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April 15, 2018

India's Children

(Originally posted on LoudST)

She was raped, and when she threatened to tell, the perp burnt her alive. She was a child, a class-V student, looked a lot like that niece of yours. #Assam

She was raped, repeatedly, by seven people. She was held captive, and finally killed. She was only eight years into this world, looked a lot like that child you met at the park the other day. #Kathua

She came distraught, telling the world she was raped. She lost her father thereafter, as he was beaten and then taken into police custody only to never return. She is sixteen, a child, just like that cousin of yours preparing for her boards. #Unnao

I refuse to identify these children with their community and region today. They are just children. Our children. 

I refuse to attribute any identity to those perpetrators, for they are mere excuses for humans, only rotten souls. And we support them – for they may share our regional, political or religion identity. Time to seek justice for our children, not be with those who thrive on hatred.

September 21, 2016

What’s the Fuss about Gender Equality?

A woman is human.
She is not better, wiser, stronger, more intelligent, more creative, or more responsible than a man.
Likewise, she is never less.
Equality is a given.
A woman is human.

I believe these words by Vera Nazarian resonate with most of us. Is this true? Yes. Is this how the world feels? No. 


Twenty four years ago, the day the foundation of my house in Dhanbad was being laid, my young-and-naive eyes opened up to an interesting fact: women labour came cheaper. While I cannot recall the exact difference in wages, I remember it was significant. 

Is this distinction limited to the worker class?


Once, 25 years ago, on-board a state-run bus in a remote village in West Bengal, our family was looking for a seat for my 65-year old ailing uncle. The women occupying the ‘reserved for women’ seats refused to part with theirs. One of them offered a seat to my then 48-year-old mom who insisted that the seat be offered to her brother who needed it more. How preposterous was the suggestion that a woman’s seat be given to a man?  He travelled standing.  Exactly 55 years ago, my mom had travelled with her family on the same route. When her fragile 60-year old father did not get a seat because of the reserved-for-women seats, the 18-year old took a seat and travelled the stretch with her petite, pale dad on her lap. 

Are literal and figurative reservations the solution?


I was 12 when I first realised that the world was different for women and men. I came back home, violated and distraught, after the first unpleasant encounter that most women go through every day. Besides lending a patient ear and a padded shoulder, my mom offered me a bitter but probably the most useful advice of my life. She said, “This is not going to be the last such experience. These are the things that you have to brave against if you want to move forward. It is not going to be easy.”

Should we really be setting the same expectations for our future generations?


It was the first day of a series of exams. I had reached the exam venue early and saw hundreds of children, some anxious, some relaxed. I was 19. And this was the beginning of my life in a way. All of us fidgeted till the inside gate of the exam centre was opened. With no regard to rules or logic, everyone rushed to make an entry through the narrow, one-person gate. Crowds are unkind to both the meek and the mighty. And thus there it was. Another bad experience. Identifying the perpetrators was impossible. And it was not the time either. This was a test. And I had another one to take on paper. Within minutes, I was at my designated seat, sharpening pencils and arranging pens. In a couple of months, I found out that I was among the toppers. Of course, I had passed another test with flying colours, the results of which were not published anywhere.

Is it really a level playing field?


When I stay late at work, the sense of urgency to close a discussion shows only on my face. My male colleagues would probably get judged if they were to indicate that they needed to be home to attend to a two-year old or an ailing relative. I have it easy, some would say. Wouldn’t it be just though if they and I are treated the same? Wouldn’t it be great if my husband could excuse himself early from his meeting, without guilt or judgement, so that his wife wouldn’t need kid-glove treatment and could stay late at work?

Isn’t it time organizations focus on family-oriented policies and not women-oriented ones? 


Decades ago, a now elderly cousin of mine took up his wife’s name as his second name and established a media house in Canada in her name. While a Kareena Kapoor Khan and an Aishwarya Rai Bachchan are widely accepted and praised today for the perceived balance of traditional and modern values, I wonder what kind of a response Umesh Vijaya's gesture invited in the early ‘80s.  Many women I know who disapprove of taking their husband’s family name often cite the excuse of paperwork to resist the change. They fail to do much though when it comes to their offspring’s surname that is conventionally the father’s. 

Isn’t it time we question subtle inequality?


A friend of mine, a very promising journalist and writer, moved to the US when his wife, a nurse, landed a good job there. It has been ten years since that move. I find people around me roll their eyes in disbelief on hearing this. Such exceptions are not accepted without a hint of judgement. Look who wears the pants in the house. 

Isn’t it time we move on from societal stereotypes?


Early in my career, a few days apart, I came across two amusing observations by my colleagues. The first was about a lady manager. Her ambition and toughness were attributed to her having been widowed early and being childless. And then there was a man – a colleague’s husband – who left his job to pursue his passion of painting. Our colleague was in the family way, and her husband became the subject of scrutiny and was labelled irresponsible. 

Men colleagues of mine have tremendous societal pressure to succeed. My men friends have often been subjected to the #LikeAGirl rebuke when they become emotional, take a break, or not take up certain responsibilities. Women colleagues of mine have the pressure of being a superwoman – super mom, super cook, super host, super employee, and super boss. And even if they were to succeed, very rarely do they get treated with warmth. We know about the negative correlation of success and likeability when it comes to women. A Harvard Business School’s experiment called Heidi and Howard tells how ingrained it is in us to judge harshly a successful woman. 

On one hand, we offer pedestals to the devis of the earth or indulge them with kid-glove treatment. On the other, there are constant reminders of what a perfect woman is – obedient and balanced. 

If we want a level playing field for our sons and daughters, let us create a fuss about gender equality. Let us make our children aware that they all are #differentbutequal

December 05, 2013

Ek Maa, Ek Beti (एक माँ, एक बेटी)

बबुनी, झूली थी मैं भी कन्धों पर
सोयी थी सीने से चिपटकर
खिलखिलाकर ऊँगली थामा था कई बार
दुनिया देखी थी लाड़ में लिपटकर

तेरी आँखों में देखा है बचपन मैंने
मेरे माँ बाबा की बुजुर्गी मासूमियत
उनका प्यार, उनका लाड़, उनका अभिमान
मुझमें मिलते देखी है उनकी शख्सियत

वो उनका बिना शर्त शह देना मुझे
घर आते मेरा दौड़ के लिपटना उनसे
झेंपना अपनी शरारतों पर और जा चूमना
उनके गालो को माफ़ी के तौर से

बबुनी, कल तक जो मैं भी बबुनी थी
आज तेरी सरपरस्त, तेरी माँ हूँ
तू मिल गयी तो और ये लगता है
किस तरह मैं आज भी उनकी जां हूँ 

July 28, 2013

Getting inspired and gathering courage

You may have the best of intentions, the greatest of virtues but if you don't have the courage to forward it (sic), you are a lost cause. I read this as a teen and this has stayed with me since.

Today I am here to tell you a story - a story I became privy to about a month ago.

It was a couple of years before 1920. A young woman, aged about 17 or 18, joins her husband's family at his ancestral village for Durga Puja a few days/months after her wedding. This Puja, she is told, has been nothing sort of a family heirloom for centuries. While she joins the family in the preparations and celebrations, she learns of several customs of the family and the village. One of those makes more than a mark on her. As a rule, all men of the village eat first at the puja mandap and then the women follow. While this was absolutely normal for those days (and well, even now), she is repulsed by something else: the women eat on the plates left by the men. These plates are made of shaal leaves. One would think the women eat on their husband's or a family member's plate but that too - equally despicable if not more - is not the case. A woman eats on the dirty, used, leaf plates of any man. While she is appalled, this teenage woman realizes that this has been happening for centuries and nobody seems to object or even notice the wrong in this custom. However, instead of living with the tradition, she objects. And within a matter of days, the centuries-old custom changes. There must have been debates, disgust and shock but I am not aware of the details. The only thing I am aware of is this woman's courage.

While I marvel at this lady's valour, the story's narrator tells me that this woman was an educated lady by the standards of those times. I am also told that one of her ancestors was Raja Ram Mohan Roy. I am wowed and also proud, for I, a humble woman, happen to be this iron lady's granddaughter.

I have heard other things about her but this incident has left me with a sense of awe and guilt. I hope I too can bring about a change, however small.

November 01, 2012

Bringing Freud and Floyd in the same place

Earlier, only my mom and brother were privy to my histrionics. Years later, A joined the club. As a child, I managed to give my mom a hard time, especially with eating, as my mom recalls. In order to put a morsel or two into my mouth, she had to tell and recount numerous stories: from mythology, freedom struggle, anecdotes from her life and the ones around her family and any famous, er, great person she had read or heard about (Though not explicitly told, my bro and I soon picked up the difference between the famous and the great). I was fed with food and stories. My meals could not start without a 'kahani'. Growing up, I always had a 'kahani ka kitaab' alongside my food plate. My mom would call it the most important 'sabzi' of my meal.

While my mom's efforts had nurtured a curious soul and, of course, a reader, the world outside home made me realize my childhood was different. Not privileged, not deprived, but different. The difference caught up with me during discussions with classmates and friends, now colleagues. My Maupassant felt out of place in an animated conversation on Asterix so did my Mehdi Hassan when a conversation steered to 'to be' or 'not to be' a Pink Floyd fan. I had started developing a complex.

With Ma, Baba and Bro in Orissa
I had never read a 'novel' until I was 22; I had never heard about Mills & Boons till then: my dad's collection had only classics - books that could not just be labelled 'novels'. When I was reading these, I did not discuss these with anybody but my dad. Curious as I was, I read Freud's interpretation of dreams when I was still in school. At the same time, I read volumes of Swami Vivekananda and fell in love with him. My dad was a great storyteller; my mom, on the other hand, was the sutradhar, the narrator. My dad's stories had that charisma that would hook me and everyone in the vicinity for hours. Mom used to say he sprinkled a little something on his stories to make them more palatable; I found them delicious. And I licked every bit of the palate. I remember, once, still young and naive, I wondered how his stories would enthrall my betrothed whenever that happened. Sadly, A never got to chat with him. I learnt about politics, religion and even, love from my dad. My mom, on the other hand, handed down pre-independence stories, unintentionally taught me to question the norms, discussed mythology and its flaws. 

Coming back to my complex, I soon started picking things: most of the time, seemingly insignificant stuff, rarely something gigantic. Only with time did I learn that it was those tiny things that I picked along my way that opened up my eyes to bigger and wider horizons.

Like everyone, I don't know much. And I know things different from most of my acquaintances and friends. However, now, I don't feel out of place; I seek to learn from them something I didn't know before. And as I do that, I leave a bit of me with them. 

January 28, 2012

संकीर्ण हृदय

तसवीरें धुंधली सी हैं, चेहरे कुछ साफ़ नहीं,
बातें आधी-अधूरी, वाकये कुछ याद नहीं |
तलाशती हूँ कुछ यादों को, उन लम्हों को;
बीते पल के लम्हे क्या यादों को खरोचने से मिलेंगे?
क्यों जीती-जागती ज़िन्दगी यादों के धुएं में खो गयी?
क्यों नहीं जी पा रही हूँ मैं उनको दोबारा?
कोसती हूँ रोज़ अपने कुम्भ्लाये वजूद को;
दिल सिकुड़ के छोटा सा हो गया है
उनकी यादें समेटने में नाकाम |

October 11, 2011

Loved and Lost

Tum chale jaoge to sochenge, humne kya paaya, humne kya khoya

Woh Kaagaz Ki Kashti, Who Baarish Ka Paani…
Kal Chauddvi Ki Raat Thi…
Pal, remember how we started talking? It started with ghazals and Jagjit Singh, didn’t it? You and I soon became friends for life. Life took us to different boats but those conversations have kept bringing the boats closer every now and then. Pal, we could not make that concert together.

Apni Haathon Ki Lakeeron Mein Base Le Mujhko…
Pareshaan Raat Saari Hai, Sitaron Ab Toh So Jao…
Sadma Toh Hai Mujhe Bhi…
Remember lending me those Jagjit Singh cassettes, D? And remember me making fun of you when you told me you listened to JS day in and day out after your first heartbreak as a kid? Remember how you and I – as different as chalk and cheese – connected over JS? D, thanks for lending the music and extending the affection.

Baat Niklegi To Door Talak Jaayegi…
Koi Fariyaad Dil Mein Dabi Ho Jaise...
Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi Ki Har Khwaish Pe Dum Nikle…
AS, remember how I made you play Jagjit Singh songs at work? Remember how amused I was to learn that even though you didn’t understand every Hindi/Urdu word, you rejoiced every song? You lived them like no other. You still do. You connected with JS at a level I could not comprehend. When, the other day, you said, “Don't want him to sing another song, but just want him around,” I prayed. I prayed, AS, but I couldn’t stop it.

Muh ki baat sune har koi, dil ke dard ko jaane kaun…
Baba, remember the time when we watched Neem Ka Ped? Remember how we held on to every narration of yours? Songs meant more when you hummed along. I listened to certain songs of him because I felt I relived my time with you. He is gone now. I won’t be taking Ma to the promised concert.

March 22, 2011

Of poems, memories and music

Are memories aromatic? Mine are. Sometimes, it is a smell that triggers a memory, at others, a memory brings in an aroma. Some of my fond memories smell of food and poetry. Yes, poetry has appealed to every sense of mine. I have seen the poetic stories unfold in the air. I have heard the clink of every word against my mind. I have found words appetizing. I have felt lyrics dance around me. And I have smelled the ecstasy that poems trigger in my heart.

Words appealed to me for as long as I remember, and poetry, rhythmic or otherwise, made more sense to me than anything else. Many mornings were spent reading aloud something Baba wrote. As our family of four gathered around Baba's office table with the chai and biscuits on the tray, we analyzed Baba's poetry, tried to understand the thought that lay its foundation. The discussions often stretched for hours with Baba praising poetic geniuses and recalling his interactions with some poetic stalwarts. In one of such discussions, Baba had mentioned Nirala's lines on the origin of poetry.

वियोगी होगा पहला कवि,
'आह' से निकला होगा गान |
उमड़कर आँखों से चुपचाप,
बही होगी कविता अनजान |

I was twelve when I first heard this. I have carried these words with me since then.

Then there were those songs. Beautiful, lyrical hymns. I emphasize on the word 'lyrical' because I have come to realize (thanks to M) that I love a song more for its words than for its music. Many a times when Baba hummed alongside a song playing on TV or on the radio, I wished I could sing along. I have felt so helpless, so restless realizing my vocal chords don't do justice to music.

But I could dance. I can dance. Even if it is in my room, with all curtains down, my arms and legs rock to the sound of music. I experience the words and I dance. I need no audience, not only because no audience can partake in my celebration but also because I am uninhibited when I am with myself.

A few days ago, A and I went to attend Shubha Mudgal's concert. I didn't realize I knew so many of her songs as she sang uninterrupted for two hours and a half. New songs bonded with me while the ones I knew came back to embrace me. One of my friends out there was Maati, a song I have pranced to in the comfort of my room back in Dhanbad. It's been eleven years since I lived the song. Crossing the barriers of time and space, I found myself being serenaded by Prasoon Joshi's words in the room darkened by closed windows and doors. A ray of the sun sneaked in through a crack in a window as I swayed across the floor. With all senses being caressed, I was euphoric.

As Shubhaji sang and spoke to thousands of people, she brought back to me pleasantly-smelling memories. Of my time with Baba watching cricket matches and listening to ghazals, of evenings that smelled of pakoras and poems, of the time when being happy was all it mattered in spite of the means.

November 30, 2010

Craving for nothingness

As a school kid, I would often crave for some time - a week or a month - of absolute peace, without any exams, assignments, or Monday tests knocking on my mind's door. Then I didn't call it peace - absolute or otherwise; I called it blankness. The holidays didn't promise me any blankness ever: the monstrous homework nagged me, always reminding me of the not-so-far-away day when the school would re-open.

I did manage to steal away a day or two of blankness once in a while from my oh-so-troublesome life. The trick was to just forget the impending exams and assignments. Yes, I would push my worries on the calendar to a later day. This gave me the blankness I so desired. On such days, I would experience bliss. The bliss wasn't without struggle though; there was that feeble voice in my head that pleaded with me to come to my senses. But I would suppress it with the numerous songs my heart sang. The Sun, the rain, the Moon, the stars were my accomplice as I tried to beat everything pragmatic and make friends with the poet in me. I called down Sky on the terrace of my house in Dhanbad and chatted for hours. I talked to him as he changed colours and his mood. On the stairs down in the night, the voice in my head would become stronger and reprimand me for having wasted time. I would shirk it once again and postpone my worries for the morning. The night had to be blank.

I did regret my blank, blissful days at times, while walking to the bus stop to board my school bus. But once inside the bus, I would again try to steal away a few moments of blankness, looking forward to the next big blank phase.

Today is such a blank day. I haven't really spoken to my childhood friend, Sky, in a long time. But days such as today take me back to my conversations with him. I guess it is time to explore the terrace of my new house in this new city.

लम्हों में ही सदियों की खुशिया बटोरी है |
क्या कहा, क्या सुना - कुछ याद नहीं ;
एक एहसास, एक अनुभव समेटा है ,
तस्सली की बस यही एक बात याद रही |

October 31, 2010

Being foolishly romantic about life

As a kid, I dreamt of a world without animosity; and I have brought along the thought in my growing years. This thought took a back-seat with me getting busy with my life. While I had stopped giving it much thought, I almost lived by the theory that one smile or good word could trigger a chain reaction of smiles.

In spite of having the occasional temper spasms, I have tried not to be rude or mean to people. Friends and acquaintances have often advised me to become practical or cracked jokes on me, all in good spirit. Some have also attributed my behaviour to weakness, and there have been times I have believed them and cursed myself. But the kid in me always managed to take over and tend to the optimist in me.

One of the areas my attitude has been a bone of contention is in the way I handled my maid while in Bangalore. In the five years she worked at our place, I shouted at her once. A smiled when I told him I gave the maid - Parashakti - a piece of my mind. He had overheard my little sermon, and wondered, "Does she know you screamed at her?" I guess mom, M and A are the privileged ones to be at the receiving end of my temper.

Parashakti and her mom-in-law - I called her Amma - used to work at our place. In the last year, I saw more of Amma. Sometimes, Parashakti's school-going son would come along. Sometimes, his younger cousins would come with Amma. A and I had developed a ritual of giving the kids toffees and biscuits on every visit. More than the kids, it pleased their mom and granny.

The two ladies and I communicated through body language most of the time. In fact, for a long time, "tea" was the only word our verbal communication was limited to, and it was uttered only when I asked them if they would like to have tea. They spoke Tamil and a little Kannada. We had managed to pick up words from the two languages for times when we needed to give her detail instructions. After all that effort that went into working out the right body gesture, I was in for a surprise six months after I returned home from a trip. I said something in Hindi and Parashakti responded in Hindi. Obviously, I was surprised. She explained it saying that she had been working in a Hindi-speaking household. I wondered if those people were teachers or my maid had a slip of the tongue after that long a break; after all, she had been given the benefit of doubt many times thanks to our non-verbal communication.

The two ladies were immensely trust-worthy. At 6 o'clock, I could just about manage to recognize them from their silhouette at the door. I would then go back to sleep. The thought that I should watch them never crossed my mind. They gave me a lot of trouble and squabbles with A on how they worked, but never for a moment did we lose trust in them.

Seeing them everyday for five years gave us a lot of moments, yet those did not have the promise of turning into memories later. As we packed our lives into bags for a new place, I knew I had to give a two-minute farewell to my maids too. As I handed over a few household things, her salary, and some farewell money to Amma, I felt a strange feeling in my stomach, a nostalgic effort to hold on to the moment. A lot of things were changing in our lives; something made me feel Amma felt the same way. I hugged her the moment her eyes gave way to tears. The hug made her inconsolable. She blessed me in incomprehensible words: she was howling. From the unformed words and the uncontrollable sobs, I could make out that she was saying we were the best people she had worked for. Standing in an empty kitchen, Amma and I had become colossal entities for the moment. I had forgotten about the kids and Parashakti standing near us. I didn't even bother about the bunch of strangers who were looking about the house, checking it out for purchase. I hugged Amma again even as my 'guests' looked on. I hugged an emotional but calm Parashakti. As Amma's sobs continued, I handed over a piece of paper with my number to Parashakti. I told Amma she could talk to me any time she wanted. Of course, we knew that our paths were not going to cross again.

As I left Amma and Parashakti in my past, I felt happily numb. I hoped good behaviour would continue to trigger the chain reaction of smiles and emotions. Foolishly romantic, am I? I am happy I am not alone.

October 28, 2010

Life's like that

Every now and then, I look outside the window and feel lucky.

The lady who works as a maid at our place has two young girls: one is four and the other is two. She tells me she has another 18-year old girl who was married off a couple of years ago. Her four-year old falls ill quite frequently. This lady - she is called Fotubai - lives with her younger daughters. She puts vermillion in the parting in her hair, wears fancy bangles, suggesting she has a husband. But she doesn't stay with any man. I have been told that she has had many husbands and boyfriends, but at the moment, she doesn't have a man in her life.

The father of her young girls has been fighting with her to take his kids away. During one of her visits, my mom learnt from her that she had been in a physical altercation with the man the previous day. Mom suggested she take help from the police, and a couple of days later, we learnt that the man made a visit to the lock-up.

I am not in love with Fotubai, but I admire her guts, and deep down, I feel for her. Ain't I just plain lucky to not have been born like her?

Fotubai is like one of those annoying maids you see on TV. And since I am bad at handling any domestic help, I find her more annoying. And the lady talks just too much. The other day, she came in a little late, all acting important. Her first words on entering the house were, "Didi, idhar kya kiya hai!"

I: Kya?
She: Masjid tha, mandir bana diya hai.

She went on to say a lot more but I had stopped listening; I was giggling. I turned to her and said, "Idhar thode hi na, Ayodhya mein hua hai." Her face fell and she sighed, "Oh, yahan nahi?"

Every time she watched the news at somebody's place, she would come and narrate it to me in her own special way, always missing out on the place and the people, and focusing on the act. Soon, she realized that I rarely moved my eyes away from the computer screen, and gave up trying to have a conversation with me.

Amidst her chaotic monologues, I managed to filter some of her personal information, and offered her solace, advice, or apples and horlicks. I didn't want to get involved. Like most of us, I did not want to get caught up in "their" lives. And yet, something struck me yesterday. Her daughter's illness has been a cause of concern for long. A doctor relative of a sympathetic lady she works for has prescribed medicines recently, and the medicines have helped the kid. From what I understand, Fotubai has consulted only quacks in the past. Yesterday, I wondered if I couldn't go beyond the occasional sympathy and give her a little more. I told A that I was planning to take her daughter to a doc. His reaction: go ahead, and also ask the doc if he can do something about Fotubai's pitch. We had a hearty laugh.

I wonder how life would be if I was born Fotubai. I don't know if I should thank God or blame him for the difference in our lives.

October 25, 2010

ख़्वाब से सुकून (Khwab Se Sukoon)

ख़्वाब ये मेरा है, जिस तरह चाहूं देखूं ;
मेरे इर्द-गिर्द ही सब होता है,
मैं ही इसकी कहानी, इसका सार हूँ |
इब्तिदा भी मैं, अंत भी मुझसे ही |
हकीक़त के छींटों से मुझको न जगाओ,
सपने में तो मुझको चैन से रहने दो |

June 19, 2010

My two cents on Raavan

Check out the appended text ** at the end of the post.

First things first, I never liked Ram. I had questions on every act of his ever since I learnt about Ramayan. First, the bits and pieces of the epic came as accompaniments with each morsel my mom so cleverly put into my mouth. Next came the TV serial. While people put agarbattis on their TV-sets for Arun Govil, I argued that Ram was no ways the Purushottam he was made out to be. The agni-pariksha was the biggest proof of it. As a kid, I guess I had more courage. I voiced my opinion on forums that considered it sacrilegious to talk ill of Ram or any other god. God is god, I was told. Of course, I didn't buy that argument.

During numerous discussions with friends and some not-so-rigid family members, I found out that I was not the only one who thought the way I was thinking. And my mom seemed to be the biggest critic of gods. She is an ardent devotee, yet she has had her questions about the myriad mythological stories.

In my adolescent years, I came across a play written on Raavan. The book was written by Chaturbhuj (the writer's pen-name, I think), a friend of my father's. Ma and Baba had told me about Raavan's knowledge and his generosity, in fact all the virtues one could think of. His biggest mistake, it was said, was kidnapping Sita. After I read the play, I became a fan of Raavan's.

Then much later, Lajja happened. No, I didn't like the movie; in fact, I have never managed to watch the entire movie in one shot. I have watched bits and pieces of it every time it came on TV. Now, Lajja had a very powerful scene where Sita (portrayed by Madhuri Dixit) gives a heartful to Ram (Sameer Soni). I think that scene was the highlight of the film. I would watch the film again only to go back to that scene. I could see my thoughts being reflected in the words that came from Sita's mouth. One would smell feminism in them, but those words showcase the bitter reality.

I watched Raavan yesterday. And sure enough the title was enough to pull me to the theatre but what assured me was that it was Mani Ratnam's. The film definitely gives you the Ram-and-Raavan-are-not-distinctly-good-or-bad message and not very subtly either.

By the reaction of everyone in the auditorium, not barring me, I could tell that people are going to be extremely disappointed with the movie. I made a lot of comments during the movie, something I rarely do. So, was the movie any good? Well, it was a play enacted on a big screen. It had all the elements of a play - over-the-top drama, overplaying of emotions, and poetry - not in words but in pictures.

Raavan was like poetry. And you know what is the deal with poetry. Not everyone will appreciate it; not everyone will feel it; not everyone will like it. Everyone has different taste in poetry or art; one piece cannot appeal to everyone. Yes, that is the deal with Raavan. Raavan was not a movie. Raavan was theatre, rustic but not raw. It was glorified jatra or nautanki. It was different from what one would expect in a movie; that is where Raavan may fail in capturing the audience's hearts. The movie is a visual delight though, thanks to Santosh Sivan.

As per me, I had my problems with Raavan. It stretched for me at some places. I felt Abhishek Bachchan (who I like and think can act) overacted; I guess I would have showered praises on him had I seen this performance in a play. I will rate his performance in Guru better than that in Raavan. I liked Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as the not-so-demure Sita. At many places, I felt she was the hero of the film. Vikram played his part well, and so did all the supporting actors. I liked Ravi Kishen in particular. And I liked Priyamani who played an enchanting Surpnakha. In fact, I am looking forward to seeing more of her work. Anyways, this post is not a typical review of the movie. It is about the thoughts that crossed my mind as I watched the film.

A couple of phone calls broke my chain of thoughts while writing this post. Hope to talk more about Ram and Raavan in another post some day.

** Addition: For those who don't know, Vikram (the actor who plays Ram in Raavan) has played Raavan in Ravanan, the Tamil version of the film. I want to watch the Tamil one to see how he could handle both the roles in tandem.

Pics courtesy

June 14, 2010

Akshay Tritiya: A Page From My Book of Memories - I

Someone I know called herself a nostalgia queen when she gave a caption to one of her old pics on Facebook. I loved the tag, and I thought it fit me well too. Many of my happy moments are when I have memories for company. And in most of such moments, I have another person for company – sometimes, the one who has been a part of the memory and at other times, someone who has absolutely no connection to my memory. I get so carried away when I talk about my memories that I expect my audience to enjoy it the way I do. Anyways, this post is not about my nostalgic side but about a part of my life I get nostalgic about frequently.

My first few years were spent in Patna. Ma used to tell me about this special day in summer she had been experiencing since she was a child. She used to get extremely nostalgic on this day. Her nostalgia was very pleasant; it always succeeded in painting a beautiful picture for me. This picture had more than just colour; it was livid. It was clearly 3-D, well no, it was 4-D. I could hear the sounds and smell the wafts of food that evaporated from the kitchen on this occasion. That reminds me. I have to tell you about the occasion. It is Akshay Tritiya. Rings a bell? Well, thanks to the vehement advertising by jewellers, the whole world seems to be queuing up to jewellery stores on this day, and the trend started just a few years ago. Anyways, that’s not what my Akshay Tritiya is about.

My Akshay Tritiya is about festivity and enthusiasm that I inherited from my mom. The day was celebrated as a day of Keertan day in Dhanbad, the place where my mom grew up and where I would later spend a few years of my childhood and the years of adolescence. So, when we moved from Patna to Dhanbad, one of the very few things I was looking forward to experiencing was mom’s special day.

I don’t remember my first Akshay Tritiya but I remember the day collectively over the years. I remember the excitement with which we would voluntarily wake up in the morning, sometimes at 5. Many of my relatives would visit for the keertan and stay for a few days. That was exciting enough. The chaos that arose from the many mouths that chose to talk, eat, and sing without paying any attention to the ears that longed for peace was what added to my excitement.

The keertan was organized in the temple my Dadu (maternal grandfather) had built in the compound. I have been told that keertan was a part of everyday life in my mom’s family. Pre-independence, Dadu had started a school of sorts where underprivileged kids would learn to read, develop self-defence skills, participate in keertan and leave for the day with a handful of prasad. Our little temple, known as Hari Mandir in the locality, was a centre of activity before and immediately after independence. Later, the annual keertan was the highlight in the temple. People from nearby colonies and devotees from other parts of the town would join in the 24-hour long non-stop keertan. By the time I came to join in the festivity, it was no longer as colossal as it used to be but it was definitely huge.

The excitement started on the day before Akshay Tritiya. It was the day garlands had to be made and alpanas had to be designed. My friends from the colony, para as we used to call it in Bangla, and I gathered in the morning to see the elders clean the temple. The small courtyard in the temple was where we would later display our alpana skills. Once the temple was cleaned, my friends and I settled down in the courtyard while our bhaiyas from the para fetched a variety of flowers and brought them in big baskets to the temple. All these flowers were collected from inside our tiny para that hosted a number of bushes, plants and trees. The bhaiyas climbed up the trees as the entire para watched them trying to outwit each other in flower collection.

My friends and I were later joined by my elder cousins. We made as many as a hundred garlands in a matter of a couple of hours. Later in the day we made alpanas. When I first joined these activities, I was criticized for my skills. I was a newcomer and my para friends had been doing these things for a while. However, I picked up soon.

The alpanas was the best thing during the keertan, well, one of the best. But the alpanas made me proud. They drew admiring glances not only from me but from most people who came for the keertan. I had something to display. I wonder why it never struck that we preserve the painted floor in pictures.

The Akshay Tritiya-eve started with people pouring in for the evening keertan. Every year, a couple of professional keertaniya teams were brought in from other cities to keep the keertan going without a stop. Of course, the family participated with enthusiasm but their throats needed a break every few hours. So, the professional teams were of great help.

One of the great things about the festival was the food. About 500 or so people ate all their meals in the day and a half the festivities lasted. No one cooked in the para at this time. An old house in the compound, one that belonged to my chhoto mama, served as the kitchen. My aunts and elder cousins gave the cooks direction. Often, they joined the cooks in rolling out luchis (puris) and so did a lot of women from the para. For me and my brother, it was a time when we didn’t need to hide our socks and ties to avoid school.

To be cont’d – In the effort of not only building suspense but getting back to the deadlines that are knocking on my door

February 13, 2010

I am a fan of Shahrukh's

All of us try to belong. We want to be accepted. And in this effort to be accepted, we tend to hide some of our interests, fears and feelings. Over the last few years, I have made many acquaintances and a few close friends. However, I have found that most of the time, I tend to agree with certain schools of thoughts just in order to belong. Yes, I have also had those moments, just a few though, where I express exactly what I feel, caring less about whether or not that thought of mine will be accepted. However, today’s post is not about the wish to belong or break away. It is about something else. Something that I have ended up hiding from people - even from myself, I guess – in order to belong. Today, I would just like to break away and tell you that I AM A FAN OF SHAHRUKH’S. Yes, the actor.

I am part of different kind of social circles, some formed by familial ties, some by society around, and others by choice. Now, there are circles where watching Hindi movies is not considered hep enough. And there are circles where commercial Hindi cinema is not cinema at all. Then there are those groups that think there is no better actor than Aamir Khan, and SRK is a ‘mere’ superstar. And there are those groups that appreciate SRK for his business acumen but not his acting prowess. There is also a small bunch of people who appreciate SRK for what he has achieved. But I have never been a part of a group that adores SRK. Yes, I do know people who love him, but I have never really tried to belong there. So, why I am saying what I am saying today. Because it is the truth. I AM A FAN OF SHAHRUKH’S.

No, I don’t drool over him or see him in my dreams. I like the guy. For more reasons than one. Is it the recent Sena-SRK controversy that makes me talk about him today? No. That statement from him is something that was not really unexpected. And I expected him to say all the things he said in those follow-up interactions with the media. I like the guy when he talks. Yes, I do hide behind my curtains when he cracks silly jokes at important conventions. But I still like the guy. He is intelligent and witty. (I will be getting brickbats for the ‘witty’ part.)

There are many reasons I like the guy and yet, there are many times, I look at the screen from between my fingers and go, “Why! Why on earth does he have to do that?” So, you know, I am definitely not his biggest fan. But I AM DEFINITELY A FAN.

Now, coming back to ‘why today’? Well, this post was in the offing. The other day, after a discussion on SRK, MNIK, Shiv Sena, the Thackerays, M casually remarked, “Didi! You’re a big fan of Shahrukh’s!” I was offended. Yes, ‘offended’ is the right word here. For long, I have tried to keep myself from accepting that I am his fan. And M said it on my face. And then lightning struck me. I wouldn’t shy away from accepting I am SRK’s fan, I thought. However, the opportunity of going all ahead with my plan could not happen until today.

Today, while roaming the streets of Bangalore, S, D, A and I decided to watch a movie. While S and D were game for any movie (they asked us if we wanted to watch My Name is Khan), A and I wanted to watch Rann. But soon we realized if there was any movie we could watch today at that time, it was MNIK. After a frantic drive to Fame Forum and realizing the movie was running houseful, we went to Innovative in Marathalli. Now, this is one place where you can buy a ticket the very last minute.

Had it not been for S and D, we wouldn’t have watched My Name is Khan today, or for that matter, any other day. I don’t really deserve to be SRK’s fan, do I? I had made up my mind about the movie. It couldn’t be good. After all, it was Karan Johar dealing with terrorism, Islam, 9/11, and autism. Not quite his territory. So, I was sceptical. I also wondered if SRK would be able to pull off a character that has Asperges syndrome. No, I don’t doubt his capability, and I would have been more than ok if he were acting in a ‘serious’ director’s film. KJo didn’t give me much confidence in the film.

So, how I liked the film? Well, I liked it. Yes, I did. Is the movie larger than life? Absolutely. Does it have Karan Johar moments? Many. And yet, it touches you. The movie or its characters never sermonize. That’s the biggest plus point in the movie. There are many typical filmy moments, and yet there is something that stays with you beyond the closing credits. My Name is Khan is a simple movie. I didn’t love every frame of the movie but I liked it overall. And I liked Shahrukh in it. I know many will tell me that he overacted or find a dozen of technical faults in his portrayal of the protagonist. But you know what, I really don’t care. I liked him.

I can talk about many things in the movie – its pluses and its minuses. But I won’t. Because this post is not a typical review. It is simply about me accepting the fact that I AM A FAN OF HIS.

Is Shahrukh god for me? No. Have I loved all his performances? Absolutely not. Do I think he can act? Absolutely. Do I think he overacts? Yes. Do I like him? Oh, yes.

1. While we were looking for a film to watch and a theatre to watch it in, S kept saying that he wanted to watch MNIK especially because Shiv Sainiks were causing a ruckus in Mumbai. S wanted to show support to SRK and the movie. He is definitely a bigger fan.

2. I write Shahrukh instead of Shah Rukh because I have always felt that’s what his name is.

February 04, 2010


वो मंज़र रोंगटे खड़े करने के लिए काफी था ,
मगर उसकी चीख मेरे दिल तक ना पहुंची |
कठोर मैं खुद को कहती नहीं ,
पर रहमदिल भी अब ना रही |

Badalti soch (बदलती सोच)

परेशानियाँ ज़िन्दगी को रुख देती हैं, ऐसा मानना था हमारा कभी ,
आज मंजिल की ओर जाने का मन नहीं, राह में रुक जाना चाहते हैं |
आँख मूंद कर विदा कर देना चाहते हैं तकलीफों को, परेशानियों को ;
समेट लेना चाहते हैं इस बेफिक्र लम्हे को, बंद पलकों में |
फ़लसफ़ा हर वक़्त बदलता ही रहता है |

January 09, 2010

Thoughts, thoughts everywhere...

There have been many times when I came to write something in the blog and returned without posting anything. Today, I happened to look at the drafts I had saved since I started writing here. I realized that I couldn’t possibly go into the frame of mind I was in when I started a post. So, I decided to share the drafts with you, the way they are. Some of them only have the title in place, some have a line or two that don’t clearly state what I had in mind, while others just touch the subject and end abruptly. Can you try making sense of them?

9 September 2009
Title: Identity of a place

20 November 2008
Title: I am a complain boy!
No, I did not misspell the word. I was not indicating to the ad of yesteryears' that we so fondly watched. (By the way, have you noticed how both the kids endorsing the product never grew much tall! For the uninformed, the two kids were Shahid Kapoor and Ayesha Takia.)

6 November 2008
No Title
I seem to have become an expert in assorted posts. This one is going to be one. Oh yes, I apologize for the long delay to the loyal reader.

I have been watching a lot of movies lately, Roadside Romeo being one of them. Before you make faces and frown at my taste, let me tell you what made me go for this one (Should I be explaining?) Well, thanks to A's generous company (Tata Elxsi) who also happens to be the one behind the animation of Roadside Romeo. Oh yes, in case you didn't know, Tata Elxsi has been a part of several Indian and Hollywood movies. Oh yes, before you start praising (or throwing brickbats at) A, I must tell you that he has nothing to do with the creative section of the company.

Going back to what I was saying (how much I digress!), A's office gets movie tickets sponsored once a year. A never…

19 Oct 2008
Title: In the last few days

8 July 2008
No Title
It was yet another feather in our crown, well, another experience in the bunch we have gathered in the years of our existence. Oh yes, by 'we', I mean A and I. You would ask, what feather, what experience? A and I missed a train last night. Yes, a train, not a bus. Before you burst into a series of awwws and ohs, let me tell you that it wasn't a first of a kind experience; we had missed a flight last year the same time. This experience was a bit different than the previous one, not just because it was a train this time, but also because it had more elements than the flight-missing episode. Elements of what? Elements of mixed feelings, chaotic atmosphere, and the inner voice.

It so happened that A and I were supposed to take a train from New Delhi to Bangalore yesterday night. We are staying in the NCR region (You know why I use the present tense here: we missed the train, remember!), greater Delhi, as we call it.

13 May 2008
Title: How they make history
Have you felt you were born at the wrong time, decades away from the times that made history? Has history already been made, or is some history brewing up now, as we live?

I watched The Great Debaters the other day.

18 Feb 2008
Title: Where do we belong?
Have we divided our country into multiple countries? Is there still any unity in diversity? Is diversity taking over the unity that ever existed? Has hatred been piling up inside every common man on the street? No. I would like to believe it's a political propaganda. I will not blame the common man for the agony that the 'outsiders' suffer. I would still like to believe that the man on the street does not want to propogate fear and hatred.

I wonder, then, what is it that the common man is afraid of? Why is there this fear of losing territory? Why has he defined his territory?

23 August 2007
Title: There is so much to do... and so little time...

29 May 2007
Title: How do I manage to do that?
"How do you manage to do that?" is how my acquaintances reacted when they heard I had fallen yet again.

Did any of that make sense to you? Consider it another post of assorted thoughts.

December 19, 2009

A thought

वो कहते हैं ठहराव ज़िन्दगी को कामयाब करता है,
हम तो बेचैनी के सहारे ही खुशियाँ पाते हैं|

December 18, 2009

Living in the past

In a conversation today, my friend said, "When the past is rosy, the present almost always pales." Does it really?

December 04, 2009

Morning amusement

At 7:40 this morning, I opened the door to find a couple of plastic balls sprint inside. I wondered if someone had left an open garbage bag outside. I rubbed my eyes to realize that what I perceived as plastic were two tiny chicks who had let themselves inside my house with authority. Before I could understand what was going on, a third 'ball' followed. And each of them sported a unique colour: one had shades of blue, another shades of red, and the third one was simply white. I wasn't even sure they were chicken. Treating our living room as a playground, they started playing what I think was hide and seek. Unable to handle them, I called A for help.

A was amused. I think he too rubbed his eyes to make sure what he was seeing was true. He asked me if it was a prank or a 'gift' from me (oh yeah, today is the day we tied the knot a few years ago). Learning that I was as surprised as he was, he asked me the plan of action. I said that we needed to get them out of the house. In the meanwhile, our guests had decided to visit and scrutinize the things in our balcony.

A and I were enjoying the sight, and yet we could not keep them in. The coloured chicks were an amazing sight. I wondered if someone had decided to amuse us this way. The chicks were definitely having a good time inside. A and I wondered if we should let them stay in the balcony, but then, they couldn't fly. A somehow maneuvered their way to lead them out.

The unusual start to the day, and probably something that we will remember for a long time, is what made me write this post after a long time.

October 24, 2009

Being the Fifth Estate or the Revolutionary Vehicle: How huge is our responsibility as bloggers

It’s just been a decade since blogging started, and yet the blogosphere attracts millions of netizens everyday. Every bit of news is followed up by tens or more of opinion blog posts. Consequently, these opinion follow-ups elicit comments and reactions from more people.

Blogs, whether opinionated, rhetorical, or explanatory, make news and concepts easier to understand. Though not recognized at a level of institution, the blogosphere continues to bloom and draw a loyal audience.

Are bloggers the Fifth Estate?
So, is blogging making ways for the Fifth Estate online? According to Stephen D. Cooper, it is. He has declared this in his book, Watching the Watchdog: Bloggers As the Fifth Estate. Though I am yet to read the book, I agree with the idea. A need for the Fifth Estate hit me a couple of years ago when I observed the Fourth Estate going astray. Any form of Fifth Estate will require a wide-reaching platform along with an uncurbed freedom to opine. Now, what could be a better way than the globally-unifying, far-reaching internet!

The blogosphere may never replace the regulated conventional media, but may help keep it in check.

Why is blogging a phenomenon?
Blogging began with individuals getting a platform to express themselves, as singular units of web pages. A decade later, you will find not only individual units but also increasing clusters – in the form of multi-authored blogs and blogging communities. In a multi-authored blog, a number of like-minded individuals unite to create interesting posts. Blogging communities make an effort to unify bloggers with similar interests from across the globe.

Lately, events of global and regional interest are celebrated by several bloggers, making public statements. Like the recent arrest and release of Al Farhan in Saudi Arabia. He was arrested for blogging. Thousands of bloggers united against his arrest and carried a ‘release Al Farhan’ message on their blogs. Apart from uniting for shared interests, bloggers are uniting for causes - for human rights, raising their voices against and about abuse, war, repression, inflation – any and everything that affects the common man.

Why will blogs sustain?
  • Ease of publishing: Blogging lets people publish their opinions without waiting to be approved. There are no demanding editors or busy publishers, just a click of the mouse and you are published for the entire world to see!

  • Instantaneous reach and reaction: One can get responses within a few minutes of the post going online. Blogging is a truly global phenomenon, uniting people.

  • Creative freedom: Apart from the freedom of expression and a platform to showcase, blogging gives bloggers immense creative freedom.
Are we ready to shoulder the responsibility?
Blogging also adds some burden with the creative freedom it offers, that is, if you feel responsible to make a difference. Are we using the freedom to bring about a change? The pen, we used to say, is mightier than the sword. The written word will always be. Can we help bring a change to the current state of affairs in the world today? As bloggers, can we not make our loyal reader aware of the environmental issues concerning the world today? Can we not help support and fund a good cause somewhere – at the school of blind a couple of blocks away or for an anti-child-labor initiative in a third-world nation? Can we not make an effort with our written word? I am sure we have the will; we just need the courage.

July 23, 2009

How does one prove to oneself?

Some time ago, a friend, who had quit recently and was working on his own venture, wondered how we tend to give our best to work that we do for others but fail to give as much importance and effort to our own work. We discussed this at length and wondered if it was the regular income that drove us. But then, one's own venture needs more effort to draw the money. If it isn't money, is it about the reputation and goodwill we attach to our performance in a job? If the results in one's own work are more fulfilling than the results when you are employed, do we work hard in order to prove our merit to others?

In younger days, most of us spoke about 'proving to ourselves'. Does the concept take a backseat as we grow up and 'mature' in life? What does proving to oneself mean, anyway? Doesn't it mean being happy and satisfied with what one does? Or, does it have to do with achieving certain milestones in life, as defined by convention? Or, is it about discovering oneself and making use of one's potential?

A random thought scribbled around midnight...

April 17, 2009


I have had several moments in the last couple of months that tempted me to make a blog entry. However, I could not finish a post even if I started it. I do not struggle to gather my thoughts or express in front of a friend but when it comes to jotting them down in the blog, I find the passion missing. It is strange because these are things I feel strongly about. I had once mentioned that it is my nature of avoiding an argument that I keep certain things to myself. However, I resent this attitude of mine. Ironically, as I type these words, I cannot recall any issue that I want to talk about. Will tomorrow be any different?

March 13, 2009

Gulaal spreads all over me

"ये महलों, ये तख्तों, ये ताजों की दुनिया,
ये इंसां के दुश्मन समाजों की दुनिया,
ये दौलत के भूखे रवाजों की दुनिया,
ये दुनिया अगर मिल भी जाए तो क्या है?"

(Yeh mahlon, yeh takhton, yeh taajon ki duniya,
Yeh insaan ke dushman samajon ki duniya,
yeh daulat ke bhookhe rawazon ki duniya,
yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye toh kya hai?)

This song from Guru Dutt's Pyaasa had a severe effect on the audience. The song continues to haunt us till date. That was the power delivered by Saahir Ludhiyanvi's lyrics, S D Burman's music, Mohammad Rafi's voice, and Guru Dutt's performance. Anurag Kashyap's duniya in Gulaal is no less powerful and may stay with you for a long time.

A and I went to watch the movie today. The shock factor in the movie made A jump several times and ask me why I was devoid of any reaction. I wasn't; I reacted several times but I was prepared. I was prepared because it was Anurag Kashyap's film. I had expectations and I received much more than I expected.

Gulaal is a work of art. It is creative cinema - unapologetic and real. And Anurag has a conviction that makes him take risks. The other day, I watched him in a show called, 'Face the Review' when he had come to counter the criticisms levied on his last film, Dev D. He countered every charge agaisnt his film without sounding defensive. I pity the people who criticize Anurag's kind of cinema. No, Anurag is not making a film to please everyone. He cannot do a Karan Johar to promote his films. Anurag's movies can reach people beyond the multiplexes without advertising. And his movies will affect everyone who watches it, annoying some and disturbing most. I am yet to watch Dev D but I know it also will leave me with a hangover like Black Friday, No Smoking, and Gulaal did.

Gulaal is powerful not only in its concept but also in the performances and the presentation. Kay Kay needs no introduction; he is the star actor, even though he is not mentioned in the traditional race. Raj Singh Chaudhary, who co-authored the script and the screenplay, plays the simpleton-sucked-into-chaos convincingly well. After his performance in Omkara, Deepak Dobriyal is everyone's favourite. Delhi 6 could not give him enough screen space but the actor gets to play an important character in Gulaal, doing justice to every frame. Abhimanyu Singh does extreme justice to his character in the film. His performance was phenomenal. I look forward to watching him in more films. Ayesha Mohan handled her character like a pro. Gulaal marks her debut. Jesse Randhawa leaves a mark in the movie. Mahie Gill performs her part well as Kay Kay's mistress. Everyone does justice to his/her character in the movie irrespective of its length. Take for example the ardh-narishwar bahurupiya portrayed by Yash Tonk. I wish this character was developed a little more. But then, gaps like these don't make Gulaal any less powerful than it is.

Piyush Mishra is the surprise package in the movie. The man is a brilliant actor. It is not his acting that is surprising in the movie but the lyrics and the music he composed for this movie. Gulaal is Piyush's debut as a lyricist and music director. His lyrics move you, bother you, disturb you; they stick to you, cling to you. While some songs are classics in the making, others may sound outrageous. But each word in the songs is integral to the movie. And to top it all, Piyush lends his voice to the songs!

Gulaal will not let you come out spotless. It will rub some of its coloured dust on you, however careful you are. Take for example the following words in Piyush's dedication to Saahir Ludhiyanvi:

"तुम्हारी है तुम्ही संभालो ये दुनिया,
ऐ बुझते हुए चंद बासी चरागों,
तुम्हारे ये काले इरादों की दुनिया|"

(Tumhari hai, tumhi sambhalo ye duniya,
Ay bujhte huye chand baasi charago,
Tumhare ye kaale iraadon ki duniya.)

January 23, 2009

About fate and hopes - the slumdog's journey

"Ratti Ratti Sachi Maine Jaan Gavayi Hai
Nach Nach Koylo Pe Raat Bitayi Hai
Akhiyon Ki Neend Maine Phoonko Se Uda Di
Neele Tare Se Maine Ungli Jalayi Hai"

'Jai Ho!' resonates in your ears long after the movie's credits end. Everybody loves an underdog win, but it's not only about the winning that makes the film special. The calm on Jamal's face, disguised in a smile, even as he is clueless about the answer to the 20-million-rupee question, is what makes Slumdog Millionaire a winner.

The 10 Oscar nominations announced today are making everyone in India feel proud. News as this one somehow manages to make our day. How? There is no individual gain but there is a greater sense of pride. Even if you haven't seen Dharavi, the largest slum in Asia, you do not question, for a second, the authenticity of the characters. They are real - flesh and bones - somewhere near you. Their hopes, or as the film suggests, the lookout for their destiny is what keeps them going.

As the little Jamal (Ayush Mahesh Khedekar) jigs out of sheer hope even as his fate is being decided in the most unfortunately way just a few feet away, you wonder if you need to take a lesson or two in life from Jamal. As Jamal grows up, resourceful, smart, observant, he beats any of the privileged us in the race of life. The story of Slumdog Millionaire could happen to anyone but not without possessing the characteristics of Jamal.

I do not know how Vikas Swarup has portrayed Jamal in his book, Q & A, but I love the screenplay by Simon Beaufoy. And this film has made me a fan of Danny Boyle. I watched some of his interviews and discussions with the British and American media and I was pleasantly surprised the way he talks about India. He talks about India like an India-loving Indian would do. He neither glamourises everything that is Indian nor does he see only the filth and the slums. He looks beyond the filth to see a sparkle. Like the kids who played the youngest characters of Jamal, Salim and Latika. Apparently, those lovely kids were picked up from Dharavi for the movie. You cannot do without loving little Jamal. The teens are portrayed by actors you may have seen elsewhere.

Slumdog Millionaire is not about Anil Kapoor, who the Indian media has been chasing incessantly since the time the movie got recognition. The movie is also not about Dev Patel and Frieda Pinto. The movie belongs to the three kids who play the youngest versions of the characters. Even when the characters grow up in the movie, the youngest faces refuse to go off your mind. Now that the movie has released in India, I hope the media talks about those kids, who are not only natural and brilliant actors but also charm you in a fascinating way. When little Jamal rushes to meet his hero, Amitabh Bachchan, covered in grime ('grime' is understating the brilliance in the scene. Look out for this scene!), you cannot but love the boy and admire him through the gaps between your fingers with which you are covering your eyes! The story is Jamal's but Salim (Azarrudin Mohammad Ismail)is no less a hero in his own way. As he grows up (Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala and Madhur Mittal), he is driven towards the underworld glamour, moving away from his brother. The cast of the film is apt. However, it is not in the grown-up characters that you see the film. You live the film through the kids. Slumdog Millionaire may not be revolutionary but it is definitely touching. It is hardly likely that you would walk out of the theatre unmoved.

Oh yes, you can see the talented Irfan Khan in a small role but this movie is not about him, though he does justice to the small piece of role he gets.

A R Rahman is his usual brilliant self. Like every Indian, I want him to bring in the Oscar. However, I hope that this recognition will open the world's eyes to the other brilliant work he has done. Oh, by the way, does 'Ringa Ringa' remind anyone of the infamous Choli song from Khalnayak, or is it just me?

Danny Boyle, in one of his discussions with the Philadelphia Film Society about the film and India, says, "You can't remain unaffected but not the way you imagine... you don't go there to have something confirmed on poverty and you don't go there to realize something. You go there to, kind of, unwind everything you have ever thought of that stuff... you got to embrace all the contradictions of India to even begin to, not even understand it but to kind of get benefit from it... you realize it when you are there... There's no way you can go there and not learn... you learn about yourself and the human spirit... about how meaningless life is and how wonderful life is at the same time." Danny sums up the movie in his impression about India. He says that within a span of ninety minutes, there is the blinding of a kid and then there is the song-and-dance sequence because both these instances are integral to reporting the facts in Mumbai.

Verdict: Learn from the smiles and the hopefulness of the characters. Don't miss the movie!

Jamal: Ayush Mahesh Khedekar (I am a fan!), Tanay Hemant Chheda (Like his acting!), Dev Patel
Salim: Azarrudin Mohammad Ismail (I am a fan!), Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala, Madhur Mittal
Latika: Rubina Ali (Love her innocence!), Tanvi Ganesh Lonkar, Freida Pinto

Most of us would come out of the movie with a feel-good hangover, forgetting the torturous trials of life that several like Jamal, Salim and Latika go through everyday. Can we help? Yes, we can. Go through Shelly's post on the movie and check the links provided in it.

Here's another review I found myself hooked to: >Slumdog Millionaire: The Secret Is Out - Movie Review By An Indian

January 20, 2009

Koshish - an effort at making things better

Can one person bring about a revolution? History tells us that it takes only one person to lay the foundation of a revolution. Can I lay one? A revolution for what? For making the world a better place. Cliched as it may sound, the need for making the world a better place has always been there and will continue to be there. You and I may lead a comfortable life - which is not without constant cribs - but tend to ignore everything that goes around us. Complains are good as long as they are put into some kind of action. Will I also continue cribbing and not do anything? There is so much to do, where do I start and how? I need to spread awareness about what I propose to do, but before that I need to list down what I propose to do. So, what do I propose to do?
  • I want to make mornings better with less honking and less exchange of bitter words on the street.
  • I do not want to be unnecessarily rude to the person across the sales counter, the bus conductor, the auto driver, the dhobi, the doodhwala, the maid, the neighbour, or anyone of the numerous people I meet everyday.
  • I want to segregate everyday home garbage into biodegradable and non-biodegradable categories.
  • I want to reduce the usage of plastic and eventually stop it.
  • I want to save power and fuel.
  • I want to cut down on habits that contribute to pollution of any kind - air, water, sound etc.
  • I do not want to litter.
  • I want to stop wasting water.
  • I want to build trust in people.
There are numerous other things that do not come to mind immediately but have been in my thoughts for a while now. Can I start this, make others join, and contribute towards a better world? I am a bit confident and a bit unsure.

Everything needs marketing these days and so will this idea. But something tells me that along with like-minded people, I will be able to pull it through.

Koshish - that's what the effort will be called. People willing, it will flourish. Concrete ideas in the next post.

December 14, 2008

Shying away from expression...

Playing it safe, am I? A discussion with a friend today raised the subject of ‘voicing out opinions’ and ‘faking an agreement’. It started with me telling her that in a conversation/discussion, I nod in agreement to a point the other person is making when I know my point is not getting across. I told her that I fake an agreement typically with elders or with people who do not have the same wavelength as mine. My friend and I also spoke about people voicing out their opinions, some loudly and some subtly. She said that she has noticed people with well-reasoned opinions shying out from expressing them; she expressed her disappointment at this.

I told her that voicing an opinion at all forums does not make sense. She called me a hypocrite. I asked her if she meant calling me diplomat. We went on to discussing if there was any difference between hypocrisy and diplomacy. Our discussion cordially continued. (I may have given you an impression that we were arguing. We weren’t. )

The discussion got me thinking. Am I playing it safe, not voicing my opinions on subjects that are deemed controversial? Looks like I am. That is why I don’t voice my opinion about the ethnic differences and the concept of ‘outsiders’ in various states of our country. That is why I do not discuss the role of media in influencing our thoughts and mindset. That is why I do not discuss the subject of homosexuality or the Kashmir dispute or chauvinist conventions. It’s not that I do not express myself at all but I do that only in close quarters, in front of my close friends. I rarely come out in the open. I rarely write a blog post on something controversial that I strongly feel about.

Will I change? I don’t know yet.

December 07, 2008

Struggling with clarity of expression

Borrowing a couple of lines from the poet, Ghanshyam's diary, here's what my state of mind is right now.

कहने को तो हजारों बातें हैं,
मगर उलझी हुई हैं सब एक-दुसरे से |