Munch-ing around my head

•June 18, 2010 • Leave a Comment

It’s a wonder more of us don’t die of heartbreak.  It is the most rampant killer of them all, isn’t it?

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Life is only about whom one loves and whom one is loved by and it seems,  seldom do the twain coincide!

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Perhaps, some of us are wanderers for life. We will find things on our travels, we will leave them behind. Perhaps, we have to leave them behind so we can find them again sometime, somewhere, on another landscape. Perhaps, we will never find much other than the joy of traveling. Which isn’t too bad a deal.

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Doing one thing at a time is a superhuman task.

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You spend your life doing things and they become your life.

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Working out of Bangalore these days and finding it really hard to keep up the normalcy of ‘my’ life.  Still, I worry about losing my four readers, about inching further away from the Booker, about new projects that will spur new writing; I dream vivid dreams that tell me more than I need to know about myself, I keep experiencing a familiar but heightened homelessness.  I am preoccupied with a faraway feeling, like an ache in my bones that I can’t quite place. It’s the endless babble of a mind at large and it won’t stop until I reclaim something I seem to have lost.

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Kumbh Mela

•March 15, 2010 • Leave a Comment

First stop stories. The Kumbh Mela 2010. I thought I would be swimming in a sea of ash smeared, dread-lock sporting, stark naked sadhus, but I didn’t see a single one in flesh and blood. (Lots of them around on flex banners though.) So, there was no other option but to take a dip in the Ganga to cleanse my sins.

And oh, the river can chill your bones while also smearing you with pee and poo (the Tamil poo – flower) that a kindly person five feet away from you has offered with immense reverence. Nevertheless, seeing the Ganga is an awe-inspiring experience (which is more true at Rishikesh than at Haridwar, where it is just a canal carrying the waters).

Haridwar is a tee-totalling, vegetarian city. We stayed in a fairly comfortable hotel and travelled to Rishikesh and Mussoorie from there. The food was terribly disappointing – paneer galore and parathas of the pan-Indian Punjabi variety. The five days here were my favourite part of the whole trip. We walked around quite a bit, sat around quite a bit and looked around quite a bit – slowly and without guides.

More photos.

Lucknow and around

•March 6, 2010 • 2 Comments

Lucknow was the second largest stop on our trip. The first day we went sight-seeing, something I hadn’t done since I was in school. It was weird and sweet at the same time. And I haven’t stopped wondering since then, how do you get to know a city otherwise, if you don’t stay for at least a while?

The things I really wished I had seen were the statues Mayawati has erected. They are apparently quite a spectacle. Didn’t have the time for it though. The first day went at the Imambaras and other such places. The second day, we headed off to Ayodhya to see the remains of the Babri Masjid. Nothing remains, actually, except for the Ram idol that is installed on what looks like a mound of earth. There was also this site we visited that has all the material for the temple that is to built – carved pillars, bricks ( from far off places like Canada, Kenya etc.) arches, everything.

Ayodhya is a sleepy, non-descript, dusty old town. It just doesn’t have in it the notoriety that comes to mind when you think of the demolition of the Masjid.  The police are everywhere and it’s like entering a war zone. Except you see really the poorest, most faith-full people standing in long lines in scorching heat to get a glimpse of Ram in his Ayodhya. It didn’t help, of course, that we went as VIPs (through some contacts a relative had) and mercilessly jumped queues. It was all very disturbing and I couldn’t wait to run. It was the creepiest sight-seeing I ever did. Not recommended.

The photographs are from slightly happier times though.

Supermen and the lesser mortals

•March 6, 2010 • Leave a Comment

For almost a year A had been working with a group called Masrah, trying to make a play based on Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie. It was an ambitious project that was working at intertwining the personal stories of the actors and the main story of Haroun. Early this year, they wrote to the publishers informing them of their work and seeking permission to use parts of the original story in their play. To everyone’s disappointment they were expressly denied permission and were asked to use the script that has already been developed. It seemed rather unfair and unfortunate and we rued over the copyright laws and wondered if any piece of art can be really owned by the creator once in the public realm.

Around that time I watched Be Kind Rewind, a funny little film about two guys who start making their own versions of Hollywood blockbusters in a bid to save the video lending library of a friend who has trusted in them to run it while he is away.

The films become a hit in the neighbourhood and eventually, of course, the Copyrightwallahs get to them. I find myself laughing out loud when I watch Jack Black and this movie had some of those moments.

But, I also remember telling A, ‘This is your story!’

Now, I have just watched this film made last year called Supermen of Malegaon, a documentary by Faiza Ahmad Khan. It’s about real people making real movies based on Bollywood, and as the documentary shows us, Hollywood films with next to nothing in terms of monies and equipment.

Hugely poignant and funny and inspiring. If you haven’t seen it, you must.

(Masrah and A eventually reworked the entire play and had their first public showing last week. It was called Middle of Somewhere.)

UP and about

•March 3, 2010 • 1 Comment

The most frustrating thing about this trip up north was being a woman. Truly. Being a South Indian and having experienced only a city or a village, the in between sort of places we visited through out this trip had me feeling really unprepared.

The North Indian male is a very different species. Sorry about the generalisation, but I am using it so I can compare it with the general idea of the South Indian male (I have discovered I do have such a notion in my head on this trip).  I am used to the South Indian male, I fight with him on a daily basis, I know ways to humour him, I know ways of telling him off, get around him, bully him, he’s my country cousin. I know when I can pick a fight and when I can’t with him. I have learned to read him and I thought that would hold me in good stead with all men.

But up north, no such luck. Actually, I am, perhaps, talking specifically about my experience in UP. No, I wasn’t touched even once, not even inadvertently, but I have never felt my space so aggressively invaded.

Part of the problem I suppose was that I was dressed so differently – I was wearing, jeans! Or track pants, which only made it worse. It was a long trip and I packed as little as possible. But, thanks to all that, I didn’t manage to blend in. Every other woman could be identified easily a maa, behen/beti or a biwi. I just didn’t fit two of them, clearly – didn’t have any sindoor plastered on my forehead, didn’t wear any symbol of marriage – no bangles, no rings on fingers or toes, no mangala sutra, dear god! – neither did I have a child with me, which at my age, two women I met in a waiting room somewhere along the way, kindly told me was what would define me as a woman.

And I suppose being a behen or a beti is alright for oglers.

The other thing, I suspect, made me stand out was that I carried my own bags. None of the women ever do in UP. Honestly. I didn’t see any of them carrying bags. If there are bags to be carried then there will be a man travelling with you or he will safely reach you to your seat, stack the bags and when time comes to get off another will appear to help unload.

Oglers, oglers, everywhere. At one point, it was so terrible that I hugged my knees to my chest, tried to disppear next to a window and covered my face with my palms. One would think I would be able to handle harmless ogling at my age. Sigh. I still have a long way to go. And the man in question was a policeman, which was an even more unfamiliar sub species!  So I just sat there thanking my stars I wasn’t travelling alone, even if I looked of dubious reputation, with two men who looked like they each could easily have been my father, brother, husband or caretakers or keepers or something. Whew.

I kept thinking, I must have something, at least one particular trait, something in me that attracts all the lucchas of the planet when I read this by Annie Zaidi.  Which puts all that misery in perspective. (Seriously, it should be on a required reading list for anyone who plans to go to UP.)

I can even laugh at all of it now. All my education and modernity gone to waste in the face of the pure, desi Bhaiyya. We encountered all of those avatars she talks about. There was one who happily sat next to A on the train to Lucknow, recited beautiful, original shairi, said he didn’t publish his work because people would plagiarise and made conversation as though he had known A for all his life. Then he found out A was from Bangalore, a place he had never heard of. After which he said he was part of the biggest sanghathan in the world which is Vishwa Hindu Parishad. (At this point I sat up straighter and forced myself to eavesdrop.) Right after, he said earnestly, holding A’s arm most lovingly, ‘Mujhe apke saath le chaliye, main aapke saath aapke ghar jaana chahta hoon’. (!) He repeated this many times and then asked if A was travelling alone, to which, lo and behold, he was shown the other two musketeers – the man who looked young enough to be A’s brother and the woman of dubious reputation! He beat it faster than you can say Micheal Jackson. It was really hilarious, how he just vamoosed after giving me some surreptitious glances from afar.

And a couple of days later, at Varanasi, our train was delayed by about a few hundred hours. So I did a bit of my own ogling.

Varanasi

•March 2, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Varanasi came before Gaya. It was full of light and the Ganga. The Lonely Planet tells you that the best time to get to the ghats is early morning and it’s  really sound advice. Early mornings and evenings are quite magical.

We were there by 6.30 a.m and it was a boat ride I will carry with me for a long, long time. Everything is quieter and the river looks most soulful at this hour. No photographs from that time, I forgot to take my camera. Just as well, I suppose…

Here are a few from later in the day. The evening aarthi was something, but unlike Haridwar. And that’s another post.

Back from the dead

•March 1, 2010 • 9 Comments

What can I say? I really missed being around here and the minute I chose to leave, all I could think of, time and again, was about writing a post about this or that. And how appropriate that I have come back from a long trip with Dad and spouse of which the last stop was Gaya.

More on the other places coming up soon…