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.