Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Children of the Sun God

There’s this thing about Leos and me. First, loads of them in my life. Dying days of July and the first week of August, I'm calling, writing or mailing one nearly everyday.

I'm Aquarius, and according to Goodman, this is one of those polarity things, with fascination and exasperation nicely blended. Complementarity, competition and a rare sense of kinship. True. No one can goad me to reluctant debate like a Leo. I find myself surprisingly more competitive when it comes to them. I’m also often amazed at their generosity, their vitality, and their sharp, nuanced intelligence. Their immense drive and motivation that comes almost completely from within. I love them for their warmth, and am extraordinarily flattered by their interest in me.

My sister Shweta, one of those Leos herself, gave me a sidelong look the other day: ‘You have so many Leo friends – I think you secretly like us.’ That’s no secret at all: keepers, every one of you.
Happy Birthday, y'all.


I put up these two pieces because the similarities were so clear to me. What does one do at the end of a love affair? Tending wounds apart, how does one behave at an accidental meeting? Wave, or not? Meet eyes? for how long? Go over and talk? Pretend it never happened?

Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part,
Nay, I have done: you get no more of me,
And I am glad, yea glad with all my heart,
That thus so cleanly I myself can free.
Shake hands for ever, cancel all our vows,
And when we meet at any time again
Be it not seen in either of our brows
That we one jot of former love retain.
-Michael Drayton

chalo ik baar phir se ajnabi ban jaaen ham dono
na main tumse koi ummeed rakhun dilnavaazi ki
na tum meri taraf dekho galat andaaz nazaron se
na mere dil ki dhadkan ladkhadaaye meri baaton se
na zaahir ho tumhaari kashmkash ka raaz nazaron se...
chalo ik baar phir se ajnabi ban jaaen ham dono
-Sahir Ludhianvi

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Now what?

Mozilla, Mozilla, Firefox everywhere! OK, so I downloaded the damn thing. Looks just the same, appears to do the same thing IE does and loads slower on my comp. So what's the big deal?

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The perfect democrat

Back. Calm deep breaths for the first time in weeks. Temporary files deleted, mind space freed up. Time enough to drop into the pensieve and come up with my next list, which is overdue.

My six best chai/coffee memories
Over second and third cups flow matters of high finance, high state, common gossip and low comedy. Coffee is a social binder, a warmer of tongues, a soberer of minds, a stimulant of wit, a foiler of sleep if you want it so. From roadside mugs to the classic demitasse, it is the perfect democrat.

I’m South Indian and coffee is life’s breath to me, or close. Plus the mother makes award winning coffee almost every time. So the six best aren’t necessarily about good coffee or tea, but the memories were great.

1. Lemon tea on BN’s sets
I was working on a telefilm and a historical series at the time. First, food and drink on sets are terrific – the teas and coffees keep coming, and the meals are really special. As the director’s assistants, Sharu and I were treated like royalty. Our comfort, it seemed, was top priority, particularly for the F&B unit. We got pampered silly and it was the mostest fun.
Shooting is stressful business. When you factor in double shifts, coming home at 3.00 in the morning and being up again at 7.00 am, it’s worse. And when you’re in charge of costume continuity in a historical with over a dozen important characters, and a boss who’s rather unforgiving of goof-ups, it can give you serious ulcers.
I survived thanks to those glorious lemon teas. The F&B man-in-charge experimented one day and it caught on wildly. We Three – B, Sharu and I – would get our generous portions in big glasses; a deep orange colour, warm ambrosia that you could nurse for half an hour, and have anxiety just seep away. He’d get the balance right every time – sweetness and tartness. Nice.

2. Parvati Valley, Himachal Pradesh
On a trek, this one. From Manikaran to Malana. Quite shocked at how much sharper the gradient was in the Himalayan foothills after piddly hills in the south. Not even halfway into the climb, and we were winded. A charming little tea shop with rough hewn benches. We propped against the packs and called for a cuppa. It wasn’t terrific, but how we needed it!

3. Johnson’s tea kadai, Golden Threshold
University. Rounds of ghazals, rounds of samosas, rounds of smokes. Prof CVS keeping rhythm on his match box. Circles forming, reforming. Endless days, bottomless kettles.

4. Tibetan brothers’, Kodaikanal
We went August last year, Nish, Sudha and I. Stayed in a cottage, stared at hypnotic fires for about half the time we were there. Even more memorably, the whole trip was one glutfest… I remember every meal. Nish made us her famous pancakes (famous because that’s item one of two on her ‘can cook’ list).
One drizzly afternoon, post lunch butter tea at the Tibetan brothers'. It actually works, butter in tea. Yumm.

5. Masala chai in Delhi
I’d had a terrible cough. We were at my godmother’s in Delhi. Mum was worried and Vidu had a chai ‘kashaya’ recipe, so they made it together – herbs, pepper and a dozen other spices with tea. I had it with milk and felt loved, loved, loved.

6. TOI
My two years with Hyderabad Times were almost entirely fun. We were a great team. How we bonded and how much we laughed. The coffee dispenser one floor down wasn’t imaginative but it seldom ran out. Any two of us would go down the stairs, bring back a tray full of beverages, and we’d sit on desks and talk. What a good paper it would’ve been if they’d let us have our way.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Anti climax

It is done. Marathon session is over, book has been consumed in one greedy gulp. Cannot talk about it, cannot post about it till everyone in my life has turned the last page.
Agony! I think I'll go do a little mugglenet chatting.

Friday, July 15, 2005

My little pebble-heap of troubles

It wasn't supposed to be like this. I was supposed to have finished everything, to keep July 16 completely free for you know what. Instead I feel like a harassed student in my OWL year and will need a calming draught any minute.
There are a thousand things I need to do, and everyone is calling to remind me of deadlines. I still have over 100 pages to go in OotP. Shweta has annoyingly started reading it whenever I put it down and there are two bookmarks in the book. Grr. Plus have a cold and fever which makes me slower at everything and oh, chickpea is still a bad word.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Pour quoi eet ees like zat?

Isn’t it odd how the Tour de France throws all these exotic, unpronounceable names at us? The recent storming of tennis bastions by the Russians is a bit like that too, but the Tour is an onslaught… Thomas Voeckler, Dave Zabriskie, Jose Azevedo, Yaroslav Popyvych, Axel Merckx, Jens Voigt, Thor Hushovd. Gobblybumblemdleymee.

How is it cyclists can last so long? With long careers upto their mid thirties, maybe more? Why are tennis stars so young, for instance? How come they burn out relatively faster? Do upper bodies give out sooner, while legs get stronger with fitness regimes? Is it that you get better at cycling races as you get more experienced?

And then little matter of average speeds - 57 frigging kilometres an hour. How they fall, brush off and then ride over 200 km? How how? Men or what beings these be? Eet ees vairy misteerieuse, ze humaan body.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Hatnur Diary

I went yesterday to a couple of villages in Medak. Photographer Michel Maruca and I were trying to scope out a story we could work on together. Quite revealing, one way or the other.


When people tell me that someone isn’t blessed with a son but has several daughters instead, my reaction is to roll my eyes and dismiss them. How archaic and how utterly silly. Bring up your daughter to be worth two men and that’s that. Obviously that reaction is a bit too pat, unconsidered – I live in an ivory tower where a child’s gender doesn’t matter. It does to many people.

We were taken to visit Pochamma and Eesawariah in Hatnur. Old couple – friendly, hospitable. We got told all about their circumstances without my having to pose very many impertinent questions. How transparent they are.

It’s an old story, of course – a cliché almost. Five daughters, no sons. Eeswariah has always farmed for a living and made enough to marry off four of them. Consider that each took with her about three lakhs in dowry and you realise that he has been remarkably successful. He would have still fended for himself, except that the rains haven’t come… again. The field is furrowed, rice seed worth Rs 10,000 has been sown, but the rains haven’t come. It is already too late. There is nothing he can do, nowhere he can go. The daughters help with whatever they can but the old couple is seriously worried.

The most pucca room in the house is reserved for grain, the plough and implements. There used to be sacks piled to the roof, Pochamma tells me, but there was just one bag yesterday. Not propped neatly against the wall, but plonked in the middle of the room, perhaps with a subconscious need to have it appear filled. Pochamma tells me they – paddy growers – have had to buy rice to eat. She is shamed, and it is heartbreaking.

Our visit was supposed to be brief but extends beyond lunch time. Pochamma brings out jowar rotis and pickle. Trapped in a scene I’ve seen in a dozen movies, I worry that we are making inroads into their lunch and their meagre supplies. It would not do to refuse, though. “God will provide,” she tells me with more optimism than I can muster at the moment.

I am asked quietly if I can enquire about government pensions for farmers over sixty – they are entitled to about Rs 200 a month apparently, but the Sarpanch doesn’t seem to pass it on. Eeswariah is too old to find a job now in the city; every plan for a new livelihood involves further investment: the bank loan of Rs 25000 has to be repaid first.
It is desperate. But I had not still understood the extent of it. It sent a chill down my spine when the daughter told me her father had spoken of bringing home some ‘mandu’ and ending it all.

How on earth are we to stop this man from adding to the statistics?

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Scraping the barrel

Did I tell you guys I saw a lion in the Van Vihar National Park, in Bhopal? I didn't? Hmm.

Well, I did.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Nothing to say

A week’s gone by,
On a whispered sigh
I have nothing to say

No opinions to air, no views to share
No wise words, no nonsense fare,
No random recollection of a nightmare
Life’s in limbo? Or the mood’s not there?

Whatever it is,
the bottomline’s this
Nothing new for the ones who seek
No new posts for an entire week

The buzz goes around: Sheetal’s got nothing to say, nothing to say, nothing to say…