Sunday, December 14, 2008


I have taken trains to and from CST everyday, for more than an year.
I have had business meetings in every restaurant, meeting room and even the lobbies of the Oberoi and the Trident.
I have been to several luncheons, parties and conferences at the Taj.
I have also been lucky that none of those days was 26 November 2008.
I have anger at what happened. But that anger has not led to action. Instead, the needs of daily life, the struggle for survival, the mortgage, the deposits into the pension fund, worries about inflation et al have taken over. That is my shame.
I will not rave and rant against the system, the politicians, the bureaucrats etc., who were in a position of power to do something about it. I will not, for I have done nothing about it. I could have applied for ICS, I could have contested the local elections (panchayat at least?). But I did not. I have therefore, no right to sit in my comfortable armchair and demand ten things from the Government. But there is one thing that I will do. I will vote in the elections.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Krazy @ Karnala

After a tumultuous week (the Big 4 investment banks biting the dust), M and I decided to cool it off by taking off on a short ride, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. And so, some last minute planning later, we decided to head to Karnala, about 60 kms from the city. Karnala is a bird sanctuary with a fort on top and trekking trails thrown in for good measure. We closed the planning on Friday evening, resolving to wake up early and hit the asphalt before eight. A great deal of self motivation and we were on the road by ten. Some packed lunch, emergency rations and we were set.

Or so we thought. A wrong turn, as many as three massive traffic holdups and multiple diversions later, we were finally on the track to Karnala, albeit delayed by an hour. The moment we entered Karnala, the climate changed drastically, the temperature dropping by a couple of degrees. Encouraged, we decided to explore the place first and lunch later. Some fooling around revealed that there was a 3 km trek to the fort, at the base of the famous ‘thumbs up’ of Karnala. We decided to trek and eat the packed lunch at the top. After all, a 3 km trek shouldn’t take longer than an hour, right? Wrong! We underestimated the difficulty of the trek. After the first 200 metres, we knew we had made a mistake. Not one to give up, we egged on. Much of the stretch was a steep ascent over rocks and boulders that were no doubt sparkling streams during the monsoon. We had covered barely a kilometre in the first half hour.

The first stroke of encouragement came shortly thereafter, in the form of a kind fellow trekker, on his way back. ‘You got another hour and a quarter more’, he informed us. That should have been enough to discourage us – we had endured an hour of the torture and were in no shape to go through another excruciating hour – considering we had to return by the same route! ‘Your footwear is adequate and at this pace, you will do it in about an hour and a quarter, with a minute or two break every 15 minutes. The view from the top is worth it. Do it!” We had already covered half the distance and it only took as much to cover the rest as it did to turn back and reach base. Convincing ourselves thus, we marched on. Thankfully, we rationed water and soft drink, so that we would have enough for the return trip. The trek only got tougher thereafter. There were straight and level patches, but these were interspersed with steep climbs, strewn with boulders. At several places, we had to climb near vertical stretches. There were also insect bites to contend with. After about an hour, we made it to the base of the fort. We stopped for a quick snack break and realised that anything more than a light bite and we would not be able to walk. And so, we limited ourselves to some juicy (and really sour) mosambis and apples. That was a godsend – we were recharged and more importantly, rehydrated. We decided to give the final stretch one last push and clambered up the fort. This was thrilling – some places, the path was as narrow as two feet, with the fort wall on one side and a vertical drop on the other. Maybe because we were too exhausted, the view was not as exhilarating as we expected it to be. After a short five minute break at the top, we decided to head back. It was already past four and we had to be back at base before dark.

The descent proved to be more physically challenging than the ascent. Though not as exhausting, the physical strain of the climb turned our joints to jelly and progress was slow. After several stops to regain our balance, we finally reached base, exhausted, thirsty and hungry. We had also exhausted the stock of water. By some stroke to luck, the dhaba at the base was just closing for the day and we were able to re-stock on water and juices. We devoured the packed lunch like we hadn’t eaten in ages. A brief respite later, we were back on the road, heading home. Luck was on our side – there were no traffic jams to hinder us and we made it in about two hours.
Looking back, the trip as such was not great. However, overcoming the intense fatigue was a personal victory: at two junctures, we almost decided to give it up and turn back. Had we given in, the guilt of defeat would have forever rankled. After reaching the top, I silently rewarded myself two small pats on the back.
PS: I don’t think the trek itself is too difficult: on our way, we encountered several women in sarees and salwars, struggling though they were, make it to the top. The combined exhaustion of riding through three hours of traffic and pollution, lack of fitness and an abrupt, physically intense trek was what made it difficult. Nevertheless, for future trekkers, I suggest that you start the trek early and carry enough fluids – two litres per person and high energy snacks. Oh, and yes, exercise regularly and stay in shape!

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Konkan coast

I have fallen in love with the Konkan coast of Maharashtra. Here have I walked on some of the best beaches. Beaches elsewhere pale in comparison: the world famous beaches of Bali, even the Nusa Dua beach resort, rated the best in the region by Conde Nast, pale in comparison to the pristine Anjarle, calm Kashid, furious Ganapatipule, serene Revadanda, majestic Murud... the list is endless. It seems God in his playful mood hop skipped and jumped along the Konkan coast, pulled out of the bowels of earth by Parashurama's mighty axe, creating paradise at each step that fell on the ground. Looking forward to the next beach on the trail...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dvaita Advaita reconciled

This some reference to the earlier post The Whole and the Part. As in the earlier piece, consider an apple. Now, cut a small slice from the apple. What do we now have? We have the big apple from which the smaller slice was cut out. Is it apple? Yes. We also have the small slice that we cut off. What is it? It is also apple! So, the smaller piece that also has the essence of the apple is also apple. Thats Advaita. Now, look at it from a different angle. How many entities do we have now? Two. The bigger apple is distinct and separate from the smaller slice, there is no refuting that. Thats Dvaita. Essentially, Advaita and Dvaita and two different ways of looking at the same thing. There is no conflict at all. Wonder what all that brouhaha over the ages was about.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


1258. That’s the number of days that I have spent in Mumbai, in the current stint. What an eventful period this has been! New jobs, finding domestic bliss, beginning to ‘settle down’… The three and half odd years have not been without the fair share of thrills either. Floods, bomb blasts, riots, curfew (lived through it)… been there done it! The adventures have been several: jumping off a marooned local train in the middle of nowhere and wading through waist deep water, living through a curfew for four days (I was saved by the magnanimity of my kind landlady, who ensured that I got a regular supply of meals), riots replete with firing outside my apartment block, bomb blasts…
What a journey it has been, from the day I set foot at Chhatrapati Shivaji Domestic Terminal, with two bags of luggage! I remember walking along Marine Drive one of those early days, flinching at the unmistakable stench emanating from the sea. Not surprising, considering the waste of over twenty million and more humans pours into it! And yet, not more than a year later, I remember walking along the same path, enjoying the cool breeze blowing over the sea. That particular moment, I did not feel a stranger in the city any longer.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

On the mythological trail

This seems to be a period of epics. First it was Krishnavatara by K.M.Munshi. Then it was Prince of Ayodhya by Ashok Banker (volume 1 of the Ramayana). This was followed by Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (the Mahabharatha as narrated by Draupadi) and now, I am onto Parva by S.L. Bhyrappa (the Mahabharatha told in the words and thoughts of the various characters, such as Bhima, Kunti, Draupadi etc.,). What will it be next - Mrityunjaya by Shivaji Sawant (Karna's Mahabharatha)? Or will it be Kisari Mohan Ganguli's translation of the Mahabharatha? Whatever it is, I can't wait to finish Parva - Bhyrappa's narrative is gripping and the depths he delves into the hearts of the characters is unmatched. Also, there is the added joy of reading a book in ಕನ್ನಡ - ನನ್ನ ಭಾಷೆ ಕನ್ನಡ - after many many years.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Until I met M, I had considered my knowledge of our mythology to be pretty good. Thats when I was introduced to Krishnavatara, an eight volume compendium of the life of Krishna by Kanhaiyalal Maniklal Munshi, popularly known as Kulapati, the founder of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and one of the architects of our constitution.
Te book itself is a beauty. Simple in style and language, Munshi de-mystifies Krishna the God and presents the miracle worker in an almost human form. In a split second, Krishna becomes one of us, humans, bringing him that much closer, that much more accessible.
Consider this: the working of Krishna's divine weapon, the Sudarshana Chakra, is laid out to be a cleverly forged discus, that operates much on the same principle as a boomerang does: it flies out, hits the target, and returns to the thrower. Its sharp, serrated edges added to the lethal impact! Munshi goes on to explain that Krishna was such an expert at using it that with just one flick of the forefinger, he could whirl it and throw at the intended target with absolute accuracy. And it never failed to return to his forefinger!
The work is also a masterpiece in that it lays out the elaborate plot of the Mahabharata in a simpler fashion: it is now far simpler to look through the machinations and motives of the various key characters. The skill of Krishna as a master strategist who foresaw every situation and event as a result of his logical judgement and pre-empted them with political acumen that would put present day politicians to shame is excellently prtrayed.
There is a certain degree of divergence from other popular versions of the Mahabharata; however, I guess it is a matter of individual judgement and . Having not studied Vyasa's original, I am in no position to comment on that.
The series is however commendable in the way it puts the story of Krishna, why, Krishna himself, within the reach of the commonest of people. You don't need to be a learned scholar to understand Him here.
Munshi intended to write the story of Krishna upto the point when He reveals Himself in all His Cosmic Vishwarupa glory; however, he passed away while the eighth volume was still in progress - the story had not even reached the game of dice that the Pandavas and Kauravas played. Who knows, what other mysteries Munshi would have unravelled in those unwritten volumes!
The seven series volume (the publishers decided to add the unfinished eighth volume as an appendix to the seventh) is available at all Bhavan's book stores (that's how the bookstores of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan are popularly known) and are very economically priced. There is a Bhavan's book store in Mumbai near Chowpatty, in the lane that runs adjacent to Wilson College. The shop assistant here is a fabulous guy and will guide you to the book you want - he knows all the books stocked there, and probably a synopsis of each, by heart!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


ನಮ್ಮ ಊರು ಬೆಂಗಳೂರು, ಹೊಯ್, ಆನಂದದ ತವರೂರು... ಹೊಯ್ ಹೊಯ್ ಹೊಯ್ ಹೊಯ್!
ಸುಮ್ಮನೆ ಕನ್ನಡದಲ್ಲಿ ಬರೆಯುವ ಹಂಬಲ, ಏನು ಮಾಡಲಿ, ನಾಲ್ಕು ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ನಮ್ಮ ಭಾಷೆಯನ್ನೂ ಓದಿಲ್ಲ, ಬರೆದನ್ತು ಹಲವರು ವರ್ಷಗಳೇ ಕಳೆದಿವೆ! ಎಂಥ ಆನಂದ, ಎಂಥ ಆನಂದ! ಕನ್ನಡ ಭಾಷೆಯ ಲಿಪಿ ಎಷ್ಟು ಸುಂದರ! ನೋಡಿದರೆ, ನೋಡುತ್ತಲೇ ಇರೋಣವೆನಿಸುತ್ತದೆ! ಇಂದು ಆನಂದ ನಾ ತಾಳಲಾರೆ.

Death of an icon

Charlton Heston, better known for his portrayal of Moses in the movie The Ten Commandments and Judea Ben Hur in Ben Hur passed away, at the age of 84. Endowed with an Adonis like face and a deep rumbling baritone, Heston seemed made-to-order for larger than life mythological roles.
My earliest memory of Heston is of Moses in The Ten Commandments. Such was his screen presence that even today, many many moons after I first saw the movie, the mention of Moses evokes the face of Charlton Heston. Though personally, I believe he did a better job (of acting) in Ben Hur. Another memorable movie is The Planet of the Apes, in which he essays the role of Taylor, a spacecarft-wrecked astronaut who crashlands on earth in the distant future to find that apes are the dominant species and humans, primitive and mute. "Take your stinking paws off me, you damn ape" - a line delivered by Heston to the shock of a couple of ape scientists, is immortalised in movie lore, and memory. Heston has such a towering presence in the movie that a 2001 re-make faded in comparison, and in the box office too.
Active till the very end, Heston appeared in several cameo roles and lent his voice: the last I recall of him is in the role of Spencer Trilby, Arnold Schwarzenegger's boss with an eye patch in the 1994 action flick True Lies and as a narrator in Armageddon. Here's a tribute to the actor who brought mythological figures to life on the big screen.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Mumbai Photofair

Caught the Photofair 2008 on sunday, the last day of the exhibition. Never imagined that the people of the city had weekend interests other than hanging out at malls or going for the movies. Was I proved wrong... and how! The place was so packed, we had trouble finding parking slot in the Goregaon exhibition grounds. The organisers had thoughtfully, organised shuttles to and from the station.
The registration process was extremely slow and inefficient, the people manning the desk sloppy and indifferent. Once inside, it was different though. There were rows and rows of stalls displaying everything from camera spare parts to developing chemicals. The crowds seemed to prefer the stalls selling photo albums and photo frames. We were here for specific items:

  • black and white film roll: yes, even in this digital day and age, not only will you find arcane people who shoot pictures on film, you will occasionally run into eccentric bums like me who want to shoot on vintage silver nitride film and have it developed on paper of the same family, in a traditional dark room (oh, the joy that hearing the clickety-clack of the shutter and the satisfaction derived from manually advancing the film after each shot on an SLR is undescribable. But thats another post in itself)

  • carry case for my 24" tripod

  • zoom and focus lenses for my SLR

Looking for these was easier said than done. There were very few stalls that stocked carry cases and none stocked a tripod carry case; some were even bewildered that such a thing existed. Hope came in the form of a Case Logic stall, but that was not to be. They did indeed have a range of tripod carry cases - of all sizes. However, these were not yet launched and were only on display. The kind hearted guy manning the stall let me inspect the case, which was as is the case with Case Logic products, quite good. The pricing was not steep either. The only hitch being that it would hit the stores a couple of months hence. He refused to be convinced with my arguments that since there was hardly an hour left for the exhibition to come to end, he could part with it. With a heavy heart,I handed the case back to him. On that front, we come away empty handed.

We were not very lucky in the analog lens department either. The shops that stocked lenses could be counted on the fingertips of one hand. Among these, all except one stocked only DSLR compatible lenses. Finally, we found the shop that stocked Tamaron lenses. Though they had a good range, the lenses were all both DSLR and SLR compatible. Not a bad bargain, but untile I graduate to a DSLR, thats of no value to me. And if I am going to pay through my nose, might as well go in for a Canon lens. I think I will hit Chor Bazaar for second hand lenses.

It was tougher going on the black and white film department. There were hardly any stalls that seemed to stock film at all. After much looking around, spotted a Kodak stall. Hope soared as I knew that Kodak still manufactured those vintage rolls, though only the high end range. On approaching the stall, it turned out that it belonged to a wholesaler who, fortunately, had what I wanted! Though from a local manufacturer, a name i had never heard before, I picked up a dozen of those - time will tell how good they are! The wholesaler also gave me several photo labs where I could get black and white film developed the traditional way! This was good!

Ha, now to the exhibition. The most crowded corner was the one where a fashion show was in progress. The next most crowded area was the snacks counter. There were hardly any takers for the photographs on exhibit - some of which were simply breathtaking. There was one picture of Ladakh and a few of the Taj that were astounding: brilliant shot composition, technically excellent and flawless execution. The camera manufacturers stalls were overly stocked with the regular point and shoots and were disappointing. Found a few interesting stalls though. There was one that displayed a digital camera that could shoot on film as well! Now that is interesting. However, it was quite steeply priced. Storage media was also available at throwaway prices: a couple of thousands for a 16 GB pen drive! Wow!

Came back wishing I had carried my trusty SLR - at least, could have checked out a few lenses. All in all, an evening well spent.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Jodhaa Akbar..............a laugh riot!

That's right. The movie IS a laugh riot! The producers had anyway declared that the movie is not a documentary of historical facts and we walked in without any expectations. All that we had for reference were the conflicting movie reviews, some that lauded the movie and some that took it all the way to the cleaners. Anyways, the movie is full of bloopers and fun moments. Check these out:
Though an unfair comparison, Hrithik will forever be benchmarked against Prithviraj's powerful portrayal of Akbar. Prithviraj Kapoor's screen presence was so overpowering that when he screams Takhleyah!, you feel like getting up and leaving! There is this scene half an hour into the movie when Hrithik Roshan utters the awaited Takhleyah! We burst out laughing! In all fairness, it was not that bad, but then, it reminded us of little Samba trying to roar in the movie Lion King and ends up getting only a mousy squeak! Seriuosly now!
There are other gems in this movie. Hrithik has tried hard to get a majestic gait, resembling that of an emperor. In fact, he has tried too hard, with the result that his hips sway when he walks and the gait is almost feminine! To top it all, he wears a lady's sandals (this is no figment of my imagination) in a scene. Look out for this in the scene when before the wedding, he walks into Jodhaa's tent, to hear out her pre-conditions for the wedding. The camera zooms in from behind, and you can clearly see that Hrithik is wearing a lady's white sandals!
Look out also for the song Khwaja mere khwaja. In their zest to portray an expression of spiritual ecstasy, the extras in the song end up looking loony and doped! Towards the end of the song, Hrithik joins them swinging loonily to the song and the effect is quite clownish.
Then there is this asssitant of Akbar, who walks around wearing a greenmat on his head (actually, it is a green headscarf, but being made from a thick canvas like material, it resembles a doormat more). For some inexplicable reason, he hovers around Akbar throughout the movie, walking around in the green doormat. We were thrilled, when in one of the scenes, he opts for an orange coloured doormat instead!
The sets, that have received varying reviews, are disappointing, for a movie of Jodhaa Akbar's scale. The outdoor sets are shoddily made: the paint work is patchy and reminds of cheaply made water colour paintings, the cardboard-thermocole ensemble is put together badly. There are places where sunlight streams through the chinks in the cardboard forts. The indoor sets are a tad better, but still, have a tacky feel. The quarters of Queen Jodhaa are pretty cramped, reminiscent of Mumbai apartments. Not surprising, considering that the director is a Mumbaite! The director's idea of creating a 'period' feel to the sets is to place large wooden chests all over. There are several of them strewn over - all over Jodhaa's quarters, in the corridors and passageways. Reminds one of storage-type furniture, so typical, again, to Mumbai!
There are other minor details that the director has glossed over, such as the colour of the lead pair's eyes. The jet black eyes of a young Akbar and young Jodhaa are miraculously transformed to green grey when they grow up into adults, portrayed by Aishwarya and Hrithik! There are others, particularly the moustaches. The lengths of the characters' moustaches vary between scenes and in certain cases, one side of the moustache is longer than the other. There are also scenes where the moustache is badly glued to the upper lip.
The kings and emperors in the scene slouch frequently, particularly in scenes where they are seated on the ground. It is difficult to imagine that warriors who braved the elements, sword and arrows, have to support themselves with their hands when arising from the ground, as all the characters in the movie do.
The action sequences, particularly those with Aishwarya in them, are badly choreographed. Her swordsmanship is laboured and she has to swing her arm, shoulder down, in a wide arc, for each stroke. And the strokes are slow, not the rapid cutting strokes one would expect in a sword fight. It almost looks like she is playing dandiya and not sword fighting.
All in all, watch it at your own risk, and if you have nothing better to do!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Mumbai Matinee...

This one is on movies - to start with, picked up the VCD of Samson and Delilah - the 1949 classic by Paramount and produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille - the same legendary director behind such epics as Ten Commandments. Based on an episode from the Book of Judges in the Bible, the movie tells the story of Samson - a strongman - who delivers the Israelites from the Philistines. Samson is endowed with superhuman strength: he kills a lion with his bare hands and slays an army of thousands using the jawbone of an ass as a weapon.. The highlight of the movie is the climactic scene in which Samson topples a pagan temple - very well shot, considering that this was half a century ago, and long before the advent of computer graphics. Had been looking for the CD for many years and was thrilled to find it today! The best part - found it in a mall! Better still - its a Moser Baer CD! Kudos to Moser Baer!

Have also been watching lots of movies these days... call it being vela, or the absence of cable, but I have been enjoying this every bit. First on the list is Om Shanti Om - a Karz like movie, only, this one is a comedy and far more enjoyable. Add to it a controlled performance by SRK (if you've seen his movies from the 90's, you will realise what I mean!) and a gorgeous Deepika Padukone who looks pretty in a over-the-top imitation (I'd rather not use the word recreation) of the 70's look and it was full paisa vasool. Here are my favourite scenes from the movie - though spoofs, they are all done in good taste:

At the top of the list is the shooting of a Rajnikanth-like movie. Its hilarious and we laughed our guts out. The "enna rascola!" and "mind it!" were really well delivered to the accompaniment of background music that heightened the effect.

Following closely is the Filmfare awards sequence showing the nominations for best actor. Akshay Kumar's macho Matrix-cum-Mithunda-style action sequence had us rolling.
Several others, like the one in which SRK plays an extra in an action sequence, the premiere of Deepika Padukone's movie with the now famous Manoj Kumar incident... overall, a fun package.

We also watched Dus Kahaniyaan. Its a package of ten separate and unrelated stories of 10 - 15 minutes duration each. Loved the format: diversify and derisk, as they teach in Finance 101! Each story is an incident - a slice of life. Some were lousy - High on the highway and Sex on the beach, for instance. Loved Matrimony (had the best plot), Rice Plate (Naseeruddin Shah with just one dialogue was awesome, as always and Shabana Azmi was disappointing in the role of a bumbling Maami, again, as always. But she tried; she tried REALLY HARD - you can see it), Gubbare, in that order. Puran Mashi written by Gulzar and directed by his daughter is tragic, as most Gulzar short stories are, though M liked it. Rise and Fall and Zahir were, well, also there. Manoj Bajpai did not impress in Zahir and the background score in Rise and Fall was good. Overall, another good package. Hope they make more movies in this format.

Have lined up more movies for the weekend - watch this space for more.