Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bombay Readmeet-May 07


Bombay Readmeet-May 07
Originally uploaded by soney
Reading my short story "The Girl Who Fell in Love with Shahrukh Khan" at the May readmeet of

An Email that Landed in My Inbox!

This email landed in my inbox by some fluke. I couldn't resist the itch to correct it and post it here.

Hi!

how'r u n wat hv u been upto? did u hear about the class 12 results?
i'm scared pissin in my pants...how do ppl get such phenomenal results
aaarghh??? esp commerce n they'l all apply 4 eco....

jatin gave me ur email address n well i have to ask a favour of u
which he cudnt do cos his email's screwed...
u remember those files we saved on jatin's thumb drive? if u
still ahve them could u attach n send them to me?? i don't have them n
haven't gone over them...i'm pretty screwed if i
don't get thru eco n don't read em :(
btw i already hv ajp # 15...

i understand if you can't...perfectly cool :)
do tell me how u r, k?
take care, enjoy your hols n stay in touch!

Shruti

how'r [How are] u [you] n[and] wat [what]hv [have]u [you]been upto? did [Did]u [you]hear about the class 12 results?
i'm [I am]scared pissin [pissing]in my pants...how do ppl [people]get such phenomenal results
aaarghh??? esp [especially]commerce n they'l [they will]all apply 4 eco.... [economics]

jitin [Jitin]gave me ur [your]email address n well i [I]have to ask a favour of u[you]
which he cudnt [couldn’t]do cos [because]his email's screwed... [unlady like, dear you lady]
u [you]remember those files we saved on jitin's [Jitin] thumb drive? if [If]u[you]
still ahve [have]them could u attach n [and]send them to me?? i [I]don't have them n[and]
haven't gone over them...i'm [I am]pretty screwed if i[I]
don't get thru eco n don't read em [them]:(
btw [By the way]i [I]already hv [have]ajp [what’s that?]# 15...

i [I]understand if you can't...perfectly cool :)
do tell me how u [you]r[are], k[okay]?
take care, enjoy your hols [holidays]n [and]stay in touch!

Shruti[I am glad she could, at least, spell her name properly]

152 words [42 mistakes]

If this is the way the generation of today writes English, ah, well, I would be darned! Or, is it a new language being evolved? Can't say it is. But who knows!

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Too F****d Up to Say Sorry?

Where are people’s manners? Yesterday I was standing in a train compartment on the way home and reading Suketu Mehta’s “Maximum City” (of which I am planning to write a review, so watch this, hm, hallowed space).

Usually the train is very crowded and I rarely get space enough to hold a book, let alone read it. If I read, I have to have my eyes close to it, as if I am myopic or something. But today it isn’t packed like sardine boxes, so I am a bit adventurous holding a book and reading as I am lurching along.

So, where was I?

Yes, I was reading “Maximum City” and this man knocks on me bodily and the book goes sprawling, pages fluttering. I look at him. He looks at me, spoiling for a fight; I can see the veins on his temples throb.

But he doesn’t apologize, which would have been the simplest, easiest, gracious, and decent thing to do.

I stare at him some more, hoping against hope that he would, at least, muster up some courage to say sorry.

No he doesn’t. He is preparing himself for battle, unsheathing his sword. I can imagine his lame excuses.

“I didn’t do anything, the train did it.”

“Why are you reading a book in this crowded compartment? You have no right to.”

“I am always right and you are wrong.”

“You think I will apologize to a you? Hah!”

God! What have we come to? Are we such a crude and bestial people that we can’t bring ourselves to do a common courtesy as saying sorry? A few nice words were all I wanted, to get over it, consign it to the past. When it didn’t come, I was simmering inside without knowing it.

Ah, well, thus marches the merry caravan of life!

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Words of an Author: Novelist Brenda Novak Says: Believe

Kelly Parra writes this engaging blog called Words of an Author which features interviews writers. The latest interview is with Brenda Novak who manages a house, five children and has managed to churn out thirty-one romance and romantic suspense novels. What's your secret Brenda Novak?

The secret: believe. To quote her:

"If you truly believe in yourself and your talent, you will be motivated to actually sit down and write the book instead of only dreaming about it. You will be driven to seek out any help you may need (research or craft-related) to make it the best you can create. You will follow-through with marketing, and you won’t give up if you don’t sell immediately. Belief drives the entire engine--even through the rough spots."
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Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Shakespearean Report - Akira Yamashita

Now, this is a ritual members of Shakespeare and Co, is familiar with. Those who aren't do peruse the following for the incidental merriment, it might provoke.

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My friend Akira Yamashita who was present at the Shakespearean Round Table Meet at Tea Centre on 19/5/2007 has requested me to post this report of the proceedings. Akira is taking a short break from Shakespeare and Co. at the Mount Fuji retreat of his uncle, Morita.

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Report of Shakespearean round table meet in Bombay on 19/5/2007.

- By Akira Yamashita, chairman

I write this report on the request of my good and trusted friend John Matthew. I had great pleasure chairing the meeting of the august company of writers that is the Bombay chapter of Shakespeare and Co. So, herewith is my report, for your reading pleasure, and, maybe, merriment.

The harsh summer sun plays on the leaves of the trees in Bombay University’s compound, and the roads have the element of summer written all over it as I lug my cloth bag and wend my way towards Tea Center, where the august assembly of Indian writers is to take place. I am all humbleness before these writers who have much more talent than I. In all meekness I accept that I am not worthy of chairing such exalted gathering of writers. I have never chaired a meeting in my life back in Nagasaki. But when John Matthew-san is so persuasive I cannot but oblige.

The great writer Maya-san, she of the writerly angst and animated expressions, calls me to say she is sick, and therefore asks for leave of absence. I grant it forthwith. When I reach Tea Center, John-san, early as usual, is waiting for me clutching a Diesel handbag which I immediately recognize as fake. They are made in China, John-san.

I bow to John-san who bows in return. John-san and I have one thing in common which is our bald heads, shiny with the sweat of the summer afternoon that continues to simmer. I look at John-san, our eyes meet after our bows are complete, and realize that our friendship has grown in spite of the various spats we have had on the board of Shakespeare and Co. I offer my profound apologies for criticizing his poems as tasteless and insipid, which he gracefully accepts, reasonable man that he is. His creased forehead shows he is vexed by several pressing problems which we discuss, before the other members of the august association arrive.

Then I espy Anil Siqueira, in characteristic printed tee-shirt and an air of distraction about him. Anil-san was John-san’s boss in a previous corporate incarnation. We bow and greet each other. Meanwhile Pushpa Moorjani, a regular at Shakespeareans’ meetings arrives and we decide to go in and occupy a table in Tea Center which is filling up fast with people. The Saturday crowd is similar to the one when I had given Shakespeareans a tea ceremony some days ago. There is a balding man and a rather buxom and attractive lady in a corner, engaged in what I could deduce must be clandestine talk. I let them be. But I keep a watchful eye on them. After all, I am interested in Indian courtship rituals. It will be useful when I am searching for the perfect “Mami” to cook “Rasam” for me.

C Ravishankar, who in the meanwhile, is having a masala dosa somewhere nearby bustles in. He is wearing a black shirt. I bow to this man who is unleashing his talent on SandC like a Japanese tornado. Why, he even takes his laptop to bed, poor chap. I admire him and his poetic talent, which might run deep, though by profession he is a management consultant.

Pushpa Moorjani has written a poem about that day’s bomb explosion, which appeared prominently in the papers. I am amazed by the woman’s presence of mind. Well, she must be admired for having written a poem so soon about an event that happened that very day. The poem is titled “Hyderabad Blues” a link to which is appended below.

Pushpa-san follows it up with “Charminar” which is, as you have guessed, about Hyderabad. I am totally charmed by this lady’s prowess with words. I execute a deep bow, and invite her to drink the tea that is served by the waiter dressed in green livery. His ample paunch is proof that Tea Center is generous to its employees. The couple in the corner have not made much progress. This frustrates me a bit, but I carry on chairing the meeting nevertheless.

And right when things are getting a bit cool, and conversation is faltering, I see Jane Bhandari escorted by a dashing gentleman by the name Lt. Col. (Dr.) KK Puri whom I will call Puri-san. John-san tells me that Puri-san is the son of the former-movie-hero-turned-villain of Bollywood cinema -- Madan Puri.

Puri-san is a poet too, and in his clear diction reads his poems. Bye the bye it is turning out to be quite a poetry evening, I observe. His poems are “Who Do I Mourn for” written to his beloved wife who passed away three years back; another poem full of mischief titled, “On Sundari’s Paunch” dedicated to his daughter; and finally, “To My Father” for the above mentioned Madan Puri. His father who used to inspire awe and fear in John-san (in movies like Roti, Kapda aur Makan) was, according to his son, quite a pleasant and lovable chap.

Jane-san reads us poems “On Moving Day” and “Night Trains in Matunga,” which carry her stamp of primness and precision. “Night Trains…” is part of a collection she is working on about living in the big, bad city of Bombay -- the tragedies of which are too numerous to mention here. This lady too deserves my utmost reverence and adulation for her poetic skills.

I look at the couple in the corner. Well some progress has been made and they are canoodling, their hands hovering over each other in unconcealed passion. Oh, the sweetness of infatuation! Indians after all are the ones who taught us staid Japanese the art of making love. I must recommend the book Zen Sex (God, no, not Sensex!) to my worthy friends of Shakespeare and Co.

And then in breezes Yogesh Chabria, who narrates a very interesting story in the oral story telling tradition of Mukashibanashi. His story is about a railway tea vendor who, in the middle of the night shouts at a station, “Chayee, chay, drink the world’s worst tea.” Needless to add, people sit up in their bunk beds in the small hours of the morning to drink this man’s heavenly tea at Rupees fifteen a cup. That’s Indian ingenuity for you. I think there is a lesson for us Japanese in this. John-san says this is called “negative advertising” in advertising argot. I will put this idea to my friends Suzuki-san and Toyota-san.

Then the discussion veers to clichés and such like. Ravishankar-san wants to know what a “cliché” is and someone says “Raining cats and dogs” is a cliché. Siqueira-san immediately interjects, “When it rains cats and dogs, you step into a poodle.” Actually it is a “puddle” but I will give this learned gentleman, this Anil Siqueira, his due. The brilliance of his repartee has me astonished at the inventiveness of Indian writers of Shakespeare and Company.

I look at the couple in the dingy corner who get up to go, I don’t know where. By now they are cosying up to each other and are holding hands. I don’t know if the other Shakespeareans have noticed, but the night is still young for this “lovey-dovey” couple; (beg forgiveness for using the cliché), profound apologies.

Though myself, Akira-san, hasn’t been able to woo the perfect rasam-making, sitar-teaching south Indian mami, there is still hope. Bengaluru here I come, after reading all about Zen Sex on Mount Fuji.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Valleywag, Silicon Valley's Tech Gossip Rag

Valleywag.com is silicon valley's gossip rag. Clicking on this link-->Valleywag, Silicon Valley's Tech Gossip Rag will take you there. As the blurb says: "Valleywag is a tech gossip rag. You people in Silicon Valley are far too busy changing the world to care about sex, greed and hypocrisy. But if you ever need a break, come visit us at Valleywag."

Hm, uh, articles include charts like "Google's relentless rise" juicy bits about Sergey Brin (Google founder) and his wife Anne Wojcicki's bioinformatics startup "23 and Me." It happens to be a wedding present, an expensive one at $ 3.9 million. Wouldn't diamonds have looked better on Ms. Wojcicki, Mr. Brin?

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Bring Madeleine Home!


This is the official Madeleine McCann site, or, so I presume Bring Madeleine Home. Madeleine went missing from Praia Da Luz, Portugal, setting off efforts to track her and bring her back home. It has two official websites which is collecting funds for the effort. As the site says, "The balance on the fund account current stands at £184,152.66."

A lot of shady, fly by nighters have also joined in the search. They have floated sites that have similar names and are trying to garner funds. So beware!
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Monday, May 21, 2007

Tag: Books I have read, and, not read!

Geeta Jose Abraham (or, Geets in short) has tagged me with this meme and I am pleased to respond.

The Namesake - Jhumpa Lahiri (Oh, hum! Waded through the cute bits that paint stereotypes of Indians for a western audience.)
2. The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy (Like Arundhati’s power packed portrayal of Kerala.)
3. An Equal Music – Vikram Seth (Can’t say I liked it so much. But went along and finished the book. What I maintain is an Indian cannot get into the mind of an Englishman.)
4. The Vine of Desire – Chitra Divakaruni (Not read.)
5. Mulligatawny Soup – Manorama Mathai (Not read!)
6. The Burden of Foreknowledge – Jawahara Saidulla (Congratulations, Jawahara! You got published! Then I have hope! Will read your book.)
7. By the River Pampa I stood – Geeta Abraham Jose ( Geets, can I borrow a copy?)
8. My Story – Kamala Das (Not read.)
9. The Raj – Gita Mehta (not read.)
10. Circumferences – Suma Josson (Not read. Though, I hear Suma is a good writer.)
11. Mediocre but Arrogant – Abhijit Bhaduri (not read.)
12. The Enigma of Arrival – V.S.Naipaul (Loved Naipual’s description of English country. The enigma of landing in a strange country is appropriately documented!)
13. The Better Man – Anita Nair (Not read.)
14. Fault lines – Meena Alexander (Not read.)
15. The Inheritance of Loss – Kiran Desai (Like Kiran’s kinky sense of humor. But the book falters in parts.)
16. Fasting, Feasting – Anita Desai (Not read.)
17. Bookless in Baghdad – Shashi Tharoor (Not read.)
18. Train to Pakistan – Khushwant Singh (Not read.)
19. Difficult Daughters- Manju Kapur (Not read.)
20. Desirable Daughters- Bharati Mukherjee (Not read.)
21. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry (Not read.)
22. The Feast of Roses – Indu Sundaresan (Not read.)
23. Malgudi Days – R.K.Narayan (Don’t remember having read it!)
24. Five Point Someone – Chetan Bhagat ( Browsed through it on Saturday at the Oxford Bookstore. Didn’t find anything great enough to make me want to buy.)
25. Anything for You, Ma'am – Tushar Raheja (Not read.)
26. The Moor's Last Sigh – Salman Rushdie (A great inspiration of a writer, and a setting in beloved Kerala and Bombay made this book a must read for a poor Mallu imitator of Salman like me.)

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

JAP on MS University Episode

Blogger J Alfred Prufrock has, in his best tongue-in-molars style, I may add, parodied the MS University episode mentioned here, where an arts student was arrested for depicting gods in the nude. ReadA simple desultory Philippic: Baroda Blues, and hope you don't double up, with the irony of the piece.

JAP, yes, we (world's second most populous country) Indians don't have sex. Come to think of it, what exactly is sex? Is it as friend Vasudev Murthy alleged, those boxes in employment/home loan/ration card forms where you have to mark Male/Female (which is fine for those who have studied some anatomy in biology class).

Friday, May 18, 2007

Arundhati Roy on the growing cult of violence

As I have said before I am a great fan of Arundhati Roy. Imagine my delight when I got this link this morning and sat reading it, though pressing engagemements, meetings, interviews were scheduled. This article which was originally written in Tehelka and reproduced in www.commondreams.org is about India's growing violence, how we as a country, and a people in a hurry to get ahead are chewing our own limbs. "Our own limbs" meaning the poor, the minorities, the farmers, project affected people (PAP), etc. We have all seen violence on television wreaked by these people on the verge of losing what little they have to massive projects, the benefits of which would add to the already anointed.

That crime is growing in India is an undeniable fact. The day before a flat in Artist Village, where I live, was burgled by a gang of 40 dacoits (not fooling, but real) at 4 a.m. in the morning and the awake neighbours only watched. I mean, they only watched, and didn't offer to help or call the police. Maybe they were too shocked! The doors were battered open by forty men wearing masks and shorts, and the helpless women inside were robbed of nearly two lakh rupees worth of gold and other valuables.

Arundhati is one of the most original thinkers we have around. I think. Maybe, because her ideals have not be spoilt by thing imposed on her by some authority during childhood. She was tutored at home. The first few years of her life were not subject to the grind and pressures we all went through as children, of being cooped in a classroom with teary-eyed children, and a hard taskmaster of a teacher.

Therefore, her view remains uncolored, direct, original and unspoilt, which is why I like to read her. Every word has a fresh perspective, a welcome originality. Here's the opening paragraph of the article that is courtesy "Tehelka" and "commondreams."

"You don’t have to be a genius to read the signs. We have a growing middle class, reared on a diet of radical consumerism and aggressive greed. Unlike industrializing Western countries, which had colonies from which to plunder resources and generate slave labor to feed this process, we have to colonize ourselves, our own nether parts. We’ve begun to eat our own limbs. The greed that is being generated (and marketed as a value interchangeable with nationalism) can only be sated by grabbing land, water and resources from the vulnerable. What we’re witnessing is the most successful secessionist struggle ever waged in independent India — the secession of the middle and upper classes from the rest of the country. It’s a vertical secession, not a lateral one. They’re fighting for the right to merge with the world’s elite somewhere up there in the stratosphere. They’ve managed to commandeer the resources, the coal, the minerals, the bauxite, the water and electricity. Now they want the land to make more cars, more bombs, more mines — supertoys for the new supercitizens of the new superpower. So it’s outright war, and people on both sides are choosing their weapons. The government and the corporations reach for structural adjustment, the World Bank, the ADB, FDI, friendly court orders, friendly policy makers, help from the ‘friendly’ corporate media and a police force that will ram all this down people’s throats. Those who want to resist this process have, until now, reached for dharnas, hunger strikes, satyagraha, the courts and what they thought was friendly media. But now more and more are reaching for guns. Will the violence grow? If the ‘growth rate’ and the Sensex are going to be the only barometers the government uses to measure progress and the well-being of people, then of course it will. How do I read the signs? It isn’t hard to read sky-writing. What it says up there, in big letters, is this: the shit has hit the fan, folks."


She then goes on to blast the police raj that India is very likely to be in the near future. I have written about it in this post.
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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Indian Art Student Arrested, Fascism in Art, and Ragda Pattice!

Was numbingly sick yesterday with a stomach infection. Didn't have the energy to even get up, so spent the day in bed. Raamesh Gowri Raghavan phoned to say that a protest was taking place against the arrest of a student, Chandramohan, a student of MS University, Baroda, allegedly for depicting the vital role of the erotic in Hindu sacred art. Read zigzackly's blogpost simultaneous all India public protest. It also contains extensive links to original sources.

Feeling better today, through a bit groggy. So decided to avoid street food, actually a ragda pattice, which I suspect was swarming with e-coli and other bacterial growths of summer. I know the making of ragda pattice is an art, but in summer when the growth of e-coli and bacteria is at it's peak must be doubly careful.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Spiderman 3 - Extreme Entertainment

I saw Spiderman 3, and believe you me, be prepared to be assaulted. I mean, be prepared for your musical senses, your aesthetic (and artful) senses, your cherished literary senses, et cetera to be assaulted. And, if you suffer from even mild vertigo, as I do, please, please don’t see the movie. You will be doubly shaken. No, not gently teased, because this is extreme entertainment, the sort that sells.

What is this world coming to? Ask that to Sam Rimi director of the film who deals with enough thrills, chills, and frills that the friendly neighborhood spiderman is turned into something of a hostile creature of the night, something you see lurking in the shadows of skyscrapers in downtown Manhattan.

Or, was it me? I had found a break from my extreme job, taken an extreme ride on a bus that was driven at a speed of 100 kilometers per hour by a speed crazed madman, and had shown up thoroughly shaken at the theatre for something more edifying. There was a shock waiting for me inside.

Extreme entertainment. With speakers dinning at us from every side with monstrous noises (Was there a music score, asking, as I don’t know?), the sweet little thing in the adjacent seat had her head buried in her boyfriend’s ample chest throughout the movie. And I was literally trying not have a heart attack, saying something like, “Johnny boy, you have seen worse, the driver who drove you here was worse, remember the ride? At least you are sitting comfortably in airconditioning.” Remember, I was prepared for something godawfully extreme, which goes with the extremities I am dealing with at the job and in my life.

There’s too much of stunts like a beam of steel ripping through an entire floor of a skyscraper, and then another ripping through the entire floor below, and the tables on the floor above sliding, along with the pretty young thing for a cliffhanger scene. Of course, Spidey (Tobey Maguire) comes in time to save the PYT mentioned above.

There are too many stories and sub-plots involved. There are two villains to battle at the same time, the sandman and the evil spiderman. By some miracle one villain is turned into a friend (though one side of his face has been bashed up by Spidey) with a lot of imploring and cajoling. There are huge holes in the plot, which the director tries to plug with loud music and death-defying stunts.

Too much stunts and not much story, seems to have done in this film that had a huge budget of $ 500 million. Okay, so you earned $ 148 million of it in a week, and will go on to break box-office records. But one poor blogger, unflattered by the big budget, unimpressed by all the assault on the sense, unbribed by free shows in preview theatres where reviewers are served fee eats and drinks, remains sorely disillusion by this movie.

Tobey Maguire seems to sleepwalk through the parts, though he is a competent actor. Kirstin Dunst is good and the only believable parts belong to her, and as for Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), and the others, our own Bollywood actors could have done better at being wooden.

What became of storylines, pacing, soothing music of old? Whatever happened to entertainment? Do we need to pay for getting our senses assaulted, so?

Don’t see this movie for God’s and you own sake.

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Democracy, or, Encounter State: Dour Thoughts...

Two cases show the state of India’s law and order situation. Today there’s news that the judge trying the Alistair Pereira case has quit.

It happened thusly: Alistair Pereira, in a case of drunken driving killed seven people sleeping on the side of the road in Bandra, a rather posh suburb of Bombay. The case came up for hearing and the judge gave Pereira six months in prison for killing seven people, a rather tame proposition.

Allegations arose in the press that crucial evidence was not presented, and witnesses who were at the scene of the crime were not called to testify, which resulted in a botched case and the easy acquittal. A case of those in authority acting in concert with the accused also came up as he happens to be rather well provided for young fellow. The judge came in for a lot of criticism and had to quit. Poor judge! It speaks unflatteringly of the whole system that is giving off a very foul odour. Yes, some, godforsaken stinking odour.

Another case that has come up is that of the killing of Sohrabuddin and his wife Kauserbi allegedly by the police on charges of being terrorists. The killing was what was called a “Police Encounters” in which the police hunts down the so-called terrorists and guns them down, often, late in the night in lonely spots when there are no one around. There are specialist officers who carry out these encounters, who, by some strange coincidence, have a lot of money to throw around, and invest in properties abroad.

Lately encounters have become so common, that the state of Uttar Pradesh has had 54 such deaths in 2004-2005. Not much action is taken as there aren’t any witnesses and the victims are known felons who have some previous criminal record.

But the above two incidents throw up questions about the moral uprightness of the police machinery in India which has been, on many occasions, found to be intolerant, biased and subject to the manipulations of their political and criminal masters. Are we a democracy that guarantees fundamental rights to even criminals or are we a police state? And what of the common citizens who look up to the police to protect their right and keep law and order?

Saturday, May 05, 2007

A New Mall, and Some Thoughts...

It’s a bit scary. I went to the newly opened plus multiplex-cum-shopping complex in New Bombay. Glitz, gloss, soft lights, escalators, an Adlab multiplex that can show three movies at a time, shops, shops and more shops. And that too shops where Mammon is admired, nay, treated as God.

There were miles of aisles displaying clothes (by the look of those dirtied denim I wonder who wears them? There are denim material that looks as if it has vitiglio.), shoes, cassettes, jewellery, watches, computers, and oh yes, cameras. Food is not forgotten. There is a food court that would suffice to seat a wedding party, coffee shops, all enclosed in glass, while the technicians continue to work on the unfinished part of the mall.

Since the complex has just opened there are a lot of gawkers like me, and I meet friends I would not have met otherwise. I bump into Sue who worked with me in an outsourcing unit who is with a business newspaper. I meet Sam whom I trained in the work of a knowledge process unit, and who is heading it now. I meet the same company’s human resource manager, all within the huge complex. (Sam and Sue aren’t their real names, they are outsourcing pseudonyms we had given them, and it seems the names stuck.)

Now I come to the scary part. Outside is very warm (you know, global warming and all that), inside is very cool, and to enjoy the cool you need money. Otherwise the security who is watching through close circuit television cameras would hustle you out. That’s the scary part and every minute I expect someone in a uniform to come, tap me on the shoulder and do that. The products, watches, computers and cameras beckon you. But, you hesitate to whip out your credit card, fearing the unpaid amount that is already due. The food shops welcome you to indulge while a woman from the village somewhere hesitates at the escalator when her husband has already reached the top. Poor lady, she doesn’t know what to do. I motion toward an attendant to come and rescue her.

I am not a newcomer to malls. I have seen malls in Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Jeddah in the eighties and nineties. But malls right here in Bombay look so out of place, you have a funny feeling they don’t belong. The gawkers, such as me, can’t afford it when our trains are so full of people that they would probably burst some day, the road outside is so dirty and hot that you feel the great difference between what we are and what we are trying to emulate. The smoothness of the inside versus the hideousness of the outside is too disturbing.

There are food bazaars that economize buyers in bulk, so, buy all you need and stock your refrigerator. No more walking to the neighbourhood kirana shop, and having a friendly chat with its owner. The salespersons don’t even make eye contact; you are just another shopper, a non-entity except for the money you pay. If you don’t buy, they aren’t bothered; if you buy they say the usual pleasant things. Yet, I met three people whom I would have never met otherwise, Sam, Sue and the human resource manager. Is this good or is this bad, I don’t know.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Russel Peters, of Rolling in Your Chair, and stuff....



This comes from Karishma Pais of Wazzup Mumbai, the newsletter that keeps me updated about happenings in Bombay (as I prefer to call my city.) Russel Peters was in Bombay on 2nd and 3rd May and I missed it. Damn! For those who came late Russel Peters is the Canadian stand up comedian of Indian origin who will have you rolling in your chair with laughter. Recently I watched a clip of his show that my son had downloaded and I was virtually amazed by this man's unique Indian wit. He has talent, loads of it. So don't miss him if he deigns to grace your city.

Here's what Karishma has to report:

"Laughter was the order of the day on the 2nd and 3rd of May in Mumbai when Canadian stand-up comedian of Indian descent, Russell Peters entertained an
all geared-up audience of downloading bastards (as he lovingly addresses his
fan following). And true to Peters’ style, no one was spared: the white man
laughed at his shortage of melanin, the black man, at his profusion of it
and the brown man, at his mixed up, noncommittal, neither-here-nor-there
position in the color hierarchy (amongst many others). The best part is that
by the end of all his shows stereotypes and classifications of every kind
suddenly seem not such bad things – they make people laugh at themselves, at
their culture, cultural identity or lack of it. And in his defense against
the politically correct baton Peters humouredly says, “I don’t make the
stereotypes, I just see them”.

"Peters’ talent lies not simply in seeing them but in making the audience see
them as he sees them. It’s not ordinarily a pleasing thought to have someone
tell you that Indians are so fixated with currency they’ll haggle even at a
Dollar Shop Clearance Sale. But if Peters tells you they do, its not only
funny and acceptable, it becomes customary. Clearly then, it’s not only his
content but more so the form of his content or rather the drama of Peters
that makes his act and opinions special. This very spirit of Peters has
inspired this month’s contemplation on the theatrical nature of stand-up
comedy and a brief rumination on the brilliant mix of a stage actor, writer
and undisguised, often risqué social commentator many a stand up artist is."


Makes me wonder (after the success of "The Great Indian Laughter Challenge" of which I am a great fan) if we should recognizee standup comedy as a distinct genre and accord it the respectability that theatre and cinema has. One wonders.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Our School Graduation Photo



This photo always breaks my heart. It was a sad parting when we finished our term of 11th standard and parted with our school Adarsha Vidyalaya in Chembur. I am second from left on the last row. My hair was combed in the style of the day (my son doesn't believe I had hair on my skull at all, but I had tumbling locks of hair that I kept long). Ganga is the one with the locks falling over his forehead. We were rivals then as he was heading the Yellow House and I was heading the Green House.

We (Ganga, Sanjeevan, Ajit, Chandran, Anil, Shankaran, Sarasa, Geeta, Felix) relive those happy days by meeting at Ganga's house every month. Nowadays when we meet we are friends and rivalries are forgotten.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Went Hiking in the Hills of Artist Village Today

A Hike in the Artist Village Hills

Long time since I went hiking around the hills of Artist Village where I live. Did I say Artist Village is in a valley formed by two hills, in the center of which is a retention pond, and a beaten track that leads up the mountain? I used to hike there, once. That was until I joined outsourcing, and my soul itself looked outsourced to the managers sitting in the US of A. But that’s another story.

Pictures of Artist Village can be viewed here. These pictures were taken during the great deluge of July 2005 which had devastated most of Bombay and New Bombay but had spared Artist Village.

When I went for the walk, I met my friend Henry performing his routine morning walk. Today being a holiday, I was in the mood to try something adventurous. So I persuaded him, which isn’t very difficult, as he is game for such things, to climb the hills with me.

The trail we took leads to a tribal village on the other side of the hill which still exists in the fifteenth century or thereabouts. No electricity, no shops, the tribals there are food gathers and cattle herders. I wouldn’t dare to hike without company as these people have country-made guns and there are leopards and wildlife around.

We reached a promontory and sat down to rest, as Henry was sweating rather badly. He needed a drink of water, which we hadn’t foreseen in this unplanned hike. The view from up there was breathtaking. I immediately rued not having brought my camera.

So I will try a word description here: Below us were the geometric structures of residential buildings and red tiled roofs of the houses of Artist Village, and further away the imposing buildings of Konkan Bhavan and Cidco Bhavan, the seats of administration of the New Bombay area. I could also espy the massive structure of CBD Belapur railway station, the one I entrain from every morning on the way to work. They seemed stunted now from the great height and distance. Towards our right was an outcrop of volcanic rocks that must have erupted from the belly of the earth, God alone knows, in what millennium. It was such a huge rock, majestically surrounded by jungles where leopards are known to live and foray for livestock owned by the inhabitants of the village mentioned above.

Around us was the cacophony of bird sounds dominated by the melodious song of the lark, or, cuckoo, which Henry told me is called the “Kuil” in Malayalam. “Kuil” is “Koel” in Hindi and the similarity delighted me. This reinforces my belief that all Indian languages have originated from the same root. A cock crowed somewhere, I could hear the buzzing sound of a fly, the world seemed at peace here, which is until Henry told me about the goings on among the community of members formed by “Kairali” – the association of Malayalis that I am a member of.

Actually I am unaware of these happening, as I am away most of the time, working on what else, outsourcing. There’s treachery, scandal, corruption, political manoeuvring, and, hold your breath, even prurient goings on of which I am unaware, and of which I do not wish to be aware. Stuff of scandalous page three happenings is right here under my nose. What has the world come to?

We descend from the heights, after our chat, the wind like a blast of air-conditioning on the way down on this hot day. We plan another hike, this time with plenty of water, proper hiking shoes (I was wearing my Bata slippers), and lots to eat once we reach the rocky promontory where we rested. A good hike was had, as the cliché goes.