July 21, 2009

It Happens only in Mumbai

There are many reasons why I love Mumbai. But a major reason is that I love discovering and rediscovering things and Mumbai is never short of them. I have been lucky enough to be the first in quite a few new things that have come up in Mumbai. For example, I was amongst the first to try and take the sea link when it opened up and spent two and a half hours trying to reach office. The other day I was also one of the first to witness a change in Mumbai airport. They have finally introduced a pre paid system for taxis and autos and put an end to the haggling that would begin once we hired a cab from outside the airport. It’s no longer as horrible. Like so many other Government initiative this too was pretty autocratic and made the taxis go on strike but then things are changing, Even though Mithi will continue to overflow over the next few monsoons, Mumbai is changing for the better.

Speaking of Monsoons. I have a new favourite pastime. When I know from before when the high tides will hit the city, I stand in front of the sea with outstretched arms asking it to draw away the pain. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t.

I grew up in the Doordarshan age. When I was in school, I remember the cumulative excitement amongst students to run back to their homes by 3:30 pm so that they would not miss the latest episode of Swabhimaan. And I was at that time completely floored by Mita Vashishth. Powerful, intelligent and with shades of grey, her character had everything. So there I was shopping in Mango with a friend and I looked up and saw her. Now in Bandra, Khar, Juhu, meeting celebrities is commonplace and ordinary. Just staying beside Juice and Gabanna allows me to stand in my balcony with my cup of tea and watch the celebs zoom past in everything from imported cars to autos. In fact, often you would ask a celebrity to make space for you if you run into him or her in St. Andrews auditorium. (Yups I did it! I had no idea who he was!) So thanks to P who was with me, I mustered up enough courage to go and tell her how I loved her performance in Swabhimaan. It’s one of those childhood dreams come true. Otherwise shopping at Mango is a tough task. You have really good looking women coming towards you with open arms and as soon as you are also ready to hug, they would ask you, “Do you think I look fat in this?” And trust me; you would have never met them earlier in life. What answer would you give to such a person?

Mumbai also make strange bedfellows. Given the state of the real estate, you would not mind sleeping with the enemy even. So I have this friend who was looking out for a place to stay. But he wasn’t happy with what he was getting. So, finally he got an offer from another guy who gave him a really good deal. There was only one catch. My friend’s current lady love once had a soft corner for this guy with the apartment to share. Under normal circumstances or cities, one would walk off. But then, yeh hain Mumbai Meri Jaan. Last known, he had shifted.

The Mother took a few children to watch Hari Puttar. Puttar kafi bada ho gaya hain. Haan ji! Yeh toh bachho ka movie hain na. Isme badi kissing wali scenes dal diye hain ji.

Well, that is the problem with the movie. The awesomeness of Half Blood prince lies not in the action but in the buildup to the grand finale. And thus except the staunch Potter maniacs perhaps others would be disillusioned with the movie. But if you feel the sinister plot building around Hogwarts, you know the movie has got to you. But while her children voiced their opinion, the Mother was non committal.

Mumbai is a highly competitive city. We were talking about competition and this friend said, “I hate all competition in my sector.” I was stunned. Hate is too strong a word. I love competition. I mean it. I think competition in the marketplace ensures a better deal for the consumers. You can look at your competition in two ways. It is a war or it can be a game. In both you try to win and that is why we are paid. As far as I am concerned, I take it as a game. And I just have fun playing.

July 16, 2009

The Invasion

The Universe waited with bated breath. The forces looked at each other in deathly silence. The outcome was well known to all. But then the battle had to be fought. The losers would want their share of glory.

The earth stood silent. The winds refused to blow. And somewhere in the distance the shepherd prince drew out his flute.

It seemed as if the armies were waiting for his signal. The dark forces rumbled towards the last remaining defences of the Majestic White Palace. The Universe trembled. The skies roared. Humans prayed. Few blocks of resistance remained but slowly all were vanquished.

The sky wore the black shroud of despair. The colour of the victory was black.

And then she shed her first tear.

Somewhere in a forgotten land, a peacock spread his wings out and danced liked there is no tomorrow.

July 09, 2009

Between Delayed Puberty and Early Midlife

In case you have been following my blog, you will perhaps remember this post. Written quite some time back, it ushered in an era of confusion. Like many other things it was also swept under the carpet, but like all sandcastles, it started tumbling down a week or so back.

Communication is one of the major medium through which we connect to our consumers. Even between humans communication is the key to survival. However good your message might be, you often need to reinforce it. You, for example, need to say, “I love you” even if you are married for 50 years. Reinforcement works; always. Communication was the key and yet it was taking a backseat.

Imagine a situation where you would be asked the question – “What is life?” The answers come in varied forms, “I have figured it out and the way I live my life is the meaning of life.” “Well, I don’t know.” “As if I care.” “Can you please shut up? My life sucks.

Change the question, the answer remains the same. There is so little to talk about these days. Often there is just silence after “hey what’s happening?” Well nothing’s happening in reality and there is nothing to talk about. Walls are getting built up. A phone call is no longer answered by “Dude! What’s up?” Often it is picked up by a new person who has gained prominence. It’s just not the loss of your place of priority in another’s life. It’s a signal - Either the beginning of the end of an old friendship or the end of the beginning of a new one. Slowly the meaning of the old S&G classic comes into the light. The answer lies in Dangling Conversations.

Strange things are happening. I have always believed everything in this world carries an expiry date. It’s like a product life cycle. Without rejuvenation, there is always an end. Relationships are exactly the same. Communication is a major source of rejuvenation but as I said, it’s taken a backseat. The other day I discussed expiry with a friend and realized we both knew the time and date and reason for the same. There is hope of rejuvenation but that would require a fundamental change to product specifications. A whole new phase of research and development. The best part is that we predicted the future. At least both versions of it.

In my life I have always found people who are generally happy. But as we grow up most of us are becoming increasingly unhappy. The general feeling is one of gloom and despair. Rather, a submission to the day to day routine. Some people are lucky; they can dissociate themselves from the questions. Some become Gyaan Gurus lamenting on the decay that has gripped our world. Others, like me, perhaps the worst of the lot, vacillate between acceptance and rebellion.

Change as I keep on saying is inevitable. And yet, people are judgmental about change. A kid told me, yesterday it does not matter if change is good or bad. Without change one would become boring.

The only light at the end of the tunnel was surprisingly Rakhi Sawant. I admire her penchant for being in the news always. She did a truly unorthodox thing to agree on the Swayamvar on television. But then the prudish SEC A++ I seem to be around completely disregarded her. I bet on the show opening to great TRPs and it did. India did not let me down. But when people started passing snide remarks about me watching the show opener, I was surprised. How fast we seem to pass judgment! Anyway I was redeemed when my favourite marketer told me that she watched it too. Bonded by the Grace of the Same God, we still think alike, even after two years.

I hope you have never been addicted to anything. But to give you a simpler example, have you ever felt restless at not being able to finish a book? Well, your mom at times comes into your room and forcefully switches the light off. You hate her for it and yet you know it was necessary. You needed to wake up in time for school. What do you do when your “chuddy buddy” can be accused of looking after you in that strict matronly fashion? You really would not be buddy buddy with your buddy anymore, would you? My suggestion for what it’s worth; Buddy advice saves you. Try listening.

But nothing was working out till a voice of sense called. Remember Maslow’s Pyramid? It asked. If everyone reaches self actualization it would not exactly be a pyramid would it? And the voice gave me back Keats. After almost a year I read him again.

When I have fears that I may cease to be

Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,

Before high-piled books, in charactery,

Hold like rich garners the full ripen'd grain;

When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face,

Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,

And think that I may never live to trace

Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;

And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,

That I shall never look upon thee more,

Never have relish in the faery power

Of unreflecting love;--then on the shore

Of the wide world I stand alone, and think

Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.

Forces are pulling me to different directions and yet I dance around taut as a wire in tension looking for answers. As they reminded us in the Matrix, “To deny our impulses is to deny the very essence that makes us human.”

What do you do however if impulses vary between extremes?

July 06, 2009

Playful Life

After a long hiatus, the movies were back. New plays were coming in too with regular gusto. So, surprising even myself, I decided to pull my well nourished body out of work to go and play, rather watch them. And of course, since I love donating money to bandits who charge a pocketful for a movie, I normally end up in the multiplexes. But first the theatre.

Chanakya was a play I was planning to watch for a long time now and was not disappointed at all. Extremely strong dialogues backed by some great performances Chanakya is a must watch for those who often wonder how a single person can make a difference to society and to government.

Pune Highway by Rage however was a disappointment. I guess it is all about the expectations you build up prior to a performance. Pune Highway was extremely shallow and wasted opportunities to delve into the human psyche and friendships. While the performances were good as always, it always felt that there was so much more that could have been done. One of the Rage productions I will perhaps never re-visit.

Angels and Demons was impressive but again it was one of those movies which ensured that I maintain that reading books is a better pastime than watching a movie. The spectacular special effects and the views of the Vatican were however state of the art. But then would you have missed much if you did not watch it? Perhaps not.

Wolverine however was another matter altogether. For the comic book fans, X Men origins are as important as sacred texts but the movies always have their shortcomings. You need to add “the movie angle” as I like to call it. So Sabretooth becomes a long estranged brother taking the sheen of their terrible animosity that forms such an important part of the X Men stories.

Ice Age 3 should be watched in 3-D. Else you will really feel upset at the domestication of Manny the Mammoth. Sid’s loneliness and Diego’s confusion at seeing his friend start a new life, all seem reminiscent of men and women in their late twenties where everyone they know is down with the “get married asap” syndrome. A guy typically can not handle multiple complex relationships. We are not as strong or sensible as women. As Manny says, guys don’t talk about stuff; they punch each other on the shoulders. We don’t understand when friends find someone and suddenly there is a lull in communication. We believe we are awesome enough to find new friends but we miss the old ones terribly till we all act grown up and restart the friendship as new people and often (someone please strangle me here) as new sets of couples.

Anyway, the movie is definitely worth it. The storyline is weak. There is nothing much to look forward to as the way everything will unfold is predictable. Scrat however, finds his life partner and loses her again. And yes, they invent the salsa together in the Ice Age :)

Bolt was the sequel I was eagerly awaiting. A true tribute to The Truman Show, Bolt was the life of Truman after he walked out of the set. Well, there were a few discrepancies. For example, bolt was a dog but I felt that made the movie all the more endearing. The kids in the Theatre were cheering and so were we.

The best movie of recent times has to be Kambakht Ishq. It sent home the message that study your medicine in India. You can’t be any worse off outside. Also do not teach to supplement your income. Become a model instead. The men might however want to go and watch Kareena Kapoor. Denise Richards looked old and disinterested and I watched the entire Rambo Series to atone for the sins committed by Stallone for agreeing to do this movie. But then do watch this movie. I should not be the only Kambakht.

But more than anything else I want to talk about a movie called Dil Ne Jise Apna Kaha. It was a classic movie I had watched while in college. Salman Khan as the protagonist enacted a memorable role. He loved Preity Jinta dearly and when she passed away, he was grief striken. But then, as Indian medical miracle would have it, Preity’s heart was transplanted in Simran’s heart. And since her heart was of Preity’s the heart went out to Salman. And the movie was born. Hollywood copied this great concept and made another great movie - Terminator Salvation. So here in the movie a teenage boy struggled with untimely fatherhood, a machine was created with the heart of a man. A woman saw the benefit of having someone with steel muscles and human heart as her beau and finally, they transplanted that heart into the heart of John Conor. In the next movie, John will double time his babe and go out with the other babe whom his new heart had loved in the old days.

Awesome, I tell you.

July 04, 2009

Mountain of the Moon

Every Bengali kid who has been taught to read and love Bengali literature would have read the Book called Chander Pahar – The Mountain of the Moon. When I was a kid, I dreamt of going to the jungles of Africa and camping on the Mountain of the Moon. It spelt adventure for me. It meant mystery. It meant a life beyond the ordinary. The protagonist was not exactly my hero but he was the one who made me love the outdoors at an early childhood. It was this book that taught me that there was beauty even in the most dreaded surroundings. You only had to look for it.

Anyway, the point is Didi beat me to it. As I write, she called me to say that she is seeing the Mountain of the Moon through her hotel window. Well, maybe it’s just fair. She read the book before me. After all, it was her book.

Not wanting to be left behind, I decided to run off to the mountains. If not the Kilimanjaro ranges, I decided would make do with the Sahayadris. And there we were 11 of us travelling down the black asphalted road called the Mumbai Pune Expressway. The rains had come into Maharashtra and were filling up the mountains with new life. The cycle of life was safe for one more year. These days you can never be sure when the nuclear holocaust could strike. And of course, men are no better. We have poisoned the earth enough.

11 people, 2 cars, an unexplored terrain. The best thing about big groups is that they act as a living organism. Most of the time it is a single celled entity with common goals but suddenly the amoeba splits and each part goes off on their own ways, only to reunite again later. And that perhaps is the best way to operate. You can spend time with yourself or with your group.

I picked up the camera. It had been a long time since I had done some serious photography, A had her D60 with her too and that helped. But as snobbish as I can be I continued to experiment with my humble P&S and knew that if you could compose the pictures well, things look differently.

For some reason I was awake the entire night. And as I sat outside for sometime. I could see the mountain changing its colour. From a sombre black to a melancholic grey to a golden smile and finally breaking out into a riot of green, the mountains had it all. My mountain of the moon.

The next morning was an experience of a different kind. I floated on a mountain river and felt myself carried off by the current to reach the ultimate final goal. To reach the destiny, the ocean of peace. The birds flew above me. The mountains played hide and seek.

And life seemed beautiful again.

PS: three of the most difficult pictures. The series is called Riot of Colours. 1. Green and Gray 2. Black and White. 3. Green in all its shades

PPS: Chander Pahar picture courtesy - Soshu