Sunday, April 30, 2006

Jo dar gaya…

There’s been a drought of Bollywood movies. So acute, I’ve even had to watch Shaadi se pehle because there was nothing else. This week, after quite a while, first day matinee of Darna zaroori hai. I’d watched Darna mana hai and it wasn’t half bad, so I reckoned I could deal with the next in the series. Not bad, I tell you, not at all bad.

Portmanteau film. About half a dozen short horror/thriller stories strung together in some sort of loose (and rather pointless) narrative. Different writers and directors for each short story, and that was the chief attraction for me. To see how directors Sajid Khan, Prawaal Raman (who made the predecessor), Jijy Philip, Manish Gupta, JD Chekravarthy and Ram Gopal Verma handled the shorts. Disappointing, as far as that goes. The segments weren’t as different or characteristic as I hoped – too much RGV looming over each for them to be in any way distinct.

Good performances, though. All of them. I particularly liked the segment Chekravarthy directed – the only one that actually had people chuckle. He managed to create, in twenty odd minutes, characters that engaged us. I think I’ll also remember the one with Mallika Sherawat and Anil Kapoor.

Horror wise? Was I scared? Nah, like a lion I was. I had the forethought to equip myself with a packet of fryums. This superb strategy has its roots in the funda that having your hands engaged in some activity helps detach emotionally from what’s happening around you (therefore smokers and the lady who knitted as heads rolled at the guillotine).

I must share with you the fruits of my research: fryums are boring. They’re shaped like a wheel with many spokes and everything, and I thought at first that they offered much scope for infinite observation but all this peters out very quickly. Limited things. Taste horrible too. Should’ve taken in the gold fingers.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Regressing: The zoo again

I went to the zoo yesterday after several years. There was a time we’d be routinely dragged off there by School on our annual excursions. Not again, we’d groan, but I remember still, waking up with frissons of excitement running up my spine, watching mum pack puliore and chips (which I regarded a high, high treat).

I don’t know why people talk of childhood as a carefree, untroubled time. I wasn’t a carefree child – happy for the most part – but not carefree. I can hardly see any child around me who’s that blissful. Oh, the cares are vague, tied up with a ‘best friend’ who won’t talk, or the attentions of a teacher whose name you won’t remember in ten years or most probably these days, study worries. Then, there are demands the adults make of you – outrageous expectations of perfect behaviour that they fall disgustingly short of themselves. The anxieties are there, the undercurrents of discontent are strong.

My memories of visits to the zoo are vague but I remember worry – vague fears about being left behind, a feeling of being out of my depth. Most distinctly I remember not the animals but falling. It must’ve been the 5th or 6th standard. The rest of the class were chattering around the monkeys when I ran back to the bus to fetch something and fell on a sharp stone. It was a deepish cut and I clambered on to the bus to sit and examine it. The only other person there was Bethina, rummaging her bag for something.
‘I’ve fallen and cut myself. Do you have a hankie or something to bind it?’ I asked her.
She hesitated and shook her head.
I shrugged and took my water bottle down to wash my knee. Bethina followed to investigate. The mud wiped off, the blood began to flow and trickle down my shin. Bethina took in a sharp breath, reached in her pocket and held a handkerchief out resolutely.
I could see why she had hesitated. It was a ‘dad’-sized kerchief, pristine white, lovingly pressed and folded. Picnic special. I too knew the value of such handkerchiefs. I couldn’t take it.
‘Go on, take it,’ she urged me, ‘it’s okay.’
So she bound it into a wad and tied it round my knee and we watched in mutual fascination as the red hurriedly seeped through the white. Nice, satisfactory cut, that one. Later the teacher made a fuss of me. And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, was the zoo.


I went again yesterday and what a change there was in perception. It was a particularly lucky trip, because practically in every enclosure, the animals wandered out to show themselves off. The white tigers played and purred, the lions yawned and blinked at us, the tigers paced, the wolf pranced, the leopards played like kittens. I saw again the Great Indian Hornbill and was utterly fascinated by the pheasants.

White tiger in the moat.

A pair of lions, who seemed rather contemptuous of all the janta peering at them.

Panther (Panthera onca, not pardus) - stockier, heaver than our leopard.

Great Indian Hornbill - really friendly chap.

A peacock that showed off from every angle - he so wouldn't stop turning and doing that lovely frisson thing, we actually had to walk away after fifteen minutes.

Good trip. It’s really nice to be grown up.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Four and other foods

Several several months ago, I was tagged. It was one of those ones – apparently trivial but put together you see that it quite bares your essence. Bit frighteny, but what the heck: 'sees chadaye potli le jaat na dekhya koye'.

These were Gayathri’s demands:
Nine songs I would pick if those were the only pieces I could listen to for the rest of my life
Eight frivolous things that bring me joy
Seven people (dead or alive, real or fictional people that I won’t actually ever meet!) that I would pick to have a 5 minute conversation with
Six best coffee/chai memories
Five best memories of my sister
Four things I could eat anytime, anyplace
Three places I've been to that I want to go back to

As it happens, I’ve done five of the seven: The nine songs, the eight frivolous things, seven people I’d like to meet, six chai/coffee memories, five memories of my sister (in which I didn’t follow the rules). I’ve hovered on the brink of the sixth for months but haven’t done anything about it because with one thing and the other I haven’t been very hungry and I haven’t felt like blogging.

And there is another food tag pending from Nishu: 10 favourite foods. Shall I club the two together then? List four things I could eat anytime, anywhere and then continue with six other favourites?
That sounds ok, because for one, I’m not a foodie, able to write about sapaad in jollu-ootifying terms. Nishu has gone on about her fave foods in this most gastronome fashion: “Croissants and Chausson aux Pommes… Flaky, flaky croissants, with buttery insides eaten with jam… and of course warm chaussons aux pommes - lovely flaky puff types with apple puree/sauce inside.” Now I cannot do this, being simble person with simble tastes. Boring, I’m warning you. Second, of course, I’m vegetarian and that cuts short any possible food list by half.

Here goes. Four things I could eat anywhere, anytime:
· Pasta. Any shape, any sauce, anytime.
· Hot steaming rice, lots of mudda pappu with molten ghee and avakkai. Mosranna to round off. Need nothing else.
· A couple of years ago, I’d have said popcorn. I louued the stuff and wouldn’t share in movie halls. Sadly I’m over it and even offer it voluntarily these days to neighbours. But I still like corn and my current favorite is buttered amercian sweet corn. Yeah.
· Another all time favourite that seems to be fading from the top lists but is here because it hasn’t been replaced with anything else – vegetable manchuria. Sec’bad Club makes a spicy (and I suspect, very desi) version and Sudha is good enough to sign for a plate for me every time.

Six other faves… a very now list:
· I like tamarindy things – my mum’s pulihora, her gojjus (onion gojju, bhindi, even with pineapple and oranges).
· Rice, mor kozhambhu with parupu usuli and sabudaana karudaam
· New addition to lists – karveppillai pickle from Grand Sweets and Snacks. We are running out, alas.
· Another new obsession: Belgian dark chocolate ice cream from Scoops. They were inspired from the movie Salaam Namaste, apparently. Preity Zinta’s character has cravings and they set out in the middle of the night looking specifically for the flavour and so Scoops thought, ‘aha, aisa kya, why not have it on our menu?’ Good for them, coz it’s yummm. Thanks, A’jun ;-).
· Anaar juice – if they have it, I never have anything else. My answer to Nishu’s apple pie and Alina’s nimbu soda.
· Biryani and mirchi ka salan. What to do, Hyderabadi no?

That is that.

I’d said when I started on the nines, that I wouldn’t tag anyone perforce, but I’m very tempted to ask The One to do it – the whole seven shebang. He made out a list recently and he does it soooooooo well.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Roshan jamaal yaar se hai anjuman tamaam

I think there is something about the poetry of Hasrat Mohani that very much appeals to the musician in Mehdi Hassan.

I have always thought setting a ghazal to music a challenging job. To do it well, that is. There are disparate pieces of poetry in one meter and rhyme, sometimes staying in one mood or vein, sometimes not. To bring the poetry forward, to pay due attention to the sher while balancing the ghazal and still be melodious enough to captivate.... There is a ghazal of Mir’s for instance that has not been done justice to in all the recorded versions I’ve heard.
Patta patta boota boota haal hamara jaane hai
Jaane na jaane gul hi na jaane baag to saara jaane hai
Shweta sang this once in a tune of her own, which to my mind was a better, more evocative composition than any of the others.

But I was talking of Hasrat Mohani and Mehdi Hassan. Those acquainted with the Master will know: his career is filled, filled with wondrous offerings. Raspy honey. There are two compositions of Mohani, however, that are extraordinary renditions even by those high standards. Roshan jamaal and Kaise chupaun. Nearly the same raga – not exactly but close – and I love them both.

Kaise chupaun raaz-e-gham… Mehdi Hassan invests this ghazal with such pathos, such meaning. You begin to read between the lines, finding more than there is. The two lines of each sher begin to seem like broad outlines of an intriguing picture and you’re left to colour the fine details in, with whatever lines, hues you please.
Kaise chupaun raaz-e-gham deeda-e-tar ko kya karun
Dil ki tapish ko kya karun soz-e-jigar ko kya karun

Shorish-e-aashiqi kahaan aur meri saadgi kahaan
Husn ko tere kya kahun apni nazar ko kya karun

Gham ka na dil mein ho guzar vasl ki shab ho yun basar
Sab ye qubool hai magar khauf-e-sehar ko kya karun

Haal mera tha jab batar tab na hui tumhen khabar
Baad mere hua asar ab main asar ko kya karun
I’m sorry I couldn’t find this online to link for you, but if you should find a tape or CD with this ghazal on it, take it.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Duniya kare sawaal

Of all the unanswerable questions, there is nothing that renders me dumb like “Why don’t you….” What do you say to that?

Why don’t you start a business
Get married
Undertake steps 1 to 6 to have your freelancing enterprise zip through the stratosphere
Download this or the other software so it’ll change your life
Start a film club

Why don’t I?
Because it didn’t compel me
Because I don’t need it yet
Because I’m ok
Because I’m that man under the tree who was recommended a life of entrepreneurial action just so he could come to the other end of the circle, doing exactly what he was doing – relaxing under a tree.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Ik nukte vich gal mukdi eh*

it strikes me again and again with great force that there is nothing.
nothing to say, no reason to say it
that it is not worth the trouble to do it
when it is all naught
that we will live
and that we will die
and there will be nothing
that I am nothing

then see the wave.
it is useless, of course.
what use could there be
there is this rock and there is this water
still, ceaseless it is
again and again
as if it meant something
there is conviction in the wave’s slap
duty, dharma

it is difficult
to rise from nothing
to gather carefully all the quarks
that make up me
put them together
and become a person

to summon a smile
go about finding
what is needed
from me
and do it

like a child
whose parent has ambitions

*I've borrowed the title from Bulleh Shah. Loose trans.: There comes a point when all talk ends

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Creature on wall

Totally random wasp thing, because Shweta says she's SICK of seeing same old same old on my blog. And you know what, I got a lot of these :-D. Next week, dead snake from recent birding outing.