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Two months have passed since I last updated my blog, and it's no concincidence, this, that I have moved to Bombay exactly two months ago. It's been a hectic, interesting, two months, getting used to and starting to like, a new place, a new way of life, a new existence.

A couple of things since I last wrote:

a) Tushar quits his job in Chennai and enters a new partnership

Tushar, the lanky, wiry, six foot two smooth talking IIM B graduate, a good friend of mine from my irevna days, got married to Poonam in Mumbai, and we were there to watch them do the due. It was an awesome ceremony, the food was mind-blowing, the genial hosts took care of each one of us, the boat party in the middle of the sea, replete with item numbers, DJ Suketu and the lilting evening sea breeze, was out of the world. Bon voyage, Toshu, in all random walks of life! Also, congratulations on climbing the first few steps of the Investment Banking ladder, and knowing your sticky 'Lizard'-y feet, am sure climbing high will come to you naturally.

b) I watch Rang De Basanti four times, hopelessly addicted, and asking for more

Some movies do not need cold-blooded logic, overdoses of warm, infectious emotion suffise. Let the naysayers rest in peace, but this is a movie everyone should see. It's a movie made from the heart, and tugs at a few untouched chords, tickles a multitude of funny bones, teases the lachrymal glands endlessly. Yes, killing wrongdoers is not the solution, yes, the theme and the ending look unrealistic. But, for once, let's just take off our thinking caps and soak in the essence of the movie. Everyone I have gone to see the movie with has come out of the theatre pondering over what hit them. Bottomline: The movie makes us think, realise the sacrifices that have led to our independence, and evokes in us an underlying sense of pride, of patriotism. If not for anything else, go see the movie for the infinitely cute Brit babe with a cuter Hindi accent to boot.

More later, hopefully soon.
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I turn thirty in two days.

I look back now to the time around ten years back when thirty seemed old and distant, an age where thrills, adventures are mostly over, maturity has set in, stability and sensibility are friendly neighbours, the apartment is in order, the music system is spotless, expensive and rarely used, the drinks cabinet is opened once every evening and a measured peg subtracted, I never raise my voice or lose my temper, the wife counts the number of calories I intake every day and maintains a chart, weekend means a leisurely drive to an expensive food joint, my open unapologetic stares at pretty things have mellowed down to furtive, occasional, stolen glances, I pay my bills on time, I fold my clothes in an orderly fashion...

Reality sucks.

I sit here on a Saturday afternoon, filling in the time before we go out to watch Being Cyrus, possibly preceded by a short binging session. Life hasn't changed much the past ten years.

Or has it and am I religiously trying to turn the proverbial blind eye?

Good to be back. Hopefully, shall visit more frequently.
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A new city in a night and half
A new project in the empty pipeline
A revving up of the newly old engine
A new set of names for friends, grocers, watchmen

A good bonsai, flashback ten days in Cal

The familiar forgotten wintry chill
The comforting hug of the old Kashmiri shawl
its old, mildewy smell

The glowing odour of burning logs
Scantily-clad dark quaking shadows around
at the corner of the road

A nighttime, en-lightened Park Street
Delicious smell of tempting bakes
Scalding sip of fresh filter coffee
Thirsty drag on a tentative, newly-lit Wills Filter,
Look no further

A crowded Metro trainride and back
Carefully unplanned, meticulously aimless
An impulse stopover at Esplanade
Pretty faces light up the night sky
Dahi-puri at the old stall for ten bucks
Packets of fresh air at the Maidan for free

Huddling around at the streetside stall
With names known from another life
A single cigarette doing the rounds
Intolerably sweet tea in earthen cups
Bawling, guffawing, chatting, fighting
About everything and nothing at all

The black starless midnight sky
The solitary, sinewy coconut tree
The hesitant leaves scared to rustle
The deafening silence of the TV next door
The trickle of winter down the spine
The soft blanket, the warm bed

The frozen smile ever ready
To dazzle at friendly passers by
To politely answer every question
To nod the tired head, but why?

Back to the grind again
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Yes, it is my 50th entry. But, Park Avenue is my fifth most favourite perfume brand, not fifteenth.
Now, a longish rambling on the movie 15, Park Avenue. Be warned.
Watched 15, Park Avenue yesterday. She's a talented actress, Konkona is, and that's an understatement. If Mr and Mrs Iyer introduced her as a gifted actor, this movie firmly cements her place as one. But, the movie disappoints after promising the stars, I, an ardent Aparna Sen fan since my teenage days, must grudgingly admit. And why does my opinion matter? Kyonki apun Public hai bhaai.
The movie deals with schizophrenia. Mithi, Konkona, is a schizophrenic and is delusional, and the plot is woven around Mithi's family, including she, her sister, Shabana, mother Waheeda, ex-fiance Rahul, step-father Soumitra, the good samaritan doctor, Dhritiman, and a sprinkling of other characters. It tracks the life of Mithi, her family and near ones through a roller coaster, emotional and mostly painful ride, with generous handfuls of dark humour, graphic and explicit emoting and picturesque landscapes thrown in.
Yes, the beginning is very promising and kept me glued to the screen and the plot till interval. But post interval, the movie loses its way and after it ends, it leaves the audience impressed and provoked, but dissatisfied and wishing it could offer just that something more, with a niggling voice in the head cribbing it missed the mark, but just.

Fault-finding mission...

The introduction of Rahul Bose, Konkona's ex-lover, post interval, triggers the downward slide and is due to no fault of Rahul's. Yes, we feel sorry for the misfortune that had befallen the lovers and the twist of fate that brings a happily-married and settled Rahul and an aged, but more delusional and sick Konkona, together after a good eleven years. Rahul tries his best to do justice to the character, but the scenes involving Rahul and Konkona and Rahul and his wife seem affected and unnatural. The flow is missing and the movie sputters, stammers, coughs along in places which should have been the most poignant in the movie.
The romantic angle between Shabana and Kanwaljeet is realistically and sensitively dealt with and should have been left at that, but the unnecessary, needless inclusion of the friendly neighbourhood doctor Dhritiman in the romantic scheme of things is uncalled for, irritating and unexpectedly immature.
The movie is painfully slow in parts, especially post interval. Accepted it's a serious movie and is meant for a discerning audience, but then, it is VERY slow in parts and the dialogues unnatural and staccato. Also, the frequent and excessive use of lachrymal glands by all the leading female actors is a bit overdone and adds to the 'drag' effect.
I get the symbolic ending... yes, we understand Konkona finally finds her dream house, her dream kids and dream husband. We understand that, to her, her dream world is as real as the air we breathe, the lips we smack... the... anyway... you get the idea. But, just making her vanish at the end to symbolise she's found her peace and refuge is dissatisfying and leaves the audience with a brooding feeling of incompleteness, and not a sense of open-ended marvel like we do when we read a beautifully etched and crafted short story.

However...

Konkona excels in her role, and her portrayal of Mithi is intelligent, meticulous, sensitive and demonstrates a touch of genius. She is an actor for the future.
Shabana, as expected of an actor of her calibre, is convincing and believable.
The depiction of schizophrenia and its effect on the individual and her near and dear ones has been done with a soul and many poignant scenes will be etched on my mind's canvas for a long time to come.
At the end of the day, the movie makes me think, not only as I leave the theatre, but later at night, when I stand at the balcony and feel the cold winter air flirting with my blushing nose-tip. It makes me wonder whether I am as sane as I think I am, and whether any of us is (and whether, indeed, my surname should be changed from Sane-Gupta to Insane-Gupta). It serves to blur the borders between delusion and reality and makes me look at things with a grey perspective.

Finally...

On balance, I am glad I went to see the film, and no, probably it was not that bad after all. Damn, am I getting delusional/blurred?! It's a well-made, off beat film, meant for discerning viewers and gives a good account of itself. Granted it will never be a hit and granted it has its flaws, but if you like creative, intelligent, thought-provoking movies, at least go and see it.
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The new year has started with a bang, rather a few myriad bangs, if one has a dark and sick sense of humour.

First, there was the 'bang' of the gunshots that echoed at the IISC campus, a couple of clueless, peace-loving academics the target of frenzied, pervert fanatics who have lost their basic human traits.

Then, there was the gangrape of a minor, invalid working girl in Delhi by three men in an ambassador. Hold on, this was not the worst part. The devastated girl had tried to ask a truck driver for help after the traumatic incident, and the good samaritan raped her again, for good measure.

Today, there's news of a schoolgirl from Noida, studying in Class 10, gangraped after being whisked to a Maruti car by her assailants. Surprise, surprise! The police is on the case and has vowed to find the criminals at large as soon as possible.

Last but not the least, a few days back, a South African model trying to find work in Bollywood, had reported to the police that a couple of people who she knew had invited her to meet them to discuss possible contracts. She alleged that her drink was doctored, and when she regained consciousness, she discovered that she had been raped by her 'acquaintances'. And, as is wont, the police is investigating into the matter.

The new year is just seven days old. And look at the bounty of experiences we already have to chew on. The entire world had been built in six days, and on the seventh day, even God Himself rested. Don't rapists/millitants have a rest day at least?

On the milltants' ploy to attack academics, software parks and similar contributors to India's recent economic rise, agreed it sickens us to the gut, but, the frightening part is: If I am a millitant with my sole purpose in life being to cause India harm, this is a very smart and simple ploy indeed. Just the day before, another technology conference was held in Hyderabad. The results of the Bangalore shootings were loud and clear. Out of the six Nobel laureates who had agreed to come, only one turned up. Of the 40 odd international scientists who were expected, only half were present. If a stray shooting incident can have such a devastating effect, imagine how big and enormous an effect a bombing of an MNC or Indian software company building would have on the software industry. The sad thing is: 'Where there's a will, there's a way' is very apt a saying here. Bangalore has software company offices and software engineers in each nook, corner and crevice. There is simply no practicable way the police can ensure everyone is risk-free.

On sexual violence: It's sad, very sad to see such barbaric acts perpetrated again and again. I may not be diplomatic here, but I always wondered why more crimes against women are committed in the North belt: Delhi, Haryana and Punjab? Why is the nation's capital the most unsafe place for women? Is it in the psyche of people here? Is one subconsciously taught to disrespect women? I agree, acts of rape are committed everywhere, and it's not monopolised by Delhi-ites. but, it seems pretty clear that the frequency of such acts is much higher in the nation's capital than anywhere else. Why?

 

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Just chanced upon Haikus/Senryus... a Japanese style of poetry in the form of three lines; first line has five syllables, second seven and third five again. They are primarily used to depict a particular emotion/object/scenery.

Am sure have flaunted all rules other than the syllable guideline, but what the heck... it's fun!

Tsunami:

Pleasant beachside stroll-
Overtly flirty stray wave
Soars skyward, engulfs

Tears:

Salty like the sea
Trickling slender lukewarm stream-
Sorrow begets thee

Beer:

Frothy foam, bubbles-
Elixir for life's troubles
Bitter yet so sweet

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Pasting a snippet I had written for our ISB magazine. CP means Class Participation, which in simple English translates to bringing up mostly useless, air-filled questions/points in class to earn brownie points with the Professor. Section C was my section, of course. For MBA grads, CP during class hours is a major source of debate and occasional headache, hence the topicality of this subject.

The venue: AC 8, Section C.
The time: Around 3 pm.
The mood: SLEEPY.

A lecture session is on in its usual, dreary monotone. Suddenly, there’s an explosion! Well, not quite, someone has just uttered the word ‘PROFFESSSORRR’ at the top of his lungs. The whole class is shaken out of its peaceful reverie. The professor in question is stupefied and stares at the questioner with completely uncomprehending eyes, and for once, is at a loss for words.

The entire class turns around with an expectant, knowing smile. Mr.X fires on: “Well, if I calculated the prediction interval for the number of paedophiles in $%^&*( island in Northern Timbuctoo against the number of transvestites in Guatemala, this hypothesis would not hold true”, his helpless hands gesticulating frantically like those of an accomplished Bharat Natyam dancer and being in grave danger of being pulled out of their sockets. The professor, being worldly wise, knows how to handle this, thankfully, and gives one of those answers that leave one with the feeling that life is fuzzy and there’s no absolute right or wrong in the matter. The questioner (Let’s call him the True CP God (ref: Sachdeva)) looks around the class for the next two minutes with an enigmatic smile, with a tinge of pride and accomplishment thrown in for diversity. The class rolls on at its usual snail’s pace and poor, unfortunate souls go back to their daily chores such as daydreaming, bird-watching, stargazing and the like, hoping for and at the same time, dreading the next interlude.
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"Let the cup brimmeth over..." This has been my motto the past two weeks... the weekends mostly spent in hazy, hallucinating, 'spiritual' stupor. First, there was the trip to the MGM beach resort, then the rocking evening at Zarra's, making my conscience speak to me inexplicably in Hindi "Zarra hatke, Zarra bachke, yeh hai Chennai, meri jaan'.

Well, now that my futile attempt at making a funny punny comment has met with a very sad but expected demise, let me delve a bit deeper into the MGM party. We enjoy parties: good food at an expensive Tandoor/Chinese joint followed by drunken hollering and valiant but failed attempts at dancing (rather wriggling one's rear), waking up next morning with a horrible hangover, tortured stomach and constipated mood. But, it was getting a touch predictable and a shade tiring, so we were thinking of doing something different this time for a change.

So we did, finally, after much debate and tug of war. The core gang set sail around 1:30 pm towards MGM grand and reached around 2:30. A sumptuous buffet followed, accompanied by a few starting beers. This was followed up by one hour of pure idling around at the beach, feeling the cool spray of the friendly waves lapping near our feet and, as has become almost customary in Chennai of late, a light drizzle with the backdrop of a cloudy, cool and pleasant sky. A game of volleyball took place next, the intensely competitive spirit and enormously enthusiastic participation drowning the slight lack of skill if one were to point fingers. After a barrage of sledging, high tempers and even public domestic quarrels (shame on you, Baba), the game was finally stopped, the sun having gone into hiding, apprehensive at the tumultous goings-on and frayed tempers of the rather-extraordinary mortals participating in the do-or-die fight to death. We travelled to Moonrakers next, a revered sea food joint. A few lavish rounds of drinks and eminently edible sea-food cuisine including tiger prawns, jhingas, squids, fish etc. were consumed in record time by hungry, gluttonous barbarians while the non-violent vegetarians looked on in distaste and acute helplessness, stunned at the latent viciousness and blood-thristy strain in their non-veg acquaintances, who they had hitherto termed as friends. Then a cool and speedy car ride back to good old Chennai, back to its wet, drenching, leaky-sky self. A few arguments/debates ensued on whether going to Matchpoint was a good idea then, but the idea was finally shelved for another time.

About Zarra's, well, not much needs to be said other than the fact that the party was fun, rocking, drunken, blurry, loud, taquilla-shots filled and thoroughly, immensely enjoyable, which is a gross understatement. For the rest of the details, please contact the frightened waiters. We were too sloshed to remember anything more.
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The countdown has begun, the documentation started, the dates confirmed, the flights booked, the movers and packers contacted (actually, no, I was lying about the last one!). The winding up process has started. Leaving any place throws up a few nostalgic memories, a number of them to be tattooed permanently on the mind's canvas at a later point in time. But, if these unwelcome but inevitable trips down the nostalgic blind lane be ignored, the move to Mumbai seems a very attractive one on balance. The city has a life of its own and many of my B school batchmates thrown in as well; it's a great opportunity career-wise and promises to steer my rudderless career boat in the correct direction. I am sure, I shall love Mumbai life after the initial jitters settle down.

But, at least now, I am a touch sad. I will sorely miss a few good men (and even fewer good women) that I met here in Chennai, and who I will remember all my conscious life (till amnesia creeps in and senility sets in). I have made some very good friends in my earlier workplaces, but nothing had prepared me for the amazing bunch of people I met at irevna, who have made the hundrum, mostly shackled and colourless life at Chennai a fun-filled, enjoyable, rollicking and memorable experience.

Here's to Pulak, Baba, Toshu, Mandy, Kaka, Chatty, Tamal, BDK, Da and gang! Don't change ever, please.

On second thoughts, please do change, else your clothes will have a worse stink than they do now.
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Yes, it was on Boxing Day exactly a year back that the killer stealth waves struck, sweeping away children playing cricket by the beachside on a bright Sunday morning, choking happy newly-wed couples honeymooning on the till-then pristine beaches of South East Asia, swallowing entire inhabited Indonesian islands in their insatiable hunger, the fresh smell of slowly-rotting human flesh making it difficult for survivors to breathe, drowning hundreds of pilgrims to one of the holiest churches in India at Velankany a mere day after Christmas, a symbolic aquatic slap on the face to the Lord Jesus and all other heavenly powers staring down at the havoc unleashed below them in front of their disbelieving eyes.

I am glad I don't believe in God. If I did, who would I have turned to?

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