Thursday, December 31, 2009

Serene full moon. In a bed of fluffy clouds.
A million lights deck the distant Gurudwara.
The strains of a kirtan in the chill air.

Joyous 2010.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I'm delighted to announce that a story, Maestro, is published in the Jan issue of the CWC West Valley newsletter.

All thanks to Kathy Highcove, a colleague in the IWW.


Bassein Fort.

A citadel by the sea. Built in the 16th C.
A seat of Portuguese power for centuries.
And then won over by the Marathas in the 1700’s, in a bloodless coup.
What a tremendous, busy, IMPORTANT place it must hav
e been.

The carriages rolling past, the ladies in rustling silks.

The click of the cavalcade, boots marching in formation.
Church bells ringing out. Hymns from the many convents and chapels.

Bazaars and conference rooms, offices of dignitaries. Stately grandeur.
And now.

Just the quiet. And the cry of the bulbul. The rushed wings of egrets soaring tree high.
Walls in ruins. Just arches and outlines. Solitary bell towers and facades.

Sunlight and shadows on worn stone.
Some repair work- forget restoration, they’re using cement. And factory made concrete blocks in place of stone.

One church has been reclaimed. Rebuilt, using modern materials. A service is in progress.The teak doors are gone, the walls are cement-plastered. Who allowed this? Is this better than the walls

falling apart? I have no answers.

In rare spots, you can still see some chisel work. Floral designs and niches. In which age would the rest have been carted away?

And the chatter of sundry bird-watchers, stalki
ng about, disturbing the dead.

What amazing trees. Trees all a jumble. Species I’ve never seen before, that tall silver tree, sentinel like, all branches, no leaves…later I learn this is a native of Madagascar.

So many palms. Date trees. Mango trees. Jumbles of undergr
owth and trees, impenetrable. Beyond all these, the shadows of ghosts flitting past.The forest has reclaimed what it owned.

You step gingerly on worn stone steps, many broken.
From the ramparts, the view is beautiful. Green and gold as far as the eye can see.
Watch with envy the sheer energy of that 65-year old, the hardiest and most confident of the group.
Later, you realize you’ve missed out on the to
mbstones and the two gates. Next time, perhaps.
The best pictures are here.
After a while, my camera malfunctioned. Perhaps in the rightness of things.
A big thanks to BNHS for making this possible.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Coming down Kane Road (quaint!) the sea is a generous, glittering carpet that dissolves into a riot of pink and purples; but first the magical climb up the steps to Mt Mary’s and a quick darshan of mai the compassionate decked in spectacular shining blue.

Note to self- next time you’re scheduled to meet someone from another generation, carry a book.

RIP Worldspace. You will be much missed by the parent.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Yesterday, over the buzz of the busy restaurant our guest discussed country growth projections for 2010-11, how real/how artificial, all stimulus related airy froth or not; and looking around at brash abundant prosperity I wondered, sitting here in chill luxury that is not something that can be figured out at all. Moong dal @90/- per kg is atrocious, nevertheless.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

On my walk last night, I ran into a group of carol singers, melodious "Silent Night, Holy night"; how the mind craves a surprise.
Beautiful lights, pinpoints on velvet.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Scents waft through my busy Sunday
Fresh ginger, crushed and stored
Coriander-cummin, roasted and powdered
Cardamom and cloves, powdered and bottled.
That faded photo of a smiling girl in navratri finery, posing in a circle of light so bright I shade my eyes…what fragrance is that?

Friday, December 18, 2009

I do not win the lottery. Or lucky draws.
Or have lady luck shower her benediction. Generally.
Nope. Just the way it is.
So I was stunned when my friend M mailed, in our flurry of whatyou’redoin daily mails, “Hey you know what? AB Corp actually replied.”
“They’ll try fit us in, they’ll get back later.”
“So we’ll see later.” No point in building great hopes.
Not that I’m star struck. Or a celebrity hounder. Hell, film mags weren’t allowed at home when we were growing up. And I went close to a decade with NO movies-- I was sulking.
But Amitabh Bachchan? Sholay and Muquaddar ka Sikander and Abhimaan and Zanjeer and Black and the Last Lear.And AAA. And KBC- “Lock kar diya jaye”!
AB is AB. AB is God.
And that “later”? The closer it got to the big day; I had a hunch it would work out.
And yes, it did.
We kept it a secret from our friend K.
She has health issues and can get happily hyper. So a last-minute secret.

The previous evening, I check out from work early, feeling like a kid bunking school.
The four of us meet for the first time ever at a MacD’s, and then proceed to a movie, to Paa.
What a crazy, noisy meet. Strangers look at us and grin.
Then the big moment.
We show K the address slip.
With a flourish. And a straight face.
“We’re going here tomorrow. You know what this is?” Squeals and whoops. A Kodak moment. An “Oh I can’t believe this!” moment.
(The movie leaves me thoughtful. But more of that later.)
“What shall we give him?”
What do you give a man who has the world at his feet? Demi-God status for millions?
L says we get him a card. Something personal. Something us.
I use letter paper that I’ve hoarded for the last ten years. And sneak in a translation.
The next afternoon, I take a half day off.
We meet at Kailash Parbat for lunch. We draw curious looks with all the laughter and leg pulling.
“Must leave by 3.30, the man’s a stickler for punctuality…”
L has no card—she’s been up all night with an allergy. So she creates a card from an envelope minutes before we enter the office. That’s L.
The office is a lovely 4 storeyed building, right on the key road.
But first we go all over Juhu Gaothan, asking people for directions.
We are ushered in through the gates..
Climbing past a tasteful pichwai featuring the big B, we reach a meeting room.
And we wait.
A wall length portrait of the man has K almost devotional. “The great man himself… oooh what shall I say?”
And I tease her some more.
Footsteps. Someone checks for tea, coffee, anything? L says she’ll have AB.
And I look at the art, the books. The inland letters with smudged handwriting, framed on the wall.
And then the big man himself.
Hugs, so much laughter. I touch his feet.
We talk. L asks him to identify us, a mix-up.
And we sit across the table and talk.He’s so genuine, so DARN nice.
All this while his blackberry is beeping, his cell is silent.
AB invites us for a photoshoot! The studio is on the next floor.K is escorted up in the lift.
As shot after shot is composed,
We witness one of India’s top photographers in action.
We witness what a perfectionist AB can be.
And what a natural.
We get a group photo. With the Big Man.
Then we present our cards, and ask permission to shoot – on our point and cliks.
And for autographs.
And are gifted copies of Paa.
By now we’re fretful, we’ve taken entirely too much of his time.
There is one more surprise.
He escorts us to the gate! (Baba is so impressed when he hears this)
We take our leave and we go Prithvi-wards, to noisily discuss, dissect and tease over a cup of coffee.
We’re still mesmerized.I am.
Thank you, for making me believe. That I'm lucky. Sometimes.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Mr AB is stunning.
Just back.

Correction: Mr. AB is stupendous in person.
So genuine. So warm.
More later.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

What do you take for someone who has the world?
The chiffon of the dawn doesn’t keep well
And the radiant greens of that fluorescent bush must have the rust crotons to set off.
Ditto the dewdrop trembling bamboo-edge. I fret.
And that proud eucalyptus burnished high
Yet to go empty handed? Nothing?
Books, chocolates, flowers --all old, very old
I don't know
So, what do you take for someone who has the world…
Sudama-like: a handful of grain, some salt, flecks of sugar?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Can dreams come true?
Out of the realm of possibility, Impossible dreams?
Never-ever imagined dreams?

The kid would have been ecstatic.
That's the only thought nagging me.How she would have jumped at this.
I'm the pessimist of the first order-the typical worst case bear
Don't draw the lucky card-for ever the last in the row.
I return to being dazed, gape...oh my!
My mind plays and replays scenes, snatches of speeches.
So many thoughts, nostalgia, the taste of forgotten popcorn in the dark...

Tomorrow I meet friends I have met everyday.
For the past year, every day.
"Hey what's up... what's happening.. what did you cook/read/see/ write/ think?"
This once I meet them in person.
With a movie, we celebrate, and what a movie.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Last week I received the best rejection letter. And the biggest ever surprise.

“Thankyouforyourtime” I typed, all jumbled.
Not a form rejection. No, sir.
From a hi-fi site. Literary topnotch
Amazing.. .Someone actually took the time.
Prescriptive. Sensible.
Told me: this is nice, that is nice, but this is missing. Bigtime.
To correct- do this, do that.
Made a ton of sense. Held a mirror.
Once I’d moved out of a sulk, which took some doing, it made a ton of sense.

Ever walked into an once- buzzing store where all the shelves are empty now, except for frayed greens? Ghostly feeling.

I continue to be amazed at changing frames of reference. Something that was life-blood, now is not. Just not. Good to know.

Paul Samuelson, RIP. Still remember the heft of that economics textbook.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Paranjoti choir singing Hallelujah

Kaisi paheli zindagani from Parineeta, very 60’s, stylish

And elsewhere, a celebrity author is hounded on twitter.
And elsewhere, a bunch of thugs from a nationalist right party vandalizes a school and pulls off a nun’s headgear. Then puts up a Christmas do.
See why I abhor crowds?

Monday, December 07, 2009

About 3000 BC.
(I can't even think back that far)
Who were they, what happened suddenly for an impressive city state to vanish?
Did the earth plate twist, draining an ocean?
But in a story, you can take these outlines and dream as you wish: See the masts of those dhows at anchor?

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Last night, at a sarod- sitar concert at the NGMA:
The music cascaded like gently flowing water, a salve, and then with a flourish exploded into a million sharp shreds, each pure note rendered to scratch deep and uncover secrets best left untold.
On the long walk back to the station, I smiled at the ghosts flit by in the shadows on uneven cobblestones.

Friday, December 04, 2009

I read, I wrote, I worked, I cooked.
And for specific reasons, I found a new degree of respect for myself.
I stand taller.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Mindblowing. Awesome.
Tremendous two days at a scriptwriting workshop. Introductory.
Not that I have a ready and bound script knocking on bollywood’s doors.
Far from it.
But I know it can be done.
Tough, like pulling your teeth out—but it can be done.
Crazily intense ten hours, over two days.
Of thinking – a lot.
Of learning.
Of knowing how little one knows and how there are tons and tons of movies one will never catch up with. So many.
I was in a minority of one, the Hindi film enthusiast.
Shree 420, 27 down, Aag, Aah, Jagtey raho,Chalti ka naam gadi, Devdas, Sholay, Masoom, Mr. India—these are my best of the best.
Ok, Casablanca and Gone with the wind.
But this is my sensibility—my roots.
Amazing three line exercise.
So much of thinking, analysis. Great group.
Returned all charged.
Thank you, Anuvab Pal.
And then the pilgrimage to Mt Mary, climbing all flights of stairs. Stairs that go on and on.
The mind busy seeing the unseen, thinking up tales from the glossy homes and shanties around.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

In the last week and half, I learnt something new about myself.
One: that I have very little patience with a totally different value system. I will switch off scorching dislike. But you will never know.
Two: that I can let myself be upset terribly by misfortune and mishaps that happen to others. This is stupid.
Must learn to disassociate.
And manage time better.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Trying to get back into the usual home-work-home.
So many images. So many that won’t go away.

Two days in town- early morning rush, braving the traffic.
Waiting in the Chambers at the Taj. Searching for any remnant of what happened here a year ago.The room where scared guests were shepherded and safe for a while. Until the over enthu media gave away the hideaway. Then they were hunted down.
No- no bullet marks, everything perfect, papered over.
I look at the curtains and the terrace outside. The guests must have braided curtains like these to escape. I look at the signages on the loos and think about those butchered inside and those that got away. Fluke, luck.
We move to a smaller room for the presentation. The sepia photos of the erstwhile rulers- the Prince of this and the King of that- are still on the wall. The table is different. That was a HUGE table, a square one. Looked for logical reasons why they must have changed it.
That day ends in a whirlwind of meetings and endless traffic, red taillights stretch up the over bridge and beyond, the cables on the sealink like silver spun against the deep.

Tuesday was all day at the Taj, a day of meetings in a room overlooking the Gateway, counting the glittering yatch at anchor, watching the reflection of the pillars of the Gateway shimmer on the glass of the botanical sketch in the room. One is supposed to be working, but one can’t stop thinking—did the people here get away? The vibes are terrible, but of course the view is beautiful, it always was, that stone sentinel and the sea beyond.

More was to follow. A condolence visit for a youth cut down in his prime,despite the best treatment money can buy. The only son of seriously rich parents, leaves a daughter not yet five.

And the close of evening at the Turf Club, the glittering skyline past the dark of the concourse, shivering, watching and clapping as the best of India shining are feted, even as the other India looks on from the stands– helpers, assistants, the dish-washer boys. Someone there turns a radio on high volume, and I wonder how long.

And on Thursday at a literary meet I hear Darryl d’Monte speak, a man so fearless no newspaper owner could bear him, a man so brave he’s stood by the truth regardless of which camp- builders, organized millworkers or ganglords- it would have upset. Amazing.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

And now trying to get my breath back after having rushing down six floors after a colleague felt a tremor. Someplace 6.30 ish the earth moved.

Can’t get over ruckus I created at the eye doc’s this morning. Unlike gentle me…so every ten min for two hours instilled eye drops for the parent, and offered him a running commentary of the bollywood news-on-a-loop on the tiny tv…

AFTER which the parent and I went up and down the bylanes of Bandra, turning left and right and left again, assisted by a very sincere autofellow, looking for a building THE HUB, asked n no of people, asked the policeman on the beat, asked this that and the other (and all this after the said ruckus at the doc). I remembered the name incorrectly. Bah

Friday, November 13, 2009

So Cyclone Phyan brought the great big metro to its knees, mocked and roared with devilish glee, and then turned and sashayed to the Konkan where it left a swathe of devastation.
900+homes destroyed.
110 fishermen lost at sea
Crop damage
Just how powerful and unpredictable nature is.

I think of the bright star I’d seen this dark morning,
I’m glad to have bright sunshine back.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Last week, after the gremlins in my pc’s hard disk had sobered and the machine began purring instead of sounding like an engine with a bad cough, I chanced upon this magical trailer of A Christmas Carol.
Some of the pics have a quaint English card feel, very 60’s. Magical.

And it brought back memories of another time, of a thick tome of Dickens' best stories once upon a time issued from the Old State library, the one in the old city, near the imposing Mandvi gate. It may have been an early edition, but the book was leather bound, had intricate drawings and delicate butterpaper covering the page with the sketch. I kept the book out for more than I should, a few years perhaps, and then finally paid all fines and returned it. Perhaps I shouldn’t have, it must have found its way to a dump in some spring cleaning session.
And I keep thinking about how we always carry bits of our past with us, and how this defines- almost always- future reactions, no matter what.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Lutyens Delhi. Gawking at nameplates. White bungalows set back in enormous gardens from another age. If you lived in one of these, how could you relate to the baccha-party in the basti (slum) that I walk past everyday? How could you even see?
Different lives, different frames of reference.

Traffic-less- Monday was a holiday there. A golden pall over India Gate and North block (?). Viewed for an instant.

Sarvana bhavan.A crisp dosa. Bliss.

Opulent, exquisite hotel. Limpid, mughal-style pools. lush inner courtyards. Luxury palls.

Trees with room to grow. Space for branches holding up a vast canopy. How I envy that.

Spiffy Delhi airport. India middle class is out buying. Nice and lively is GOOD.

In On Writing, Stephen King details about how he was a compulsive if precocious writer, and how he began peddling (illegally, but of course) cyclostyled pages of mystery stories he’d write as a schoolboy, and how his school placed him as a part-time sports columnist for a tabloid after school hours. Early genius, even though he had his share of rejection slips.

Back to my schooldays. Writing was elitist, “good” writing made it to the notice board, your best handwriting on special marble-finish lined paper, pink or blue, crisp sheets from the toniest stationers in town, Kalpana’s. I never made it to that shortlist, not once. Somewhere along the line this feeling bred, that one had to be “permitted” to write.
Which is pure balderdash.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I like my pages properly laid out.
The font crisp and black.
Proper margins. Decent, white paper.Space to spare.
Even if its a paperback.
Especially if its a paperback. And the only book I’ll buy this year.
For the rest I have footpath sales, traffic signal sales.
I like the book to be bound perfectly.
And the edges to be perpendicular—not somewhat sloping.
Specially if I pay my scarce dollars and its fifty rupees to a dollar.
No thank you, Amazon—my book reached me ok but I’m disappointed.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The distant thud of fireworks predawn. The strains of the distant prabhat pheri.A tree stands tall against the glorious sun. Am reminded of Hemkund sahib, a placid pool amidst seven mountains. Maybe some day, or some lifetime. Rabba lakh lakh shukar manava...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Since Sundays are the busiest day of the week, and since I try spend every minute like a miser at his money-- I found a timeslot I could use better, the post nap 3 to 5 slot. I also find myself stepping away from energy drains, negativity, politeness be damned. Y’day I walked out of a reception after fifteen minutes of kitsch.

Yatarth Ratnum, Shreyasi, Hemant.Each of them outstanding.Winners. What tremendous voices, trained too. Using sms to pick one is silly. (Zee saregama lill champs)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Why should I care what you think? Or not? Why do these lines from Shatranj ke mohrey ring true even after all these years- who decides that a pawn on the chessboard must move exactly x steps left or that a horse cannot? What if the pawn says – here- I’ll do as I please and you may lump it? No-- I don’t know either, I'm indulging in rudeness when I please and I’m getting there.

Tremendously bland days, working at work and squeezing in the time reworking text one has reworked a hundred times before. Losing patience with oneself. Ugly.Yes, in your own mind, you know when something is completely off, where its not working. Unbiased input from a fearless, clear-sighted soul only helps confirm what you already know but wish you did not. Grit teeth and back to the storyboard.

Even so, the day holds surprises, the dawn sky an English peach buffered by blue with high clouds this morning; and last night that candle-lit procession- statue, crystal clear hymn and all. Captivating – maybe because it was unexpected. How the mind craves that.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Watching the traditional dress competition on Friday evening as a judge, I learn that when everything else is a given- everyone had decked up- the winners are different, in a class apart. They carry the audience with them, they had a skill to display- a song or a impromptu garba step and that took the audience’s heart and mind.

On Saturday, at the traditional Diwali puja at work loved the calm of the prayers, the chants of the lalitasahastranam as they washed over me. Returned home with a copy of Gandhiji’s autobiography, courtesy of one of the big bosses’ relatives who now is devoted to propagating the Gandhian way of life. Wealth and Bapuji- a paradox!

Sunday was a blank day- the Indian calendar is fill of surprises that way-but we ended up wishing everyone for the new year – a full day in advance.

At Bandra seaface, at the Carter Road promenade even as the palms shimmered in the lamplight and the sea turned black, got talking to a stranger we shared the bench with- an old man past 80. His father had been a Gandhian, stayed at Wardha ashram 1937-1944 and set up a ladies school and college in Karachi pre-partition. It was quite an honor to hear about the greats- Gandhiji, V Bhave, Nehruji, BG Kher, Pyarelalji, Mahadevbhai. This man was a kid of ten and collected stamps so he had a chance to meet the greats, plus he had free run of the premises where the Congress Working Committee meetings were held. Of particular interest was his request to Mr Nehru for an article on J Bajaj for the anniv issue of the kids magazine- a magazine that was put together on handmade paper- and Mr Nehru’s hasty, scowled, scribbling of an autograph in reply, apparently he had been interrupted in one of his famous tempers/ moods. But this ten- year old stood his ground, asked for an article for the special issue and that was that. After partition, he’d begun working in Bombay, but got so disgusted with the compromises expected that he lived the next forty years in the US. In listening to this person- Mr Gulrajani, the sunset and evening lost out on grandeur.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Happy Diwali!

And a prosperous new year, resplendent with riches however you define them...

above: Chopda pujan, the prayers to the books of accounts.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I will have a short story in the Celebrate Bandra souvenir that Caferati is putting together, after an open call for entries. This is one among two stories selected for print.

I remember that time in 2006 when my sub had got trashed for a book that Caferati had compiled. I got a well-deserved four marks out of 25 or some such.

No prize- the prizes went to essays and poems, but that’s fine.
I got my prize.

TY, Internet Writing Workshop.
TY, Mister God.

Monday, October 12, 2009

At the final pages of Ladies Coupe by Anita Nair.
Finally. Just as dazed.
Before this, I was comfortable in my skin. Before this.
Akhila’s story. Akhilandeswari’s story.
Possibly, the story of every single (as in unmarried, unattached) forty-five year old woman who lives in India.
At one level, this is the tale of six women—strangers who are co-travellers in a second class ladies compartment.
At one level, its not.

I read the words in italics before the start of her story; the blood in my veins congeals. Mirror image, mine. I read on, and it is as if someone cut through my veins with a sharp knife.

How did she know what if feels like? How did she know all this, this staying at the edges, unwelcome, this wary distrust that every breach of confidence adds to, this brittle sense of appearances? About being cast away, anchorless, till you find your will, your personal North to navigate by, and know that you are your own savior?

How does she know all this? How did she manage to think up these characters? Now, to write like one is, is pretty easy; but to write like one is not- oh la! Whether it is the fragile-as-a-piece-of-glass housewife Janaki, who at sixty-something clambers for a voice to call her own, or the lower strata tamil help Marikonlathu who talks with ease of a lifetime sweeping and mopping, always taking care to stay away from the wandering eye—how did she manage this, this authenticity?

The writing is Indian as the story is, it is fluid and effortless but above all it is unabashedly Indian, there is the music of the land in its cadences. It is difficult to put this into a genre, if this is a romance then it is a romance with oneself.

Awesome work.

Update: for all the languid beauty of the rest of the text, the ending is a whopper. Perhaps deadlines or market forces wormed in their influence. Not because her transformation into Scarlet O’Hara is sudden or disconcerting, but Akhila’s behavior is way off the golden mean that runs like a thread in the rest of this work.
No, something’s off here, and the reader is left askance, adrift.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Walking through the unfamiliar-- the crowded, twisting and turning lanes of Kalbadevi, Bhuleshwar in inner city Mumbai on Saturday.

Enroute to Mumbadevi temple. Mumbadevi, the patron Goddess of this megacity of Mumbai. The second time in eleven years.

Past the squashed buildings, crunched for space. Tumbledown builidings.Stately is hard to find. New construction dots the skyline here, too.
Ornate building entrances with grand archways, glimpses of dilapidated homes.
Single roo
m homes in crowded apartments that still bear fancy grills, remnants of another age.
Past so many temples. So many.
Raja so- and so- built this temple. These lanes must then have been too narrow for a hansom, did he walk here?

What a strange thought- My forefathers must have walked these very same roads. They must have jostled past these crowds, prayed here too.
Naav nadi sanjog- as the line from the song goes.
Fate- destiny- happenstance.


Maihar band. Baba Ustad Allaudin Khan sahib’s famous Maihar Band (and I touch my ears).
The only orchestra to play classical music in the Hindustani tradition.
The Hindustani system favors individual dexterity and freedom in the exploration of the notes of a raga… but for an orchestra?!
They performed at Bhavan’s Cultural Center, even as dusk fell and a quiet took over the setting. A lake lined by lights. By mango trees decked in green lights. By the palms swaying in lilt. And rain clouds that rumbled overhead…
Swaranjali. Kirwani. Shyam kalyan.
A complete orchestra- from jaltarang, sitar to flute and cello..
What dexterity and co-ordination.
Imagine taking tans and alaaps with every single of the ten performers not missing a beat.
What attention, what restraint and practice must this require! Bravo!
Later, a virtuoso Pandit Basant Kabra performed on the sarod, a lilting desh,
But my mind was trying to recollect and grasp the notes of the desh bandish we had learnt long long ago.
I could not remember, for all my trying—and I never forget words, never…

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Another Oct 4th.
The skies are overcast.
Moisture rolls off the rubber leaves and chandni.
Wet cobblestones reflect the whole wide sky.
In peace.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

On Sunday, I went for my first trek ever.
After a lot of dithering and re-checking the BNHS (Bombay Natural History Society) website if the trek had been canceled.
Silonda. In the national park. Right outside Mumbai.
The site described the trail as a pleasant, easy. That’s true- in parts.
A restricted trail. In away-from-public areas that still remain a forest.
Lush. Dense. In the areas where the cheetah and panthers live.
A dry deciduous forest. Not exactly a walk in the park.
I went alone. To find close to 60 people waiting at the forest gates.:)
Heartfelt gratitude to expert guides from BNHS – Sanil Nair, Parth Sanghvi, Vishal Patil.
You take the tar road to Kanheri and then you take a dirt track that meanders through waist high grass.
You listen to the annoyed, high pitched “ok OK!” of a distant golden oriole with a wide grin.
So many not-to-be-forgotten moments.
The sunlight filtering in through the trees, like a golden shower on the procession.
The wooly elephant creeper- through half shut eyes, the outline does look like an elephant…
The ghost tree, with bark peeling like an old brown paper cover, how must it be looking on a full moon night, all aglow, silver leaves dancing in the breeze…
So many flowers- sensitive Cynthia, lea, wild moong, cat’s ears, wild ginger spiral, wild bhindi, balsam, pincushion, wild glory lily. Even the once in 7 years bloom- the karvy.
So many trees. Accacia. Impale tree, Palash.
Bamboo groves- all dried up.
The pagoda nest with black ants. The signature spider- a huge golden female and a tiny orange male that gets eaten up by the female. Even a wine viper.Sundry caterpillars and grasshoppers.
Walking through a waist high carpet of golden flowers- wild moong.
Stopping to hear and take to heart the deep chik chik of the forest.
All is easy till you reach the streams. The first stream is a surprise- you perch carefully on the rocks, try to stay dry, and marvel at the stream.
The going gets tougher at the second stream. You balance carefully, walking, splashing in the stream-bed, watching every next step, judging if that’s moss on the rocks, or whether the sand underfoot will hold.
Even if you’ve never climbed rocks and boulders before, and I certainly hadn’t.- you clamber from rock to rock, glad of a firm footing. You slip and fall some, glad of adipose to take the fall.
You crawl under a boulder, balancing on a dried tree wedged there-praying to your personal God, making bargains, desperate for a foothold on the other side…
You learn about your limits- when the entire world moves quickly from 4 color bright afternoon to sepia to almost black in quick succession. When your heart thuds hardest it ever has, and the layer of sweat on your forehead keeps reappearing no matter how often you wipe it.
You rest at the lower fall, not a hundred meters from the source point at the summit.
Then you trudge back, zombie style, holding on to rocks, creepers, anything for support, stumbling, faltering some.
You emerge from the forest gates, feeling rich.
A new year begins.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Happy Dussehra!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

There- I’ve done it again. Lost my temper at myself for something that is way beyond my control. Spent hours mulling and fretting, over and over again.
Not a thing I can do. Not a single thing.

Singing in my mind the hills are alive with the sound of music… soothed me, cooled me down. Amazing how one remembers the feel of the words, and how the chorus sort of spreads like a silver wave, and how it reminds me of dusk gently rolling in over the hills of Amboli, the birds distant specks flying home.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The first photo and the one in the post below- Shri Mahindra Tiktey's workshop
Second photo: Random road, lit up.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Navratri begins today, the festival of nine nights, the festival dedicated to the Mother Goddess in all her forms, her avatars.
An auspicious time after the period of obeisance to one’s ancestors known and unknown, all the strangers who have passed me the genes I carry.
There’s a smile in the air. On the road, strangers walk by, swishing silks with golden borders have replaced office formals. This evening, the roads will be festooned with lights, and I’ll strain to hear and sing along to half-forgotten words. I’ll look at the pinpoint stars past the haze, and remember the lush greens and riotous yellows I drink in every morning, her grace real and ever renewing, my lifeblood.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Stunning beauty, reminding one that the leaves are a peculiar fluorescent jade if you see them from beneath, and that in brilliant afternoon sunlight shower, leaves seem outlined by a delicate black.

And what an opportunity so early on- to extend your mind, have those neurons stretch and build new connections…the same text, such different treatments.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I’m delighted to announce the publication of a translated story, Trimurti, in Calquezine. The original story by Shri Pravinsinh Chavda is in Gujarati.

The title, literally “Three facets/statues” derives from the Hindu triumvirate of Gods, Lord Brahma (the creator), Lord Vishnu,(the nurturer), and Lord Shiv (the destroyer).

This tale of dawning awareness of a relationship and consequent measured grief at its close clearly ranks amongst the author’s finest works. Taking the boundaries of this story to another language, conveying this distinct measured sense without going overboard on the despair was the most difficult part of this translation.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Watched Mamma Mia on HBO, Saturday.
Decent storyline, hellova actors (Streep and Brosnan.oh la)
Songs that you sing full-to-full volume-- songs with memories, songs of hope and happy times, of life even-ing out.Sitting on the backporch with that clunky walkman. Your mind takes off on tangent, all the storylines mix in a happy buzz that outlasts Monday blues. Thank you for the music, ABBA.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Spiffy new compartments pretty up Western Railway
Shatabdi, a long distance train.
The ladies compartment in a local train, 10.30 in the night.

Why does a set of apparently decent persons morph into a hungry, bloodthirsty, mob? Comfort in anonymity, in knowing someone cannot hit back, cannot afford to? If perception of goodness/ weakness transforms a perfectly reasonable person into a jungli fanatic-type hooligan mawali, shouldn’t such an impression be corrected? Or would correction and knee jerk reaction bring in another opportunity for misinterpretation? Difficult to contain damage?
Hell with it. I’d say off with the kidgloves.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Kiran Desai,The Inheritance of Loss and the insouciance of words

My first response was to fling to book aside at page 2.
The Inheritance of Loss/ Kiran-ben Desai
Despair, bleak, a sense of grief hopelessness seep through the flimsy illegit newsprint pages like the nonstop rain seeping through the wood at Cho Oyu in Kalimpong.
You take the reader down a ravine of grief, for heaven’s sake show a glimmer out, something anything how ever flimsy but no!
The cover is abstract pretty, but I’d put up there the leitmotif like a warning to timid souls, the ornate gates and pillars standing in the middle of nowhere with no walls to hold together- nothing left to hold together, nothing left to hide, all khatam but marching on nevertheless. How well we know that.
Ethical gujju that I am, must get the most bang for the buck and can’t possibly let the 25 bucks reading fee from my roadside library go waste--am I glad I persisted.
This is good. This is SO very good.
Very crisp writing, so many layers, all streaking dancing joyously across the storyboard canvas and blending seamlessly but yet separate-seperate.
She’s got a great story to tell, she has you caring for the characters, she has you opening up long shut and welded-sealed doors in your own past, she has you wringing your hands with ohmyGOD the sadness of it all,yet cheeky in your face hullo, what more can one ask for?
Envy her comfort with English. Not the Queen’s here for sure, put away that Wren and Martin, she takes her grammar and tweaks it around her little finger. She scatters it across the polished wooden surface and plays swift carom with the striker, and oh la! how I like that.

For a propah review: The Inheritance of Loss/ Reviewed by Pankaj Mishra for the NYT

Friday, September 04, 2009

The sealink is beautiful, saving precious minutes as you sweep majestically across a steel grey sea, you’re gleeful at the quiet isolation of it all, envious of the seagulls wheeling far overhead, and you grab a look at the distant shore oh how pretty it seems from here, even the blue tarpaulin hutments, and what IS that building there oh really? and that’s it. you’re ashore…

The Rooftop bequeaths an unparalleled view- a whimsy mist sashaying over a jumble so green, the mirror of the bay the hutments that hug the shore, the museum dome, the ships slinking out of BPT, Rajabai Tower, NGMA and Cuffe Parade hanging in there, scrambling for dear space.

And you wonder about the gift of distance and an objective point of view.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

A whole new month begins...!

Was thinking about conditioning the other day. How ingrained it is, despite the new colors we put on. And how like a child that rushes to its mother’s side at any sign of distress, one rushes and grabs the conditioning security blanket

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Something reminded me of how one was at twenty-three; impetuous confident sure terrified shaky scared hopeful enthu uncertain but so damn sure, and twenty three years later I wonder what, if anything, has changed and why and how, and I wonder.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

So you pull out oft-used words from a cauldron and try them on, roughly cutpasted jagged- edge bits of this and fritters of that: Oh I see. Oh well. Well, then ; and much to your surprise you form a cohesive whole, words given the context they're multiused in, and none the worse for frequent use, much to your surprise they still make perfect sense.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What if there is nothing left to lose? Do the ends justify the means? That mother is harried, her middle-aged yet pretty features distort when she talks of skipping the kirana bill this month and the light- rent bills next month.Of shifting from flat to flat chased by landlords. The daughter is not yet seventeen, innocent, na├»ve, for want of a better word, pure. Her portfolio is ready, distant relatives and contacts have been mined. Tinsel town has its own games and its own rules, hundreds take the train to try their luck at the studio gates. “If it were my daughter I wouldn’t let her…” I say. But if there were no choice? If you were between a rock and a hard place? Then I guess you go out and do what it takes. Mind- scary.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Ganpati festival begins tomorrow
May Lord Ganesha fill your life to the brim and overflowing with much that is good and lasting.
May the patron of the arts, the transcriber of the Mahabharata, always be by your side as you write and dream.

Images from Mahindra Tiktey’s workshop, Mhalpa dongri. This workshop is at the foot of the track I take to work everyday.

More on arbit pics.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

No, I don’t think I’m ok with Sardar Patel being bad mouthed. Let’s not forget the map of country would have gaping holes in place of AP, Saurashtra and J&K had it not been for this man’s fine mastery of sam dam dand bhed.
One piddly politician acknowledging that or not does not matter.
(The highlight of his career is handing over terrorists on a platter with thanks, no one has forgotten.)
So-let him peddle his book and be done with it.
Why give him extraordinary publicity by banning the book?
Yes, my Gujju blood boils.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

In Bapu’s (Gandhiji's) words.
The text in this image from a display at Mani Bhavan reads-
“And now we will be able to think of the idea of Swaraj (or freedom) in some time.I still have to reply to that question you asked me, I haven’t forgotten. But let’s look at your last question. The British have not taken Hindustan, we have granted it to them. They have not survived in Hindustan because of their might, but because we have allowed them to. Let us see how. Let me remind you that they first came to our country to trade, to do business. Remember the Bahadurs of the Company? Who made them Bahadurs? Those poor people had no intention of ruling. Who helped the people of the company? Who was influenced by their gold? Who helped sell their goods? History proves that above all, we value getting wealthy quickly…”

62 years on. What has changed?
A young child, not more than 7 years old, holding a 2 year baby, tugged at my hand for money. To buy thumbs up, she said, happy to settle for a packet of glucose biscuits.
What has changed for her?
I was quiet this Independence day.

Monday, August 17, 2009

This has to feature as the startle of the day.
Checking on a text reference, I was led to a beautiful, ancient description of a city I know reasonably well.
Why do I feel as if someone stepped on my grave?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Had been for the wall project today.Himmat kar key. Pushing my boundaries. Thank you, Dhanya Pilo.

After so long of “to go or not to go”, didn’t know a soul there.

They were painting the wall outside Mahim station, on Tulsi Pipe road. Open house, come one come all.This, yellow and red buildings is my wall-ting...Phew!

More on arbit pics. High quality work.

Friday, August 14, 2009

It is your bday today, o’ blue skinned one. Last night the temple bells must have rung clear, last night the conch shell echoed, to the fragrance of incense and jasmine, the delight of followers you must have been welcomed into the world. All well and good, but what to do? I’ve seen you in the swishing of the palm frond, in the march of stately trees lining an avenue, a tree holding up the sky, the clouds silver outlined, in the roar of the surf and the swish of the tide, talked to you the most intimate secrets in the whistling whooosh of a gale, marveled at the power in the thrust of the rocks out of the ground. So I wondered and so I celebrated, with long remembered songs from sepia school concerts and music lessons; kamal lochan kati pitamber, adhar murali giridharam…

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The dew-swept grass this morning was magnetic, and I can so understand the artist who lay spreadeagled, pinned to the ground, took the earth to heart, one with the earth as it moves, with the gritty feel of the soil, the warmth of the sun and the breeze that carried myriad birdsong, one with the grass as it inched towards the bright sky, with the rush of the sap through the tall tree that stood sentinel-still upholding a generous canopy.
Then I smiled and walked away.Ah, life.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours, to see
Que Sera, Sera
What will be, will be.

Monday, August 10, 2009

On Sat., the road raced past green, mist laden hills and sleepy hamlets, picture perfect serenity- a backdrop to the gravity of our condolence visit, the sudden, too-early departure and one more tale of scoundrel med professionals who leech off poor patients.

Ostrich style, I shut out swine flu news.

Monday, August 03, 2009

BBC on Saturday featured Sting and the Neurology of Music.
Watched spellbound at the maestro was decoded/ deciphered in a series of MRIs.
That tune from Sister Moon that quivers in the air like a mist swirling before its set free by the first rays of the sun; the haunting Arabic voice in Desert Rose that spins a plaintive cry before settling free and soaring—which part of the brain does that sit in, so one sort of waits for it before it is sung?

And Hema and Kaushik from Unaccustomed Earth/ Jhumpa Lahiri- which quicksilver words did she draw on, what magic dust did she sprinkle and which hidden memories so deep in the brain did she awaken, so the reader is left stunned, distraught, grieving wanting to shout “No! You can’t do that!” in despair like a personal loss even a day after shutting the book?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The road is uphill.
The way ahead unclear.
But the mind knows that the time has come.
The mind knows the next steps.
Yet I will stop
to read the signs,
to check which way the wind blows

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

There was a post here about trust that I took off later.
The intention behind an impulsive action- it is important to look at that.
The heart was clean? The heart was clean.
This is learning for me.

The song of the sparrows is beautiful. Even if I saw only the last ten min.

Monday, July 27, 2009

This must have been a forest once.
Past the turning where a container truck is parked.
Past the mud and rubble on this filthy track
Must have been green, generous, bursting with life, busy bird calls.
Far overhead birds wheel in a V
as they must have, long ago.
About here- sunlight didn’t filter to the ground
Just the touch of the breeze on hushed green.
Perhaps there would have been a path here, deer doe-eyed, or a leopard or a cheetah sunning,
Where the factory now stands.
Next to the BPO. International calls, speaking as Miss Jones.
A well worn path, to the distant cave monastery, the only intrusion, mostly uphill, meandering.
Past the Aviation training academy, where the girls in short red make their way gingerly in the muck
But I’m sure this must have been a forest once.
Tall proud trees reaching for the sky, the whisper of the breeze like secrets.
And this place where a tea stall huddles with cheap meals for factory shift workers
Must’ve been a clearing for the world weary to rest. Or ponder journeys.
The years leave their mark, they say.
I wonder.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

So many realities--the slum kid playing with a make believe horse made out of a rusted iron rod; the South Bombay 11th grader struggling with Hindi and class parties.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Today I awoke to a rejection.
Which all in all is a good thing.
One- the publisher got back.So many just don't.
two- the story has now moved from 400 words to 1700 words.
Which is a LOT of words. For me.
AND I have not sulked. For a change.
Ah, life!

Today's high winds are a manic delight, an almost eerie glee as they blow past buildings, whoosh through trees and twist and turn making a mockery of things like scaffolding, branches, and roofs.
The rain Gods were kind and stayed away, the century's higest tide didn't flood the city.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tagged by Norrbu.
Tagging Amit L, PQ, Quin, mago, manuji.

Monday, July 20, 2009

They've finally taken away that truck that had rammed into the stone wall.
The beam of a heavy duty hoist has turned with the impact.
You can now see it past the huge gap in the stone wall.
The crushed auto was removed a day earlier.
The bus with the bad brakes stands at the turning.
Seven people, my autodriver tells me. Including a passer-by.
The plight of Yudhishthir at the gates.
Reminder to self: leave the desk and kitchen counter clean.

That glimpse of sunlight off the swishing palms, then dark clouds raced by.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Forwarding Address, a translation of Pravinsinh Chavda’s Agalnu Sarnamu, is online at Pratilipi.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hand in hand, we amble.
You’re saying your prayers, you set the pace.

How else would I have seen the Monet-like leaves, almost white green, or the bed of flamboyant red tiger lilies.
In colors, my prayer.

Tied myself up in knots over some words for most of last week, amazing how calm one feels once one decides upon the course of attack.

Looks like monsoon-time now.
Mumbai floods, and is as stoic.

Monday, July 06, 2009

I've watched with quiet peace the sky talk to the earth, envelop it in a misty rain cocoon, as leaves take on a million shades of green and the world looks fey.

A cocoon that I happily slip into when there is too much- too much at work, to much to think about, too difficult to find a way to say “No”. And it is still work.

Why is egoh a four letter word?
Isn’t it a thread that ties together diverse pieces of what we call the self, each with a will of its own?

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

My story Trital finds place in the July issue of the Birmingham Arts Journal.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Why do people self destruct?
Why do people with everything going for them, self destruct?
Saw three instances last week. One at close quarters.
Scary as hell.
Perhaps one ought to see why so many don’t breakdown despite.
Despite all.
Do we as humans have quotas of what we can take? What determines this?
And some don’t- despite all. Amazing.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

That tape with the discolored, scratchy cover.
Treasured because it was “from foreign”.
Later, memories of sitting on the swing on the dark porch.
Listening to the same songs over and over again. Even if the words were a jumble.
Strange how the mind remembers.
Where exactly a line reaches higher. How exactly a drumbeat sounds.
As Radio One played a tribute this morning, so much came flooding back.
The day the music died.
What a life.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Neighbors, my translation of the Gujarati story Padoshi by Pravinsinh Chavda, is up on Calque.

This story details two very different life trajectories, mindsets and expectations on the two sides of a fence in a lower-middle class locality. Sometimes life decisions are made much before one’s birth.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The first rains.
Light as a feather.
Drops flurry about in the breeze, not the real monsoon furor as yet.
For so long now I’ve scoured the skies. Scowled at the sun.
Thank the heavens.
Beneath the leaves too, a fluorescent green.
A strange bird warbles out a tune, three clear notes in three octaves.
To all things, a season.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

He is a genius-Nobel laureate, fine.
But verse usually stops me short.
What startles is the simplicity, the permission to write what he will, even an Ode to a lemon.
So right.

Friday, June 19, 2009

I am, as most know, fairly taken with the stars and reading the signs.
Daft that way- but let it be.
But this is different.
Perhaps it is the art- so beautiful. There is an old age, lyrical museum-quality feel about it.
Perhaps it is the openness to interpretation that's intriguing.
You can read into it what you will. A portend is a portend, after all.
A feature may be positive, or not.
Or it can be both at the same time, depends on what you bring to it

Monday, June 15, 2009

One of the singular pleasures these days has been "sandwiching", squeezing in slivers of whatever movie catches my fancy from the bouquet on the satellite channels, of course my current faithful Ladies Special must be watched as well. I could get addicted to this movie-a-day habit.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Pico Iyer on simplicity.
My thoughts exactly.
Less is more.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Last night, enthralled, I watched Matilda, a child’s tale, a fantasy with clear line dividing good and bad, based on a Roald Dahl tale about a six year-old super smart kid with telekinetic skills. Why do we need to believe? Is it a desperate scramble to hold on to anything, something? Why do we make up improbable tales, knowing fully well they are beyond what is real? Perhaps the need to feel hope despite and notwithstanding, is genetic.

Another June 9. With the years, I see the good that was there- and there was so much solidly good, so much that changed my life. The bad I acknowledge, but its like reading lines in a history book.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Somenath Maity/ Structures/Jehangir Art Gallery.

Its the colors that draw you in. Light fireworks in your brain.
Amazing strokes of oranges and reds.
Once you've regained your breath and found your feet after the shock suddeness of it all, you begin to look at the details.
The shanty resting by a tall glass and chrome tower. The hut is on earth, the tower seems to lead to the sky.
The lane that leads beyond the building, and beyond you're sure it twists and turns and curves impossibly before leading on to who knows where.
That line of lamps on the water, and a bright-lit niche in the dark, past all the blues and blacks, so dark, why is it brightly lit?
There are hints of a nameless mystical, in the domed structure with a flag swishing atop,in the block of a building by a fort.
Why are there no titles? I ask. Because a title limits, draws a boundary- this way you think.
He stands in front of a blank canvas and then the colors explode and overtake, and he sees what he sees. There is a child-like simplicity, a honesty that's clean.
Go there if you're prepared to think.
Go there if you can see beyond.
Go and see the thesis encapsulated in a hint of a line.

Ashok Mody/ Images of the Mahatma/ Jehangir Art Gallery
"Minimalist realism" is how Mr Mody, an architect and a self taught painter, describes his canvases.
In a few strokes he has captured the directness and simplicity of Bapu.
You wait a few feet away from the canvas and wait for the lines to come together and speak.
This is graphic art in the way the bold lines speak, this is also modern art, in knowing which lines to pick and strengthen.
The canvas of a young, turbaned Gandhiji, the version one saw if only on the screen- the pics after his return from South Africa - has a clarity of purpose the old man would have approved of.

After these brainstorms, fuel for the soul, I walked through Chor Bazaar, the thieves' market.
Which is rather like a flea market.
Amazing antiques. Some made-as- antiques.
Film posters. Glassware. Clocks. Furniture. Crockery.
All arranged as and when is.
A writing desk took away my heart.
Tons of photos were taken.

So that's how I spent saturday, traveling cattle class to town.
I hope that lady who was going to a holy place to present her mannat to the soul of the holy person who once resided there, the pir, finds her wishes blessed.