Saturday, October 25, 2014

Book List - 1

Highlights of books read by S during the first few months of this year :

Joseph AntonSalman Rushdie
A mesmerising book, both in content and in form. I devoured it, reading it straight through. My respect for Salman Rushdie went up. Was also moved by all the people who stood up for him and what was happening to him. And it brought to the forefront something we take for granted: freedom of expression. 

Beyond the Beautiful ForeversKatherine Boo

Boo shows us, with no gloss, a large section of our country -- what everyday life in the slums is like. Her reporting is caring but unvarnished and therefore hard to bear. Kudos for her unstinting work -- especially as a white, foreign woman.

India RisingOliver Balch

A book that did not receive much notice in the plethora of India-related publications. Much better written and researched than, say, Akash Kapur's book, which got a lot of praise.

Where Underpants Come FromJoe Bennett

Living in New Zealand, Bennett wonders how his undies, made in China, can be as low as $8.59. And thus begins this travel tale…

BespokeRichard Anderson

Interesting look into the world of bespoke tailoring and Savile Row.

Something WholesomeEric Newby

Who knew Eric Newby had such an interesting history before he became an acclaimed travel writer?
A hilarious and vividly descriptive tale of his apprenticeship to his family firm as a commercial salesman in the world of haute couture !

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Losing it

If you want to know how its done 
Turn on the Indian news my friend 
The cub reporter and her cameraman
Are having a fucking fiendish time

No voice of reason - worse no semblance of thought
These are the tadpoles of the universe 
Grating and screaming in a monotone voice 
Let me break the story first 


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Sunday Afternoon State of Mind

1) Phir Le Aaya Dil
From Barfi.

Phir le aaya dil, Majboor kya kije
Raas na aaya, Rehna door kya kije
Dil keh raha, Usse maqammal kar bhi aao
Woh jo adhuri si, Baat baaki hai
Woh jo adhuri si, Yaad baaki hai
Woh jo adhuri si, Yaad baaki hai

Karte hain hum, Aaj qabool kya kije
Ho gaye thi jo, Humse bhool kya kije
Dil keh raha, Usse mayassar
Kar bhi aao,
Woh jo dabi si Aas baaki hai,
Woh jo dabi si Aanch baaki hai,
Woh jo dabi si Aanch baaki hai,
Woh jo dabi si.. i..
Aanch baaki hai!!!

Kismat ko hai ye, Manzoor kya kije.. ye..
Kismat ko hai ye, Manzoor kya kije
Kismat ko hai ye, Manzoor kya kije
Milte rahe hum, Badastoor kya kije
Dil keh raha hai, Usse musalsal
Kar bhi aao,
Woh jo rooki si Raah baaki hai,
Woh jo rooki si Chaah baaki hai,
Woh jo rooki si Chaah baaki hai,
Woh jo rooki si
Chaah baaki hai..

Rekha Bhardwaj’s powerful voice brings the beautiful lyrics by Swanand Kirkire and melodious music by Pritam alive.
The version sung by her is undoubtedly my favorite track from Barfi and probably the best song I have heard this year. It’s so melancholic and lovely at the same time.

“Dil keh raha, Usse maqammal kar bhi aao
Woh jo adhuri si, Baat baaki hai
Woh jo adhuri si, Yaad baaki hai
Woh jo adhuri si, Yaad baaki hai”

The words pierce straight into your soul, but don’t sadden. Rather, you feel comforted about the chapters left undone. A complete song about things left incomplete.

2) Jab Tak Hai Jaan
SRK voice to the poem (written by Adi or is it Gulzaar)

Teri aankhon ki namkeen mastiyan

Teri hansi ki beparwaah gustakhiyaan

Teri zulfon ki leharaati angdaiyaan
Nahi bhoolunga main

Jab tak hai jaan, jab tak hai jaan

Tera haath se haath chhodna

Tera saayon se rukh modna

Tera palat ke phir na dekhna

Nahin maaf karunga main

Jab tak hai jaan, jab tak hai jaan

Baarishon mein bedhadak tere naachne se

Baat baat pe bewajah tere roothne se

Chhoti chhoti teri bachkani badmashiyon se

Mohabbat karunga main

Jab tak hai jaan, jab tak hai jaan..

Tere jhoothe kasme vaadon se

Tere jalte sulagte khwabon se

Teri be-raham duaaon se
 Nafrat karunga main

Jab tak hai jaan, jab tak hai jaan

The theatrical teaser released with SRK’s voice spouting poetry. With that a ‘stubbled’ SRK rode onto the screen on his Royal Enfield and into my heart, again! The larger than life canvas in the trailer, visualized by the late director and painted by Anil Mehta's cinematography is superbly complemented by the heart lifting theme music provided (by Rahman or was that Gustavo Santaolalla?).
Unfortunately the rest of the album and most of the movie is eminently forgettable.
For Bollywood lovers, you will know these as the highlights of all Yash Chopra films as scenes from Dilwale, Dil to Pagal Hain flash into your mind..
Tera haath se haath chhodna

Tera saayon se rukh modna

Tera palat ke phir na dekhna

Nahin maaf karunga main


”Teri be-raham duaaon se
 Nafrat karunga main

Jab tak hai jaan, jab tak hai jaan”
These lines actually sum up the core premise of the movie, ‘it was not our time’…..that surprisingly no reviews picked up. Enjoy the trailer right here.
Those were my two-penny bits – of a Sunday afternoon state of mind.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Too much of a good thing ?

Is regular exercise really good for your long-term health and happiness ?

Consider the evidence :
  •     Specimen A : A friend that runs up and down a hill near his house every evening (note to Mumbaiites – a proper hill, not Pali hill or Mount Mary or Malabar Hill). One evening he was on his run as usual and concentrating on increasing his speed, so focussed that he didn’t notice something lying across the path, took a tumble, broke his wrist in multiple places and had to get steel pins inserted in the wrist. Need I mention he was housebound for about 6 weeks ! Yes, running can be injurious to health.
  •        Specimen B : A friend who swims regularly, and does other exercise too; not only does she watch her weight, she even likes giving friends that drop in a healthy snack – say a home-made soup or salad, or dry fruits. Though her conscience is clear and her halo glows bright on such days, her popularity wanes, until she makes up it by calling people over for indulging in copious quantities of vindaloo and biriyani.
  •        Specimen C : A friend that has a bench and weights at home and lifts weights everyday, even though one of his wife’s favourite party tricks is to ask the little son to imitate daddy huffing and puffing while exercising.
  •        Specimen D : A friend and her husband are very careful about extra calories and think that the best way to not-give-in to temptation is to ensure that no fatty stuff stays in the house; so after every birthday party / anniversary / religious festival, they either give leftover desserts / mithai to the servants or throw them in the dustbin (yes, I feel it’s sacrilege too, they could give it to me; I’m even willing to wear a tux and serve the guests).
  •        Specimen E: She gyms regularly and is proud of her flat abs and well-toned arms, so proud that she often mentions her arms in casual conversation !

Need I say more ? Whether you’re measuring health, sanity or popularity, intense exercise is not good for you.
Me, I stick to sedate walks, strolls actually – I value long-term physical and mental health, holistic wellness I call it .

;-)      (a well-rounded personality would be another way to describe it)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Maths, Physics and Chemistry

Last week, I shared an interesting article on singularity that I came across on facebook (thanks for sharing it, N) with a bunch of friends. You can read the article here.

This is how one of my friends (who wishes to remain anonymous) responded :

Don't know physics and can't do the numbers
You send me these reads that induce more slumbers
What about something a tad exciting
Think about the opposite sex stripping

A man's a beast and it all bears out
Over numbers he'll flip for a pout
So save this sophistication for the women
Oh woman! Why can't your kind be more like men

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Nice Melody

So, heard the title track of ‘Barfi’ yet or not ?

Really, no ? So you must live abroad then, right ? How else could you have missed it on radio, TV, youtube, facebook etc. Give it a listen, you really must, it’s worth a few minutes of your time.


Liked it ? Won’t believe that you didn’t.

What’s not to like about Mohit Chauhan’s awesome voice and the lovely melody ? I have to admit that I haven’t even paid attention to the lyrics yet, still haven’t got over the melody and that lovely lovely voice. Isn’t it just perfect for this weather (yes, we finally have proper monsoon type rain in Mumbai today) ? Portions of this melody have just the right rhythm, like the chhapak chhapak of someone walking through puddles and stamping their feet in each puddle. At other times, the song reminds me of those scenes many movies have in which they photograph the clouds over several hours and then speed it up, where the clouds go scudding across the screen full-speed; and of being in the hills, how strongly it evokes the hills.
Enough now, if I haven’t convinced you yet, I never will. Go listen to the song.


Friday, August 24, 2012

A Snippet

A snippet from 'The Tiger's Wife' by Tea Obreht, a gripping tale set in the backdrop of the war in the Balkans. This snippet struck me as apt for the times, when India hasn't entirely come to terms with the fissures caused by Partition and newer ones are opening. Snippet reproduced below :

When your fight has purpose - to free you from something, to interfere on the behalf of an innocent - it has a hope of finality. When the fight is about unraveling - when it is about your name, the places to which your blood is anchored, the attachment of your name to some landmark or event - then there is nothing but hate, and the long, slow progression of people who feed on it and are fed it, meticulously, by the ones who come before them. Then the fight is endless, and comes in waves and waves, but always retains its capacity to surprise those who hope against it.

For a concise review of 'The Tiger's Wife', check this link.

Buy or borrow this book,

Friday, August 10, 2012

Images from Janamashtami

It’s that time of year again in Mumbai – the papers tomorrow will be full of pics like the ones below (note – none of these pics are mine, have just copied them from various online sites).

For me, images very different from the ones in these pics define the dahi-handi festival in Mumbai. These are the large dahi-handis, where there’s huge prize money at stake and large crowds gather to watch the well-practised, almost- professional mandals break the handi. Sure, that has its own charm, but it’s too crowded and too organised. The fun is more in walking about in the typical Maharashtrian residential areas (think Dadar, Prabhadevi, Girgaum) and watching the spirited – but-clumsy assaults on the smaller neighbourhood handis; the colour, the energy, the enthusiasm, the zaniness and of course since this is in India, the noisy celebrations with the naankhatai bands. (Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Glass-is-always-half-empty, there’s crazy chaotic traffic too, we are like this only ! ) 

Consider these zany band-baajaa guys accompanying a mandal in Prabhadevi. The guy managing the music is an artist and wants recognition from the world at large, not for him the wild drumming and standard tune of ‘Govinda Aaalaa Re’, his sensitive soul wants to play unusual music that matches the mood of the moment. So while the human pyramid is being built layer by layer, he plays s l o w, suspenseful, and if truth be told, slightly mournful music, almost encouraging them to topple - think ‘jeena yahaan marna yahaan. The music picks up pace a bit as the pyramid forms, but only after the handi is broken does the music switch to a lively instrumental rendition of ‘piya tu ab tho aajaa’.

Kids from the mandal and the neighbouring houses do their own crazy jig of happiness to the music – no choreographed dance sequence in a Bollywood phillum can capture the energy and zing of kids with wide smiles plastered on their faces dancing energetically and not bothering about the wet mud that their feet are churning up and that is splattering all over their legs. Yes, the mud in the maidan is a squelchy mess thanks to water being sprayed over the victorious mandal and onlookers every time a handi breaks. Other places people looking out from the balconies of houses on upper floors liberally fling out mugs of water forcing pedestrians to look sharp, walk fast and dodge smartly.

Politics and displaying organisational prowess is of course a part of this festival. Many handis are sponsored by political leaders, these ones have a big stage near the handi, music blaring from loudspeakers and a guy with a microphone announcing things. In one area, the political jostling for visibility resulted in the handis of the Shiv Sena and the MNS almost cheek-by-jowl; of course, egos dictated that neither could allow the other to even seem to be getting the upper hand / more attention, resulting in an inordinate din caused by playing two music systems and making two sets of announcements simultaneously. One of them gave me the most incongruous sound-byte of this year’s festival though, they played the instrumental version of ‘main jat yamla pagla deewanaa' as one pyramid went up, a bit rich from a party that’s stated anti-outsider feelings quite often.

The format at these handis was also different; not any team could take a go at the handi; to be allowed to make the attempt was itself a tortuous process. First each team would stand in front of the stage and make the pyramid as high as they could, and the kid on top would salute the handi. Only teams whose pyramids were higher than a certain threshold level were allowed to have a go at the handi.  

In contrast to this are my favourite neighbourhood small handis which are all about everyone having fun. One wadi in Prabhadevi totally gets this fun bit, and ensures that they don’t dent either the confidence or good spirits of any mandal. So after a pyramid has collapsed once or twice, in the very Indian spirit of mutual understanding, slight adjustment and thoda relaxing of criteria, one gentleman slinks away, loosens the rope that keeps the handi aloft, feeds it out and brings the handi a bit lower. Sometimes the coordination is a bit lax and this easing of target becomes obvious; imagine the third layer of the pyramid climbing up and the handi simultaneously descending by an equivalent amount – looks rather ridiculous right ? Not supposed to make it this obvious to onlookers, mama, ‘imij’ ka kya hoga ??

One thing I’m really glad to see this year is the helmet on the head of the tiny guy that’s on top of the human pyramid. Two years ago, the only helmet that I saw adorned the head of a little girl from the Agripada Mahila Govinda Mandal. This time around, most of the little boys could be seen wearing the helment too.

And to end this post, a description of the defining image of this year’s dahi-handi celebrations. As one group breaks the handi, their pyramid starts to topple and people slowly start falling off the top layers while the guys in the lower layers try to catch them and break their fall. A few seconds and all from the higher layers are down safely. And then a guy from the second layer deliberately topples over backwards into the waiting hands of his team-mates, a huge smile on his face, hands waving in the air keeping time to the music. Satisfaction personified !


Monday, July 23, 2012


Have been reading about the Gauhati sexual assault incident (note the language – ‘sexual assault’, not ‘molestation’) in the paper lately and my heart goes out to the poor kid. I hope (against hope, I may add) that the police catch all the offenders soon and the courts speedily sentence them. I’m writing this post to express my irritation at one of the asinine, regressive, callous (ugh, I can’t find a strong enough word to express how I feel) comments that some men have made about it.

The incident is appalling, the alleged involvement of the News Live journalist is horrifying to think about, but a comment by Atanu Bhuyan, the Editor-in-Chief of News Live just takes the cake. Rather than apologizing, or expressing regret, the gentlemen chose to (attempt to) justify the incident in this unrepentant tweet, “Prostitutes form a major chunk of girls who visit bars and night clubs”.

Firstly, of course it’s not only prostitutes that go to bars and night-clubs, women from all sorts of professions do. But aside from that niggle with his data and hypothesis, I have another bone to pick.

Clearly he feels that if the girl were a prostitute, then a group of men molesting her would be fine.  Why should it be considered acceptable for a decent man to molest a prostitute when she's objecting ? A transaction that an adult woman consents to is one thing, but forcing your attention on her when she’s objecting is quite another. Raping a prostitute is as big a crime as raping anyone else. If a woman says “No”, it means “No” and it should be respected, irrespective of her profession or her status; i.e. whether she’s a prostitute, or a colleague at the organization you work at, or your friend, or your legally wedded wife, raping or molesting her is a heinous crime.  

This attitude of ‘she’s a prostitute so it’s okay’ is just another manifestation of the sickening ‘she wore revealing clothes, so she was asking for it’, or the ‘who tho badchalan aurat hai, aisi aurat ke saath yeh tho hona hi tha’ attitude. I think it’s about time we started giving prostitutes some dignity and respect, and that we banish this excuse of a woman's character / profession / attire being the reason for an attack.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Woop ! A lazy weekend begins

Occasionally a lazy weekend reciprocates the warmth and enthusiasm with which I greet it in the morning.

On a cloudy breezy monsoon morning, what better way to have started the day than to have plonked myself in the balcony with a steaming mug of tea and a pile of newspapers ? What bliss to have a balcony in Bombay, even a tiny shoe-box sized one like mine !

With all the time in the world to go through the papers, every few sentences I took a break to gaze at the trees and bushes around and savour the shades of clean fresh green. While doing so, I kept an eye out for activity on the peepul tree nearby which plays host to a wide variety of birds apart from the omnipresent crows and pigeons that I am heartily sick of. I nodded a polite neighbourly hello to the regulars I spotted – male and female Asian koel, oriental magpie robin, red-vented bulbuls, coppersmith barbets, and some tiny brown thing with a yellow chest; but once their continued patronage of the tree was confirmed and I had greeted them, I didn’t pay much attention to them. ‘Ghar ki murgi daal baraabar’ as the saying goes, I see this bunch quite often.

The coppersmith barbet probably disapproved
of being ignored in this manner ; it’s cute in an awkwardly put-together-in-a-hurry sort of way, with a plump green body, yellow eye-ring, red beret, red bar on the chest and straggly whiskers sprouting on the sides of its beak; I guess it thought to itself, “what’s all the colour for if not to be admired, eh ?” So it perched on a branch quite close to where I was sitting and emitted this funny ‘woop’ sound just as I looked up from the paper. It’s cunning ploy succeeded in getting my attention, I’d never heard the coppersmith barbet’s call before, never thought it would sound like this either, it looks more like a cheep-er or chirrup-er than a woop-er.

Newspaper forgotten, I watched and listened carefully as the little thing hopped from branch to branch, emitting woops every few seconds. It’s quite a deep call; imagine stepping lightly on the tail of a bird with hiccups, that’s how I imagine its yelp of distress would sound. Or think of a puppy - a really tiny one, only a few days old – trying out its voice, those tiny yips and yelps they emit before they learn how to bark. Then marry that sound with the gurgle of the last bit of water as it rushes down the drain after you pull out the plug. That’s the coppersmith barbet’s woop.

It totally made my day. Like I said, sometimes you welcome a lazy day, sometimes a lazy day welcomes you.

p.s. If you’re interested, you can hear the call here. Though the bird in this link emits a more continuous call than the one I heard, maybe I heard a juvenile calling.
The link above also mentions that the ‘Coppersmith barbet’s metronomic call has been likened to a coppersmith striking metal with a hammer, I guess that’s where the bird gets its name from. This article from the Guardian confirms my hypothesis. One more mystery solved.
p.p.s None of the pics in this post were taken by me, I got them off various blogs thanks to google search.

Enjoy the weekend, folks !