Wednesday, May 24, 2006

bangalore observations - 1

I think the time has come to put some of these thoughts in writing. For the last 5 months Bangalore, or as it will be called very soon Bengaluru, has been my home. It was an O Henry short story that introduced me to the idea that every city says something. I think it was called "Voice of the City", and the idea somehow stuck, of thinking of a city as a huge,leviathan living being. Well...since then I have tried very hard listen out for what every city says..and its been an interesting and a very rewarding experience..there's nothing quite like getting to know a city. Exploring and living in a city has become something of a personal experience...something of the nature of getting to know a person - it takes time. Hyderabad,Calcutta, Delhi...I ve lived in these cities for verying lengths of time, and have gotten to know them to varying degrees of familiarity. Thus, when I came to Bangalore I was looking forward to get know the city that one hears so much about.

I was a little dissapointed by my initial impression of seemed too much like the yuppie city it has been made out to be in popular conception. There were giant malls..and more Pizza Hut outlets than all of West Bengal or Andhra Pradesh. As I had expected, it took time to find out more.

Bangalore is cultural melting pot...there is an amazing variety of people, who call this city home. It is also undoubtedly the most, to use the hackneyed word, "westernized" city in the country. There is however, a clear divide that runs through the city. Between the "software engineers", such as myself, who treat the city as a stopover in their lives, and the indigenous "bangaloreans", the people who ve been living in the city for generations and who have been witnessing with increasing animosity their city being overrun by the "software engineers". I am obviously talking in very broad strokes.

Appareddy Palya, where I rent a a locality that can perhaps best be described as a backwater district of the affluent Indiranagar area of Bangalore...and probably the best place to understand why I call Bangalore a cultural melting pot. To the fresher at a job, or a student intern as myself it offers an affordable housing option extremely close to the upmarket area of Indiranagar while at the same being homes to numerous autowallah's, labourers, vegetable thhela so happens that all the waiters at a chinese restaurant very close by that I frequent, are also my neighbours. Thus, on my way back to home from office everyday I see people, the very yuppies who frequent the nightclub and disco joints in bangalore..ot maybe well dressed software engineers, in an environment that is clearly not their natural one. What strikes me hard is the peaceful and even comfortable acceptance and co-existance that charecterises Appareddy Palya...amongst such a wide spectrum of people...such a balance is unlikely, and to my Hyderabad and Calcutta middle class society trained eye , unnatural. Yet, such a sight is very natural, perhaps even commonplace, to Bangalore.

Completely unrelated (or is it!!) to the above description is another extremely commonplace sight in Bangalore. Walking on the main is repeatedly accosted by men, dressed in clean pressed formal shirts, cotton trousers, shoes... selling socks. Socks!! The first time it happened I couldnt believe it...the guy looked a carbon copy of the usual software geek returning from office...but here he was selling socks and assuring me that "There is special offer Sir!!". Since then I have grown more accustomed to the sight...but I still cant quite put my mind to rest. It makes me intensely sad whenever I come across one of these guys. I imagine myself getting up every morning and going through the same routine that I go through now, getting ready for office...knowing that all day I ll be asking people to buy my socks.. and be brushed aside rudely by most of them...It somehow doesn't seem worth it. I sometimes wonder what such a job is worth...and fail to come up with an answer.

But, paraphrasing a wise man "It is not what you do..but it is how you do it that counts"..something to think about.

{A nod to all you dirty minds out just struck me...}

Thursday, May 18, 2006

King Curtly

If you ask any cricket enthusiast nowadays "Who was the greatest fast bowler of the 90s?", they will hem and they will haw and will say "mm..Glenn McGrath..or Wasim or was it Courtney Walsh or may be Waqar..". Some people will even hazard "Vaas or maybe... Srinath". I throw up my hands in exasperation. Maybe this is another classic example of the myopic nature of the memory of the Indian Public...or maybe it is because the great man has been retired for some time now, but no one seems to remember the man in the picture above.

When I was a kid..and just getting introduced the world of cricket.. Curtly Ambrose was my unqualified hero. OK, Wasim may have had more craftiness up his sleeve and Waqars may have broken many a toe during his prime ...but to see Curtly Ambrose bound in towards the pitch with the crowd behind him..will remain, for me, the ultimate sight in Fast Bowling. Adding to this already awe inspiring sight of a 7 foot + giant bounding in towards the crease...was the fact that Ambrose was infallible. I have no recollection of him getting smashed over the park by a batsman in the first 15 overs of a one dayer. His economy rate in one dayers is an awesome I can sefely conclude that this is not a case of selective memory on my part.

His last test was against England. He took 4 wickets for 42 runs in the last innings that he bowled in. If great cricketers have a fault in common, it is to continue playing when they are clearly past their prime, hoping to capture shards of their past glory. Even the incomparable Sachin Tendulker has reduced himself to pedestrian. Curtly was the rare exception who knew it was time to go before he was asked to do so. Being asked repeatedly by all and sundry to reconsider his decision he replied "Yes, it still stands. I have my own mind, of course some people are trying to talk me out of it, but I have my own mind and I am sticking by that.'' And there was to be no second retirement. The curtain over one of the greatest acts of Fast Bowling had been closed for good.

Here's to "The King"!!!

Sunday, May 14, 2006


For the last few days the budhia situation has grabbed a few headlines. The memory of the average Indian is notoriously short, and I am sure before long it will be relegated to the back pages of the dailies..right next to the apartment listings. This is absolutely normal, who for example remembers the second wife of one Mr. think she dominated the headlines a week or so ago!! I, being an average Indian myself, will also no doubt, forget all about the li l kid in a few days...this post is to ensure that I remember. you are born into a family so poor that your mum cannot buy you milk. Your dad s a beggar who dies before you reach your first birthday. Desperate for some cash, your mum sells you for Rs. 800. Sounds like a smashing begining for a Hindi film. You of course grow up to be a coolie who is a revolutionary in his own right, before gettin sucked up into the big bad mumbai underworld, and die a heros death before you reach your 40s.

Or, maybe, as I am sure it happens more often in our country, you somehow manage to reach adulthood through hunger and extortion. You ll be lucky if you can read your alphabet and you will be working as a construction worker, or begging on the streets, or if you are very very lucky (and of course industrious) you ll be able to eke out a respectable living for yourself, as peon in a government office, or maybe a rickshaw puller, or a nightwatchman... Dreaming for you will mean going for a hindi movie, buying the cheapest ticket available, amd staring at the screen for 3 hours. Squashed by life, you ll probably never learn what it is like to be able to dream of something more... a better life... adventure.. This is only to be expected, several men born with the proverbial silver spoon in their mouths resign themselves to a life of drudgery... life never really gave you a chance.

Wouldnt it be wonderful, if in such a life you discover that there is something that makes you happy, maybe makes you forget how much your life sucks. And what if that something is as simple as running? Not harming anyone, not thieving after food, not he rat race for simple as running..endlessly...for tens of kilometers. Surely no one should have a problem with that.

Right now Budhia is aged four...I am sure he is hardly capable of a full realization of what is happening around him. But life, that seemed to have given him such a raw deal, also gave him a talent. And it also, quite magically, gave him an oppurtunity to realise that talent. Surely no one should have a problem with this. It seems like a few people do.

The Orissa Government, that benevolent organisation ,is suddenly tripping over itself trying to protect him. It even went on to do the unthinkable and ban Budhia from running. Surely, they have a right to do this, they had after all done everything to ensure Budhia led a comfortable life prior to his attempting to run 65 Kms...of course they can take away someone's fundamental Right to Freedom. They have since then, been rapped on their knuckles. This is India is a free country.

Ther have been some well founded concerns over the repercussions of a 4 year old running an unimaginable 65 Kms..on his health and on his normal growth. P.T Usha herself has said that this could have adverse effects on the child. It is very obvious to the common sensibility that a 4 year old cannot run 65 Kms without such an exertion affecting him at all.

It seems to me that everybody, right from the courts to the government to the doctors to his beloved coach are fighting for Budhia's well being and his happiness. Then surely, it would make sense, if all of them were to work with and not against one another. The matter needs to be dealt with sensitivity, and not the usual bluster that charecterises that powers that be in our country.

Budhia, I am sure, is blissfully unaware of all the ruckus. He is just happy that the one thing he loves doing, running, has given him a chance to lead a better life, to allow him a chance to dream.

He just wants to keep running, surely no one should have a problem with that.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


To get back from office everyday, I walk to the huge bus station nearby by the name of Shivajinagar. What follows is monotonous. It so happens that there are a wealth of buses connecting my office to my home. However, me and my friend invariably choose to get on the bus that leaves the last. The driver or the conductor of our bus always choose to take their long delayed bathroom break, so while we sit clutching our tickets (which the conductor makes us buy before he goes on his long bathroom break) in desperation, a plethora of buses zoom past us. It is amazing how this happens EVERY TIME. Once our bus does starts moving, the conversation gets going too - everything under the sun is covered, love lifes, future..and lots of trivial stuff otherwise. But there is only so much under the sun, and we do this everyday, so it happens very often that all we too is stare blankly out of the window or into some ones armpit or into someones bald and oily pate - depending of course on where we are seated and whether we are seated at all.

Yesterday my friend was stuck in office with work and I managed to fight out a window seat in the bus. So there was a lot of staring out of the window to be done. Those of you have done this, will know the actively passive nature of this activity. Outside is a whirl of activity, which although I am sure is different in its details everyday, is yet so similiar that it appears almost like an unmoving backdrop through a bus window.

Anyways, there I was stuporifiedly staring out at the roads and the cars and the little ruffians trying to sell windshield wiper-cloths to motorcycle drivers(??). I guess they go unthinkingly for the easiest prey. The window offered a severely constricted view of the outside, which made the stuporified staring something of a challenge.

The bus came to one of the many traffic stops that the insane Bangalore rush hour traffic warrants. Then in front of my eyes an event unfolded that made this a red letter day in the history of stuporified staring. An ubiquitous white ambassador rolled to a stop right next to my window, such that it's rear wind-shield and little else was in my line of sight. For a split second my stuporfied eyes managed to focus on the windshield. What I read made me come out of my stupor, and focus properly on it. Emblazoned across the windshield in bright letters were the words - "Wood is Good". !!!!!! was my initial reaction. I must be seeing things I told myself. The hours spent staring into he computer screen has finally taken its toll. I blink several times and re - focus. There it red as ever. Maybe I am reading it wrong I say to myself. I know English is a funny language, but there are only so many ways to read three words. Having convinced myself that it was indeed "Wood is Good", the hilarity of the situation struck me, and I let out a loud and incoherent guffaw. The other passengers were irritated to have been disturbed so rudely out of their stupor and gave me "I AM JUDGING YOU" looks. But anyway I was still filled with disbelief. Was it really there? I tried desperately to find a mundane explanation but was offered none by my mind which was overjoyed at such first class entertainment when none was expected.

Maybe a less constricted view might give me some answers. So heroically, I bent an impossible angle to get a better view of the car. There was The Indian Flag drawn all over it. It also had a flag stuck at the nose of the car. All this along with the fact that it was a "white ambassador" gave me absolute confidence that the car belonged to the Government of India. This only increased my disbelief and the hilarity of the situation. The goverment of india is probably the most mundane thing that exists in the country, and I could certainly not associate them with the massage without letting out another loud guffaw, drawing more looks. Was the government on a drive to reassure confused adolscents, along with providing enertainment to daily bus commuters? I also felt a deep sense of admiration for the owner of the car. He must indeed be a man worth admiring, if he chose to proclaim his beliefs to the world in such a "wooden" manner...a car sticker...haw haw haw..thts me loosing control again and guffawing.

Well the 60 minutes of the traffic red light was up, and it was too good to have lasted any longer anyway. The bus started moving lethargically. The ambassador, started to move away...and as it did so..the lower part of its rear boot, that had been concealed to me inspite of my heroics, came into view. It read

Government of India (in your face Sherlock Holmes!!)
The Ministry of Environment and Forests


Wednesday, May 03, 2006


There suddenly seem to be too many decisions to be made that are going to affect my life irrevocably. It's actually getting a little tiresome. And it definitely doesn't help when people you know nod in a sagely manner and say - "Take your time. Think it out. It is an important decision.". Not that they are wrong, or that I resent their advice. It is just too daunting to suddenly realise that what your life is going to be like depends on what decision you make. Now this may make me seem like an irresponsible kid, who hasn't had the sense to realise this until he is 22. Let me elucidate.

Its not a decision of the nature of (as my Mom used to ask me on my lucky days) " What do you want to eat? Ruti and Dal or Luchhi (a bengali variety of the poori..delicious) and Chicken Curry". I used smirk disdainfully at the choices life threw at me then.You call this a decision? Its like asking someone to choose between a Premier Padmini De Luxe and a Buggati Veyron . That is not what I am talking about. These decisions have no happiness or sadness directly attached to them.

Maybe it seems like so much because I am relatively new to it and I somewhere in my head I still hope for someone or something to make the decision for me. But no!! Now it really looks like I will have to grapple manfully with these for the rest of my life and maybe someday when I know more of what life is like, I ll enjoy these dilemmas. Thats the hope.

So HOW on earth are you supposed to make these kind of decisions. Its all very well to pose rhetorical thoughts..but is there a solution? thing I did was to take advice. Its available in plenty out there. Another thing that helped is to collect related information. But filtering all the infomation and the advice and making sense out of it is where it gets tricky.

Eventually, I think, the answer lies in intense introspection. If you have got the answer to the question " What do I want?" clear in your head, the rest seems easy.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Make way for the bad guy...Visceral

I dont know if it happens to others, but sometimes I keep thinking about watching a movie without getting down to it. I dont know if it is my dastardly laziness at work again. My previous post was about one such movie..and I gave a lot of thought before I got down to writing this fear of making this blog too one dimesional..but then what the hell..the experience warrants it!!

It also always happens (again borne out by my previous post) that i eventually catch the movie..although purely by chance and sometimes in the wierdest of places. The Untouchables was one such movie. I finally watched it in an SBBJ guest house TV in Bikaner - star movies had chosen that very day to air the movie..and I happened to switch to the channel at the right time.

When I went home this weekend I found out, much to my joy, from a TV guide that Scarface was scheduled to be the 11:25 PM Sunday movie. I made a vague mental note of this. Hyderabad is freakishly hot these days, and sure as hell..I was there with a tall glass of a cool drink on the couch at the right time. Till that moment my only introduction to Scarface had been the poster that hands above Joey Tribbiani's bed. I had garnered that the movie featured Al Pacino and being a die hard fan I had made up my mind to watch it. I had therefore no inkling as to what I should expect.

What came hit me in the stomach like a pit bull raging at red. The experience was truly VISCERAL!! (Warning : Possible spoilers ahead!!)

Al Pacino plays a political refugee from Cuba. He is deported to America and reaches Miami with a insatiable need to live the American dream. Sure enough he finds himself in the Drug Traffickin business pretty soon. His Rise is fast and bloody, as his is Fall. The story itself has nothing much to offer, but it is the way it is told that makes this movie and experience..and of course Al Pacino.

There are several things about the movie that distinguish it from the usual gangster flick. One is the light. There lights everywhere...bright Miami sunlight, Neon lights, Disco lights...if there is blood, and there a good amount of that, there are no dark shadows to camouflage it.

Another is the fact that the director does not canvass with the audience to symapthise with his chief charecter.

Pacino plays Tony Montana, and he is no Michael Corleone. There is no good side/ bad side distinction made in the movie. With Tony what you see is what you get. He see s his friend Angel getting hacked to peices by a chainsaw in front of his eyes without making a move to save him. And it is made quite clear that he will go to any lengths to get what he wants. He is brutally ferocious...a side of him that is brought out brilliantly by Pacino points of the film you feel like you are looking at a monster of the scale of Godzilla... and it is his unbridled ferocity that gets him to the top of the Drug World with speed.

Tony is furiously greedy, he is insanely protective of his sister, to the extent that he kills his best friend Manolo, when he learns that he is married to her(incestous feelings are more than hinted at in the movie), he treats the woman he woo s like dirt after he marries her...the list is long. This is no fallen angel, you realise while watching the movie, this guy is for real. Tony proclaims it proudly himself in one scene, when he walks out of a posh restaurant drunk and stoned and barely able to move - screaming "make way for the bad guy". He is not the suave and polished Mafia boss...I had grown so used to..he reminds you more of mangy rabid monster.

Tony's fall from the top is as sudden and brutal as his ascent. He is eventually consumed by his greed for wealth and the drug that is the source of it. The cocaine, which he heaps (literally!!!) on his table and uses a magazine (not shiny little blade) to separate a portion to sniff...fills him with a sense of power he does not possess. Throughout the movie Montana appears dwarfed by everything around him, and one day it just blows up.He simply takes on more than he can handle - there are no justifications made for this.

He is as ferocious as ever in the Final scene, when an army of gunmen hunt him down. The final scene showing Montana lying dead in pool, and a globe with the letters " The World is Yours" blazing across it has a certain poignancy attached to it.

Pacino plays a monster in the movie, and he pulls it off in style. I have never witnessed anything anywhere close to this before, and would not have believed it possible if it werent for that TV guide. You need to watch it to understand what I am talking about.