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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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.

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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!

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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 ???

GULZAAR

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.

REKHA

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

Of Woes And Worries


Its March and I have not written a new post after 2nd of January this year. A shame as myriad mundane activities of day to day subsistence is taking precedence over writing, which although was not actually a daily routine, yet formed a part of leisure at regular intervals. The thought, however, remained at the back of my mind and nagged, especially, when I was too stressed out with worries not about the future ( that is unquestionably bleak!!) but about how I was moving away from my own self each moment involuntarily. At times the present is more worrisome than the unknown tomorrow.

The beginning of the year saw some heartbreaking, orbit-shifting changes in life. I have been oscillating for quite some time between taking the right path and retaining my comfort zone, however, discomforting that was becoming with each passing day. It sounds strange now but it is true. Sometimes, we do not realise or want to accept that status quo is not always a safe bet. But taking the next step is so difficult, so very difficult, even when we know it is imperative and inevitable. So, after many tugs of war between the head and the heart some compelling action followed mid February which left a heartrending vacuum in life. Yet in a very contrarian way peace got restored amidst a havoc-ridden existence.

Though I am still not at peace with myself but in the final analysis change is the only constant in life and for the better! A few To Dos after a phase of disorder and disorganisation justifiably follow suite. In the first place, I have decided to once again immerse myself in creativity – complete the half done writing assignments, catch up with my unfinished readings, try my hand again at learning a few new forms of art, in short, reclaim my life.

I do not know how successful I will be in my mission. Discipline and order are two things which elude me often but at least the intent is firmed up. A suggestion from my elder sister which I am keen to embrace is to maintain a regular journal of whatever criss crosses my mind – a ready reckoner of sorts. This post is one big step towards that but the subsequent entries would not be necessarily a part of my blog space. I intend to write and not tap on the keyboard to align a string of wayward musings into one cohesive strain. A far cry because I have seriously lost ‘touch’ with the pen. And however well meaning the proposal be I am really doubtful about its continuity.

A zillion household chores have been pushed to the backyard which need to be prioritised in the second phase. This should have been the first phase for all practical purpose. But I guess I have to get into the right mindset , a happy and contented one, to pursue a consistent course of action.

Next is streamlining my financial commitments which are in such a mess. Five years more to retire and I think its high time I wound up a lot many things before I embark on my second innings. One may say that there’s still time but the speed with which time flies….

Amidst this plethora of must-dos, I once again shelve my dreams. Foremost of these is to find my own self in the crowd of unwarranted burdens and unwanted drudgeries. Though somewhere in life’s course, I have come to identify myself with these burdens and drudgeries. Perhaps that is my way of accepting life as is. There’s no point in not owning them as disowning can do nothing better than perpetuate friction.

But again… all of these enumerated above and many more can only be achievable when the blood oozing wounds subside into throbbing scars, which in turn, sooth down to being just a passing memory stabbing the heart once in a while on a rainy evening or a cloudy noon.

And that perhaps is the toughest task…to fight it out with one’s own self, placate the obstinate child within so as to let her settle down to a more calming and reasonable prospect. I do not know when that possibly be accomplishable. Probably never….or perhaps I should let the wand of time sweep over my soul moment by moment till the chaos within is lulled down to sleep.

Wordless Wednesday


IMG_20171230_103042_01.jpg

My Two Bit Gyaan On “Gaan”…Part II


If you have not read the Part I then you have missed the preface to what I am posting now

Nowadays I am trying to cope with rejection which is nothing new but whenever I am hit by a fresh wave of “no-you-are-not-so-good” reaction, the dejection that builds up like a gnawing pain in the pit of the stomach, stays on and on and on…like a solid entity….an unwelcome insurgent who is hard to shove out and harder to acknowledge as one of the many. Perhaps that’s a wrong description of rejection but that is what it is with me.  Now, it is not why rejection for which I shall be devoting a separate post subsequently. It is how to wade through the aftermath of rejection that holds your body, mind and soul on ransom that needs to be removed jnto. And that is what brings me to the million dollar question: what do you do when you are suffering from a bout of depression triggered by continual rejection from the four corners of your world on efforts that were very dear to you? The smarter generation goes for an extra hour on the treadmill or hit the punch bag a hundred times more to be relieved of the pent up frustration coiling up within. The wiser ones sit in padmansana and resort to om chanting or pranayama to detoxify body and mind. The hard-core doers and go-getters give it an energetic  toss out of their system. The morbid take recourse to brooding and the incurable optimist remains hopeful of a serendipitous find around the bend which will topple over the extant disgruntling arrangements to replace it by a more equitable, pleasureful experience.

If you ask me what do I do, I will not be able to give a satisfactory answer because of the simple fact that I do not have any. I moo around, crib occasionally, enter into a shell and stay there for a long time and then at the end of all the futile exercises emerge out of my comfort cocoon accepting the fact that I am no good in this world. During these times there are certain /particular song that gets stuck onto my mind repeating itself like a monk’s incessant chant. And in doing so, it makes me concentrate at one point  or the other on the why of it. Why or what is it that the lyrics of the song keep coming back again again to me in a whirling motion and stay on and on till I conclude that this is a song which is very much part of me or my life at this point of time because of this very reason. It also underscores the process of mood influencing a choice. A choice that would have been hard to make and harder not to make.

Coming back to the song. It’s again my favourite lyricist Yogeshji. The music composer, Salil Chaudhury, deceives with the sweetness of his melodies , which as a singer is extremely difficult, if you are not a classically oriented performer, both Indian as well as Western. His jumping notes and even the straight ones are hard to pull through. Talking about the singer, Mudah, is definitely not my all time favourite. But the deeply embedded reverberating pathos in his voice makes most of his songs a compelling listening experience. I have tried singing his songs but it’s easier to hide one’s flawfull singing behind karigari than hitting a straight note straight. And to give the devil it’s due, try imagining someone else singing these songs. You will fail as none can sing out pain in bass as he can.

I struggle to transliterate the Hindi lyrics into English. So, I would just go by the essence if the ditty:

My eyes have dreamt zillion dreams

Knowing not whether they would come to pass

Yet I dream…

My heart tells me be not sad defeated by sorrow

The songs that I have penned from the heart

One day may be sung with pain or happiness

Knowing not yet I dream…

Picturized on the yesteryear hit duo Anil Dhawan and Jaya Bhaduri from the film …Oh I forget the name of the film, but it’s one of those realistic mainstream cinemas used to be made in the 70s and 80s on low budget for the middle class audience torn between dreams and deprivation. 

Listen to it. The value of the song does not lie mitali e in the words, the music or three rendition. But somethings beyond which may be broadly, and vaguely so, compressed in one word – the effect!!! 

And that brings me to the moot point. What makes a song tick – it’s lyrics? It’s composition? Or its the way the song has been sung? Or in today’s terms put together with all the techno-effects packed into it ?

I am sure it’s none of these and all of these plus the chiaroscuro of light and darkness, pain and pleasure, the omnipresent sense of void and being , juxtaposed into a single oneness. And therein, my friends, lie the worth of a song and it’s timeless overture.

https://youtu.be/bblHYBckf8g

To Granny With Love


I have just finished reading Tannaaz  Irani’s  “Goodness Gracious! Grand Mama!!” (GGG) – a memoir so lovingly written. But I am not much into memoirs. The last read was Shobha De’s “Selective Memories” which I found very, very selective in every sense of the term. In contrast, Tannaaz’s tribute to her grandmamma, through this book, is not only an invitation to meet her “idiosyncratic” family and the colourful persona that her granny was, but it also chronicles passage of an era.

I, generally, do not “review” a book – I merely put in words the thoughts that race through my mind and the feelings that whelm my heart in the process of assimilating one. Whether that can be called a review is definitely debatable.

A few chapters into this one, I was transported to the Kolkata of more than three decades back – a difficult phase of my life which I’d rather not prefer to remember but for the peek it provided into those impassable alleys of life! An unthinkable exposure to a sheltered middle class existence, years later which coagulated into clusters of unforgettable experiences serving as fodder to a pen much inclined to put to account the vagaries of human life in all its kaleidoscopic extravaganza.  It was also during this time that I had my first encounter with Parsis and Anglo-Indians which also coincided with my entry into the corporate world. The secretary to the CEO of the esteemed organization, I debuted in, was a Parsi lady whom I found most intriguing. She had a name way different from the names I was accustomed with. More than that, she was quite unapproachable being associated with the higher echelon of the organizational ladder. She spoke less, smiled much lesser and maintained a distance from the rest. Perhaps it was the requirement of the post she held or she thought it was. However, my bitchy colleagues attributed her stiff-backed stance to confirmed spinsterhood. Parsis are an affluent but closed community with an acute aversion towards socio-cultural intermingling. Reading Tannaaz, I now understand the socio-historical anatomy of this exclusiveness stemming from a regrettable colonial hangover which we all Indians, more or less, suffer from and the consequent misplaced diffidence.

Are memoires supposed to invoke wistfulness? I thought as chapter by chapter, Tannaaz’s words retraced my steps back to childhood – those carefree days of fairy-tale dreams oblivious of the limitations of hard-hitting realities.

The best thing about GGG is that it is in no way a deliberately packaged product. The writing is free-flowing sans the intent to make it attractive. Grandmamma leaps out of the pages as the formidable matriarch, fiercely guarding the family from disintegration, even if that means the not-so-well-to-do-relations unabashedly taking advantage of her hospitality and generosity. Her indomitable spirit is infectious. Her valiance in the face of adversity is inspiring. A unique combination of feudal grandiose and charming grace, bestowed upon those whom she considers deserving of the same, Grandmamma epitomises a class long-extinct and times long gone by. Perhaps, one can even take the liberty of saying she would have been a misfit in today’s times, yet, she seems to be such an integral part of the past – a past that would remain incomplete without personas like her who defined the ethos of those times – a birthing nation with its umbilical cord still tied to a decadent imperial dominance!  Understandably, Grandmamma, thus, desperately sticks to her self-created image of the virtual mater familias dictating terms, imposing rules and overshadowing all her kith and kin who toe her line either willingly or unwillingly or just as a matter of practice. Yet, Tannaaz, describes her Grandmamma’s royal eccentricities with a handful of humour which may have bordered on irreverence if she were not in awe of her. Grandmamma is fun to the fresh crop of the family, the gen next – the budding scions of a different time!!

Tannaaz inks her memories without a single trace of malice. GGG is a flipbook of memories visited with care and creditworthy neutrality. One can make out how much the writer must have enjoyed penning her thoughts. And that is what makes the read enjoyable and engrossing. Yes, writing is cathartic and in the process, many an emotion, suppressed, dormant or hidden, wells up within surprising even the writer. The introspective chapter right before the epilogue-ic analysis of the pivotal character is commendable. It is balanced, unbiased and skillfully crafted. There are some which inspire and even prove to be life-changers, but this book has been catalytic for me and not too far in future I too may think of weaving an honest account of those who have shaped me into what I am today.

Thanks Tannaaz for sharing this book with me.

From Haiku To Story…..The Finale


Read Part I, II, III and IV here

 

Wrapping up the session with these extraordinarily gifted students, I, in my heart of heart, revised the basics of haiku which I had briefly touched upon in the beginning. These were :

  • Haiku is a 400 years old Japanese form of writing very short poem
  • Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) is known as the father of haiku
  • Haiku is hai = humour + ku = verse
  • Haiku tells a story without telling one
  • But the story is told in very few words
  • In so few words that haiku is called the wordless poem
  • It is wordless because you do away with the unnecessary and retain as few words as required to make a whole picture

Picture they did …Now it was their turn. Vaishali gave them the following options to draw out the story embedded therein :

water balloon

the way her laugh

colours the sky

                                                                                               Ashish Narain

 

temple steps…

searching for slippers

lost in the pile

                                         Kizie Basu

jamun tree—

a splash of purple

on my new white kurti

                                                        Kalyanee Rajan

drip, drop, drip,

diamonds glisten

on the child’s cheeks

                                                          Kalyanee Rajan

Holi bash

the clothes out of the bucket

get a new shade

                                                                        (this one was mine)

And the children did well…pretty well. Haiku had made way into their hearts.

However, a story till remained to be recounted to initiate them into extracting the untold tales hidden in the haiku. And it went like this :

Rainy days are so difficult! Messy! You cannot walk on the roads without slipping or splashing on to a puddle of dirt water. And the roads are full of them – a puddle here and a puddle there! And in the puddle you will always find them resting – buffaloes, cows, goats, sheep and even dogs!  After a never ending stretch of hot, humid days what else do you expect?

I am especially scared of the buffaloes. The way they look! Their curly horns! Their deep mooing…how they drool!!! You never know whether they are angry or pleased with you. But it is said that you have to face what you fear the most! And that is what happened with me.

It had rained heavily the night before. As usual the pot holes on the roads were filled with rain water. I was walking back home from school. Not exactly walking back but skipping and jumping over one puddle to the other. My shoe buckles were loose. I don’t know when that had happened. Must be during the recess when we were playing a round of kho-kho! I had just hopped over one puddle that I lost balance and slipped……………..dhadaaam!! There was a loud splash. I had landed in a puddle wherein till then was peacefully resting a huge black buffalo with crumpled horn with his eyes closed and head lolling slightly forward. I must have disturbed his tranquil leisure. He jerked his head up and gave me a look. A look that spoke volumes…

As I scrambled out of the puddle in a hurry I wondered whether he was angry or disgusted or merely hiding a gleeful chuckle behind a serious face… These humans!! They don’t even know how to wade through a cool pool of water after a soothing spell of rain. Huh!!

And to be honest that look is still etched in my mind and I still wonder what he must have felt as I slithered into his personal zone of watery pleasure.  More so, when years later I wrote this haiku

puddle splash

the buffalo and I

exchange a look

And then there was no looking back…the children came up with their own stories from each one of the haiku given to them ….imagination running wild yet very much  in tune with the haiku. The magic was on….

However, the exercise was incomplete without the involvement of the parents. So we had a little chat with them about why haiku and how it should resonate in our life style after the class. We urged them to join the next workshop with Kala Ramesh proposed to be held sometime by the end of this year.  A few looked skeptical while there were many others who were interested and eager to know more. I suppose there would always be mixed responses to something which is out of the box and compels you to unlearn before you learn afresh.

On that positive note I said goodbye to Vaishali and her troupe of little men and women promising to meet again some other time and somewhere else.