Thursday, December 15, 2011

A visit to 'Dialogue in the dark'
...when I began to see the unseen in many different ways

Haven't we felt this very often: all of a sudden, the moment the power fails and it turns dark, we begin to grope in the dark for a torch or a candle or the switch for alternative sources of power - even in the most familiar surroundings of our home. The discomfort and frustration is understandable - we are so used to 'seeing' everything that we can't withstand even few seconds of complete darkness. In those few minutes of darkness, we may walk straight to reach something, stumbling over or hitting against things which have remained in the same place for years.

Rarely, we think of using our other senses like touch or hearing while navigating, communicating and interacting in the dark. It seems that we've most of the time considered the sense of seeing things, the 'vision' or 'sight' to take control of our lives. And when it turns dark, we lack the all-important vision. What if this sense was temporarily disabled? How would we cope with carrying on with normal life? How do those who are visually challenged lead a normal life despite the lack of this overpowering faculty? It is concerns like these that occupied my thoughts when I visited the exhibition at Dialogue in the Dark, Hyderabad. This is their only presence in India. However, Worldwide, Dialogue in the Dark is present in more than hundred locations across several countries.

It is like a self-reflective dialogue I engaged in while going through a variety of experiences in an absolutely dark environment. The professionally trained guides (Nisha, Jagdish, Soham) who are visually disabled, lead you through a variety of situations that enliven your other senses like touch, hear, taste and smell. In fact, it's surprising how instinctively, I began to use these faculties to find my way through, feel and hold something, smell and eat something and so on. I started wondering how I was never aware that our other senses are equally critical and they can apparently substitute vision impairment in the dark. This sensitizing was a valuable learning from the exhibition, apart from the curiosity and excitement that forms a part of exploring the unknown, unseen and unimagined.

Two hours of darkness (an hour for the exhibition, followed by 'Dinner in the Dark') was a  unique experience, something that was adventurous and entertaining on its surface. At the deeper level, I quickly woke up to the fact that there was a complete reversal of role in this experience. In 'normal' circumstances, I would have helped visually challenged person to do something, but at Dialogue in the Dark, I was guided and served by them. It was heartening to see the guides take us through and help us appreciate things from a totally different perspective. I began to understand their condition in better ways and learnt how they're trained to be independent and contribute meaningfully to social life. What struck me most was something to do with the lack or loss of the faculty of vision. An hour of exposure showed me how my other senses can 'compensate' for that overall perception and experience. I was able to really feel something when I touched it and I was able to really listen when I heard something. What about taste? The taste of food - this was an amazing experience to be able to eat in a pitch dark restaurant. The taste of darkness, as the dinner is called, has a surprise four course menu, served in an absolutely dark restaurant. I realized the value of vision like never before, imagine eating in the dark with absolutely no idea of what is served, in what quantity, what consistency, what shape, what color, what texture...and trying to guess everything with the help of taste, smell and touch most of the time!

Apart from overcoming my fear of the dark, this dialogue has helped me see the unseen in many different ways! While I would not turn a blind eye to my other senses like touch, smell, hearing and taste, I will certainly appreciate and value my sense of vision more. Isn't every sense equally important and together they make our life what it is!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Third dimension in movies - The adventures of Tintin in 3D

Sometimes we like the whole movie or sometimes we like it in parts - with 'The Adventures of Tintin - The Secret of Unicorn' it was both. On the whole, the movie was good but it was most enjoyable in parts however, I could not figure out how 3D had added to the cinematic experience. After watching the movie I really wished it was not in 3D, wonder if the next two movies of the proposed Tintin trilogy by Spielberg will also be in 3D. The movie had enough live action for a fast-paced-Indiana Jones-style-mystery-thriller-entertainer using motion capture technology.The drawings of Herge' were completely reengineered and taken to incredible heights with whatever best could be done for the digital medium.

From comic book to 3D movie
The transformation from the medium of print to digital should not be seen as an adaptation and it should not invite comparisons for these two media are as different as chalk and cheese. The only common aspect is the storyline serving as a base to explore, experiment and enthrall the audience. When the character and the story (as famous as Tintin) has enough for that rare cinematic treatment, why was the movie made in 3D? How did it add value from entertainment point of view? It would have been better in 2D itself .

These days, with the invasion of 3D movies, one is forced to watch them whether we like it or not -not all animation movies have the 2D option. For the movie Rio, I preferred the 2D version and avoided 3D. Avatar in 3D was a strict no-no! But there was no option for Tintin.... Perhaps, 3D is a selling point for some but it makes a strenuous viewing for many. The only movie I thoroughly enjoyed watching in 3D (IMAX version) was The Polar Express. I felt the use of 3D in this movie was every effective in creating the larger-than-life feel of the story. Others 3Ds movies like Toy Story 3, Despicable Me and Shrek 3 left me with mixed feelings coz I ended up with a headache after watching them.

My team member Arun Kaushik, who has a Masters in Animation from IDC, IIT-Bombay, oftens shares his ideas and expertise on film making and animation films. Occasionally, I chat up with him on technical aspects of such movies, especially motion capture techniques, and this time I approached him to share his thoughts on 3D. This is what Arun has to say:

When does 3D suit the most?
"I think 3D works really well when coupled with movies that allow the viewer to experience grand expanses or complex volumes at a leisurely pace. Grand expanses, because cramped spaces might as well be shot on 2D, and leisurely pace, because frenetic editing and camera movement ends up forcing your eyes to refocus faster than the brain can handle. I imagine watching documentaries on Mt. Everest or about outer space should be an amazing experience with 3D."

Advantages of 3D in movies
"3D helps you experience spaces to a greater extent. If the 3D is effective, you can actually feel the distance between an object close the camera and an one that is a kilometer away. I think that is essentially the feature that people like Cameron and Spielberg are excited about, and trying to capitalize on. And since it offers a tangible advantage over 2D, I think 3D is here to stay in it's inferior form, until the technicians manage to fine tune it over the next few years to remove the elements that cause headaches."

Side effects and appropriate use of 3D
"For an excellent explanation of why one gets headaches when watching 3D movies, I'll direct you to this letter from Walter Murch (arguably the greatest living film editor) to Roger Ebert (an extremely popular film reviewer). I don't think anybody can offer a clearer explanation."

Going by what Arun has to say, I wonder what it would be like to watch 3D film on a TV, now with advanced technology you don't need to wear the 3D glasses!

However, wouldn't it be better if the third dimension is left to the viewer to figure out, create, imagine or visualize - at least in some movies?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Between the 'said' and the 'unsaid'
Lines inspired by Facebook and some Hindi movie songs:)

'Pal pal dil ke paas tum rehete ho...'
Par tum Facebook aur twitter se chipke rehete ho!

Status update: 'Zindagi ek safar hai suhana, yahan kal kya ho kisne jaana...'
Agar yeh maante ho to zaroor mera status 'like' karna

'Yeh dosti hum nahin todenge'
Dosti virtual ho to tootegi kaise?

'Tujhse naraz nahin zindagi hairan hun main...'
Itne profile pics badalne par bhi kisi ne nahin kiya 'like' mujhe:(

'Khuda jaane ke mein fida hoon , khuda jaane mein mitt gaya...'
Khuda jaane yeh mere mobile Facebook ko kya hua!

'Dost dost na raha pyaar pyaar na raha, zindagi hame tera aitbar na raha...'
Yeh tha mere friend ke mind me jab usne badla apna status from 'in a relationship' to 'single'
Aur is pe kiya ek aur friend ne comment:
"Dude..take it easy, remember the song, 'zor ka jhatka ...shaadi ban gayi umar qaid ke saza"

'Yaron dosti badi hi haseen hai...'
Kyun na ho? Jab sab kuch virtual ho: greeting, inviting, meeting, gifting etc.

'Baatein kuch ankahee si, kuch unsunee si hone lag...'
Jab se main itne puraane aur naye doston ke 'updates' me kone lagi

'Saari umr hum mar mar ke jee liye, ek pal to ab humein jeene do jeene do'
'Give me some sunshine give me some rain, give me another chance wanna grow up once again'
Haan once again, mujhe is virtual social network se real ki duniya main jaane do!

'In dino dil mera mujhse hai keh raha...'
Teri life beet jaayegi yun hi 'Like', 'Unlike', 'Comment' aur 'Share' karte karte
Na kisi ka phone, na kisi ke aane ki aahat
FB me hai mere 549 'friends'
Par sirf 2 hai asli dost - main aur meri tanhayee.

Take it easy friends!
'Na juda honge hum kabhi khushi kabhi gham...'
Hum tum aur FB:)

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Yeh mera India: the week that was - a recap
Last week saw some interesting things happening around. One got to see how desires are fulfilled and ambitions are realized in many different ways in a nation where affluence and poverty co-exist with mutual indifference. Again, we showed how our mixed bag of priorities favors the glamour and glitz of international recognition than the truth of less privileged classes of society. To recap some headlines:

F1, Ra.1, 7 billion...It's all a game of numbers!
Yes, numbers of a different kind made last week's headlines. Numbers to fear and cheer about! For a change it was not the numbers we've been hearing from 2G and other scams. If Baby Nargis Yadav is the 7,000,000,000th kid in the world,  Sushil Kumar had the unique distinction of winning the highest ever amount in a game show (KBC) of Rs.5,00,00,000. And of course , the crores spent on Ra.1 and F1 that were being discussed endlessly- proudly displaying our ability to go international in sports and entertainment business. One quick look at these events and we know how our country is uniquely positioned as a nation of stark contrasts and mixed priorities.

When an 'aam aadmi' shot into fame!
While some need F1, some others need the bare minimum to make the ends meet.True to the spirit of the game show KBC5, the winner immediately shot into fame, from being 'aam' (common) to 'khaas'(special). Doesn't every ordinary person yearn for that 'special' status of achieving something. Ok, what does it take for someone common to become special: hardwork, luck, opportunity etc. For that matter, for most of us, life is a symbolic journey from a present state to better and improved one . However, not everyone is fortunate enough to make this transition from one social status to another.Unfortunately for millions of other aam janta who are toiling hard, there are no game shows to improve their condition.

Of fasts, yatras, jails and bails
Leaders and followers all aiming or getting attention with the tried and tested weapon of 'fasting' - the most misused Gandhian instrument. This has become a regular spectacle at least in my region. While some thought they could garner support for a revolution (a la Egypt or Libya) to wipe out corruption and other vices plaguing our county, some others believe tha yatra is the most powerful way to gain attention. As seen earlier, yatras on wheels or on feet, was a sure fire way for political wannabes to become a minister, a chief minister, wonder if it works for the post of a prime minister as well. And what about those who already had such positions and have landed up in jails. When those in jails fail to get bails would the jails be managed by prestigious star hotels?

Petrol, diesel and electricity
Who said the song from Pipli Live "Mehengayi daayin..." presents only the condition of the hapless farmers! Soon, the song could be equally appropriate for the city dwellers as well. The rising prices of fuel and power are bound to affect every aspect of life. The solution is not as simple as changing to a diesel car or the govt levying extra taxes on diesel vehicles. This will only add to the vicious cycle of demand and price rise dynamics.And what about electricity? Thanks to power politics in Hyderabad, most of us wake up to darkness every morning with scheduled load shedding , what with the government's supposed reluctance to buy power from other states.

Some wishful thoughts and...
If only, the taxes earned from high value events like F1 could be efficiently utilized for the benefit of the aam aadmi. But then, the question remains: what is the definition of aam admi - one who is below the poverty line (BPL)- one who's waiting for a job with MNREGA scheme or needs to depend on Aadhaar card for every transaction? Or, one who earns the livelihood on the pavements of a city or performs hardest of tasks possible with human labor? Or, one who...well, the list is definitely longer. Whoever he or she is, every politician would certainly get interested in them just before the elections.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Music and memory
(How I overcame the 'beginner's blues' while learning the guitar)

Let me introduce you to my new friend, my sweet sounding acoustic guitar.
It was my third or fourth guitar class and I was nervous when my instructor asked me something like ‘what is the note on the third fret of the first string’? I would stutter something not-so-confidently but when I was asked to play the note I would do it right. It was kind of strange - I could play the note but I would get confused in remembering the names of the notes like "G", or "A" or "D". Later my instructor told me how important it is to ‘memorize’ everything in music. Since then I’ve been consciously making an effort to ‘work’ on my memory whenever I practice new lessons. Memory and recall are integral to learning any musical instrument. For me this was a new kinesthetic and psychomotor skill to practice: it needed a different set of sub-skills to remember, recall and reproduce a particular melody. Memorizing was a new challenge and often I would end up blaming my dependence on reminders, alerts on my mobile phone for remembering simple things and organizing and planning my time.

Later as I improved my performance and got appreciated for being a ‘fast learner’ by my instructor, I could memorize the notation for the latest lesson (a song) but I would forget the previous lessons. Perhaps it is ‘normal’ to do so, but then, I just didn’t want to give up. I started practising the old lessons along with the new ones and imposed more self-discipline in playing the song without looking at the notation – something like memory test. It was important for me to take this approach because of my love for the instrument and my firm resolve to continue learning, especially when, the experience of learning a musical instrument is simply out-of-the-world. Imagine the joy of performing for your own pleasure, pursuing your passion, especially when your favourite songs are based on this instrument and it was my long cherished dream to play the guitar. Of course, there are other aspects of learning like the amount of patience, the mood and the most critical – the time. I never faced a problem in handling them because of my interest and strong desire.

When I look back, I can still remember the lyrics of songs learnt several years ago and I can easily recall them and sing along. But, the same is not true of recent songs. Trying to understand the problem, I could figure out why ‘old’ lyrics are still so fresh in my mind while the ‘new’ ones just vanish, even from the short term memory. To a large extent this was because, earlier, I never depended on any gadgets, there was no technology (ready reference) that could retrieve the lyrics from the Internet or YouTube like we do today, for everything had to be written in book and mugged up. Perhaps this also had to do with the quality and emotional quotient of songs then and now. And most often I would play the song on the music system and take down the lyrics by pausing it and writing down in my music book. This was a good exercise in memorizing it and in the process, there was some activity for the brain that would otherwise get rusted.

While our phones are getting smarter, we are getting laid back. The pace at which technology is changing and our ease of adopting it, had made things very different. With the gadgets like smart phones and other handheld devices getting more and more sophisticated, we seem to be getting perpetually dependent on them for managing our lives. The convenience of technology claims its first casualty – our memory! Look at the way the virtual memory (on the hardware or on the Cloud) has ‘lightened’ our burden. We are happily storing most of our stuff and access them when needed. We need not remember any numbers, we need not calculate using our brains, we need not remember directions – for these are normal and basic things performed by a simple mobile phone. And for everything else we have Google. So, we don’t tax our brains and prefer to ‘live light’ as our lives are getting more virtual and less real.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Plastic - a bane that's difficult to ban

Sure thing it was - the government of Andhra Pradesh has 'relaxed' the ban of plastics from 'total ban' to implement banning upto 40 microns.Now, how does one decide what is 40 microns? Technically, some of us know what it means and upto what thickness etc, but think about others- those who have very little time and interest to check in which polythene bag they are carrying the stuff, let alone judging the carry bag for its microns. And the other categories of buyers who are well-educated on the harmful effects of plastic on our bio-diversity but hesitate to change their habits. And, this is also the time when consumerism is thriving in urban, metropolitan India. The new age retail-therapy offered by malls and hypermarkets are the hubs of carry bags and other forms of plastic items.

Telling small and medium traders, shopkeepers to stop using plastic is like the story of the king who wanted to test the milkmen for adulterated milk. The king asks the milkmen to fill the tank with pure milk and when they actually start on the task, each one thinks smart and pours water into the tank assuming that the others would pour milk. Finally, the king was shocked to see the tank filled with water and confirmed that milk was getting adulterated in his kingdom. In our context, every person will think "I will continue to do whatever I want to and whatever I've been doing, others will take care of the environment and all that".

It was a foregone conclusion; the complete ban is next-to-impossible and highly impractical in a city like Hyderabad, with due respect for the good intentions behind the initiative. And it gave a wonderful opportunity for the opposition parties and vested interests to politicize the issue in the name of employment for plastic manufacturers, small traders and so on. Come to think of it, how can there be an imposition of complete ban - every bit our life is invaded by plastic, it's not just the carry bags. Of course, carry bags cause most damage. Every activity of ours is somehow connected with the use of this material that is highly non-biodegradable. This is something many of us have accepted as a part of life, perhaps with the 'relief' that plastic scrap like broken mugs, buckets, chairs, plates, containers etc can be recycled. Actually, recycling plastic is not easy and it is expensive. And, harmful plastic is not just carry bag, there are many more things that we use for comfort, convenience and cost. So, we cannot expect an overnight shift in people's attitudes nor can we find immediate answers to the concerns of those whose livelihood depends on making and using plastic.

We all know this: the ubiquitous plastic is more a bane in any form. I need not describe how it is spoiling the environment from public places to forest reserves with its indiscirminate use. But, by looking at the way we have adopted this magic material for its utilitarian and commercial values, it would be difficult if not impossible, for most of us to go back  to the previous state of existence when there were hardly any 'disposable' (read plastic) things around us. We then believed in using thing that had a permanent character.Everything had a value beyond its present form. Didn't we clean and use the same cup again, or ate in steel plates and cleaned then even when we were on the move..and where was bottled 'mineral' water then? Didn't we carry our own bags for any kind of shopping?

Government's enforcement of any ban is a typical 'top-down' decision that may or may not percolate downstream. What can be done by us, the conscientious citizens is to spread the word about the harmful effects of plastic through different means, different media to educate the people. Such awareness may have a positive impact on reducing the use of polythene bags that litter our surroundings. Another possibility is to  practice segregation of plastic stuff from the waste and hand it over to waste management agencies like WOW from ITC/Ramky that collect it for recycling. Insist supermarkets to either use just or cloth (reusable) bags or tell the to allow us to carry our bags. Create awareness among children and use their pester power to change the habits of their parents. And the list goes on... Powerful social messages, campaigns, pledges etc could be the tools here.

We certainly need to act, we've thought enough over how to avoid and reduce the use of materials that harm us and our environment. But this needs to be done in a different way; complete banning and imposing would further politicize the issue, bringing in resentment and yielding no tangible result. We need change to the mindset of the people and simultaneously create awareness and of course support any move that helps in this direction - this is definitely time-taking, it certainly cannot be achieved with a single 'ban order' but we know when people believe in something good, they don't mind going an extra mile to achieve it. And this will definitely have the long-lasting impact. Old habits die hard, or they may not die at all...but new habits can always be acquired!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A tale of two hills
In April-May 2011 I visited two hill resorts - the Nandi Hills near Bangalore and the Horsley Hills in AP. Here's an account of my experience at these places.

Horsley Hills
It was 7.00 AM and the sun was as reluctant to come of the clouds as I was from the cozy corner of my room. The cool breeze from the window was making me feel even more indulgent. The sight of gulmohurs and copperpods majestically swaying to the silent melody in the air was perfectly orchestrated by several chirping birds. I couldn't believe it was part of Andhra Pradesh in peak summer. Nick-named as the Ooty of AP, Horsley Hill Resort can be a quick weekend escape from the sweltering heat of Hyderabad, especially when we cannot plan a proper hill station holiday such as Shimla, Nainital, Ooty, Kodaikanal or Darjeeling.

The Fusion Tree
 The day breaks slowly, occasionally disturbed by the noise of a vehicle entering or leaving the premises. It's an enjoyable laziness, a welcoming lethargy that invites you to participate in the natural process of unwinding, away from the hectic and maddening crowds of the city. A walk in the green surroundings make you curious at the 'fusion gulmohar tree' with its joint branches from two different trees.
The view from the viewpoint is spectacular with bright gulmohars dotting the sloping hill sides while mauve jacarandas peep out vying for attention among the red hues. There is a tiny zoo with some monkeys, colorful birds, peacocks, rabbits and crocodiles. I enjoyed viewing the sunset with several hills at the backdrop, making it a perfect scene to be captured as a souvenir. The resort also organizes adventure games, yoga and trekking.

Horsley Hill resort is about 540 kms from Hyderabad. We took the Bangalore highway upto Ananthapur and then drove down the bypass road to Kadiri. Here, the drive gets tough with narrow road with several railway crossings and narrow bridges. Thankfully there weren't many vehicles on this stretch. The drive uphill has some sharp bends, after crossing a few you can suddenly feel the drop in temperature as you are greeted with fresh and sweet scented air.

We stayed at the Haritha and here APTDC seems to have accommodation to suit every budget. We also visited the Rishi Valley school which is 30 minutes drive, on the way to Madanapalle. On both sides of the road there are tomato farms and mango orchards. Since it was the mango season the sight was lovely as the trees were laden with a variety of mangoes. 

Nandi Hills
A short drive from Bangalore (about 2 hours) and you are at Nandi Hills. Ideally on such an altitude you'd expect it to be cool and pleasant. But, I found Nandi hills hot and humid. There are so many monkeys here that you'd want to call it 'Monkey hills'. The monkey can come and snatch anything from you, like it happened to us when I was holding a packet of Cadbury Bites. It was interesting to see the monkey climb the topmost branch of the tree and enjoy the chips by removing the 'masala' from it. Another monkey snatched the bhel puri cone from Shreya's hand. The viewpoint presented a breathtaking view of the surroundings. There wasn't much to explore. Here's something that caught my attention; an old cactus will the graffiti from different tourists! It was sad to see that people don't even spare trees and plants from the ugly habits of inscribing their names. There were guest rooms available on booking. The garden around the guest house had lovely seasonal flowers. The Karnataka tourism restaurant had very few items for lunch from that presented in the menu. After spending some time sitting under the trees we decided to get back to Bangalore. Perhaps, the visit would been better if we had started early in the morning. Also, we did not go around the hills, visiting the Tipu Sultan monuments and the temple.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Storm over a tea cup (how I can never be a tea totaler)

Here I am, creating a storm, no, no, a tsunami 'over' a tea cup, giving the proverb a quirky twist. Why not! Like today, for me missing my afternoon tea caused nothing short of a storm of sorts 'over' a tea cup, my 'forced' abstention from that healthy addiction. How can I describe that tea-deprived state of mind - when suddenly the mind goes blank, slowing down my reflexes, creating a drowsy feeling, craving for that missed cup... and important tasks that demand my complete attention and participation...before I get recharged for the rest of the week. In fact, missing my afternoon tea also triggers the dreadful migraine that I'm susceptible to.

If I were Keats or Shelley I would have definitely written an ode on this elixir of life. The wonderful leaves from the shrub Camellia Sinesis - tea has a story to tell in most of our lives. Sadly, the action between the cup, the lip and the sip is such a routine that we often forget to appreciate the magic of this 'mundane ritual'. The very thought of it arouses a fresh and active feeling that stimulates and energizes to catch up with life and the daily chores.

Many tea lovers and connoisseurs believe that preparing a good cup of tea is not everybody's cup of tea! Mainly because the taste of tea is so such a personal thing. Some like it with more milk and sugar, some others hate to see milk in their tea. The hardcore tea lovers like me, vouch for the taste of long leaves and light decoction unlike the extract prepared from popular CTC packs available all over the shops. There's the other type who like it in its Irani avatar served in most of the local cafes in Hyderabad.

For most of us, office-goers, tea breaks give us the much needed break to enjoy the fresh air outside the AC cubicles, with a hot cup, catching up with all the gossip. It's also the time for the dip-dip tea bags and conversations around the vending machines.

Yes, tea is something personal. Coming from a family of tea-lovers it's hard for me to accept anything that goes in the name of tea, especially the boiled and brewed sugary 'tea' that sticks to your tongue, leaving an unsavoury taste of milk and sugar, successfully wiping out the color, flavor and aroma. How can I not be  fussy or finicky about it. The magic of tea lies is in the quality of leaves and the way the decoction is a kettle? Using tea bag? I like it best when I prepare it myself. Sometimes, my recipe includes a piece of ginger crushed and added to the boiling water when I need that extra kick to wake me up properly after deep sleep and feel charged-up, especially on a rainy day or cold winter mornings. In summers, cold tea is okay with a squeeze of lemon and  a dash of mint for added freshness. Green tea is the in thing, the new mantra for anti-oxidants and a craze among fitness freaks. Any supermarket gives you dozens of brands, organic variants, with all kinds of flavours mint, lemon, ginger, chamomile, jasmine, tulasi, masala, cardamom and what not.

But believe me, tea tastes best when it's enjoyed in its pure form - black or green- without any added flavors, savoured without any accompaniments like cookies, biscuits and pakodas, if possible while listening to this composition from Dr. Bhupen Hazarika from the land of tea...the songs goes: Ek kali do pattiyan, nazuk nazuk ungliyan, tod rahi it is.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Cricket in the time of Facebook
This is first World Cup Cricket (WCC) on Facebook and it's a different kind of excitement as we see the changing face of community viewing! The fact that Cricket is in the DNA of our country needs no better manifestation - you may love it or hate it but you cannot ignore it! You need not be following the all the matches and need not know who is in the team but it somehow enters your system because we all breathe the same air. Some interesting updates on Facebook during/after the India-Pakistan match which made the experience a different one, here's a random pick (with sporting spirit and in a lighter vein)

"2011WC is a study of modes of transport. Aussie sent home via flight, Pak via Road, and now Sri Lanka's turn on saturday to take the ship." Ashish Tiwari

"‎#IndvsPak #Mohali a good match. Terrific win and Thanks to invisible security people who kept it free of incidence." Ashish Tiwari
"yessssssssssssssssssssss, i wish there was a scream button on fb." Brunda Murthy
"Nehra Nehra Karo jeet ka rang gehra!!!" Rosemeen Khimani
"Spare a thought for the man behind the success of Team India- Gary Kirsten !!!" Vinod Sharma
"Joke of the Day- Team India has done what Indian Intelligence agencies couldnt do ........ Keep Pakistan out of Mumbai."Vinod Sharma
‎"2003 avenged! :) Australia knocked out! :D" Dhurjati Bhattacharyya
But then, Facebook also had those irritating ball-by-ball updates, which were more frustrating and less cheering and some comments disgraceful to the game itself and potentially harmful and ugly. However, what is interesting in the phenomenon is the 'virtual community' of 'friends' sharing updates and commenting though not watching together at the same time and in the same space...on the positive side.
Cut to the first world cup victory by India: I have vague memories of 1983 Prudential Cup won by Kapil Dev's men in white. Then, there was no blue, no merchandise and TV was just evolving as a 'virtual stadium'. We watched it on our first TV - a B/W Dyanora. And the game was less aggressive unlike the  terminators, destroyers and eliminators of today.
One reason why I remember that match was because it was important to know everything about it for any GK quiz. Memorably, the score was 183 and the year 1983 (some connection between the year and the score?) On a superstitious note, any clues for this year's final match? Ok, let me not link the year and score, using this equation/speculation this year the score could be 211 (from the year 2011)...and that's not an encouraging figure against Sri Lanka, assuming India bats first.
Now, I've another superstition, about this year's world cup: after I purchased the new TV and I was particular about buying it during the WCC, I was happy to see that India got three consecutive wins (against West Indies, Australia and Pakistan) and will it repeat against Sri Lanka?
Now move to 2015, the next WCC to be jointly hosted by Australia and Newzealand. It's difficult to imagine how Facebook or other such social tools would change the face of the game. Imagine with 4G and beyond, and Internet TV and all that. Would be all be watching the match on the Internet like a virtual stadium. I'm sure today's buttons on FB wil l be a thing of the past. How many other apps would be there to make the game a techno-gizmo-wonder? Till then, let's hope that 1983 repeats after 28 years!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Things and thoughts left behind

Some post cards, a diary (the last one)
Some black and white photographs
Some blank greeting cards that waited to be sent
Old books with papers turning into hues of brown, smelling so good
Some books 'spoilt' by my scribbles and drawings, when I was a kid
Some letters from relatives carefully preserved
Some scribbles on the diary methodically documenting the monthly expenses
Or recording the details of things done, places visited or visitors at home
Or visits to physicians, or details of personal savings
On some pages where the handwriting is barely legible
As if in a hurry to pen down a whole lot of things
Some newspaper cuttings with cricket match schedules
Some newspaper cuttings with interesting news and pictures
Like the one with a picture of the crow trying to drink water from a tap
That appeared in The Deccan Herald on 23rd May 2005

Somewhere in between all these things, time stands still
As I recollect the days when everything was in 'hard copy'
When everything had a physical existence, unlike today's virtual
When post cards, inland letters and greeting cards
Had to be 'posted' and not 'mailed' online
When collecting postage stamps was a popular hobby
When diaries were handwritten and remained truly personal
When everything had a meaning beyond its present form
When things were preserved, cared for and valued
Surprising isn't it! This was not too far away
Since it is still fresh in my memory
The speed of change ...wasn't it too quick
So quick that it sucks the recent past like quicksand!
These are some thoughts as I lay my hands on few things in the cupboard, left behind by my father. Though, not a single day passes without remembering him, it's on 22nd February 2006 that his condition worsened and he survived till 11th March 2006.

Monday, January 24, 2011

In gratitude...

If faith compels one to be a believer then I'm a believer, a firm believer in the voice of Pandit Bhimsen Joshi - the voice I grew up listening to, the voice that is eternally sublime, spiritual and soulful. The voice that evoked the divine in me - an evocation that left me in a trance. And of course, the voice that remains immortal, timeless and matchless. Filled with positive energy of the Sun, molded by the undulating waves of the rivers and softened by the calming moonlit evenings, this voice was a part of my everyday - especially my mornings - relaxing and peaceful, filling me with renewed energy and new hope to get started afresh.

Especially, Panditji's devotional music had everything that one could possibly look for. When I was confused it gave me direction, when I was disturbed I sought solace, when I wanted to give up it helped me persevere.
Listening to Panditji is a purifying experience. Like a tonic for the mind, it strengthens and purges at the same time - the raagas rendered by him in the form of khayals, bhajans and other compositions. Be it the devotional jaya jagadishwari mata saraswati or jo bhaje hari ko sadaa or  madhukar shyam hamaare chor or several of the similar numbers. I used to love the way he pronounces my name in madhukar shyam... I used to feel honoured when I heard him sing man har liyo madhuri moorat - the enchantingly magical quality of rendering it. Or the listening pleasure from the supremely divine Dasa keertanas in Kannada- Bhagyada lakshmi baaramma and Karuniso ranga karuniso.... that are my all time favorites.

It was an emotionally disturbing day since I heard the news about Panditji's demise. Back home from office, I waited for the news on Doordarshan especially Kannada and Marathi channels to catch a glimpse of his 'last' appearance. Then, listened to the albums that I usually hear in the morning. Then, quickly put together all the cassettes and CDs to 'secure' the precious memories. Then, listened to Babul mora naihar chooto jaye and with a heavy heart watched the opening sequence of the popular mile sur mera tumhara... that was being beamed on all TV channels.

Today this voice is silenced! But it will continue to live for ever, as long as there are believers on the earth, for art is immortal and so is faith. Panditji, I shall remain grateful that you are a part of my life!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Songs on the theme of maajhi - a thing of the past?

Let me admit once again, I'm a diehard fan of old Hindi movie songs and I shall remain so forever - seeking refuge in them in my highs and lows. While the lyrics guide and advise me, the music soothes me and the voice of the singer takes me to a different level! And what if the actor is my favorite - then I transcend into a different world. On one such late evening, I happened to listen to some songs - coincidentally some of them had references to maajhi, the symbolic saviour in most of the Hindi songs. I felt like recollecting all the songs I know with this theme and here they are. I hope you enjoy listening and viewing them as much as I did.

O re maajhi...mere saajan hai us paar... it is one of the classsics from S.D. Burman (from the movie Bandini) that set me thinking about the beautiful compositions on maajhi – the boatsman or yachtsman who sails a boat. The river flows steadily and the tranquil waves add to the mystical quality of this scene. The maajhi is the quintessential bard who sings eternal truths, sends inspirational messages and helps us cross the hurdles. Most maajhi songs are based in Bengali ethos, with remakes of popular Bangla folk songs.
Let’s take the song, Maajhi naiya dhoonde kinara, from the movie Uphaar.
Interestingly, like we see in this song, maajhi is rarely the protagonist in the movie or a participant in the events, he’s usually an objective onlooker, plays a crucial role when the male or female protagonist is caught in some problem. The songs indirectly express the thought processes of the protagonist rather impersonally giving advice, sharing knowledge on the significance of the event or the critical moment in their journey.
The song O maajhi re...apna kinaara nadiya ke dhaara hai from the movie (Khushboo, music R D Burman, lyrics Gulzar) is profoundly reflective in mood. The symbolism is obvious where life is compared to a journey in a boat - we neet to sail through it smoothly, reach the other end and not get caught midstream. Majhi ensures that the boat reaches safely and it is not left midstream or majhdhaar.
In songs like O maajhi chal... (from the movie Aaya Sawan Jhoom Ke.. sung by Mohd.Rafi  - lyrics by Anand Bakshi  and music by Lakshmikanth Pyarelal)  and Nadiya chale chale re dhaara  (from the movie Safar) we get to see the motivational aspects of a journey in a boat, the river that flows, the metaphor of waves, the undulating moments of life and so on.

Door hai kinara (from the movie Saudagar sung by Manna Dey, music and lyrics by Ravindra Jain) is about the difficult times in one’s life and how one should face them. How we should have a balanced outlook and carry on or even have a never-say-die attitude.
Though Chingari koi bhadke, to saawan use bujhaaye (from the movie Amar Prem) is not directly addressed to the maajhi the beautiful picturization of this song lends it a distinct identity.  The lyrics bring out several ironies of life as we can see in these lines Majdhaar mein naiyyaa doobe, to majhee paar lagaaye, maajhee jo naaw duboye use kaun bachaaye? And we start questionning on the same lines! The impact of the lyrics is hypnotic when they are sung by Kishore Kumar, Mukesh and Manna Dey.
 In fact, most of the maajhi songs evoke a benign feeling, almost equating the role of the ordinary boatsman to the role of the almighty in guiding, steering, leading and saving us from trouble.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


This was my third rajyotsava (state formation day) in Karnataka in the last four years. It was my niece Maansi’s birthday in the last week of October.  Bangalore was chill with continuous drizzle and fog all over because of the cyclonic weather.  We packed our bags and started for Mysore without any clear itinerary. On top of our mind was the Mysore Palace which we wanted to Shreya to see, since she is reading about the kings in her history classes. The palace was extremely crowded with the post-Dussera vacation and tourists. Hence we decided to skip it. Instead, we moved on to the Karanji lake and spent some time watching the birds.

The evening was spent at Chittaranjan Palace Hotel (The Green Hotel). The gardens were tastefully lit up and everywhere we could smell the sweet scented flowers. Our over night stay at this hotel was pleasant and enjoyable.  The morning was spent photographing the colourful flowers – the end-of-the-season Zinnias , bright red Exoras and lillies were a sight to behold! The rooms were nice and cozy and decorated with ethnic paintings.
Next morning we drove to Nagarhole National Park. The refreshing drive amidst the green forest led us to a resort amidst coffee plantations in Coorg region. But we did not plan to stay at the resort so did not bother about accommodation. The sad part of the trip was there was no good eatery anywhere close to the park! We managed to get some rice and rotis at a small joint. We returned to the park in the afternoon for a safari ride and what a ride it was! The rickety bus was not only noisy but also gave us the experience of a jungle roller coaster, rattling all the way. Just imagine, with so much noise which animal would dare to come close and give us its ‘darshan’. The park seemed more like a deer park with hundreds of them all around. We did not get to spot many animals. Perhaps, if we entered the park from the Kabini, the experience would have been a better one.

A visit to Pochampally village

Pochampally is the land of exotic  Ikkat weaves and the historic Bhudaan movement.  This was an unplanned long drive with family on a Sunday. My Alto must have felt good to cross the city limits and feel the freshness of nature as we touched the highways. Pochampally is 50 kms from Hyderabad; driving on the busy Vijayawada highway was quite a thrill! The village is surrounded by scenic hills lending it a picturesque look.
As we entered the village, I felt excited about  meeting some weavers and spending some time with them. I drove past the narrow lanes of their colonies and found that almost all the houses were locked.  Then we got to know that they had come to the city since it was a Sunday. So we couldn’t meet any of them. Then we headed towards the APTDC guest house and found that the staff was ill-equipped with information about the place. In fact, the entire guest house and museum complex was deserted. However, we caught a glimpse of the lake while driving; the lake didn’t seem to have been maintained properly.
Later, we wanted to try our luck with the Handloom park. Even the park was closed. The security person told us that the best time to visit Pochampally is on a week-day! Added to these disappointments, we could not find any good eatery on the main road. So we ended up buying some stuff from a ‘mithai bhandar’ for the return to the city.
The trip would not have been so bad if the government's initiatives were well-thought out to promote eco-tourism on weekends too! Pochampally has tremendous potential for eco-tourism, hope it is optimized well for creating awareness about our weavers.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pigeons – pests? nightmare?
Forget about all the romantic associations with this winged creature. Songs like kabutar jaa, jaa or the more recent masakali, masakali… must be for people who haven’t seen what a pain these apparently innocuous birds can actually be. Over the past one year or so, the open spaces between our flats have become home for these pests. I never imagined that the design of our flats (with no common walls) could actually land us in trouble with several birds perched on the most unimaginable spots – windowsills, drain pipes, balconies, AC units. 

Because of this menace, my flat is deprived of good ventilation. The doors and windows need to be closed all the time because leaving them open would mean inviting them to create more nuisance and dirty the place. The only way to keep away these birds would be covering the balconies with a mesh. And I don’t think I accept this as the solution, perhaps when all else fails, I might consider meshing it up.

But till then, I wanted to try other ways to shoo them away. Once I saw a note put up on the notice board of our apartments. It suggested a natural and harmless way of keeping away the pigeons. The idea was to keep some chillies, pepper and cinnamon in a plate where the birds usually perch. I followed the instructions only to find that the next minute the plate in which I kept the stuff and its contents were thrown down promptly by the birds. Next, my domestic help told me that she would catch at least one of them and then take it far away and leave it there. I thought this was a rather hurtful method so did not encourage her. But, one day she actually caught one of them and put it in a bag and carried it away. Her idea was that this would make other get scared and stop them from entering our house. Sadly, this didn’t work either! Now what? The other day I had left the bedroom window open and went to have my bath. When I was came out I was taken aback…there was a pigeon pecking on the neatly ironed dress which was on the bed. And when they enter inside they can be anywhere – on the cupboard, on the fan, on the paintings – how menacing! what a nightmare!

I was reminded of the “Durbar Hall” of the Kothi Women’s College where I studied. It had hundreds of pigeons. During our exams the pigeons would become such a nuisance - it was common to see pigeons dirtying the exam papers and making us rewrite on a fresh page!
A visit to Ramoji Film City (RFC)
The first time I visited Ramoji Film City was in 2000 and now, my second visit was exactly after 10 years. This time I went with my team in the office. Last time I accompanied my relatives from Bangalore who were here for my brother’s wedding reception.
We had a pleasant ride in the Tata Winger hired for this trip – taking pictures and having fun, good occasion for team bonding. The Vijayawada highway is one of the busy roads, especially with several district buses entering and leaving the city. The picturesque location  where the largest film city in the world is located, is a sight to behold as you enter the hotel Sitara. We had booked the Sitara entire day package for our tour. It included the bus rides, lunch, fun and games and snacks.

RFC has several gardens based on themes that are landscaped and maintained to perfection…the replica of Moghul gardens, the Japanese gardens or the maze…There are caves, interesting ‘sculptures’, statuettes etc. These would form the natural setting for picturizing a typical Indian film song. The sets take you to a world of make-believe where every structure transforms itself into a ‘real’ building or a setting when the camera rolls and the director says “Action!” You have the college, the jail, the airport, the railway station and whatever is needed for the scene.
The “Movie Magic” was the best part of the tour. I liked it because it conveys in an interesting and simple way the complex process of movie making for a lay person. The demo includes a ‘live’ movie making with some volunteers who bring out the importance of different aspects like light, sound, editing, sound mixing in making a movie. It is also like paying a tribute to those thousands who work behind the scenes while the main actors enjoy the stardom as it were. Once the movie process is demystified, you have a display of stunts performed by professionals.
Other attractions include the 4D theatre, the scary house, the fun and rides for kids etc. If you are lucky you may catch a glimpse of your favourite star in the shoot. 
The mirror as seen in some Hindi movie songs
I felt like keying down some random notes, when I thought over the imagery of mirror or aaina in some memorable songs. Often seen as a metaphor for reflection, I guess there may be many songs that refer to the many facets of aaina - existential and philosophical - literal and figurative. Here are some I could think of:
Kyaa koi nai baat nazar aati hai hum mein
Aainaa hamen dekh ke hairaan saa kyon hai
(Last two lines from the song "Seene mein jalan aakhon mein toofan sa kyon hai...")
From the movie: Gaman ( lyrics- Sharyar, music - Jaidev, singer -Suresh Wadkar)
Such beautiful lyrics have become a thing of the past...Let me try translating them...Is there something new about me? The mirror and I - we both are the same, but why is it that the mirror is surprised looking at me? Some lyrical compositions, like this one, are difficult to translate as they do not retain the essence of the original, lose the magic. Perhaps, the newness in me is because of the way I look today. But, I couldn't have changed so much that the mirror finds me so very different. Now, lyrics from another song:
Aaina wohi reheta hai Chehere badal jaate hain
Aakhon mein rukte nahin jo aansoo nikal jaate hain
From the movie: Shalimar
How true! The mirror remains the same, and we change - mind, body and soul. We really change or we wear masks - a mask for every occasion. I looked back and pondered, "how often do I look into the mirror? how much time do I spend in front of the mirror?" Not more than few seconds in a day! In fact, the only time I get to see myself in the mirror is when I'm in the lift of my apartment that has mirrors on three sides. 
Does the mirror remember I how used to look earlier? Then why does it ask me for my 'previous' face as described beautifully in the lyrics below:
Aaina mujhse meri peheli si surat maange
Mere apne mere hone ki nishani maange
From the movie: Daddy (Singer- Talat Aziz)
Is that the reason my mirror finds something strange in me. It has seen me grow up and seen me go through changes at various stages of my life. Why does the mirror feel startled looking at me? Certainly not because of the way I look! For, I've looked more or less the same always. Is it because of my expression? Is it because of the things I've forgotten? Is it because of the things I remember? Which previous 'image' of mine is the mirror trying to match? How does the mirror remember so many of my them?
Isn't mirror a chronicler of  life - imprinting all the events as it were!