A Ceramic Evening


One of the recent events I attended was way different from the ones I am used to visiting. This was my co-haikuist Nandita Jain Mahajan’s ceramic art exhibition in India Habitat Centre (IHC). I like going to IHC because of its ambience and open space.

The exhibition was held somewhere in mid October in the evening in Visual Arts Gallery and Palm Court Gallery consecutively. It was not her solo exhibition but with other artists of equal talent. I had once expressed my desire to visit her studio where she turned out these objets di art from mere clay. That visit never happened but she was kind enough to invite me to her exhibition which I readily attended with my sister.

Honestly speaking I do not much understand ceramic art. But am very much interested in all creative arts including sculpting and painting and would like to attend a course some day to understand and appreciate these two art forms better.

I was fascinated by  Nandita’s handiworks and I clicked frantically to try and capture the beauty and aesthetics of her and other’s creations. Here are some of the pictures with one liners about why I liked these.

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The Inauguation

 

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Here is Nandita with the tray of flowers in hand

The first thing that caught my eyes were the tiles and I wondered how they would look on the floor or wall of my flat.

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Next were the cluster of artefacts.

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And then there were the portraits and how they held captive the delicate emotions and expressions.

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I also took a round of the gallery and found the Kettle Junction and a few other pieces interesting and eye catching.

 

 

 

 

Last but not the least, I found this one the most enchanting.  How the delicate curl and tender feel of the leaves were brought alive in a medium which is hard and exact opposite in texture  of the soft crumbling leaves. I could almost feel the leaves crunch under my feet. And what with the added charm of the unique haiku by Kala Ramesh. Absolutely delightful – a stunning treat to the eyes! Here, I must once again underscore my lack of knowledge of this art form. And any subtle nuance  that I may be missing in. these intricate and hard-to-mould-creations may please be excused.

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Thanks to Nandita for this visually engaging journey through one portrayal to the other. Of course, the evening ended in Eatopia gorging on mouth melting pastries.

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When GPS Goofs Up


TRAFFIC JAM IN DELHI

Pic from Google

I had this odd notion that getting a new passport made was a cumbersome process requiring innumerable documentations. However, on the contrary, it took lesser time than usual applying online. And to my and everyone’s, whosoever knew that I was applying for passport, surprise the appointment date for physical submission of relevant documents, happened to be the very next date I applied online. My solicitous colleague told me to get the formality done and over with at the PSK (Passport Seva Kendra) branch  near my office because the services extended there were fast.

Having taken the appointment at the suggested Service Centre, my prime concern was how to get there as I was not very conversant with the place. But GPS was very helpful and within twenty minutes I was right in front of the building with a sheaf of papers in hand. As expected, within an hour and a half I was out having met with all the compliances. Now, the problem was how to get back to office. My driver suggested we take the same route back. But somehow I thought of depending upon GPS once again.

As usual, GPS took a circuitous but purportedly the fastest route to the destination. In no time, we were going round and round the circular avenues and reached the famous spot – Bengali Market – which is loaded with kiosks of junk foods. Deviating from the subject a little I must tell you, in India even the junk foods have their own local brands ! And this place housed them all. At this juncture, GPS stately announced that we have arrived. I was stumped and did not know how to reach my office. It was almost lunch time and the kiosks were teeming with crowds of office goers, street mongers, shoppers et al.

GPS IThe only reasonable thing to do at that point of time was to  put the destination once again into the system. This time Google Auntie was more focussed and got us to the desired destination. Having reached a little late to office, I recounted the fiasco to my colleagues. They were most kind and understanding,”Take pity on Google Di,” they said, “Just imagine the load on her. How over pressurised she might be giving directions to all and sundry on the over congested roads of NCR (National Capital Region). It is no wonder she gets confused at times. You must excuse her.” Point. I was left with no argument.

But secretly, I wondered whether Google Auntie could guess my salivation over street food and that I was ravenous  having successfully completed a task  which had worried and bothered me for quite sometime. I wonder…have satellites acquired the artificial intelligence to know our man ki baat?? Though I did not give in to my gluttony in this case. Yet…

BENGALI MARKET

 

All Pics from Google

Wizadry Of Theories


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One look at the Reference at the back of the book detailing the Reading List of the author and the reader gets a clear view from where the confounded theory, around which the entire novel pivots, germinates. Undoubtedly the list is elaborate and impressive. So is the theory complex and far- fetched. It appears that the author has mashed up all the information available with him and made out a postulate which becomes less and less palatable as the book progresses.

Notwithstanding the convoluted premise, Keepers Of The Kaalchakra, the fifth in Bharat Series, penned by the Dan Brown of India, one and only Ashwin Sanghi is racy, edge-of-the-seat, gripping, in short, unputdownable.

Vijay Sundaram, an erudite IIT Professor, is compelled by an elite intelligence group. SG4, to join a strictly guarded research outfit called the Milesian Lab for reasons unknown. Within the cordoned premises of Milesian Lab, Sundaram comes in as much close proximity as possible with his mysteriously cagey colleague named Mikhailov who has the key to the Lab’s secret mission. But before he can confide in Vijay, Mikhailov is caught trespassing beyond the boundaries of the Lab. Vijay, on the other hand, egged by SG4, takes up the dangerous assignment of breaking into the office of the detestable Lab honcho, Schmidt. But by the time he could lay hands on what exactly is going on inside the Lab the trap closes in on him. Had Vijay known that the entire game plan is to remove him from the face of this earth would he have joined Milesian Lab?

Based on the theory of quantum twin particle, Sanghi extends the thesis to human species. As is his habit to brew a zealous concoction out of zillion spices, Sanghi touches upon complex issues pertaining to the blurry intersecting zones of Science and Religion. From Supreme Consciousness to Self-Healing, from Tantric Buddhism to Vedantic wisdom, from Machiavellian politics to extra sensory spiritual realization, from Islamic fundamentalism to moderation in Muslim extremism, Sanghi struggles copiously to prove his self-proclaimed doctrine of interconnectedness of everything.

It is difficult to review Sanghi as he brings in a myriad of hypotheses to assert what readers would well-nigh like to believe in not without outreaching the bounds of plausible explanations. Yet, Sanghi presents an alternate arena wherein till his entry laid a vacuum of incalculable depth. He has actually, with his Bharat Series, embarked upon a crusade which is nothing less than extortion of imagination by his expostulations which are so adorably fantastic, so impossibly believable and so confoundedly beyond the bounds of credulity. I suppose therein lies his overdriving skill which has given India its first taste of mythological thrillers. However, with the Keepers Of The Kaalchakra, one is doubtful whether the author is now gravitating into the deepening grey realm of scientific spiritualism or making a more pointed statement in the formidable sphere of today’s chaotic world politics.

With the 5th in the series, there is definite improvement in so far as the goriness of the plot is concerned. The violence quotient is toned down. The information overload is much in the nature of discourses between characters at the most improbable juncture where the readers would have expected page turning action. While the women of substance take a back seat in this novel, I wonder why the author always paints them in the palette of grisly shades.

Nonetheless, all said and done, Sanhgi is a Sanghi is a Sanghi. Here is a book which is, unlike the present trend, not written for the whole and sole purpose of celluloid adaptation. Here is  a book for readers. Highly incredulous yet incorrigibly tempting.

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All Pics from Google

 

You can also read this review on Goodreads

Narratives Of Deception


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Recently I saw two movies, not exactly back to back, but in close intervals. Interestingly, both had quite a number of comparable factors/ common denominators.

Firstly, both were suspense thrillers. Both were premised on deception. And last but not the least, both had Tabu in them who played her age with a chilling grace.

Andhadhun, translated literally means Blind Tune, pivots around a character who pretends to be blind. Unexpectedly he becomes the prime witness to consecutive murders. Thereafter, it is simply a life and death chase for him as the partners in crime (yes, there are two) make it their mission to oust him from the face of this earth.

Missing, is again a one night story in a resort where a couple with their baby girl comes to stay. The husband has a roving eye and the wife is too taken up with her child who is sick. Sadly, that very night the baby goes missing. The hapless mother is so berserk with grief that the hotel authority has to call the police. The Investigating Officer is too sharp and experienced to let the manipulating husband with his cock and bull stories befool him. But as he delves deeper into the case alarming facts keep coming to light.

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While Andhadhun is a twisty tale, Missing is predictably linear. One does not know what is going to happen next in Andhadhun whereas in Missing one can almost visualise the end. While the former intrigues the latter leaves a pall of negativity which is hard to dissipate.

However, the biggest leap for Hindi Cinema is the narrative based films which are now being released than those which pivoted around either the angry-young-man-type of larger-than-life or the mushy-running-around-the-trees kind of heroes. Both these films are burning examples of the first category. It is a pleasure to watch that all is not simply black and white but the shades of grey, hitherto overlooked, taking centre stage.

In both these films Tabu is on the wrong side of thirty and not at all wary of vices. In Andhadhun she is ruthlessly ambitious, cruel and desperate to the point of no return. In Missing she is a hyper emotional mother extremely concerned about her baby. She essays both the characters with inbred elan. Paired with heroes much younger to her (Ayushman Khurana and Manoj Bajpai, respectively) she rules the roost.

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On the flip side, both the movies, seen with practical eyes, border on implausibility. In Andhadhun, a young boy who leads a life of a blind musician just because he feels his blindness can make him more creative is in itself a concept difficult to convince the audience with. In Missing, how can two strangers come together for one night pretending to be as close as married couple is beyond comprehension. More so, when there is no compulsion leading to such an arrangement.

However, both the movies throw up the issue of reality under guise. When we talk of deception reference is drawn towards a situation wherein actuality is under cover. What the protagonist perceives as conscious reality is ‘created circumstances’ to entrap him or her. The falsification comes to light in the climax.

However, Andhadhun’s climactic construct deliberately retains a pall of doubt in the minds of the audience leaving a wide scope for imaginative interpretation. Missing’s end, as I said earlier, is predictable yet draws the curtain on a disturbing unease which does not augur good for the narrative’s construct. A narration which impels the viewer to introspect and tickle the fertile gray cells, I call dynamic.

MISSING 2The audience is compelled to ruminate over the thematic build of the film Andhadhun which circulates in the mind even after the story has drawn to a close. Missing disappoints on this account. In fact, much before the end of the movie, one hopes for it to come to a close soon. More so because any narration which deals with cruelty towards children or animal I am grossly allergic to.

Another thought that strikes me while I write this post concerns the make-up of the films – Missing does not invoke hope while Andhadhun, though founded on whole-sale deception, still provides inklings of something good in the offing. Just a wishful thought yet it is there and that is very important. To raise positivity even if its just a probability makes for a healthy conclusion. After all what viewers need is entertainment which in the long run rests on a magical canvas of hopeful illusions.

To conclude, I dump Missing as pessimistic though Andhadhun, wherein the protagonist falls prey to mishaps, one after the other, is not my cup of tea either. I like slow build-ups which has the capacity to stimulate the intellect. Whereas it is very very debatable to arrive at an inference that the knack to wed misfortune all the time is a reflection of one’s own carmic undoing, the tortuous narrative of Andhadhun seems to indicate quite a number of times that it is. Yet, we, in our eternal folly, resume a connect with ill-fate more out of habit than mere preordainment. It is futile to believe that the film dishes out this powerful message. It does not. It is a one-time watch – a mainstream endeavour to cajole the gullible audience to believe that you can get away with your pretensions and find a way to lead a life of your own choice. A blunder of the first order! If I may say so. Yet, having said that both the stories begin from where they end.

AD 4

 

All pics from Google

 

Beyond Infinity


Kala Ramesh (Image : From Google)

Name of the Book – beyond

the horizon

beyond

(A collection of haiku and haibun)

Name of the Author – Kala Ramesh

Name of the Publisher – Vishwakarma Publications

No. of Pages – 177

Editon – First (2017)

My tryst with poetry began and would have ended with Tagore, had I not been exposed to other forms and writers of this genre, though reading Tagore itself is oceanic. I do not know how I came to fall in love with poetry. It is somehow intertwined with my love for music. The lyrics of compositions, however simple and earthy, have always caught my attention which is kind of a contrast because in music the abstraction of sound or dhwani holds more significance than the words sung. As they say music begins where words fail.

Perhaps it is the limitation of words that attracted me to poems. The inherent rhythm and meter – the laya and chhand ? I am not sure. I am also not sure whether I understand this genre very well. But again, herein lies the contradiction. We are not supposed to understand poetry. We are required to feel it and soak in the cadence so much so that the reader becomes one with it.

That brings me to the next most important point – the interpretive scope of poetry – its vastness and complexity; its personalization and at the same time the sense of detachment intrinsic to the form.

Talking of my own experience – I have crossed milestones after milestones as an ardent enthusiast of poetry from rhymes to open verses to minimalism. Of the three, I still have a crush for blank verses but it is the last which has taught me that nothing is the least where versification of thoughts is concerned. Today, therefore, let’s talk about minimalism. And what best than haiku which epitomizes minimization at its profoundest best!

Delving deeper, I would say it is just not the aura of wordlessness that is the hallmark of haiku, it is the wonderment of revelation, the bemusement of a serendipitous find, the verbosity of the unsaid interweaved in the matrix that set it apart from all the other formats of poetry.

To quote an example

morning raga

yesterday’s buds

in full bloom

The entire process of creation encapsulated in seven simple words!

That’s it….Compressing an enormity in a tightly corked bottle and then suddenly pulling the cork off to let out the dizzying fizz in one go so that it hits the reader like a bolt with a swooning momentum!

Somebody said in chaos there is cosmos and order belies a hurricane of disorder

the magician

surprised

by his own magic

I am sure that is how the super-creator must be feeling surveying his own creation – the Universe!!

Three lines pulling in an eternity

beyond

the horizon

beyond

Yes! I am talking about Kala Ramesh’s anthology of haiku and haibun captioned beyond the horizon beyond….the title itself is self- explanatory.

From why haiku I come to why Kala…

At times when visiting an art gallery you come across a painting that you keep staring at knowing not why. It is much later that you realize the layers in those shades, the emotions behind the imagery, the aesthetics beyond the painting. That is how Kala’s haiku works on me. I keep reading and re-reading till I am able to find myself in her words.

withered field—

slowly coming to terms

with my aborted child

The sheer pain of losing something which is very much a part of you – the conspicuousness of its absence – its not being there but very much being there!!! And the realization of it – the bonding of pathos that threads through the earth to the sky………..and beyond… as Tagore would have said!!! The process of gathering, becoming and then severing away – a kaleidoscope of cosmic evolution infinite in its proposition endless in its continuum!!

At the cost of being criticized as a racist, I would say that it is the Indianness, so deeply entrenched in Kala’s haiku that resonates a chord in my heart. But then haiku is supposed to be country specific, isn’t it?

autumn lyrics

father talks about life

beyond death

And down the memory lane I toddle three decades back…..the quietly flowing Yamuna….the cold water lapping my feet. Sombre shades of night…the cooling of the ashes…..the irreplaceable loss of someone so dear…….shrinwantu vishwe amritasya putrah. We are all children of the Immortal….there is nothing called death….it is just the cyclic order of the cosmos….the consoling words of the priest had failed to give solace to a mind unsuccessfully grappling with the enormity of death.

burning ghat…

from the depths of grief

my friend’s off-key tune

This happenstance of just happening…. The miniscule existence…rather co-existence… in the mindboggling vastness of this world…

on the lake

skimming stones, I am

where I am

And this one reminds me of Albert Einstein’s most famous quote: “The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible. The fact that it is comprehensible is a miracle.” For us the most comprehensible thing about the world is that it is incomprehensible

everything

comes from the unborn…

spring song

That which is known germinates from the unknown. That which is born is a seedling of the unborn. This deeply embedded philosophy which connects the existing to the one which is omniscient, the visible to the invisible, the tangible to the intangible is the crux of Brahmavaad.

From the esoteric to the very earthy…

winter rain

a cadence

to our love making

So beautifully erotic… I can almost hear the music….of those unspoken, half uttered words in the dead of the night

raat gunti rahegi aadhi baat ko

aadhi baaton kii peer aadhi raat ko….

Vasant Dev

Aamaar naa bola baani ghano jaaminir maajhe ….

Tagore

(My unspoken words in the dead of the night….)

Haibun is a different cup of tea altogether. The tightly embedded prose in haikai language prefixed, suffixed or intercepted by haiku which shifts palpably from the prose yet links with it invariably is a reader’s delight.

Kala’s haibuns are word pictures where she experiments freely. There is one liner haibun (“A Level Ground”) seamlessly merging into a haiku. A prose written in free-verse style (“Kulfiwala”) tapering into a haiku. There are anecdotes, snatches of childhood memories and also occasional, and rather intentional, detours to third person accounts, yet every piece gracefully culminating into the present encapsulating the moment in a vibrantly visual haiku.

In the “Summer Snow” Kala subtly deals with mother-daughter relationship taking a new turn. The suddenness of the revelation is tempered with serendipitous realization like getting caught in an unannounced downpour.

caught unaware—

the thickness of rain

on the road

In “The Knot Remains”, the isolation of old age is so heartrendingly captured in

leafless tree

the sun rises

with a walking stick

In “The Twist” Kala’s son-in-law complements the way she maintains her car which almost looks new. But on his next visits, he gifts her two car fresheners which prompts Kala to write

banjo night

notes spin around

the dancer

Like the fragrance of the freshener which floats around the one on the steering wheel…??

Haiku is all about startling its readers out of ennui. That gasp which must also accompany the smile after reading one is a must for haiku. The nudging to wakefulness… the abruptness of the visual….and then the moment of epiphany…!!!

“as the sun dips into the horizon shadows slip away on a breath of fresh air I began to whistle a tune

A night of stars

My soul

All over the place”

And I hear Swamiji’s sonorous voice claiming with unshakable conviction

I am Existence Absolute

Knowledge Absolute

Bliss Absolute

I am He I am He

Swami Vivekananda

It is my sincere wish and hope that haiku, senryu, tanka and all other forms of Japanese poetry find a place in the syllabus of the Indian literati. Needless to say, Kala’s horizon beyond horizon would be, as it is now, counted as one of the most priceless and powerful referral points to fathom the layers and depths of Indian Haiku in English in the context of India – its way of life and philosophy, it’s ethos and essence, its deep rooted culture and ethnicity.

Divided in to five parts corresponding to the five elements – Earth-Prithvi, Water-Jalam, Fire-Agni, Air-Vayu, Ether-Akash – personifying the interconnectedness of everything, Kala’s horizon beyond horizon is a piece of cosmos ripped off to give us a deco of the vastness that lies beyond infinity. There are some books which you can never finish reading because at every turn of life when you again and again keep going back to it you will find newer meaning emerging, newer horizon enfolding and newer currents engulfing.

Therein lies the beauty of haiku and haibun….the story continues unpunctuated.

(horizon beyond horizon is available on Amazon)

Amazon.com. USA :: https://goo.gl/eejbHE

Amazon. co. UK :: https://goo.gl/Xjee4T

Amazon.in. India :: https://goo.gl/1hNzc8

You can also read this review on The Punch

The Basket Overflows


MY LATESTThis is  my latest acquisition. A winged back chair combined with an ottoman. I confess I have a fancy for antique stuff. Though Vijay, my carpenter, has made just the duplicate of the picture that I showed him. the wing chair now dwarfs my modest flat. I should have known better. Now, I feel rather self-conscious using it. The day next it arrived from Vijay’s workshop I reclined on it with my feet up on the ottoman and promptly went off to sleep. It was 04.00 am in the morning and when I got up I had a cramped neck because my head had lolled to one side. I realised I need a neck rest to enjoy a good nap on the chair.

I am a staunch believer of destiny and I distinctly feel that whatever comes to a person has its own purpose – from the most mundane to the most exquisite. So, when my brother-in-law said that I would be requiring this piece of furniture more than ever I could not help but agree. But the reason he cited made me laugh aloud.

That brings me to the next piece of happening in me-life. Guys! I am pleased to announce that my collection of short stories has got recently published by Creative Crows. Its my first solo publication and I am extremely proud of it because I have put in my hundred percent to it. So coming to my B-I-L’s prophecy, I would be now requiring the winged back chair more than anytime before because once my book hits the stand it is going to become no less than a bestseller( according to him)  and then there would be no looking back for me. Thereafter, I would be doing just nothing throughout the day but smoke  hookah with all the proper noises sitting on my winged chair. So much so for his flight of fancy!

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About the book. I consider it one of my prime achievements at the fag end of my working career though it has nothing to do with my earning profession. I am a 09.00 to 05.00 worker which at times is a constraint as well as a blessing….mostly. Constraint because I cannot think of doing anything else once I am into my job which is as demanding and as harrowing as any job could be. Blessing because I have a steady source of income at the end of every month and I do not have to think from where the next meal is going to come.  But this was high time I did something other than my vocation. Why? Because I must have something to engage with once I retire from my thirty five years old job! Notwithstanding the fact that I do not consider writing books to be a source of substantial income. I am here talking of mental occupation which is far more important than earning outside your job. At lease to me.

The next important point. Why Creative Crows?

Being in the Government I had to take special approval before getting into publication. From the very beginning I was set on self publication though it is strangely jeered as vanity publication, I seriously do not understand why because to me it is the best thing that could happen to not only first timers but also to others whom literary agents do not consider to be their latest find. However, there are segment of writers who think authors who go for self publication are those who have been rejected by established publishers because their work is not good enough. Wrong. But I tell you self publication is also not something easy. Even if you pay for your books to be published there are Publishing Houses who will unnecessarily meddle into your work and tell you what and how to write. The Editor simply feels he is some kind of king (nay, author) maker and give you a horde of unwanted suggestions, whether you like it or not.

Talking of big Publishing Houses, the latest trend is that they do not wish to communicate directly with the writers other than through literary agents who are there to “evaluate” your work, i.e. whether it is commercially viable, or let them rot in the slushpile if they feel it is not worthwhile to publish. And then there are some who will tell you point blank like poetry, short stories do not sell because everyone from an IIM/IIT alumni to a school drop out is busy writing full fledged novels and these are selling like hot cakes!!

So, it took almost two years for me to bump into Creative Crows, the name clicked as much as their web page. This Publishing House was set up by an ex-army personnel who took upon himself to publish the anecdotal and other experiential writings of ex-army personnel which I later gathered must be doing rounds amongst the cadre – their jokes, their adventures, their commentaries and their viewpoints on various subjects, most importantly, on defence. It is at this point of time I realized that there are so many different types of literary ventures which are separate genres by themselves – army literature, corporate literature, spiritual literature, medical literature et al. Luckily for me Creative Crows also published literary works other than army literature.

Coming to the founder of Creative Crows, Late Colonel Mahip Chaddha, who must have had a great sense of humour to call his PH thus. I all along had this intuition that his concern must be working on very transparent footing. Army people, I strongly believe, have their own redoubtable  integrity. And how correct I was!

To make a long story short, the journey so far with Creative Crows has been wonderful and enriching. Hope I will not be disappointed at any point of time later. So, here I am with my anthology of fifteen short stories about contemporary urban life and its vagaries.

This post will remain incomplete if I do not mention Ankita Sharma of Humming Words fame who so artistically created the cover jacket of the book. Each picture denotes the essence of each short story and these are six in number. As you see these fly out of a brimming basket underscoring the clutter in modern lifestyle, you realize how richly they contribute to the respective stories inside. Experience with Ankita was eye opening. Till this time, for me a cover jacket was merely a cover jacket, however, there would be occasions when I would be staring at some without knowing why because I thought these just happened to be eye catching.

It is Ankita who taught me that making a cover jacket is no less a challenging assignment than any other art form. She taught me to be concerned about detailing, meticulous about positioning and thorough about what a cover conveys to a reader. I am immensely indebted to her, in brief.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that the book would find interested readers. Short stories, like poetry, is a dying genre. Nobody thinks short stories are worth reading. But I feel writing a short story is much more difficult than writing a novel because at times a seedling of a novel is embedded in short fiction. The sweep it has to cover and convey, the characters it has to sketch and establish, the message it has to communicate and inspire readers with are propositions of enormous nature confined within the bounds of a few pages.

Short stories come to an end very shortly but are able to leave traces behind which lurk in the mindscape like the flying leaflets from life’s tome. A book of short stories can be fished out and read readily anywhere – while traveling, during bedtime, in-between gruelling work schedule and definitely while relaxing during leisure hours. So with all such options how can you not pick up “A Basketful Of Lies” and flip through. Yes, that’s the name of the book.

In the final analysis, what is fiction but dishing out a truism of life cloaked in the garb of lies? As long as you cherish these, let the basket be full.

Happy Reading…

 

 A Basketful Of Lies is available on both Amazon and Flipkart

 

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For The Sake Of The Goosebumps … At Least


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STREE I

Have you ever heard of a comic horror movie which has equally intense measures of horror as well as comedy seamlessly blended together with a powerful social message to boot? My query generates from a watcher’s experience. I have mostly seen comic horror movies getting stripped down to such pathetic level that they neither remain horrifying nor comical. In contrast, here we have an example which in the beginning of the narrative itself flaunts a disclaimer that it is based on a ridiculous phenomenon. Now how close the ridiculous is to reality it is for the audience to decide. Or does the ridiculous ever boast of realism? That is another line of never ending debate.

Before I talk more about the movie, let me just confess something ludicrous that I realized about myself while watching it. I reiterate I am no longer a PVR person. But I have this very odd relationship with abstraction. Whatever is abstract or borders on the surreal always holds great attraction for me so much so that it becomes irresistible, notwithstanding the sleepless nights later.

STREE 2

It is watching the trailer of the movie Stree(with the tagline Ab Mard Ko Dard Hoga……….corny, you’ve said it!) that I first felt a great urge to watch it and that too in the PVR for very simple reasons. Firstly, the content seemed different. Secondly, I respect Rajkumar Rao’s genre of acting. Yes, it is a genre in itself which more and more good and sensible actors are thankfully subscribing to. Thirdly and most importantly, the effectiveness of a ghost story deserves better mode of viewing. Hence, the unusual and unplanned visit to the PVR.

Panning back to Stree, as it should be, a ghost story needs a fitting backdrop. And what best than a small town of Chanderi with a Puraanee Khandar of a haveli overlooking it. Just perfect! A small town with their indigenous values, ethnicity, dialect, social mores and behavioural culture add authenticity to the theme. More than perfect, isn’t it?

Here is Chanderi bitten by the female ghost bug who pays an annual visit to the town, during the Pujas, to kidnap its menfolk who are never returned to tell what happened with them. What’s left behind are the clothes they are last seen wearing. Interesting plot!

STREE 3

Now who plays the savior of the ailing town? The only son of the local tailor(Atul Srivastav) who thinks his son, Vicky(Rajkumar Rao) is gifted with magical sartorial powers. His measuring eyes does the work of the inch tape and computerized head stores all the measurements. And his fingers….Voila!  No wonder the flock of ladies queuing outside his shop! No he is not the Roadside Romeo kind. He is  just an earthy, nice-hearted small towner as his friends, Bittoo(Aparshakti Khurana) and Jenaa(Abhishek Chatterjee) are.

It’s the Puja time. And we have the local bookshop owner Rudra(Pankaj Tripathi) warning the boys to be cautious while having their share of masti because it’s the time when Stree pays her yearly visit to the town. Stree is none other than Chanderi’s(in)famous Churail. It is also the time when Vicky often meets a mysterious girl(Shraddha Kapoor) who asks him to stitch a dress and collect a few unusual items for her.

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The narrative hereon efficiently wriggles through goosebumpy, curvaceous trails.  Jenaa along with twenty other men are hijacked by the churail! It is to bring a spooked Jenaa back to normalcy from the clutches of the ghost who even after his return still controls his mind and to save the town from getting virtually bereft of male population that Vicky and Bittoo embark on a deadly mission to track the ghost and render her powerless. They are aided by Rudra and the nameless girl who confesses that she too is on the same mission because she has also lost her dear one to the wrath of the churail. It is from then onwards a hair raising rollercoaster ride which is as edgy as howlarious.

The edge of the seat narration by director Amar Kaushik does justice to the intriguing story. The foursome of Rajkumar Rao, Aparshakti Khurana, Abhishek Chatterjee and Pankaj Tripathi  carry the entire film on their able shoulders. Shraddha Kapoor is the right choice baby…Aha! Ketan Sodha’s background scores, Amalendu Chaudhary’s cinematography and Hemanti Sarkar’s editing go hand in hand to render the experience spookier.

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The small town has grown in character, content and form in today’s low and middle budget cinema which have also proven to be big revenue grossers and steady competition to big banners and mega movies. The face of Incredible India is fast changing. Migrants from small towns to Metros have added substantially to the workforce and contributing to the GDP. Urbanization has acquired a new dimension on account of this migration.

Moreover, the elevation of a one-time- chaiwallah to premiership of this vast subcontinent has proved that the aspirations of the small towners are no more laughable. They are achievable.  And that has risen hopes in millions of hearts. India is happening.

It would be myopic of Bollywood not to recognize the worth and power of the small town at this juncture. The small towns are the cauldrons of curious tales. But they are also caught in the fast track. They too are transitioning. So, we find more and more films based on small towns, like Dum Lagaa  Ke Haisha and Bareilly Ki Barfi, because they do and they too have not one but many stories to share which are highly relatable and very close, if not synonymous, to reality. Their way of looking at life itself is something which is not innovated but our own homegrown. And what is homegrown does not require to be sold with catchy punch lines or added frills. Their salability is certain.

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Thus Sumit Arora’s dialogues have the Cineplex roaring with laughter. Raj Kumar Rao’s spontaneity makes him hugely endearing. The characters of Bittoo, Jenaa and Rudra are no more alien. They are just one of the flavours of the cosmopolitan delicacy called India.

Coming to the social cause for which Stree fights. Its nothing but woman empowerment, to put it simplistically, but just said in a different tone and language. Therefore, from the slogan of O Stree Kal Aana, in the beginning of the narrative, it is  O Stree Raksha Karna, by the end! I am sure an O Stree  encore is in the offing.

IMDB rates  Stree 8.5 out of 10. I would recommend it to all. Never mind the intermittent gasps, the shivers and the startles sprucing it all up. Yet it is immensely watchable! Hugely entertaining! Definitely mainstream! A bold attempt at experimenting with something so implausible that it becomes possible with a strong whiff of currency and urgency! Unbelievable…!

Go watch it for the sake of the goosebumps…at least.

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(All Pics from Google)

 

This Review can also be read on Mouthshut.com

 

 

Love Is…


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When in teens, I was not much bothered about romantic novels. I am emphasising on novels because in those days modes of entertainment were very limited. It was either books or occasional movies. Internet was nowhere in the picture. Television had only just appeared in the scene. That too black and white gracing a few fortunate, and as per the then standards, well-to-do households.

So, I grew up on books of a different kind which intrigued, and still intrigues, me to no end – murder mysteries, whodunits, suspense thrillers and the likes. Agatha Christies, Satyajit Rays, James Hadly chases, Erle Stanley Gardners were a few of my favourites while my class mates guzzled Mills & Boons after Mills & Boons and Barbara Cartlands after Barbara Cartlands. Having said that, I would also like to clarify that I was not completely averse to romance. While I was an equally ardent admirer of Evelyn Anthony, Victoria Holt, Georgette Heyer, M&B, especially, I would steer clear of because of the lack of strong story line. it was always the girl meet boy situations and absolute detest blossoming into sublime love. It was, I would say, the stereotypical that bored me to no end.

Now, why after so many years, I am going down the memory lane? Of course, there is a reason which has made me take a U-turn towards mushy romance. No, I have not fallen in love. Haa! Haa! But I have recently watched a Pakistani Tele-serial on You Tube which has left me dizzy. Particularly because it has a strong narrative and a message to convey.

Those who have read my reviews on this website will know that I am an avid follower of Pakistani Serials because of their meaningful content packed in short length coupled with powerful performances. In short, a treat which never goes over board.

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Coming to Dil Lagi, yes that is the name of the Serial, is based in a small town of Pakistan, named Sukkur in interior Sindh. Anmol(Mehwish Hayat) stays with her widowed mother(Asma Abbas)  and younger sister Mishal(Mariam Ansari). Anmol’s father mortgaged their residential house for a loan which he repayed before his death. However, there is no documentary evidence of repayment of the loan and clearance of the mortgage on the house. Only Anmol’s mother knows this for a fact but she cannot prove it on account of lack of material proof.  Kifayat Ali, to whom the house was mortgaged, takes advantage of the situation and resells the property to Mohid( Humayun Saeed) who excels in estate dealings and is a name to reckon with in the town. Mohid stays with his widowed mother Zulekha(Saba Hameed) and married but separated sister(Uzma Hassan).

Kifayat Ali tells Mohid that the property is occupied by a family illegally. Mohid deploys his right hand man Dastgir(Imran Ashraf) and a flock of goondas to evict Anmol and her family. Anmol, being the rebellious kind, puts up a valliant fight to oust the goondas led by Dastgir. Mohid witnessing Anmol’s courage and outrage is suitably impressed and returns the papers of the house to Anmol’s mother because he truly believes in ethical business.

It is love at first sight for Mohid. But for Anmol, it is simply hatred for the man who disrespected  her mother and sister and employed goondas to render them homeless without knowing facts of the case. From hereon starts the love-hate relationship between Mohid and Anmol. Eventually, Anmol is compelled to marry Mohid on the condition that if the man whom Anmol truly loves appears on the scene she will not think twice to leave Mohid and walk out of her marriage. It is painful for Mohid yet he agrees to marry Anmol hoping someday she will realize that he deeply loves her without any ulterior motives.

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Anmol, on the other hand, tries all the tricks up her sleaves to demean Mohid and create havoc in his life. But while doing so she also unites Mohid’s sister with her estranged husband(Zain Mirza). For her its only vengeance and settling of scores with Mohid, who had once tried to evict her family from their rightful place and disrupted her sister Mishaal’s life.

A very interesting plot with tightly scripted direction makes the serial an edge of the seat experience. And all along the episodic narrative the only question in the reader’s mind is when will Anmol be off her ego trip and accept Mohid as her soul partner.

It takes twenty four episodes and a number of twists and turns, which on hindsight appear predictable, for the story to come to its satisfactory end. Notwithstanding the twists in the tale, the story is linear and pivots around Anmol and Mohid’s dysfunctional relationship/marriage.

But as I have mentioned earlier, the  narrative is strong and the other characters, limited in number, support the theme of the story and the protagonists, in every sense of the term. And the message is also lucid. Love is not an ego trip but germinates from respect, faith and loyalty towards each other.

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However, predictable the story line be, the direction demanded power-packed performances which were delivered without a glitch by all – be it Mehwish as the headstrong, emotional and at times foolish Anmol, Humayun Saeed as the quiet lover,  Mohid or Saba Hameed as the upright Zulekha. While Humayun Saeed is a show stealer, Mehwish puts life into Anmol so much so that one wants to shake her by the shoulders at times seeing her giving in to her stupid ego and arrogance. It will be an unpardonable oversight, if one does not talk of Mishaal, who is an opposite of Anmol and that is why perhaps, she understands her elder sister so well. She is calm, collected, intelligent and rational. Mariam Ansari is beautiful and very composed as Mishaal in contrast with the fiesty and fiery Anmol. Zulekha is another very strong character who is forthright and proud and scornful of male dominance. She is the matriarch par excellence but at the same time recognises the worth of Anmol and calls her “Khara sona” which is extremely engaglng. A special mention for Imran Ashraf as Dastgir, a comic villain, whose appearance provides relief to the audience and his love for his Master, Mohid Bhayya, makes him an endearing soul. His love interest is Mishaal. But Mishaal is, nature wise, dignified and farsighted while Dastgir is childlike and a mis-match for Mishaal in terms of cerebral capacity. Still both make a cute pair – extremely lovable yet the difference in their respective natures very prominent in their interactions. Knowing how closed the Muslim society is, it comes as a refreshing surprise that even in the backdrop of a small town, the women portrayed in the movies have such strength of character, indomitable will and rebellious(of patriarchy). At the same time, they are god fearing! Alas! How the TV soaps of our liberal and incredible India allow only social aberrations to be highlighted in full swing.

Thus, an Anmol is able to forcefully marry Mohid in the dead of the night threatening if he says no she will marry the Qazi whom she has brought to marry her off to him. Anmol’s mother is ready to cut off ties with her dear daughter when she learns that she is wilfully acting as a home breaker. And Zulekha, inspite of Anmol’s glaring shortcomings accepts her as her daughter-in-law.

Another fascinating feature of the narration is that all the characters grow from worse to better in the course of unfolding of the story. Mohid learns to empathise with her sister whom he until then treated just like a piece of furniture. Zulekha learns to make no distinction between daughter and daughter-in-law. Anmol’s mother learns to love her elder daughter whom she, in the beginning of the serial, failed to understand. Dastgir graduates into a self-respecting individual to whom the worth of education is brought home by Mishaal. And above all, Anmol learns to reciprocate and respect Mohid’s feelings for her.

Dil Lagi was aired on ARY TV in 2016. The serial is available on You Tube. Those who, after reading this review, wish to see the serial, can do so on You Tube now. An extremely engrossing watch!

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(All Pics from Google)

 

This review can also be found on Mouthshut.com

Cultivating No-Man’s Land Under “Delhi As I See” Part 2


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It’s sprawling, un-walled yet gated on one side while the other side lies open and easy to trespassing. One wonders what is the grand use of the forlorn gate then on this side while the boundary wall, for the namesake, is too low and easily surmountable and the other end provides free access to all without discrimination? Clumps of shrubs randomly abound. Trees line up the boundaries in an unplanned manner and groups of drivers are found huddled together gambling in the scattered shades. Sometimes, they break into drunken brawls providing free-ka-entertainment to passers-by and visitors. At times, they take out their frustration of losing or being cheated in the game on one of the vehicles standing nearby. It’s their way of whiling time as the busy office hours rush by.

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The drivers huddle under shady trees to while their time gambling

Rows and rows of cars parked in the muddy ground, scorched by the Capital’s summer, stand unguarded amidst heaps of rubbles and dirt.  In some parts, the ground looks like the moon’s surface dotted by crater-like holes which brim up with water during the rainy season compelling the owners to push up their trousers knee high to wade through to their vehicles. You’d be lucky not to slip through the puddles and fall headlong fracturing a limb or two. Bricks and boulders lie cluttered here and there. The drivers’ expertise is reinforced by the way the vehicles are angled over these – also a redoubtable testimonial of the strength of the tyre muscles of various makes.  An adman’s delight! The poor owner’s nightmare!

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Sometimes the Parking lot appears like the moon’s surface dotted with craters

This unkempt land is the so-called parking lot allotted to the monumental SCOPE Complex – Standing Conference of Public Enterprises – an apex body of the Central Government Public Enterprises. It has also some State Enterprises, Banks and other Institutions as its Members. The building houses a number of CPSEs (Central Public Sector Enterprises), some of which lay claim to being Fortune 500 Companies. The vehicular traffic to and from SCOPE is regular and spills on the road between Jawaharlal Nehru (JLN) Stadium and the SCOPE Complex. This is the 7, Institutional Area, Lodhi Estate which also situates the CGO Complex and the CBI Headquarters. JLN being one of the seats of the Commonwealth Games (CWG) 2014, the area was purportedly “developed” and suitably “beautified” preceding the controversial CWG. Not far is also the foot bridge which was made, again in haste, to make commuting easier for the sportsmen and women from all the Commonwealth countries to and from the Stadium. However, in the hurry and scurry of the hasty makeover, fit for international standing, a properly tended parking lot was ‘’inadvertently” missed. Hence, the sorry plight which continues to be an eye sore for the visitors and a heart ache for those who commute daily to the Complex by their personal conveyance to earn their bread and butter.

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Rubble heap everywhere

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The car’s safety in every respect is circumspect

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Car space allotted to SCOPE and surrounding other Office Buildings

The SDMC (South Delhi Municipal Corporation) has outsourced the “management” of the said parking lot to private party who makes the most of it, giving two hoots to courtesy, when it comes to extracting the parking fees from the outgoing cars (read owners). It’s Rs. 100/- for a day and Rs. 1200/- for a month for an untended piece of land for your car and on certain days you’d be just fortunate enough to even get that.IMG_20180809_141102 (4)

My driver, on two occasions, annoyed me to no end though his acts were well meant. On one instance he made me wait interminably while he laboriously manoeuvred a stranger’s car out of a veritable swamp. The owner, he told me later, was having problem in crossing over puddles to reach his vehicle because of a physical handicap. On another occasion, he proved his chivalry by helping a lady haul her car out of a mud pile. He said she was unable to pull out   (blocking mine) as her tyres had got stuck in the mud slush. Both, as I said, were good deeds on his part but I only wish he would keep his mobile in those over-sized pockets when succumbing to such occasional bouts of social service so that I know where and why he is delayed in place of jumping to conclusion that he has played truant in the nick of time when I need him.

It is also, at these times, that I seriously wonder where the tax payers’ money goes. Also why the activity called “planning” is completely missing from the dictionary of those who are in charge of the Capital’s Administration? Of course, if the people in charge of Administration had paid attention to actual constructive work then who would have wasted time in bickering with the Centre? Point!

I also lament the lack of innovation in governance. Here is a substantial work force of drivers of various age groups sitting idle and inevitably employing their empty minds to devilry throughout the day who could have been otherwise creatively used as a collaborative element in building and maintaining a spacious parking place with proper amenities.

Lately, SCOPE has banished the drivers from occupying the basements where they would earlier sleep, chat or play to kill time. Now, bereft of their air-conditioned shelter, these men gallivant around like vagabonds. Apart from being a cool haven for them in the Capital’s blazing summer, the basement also provided a cosy nook during the Capital’s equally chilling winter and lashing downpours. The banishment must have been due to the misdeeds of a few miscreants that the genuine ones are made to suffer.

Talking of innovation, these potentially vibrant and virile army of strong and skilled men could have been meaningfully organized to help the Contractor or the MCD per se in beautifying the fallow land ( if they had given a thought to that) and converting it into a  trendy and secured parking zone with segregated car space for regulars and visitors, respectively, sitting areas for drivers along with other amenities like privately owned and operated lavatories (to be used paying a nominal sum) and reasonably priced and affordable eateries for those who are not in a position to avail of luxurious and branded joints.

Drivers who are regulars, like mine, could have been tutored to keep a strict vigil on those who specialize in being health and hygiene hazards. Additional Security Staff could also have been deployed by SCOPE to ensure that the parking space is strictly used for what it is meant (i.e. parking) and not for doubling up as free space for poor men’s makeshift casinos.

However, these remain paper dreams till such time the Authorities get that inner urge to do what they are required to do and that is to govern with a vision in place of brick batting for and only for votes.

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After a heavy downpour the parking place gets converted into swampy land

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Designers’ Dilemma


A few weeks back HT Brunch (Sunday) issue was all about power dressing and style statement. Neither am I a fashionista nor an avid fashion follower, by any means. Not at all. Neither have I any remote desire to become one of the either. My idea of dressing is what suits one’s personality and work convenience best. In short, functional.

However, I don’t mind browsing through the latest fashion ( mags, dailies, whatever) once in a while. I also admire people who are well dressed. But if you ask me I would always prefer ethnicity and understated elegance over the latest craze, however, overwhelming it may be.

In the Capital, if you are not up-to-date with fashion, you are, indisputably, down-market – a behenji, so to speak. Now, defining behenji – is a person who dresses conventionally irrespective of the people she is with or place she is visiting. For example, a girl in saree or salwar suit amidst a hep crowd in a discotheque, is unequivocally, a behenji.

However, have the opinion mongers ever noticed that those who make or have made the most impactful and long lasting impressions on our lives and minds are all men and women who have subscribed to dressing which best suits their personality and job?

Take, for example, our own Mr. Narendra Modi. How well dressed he looks in his churidar kurta, half coat and pugdee ( turban). I was watching him this 15th of August mingling with the children. And he oozed style with statement and power. Matchless! (Though I am not an out-and-out Modi fan….yet.) In fact, he has made the half shirts ( a go-between bush shirt and long kurta) fashionable indeed!

Modi in Vadnagar

I have had the good fortune of seeing Mr. Manmohan Singh from close quarters, when he was not the so-called Prime Minister. As Finance Minister he would quite often come to attend Meetings at the Bengal Chamber of Commerce in B B D Bagh, Kolkata, (and mind you, there would not be any traffic-roko-management to let him in or out of the building, though it was in the midst of a very busy office complex) in his ubiquitous spotless white bandh gala and sky blue turban with black shoes to match – a smartly dressed academician-turned-Union Finance Minister!!

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And don’t forget Mr. Jyoti Basu, our own Bangaali Babu in his crisp dhuti and paanjaabi. At the day’s end not one crease would be discernible in his attire or his visage ! Mrs. Sharmilla Tagore Pataudi once remarked that he was the best dressed man she had ever met !

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Of ladies, as fashion is very much their prerogative, the foremost in the league would be Mrs. Indira Gandhi. I remember my mother would go gaga over her collection of sarees which, according to her, she never repeated. Her daughter-in-law Sonia Gandhi made most of her wardrobe because that reeked of ethnicity – deshi ki mitti ki khushboo – and statement, I suppose!!

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So was Amma aka Jayalalitha, craftily covering the bullet proof jacket that she regularly wore under yards and yards of expensive and well-chosen chiffons, crepes and silks!! She was a natural beauty with an enviably glowing skin and equally unshakable composure.

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In this list, I will also include the late Ms. Benazeer Bhutto. Her three piece salwar suits ( with the unforgettable hijaab) and stylish belly(shoes), and of course, Mr. Musharraff, whose beautifully tailored pathan suits, I fell headlong for, during his visit to India.

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My readers may say that I am only picking up political figures to prove my point that dressing is all about functionality and ethnicity. So, then let me give you the example from the most hat-ke category – our own dear old Gulzaar Sahab in his well starched kurta- pyjama and a carelessly thrown jamdani shawl during jaadon kii narm dhoop. How about that ???

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Talking of fashion, the conversation invariably veers towards Bollywood Stars. But it is so difficult to figure out whether the dresses they wear are all sponsored or of their own choice. Lately, I came to know that Rekha is the brand ambassador of Kanchipuram Silk. No wonder she is always so wrapped in broad gold bordered South Silks and tons and tons of gold jewelry to go with these. But my advice to her would be to seriously accept her age and dress accordingly.

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When I watch the old Hindi movies I really admire the dress sense of yesteryear actors and actresses. They never wore designer stuffs. The concept was completely absent at that time. Yet, they looked so elegant and their dresses so well tailored. I get the same feeling when I now watch the Pakistani tele-serials. Not an ounce of flesh visible ( at the wrong places, i.e.) yet the outfits are exquisite examples of sartorial workmanship at its best.

While on the subject, let me confess I do not understand what statement a designer tries to make through his/her collection of the season. But I really try my level best to do so, believe me. Haute-couture is again something which is not intellectually graspable to me. High street fashion….lets not broach the subject at all. Mostly they jar my aesthetic senses and appear weird and non-functional to say the least.

It is really debatable whether style emanates from the persona wearing an outfit or from the latter per se. I feel, and I have given a substantial number of examples in favour of my argument, as above, that how one carries oneself is what matters most. The way a person dresses is an extension of his/her personality. Whether the dress makes him/her or he/she makes them his/her own by the way he/she carries him/herself is what remains to be argued upon…endlessly.

(This is my first fashion blog. I was wondering whether I can write one and comfortably so)

All pics are from Google