Friday, December 18, 2015

Memories from the  Litfest

Mehboob Studios was the venue, like the last few years. Look up and you see lights and scaffolds.
Surging crowds. Signages, collages, installations. Much style.

You register every day and wear a colored band on your wrist. They said 20K people visited.  Hmm.

The theme was freedom of speech. Sceptical about festivals making a ground level difference but still heard the lecture and brought the Sahmat book (featuring  writing by all 3 of the writers who were gunned), bought the poster. Phir?

Expensive food. After the first day I carried a dabba and limited myself to one great treat per day. Superb freshly baked cookies for 80/- per.  Mehboob canteen helped with the frequent tea pangs.

Milling crowds. PYTs in v little,  guys in grungy T’s and afros

Highlight—speaking to Vikram Seth. THE Mr Seth. (I’d saved that SPAN interview for years). What a setting. Lights on the trees, golden bird cages bobbing. The National Symphony performed pieces from An Equal Music. Speeches by Justice Leila Seth and Bachi Karkaria. Apparently there was a spat of some sort with both the Litfest and the Tata literature do wanting to honor the man. I waited until all the young uns had their Suitable Boy tomes autographed. I thanked him for Golden Gate and Humble Administrator’s Garden. And he thanked me in turn, saying no one remembers these anymore.

housefull audience for Vidhu Vinod Chopra
Abhijaat Joshi 
Another one. Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Abhijaat Joshi discussed screenwriting, housefull crowd but of course. “Write even if you feel like a cockroach”. And Kurosawa ? quoted saying “ fade in.write write write write write. Fade out.” LCD formula used to ruthlessly chop scenes—if it doesn’t have laughter/crime/drama the scene goes kabooom! Abhijaat Joshi also spoke about his first cheque from VVC. At that time AJ’s father was ill and in hospital. AJ showed him the (huge) cheque and he said only one word—Class. Some questions unanswered—how many ppl will you show your script to? Spoke to Mr Joshi for a moment where I told him in Gujarati how inspiring it had been to listen to him. But in that audience there were people who had seen Broken Horses, which is not released in India as yet.

Serendipity is good. At the tail end of a session on Darjeeling tea and how it should be served and sipped (I grinned thinking of my killer brew), tea was gifted…wow. Not bad, considering I was there to get a good seat for the next event, a discussion between Twinkle Khanna and Moni Mohsin. MM is classy, witty, a great mimic.Poise!  Said she’d been writing longer than TK had been alive. TK seemed repetitive. Claws.

Avoided hearing Devdutt Pattanayak speak, it was too soon after hearing Kannan Sundaram, the Perumal Murugan publisher speak. Also heard  from an acquaintance DP’s ideas about fame and earned fame. A put off.

Serendipity 2- hearing Shrabani Basu, Raghu Karnad and Nisid Hajri speak about their chance encounters with wonderful material in dusty archives. Shrabani Basu has written Victoria and Abdul, an account of the Urdu teacher to the Empress. She spoke about working in the British library, in the Windsor archives, and hearing about Abdul’s diary which still is with his extended family in Karachi… she travelled to read it, got each page photocopied and translated… Raghu Karnad’s book is about Indian soldiers in WWI.. begins with how the war reached Kochi with a sudden increase in the price of eggs. Nisid Hajri’s book about the partition begins in 1946, and he read out how Panditji’s car enroute Wardha happened to hit a child on an empty, dusty road, the child did not survive but that image, fleck of blood on a white kurta have stayed with me.

Hearing Kiran Nagarkar’s stories being  read out despite my basic Marathi.  Hearing Kiran Nagarkar read from Ravan and Eddie, intonation pitch perfect. His clear thought about freedom of speech, and the cost of the 11 years he spent exiled from words

Hearing Anjum Hassan read from her book, The Cosmopolitans. Crisp, elegant writing. The protagonist  too real life for comfort.

Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak read from The Scenes we made. I heard the para about the grand Bhulabhai Desai institute where art flourished in all its forms  and a Parsi gent ran the place with an eagle eye.

Also heard: Jitesh Pillai in conversation with Kabir Khan and Meghna Gulzar;  Harvard Prof Michael Sandel about ethics and morality, Tony Buzan teach a housefull audience how to build mind maps.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

November was MAMI. Post Nov 5 I wrote abrupt lines—“MAMI is finally over.  25 movies in 7 days is the most I have ever seen in a short time this lifetime. The best ones you don’t get to see—Taxi, The Room, Haramkhor. But some fantastic ones. "

 A viral caught me off foot and that’s where I had stopped.

Yet this must be captured. What madness. 3 movies, 4 movies back to back is the most I have seen in a lifetime. Even  if it meant running from one theatre to another. Even if it meant booking at midnight. Even if it meant being the visibly oldest person or among a few in a standby queue of what looked like teeny boppers. Until they discussed production schedules and set up anchors with a few calls.  Running into a few stalwarts like AG and AV and PKS and going home and balking at their credits on IMDb. Or running into NK at the security and gushing like a teenager how I lovvve his movies. Friends made, maybe temporarily-- like SR and RM-AM, chatting over masala dosas at Ashoka and shared rickshaw rides.

So many of the superbly made movies got lesser notice than they deserved.

Like Peace Haven, which ought to have received a better audience reaction, super strong storyline and elegant treatment.

Chronic. I do not think I am ever going to forget the end shot and BAM! Anyone who has lived with a seriously ill parent for a seriously long time must watch this.

Francofonia. What brilliant work, what a tribute. Anyone who shuddered mourned Bamiyan must watch this.

45 years. So refreshing to see such wonderful acting by older actors. So wonderful to see stories clearly written for older actors. (See teenybopper audience above)

Mina Walking. Shot guerrilla style, in Kabul. Baracki, the director, said that the story formed as he shot scene after scene, improvised… fantastic work

Adama. That a animation movie can be as finely etched. So beautiful. About roots and wings.

Threshold.  Not merely about a squabbling long married couple in a scenic backdrop (tirthan?). Life, losses and compromises that one just doesn’t want to make any more. Enough. Life is too short.

Junoon. For the music. Jodhpur palace in all its splendour. Haunting memory of the trumpet player trudging home after midnight…

The movies, documentaries one would not have seen otherwise. 

Like the documentary on Ram Kumar, Lal bhi udaas ho sakta hai . graceful figures with lucid eyes. Very different from the abstracts online. 

Immortals, what a tribute, though a little a for apple and one wonders how someone like MN would have treated this. 

A man and a woman, Oscar winner from 1967, though the print we saw was sans color, beautiful b&w. 

By Sidney Lumet, though I may have dozed, need to read more. 

Mia Madre. Hector. Journey through China—though the end was slightly unbelievable, but what awesome acting by the mother.  

And yes, Kaili Blues that I walked out of.

Next time, make the theplas in bulk to save minutes.

And book the hell out of tickets in the first ten minutes-- after that, no chance.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Rest in peace, DR.PAD. More a brother than a brother in law. A damn fine human being.

Sombre thought—Bhishma was not the only one with the right to iccha mrityu, the decision to leave this mortal body.

At some level, it takes guts.

The other side? If there is anything at all that leads one to choose life, take it, grasp it, clutch it.

Life is quicksilver otherwise.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The light is beautiful, shimmering on green , dancing to the (rare) breeze.

Madly hot for October, and I search for remedies to stay cool—decoctions from amla, saunf and black raisins; go easy on the spice.

For the Navratri celebrations this evening, all the children in the colony have practiced the arati to pitch perfection, the purity of their voices so moving. I have joined in too—after how many years am I singing? Too many to count.

Hornadu, Karnataka... where clouds touch the roads

Monday, October 12, 2015

Slowly one settles into a new routine. Chores can take all day--but am slowly discovering the courier person across the road, the best bus (yes, bus!) routes to take. Random stuff that had not been attended for v long is slowly but surely getting crossed off the list. Some writing is getting done-- have to thank the Practice group for that. Translations yet to begin. Deadlines will spur and push me to write for certain kinds of writing that shall remain unnamed.

Navratri round the corner. Festive feel to the air. This once have joined the chorus group for the Arati.
There are so many things to do!
That fear that I had of turning slothful or sitting around unwashed and unkempt-- thankfully, none of that has happened, by the grace of God.
This image is from Sringeri-- the temple here has an immense aura about it.

Monday, September 28, 2015

They want to give a sendoff. And they want an exit interview.  How to condense 23 years of worklife into 2 pages? Very weird feeling, this. Yes, I have known it wouldn’t be easy—no matter what. Some of the inv. reactions are worth keeping,  to read in my dotage. 
Taking a deep breath. No it was never going to be easy.
"There is, in the tides of men..."

This is the closest I have come to crying in a very long time.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Book reviews! via Googledevta...


Monday, August 31, 2015

After that grand trip aka the Southern sojourn I find myself googling wonderful places to go to. Seeking the weirdest (read—cheapest, most frugal) means to get there. One can go to Bhutan by train, it seems. One more month to swipe.

I find myself struggling to stay at peace and centered. The home state is on the boil, discontent and furious under a veneer. Mandal cost our class one full year of college—how well I remember the frustration and anger of 1986-- this anger too shows signs of ballooning out of control. With private colleges/universities breeding like rabbits, and industrial growth/ jobs not keeping pace—plus the shutdown in the small scale sector across industries--this was bound to happen. Those who don’t study history are compelled to repeat it, etc etc.

Locally we have our own little drama unfolding with the case of the two sisters who are either very bitter (wicked too) or paranoid psychotics.

Plus the ugly stuff that is being broadcast on TV every day.  Is there any way to escape this ruckus?

How I long for the serenity of Arunachalam.  The rugged silence of my Ladakh.

Friday, August 21, 2015

A fifteen day trip rushing across four states of the South, cutting across miles in an arc.  Temples, Ashramas, beaches, palaces, markets…the gently blending waters of the three seas…majestic hills embedded with clouds... vast unspoiled forests of Dandkaryanya…So many places so many people met so many incidents. Still to get myself together. Yesterday morning I woke up in my bed wondering where I was (in that state between sleep-awake).  Will write in some.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Watched a stunning documentary over the weekend--So far from home by Mira Nair, circa 1982.
Brilliantly told tale of a migrant from the home state.
Days later the story about the newspaper vendor tugs at the heart strings.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ajmer fort where His Majesty the Emperor Jahangir of India and all her lands granted audience to Thomas Roe, circa 1615 (? 1616), Ambassador of King James I of England, and granted permission to trade. A decision that set of a domino chain of events, and thus was a subcontinent lost
The window where Emperor Jahangir granted audience

Barli inscription. circa 443 BC. 

Goosebumps… the diary entry from Thomas Roe’s journal --

Barli inscriptions circa 443 BC. Believed to be amongst the oldest in India (and the world?).

Peace at the shrine. Feel blessed.

Sunday, the Bamboo trail, SGNP. Heavenly!

Monday, July 06, 2015

IV.26  The Thespian
What a commanding presence
Holding an audience spellbound
(An audience spilling-over into the aisles and steps, spellbound)
With a flick of his wrist, a look
A perfectly delivered line
What a voice
What energy, flexible as an acrobat
Solid story, perchance
 even a reading of the Telephone Directory

Would be as impressive in that voice.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Rain. In the years that I have been here, I have lived through all shades of  monsoons. But this once is different. No slow build up of tempo—the skies have just opened up, intent on pelting downpours so heavy that you can’t see beyond a few feet. Relentless, mad rain  for days on end is a feature of our monsoons—but this happens a week or fortnight into the season, the first few days are a slow, even kind phasing in. Yesterday wild wind gusts have brought down many trees that were standing for years—bend, or give way.

Beyond my window the whoo whoo of the wind whips through what was once a canyon and now is not, rattling windows and keeping one awake past midnight. Even the crows are disturbed and squawk in alarm.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

I've been interviewed!

New page for Jagubhai up at

Monday, June 08, 2015

Perhaps I need to record this because I reached there, Colaba, the very edge of this long city, the other end of town. 7.30 AM on a Sunday morning is bloody early. Specially if you need to take 3 modes of transport to get there.
But the BPT garden was worth it. Established 1873, a signboard said.
Amazing trees. Some rare ones. Just walking and listening and seeing did something to my brain. Thank you, Tree Appreciation Walk.

Returning , the bus rattled along, zooming on empty, deserted roads – a rarity in this metro of perpetual rush. This is what it must have been like long long ago, all that art deco splendor. Space!

Friday, June 05, 2015

last night I bought mogra strands. The scent like a backdrop.
A perceptible change in the air this morning.
Everyone waiting for the rain. Even the crows are quieter.

The other day I stopped to pick up a yellow flower.
and looked at it. really, really looked at it.
such moments should be remembered.

maybe translating poyetry in the pre- but  not- quite monsoon does that to you.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The very slightest of changes in the air, the humidity a tad kinder than it has been, monsoon just round the corner and it is unnerving how the birds always know, they are quieter though an insistent cuckoo yodels regularly at 4 in the morning.

After long it has been good to get back to the words, after that mammoth *memwa*tx that feels like going round in circles. Finally returned to the practice with a sub last week, and began to tx again, tinkering with verse this once, felt so good to have the neurons a word-stretch. Anguish and helplessness are so difficult to tx. One does what one can.

Piku was superlative, after laughing so much I teared up the first time in years. Bombay Velvet has a solid plotline, amazing recreation of the 1960’s but it is a film about gangsters so…maybe the violence could have been cut down 30%, alluding to hits instead of showing them in graphic, gut wrenching detail…Mrs. S, who has lived in So Bo and CP in the tumultuous 60’s said that this is what happened, this is as authentic as it gets, this is how land was reclaimed by pumping out water… she remembers bodies being washed ashore every few days…

Can changing sofa covers be a prescription for joy? My day feels brighter after the patterned Swayam covers.

Monday, May 04, 2015

 Harper Collins has published my book!
A political novel.
In translation from Gujarati.
Original  title-- Jagubhai no punarjanma.
Seems so weird to see my name on the cover.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

August Rush... for the stunning visuals and the music...the tagline, follow the music-- I need to remember this.
the storyline prodded the sceptic in me. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

April is the saddest/sweetest many things happening...seems like I'm either getting on or getting off trains/ planes..

Never in my wildest dreams did I think of stepping into the estate better known as 7RCR... what an immensely beautiful place.. the lush lawns and the call of the peacock amidst reverential hush ... this will stay with me. Didn't know copyediting something gratis, just to help someone out, would take me there...

Ace journalist Urvish Kothari surprised us all with an article about the Icestupa in Gujarat Samachar, the state's most widely read newspaper... when I thanked him he was kind enough to publish an English tx of his article on his blog.

After the big move waiting for the next steps, incremental though they may be... at peace with myself after so long....

Saturday, April 04, 2015

So well the deed has been done, the die cast. Or whatever it was that kept me awake at night for weeks, debating the right way to do things, only that there is no right way to do things—the first time ever, now I know what tossing about sleepless and desperate for respite feels like. In a way, nice to finally get this done before (but just about edging in) the end of the financial year. So yes, now the what next. Kept myself busy, writing, translating, taking up deadlines for stuff that’ s too big cause, people spend lifetimes at this art.

In a splendid out-of-the-blue  surprise last Sunday,writer-journalist-blogger Urvish Kothari wrote about the Icestupa in Gujarat Samachar (the largest selling Gujarati newspaper). My translation and the original here, on his blog:

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

In Phyang the air is so fine… like an elixir. Despite the cold.  Despite the minus 4 or 5 or whatever min that you’ve plunged to, from your  cocoon of Mumbai 35 deg C. And then you realize how sharp clean the air is, even if your heart thuds at twice its usual staid speed.

You walk for miles it seems, and there is NO SOUND except the crunch of grit underfoot. And yet, you know you are safe.

For you have been blessed and protected… a darshan that can change your lifeline… what a privilege. Abundance. And gratitude.

You come back home, come back to the same old… yet you know something’s changed.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

After long I feel --on some fronts-- life has moved to first gear, finally. Did some assignments. Helped some, gratis. Felt good. Perhaps it was the dizzy activity of the industrial estate, the buzz and clatter of the presses that felt good, reminded me – of being me.

The Whiplash OST is a must listen. Reminded me of the steel drums that play Ganpati-time. What precision. And what a story.

The BRKA letter to shareholders is a must read.

Tonight, I leave for Leh, for temperatures below zero. If this flight takes off, that is. Have already had to reschedule twice. But such is the magic of the land.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Why Is learning something new so difficult? Perhaps I need to recall what it was like, writing the abc’s in kindergarten, tongue stuck out, brow furrowed in concentration, hand jerky… why should this be any simpler? What a shot of pure adrenalin at the FWA meet. People standing on desks, people sitting on the floor in the passage way. What a briliant presentation by Jaideep Sahni.  Movies are magic… anything can happen…My entertainment spend has shot through the roof. Bought titles from the 60’s, 70’s….

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A week of many firsts

The first time ever I watched a movie in the matinee show, logging in late at work…A Theory of Everything well worth it.

First time ever I left for an early morning, predawn puja and somber yagna on Ganesh Jayanti.

First time ever I made it to distant Peddar road to the Films Div campus and distant-er Thane both on the same weekend, using public transport. The frugalista in me much satisfied.

First ever I helped albeit in a minor way, with a crow’s rescue.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Yesterday I saw a bright blue kite lying in the parking lot. In the hometown people must be celebrating Uttarayan or as its called… Utraaaaaaaaaaaaaan.  A truly festive life celebration, flying kites and soaking in the sun…a salute to That time of the year when the Sun changes its direction.

For long now I have been thinking of Pitamah Bhishma, lying on a bed of arrows, patiently waiting for the Sun to be in the right quadrant.  Knowing completely well what happened, what was ordained to happen … and his own role, compelled by events long long ago. It had to be this, and no other.  And I think of Baba, in the cocoon of the ICCU  with the whoosh of the AC and the beep of the respirator for company, did he know about Utraan too, did he wait for the day to pass, did he will his exit? On the 19th, it will be 4 years.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Earlier this month, NRG poet Bharat Trivedi’s launch of his latest work Chakravyuh (meaning the impenetrable maze-- from the Mahabharata)-- was a feast for the soul.  Upcoming as well as senior, established poets read aloud their work. I wondered at what kind of a life these people must have led, how closely they must have stayed true to the rhythm, the warp and weft of life... only then could these lines and these words have sprung to life.  The Marathi and English translations of his work, Acchandotsav/ A Festival of Free verse were also formally launched.
I came back humbled. Recharged. Raring to go.

Released today! The Dhauli Review, Winter 2014 features a translated story, Handover. 

Particularly gratifying, satisfying to see this one come to life. The original by Shri Pravinsinh Chavda is titled “Navu patra” or “New actor”—It has his trademark stunning  sense of loss and time having moved on, leaving some stuck in a time warp.