps not in the lives of the generation brought up on the dubious pleasures of cheap air travel, but certainly in the lives of those of us who have cherished memories of train journeys long since lost in the mists of time.


I vividly recall every detail of my first such excursion, taking a train from Howrah station in Calcutta to visit the tea gardens in Assam. I was barely five, had just about mastered the written word, and was excited beyond relief to be allowed to buy a selection of Amar Chithra Kathas at the station bookstall. I settled down at my window seat an…

Hang Up!!

Last night I went out to have dinner with a few friends. There we were, eating, chatting and generally having a good time. Except for one of us--who shall remain anonymous out of sheer generosity of spirit--who spent all his time checking his mobile phone messages and then typing out long replies, completely ignored Sejal who was sitting opposite him who was trying to conduct a conversation.

This man kept testing my patience for nearly an hour and when I couldn't resist keeping quiet and he began tapping out a message even as another friend was in the middle of telling an interesting story, I piped up indignantly, "I'm sorry, but clearly the people you are messaging are more interesting than all of us right here. Perhaps, you should be having dinner with them instead!" To his credit, the gentleman was suitably abashed at being called out on his bad behaviour. He turned a deep red, muttered unconvincingly about how it was his daughter on the phone. He then put his mobi…

Movie Review: Firaaq

The film opens with a truck dumping dozens of corpses at a graveyard site for mass burial. The director Nandita Das makes it clear that her directorial debut, "Firaaq" is not going to be an easy watch. Firaaq is a fictionalised account of true stories set one month after the horrific communal riots of Gujarat in 2002. Firaaq focuses on a handful of ordinary characters whose lives are changed irreparably by the riots.

There's an affluent mixed religion couple Anuradha Desai (Tisca Chopra) and Sameer Arshad Sheikh (Sanjay Suri) who prepare to Delhi because Sameer is afraid of what might happen next. An auto-rickshaw driver whose house is burned down, and his wife Muneera (Shahana Goswami) who suspects her Hindu friend's husband did it. Khan Sahab (Naseeruddin Shah), an elderly Muslim classical singer, who is initially unaware of the events and loses his optimism after becoming aware of the hate floating around. Aarti (Deepti Naval), who is a victim of domestic violence …

Mamma's Boy:

"How are you? Is everything okay? Are things under control?" It was the first phone call I received in the morning at 7:15 a.m....okay, my mom and I aren't staying together anymore due to a big war in the house. I notice the dynamics around me slowly change with every passing week, but still the degree of articulated concern from my mother is something I haven't really been used to. I have been through enough to deserve this.

Since the reign of Ashoka, I was never the conventional boy as far as my mom was concerned. We went travelling in ladies compartments of local trains till I turned 14, we watched matinee movies together, fought like siblings, I was never the boy to be interested in Maths and Science to which my mom reacted with a shock considering she was a topper in school and I was completely a disaster in academics. I was again not interested in test cricket and my mom was shocked to learn absolutely "couldn't-care-less" attitude towards cricket.