Saturday, November 28, 2015

Is there a way to save the vanishing lakes in Hyderabad and Secunderabad?

The other day, when I was at the billing counter of the supermarket waiting in a rather long queue, I overheard something strange and kind of alarming. This guy on phone was apparently a new entrant to Hyderabad and was very excited and loudly describing his new beautiful flat, location, facilities etc. It kind of struck me when he was telling the person on the other side that he’s happy that there are no heavy rains in Hyderabad since he heard that his colony gets affected as it adjoins a lake, and by all accounts, his must be one of those ‘lake-view’ apartments encroaching the lake…My guess was perhaps he was talking to someone in Chennai and the havoc caused by recent rains. Yes, everybody has their problems and perceptions, I told myself and moved on carrying the shopping bags to the parking area, but how can one wish away rains? 

Ok, even if it rains copiously, will these lakes get saved? What about the promises of tourism department, the civic bodies; what about the concerns raised by environmentalists? How can we save the remaining water bodies from drying up completely and getting exploited for various commerical reasons? Is there a way to stop the toxicity and pollution? What is stopping people from acting on the plans and proposals - like the ones listed below? 

Just a day before, the Times of India carried an interesting story on the lakes in Hyderabad and Secunderabad and the sordid state of affairs that brought these lakes to the present predicament.  The way the lakes are getting denuded by the way and becoming sewage tanks and dumping yards is the way the city has grown unplanned and unorganized, not being able to protect the gifts of nature.

The lake I drive by everyday, is one such victim and I wonder why it can’t adopted or cared for by  large corporate houses or the Rahejas, or the ILabs or the upcoming ITC 5-star hotel. How else can such lakes be revived as restored? At least the stories about Durgam Cheruvu that come in media are at best, giving all hope!

The topography of Durgam Cheruvu is interestingly carved out and one wonders  how little time it took for this beautiful and scenic surroundings to degenerate into a cesspool!  The once-beautiful lake is surrounded by rocks, residential complexes, independent houses, software MNCs, restaurants, a soon-to-be-coming-up ITC 5star hotel, a huge big mall and of course a sewage treatment plant. It is the same story with other lakes like Malkam Cheruvu in Raidurg and Amber Cheruvu in Pragathi Nagar and many others.

Here’s a quick recap of local and national news with some highlights about plans, promises and the resultant predicament, particularly for Durgam Cheruvu:

Encroachments  and the threat to the rockscape

Making it pollution free

Plan for suspension bridge and rope way that never took off

Grants, funds and hidden reasons for not implementing the plans

I may be concerned about Durgam Cheruvu because of my long association with this area but I'm equally concerned about the plight of other lakes in the twin cities.

Picture courtesy: Times of India article on 26th November 2015

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Mindful moments with the Moon

“Nice picture, how bright it looks… looks like they are celebrating Diwali on the Moon” when my maid said this on seeing the pictures of yesterday’s Moon, I burst out laughing but admired her creative interpretation. What an imaginative way to appreciate this natural phenomenon!  Wonder, how much we lose by not valuing the simple and the natural - the Sun, the Moon, the stars, the skies...
Glimpses of the Moon
As much as possible, I try to squeeze in at least half an hour, either early morning or in the evening, watching and observing things around me.  And, this is the best time of the day for me just doing nothing but trying to see something special in the most ordinary and mundane! Just listening to the birds chirping or watching the sun rise or gazing at the stars, the skyscapes or the Moon. May be it’s got to do with my sun sign,  the moments spent with the moon are absolutely mindful and give that inner peace which is difficult to find by doing anything else. As they say Librans and the Moon have a special connection :)

And when it’s the full Moon, the celestial sight is simply mindblowing with the aura created by the peace and calm surrounding this beautiful natural event. And yesterday it was a special full moon, a significant day in Hindu calendar with festivities surrounding the Sharad Purnima. This also marks the beginning Autumn-Winter phase and the moon is at his brightest best! Perhaps this was the biggest after the recent Supermoon.

Just watching the Moon or walking along can do wonders, remember like how we used to do such 'silly' things in our childhood – watching the moon moving along with us while we see it from a moving train or just running along while playing with other kids in the night. It’s not just refreshing those memories but re-living such simple joys that’s the real stress buster. 

Last evening, I managed to spend some time after a hectic and tiring day and believe me, those moments were so soothing and reassuring like a tranquilizer shot for the mind and body. There’s nothing extraordinary about it – the very fact of being one with nature connects us with ourselves and helps in clearing the clutter that we accumulate from the daily grind, sorry if I'm sounding unintentionally preachy.  

And I wanted to catch few glimpses of the moon after he traversed to the other side, that journey throughout the night, while I was sleeping. The early morning Moon was shining like a setting Sun, bright and glowing with an understated halo spreading amber and cheer to early risers. And as the Moon began to fade into the light blue skies in the morning, it left me with a feeling of wellness and vigor to start the day afresh, spend it mindfully and meaningfully, getting the best out of me!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

When movies were like poems: Remembering Gurudutt on his 51st death anniversary

If Gurudutt were alive today, he would have been ninety, probably he would have been like Dilip Kumar and other veterans in their 90s - the living legends of cinema that celebrated finer aspects of being human. My love for some of his movies is like an addiction that you acquire in your growing up years, when you start to question and understand people, relationships and life in general.

We are born sensitive; it is the process of living that makes us insensitive, tough and callous. Some remain sensitive and go through the angst till they leave this world and leave behind a legacy that reflects their perception of the ways of the world. And when such a legacy happens to be through the medium of movies, we are enriched to have it in our cultural repertoire for generations to experience the art and celebrate the artist, the director, the cinematographer, the music composer, the actors and so on.

Some people come into our lives through their movies and leave that long-lasting impact, which transforms the way we relate to people and things. Their stories influence us; they change us and make us think. For them movies become an extension of their being. It is like a pristine canvas that waited to be filled with colours –  in black and white. It was almost like seeing the world in these colours devoid of accepting the shades of greyness in between. It is like perceiving the world in symbols, images and little fragments of poems.

What if the stories raised disturbing questions about humanity, about relationships, about ideology? This was when movies were pure and from the heart. I’m not sure if the concept of box office collections even bothered such people. Wonder how much they cared for fame, recognition and all that. Their movies didn’t need aggressive promotion; they just grew on you.
Sad, such a person left this world at a young age. The stories he told were way beyond his times like the character of Vijay in Pyaasa. The intensity with which he felt emotionally could be seen and felt vicariously like in the song jaane woh kaise log the jinke pyaar to pyaar mila...

It must have been his empathy and sincere identification with the characters, this was why his Pyaasa and Kagaz ke Phool did to movies what none of his contemporaries would do. Even today when I watch the song yeh duniya mujhe mil bhi jaaye to kya hai… I can identify and feel for the artist and his uneasiness, the character who was a misfit in the materialistic world. When I watch waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam…I’m spellbound by the ethereal beauty of the song and the story it tells, not forgetting the visual effects that transport you into the world of the character.

Reading about him is like reading about someone who tried hard adjusting to the social truths and hypocrisies. Watching his movies feels like we enter the mind and makings of a person who wants to say so many things…someone who is a thinker, doer, visionary, but not an anti-hero like in Albert Camus’ Etranger. I can’t even imagine how Vijay from Pyaasa could be recreated if the movie were to be made in today’s world where movies are less and less about art and more and more about anything other than art.
As values like simplicity, sensitivity and fellow-feeling get more and more devalued and depleted, with every passing year, this person and his stories will become more and more reflective of the times, the culture and the social fabric. Of course, his life may not be an ideal one for people to follow, but his death does make us think about the tragic end he inflicted on himself.
So true... sounds so much like a premonition and so imminent, dekhi zamaane ki yaari, bichhde sabhi baari baari...matlab ki duniya hai saari...

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Handwriting in the time of keypads and keyboards

Where is the handwriting we’ve lost in digital world populated with Arial, Times New Roman, Helvetica, Trebuchet and other fonts? Where are those pearly letters that strung words into sentences? What happened to the ubiquitous cursive style that was synonymous with good handwriting? As fountain pens gave way to ballpoint pens and gel pens, did it also impact the amount and quality of writing we do with our hands? How quickly we’ve adapted ourselves to digital screens and have lost our love for the paper and the book! It’s not without apology that I regret losing my habit of writing with a pen or pencil, carefully creating those letters, those little strokes that added aesthetic value. And of course, the joy of getting appreciated for beautiful handwriting. Of late, I notice how illegible my words become, how impatient it feels to really write something other than filling forms! Isn’t handwriting really at crossroads?

I couldn’t help going back to my school and college days, how meticulously we used to write our notes – that was when there were no short cuts to language and writing, forget about how we’ve dwarfed our words for texting to suit various digital messaging formats. And we’ve got swept away with the ease and convenience of keyboards and keypads, compromising the personal with the impersonal, defying our individual identities with uniform fonts and their impeccable appearance.

You might wonder, where is the need to trouble ourselves with pen and paper in the digital world. Especially, when we are talking about ecofriendly institutions and workplaces where we keep printing to the minimum. This certainly is the need of the hour, but how do we account for the loss of a skill that is identified with basic literacy. How do we keep this skill alive and make sure that it’s practiced and used consciously in our work life.

I perceive another psychological problem with this trend: look at the way our mind coordinates with the keyboard and compare it with the way we think when we write with our hand. I always felt the difference when I write directly on my mobile phone or my laptop as against making notes on paper or notepad and transfer them on to the screen for further expansion of my ideas. Though I’m unable to put this experience in words it’d great to study this difference and understand how the medium of writing affects our thought processes or vice versa.

Wondering what prompted this sudden concern of handwriting in me? Well, I do think back and feel sad about how much my handwriting has suffered with lack of practice, how illegible and unpresentable it looks. But, yesterday, when I had to make some quick notes from a book, instead of writing down the points or even keying them I ended up taking a picture of the paragraph on my mobile phone as I was in a hurry. Resorting to such quick and easy way of doing things makes me apprehensive about how digital technologies and handheld devices pose a threat to our creative skills, handwriting included.

Perhaps, this trend is inevitable as one treads through various stages of evolution with writing as a form of communication and handwriting as a form of creative expression!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

When the sting is sharper than its pungency: 6 surefire ways to avert onion crisis in future

Forget the stock markets crashing, forget the Yuan devaluing, there's something more critical that needs our immediate attention! Yes, it’s the humble onions again that share the same volatile space with the Sensex and Nifty. This peculiar seasonal crisis affects the aam admi and the khaas admi alike. While chefs in the restaurant must be thinking of new ideas to manage the supply of onions, the roadside fast food and tiffin joints are wondering how to cope with this catastrophe. The aam janta is getting inked like we do in elections!

 If the trend continues, soon you’ll refer to your dear one as the ‘onion of your eye’ than the apple of your eyes and you might end up gifting bags of onions to your friends on special occasions! Can you imagine how it feels when your favorites like Masala Dosa , Sambar, or Ragda Chat, Raita, Green Salad and Pakodas will be compromised for some unlikely substitutes like cabbages? I fail to understand how cabbages can come anywhere close to onions in taste and texture, other than peeling the layers and the Sulphur content.

The situation seems to be really grave with the government intervening with different steps to control hoarding, stealing and other unfair ways.  So, now onions are also linked with Aadhar and what’s even surprising is the use of indelible ink to avoid any foul play.  How about some tips to combat the crisis and make sure that our precious tears are reserved for something better than onions!

Declare onion as the national vegetable of India: This should happen soon since no other vegetable qualifies for this title other than onions. Well, potatoes may come as a close second though. Onions unite the vegetarians and the non-vegetarians across the length and breadth of India, being the common ingredient in most of our dishes.

Bring your own onions: The fast food vendors, especially the chaat bhandar types, can insist on the customers to bring their own onions to avoid any compromises on taste and confrontations on price. However weird and debatable this may sound.

Reserve and preserve:  True, this indispensable vegetable is unique and doesn’t lend itself to many forms of preservation other than paste and powder. And sadly for Indian cuisine we mostly depend on fresh onions by chopping, cutting, slicing, sautéing and so on…So, we need some innovative ways of processing this kitchen staple.

Go Satvik for a while: Whether you believe in Ayurveda or not, there’s no harm in trying Satvik way to food. This no onion-no garlic diet may introduce us to new ways of appreciating vegetarian way of life before getting back to the Tamasic diet.

Grow your own onions: Since onions grow very well in pots, how about some planned cultivation in your backyard or balcony? Imagine how de-stressing gardening can be, and the bonus of harvesting some organic onions and spring onions too!

Onion insurance for farmers and traders: What better way than insuring against natural calamities, crop failure, and burglary of onions like it recently happened in Nashik, when 2000 kilograms of onions were stolen from a storage facility.

Importing onions, keeping a tab on the produce, rationing, controlling price etc are all the typical ways to resolve seasonal crisis and defusing panic. The tips mentioned above will definitely restore the smile on the face of the cook, the chef and the connoisseur who have always taken onions for granted.

Thanks Sujay Midde for the crowned onions pic :)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sholay and more: A musical tribute to 20 Bollywood movies turning 40 this year

Apart from Sholay and Deewar, there are several other movies that turn 40 this year! Let's go retro and rewind to 1975. That was when we had jubilee hits with stories, songs, actors, actresses, directors, music composers, lyricists, back stage artists coming together to create magic on silver screen. Unlike today’s race for fastest 100 crores or 500 crores in multiplexes and single screens, back then, the commercial aspects of box office must have been a different story altogether. Today, I can only imagine how terrific it must've been to be a movie buff in that age, it must've been like a canvas filled with different colours - romance, crime thrillers, comedy, social drama, devotional stories and so on! 5 releases of Amitabh Bachchan, 3 of Gulzar... In fact, the emotional side of these movies seem to complement each other, than competing!
Collage made with pictures from the Web
It was a golden year for the trio RD Burman-Gulzar-Kishore Kumar (and Asha Bhosle) with Shailendra Singh and Bhupinder finding their niche with unique renditions! The year also had some soul stirring lyrics, beautifully woven into the screenplay. The Salil Chaudhury song Na jaane kyon hota hai zindagi ke saath and Aaye tum yaad mujhe gaane lagi har dhadkan by S D Burman and Ek din bik jaayega mati ke mol by R D Burman are iconic of the times. Apart from Sholay other movies that were hits (huge and moderate hits, may be) were: Chupke Chupke, Deewar, Aandhi, Dharam Karam, Julie, Sanyasi, Mili,  Amanush, Jai Santoshi Maa, Choti si baat, Khushboo, Rafoo Chakkar, Mausam, Khel kel mein, Nishant, Kala sona, Geet Gata Chal, Faraar, Zameer. Let's reconstruct the year and go back in time to feel how it must have been!
Sholay, a landmark movie with so many legendary things about it. This multi starrer is ever green for its story, characters, screenplay and dialogues serving as a school for aspiring film makers. The song I like most from this movie:

Deewar by Yash Chopra had story and dialogues that will be remembered for ever. The dramatic clash between two brothers is epitomized in the immortal dialogues like tum sign karoge ya nahin... It was another hit from Salim-Javed that brought the best out of Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor. I love the song maine tujhe maanga tujhe paaya hai
Chupke Chupke, a multi starrer, gave us a classic comedy, directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. Some of the most memorable scenes from this movie were between Dharmendra and Om Prakash. Though the title song is always refreshing to listen to, enjoy ab ke sajan sawan mein for the way it was picturized on Dharmendra and Sharmila Tagore.
Aandhi, the political drama had the best of Gulzar, Sanjeev Kumar, RD Burman and Kishore Kumar. This combo might have done several other movie but nothing can beat the soulful duets with Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar. Here's Tere bina zindagi se shikva...

Mausam by Gulzar, had Sanjeev Kumar and Sharmila Tagore (in double role). This dramatic love story was aptly complemented with incomparable music. The magical voice of Bhupinder made Dil dhoondta hai an all time classic.

Mili by Hrishi Da had Big B, Jaya Bachchan and Ashok Kumar. Music was exceptional as it captured the angst of the character and conveyed some eternal things about life and living balanced with a delicate romantic angle. I can listen to this song for ever: Aaye tum yaad mujhe gaane lagi har dhadkan
Rafoo Chakkar and Khel Kehl Mein had Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh in lead roles. The young and peppy songs from these movies are landmarks in the singing career of Shailendra Singh. Tumko mere dil ne pukara hai
Humne tum ko dekha from Khel Khel mein
Julie starring Lakshmi and Vikram with award winning music by Rajesh Roshan, Other than evergreen numbers like Bhool gaya sab kuch, Dil kya kare jab kisise kisi ko pyaar ho jaaye  it had one of the first songs in English. Here’s My heart is beating by Preeti Sagar.
Choti Si Baat by Basu Chatterjee had most memorable music with golden hits like Jaaneman jaaneman...  Music by Salil Da was as refreshing as his lasting melodies in earlier movie Rajnigandha. This social comedy starred Amol Palekar, Vidya Sinha and Ashok Kumar. My favorite song from the movie is Na jaane kyon hota hai yeh zindagi ke saath
Geet Gaata Chal, from Rajshri Productions, another blockbuster musical with songs rooted in social realities, written and composed by Ravindra Jain. It had Sachin, Sarika in lead roles. Who can forget the beautiful Shyam teri bansi pukaare Radha naam.

Nishant, based on sexual exploitation of women, with a story based in feudal India had all the big names: Vijay Tendulkar, Satyadev Dubey, Smita Patil, Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah. Directed by Shyam Benegal, this was won several national and international awards and had lilting music by Vanraj Bhatia. My favourite song is by Preeti Sagar:

Amanush, a Shakti Samanta movie had Sharmila Tagore and Uttam Kumar in lead roles. Originally in Bengali, the film was made in many other languages. Listen to the beautiful lyrics ....Saagar kitna mere paas hai, mere jeevan men phir bhi pyaas hai.

Jai Santoshi Maa was one of the blockbusters with devotional songs, based on the story of the goddess of satisfaction. With lyrics by Kavi Pradeep, it has super hit devotional numbers by Usha Mangeshkar and Mahendra Kapoor.

 Zameer from B. R. Chopra films was another box office hit for the Big B. It had Another Kishore Kumar super hit: Tum bhi chalo hum bhi chale chalti rahe zindagi
Khushboo was the third release for Gulzar in the same year with Jeetendra and Hema Malini in lead roles. If it had a peppy song like Bechara dil kya kare, it also had a serious number like O majhi re, apna kinara to nadiya ke dhaara hai, with the magic of RD, Gulzar and Kishore Kumar doing the magic again!
Faraar, another Big B film was a crime drama. It had Sharmila Tagore and Sanjeev Kumar as well. I like the song Main pyaasa tum saavan
Kala Sona was an action thriller with stars like Feroz Khan and Parveen Babi. The song Sun sun kasam se, raha jaaye na hum se by Shailendra Singh was hugely popular, adding another feather to RD Burman’s cap!
Dharam karam was produced by Raj Kapoor. This father-son story had one of the greatest hit songs of RK. The movie might not have been a great hit but the song Ek din bik jaayega maati ke mol, jag me rehe jaayenge pyaare tere bol..will be remembered by generations to come:
Warrant was a Dev Anand starrer with Zeenat Aman and Pran. The movie has a popular number from RD Burman and Kishore Kumar: Ruk jaana o jaana humse do baatein
*This blog is based on information from the Internet, particularly Wikipedia. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of information in terms of release date of movies.