Sunday, November 09, 2014

why not south indian?

nothing wrong with the term south indian i would say, all over bangalore you get something called north indian food... it's just geography and in my head, never sounded like anything more or less than that. i too was a bit huh when i saw "north indian restaurant"... then stopped bothering. we all know who we are, if it's important that others should too, just say who you are and be done with it. till i was 27, i had no idea that there was a place called mangalore. then at no 3 new tc colony, jamshedpur, then bihar now jharkhand, i met three wonderful families, my neighbours, who all said they were from this mysterious place called mangalore. i was sure they meant bangalore and i was hearing wrong. soon i came to know of the konkan coast, its wonderful food... that it stretches if i am not wrong, along maharashtra and karnataka. mr shenoy spoke turu/tulu and was gsb, as in gaur saraswat brahmin, i believe this community had come from kashmir to bengal and then moved west to mangalore. mr and mrs rao were saraswat brahmins, minus the gaur. and the lobos were catholic, though mrs lobo said they were brahmin christians. everyone was mangalorean but. okay. i scrunched my brow and tried to figure out and understand everything. finally i just fell for the people and all the colour they brought to my life, their fabulous food, friendship, utter love. years since i met most of them, but yes, they gave me mangalore, mangalore fish curry, prawn ghashi, and told me there's much more to the country i belonged to than i knew... which i had anyway never doubted.

some day i will try and find out why the whole area north of the vindhyas is one amorphous something called north india... and is a bengali a north indian or east indian and where should we say bihar is or jharkhand, north, east, north toward east... what? and what exactly is calcutta saree for that matter. more than 500 and something princely states and large tracts of land called british india came together to become the land that i think of as mine, there's bound to be at least 500 if not more different cultures, ways, sub cultures, who knows what, and so many faiths languages ways of eating partying, everything. heck, there are at least 107 ways of wearing a saree... and even the dosa, so many ways of saying it and every taluk seems to have a different recipe, nothing is generic... all of it is specific, particular; there's just so much to know and get a bit gobsmacked by. i often hear myself say, the south has four main states and languages... and then as i am rattling off what i think i know, i remember coorg and how that is a completely different language and in fact a fascinating culture with the best otti and bambooshoot curry... i am sure the north canarese will arch their eyebrows too if they hear anything about just four major languages of the south... and i bet not too many from the south know much about the assamese or the khasis or garos or the difference between mooga, endi and pattu or...

my friend's coffee estate in coorg now has loads of workers from the north east. i again think of how vague that sounds, but i am more worried that despite having grown up in assam, well there till at least age nine at a stretch, i have no idea what a khasi or garo delicacy is... better go do something about that. i had to ramble. if you read, thanks.

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

a mother's day wish

with resoundingly boring catch phrases, such as unity in diversity, repeated ad nauseum in school i was taught the meaning of living with people who were not exactly like my family but who were in a way just like us.

born 13 years after india gained independence and was still in the influence of a man who may have been politically inept, paranoid, but was - from what i feel, and there will be no way of ever proving this - a dreamer, his greatest gift, i was fortunate to grow up in an environment where you did not divide people along human made lines of religion caste creed language culture economic background whatever.

i know too little about politics and history to say with any certainty whether the fact jawaharlal nehru was our first prime minister was a good thing or what... but as i said, i know how i felt growing up and my gut feel, there was an inclusive heart at work here, not just a political mind creating vote banks and other kinds of real world messes. which it did, of course.

today, in fact, just a few minutes ago... somehow i suddenly understand why my extremely liberal and fun and not at all narrowly nationalistic grandparents' lovely verandah in delhi had a classic portrait of the rather attractive man with that signature nehru jacket and red rose on. on the other side hung a portrait of president radhakrishnan. a man from the north and another from the south in the home of a family very bengali and totally from the east... somewhere a dream called india was being built in little things such as this.

because trying to hold onto an idea of one nation as more than 500, (or is it 600?) princely states came together along with what was known as british india to create for the first time a map that if you look carefully does look like a mother carrying a child (yeah, we got lots of that during our boring lessons too), is really really hard.

only a powerful dream could achieve that.

reality may have indicated, it would not work. just look at the abadi, oh our population, the poverty, the innumerable cultures, the various religions, the languages, the dialects (yeah, bengali itself has i have no idea how many, from dokhno to bangal to sylheti, and many more) the colours, the clash of egos, all the differences, that diversity... yet it did work.

you did not ask, how come your first teacher was punjabi, and not a bengali hindu kayastha as your family was. how come your first "proper" school based in calcutta was dedicated to a man called gokhale who was not from bengal, how come your parents had friends who were christians, sikhs, muslims, hindus, and from practically every part of india. in fact the lady who lived next door and loved me and let me go berserk in her house was burmese, i have no idea what her religion was and no one said, you mustn't go there because she is different. the best hairdresser my mother waited to take me to when visiting calcutta was chinese. i loved adored favourited chinese food, i still do, and cal trips till date aren't complete without some chine khabar from a basic (no michelin stars would dare to venture near) restaurant.

one of my dearest friends is muslim, i in fact got my first job as a copywriter in an ad agency run by a most interesting couple who happened to be muslims, and i am eteranlly grateful for that break. i went on to fall madly in love with a man who was jewish... yes india has a population of jews as well which i had no idea about... we married in 1985 and are still going strong (yikes)... he doing his religion, me mine... in the same home... and he was educated by jesuits and others, from primary school right up to management school studying in institutions run by christian missionaries. my husband travels the world as they say, thanks to his work, and everywhere he goes, he finds a synagogue and an indian restaurant, even where there is no synagogue, he has managed to find an indian restaurant and i have had to hear long conversations about how today he ate well because there was dal makhani, fish curry/matar paneer and naan and rice to assuage his hunger.

in 1980, my father was killed in sectarian violence in india... well assam was going crazy over all sorts of issues, they rallied around the predominant language: assamese. for n number of reasons the bengali and all people bengali became their bad guys. and one fine day, a man who loved assam and had worked there all his life lost it there too. my father had chosen to come back to india leaving a better paying job in england, because the happiness and involvement he felt while looking for petroleum in assam, his land, far outweighed the excitement of seeking the black stuff in the hidden depths of the north sea. boring boring... so back he came to assam. am i sorry he did and then went on to die? no.

he would rather be there than anywhere else. i am happy he worked where he loved to. and i know he understood the assamese people had a point...

was i then instructed by my mother to hate the assamese or assam? what do you think?

somewhere along the way though we kept and had our differences, we also got together. even when there was killing and violence. something said we are one, at least that is how it felt. unity in diversity. india.

the map that looks like a mother holding a child.

she is a feeling i carry in me no matter where i am.

i don't start that my films are created by khans and kapoors and roys and mukherjees and ratnams and ranauts. i don't think it's strange that i listen to music sung and set and scored by rafi, lata, mukesh, hemanta, debabrata, tagore, azmi, sahir ludhianvi, m s subhalakshmi, a r rahman, bhupen hazarika, ravi shankar, alla rakha, zakir hussain, bhimsen joshi... i don't think what the..., when the tv show that enthralls me has a hindu punjabi hero, a zoroastrian bombayite heroine, a muslim director from which state i don't know, and is produced by a team of two muslims and two hindus...

tell me who is hindu who is muslim who is sikh and who is issai... is david just a jew or is helen just anglo burmese, oh and the first miss india apparently was a jewish beauty... changed her name to a nice "indian" sounding one and acted... dilip kumar did that too... but there came a day when shah rukh khan and salman khan didn't have to...

celebrities apart, hundreds and thousands and more of inter caste and inter faith and inter state marriages have taken place in this crazy concoction of different but same people in the country and i know many that have worked for decades... a sense of openness in most of them. right now even, a movie called two states is collecting hugely at the box office, dosa it seems has become the favourite snack food of delhi. i know my husband here in singapore is getting ready to have a fun time with daughter, and it all begins with a crisp paper dosa and some vade. no, we don't need to always eat baghdadi jewish or bengali hindu food, while we love them, we also thoroughly enjoy other things.

that openness, that inclusive air, was certainly a part of the dream.

a dream dreamt by many at the time when india as i came to know her was born. not only the known names from the history lessons way back in school, (oh drudgery, thy name is history books in class 6/7/8), but the never to be known ones of the millions of "freedom fighters" and ordinary people who had been there and rejoiced when a saffron green white flag unfurled in the sky with a blue chakra in the centre.

who were indians in their hearts, with or without the map, the flag... the anything. my parents, my grandparents, my husband's parents and grandparents... maybe yours too among them.

why am i talking of all this today? because i believe something is about to damage the dream. intrinsically.  in fact, the damage has started and taken root already.

politics in india was never good or something to be proud of. but when i traveled to europe, america, and many other places and and saw how really it is only in india that you find real living together... even with differences and riots and murders and mayhem... i have to say i was so proud of my land. a little giddily so. almost to the point of showing off.


because nothing to show off really... without that living together, that unity in diversity, that coming together and getting into each other's worlds and inner worlds, without that openness and ability to tolerate the other, india is really not india at all.

i pray nothing harms the dream.

no matter how loudly it screams and says there is only one way of doing things.

india gave birth to a truly fine body of thought called hinduism. from day one it had diversity in it... various schools of thoughts, a stunning explosion and evolution of ideas. don't get me wrong, almost nothing is perfect, and i am deeply aware of the problems in my faith as well, disturbing things that must be confronted if we are to be at peace within. but there's depth and beauty there too, a story of living, of searching for something beyond. a whole lifetime and more is not enough to understand the how and when and where of it.

and no, just reading the mahabharat, ramayan, geeta, radhakrishnan, aurobindo, etc., will not do, plenty of mystery there still. donniger may have some whiff of it, as did max mueller or my great uncle a k roy who wrote volumes on indology... okay studying about hinduism, india and the indus valley civilisation is still not showing any signs of abating... met an archeologist in israel who says he knows the lanes and baths and temples of harappa and mahenjodaro like the back of his hand though he has never been there... his thesis was on these ancient cities as he is an "iron age man" and nothing fascinates him as much as them. nothing.

i am writing in english, a language that came to india not under the happiest of circumstances, yet we made it our own and got the best out of it... that is india.

and being hindu, as my father taught me in a simple sentence, is a way of life.

there are no limits in exploring this way, you can even be an atheist and a hindu... that is how vast its scope and heart is.

so, i am sorry, with all due respect to people who rave and rant and say there is only one way of being hindu and it is fine to kill people in the name of your religion or anyone who disagrees can leave india... you are way out of line and absolutely wrong.

i can see you are managing to do a lot of damage, but strangely on this day that is celebrated as mother's day, i am suddenly not afraid of you.

look at that map, yes, it does look like a mother.

thank you, india... you are me and i am always yours, i am you.

back in school during assembly, my vice princi mr b l sharma would often recite this... though i am bengali, i never was into getting all bengalified with oodles of tagore ray and maacher jhaal, yet whenever he read this one i couldn't stop the rush of joy in me. today i heard salman rushdie quote it at the end of his speech on the curtailing of freedom of speech in india, of freedom itself. i felt the rush again.

where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
where knowledge is free
where the world has not been broken up into fragments
by narrow domestic walls
where words come out from the depth of truth
where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
where the mind is led forward by thee
into ever-widening thought and action
into that heaven of freedom, my father, let my country awake.

rabindranath tagore

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Friday, December 14, 2012

"she must be good in maths," said the man. "but why is that necessary?" i countered. "no, no. must have a high standard in maths," he replied. i wondered if he had the standards he now expects her to have. but why? remained my question. why is it necessary at all? live in a world growing more and more complex every day, tell ourselves got to keep running and rushing to keep pace with it all, no time for anything, just fall in line and pursue. keep running, stay focussed, got to get ahead. ahead of what?

high grades in maths. but no idea of what adds up in life, what ought to be subtracted, which ideas multiply, how to divide oneself while staying whole, and what to put in a bracket and solve first.

bodmas, i suddenly remember the man who said that to me first. bright eyes, urgency in his voice, it was important to study hard he'd said. i hadn't listened. oh, he was good at maths, very good. that's why he knew what to take away, what really balances the equation. said one day, no don't do what i dreamt for you, go and study communications instead, you'll be good at that.

my math certainly needs improving, the day i can tell her something of that value, i'll give myself a gold medal and a high grade.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012


it was something i'd never done before.
who watched a tv serial seriously? well i did, and it was unadultrated joy after a long long time. no calories too.
here's something from my "missing asr, missing barun" thread on india-forums, i wrote it in reply to someone there.

i know. feels terrible, doesn't it? but you know, something from iss pyaar ko and that story of love will remain with us forever. 
love comes back centre stage. beautiful, difficult, variegated, compelling, miserable making, elevating, unpredictable, absolute, undeniable, making us cross lines we never thought we would, flying us out of this closed ring of three concrete dimensions.
from silly to sublime it makes us feel the whole shebang.
love. not money.
to me, one of the most needed messages of our times. and delivered with such finesse, depth, heart, sheer style, delhi amrikan accent and all, waist coat intact, choti determinedly tedha, electricity captured permanently.

Monday, December 10, 2012

a strange sort of love

around october 2011, over a year ago, i felt myself feeling some very old and a bit missed feelings: those of falling in love.

ha ha, it got me again and as always made me look foolish as ever. this time it was not a man, well that was there too, but it was a tv serial. yes. you read right. a hindi daily soap, in fact.

i watched every night, then replayed on youtube many times, thought about it all day, that not enough, i joined one of the largest online entertainment forums in india, india-forums, or if as it's called by its 50,000 or more members; and i spent hours chatting, writing, bantering, "bashing," meeting girls 18 to 50 something, from all over the world, pakistan, bangladesh, dubai, new zealand, the us, uk, india, singapore, malaysia, the middle east, you get the picture.

there was even a lovely student from singapore. chinese. angela, who didn't speak a word of hindi, yet loved the show and followed it religiously, catching the live stream at 10.30 pm every night. reading her post on her affair with the serial, was one of my favourite "what the" moments. to find out the deep, almost religious, significance of "what the" you have to of course, suffer. you have to watch the serial.

what's it called? why "iss pyaar ko kya naam doon?"; "what do i call this love?" in english. had to be, what. and now that i'm thinking, thanks to her favourite cartoon show my dear daughter used to say "what the" all the time when she was about seven.

definitely it was a sign.

here's one of the last posts i (indi52) wrote, 4 december 2012, on one of my most loved threads: honeypriya's crooner. there every day we spoke of the episode telecast the evening before (8pm for trp audiences in india), loving, laughing, hating, hanging around, having a good time over something that meant much to us. a happy lot of girls who thought it wasn't strange at all to be talking about a serial and openly admitting our fascination with it.

i had fun. the following is rather long, read if you feel like it. part of my inner world, ipk, as we call it, it had a place in my blog i felt.


i have never met romeo or juliet. nor laila and majnu, snow white and her prince, or heer ranjha.

but i have met asr and khushi.

and they fill me with their feelings. feelings that don't melt away because someone seven seas and 13 rivers on the other side of life has waved a wand and said, "last episode."

it murmurs in me, clings to the surfaces of my thoughts, intrudes in my dreams, thoughts of a man with storm in his eyes and a girl whose smile was made to calm that tumult.

the other day i felt like making a big commitment. i was ready to give of myself, do something away and a bit scary, take a risk. jump. for this i thank two spectacular actors and the incredibly talented writers who gave them the most enchanting flight instructions ever, disguised as script and dialogue.

"woh kya hai ki aaj skool mien drama kumpetition hai na, iss liye hum ghar se taiyyar hoke jaa rahe hain... rajkumari ki tarah.."
"phir aap ke raaj kumar kahaan hai?"

a whirring sound approached and along with her i looked up. it mattered little i'd not seen this the first time it was telecast, for i'd arrived late to ipk. it was mid october last year when my eyes finally couldn't look away. that television had this to offer who would have thought.

his eyes were inert. her voice was fearless. someone had decided to tell a story like no one had ever before. in the first episode itself, in a span of only 25 minutes a taut screenplay said so much, hinting at deep ravines and lost places where the tale would lead us. the promise of treasure embedded.

a girl on a scooter in finery and sneakers and a funny sort of determination not brought on by wealth; a young man who descended from a helicopter and looked at memory with the stillest face, as he took off his shades you knew this was style money couldn't buy. the show had started in the way of many serials, right in the middle of a wedding and its usual dowry laced tensions, then suddenly a helicopter lands, we're in the middle of a field abutting an old haveli, sheesh mahal, the house of glass, and a voice shatters time: ma. flutter of wings, unmoving eyes, unflinching grasp of a moment, a deal is done. she's reached her destination, a little lost, a twirl and a ditty as compass, but wait she's on a catwalk. she is in his arms. his eyes travel down to and stay on her lips, a flicker there.

this was not going to be anything like a hindi serial. or like anything else I'd probably ever seen; no, more than seen. felt.

"aisa kyon hota hai... jab bhi aap hamare paas aate hain... toh hamari dil ki dhadkan tez ho jaati hai?... humne samajhne ki bahut koshish ki lekin samajh nahin paaye... bhulana chahte hain par bhool nahin paate... aisa kyon hota hai? bataiye na, aisa kyon hota hai, hamari dil ki dhadkan hamari saanso se bhi tez ho jaati hai."

"jab tum mere saath hoti ho, toh tumhare dil ki dhadkano ke saath meri dil ki dhadkane bhi tez ho jaati hai. hamari dhadkane ek ho jaate hai. jo tum mehsoos karti ho, jo main mehsoos karta hoon... hamari dhadkane... ek ho jaate hai."

a bunch of people (sanaya irani, one of the leads, had referred to fans as a "bunch of people" who were creating trouble at a certain point during the troubled last days of ipk, she was always known for being polite, empathetic toward viewers whom she preferred not to call fans, a little too polite i always felt. glad that finally she spoke her mind, even though she sounded peeved. it felt real. and barun, not cogent, disarmingly spontaneous, quite un-pr always felt totally real, "todally" in his funny call centre learned accent). yes, just that. a group of normal people had got together to create a commercially viable product. not a great art project. gifted producers, writers, music director, ensemble cast and two leads. what mattered most was, the initial episodes should roll out well, catch viewers' attention, get the trp going, keep the serial running a few months, then they'd see how to progress things.

it was to be a love story, nothing really new in that sense, had been done before. in many a mills and boon, and recently in a serial by the same production house: opposites attract, rich handsome self made brusque boy meets middle class pretty gutsy girls, they hate each other, intense clash, and finally love.

yet when the chopper landed and a lean, sensitive face withdrew into itself looking at a mansion, eyes opaque, you had a feeling nobody had quite planned for this.

i will never know what was the igniting factor, the clever writing, the searing acting, the consummate direction, the off beat music, which prodded what to do its best, who inspired whom, or was it just meant to be. but it grew to become much greater than the sum of its parts and it just came right out and carried me away.

"yahan na sahi, shayad kahin aur ek duniya hogi, jahan tum aur main kabhi alag nahin honge... jab jo bura kaha uska koi matlab nahin... jab jo bura kiya uska koi matlab nahin... iss pyaar mein sahi aur galat ka koi matlab nahin... bas ek cheez ka matlab hai... ki main.. hamesha.. hamesha... tumse"

just now as i went back to the 3rd april episode to pick up the words that somehow have gotten intertwined with love and are stored in my memory as part of it, i could feel my heart beat change rhythm, moisture back of my eyes, and a terrible yearning. even when i knew the heer ranjha story was plucked out of nowhere and plonked in the middle of a track going nowhere, possibly a desperate bid for numbers, with an unrealistic set up by sweet nani, even then it felt wonderful, i was absorbed, i believed there was that place somewhere where lovers meet never ever to be parted. two young actors in silly costumes plumbing their roles to find how far it can go can sometimes do things that great literature can't.

hamesha. a promise, a belief, an aspiration, an ordinary word that found new meaning in iss pyaar ko. there were others: faraq padta hai kyonki..., sach, jhoot, vishwaas, main tumhare bina jee nahin paaoonga, what the, tum theek ho, hai re nand kissore. "heer, utho heer, heer ekbaar aankhe khol kar dekho... heer, main tumhare bina jee nahin sakta... tumhare bina ranjha kuch nahin hai... heer, main tumhe chorkar chala gaya, apne man ko behla raha tha, ki mujhe koi faraq nahin padta... par tum toh jaanti ho ki main tumhare bina jee nahin sakta... jab jo kiya, jab jo kaha sab bhool jaao... bas wapas aa jaao aaj kisi aur cheez ka koi matlab nahin... kisi jhoot ka... kisi sach ka... bas ek cheez ka matlab hai, agar tum nahin, toh main nahin."

i wish i could keep all the dialogues somewhere safe, read them again later, without sound or picture, just play them out in my mind. and watch barun sobti become asr, sanaya irani smiling khushi, naniji, mamiji, buaji, happy ji, hp before and after being shouted at by asr, shyamu's twitch, di's diaphanous saree, and that 2 by 5 swimming pool, the most romantic place on earth. the story began to slip one day sadly, but never once the dialogues. well almost never. of course, the last few episodes were not classic ipk, somewhat heavy even, but then nothing was as it should have been then, therefore not complaining.

in my early days in the forum, when barun was about to go for his shoot, i'd actually written on fairy liquid soap's post - her posts used to be cogent and invite discussion - that story was what kept me here, of course the actors were wonderful but if barun had to go he had to go, someone just might be able to replace him. i was obviously trying to be calm cool together, and in the bargain completely missing the truth.

thankfully, barun and sanaya made sure that i gave up on that foolishness soon. neither was replaceable. and in the midst of the hurricane that blew plans and egos asunder, maybe what sanaya didn't realize is that there would be just as huge an uproar if talk of someone else as khushi came up. or worse still, khushi's death was shot and all set to roll out.

"khushi, mujhe explain karna zaroori nahin samjha?"

he'd asked her on a terrifying day on a bridge. wanting to hear that what he feared was not true. she'd tried to explain but it was not going to work. "chap gaya hai mere dimag mein... mit nahin sakta." she'd countered, there's no point, you saw what you wanted to see, heard what you wanted to hear. as i look at the goings on all around, the irony of it. but no matter, in the end, all that will remain is a piece of work that is art. and all who made it happen will only be happy it's theirs and remember just the good things. the love. just like asr.

but there's nothing like asr. there's never been. it all started with him being the mills and boon hero, but arnav singh raizada ended up being so much more. a depth to the character that both the script and the actor revealed slowly. the latter i still believe had no idea where all he would go with this role, he just kept going, and the layers kept opening. oh what i'd sensed, that call of lost places and ravines, it was indeed there. arnav, the ocean, asked me to trust and fall in. I did.

"khushi!... (kyon dard hai tere ishq mein... rabba ve) 
khushi sun sakti ho mujhe? can you hear me?" 


"tum tare dekh rahi ho na?"

"aapke aur hamare amma babuji ko dekh rahe hain."

"hamare parents ko... tumhe pata hai agar yeh baat mujhe kissi ne ek saal pehle kahi hoti toh main uss pe vishwaas nahin karta lekin aaj?... 
ab mujhe lagta hai ki yeh baat sach hai."

"humne aap se tab bhi kaha than na... 
baat sach ya jhoot ki nahin hai, baat vishwaas ki hai...
ek atoot vishwaas."

"tumne mujhe iss vishwaas pe vishwaas dilwaya.
kya kar diya khushi tumne mere saath?
itni koshish ki maine itni zyada koshish ki,
ki tumse nafrat kar sakoon par main tumse nafrat kar hi nahin paya
mera khud ka dil meri baat hi nahin manta."

"aur hamne kitni koshish ki aap se pyaar na karne ke liye...
lekin hamare dil ne bhi hamari baat nahin maani."

"you know, khushi, main main jab bhi tumhare paas hota hoon
hamesha tum se door jaane ki jaldi mein rehta hoon
 lekin jaise hi tumse door jaata hoon
hamesha tumhare paas aane ka khayal rahta hai.
I don't need anything else,
khushi, I don't need anything."

a telepathic conversation on 19 june 2012, a day when I so wish to break the barriers of 3d reality myself. to me, these words of arnav's parallel yet intersect (math ka koi matlab nahin) khushi's "shayad yeh nadani hum kar baithe" soliloquy. on that day, sanaya's voice, always magical, added an ethereal quality. and this evening in june, barun's voice, its tears, its wonder, its struggle, its submission, i wish i could keep it all in my memory and return to it in moments of solitude. just to hear and know there is indeed an emotion that transcends all.

a crazy calculation: in 398 episodes, taking a conservative 20 min per episode, we have 132 hours and a bit more of work from the ipkknd cast and creatives, which at 3 hours per movie would be 44 movies and a little bit. in one and a half years of work. that is like nearly one movie every two weeks. gautam hegde had referred to this too.

i thank all of you for reading my ramble through memories and random thoughts and for being part of this fantastic travel into emotion, life, what matters. also all the swooning over a rather good looking boy and his prem kahani with madam jhalli.

i do wish the story hadn't stumbled, and we'd returned to sheesh mahal to find how everything came from there, shyam's mangled nature included. but i am grateful we did get to see the inert eyes catch fire and then turn bright and laughing. and a girl who jumped up and said "no" in the grip of her society ordained thinking, finally lean over him and kiss him as she said, "i trust you, i understand," and let him make love to her before their "marriage." i put the inverted commas because in my eyes they were already married in the best wedding sequence i've ever scene. oh and i know they didn't get the time to say it in all the rush, but he did marry her for love. nothing else.

gratitude and respect to writers, directors, producers, music director, all creatives, crew, my dear nani who reminds me of mine, mamiji a bit like me in that weirdness, buaji, babuji, amma, daljeet, karan, sana khan, akshay, deepali, abhaas, entire cast.

sanaya, you remind me of the beautiful actresses of yore, a saira, a meena kumari, a nimmi, a nargis, and you have the crack comedy instinct of tina fey. i have just watched you with happiness. i do wish your role was not played with. but we always have the khushi with choti, pompom, mojri, and her cookiness, innocence, fieriness, dm chats and also the lover khushi of the indelible kidnap days.

barun sobti, what can i say. delhi boy with authentic contemporary delhi amrikan english accent, you redefine the male protagonist for my time, for me. after you were done with him, there was never any question of asr dying. in all the off screen fun and laughing it all off, i wonder if you realized what it is that you really created. you are a rare actor. like asr's character, your talent keeps opening up layer by layer. what a joy to see this commitment and unbridled talent. on the last day, there's only one scene where you shot with khushi. as she walked away and you turned your head looking at her, following her with your eyes, i thought, no one would believe this man is acting, he really isn't in love with that girl who walked away.

there are too many moments, scenes, words i remember. always there was an element not of our dimension. a different light, a charge in the air, an emotion breaking out, touching and giving life to inanimate things. the poolside, asr's room, his lounger, the suv, his waistcoat, her mojri, and that incredible dori. there was a spark everywhere.

"there was a time when meadow, grove, and stream to me did seem apparel'd in celestial light, the glory and the freshness of a dream."

the opening lines of wordsworth's ode on intimations of immortality stray into mind. as do so many songs, but sweeter than all songs right now, "ar...nav...ji, arrr...nav." if nothing means a thing then what has any meaning? "that I love you dammit!"

i am smitten and this is not goodbye.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

things that matter

i have met you only twice in my entire life. remember, that first time in the hospital? i wore a yellow sari. the meeting was very important to me. perhaps to you too? otherwise why would you say two such intimate things to a girl of 23 you had just set eyes on? yourself a worldly man of seventy something, not well, tired, frail, and me trying to be brave though i couldn't make sense of so many things. yet i knew there was no need to make sense of anything for what mattered was all that really mattered. it's good to be 23, oh that clarity of the young. but your clarity left me stunned, strangely stirred, still so clear 28 years on. then that tea at new market. jokes, chat, laughter around the table. a gift of rs 500. "buy yourself something nice, indu," or something to that effect you said. my mind did a double take, aghast. "indu?!!!" no one had ever called me that. indu? no, that's so not me. ouch, no not indu, please. i saw your smile spread to your eyes. i saw the young man who said he had women for breakfast to tease his girlfriend, i saw something untouched and shining in his eyes. did i ever let you know that i bought a beautiful shawl from kashmir with that money? the borders are intricately embroidered in shades of brown and sienna, the base is pure and clean off white, when i wrap it around me i still feel the warmth of home. there are those who have known you longer. they know you better; we only met twice. sometimes i hear you still. still so clear. this morning i heard my head go "it's 9th may." after almost five months i sat down to write here again. a simple card really, just to say: happy birthday, love indu

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

interpreting a random occurrence 2: unafraid of meaning

last night my daughter put her arms around me and said: i am the luckiest girl in the world to have the two of you as my parents. i looked into her innocent eyes, felt the touch of her arms, and a feeling i can never quite describe filled me. before i said what i said the words wrote themselves out inside me: we are the luckiest parents on earth to have you as our kid; whatever life has taken away from me, by giving you to me it has given all of that back and more.
my previous post might make you think i'm mad at the world, i'm actually still feeling so good about what the offspring said and our exchange. i feel successful in the sense of the bengali word: sharthak, with meaning. my life is with meaning. there are some things that are real, permanent, immanent, and transcendant all at once. last night i had a glimpse of that. i do wish you get your share of it;
maybe you already have, then i wish you more.

interpreting a random occurrence 1: who doesn't want to be a millionaire

last night my ten-year old snuggled up against me, put her long arms around my not too small waist, and said: i am the luckiest girl in the world to have the two of you as my parents.
no idea how a millionaire feels, but at that moment i felt wealthy. utterly, obscenely wealthy. i could feel the feeling spread smooth, rich, creamy, just the way partap sharma had promised cadbury's dairy milk chocolate would be all those years ago. it melted right through me and as it reached my toes and a spot behind my eyelids, i heard myself say: we are the luckiest parents on earth to have you as our kid; whatever life has taken away from me, by giving you to me it has given all of that back and more.
gosh, too deep just before sleep.
the boy who won rupees five crore, or us$1,000,000, the highest prize in kaun banega crorepati/who wants to be a millionaire, has not yet received his money but letters for help keep pouring in; some plead and cajole, others demand, still others come banging at the door with little respect for his privacy. the small, dark, never been in a perfectly cut suit, brilliantly sharp boy from bihar is irritated. he wants to write a book on human nature based on all that he has seen ever since winning about a month ago.
i have often thought it would be interesting to find out what impact the prize money has on the lives of the winners of the show, most of whom are ordinary, middle class, or even poor people. does money by itself, its very presence, improve lives?
one keeps hearing, saying, talking, even dreaming the stuff. in the past 25 odd years we've managed to peg everything to money. home, work, country, religion, education, friendship, love.
no one buys a home they really have saved, planned, and yearned for. they invest.
you don't have friends. you invest in relationships.
if your country's gdp is good, you've got to be happy, so what if the cancer and suicide rates are going crazy?
we also often become citizens of a new country not because we connect to it from within but because it's richer, cleaner, more convenient, ("oh this inconvenient indian passport, so many visas... huff puff... let's become citizens of this perfect nation instead, only to talk incessantly about our great indian culture thereafter." "er, but wasn't not evaluating everything in terms of the big M an essential part of that culture? karmanye badhikarasthe, etc., etc.," "c'mon, stop being a bore; forget those things, invest in a new value system,ok?" "ok.")
be honest and push hard for what you believe in? nah, keep the boss happy, you're investing in a career not doing a job you love or even like.
fall madly in love? sheer stupidity.
as we stash up on cash, are we sort of becoming mere shells of once full human beings? remember that old joke about the teacher who said: meet me behind the classroom when you're empty? was he prescient not malaprop, and that is about to come true?
(indi, there you go again, why so cheem leh? money can also can, cannot also can.)
i was born stupid. if i'm still around, still happy, it's because i had the most wonderful parents on earth.
their wedding anniversary today, would have been the 53rd.
thinking of making a serial called: who doesn't want to be a millionaire, or even a billionaire for that matter.

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