November 29, 2007

Looking Back

He walked forward with a smile on his lips, to what he knew would be his doom. He knew that there perhaps would be a knife driven straight through his heart and yet he did not care. She was waiting… for him. With anticipation he inched forward and nothing happened. He stood there; without armour; waiting for her to strike down his heart and yet she did not make the final move. Instead, she welcomed him with arms wide open.

He held her close; wondering if this was all a dream. There was only one word fit to describe what he felt – ecstasy. The past was gone forever. It was a new beginning.

Some say, her aim was immaculate and he never felt anything. Others say he never bothered. He always was ready to give up everything for that one last moment of ecstasy when she was his and his alone.
But they all agree that the smile never left his face even when he felt the first warm trickle down his spine.

November 27, 2007

Yeh Hain Mumbai Nagariya Tu Dekh Babua

Bombay seldom ceases to amuse me with the surprises it throws at me. Every day is a new experience; every day is an eye opener to the fastest city in the country.

Service Levels – Every single city that I visit, I ensure that I have been to each and every food joint worth its salt in the city at every single price point. The only issue in Mumbai till now has been finding the price points that seem reasonable. But I must admit that most of them have been extremely ‘value for money’. In fact, I actually do not mind places charging more for the service that they provide along with the food. But at times it does get onto my nerves. I went to this place called Chandragupta the other day, and I really liked the food. However, after dinner as I went into the restroom, I could sense someone following me there. As soon as I finished splashing water on my face, the feeling of someone looking over my shoulders became stronger. I wheeled around only to find the grinning face of a person offering me paper napkins. I now know how it feels to be stalked but I never thought I would learn it this way.

Stars and Starlets – Mumbai was always the city of the silver screens, however big the film industries down the South might have become or however much the movie world in the East laid its claim to the intellectualism of Indian Cinema. The other day I was having dinner at a place that looked Indian, sounded Italian and tasted good food. As I looked up from my plate, I could see a familiar face looking intently at his glass of liquor and then it struck me like ‘Aag’, Ram Gopal Verma Ki Aag. While I got all excited the people at the other tables continued as if this was a regular occurrence.

The next day, Nitin and I decided to go for a quiz and it turned out to be a TV audition. So we stood in front of cameras gave our voice tests and realized that a lot of effort goes into the making of even a K serial leave alone a movie. The number of times an elderly actor repeated his dialogues made me feel like standing in front of my hypothetical girlfriend’s father who threatened me in the voices and mannerisms of every Hindi movie villain I had ever seen.

The Celebration Spirit – Setty came down from Pune for a marriage and suddenly on a Sunday afternoon I found myself having a DOPY meet in a Gujju Marriage in Mumbai where I knew neither the groom nor the bride. While returning I found myself caught in a rally which was called to showcase the strength of a political party and I walked along with them realizing that it would be the easiest way to home. On the way, as I chatted with the people who were a part of the rally I realized that quite a few of them were here as it provided a nice way to pass the time in Mumbai on a Sunday. And so the celebration continues in India.

Where Goal fails and Chak De Succeeds

I pulled two reluctant friends with me to watch Goal. There is a reason behind it, beyond the movie. I have decided to watch every movie that gets released at Plaza. I miss the charm of the old world theatres where even during a movie the chips and the cold drinks never fail to come in, where I am not spoiled for choices, where going to a movie is a destination and not just another activity to kill the weekend. The other day I got the tickets and forgot to take the change. The old gentleman at the counter smiled and gave me back my change without asking a second question when I went back to him after watching a movie. With all their brilliance, watching a movie in a multiplex never has the same charm as in an old world theatre.

Anyway, coming back to Goal - The movie is a nice watch unless you have something more important to do. It has conveniently borrowed from movies like ‘Cool Runnings’ and ‘Shaolin Soccer’ and has put in threads of Asian Unity in the UK. However, that becomes the pitfall for the movie. While Chak De was about fighting for a common goal as well as individual’s triumph against adversity, Goal focuses only on the much used theme of cultural unity in a foreign land except perhaps for the last fifteen minutes. I am sure even if Chak De was made in India with the theme as the story of a Jamaican basketball team, it would not have seemed out of context. However, Goal with a faulty script never can match up to the standards of a Chak De. Not because it is a bad film, but because the film is out of our context. It fans the same spirit that every single human being should try to subdue in them. An Asian Football team trying to bear its communities’ identity in a multicultural Britain is not perhaps the best example of a global brotherhood which we all must strive to attain.

Since we are talking about movies, two quick references - I love the legislation that forces the National Anthem to be played before the start of every movie and I think Jab we Met was a nice movie simply because Kareena Kapoor acted herself.

November 19, 2007

Yeh Hain Mumbai Meri Jaan - I

Advertising at its best – In one of the train compartments I saw this amazing advertisement for a service, pretty much unheard of. This ad proudly proclaimed that they offer delivery of condoms anywhere in the city with the promise of strict anonymity. The first line said it all – “Are there too many people at the Chemist’s shop?”

Train them Young - I saw this young daddy the other day, kid on his arms, wife at his side and shopping bags of Diwali on my back. But what amazed me was the way his son imitated him and was learning to hold the rails on top to keep himself steady. It would come in handy when he becomes tall enough to reach them by himself.

Hot Favourites – I have found my favourite breakfast place, the Café Coffee Day on Carter Road in Bandra overlooking the sea with an impressive view, partially blocked by political signage. Guess it would be frequently visited now. I think I love Mumbai because of its closeness to the sea. Be it the walk along the Marine Drive or the beaches at Dadar, the Arabian Sea makes me feel at peace with the World.

The Cabbies at Work – I have always respected the cab drivers of Mumbai. After facing the blatant thievery of the autos in Delhi and the unconcealed impertinence of the autos in Bangalore, Mumbai is like a heaven to all. And till date some of my best conversations have happened with the cab drivers in Mumbai. They take me around the city, always introducing me to newer places, newer routes, telling me how to identify a good cabbie from a bad. I think the best description of Mumbai came to me from one of them. “Mumbai bahut fast hain bhai.”

The Beauty of Saawariya

In the lazy Saturday afternoon, I happily slept off on Amit’s couch after polishing off almost a quarter kilo of Muesli. In a moment of inspiration, we decided to meet Nitin and catch Saawariya. It served two purposes; I wanted to watch a movie in Plaza just to feel the charm of old world Mumbai Theatres and we anyway weren’t doing anything worthwhile.

Saawariya is a movie I loved watching, but I am sure it won’t be liked by most of the people I know. The beauty of the movie is not in the story; neither it is in the freshness of its lead stars. The beauty of Saawariya lies in the magic of its making. Sanjay Leela Bhansali has always been a master painter to me. Even in Black, the background scores, the layout of the sets and the placement of the actors in them spoke of a new way of making films. SLB has created a new world, a world every single one of us dreams of when we think of our past, of our unrequited love. Gabriel Garcia Marquez has written about bitter almonds telling the story of unrequited love. The sets of Saawariya - the bridge where he meets her for the first time, the water which carries the flames of a burning letter and the road full of poodles of water – tell us of a world that is safe in our minds, far from the prying eyes of even our closest confidante; a world where our personal definitions of love exist. Saawariya is not a movie to be watched with a gang of friends, it’s a movie to be enjoyed with select company.

November 14, 2007

Somewhere on Harbour Line

I love travelling in the local trains without my laptop. I don’t mind the crowded compartments. Somehow, the Mumbaikar always turns me around and pushes me towards the door whenever I have to get down. Yesterday, as I was travelling back from Panvel, I saw a lady get up from her seat and try to make towards the door. But somehow, she was not able to. Obviously, she was not a Mumbaikar. She was searching for someone and all she could see were hands clutching at the holders and the rails. Kurla was approaching and she was hysterical. The guy with her was nowhere to be seen. She had no idea where she had to get down. He had just asked her to walk towards the gate. She was almost in tears. And then the unbelievable happened. Like the parting of the Red Sea, the sea of humanity parted and she moved forward searching for a known face. And there he was frantically holding on to the rails, praying that she would make it to the door, the commotion inside a moment back seemed completely unknown to him. Kurla came and they walked out of the station, holding hands, perhaps promising never to let go again.

November 12, 2007

The Flower in the Desert

This is perhaps the most difficult post in this blog till date. Not because it discusses anything world-changing but because this post is about something that once defined who I was; who I would become. This post is about a magazine.

Today afternoon, as I spent a lonely Diwali, a knock on the door delivered a courier to me from a village in Rajasthan. Inside it was my college, packed in the form of a magazine – Cactus Flower 2007. Once it was a tradition for the person holding the post to send a copy to the previous Chief Editors if they had been acquainted. But then things had changed and it was really a pleasant afternoon surprise. Unexpected calls and unexpected couriers often cheer you up.

Quite a few things in BITS had required a large part of my time and attention. But none matched the passion that a magazine had instilled in me. I still remember the day I took over the responsibility, green-horned and untested. It was a terrifying night; never had been a Chief Editor been from the Second Year. Yet, I knew this was my destiny and this would be my nemesis. I had inherited a magazine steeped in controversy, a magazine falling foul of both the administration and the Students’ Union. What followed was a year of scrounging, saving every penny to plough it back into the magazine, fighting tooth and nail for retaining its autonomy. All along I had just one conviction. A magazine is a mirror to the world that we live in and it must stay true to itself. I had to take a lot of decisions that under other circumstances I would not have taken. I imposed strict self-censorship. I let go of my dreams to have an all colour magazine to keep the budgets under control. I lost my temper and fought with the person who perhaps had designed the best cover for any magazine in the world ever, as a result of which our months of effort over summer holidays at his house and over the phone never saw the light of the day. (It was a time when I had to sacrifice quality for equality and every single day I have wondered if the decision was correct) I, for perhaps the only time in my life, kept my dreams under reins.

I had always believed that the Editors of Yesteryears spoke to me through their magazines and it was an old order, facing the tests of time. I was the last torch-bearer. And that made me more responsible towards the cause. I knew a change would be inevitable, hollow idealism would give away to practicalities and just to ensure that one day a new order would come up, my main task would be to keep the hope alive.

Thus was born Cactus Flower, 2003.

Whether the magazine I created, with one of the most dedicated teams I have ever worked with, was any good is perhaps of little consequence to you. What matters is that it rooted out criticism. The magazine was safe and my task was done.

Since then, the magazine became like a stranger to me. The winds of change blew everywhere. I was there like the old willow facing the winds and offering shade to whoever wanted to rest. But then the world was speeding past.

In my final semester at college, the winds of change continued to blow. But this time I felt a fresh breeze of hope. The people coming in had the zeal I had found missing in myself at that point of time, people ready to take on any challenges. One of them would become Chief Editor, Cactus Flower three years down the line.

As I opened the pages of this edition of our magazine, my mind travelled back ages to see Auro, Saha, Magdum and myself waiting breathlessly at the printer to have our first glimpse of the magazine. Shaking off memories, I read through the magazine, page by page, line by line, word by word. I have always believed that the quality of content reflects the age that we live in rather than the capability of the Editor. Where the Editor can make a difference is in its presentation and in delivering the main objective of the Magazine – making it a storehouse of the aspirations of the entire student community. And then it struck me.

The old order was back, in a new avatar. The man behind CF 2007 could any day have donned the hat of an Editor, even in the Brilliant 90s. I could see myself as a BITSian in each of its pages; I could feel as the Editor what he felt as he worked on his drafts late into the night. I could see the unabashed way in which he asserted himself in each of the pages, I could see his scrutiny on every word and I think I know exactly the errors he would come across a year or so from now and hate himself for having overlooked them before the blueprint was finalized.

I could sense myself making CF all over again.

Why is CF 2007 so special to me? I think it’s because it tells me of the immense talent in BITSians that still lingers on. It tells me that the Editor is proud again, proud of being the Editor. This pride reflects in his work, for this pride is borne out of love for a magazine, for an ideal, for a concept. CF is once again unapologetic, it is no longer scared to spell out what the students feel, without resorting to symbolism, without subtlety meant to safeguard ones back against administration. It is contemporary, yet it upholds all ideals that a great magazine must have. It makes the same ‘mistakes’ that makes a magazine, a magazine for everyone and not a Kubrick movie for the ‘elite’. CF 2007, it showcases the dreams that I had reined in 4 long years back.

Mr. Chief Editor Sir, I, Madhurjya Banerjee would have considered myself honoured if I had brought out this baby of yours.

As perhaps the last believer of an era gone by, I bow to the Cactus Flower Team, 2007, for having strengthened my conviction that what’s true is eternal. It just keeps coming back to us in new forms. They say some flowers in Rajasthan bloom every four years. Today, I saw a Flower bloom again.

I think this is what is called The Circle of Life.

November 06, 2007

She's Always A Woman to Me

And she'll promise you more
Than the Garden of Eden
Then she'll carelessly cut you
And laugh while you're bleedin'
But she'll bring out the best
And the worst you can be
Blame it all on yourself
Cause she's always a woman to me

He thought he had enough of women for an entire lifetime. There was no way he could understand them, neither did he know any of his friends who did. Even the women he knew patted him affectionately after one more of his failed attempts at a relationship and say patronisingly, “You see you never should try to understand women. Just let her be herself and accept her as she is.” They were worried for him; all his friends were. He knew they really wanted to see him settle down and as they would often say, “be sensible” and yet there he was leading his life as he pleased without a care for the world around him.

As the elevator jolted to a stop he irritatedly moved aside to let the person behind him walk out. As he stood adjusting his suit, someone said, “14th floor please.” He turned around and like a movie running in a slow motion, his breath refused to come out of his lungs. Mechanically his thumb pressed the number 14 on the panel. He could feel his knees giving away. He knew the symptoms of the excruciating agony of love. It had been 10 years. His floor passed by and so did the 14th floor. The knees were strong again as he pushed the buttons to his floor. Yet, a pain (stronger than the weakness in his knees) stabbed at his heart.

She had not recognized him. 10 years - it had been enough for her.


Most of my world changing revelations get shown to me when I am in the bath. The other day I had a discussion with someone on the meaning of our lives and the next day while brushing my eyes fell on the roll of toilet paper.

Did the tree ever think the meaning of its life would be reduced to….?

November 05, 2007

Sometimes you need to take a stand

After coming in to Mumbai, I wrote about the sudden change in my Lifestyle. However, that got me thinking. With every bit of change in our lifestyle, we begin to spend even more energy per person than our Earth can afford. The amount of water that everyone around me wastes, the line of cars snaking through the streets of Mumbai adding to the pollution level, the laptops around me, always switched on, everything seems to be screaming –“Death to the Planet” and it’s not a very nice feeling at all.

When it comes to loving the Environment, I am nothing like the Vishnois of Rajasthan, yet there are a few things that I can do to ensure that I don’t leave behind a world much worse than I inherited from my parents. Here are a few things I have been doing over the past one week and I think it’s the least I can do. Any more suggestions are always welcome.

  • Switch off the AC – I have never switched on the AC in my room since I came to Mumbai. As the winter is set to arrive, I think the AC is something I can do away with altogether. I think the only persons I know who should use it are Chandy and Pavan, both somewhere in the Middle East.

  • Travel – Long live public transport. They might not be the best option in India but then with the oil prices threatening to breach the $100 barrier, I think it’s not just good for the environment, but also for the economy. The only other option is pooling a cab to your office. That should work fine too. But an AC car for yourself to office? God save Mother Nature!

  • The Power Saver option in your laptop/desktop. Yes, it’s as important to most of us just like we all need sleep, but keeping your machine switched on 24x7? I think that’s a crime. While going for lunch at your mess or work-cafeteria, ensure that you switch your computer off. In fact, a major reason I refuse to have an internet connection outside office is to have no reason to switch on my laptop at home.

  • CFLs – I hate white lights. I think the best way to light up a room is have the yellow lights in shades that diffuse the light and create a magical atmosphere in the room. But if CFL’s the answer, then so be it. And why on earth would you need all the fans in a room switched on? You may look like a freak but use only the one that is likely to have the most effect on you.

  • Paper cups for your daily intake of caffeine – I was just standing near the vending machine when I realized that people use the paper cups for a swig of water and throw it away. On an average 15 cups per person might get used up every day. Since then I pick up my cup of coffee in the morning and use it for refills throughout the day and get my bottle along to fill up water and chug it down whenever I’m thirsty. In fact, the best option would be to invest in a mug and save even that one paper cup per day.

  • Switch off every unused light source, stop every dripping tap you see and you can make a whole lot of difference to this world. In fact, I love the policy in my company where they switch off most lights on the floor during lunch hours.

And finally here’s something I want myself to do and haven’t had a success – stop using the elevators. I want to use the stairs more often than I do. That should be the next hurdle to cross.

The Intellectual Elitist

There are certain problems associated with working under some of the best professors in their fields. They inculcate a sense of perfection in you which is hard to let go of. You are never satisfied with half baked answers. You always want proof even for your own assumptions; unless it’s one of those hunches you tend to pick up in the markets wearing your shoes out. You begin to believe in JSTOR more than in Google; you begin to hate definitions picked up from the Internet, most of which are half baked or are not even cited. It becomes worse when you look down upon the greatest structure of Internet Democracy (in the form of Wiki) simply because of its lack of affiliation or accreditation.

It is then that you know that you have become an Intellectual Elitist to the extent of being called a snob; the word geek doesn’t come anymore as a form of insult; instead you begin to like it. You don’t mind questioning; you get upset when the answers are not there. And it’s then when you know that Man’s eternal quest for the Ultimate Truth still has a fighting chance.