Sunday, October 24, 2004

The long weekend was something that I had been craving for and thankfully I managed to get it! It was a deserved break and truly energizing, though I am sure I’ll be left cribbing with the Monday morning blues catching up tomorrow on the way to work J

Among the many things that I managed to do this weekend, I am glad I kept up a date that was pending for so many many many days now. Either of us were caught up in some work or the other and kept procrastinating; till we decided that enough was enough and that it was high time we made it. So Friday eve was frozen for an evening of chat (and Chaat) at the cozy Woody’s restaurant. And im so glad I did finally manage to meet Ms Mithuna SrinivasanJ

For a long time the channels of communication were emails and sms-es and fone calls. But the impersonal nature of these channels can get pretty frustrating at times. As she herself said “ I cant carry on speaking with this unknown, unseen, faceless person” How true! Moreover the two of us were obviously driven by the powerful strings that emanated from the USA…Vilas was getting as militant as he could that I better meet up soon and dutifully pass on a report to him about my “opinion” ( whatever that might mean!)…

18 years or more are what have gone behind the friendship that Vilas and me have painstakingly nurtured. It wouldn’t be a clichéd exaggeration for me to say that we’ve literally grown up together. Ma almost considers him like another son of hers and cant stop remembering our times together! Still seems like yesterday when this cherubic thing was dropped by his mother to school and he’d cry and bring the school roof down on leaving her! Till it took all of our efforts to make him ‘feel at home’. Aunty would ensure that I assumed the big-brother role for him always—see to it that he studied well, see to it he didn’t get into tangles, see to it he didn’t enter the water when we went to Pondicherry, see to it he learnt his Hindi well…boy, the list is endless! But I ensured I didn’t do all of that ‘cos I always believed that self-experience is the best teacher and the drive must come from within –and it will, as it has in his case eventually!

I’ve lost track of the zillions of pranks that we played in school; though most often I managed to get away because of the straight face I managed to keep and the reputation that went behind me of being a ‘good student’! Still all this didn’t seem enough for the haggard Ms Arpita ‘The Blue whale” Ganguly who tried to teach us Geography—something that neither of us understood or appreciated –to prevent herself from throwing us out of class more often than not. I’ve learnt more Geography standing or kneeling outside class than inside! And of course Shyamala “the Dhing” Mohan who made us do weird (witch)craft with crape paper and wax and what nots and end up “making pickles out of our knuckles”. No, it wasn’t always the demoniac ones that accosted us…we did flirt along with the seductive Miss KM—what did she teach us? Aah…well who cared, we were busy seeing something else, weren’t we?! We did lose tracks for a while and for some strange unknown reasons…but glad we hit back soon enough. It was an emotional moment when he packed bags to the USA 2 years back and I remember how mightily upset I had was hard stifling tears…but one has to let go; after all…

It was with this historical baggage that I was setting forth to meet someone who would probably end up spending the rest of her life with him. And it just took a few minutes for me to end up admiring the woman! The strength of character, the clarity of thoughts, the decisiveness, the sharp features, the nice things that she had to say about Lavis and more importantly the fact that she’d cut herself to the role of mothering my nincompoopish friend were more than enough to make her likeable—in fact surfeit!

And for once I was made to feel I was sitting on a ‘Hard Talk’ session with Tim Sebastian on the other end and the spotlights glaring on my sweating brows! From some vague description of myself through a third person as being so cute and likeable (heavens!) that anyone who’d meet me would end up falling in love with me (ahem! Ahem! I didn’t know this in 25 and half years myself!!) to a startling description of Vandy---oh yeah, the long years when she was touted as the ‘ultimate woman in my life’ ( eeeeeeks! )--- I had my jaw dropping at every instance! Then the obvious question “tell me about your personal life”. Personal? Life? Me? –well the pretences didn’t work; sadly for me! May be sensing my discomfiture, she began with hers even without me asking for any of it! And the end of it- “Ohhh, I talk a lot…now its your turn”…but ofcourse being the civilized young woman that she is “ Don’t talk about it if you aren’t too comfortable you know…” …No, but strangely, by now, I was not too uncomfortable and out came the skeletons tumbling one after another! Wonder what she thought about the whole thing then!

I know I had to put my foot in the mouth and make my characteristic disdainful statements about my thoughts regarding the institution of marriage and how little I thought of it…somehow though Tim Sebastian’s presence ensured that they lacked their usual punch; one that makes all people in love go mad and want to break my skull! Wonder why the vitriol disappeared? Madame listened and gave me some longish advice on how one shouldn’t pre-condition onez mind against anything; that the past experiences only teach you how to emerge wiser and not recommit the same mistakes…and like a school boy I was going ‘yes ma’am, yes ma’am’! Vikram…wake up…where have your debating skills evanesced! Hey, never mind!

Then, after coming home and flooring Ma by her suaveness ( Ma was like; how I wish Lalita was here, I would have called her just now and told her—see I had always told you not to worry too much about your son!!); Ms Srinivasan bid adieu…followed it up with an sms an hour later with the advice repeated that I “better stop moping around and find myself a chick again and soon” !!!

Tough to say how happy I felt for Vilas that day…he was and is always the sweetest friend I’ve had and nothing but the best is what I can wish for him…and what can be better than this? Here was someone who understood him, who loved him, respected him, knew the problems he was facing, was more than willing to lend a supporting hand, shoulder his responsibilities---what more can a man ask for—and yeah most importantly her presence ensured and would ensure that Vilas would keep his hair short, take baths more regularly and drive away the body odor that he is so famously characteristic of !!!!

Mithuna, Thanks for being there for Vilas!

Saturday, October 23, 2004

It is that time of the year when I can tell somebody in my life how much I love that person and what he means to me—Dad’s birthday today and I was in Bangalore on the day after a long long time. It was one nice, warm, fun- filled day. So many times the two of us have managed to get ourselves so busy in our own personal lives that we’ve seldom managed to stop and reflect on the quintessential need for the other’s existence in our lives. Either I have been mean many times or Dad has been his characteristic laconic self—one that can put off any sane mind; a hard exterior that most people get quite terrorized of—though I know that all it needs is for one to scratch the surface a bit and there emerges a near child-like innocence, a kind of craving for attention and love—neither of which he managed to get in his troubled childhood and youth days.

Its rather strange when I think of how less of my life I have spent with my father. One of the banes of being in a good post in a Bank is the perennial dagger of Transfers all the time. And dad’s head was always on this altar of transfers. Ma and me tended to stay back in Bangalore (except for that "luckily" brief stint in Kolkata!)- while he lugged around Chennai, Coimbatore, Mumbai, Kolkata and the rest! I must have been in class 3 or 4 when the idea of departing from my dad had first sunk in; and unfortunately therez never been any looking back ever since. During all his years at Chennai and Coimbatore, he would make this dutiful trip to Bangalore every weekend—week after week, month after month; diligently solving all the problems in the Mathematics textbook on the way! Through the weekend, among other things, being a stud in Mathematics himself, he would ensure that the subject entered his dumb son’s head :-) The first thing I therefore did after completing my MSc in Mathematics was to shoot off a letter to him saying if anyone could take the credit for the supposed good performance in MSc( ok !ok ! lemme brag and say here that I scored a neat 10 on 10 CGPA in my Maths Majors!) , it would be him. And I remember the way I was welcomed with a buoquet and broad smile at Bangalore airport that year!

Speaking of letters, I still remember and perhaps have some of those letters that he would write to me so often on a plethora of topics. As a kid I’d put them all in an envelope and keep them in my school-uniform 's shirt pocket—so that it remained close to my heart! And how I’d brought the roof down once when accidentally during a monsoon downpour , most of the letters got soaked and the ink smudged all over! It took hours of cajoling and days of drying under the fan and the sun that brought my letters back to life:-)

But then over a period of time, may be I got used to his absence. He was just a looming presence sitting somehwere and not someone who monitored me day in and day out. Ma, Ajji, my two Mashis and others were my family and he hopped in and out of it. It even started getting difficult to connect—especially during those stressful growing-up years. I could even sense his discomfort at the fact that i was closer to Ma and her family than his or him. this would manifest itself (why "would", it still does!!!) on-and-off! This made Ma put additional efforts to give him 'visible' proofs of the fact that she wasnt alienating her son from his dad's family or culture--probably this is what explained her militant efforts to ensure i learnt to speak, read and write Tamil as much as i could with Marathi or Kannada, ensured that i kept Patti-Dad's mom engaged in frequent letter-writing(somethign that perhaps none of her long list of grandchildren or great-grandchildren ever did!), that i learnt Carnatic music which could be further showcased as proof of my 'Tamil-ness' and sticking on with the 'roots'...whatever!!

And the year he called it quits to his bank which was further desirous of throwing him into some other part of the country; I had to move out of Bangalore—to Pilani. So the enigma continued! Probably the perennial absence of an adult male all through my childhood—I lost Thatha, my loving old grandpa, at a very young age; Dad was a guest apparence at best---makes me so very uncomfortable while dealing with dads and grandpops! But it certainly helped me mature as an individual...being the only "man" of the house, a lot of responsibilities fall on you naturally and more so, when like our family, we had a string of disasters and tragedies! I would envy him then for being so blissfully away--atleast physically--from all the trauma that i was being made to undergo as his alter-ego:-)

We’ve reached that stage in our lives when the clock has come full circle. Dad would perhaps take a retirement from work in another 4-5 years and that’s when my career would have kick-started(literally, perhaps!!). And who knows where that’ll end up taking me to…and in the process we would have more years of distance, more years of non-communication, more years of using Ma as a perennial conduit even for simple things (something she says shez fed up of being!); but certainly more years of October 23rds when I can truly want to tell him that despite this all, I still love him and he means the world to me (and yet never get to say it up in as many words!) im sure he would understand it better than anyone else would that after all, being his son I can get worse when it comes to getting tongue-tied and reticent, when it comes to expressing oneself with the people you love most!

Happy Birthday Dad! You are wished the very best of everything!

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

It was an unusually long wait this evening...took me 2 hours to get past Hosur road and from the Silk Board to my house...and what do people do when made to endure such travails?? Crib crib and more crib! Thats what a few colleagues of mine resorted to...they started off with cursing the traffic, the potholes, the roads, the government, the 'dumb' people of karnataka and what nots!!! not till i lost my cool and asked them to shut up :-) Not in as many words though!!

Tried to indulge them in some kind of an intellectual debate (though its tough to do that with many people from above the Vindhyas!) on why one needs to see beyond the ritualistic cribbings. They cited example after example of how the IT honchos of the city berated about the 'lack of infrastructure' in Bangalore and were planning to pack bags from Bangalore. OK....fair enough...i dont discount the kind of inconenience that the industry might be facing these days; but they have certainly no right to assume a holier-than-thou approach and not count their own contribution to this mess that the city finds itself in today.

When discussing the reasons as to why Bangalore suddenly sprung up as India's IT capital, most people ascribe it drably to the 'weather' ! My foot! If beautiful weather was all that mattered why wouldnt they have chosen Ooty or Kodaikanal or some hill station?? Weather was and is no doubt a factor--but perhaps the last in the list. what people do not know and do not acknowledge is the fact that the Mysore State--the erstwhile name for modern Karnataka--under its benevolent Wodeyar Maharajas; had emerged as one of the Model States of India by the time we gained Independence. Despite the fact that the State was a subsidiary of the British crown, the rulers laid great impetus on socio-economic progress. Industries were given the top-most importance--be they manufacturing industies or those nurturing local artisans of silk, sandal or even horticulture...Bangalore became India's first city to have the electric blub lit..The electrification of Mysore's villages took place long long before poeple in other parts of India had even heard of it...literacy rates were among the highest in the country when the British relinquished power..Mysore was India's first state to have a parliamentary form of democracy --Municipal committees and Corporations and elections to them were held as early as the 1880's. Dewan after dewan of the state- Sir M Vishweswhwaraiya, Sheshadri Iyer, Sir Mirza Ismail and others worked over- time to ensure the system was in place...Bangalore being a cantonment for the British troops was nurtured in true cosmopolitan style--ever wondered why there are more roads and streets in Bangalore with Brit-names than Lutyen's delhi?.

post-independence, the strategic importance that Bangalore got, other than being Karnataka's capital, was the fact that defence establishments like HAL were seated here; ISRO had its base here, the Indian Institute of Science--perhaps the only institute in india which can claim of something remotely related to non-plagiaristic research was set up here by the Maharaja as early as 1901. By the 1990's Bangalore emerged as the city with the largest number of engineering colleges in fact the largest number of educational institutes in India. With a vast population of young people who were proficient in English and technically sound and one that was truly cosmopolitan in nature and composition ( you have 40% Kannadigas, 25% Tams, 15% Gults, 5% Anglo-Indians and 15% of the rest of India as Bangaloreans)---what more could any IT top notch ask for? and favourable state governments at the helm was all the more beneficial--unlike the illiterates and thugs and housewives --midwives and what-nots that run other states in India :-) With the trail blazing start that Infosys and Wipro --local brands--got off to; more and more IT techies flew down to this hitherto peaceful 'pensioners paradise'! And presto..its grown to emerge as India's IT capital accounting for 35% of India's software exports.

But then the peril set it had in Mumbai and under which Mumbai still reels in...people from all-over the country started jostling for a place under the sun here...especially those from the BIMARU states...burgeoning numbers that the city had neither seen nor dreamt just didnt seem to be able to grow commensurate with the growth of population and the IT industry. 20 lakh vehicles adding to the city's traffic every year is no mean statistic and no city can take that kind of inflated numbers, can it? The city lost a lot of its old charm and sheen..trees started gettign cut down to construct fly-overs, pubs and bars replaced silhouettes and boulevards. And today the in flow continues and the city or its administators just dont know what to do with it ! Its like allauddin's gene that has gotten itself into being a victim of its own success.

But colleagues who bad-mouth Bangalore day and night arent illiterate dorks...they are postgrads and qualified, instead of passing silly sarcastic remarks, cant one of them come up with something constructive...form a forum to give ideas to the government ; join the ones (like Janaagraha) which are already doing this kind of constructive, supportive amd particpatory democracy? Does even one of them have a solution to offer to solve the problem? while i hold no brief for the apparently listless and 'I-care-a-damn' kind of political dispensation thats taken over Vidhana Soudha, unlike the flamboyant and charismatic predecessor; all said and done--Dharam singh is a human being! he is NOT a magician or angel who ca use his magic wand and dissipate the lakhs of people who join the city each year, each month --to add to its woes. Constructive suggestions like construction of arterial roads/ring roads, creation of a Greater Bangalore ( a Hosa Bengaluru on the lines of Navi Mumbai), a complete tone up and revamp of the public transport system thats almost non-existen t now(forcing people to use two-wheelers), the Metro Rail project, encouraging people to use public transport and giving incentives for the same; creating a separate IT colony and scoiety thats self sufficient and doesnt have to traverse half the city on diurnal transport--these are things that would make more sense than "Nothing is going to change--the system sucks, its is corrupt" bla bla bla !!

Wish people wore their thinking caps more often !!!

The day began with a shocker of a i sleepily glanced through the morning dailies with my huge coffee mug beside me; the headlines stared at me and me at them in utter disbelief- Forest brigand Veerappan shot dead by the joint STF forces of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka! I almost spilt the coffee over was too good to be true...a symbol of the servility to which one individual can force mighty states and their forces to; someone who was part of folk lore here; someone whose legendary moushtache was more popular than his misdeeds--lay dead in cold blood, caught in the same trap that he used to set for others. I remembered how much this would have excited Ajji, had she been alive ! Veerappan almost seemed like her personal enemy! she would rave and rant about his cruel deeds and when he killed the Police commissioner -Srinivas in the most barbaric manner; the way she would go on and on about it as if one of her own family was beheaded:-)

Anyways...quite symbolic that in the nine days that people celebrate as 'Navaratri'--the triumph of good over evil--good had finally prevailed; in some small manner; in this part of the globe...!! Kudos to our valiant Special Task forces (and not any of those vily, greedy politicos) for this wondrous fete accomplished--albeit quite late in the day!

Sunday, October 17, 2004

It was what was being termed as a "once in a lifetime musical experience", the "greatest titans of Indian music -together-on stage"; something that i had been looking forward to since the day the advertisements hit the dailies; whose tickets i purchased on the day of the release of the schedule in the newspaper...and it finally arrived...16th October 2004, 7PM at the huge and elegantly designed indoor stadium at Koramangala. Pt Bhimsen Joshi and Dr Balamuralikrishna LIVE in a jugalbandi!

Ma and me reached the place 45 mins ahead of schedule to take into account the unbelievable and unbearable traffic jams that have become the order of the day in Bangalore these days! The stadium is as huge as huge can get and the arrangments looked superb...auidence to be seated all over and the artists in the center with huge display panels on the sides. It did seem tough to crane onez neck to the side and see them, but didnt matter after a while. The ambience outside was equally pleasing...with 2 days of heavy downpour, Bangalore was at its weather's-best..and brooke bond was serving the audience free-samples of cardomom-cinamom tea! Exhilirating!

The Jugalbandi started much beyond the scheduled time of 7PM...i was taken aback by the kind of crowds that swelled there yesterday...4500 people, and as the compere announced--tickets got sold out within 36 hours of the announcement in newspaper...aah! our classical music still has a future and it was wonderful to see the spirit of THE Bangalorean--who despite all the odds, despite the distances, despite it being a saturday evening and other palpable distractions like the Garbha/Dandiya sessions that are flooding every corner of the city these days--took time off to assemble in such large numbers for a classical music show! Kudos!

Personally, im totally confused about the concept of a Jugalbandi--especially with vocal music...i find the idea untenable and infeasible having tried it out many times with a Hindustani singer friend of mine...i failed to see where the meeting point was..the 2 styles--Carnatic and Hindustani ae vastly different -despite the underlying theme being the all-pervasive 'raga'. Hence the curiosity actually got accentuated to explore and experience this supposed confluence of styles. The recital began with Raag Yaman-a.k.a. Raga Kalyani --with the mesmerising influence of the sharp Madhyam. It was nice in spells...especially the composition that they sang was in 2 languages--Balamurali ji took up the Telugu part in the supposed Carnatic style(!) and Pandit ji in Hindi. the brief Tanam that was done was truly breathtaking and it gelled well in the scheme of things. Age didnt seem to be an issue for both the titans and they hit the higher scales with such aplomb that even young musicians would be put to shame. This was followed up by some small presentations-kannada devaranama(which attracted a huge applause from the crowds) and bhajans...a break then preceded another longish presentation of Raag Malkauns/Raga Hindola--the Queen of the Night ragas. Time perhaps constrained an in-depth exposition of this beautiful Raga and it was wrapped up in a fast paced Thillana..Bhairavi /Sindhu bhairavi ended the concert..

as we walked out of the hall, my beliefs only got all the more strengthened that Vocal jugalbandis are a dream that can seldom; or never be achieved! it would perhaps require more thought, more research to consider if at all a common presentation of two different styles could do any justice to either of them...neither the brillance of Carnatic music nor that of Hindustani gets amply displayed in Jugalbandis; worse if the artists get into acompetitive mood ! the eminent vocalist of the Jaipur -Atrauli gharana- Smt Padma Talwalkar -with whom i was having a lengthy chat the other day (till she actually admonished melightly saying- ab kithne sawal poochthe ho tum!?)--perhaps rightly said " Jugalbandis are for time-pass..kabhi kabhi theek lagtha hai..kuchh variety ke liye..else, the concept is pretty shallow"! Couldnt agree more with her! While the musical magic that the two stalwarts weaved was brilliant--no doubt-- and musically breathtaking ( it truly was a once-in-alifetime opportunity!) to call a jugalbandi exercise an exhibition of either the Carnatic or the Hindustani style would be to belittle the greatness of both of them! Neither gets a fair requires much more thought than mere gimmicks to structure a jugalbandi--especially keeping in mind the lyrical significance in Carnatic as compared to its near-absence in its cousin and also the language factor that comes up in vocal !

Anyway..shall keep listening to more jugalbandis of the like and re-confirming my beliefs :-)

Thursday, October 14, 2004

For the first time ever, I’m sitting and filling this space in office…I had made it a matter of policy—consciously and conscientiously—not to indulge in any such diversions while at work; to stay interested in whatever I am doing through the day and not get into these cyclical phases of boredom that i most foten slip into--more importantly in the midst of hell loads of work! But somehow a chance search on google, the information conveyed therein and a few mails with a friend on similar ideas—totally unsettled me for the day. The gloomy weather outside (its been so cloudy all day that the sun hardly shows up!) hasnt done any better to ameliorate the feeling...I am just not able to think or work and these ghosts from the past have been badly haunting ever since…have half a mind to tell my boss that I think I am going to throw up any moment and hence he should let me go for the day…or better still—may be for the week:-) Hmmm… wishful thinking!!!

Monday, October 04, 2004

It takes me a neat 1.5 hrs either way up and down my daily sojourn to we meander through nearly 25 kms all the way up to Electronic City. The city bursting at its seams all the way along...traffic jams, fly over constructions, pot holes, angry snarls, accidents, cattle, rattle and everything that times i try catching up with lost sleep or finishing up a novel en route in the morning...while by evening (and that is 8.30 pm or so!) im just too famished to do all that...just doze off without a trace...even as Darius goes on and on with his chatter on Radio City...guess what would happen to the Bangalore junta but for the kind mercies of the likes of Sunaina Lall and Darius giving royal company through all our long journeys to the work place, stuck most often than not in a traffic congestion! Its as if almost a whole generation of techies and whiz kids grow and thrive on this 'food for thought' that these flamboyant RJ's bring along! By the end of the day im in such a dazed state that the songs and the chitter chatter simply seem to keep happening in some distant planet :-)

Anyway these long journeys, like the one i make twice each day(!), give one ample time to think, introspect, get into a rewind mode of nostalgia with some soft serene romantic number in the background, observe others, draw your own inferences and conclusions and incessantly keep sending sms-es to all and sundry cribbing all the way through about how bad the big bad world has been to you! There was this rather strange phenomenon that i had been observing for the past 2-3 days...each time Radio city inadvertently meandered into something in Kannada --even soemthing as innocuous and harmless as an ad calling for people to donate blood or so...a couple of people sitting around would suddenly snigger ! I managed to see their employee badges was a Ghosh, the other a Mukhopadhyay, a Sharma and a not a kannadiga myself nor do i belong to those militant linguistic outfits...but what ticks me off is the attitude of some of these nerds who live in Karnataka, whose presence in burgeoning numbers is what is driving a city as beautiful as Bangalore to the dogs by the day, who depend on this state for their income and livelihood, cos their own home states are explempified personifications of poverty, backwardness and everything that retards--yet these very jokers have the gumption to laugh at the native language--like as if they descended here from Buckingham palace! With most Indian languages sharing a common syntax/phonetics, i see no reason why one Indian needs to snigger and ridicule another Indian language...i could understand if a European found it amusing! And this wonderful tendency of chattering away in their native languages when they kind of know that for the person with you it is Greek (though incidentally i know Tamil and manage to understand some Bengali)is somethign that smacks of fundamentalism that manifests deep within the psyche and culture! Its happened before in BITS too...i left and didnt want to be a part of many of the assocs and clubs for precisely this reason...this tendency of being non-inclusive and forming exclusive groupings...

No wonder then that we see these fanatic outbursts from the other side...the tragic events of banning non-Kannada movies for 7 weeks, that too in a city as cosmopolitan as Bangalore--its no Chennai or Kolkata for heavens sake--is but a sad repurcussion of decades of such uncivilized behaviour from the other neighbour for 25 years, Mrs Sinha, originally a Bihari, but settled here since more than 50 years and a teacher at Baldwins, would take great pride in brandishing the ONE sentence she had learned in Kannada in the half century of her life here--"Kannada gotthilla"--I dont know Kannada! well, its not something to be proud of ma'am; just shows how bad you are at picking up things despite being in a place for so long..the sabji wala stands to score before you, as despite being an alien language for him, he tries to pick up some titbits and argue and bargain with you in Hindi--the only language you seem to know, admire and adulate! For all his illiterate self, he seems to be a sharper wit than you!

Sad, but true..i guess until such tendencies disappear, Bangalore is well on its way to becoming the intolerant city that Bombay had descended to soemtime back with the Shiv Sena and Bal Thackeray leading the pro-Maratha wave...MUmbai for Mumbaikars only kinds of slogans that rent the air and the massive drive to throw away all outsiders--Gujratis and South Indians..i dont blame him cant live as a leech on Maharashtra's economy and continue to feign ignorance of Marathi or worse --ridicule it ! They happen to be languages of your own motherland and the least one can do is to give them the respect thats due to them!

Yawwwwwnnn!! its 10 PM...ive reached my stop..the bus comes to a thuddering halt and the good samaritan woman beside me is really good enough to wake me up and i totter down the lane-- back home!