My last two visits to Chennai have been for visa reasons.
There used to be a time when that wasn’t the case.
Every summer, without fail, I would end up boarding the Brindavan Express or the Madras Mail to visit family in Madras. Occasionally, it was to visit my athai and cousins, but I most vividly remember visiting my granny’s sister. Her sons (my uncles) were not much older than me, and that household was always filled with children.
It possibly wasn’t every summer. A couple of summers, I remember visiting my aunt’s people in Anantapur. And back then, everyone visited us in Bangalore and my usually docile self would go wild. One vivid memory is of arguing with my studious uncle (who was four-five years older) about whether the colour indicated in a picture-book was blue or white. It was a page with a list of words beginning with W, and ‘white’ was one of them, and the corresponding picture was indicated in a cloud of blue. My equally docile uncle grew stubborn that it was White because the picture said so. I stubbornly maintained it was blue. Somehow, this five year old girl and nine year old boy found themselves in a fight-to-the-finish replete with punches and bites and scratches and knocking-things-over. It only ended when my strict grandfather burst in, rewarded each of us with a slap and sent us to cry ourselves to sleep. My illustrious uncle, who now is a professor in Germany, maintains he doesn’t remember this incident. And my other uncle doesn’t remember the incident when we found a beehive in Vidhana Soudha with honey dripping from it, and decided to stand under it with our tongues sticking out.
An incident nobody will deny however is my playing with my grandmother’s hairpin and a particularly low plug point, and getting excited at the sparks that shot onto the ground for minutes together, shouting about Diwali. No one else, I recall, was particularly excited. Not even my rowdy older brother, who then later used that incident to terrorize me.
Every Madras trip somehow involved my maternal grandfather. I don’t seem to ever remember a Madras trip which didn’t have me sitting on his lap and reading out every signboard out of the window. Other adults would bore easily, and ask me to count cows or something, but not ajja. There’d always be something happening. Every station had something interesting associated with it. When we’d pass by Krishnarajapuram, he’d asked me to wave to my other set of grandparents (which I religiously did, even though I knew you couldn’t see the train from their terrace), he’d ask me to watch out for the monkeys at Malur (I don’t know how that got started). Bangarpet was where my goodie-goodie cousin Sangeetha lived.
And Jolarpet was somehow exciting to me because it was where Karnataka ended and Tamil Nadu began. I’d wonder if he’d ease up on his rule of always talking to me in Kannada then, but he wouldn’t. Somewhere after Katpadi, we’d have lunch which Amma or Paati would have packed. Somehow there was so little stranger danger then, and we’d end up befriending our copassengers and sharing lunch with them. They’d sometimes be dark stocky men from Katpadi called Selvam who’d call me ‘paapa’, and I’d shrink into my grandfather’s arms while regarding them curiously. They’d mostly be families like us with a bespectacled uncle and a granny who’d speak to me in English. And they’d bring idlis with molagapodi too. When I was a little older, traveling with just my mother, I met a girl my age from Pondicherry also traveling with her mother. I was intrigued by this girl saying they had bats in her school. I asked her if she’d touched one, and she said she hadn’t the cojones, but a senior girl had and reported that it was slimy. Many years after this, I’d develop a phobia for winged mammals, but I didn’t know that and was just plain fascinated.
And we’d get sleepy. And ajja would tell me a story. About crows or cows, usually. And it always ended with the little crow/calf going to sleep. And by the time Arakkonam rolled by, I’d be fast asleep.
Madras meant heat. And endless beach visits. If it was my athai we were visiting, I’d get amnesia about my parents and not listen to anyone but my anna and akka. Anna would tell me scary nightmare-inducing stories about every single thing, and make me cry. And then my aunt would scold him and take us to Marina beach. Akka’s friends were fascinated by me and I by their grownupness, and big hair and endless giggling.
If it was my granny’s sister we were visiting, the heat would really hit us. They didn’t have a huge neem tree in their building like my athai did. Endless jugs of icewater would be consumed much to the chagrin of my mother.
And that household had an endless stream of children passing through. We ended up this huge gang, with some older children bossing the rest of us around. I was around eleven by then. We didn’t really complain. They’d take us deeper into the water than the adults ever did. And Besant Nagar beach seemed a lot more exciting than Marina beach for some reason.
I grew fascinated with their consummate knowledge of Tamil cinema, their lingo which seemed straight out of Tamil movies, eagerly learnt rude Tamil words, and relentlessly teased my uncle (he of the white-blue conflict) about his learning Russian. (Little did we know then that he’d go on to learn German, Japanese and a few other languages and do a PhD in linguistics.) We’d watch movies on VCR late into the night, with everyone whispering filmi gossip. Someone said Janakaraj had died in an accident (which I found out only the day before yesterday is not true). Someone else said Roja had AIDS (Also not true). That ended in a whispered exchange with a slightly older… cousin (for want of a better word… she was marginally related to my granny’s sister-in-law) about whether kissing caused AIDS… not ‘spread’, mind you, ’caused’, like spontaneous generation. I fell asleep that night significantly more afraid to even accidentally touch anyone of the opposite sex.
I’d return from these trips significantly older, taller, tanner, wiser.
I remember a very different trip to Chennai too. The entourage was significantly smaller, just me, my granny and my uncle. I don’t know why we went on that trip to start with. All I know is, when we got there, we found the house locked. Forget cellphones, not many had landlines back then. Granny and I sat on the front steps for what seemed like hours until my uncle returned from the public phone. It turned out, someone (I forget who exactly) got very sick and got admitted to the hospital. And everyone went. And they forgot to inform the neighbors. We came back quick, and they didn’t let me see the sick relative.
And one summer I wasn’t allowed to go. Kavitha akka, one of the older kids in our group, died suddenly. I don’t remember of what. Her aunt who’d raised her, lost it. My great-aunt told me about Krishna-maami, the aunt who raised her, having a breakdown. More than Kavitha akka’s death, it was that which scared me and gave me months of nightmares. Krishna-maami was from Allepey, sometimes wore a white saree with a green border. The imagery of her in a white saree, hair undone, bawling, along with all the horror movies we’d watched in Madras, blended to give me a nightmare of Vithalacharya proportions. I woke up screaming a lot. And was too embarrassed to tell my parents why.
Soon, Madras became Chennai. Cable operators cut Tamil channels, mobs burnt buses, no theaters showed Tamil movies… both because of Cauvery and Veerappan kidnapping Rajkumar. It seems a tiny thing now, but that along with my Bangalore-born mother’s derision to anything Madrasi made me a tad less proud to be Tamilian.
Besides, there were other holiday spots my father decided us to take us to. And my Akka got married, and Anna moved to Bangalore for engineering. My uncles were now busy with college and jobs. Kavitha Akka’s sister, the one who I ended up so attached to, had other tumultous events in her life. There weren’t anymore a gaggle of children frequenting that house.
I found more cousins closer to my age, and there were more kids my age in the neighborhood as well. I preferred burning my skin off closer home, bicycling in the heat and dodging kidnappers. I got busy with swimming.
I visited Chennai once more for my Anna’s wedding.
And then it was just the US consulate which brought me there.
Things have changed. The large railway station I remember is now crowded as hell and dirtier. The smell of the Cooum reaches it. The bookstore is now a tiny nook. I put my game face on to argue with the autofellows as I step out of the station now; I don’t ever remember exiting the station, I always was asleep in my mother’s arms when I did so.
My ajja hasn’t been around for nearly fourteen years now. My paati can’t stand more than a week in the city of her birth anymore; she ends up falling sick. Her sister has retired, and my younger uncle is now married with children. Kavitha Akka’s sister and I were close for a while before she got busy with married life.
The city seems weird without these familiar faces. And the internet has ruined it for me with the incessant jokes about Chennai weather and conservatism. I’ve had a few less than pleasant experiences with folks from there. I hate it that every Chennai Day post talks about how they love the city despite or because of its autodrivers and the Cooum river, and refer fleetingly to the music season.
I don’t find myself longing for the good old days. What I do want is to explore the city that fascinated me so much as a child, right from the pavadais on display at Nalli’s to the fishmarkets I wrinkled my nose at, and see if it still fascinates me as an adult. It might, it might not… it is just another city after all. But through the years of prejudice, emotions, jokes, and sheltered visits, I’ve always been left wanting…. I just want to know.
Life was never the same after the advent of the Sun Network. There was a movie every afternoon on Sun TV! Every afternoon! Previously, movies could be watched only on the weekends, on TV, so this was cause for much joy, especially among those who didn’t have much to do in the afternoons.
Then there was Sun Movies. Three or four movies a day! When I wasn’t burning my skin off in the sun during the summer vacations, or watching Cartoon Network, or fighting with my sister, I’d be glued to these movies.
This love for movies were further kindled by themed movie weeks on Sun TV. So the late evening movies for a particular week would follow some theme. Like ‘Adhiradi vaaram’, where all the movies would be action blockbusters, or ‘Thik-thik vaaram’, where horror movies would be screened the whole week, or even a week full of Vithalacharya movies, or movies where Vishwanathan-Ramamurthy were the composers. There were also other more specific themes like Movies Where Hero And Heroine Cannot Be Together, or Movies Where Love Is Sacrificed For Higher Reason. Apart from Movies Where One Or More Protagonists Are Differently-Abled, or Movies Where One Or More Of The Protagonists Are Dying (Of Cancer). I’m not making any of these up.
This went on for around a year or two, before they filled late evenings with some or the other soap (which all deserve a post or three to themselves… remember Chitthi, anyone?). Then they had a common theme throughout, with every day of the week having one genre. Like there was a comedy movie every Monday, a love story every Tuesday (Kaadhal Sevvaai), a classic old movie every Wednesday (Kaaviya Budhan), an action flick every Thursday (Adhiradi Vyaazhan) and a superhit blockbuster every Friday (Superhit VeLLi). This, apart from two movies, one in the afternoon and another in the evening, every Saturday and Sunday.
And I sat fixated as often as I could. Watched heckuva load of Tamil movies. Amma and I would watch some Kannada movies too, on Chandana, but we stuck to comedies… Anant Nag’s Ganesha ones, or S. Narayan… we both still adore his Oho. Channels would promptly be changed if it was a Kashinath movie. But I hated Kannada movies back then. They seemed too serious and too tragic. When we didn’t still have cable, Amma and Ajji would watch the Sunday evening Kannada movie on DD, and cry and cry and then cry some more. One movie which freaked the heck out of me had Ambarish write a letter in blood to the leading lady. Years later, when a classmate wrote a love letter in blood to another, I felt very very very faint not because it looked like a crazed madman’s handiwork, but because it brought back repressed memories of this movie. And I stopped watching Kannada movies after this one wacko movie where Ambarish gets bitten by a dog and dies of rabies. He barked like a dog, ate food from an aluminum plate not using his hands, frothed at the mouth, and died. I swore to myself I’d never watch a Kannada movie again, and never one with Ambarish in it.
So Tamil movies it was. And God, they weren’t any less gaga. They might be cheerier, more hopeful, better-made and more watchable, but less crazy, they most certainly weren’t.
One of the more tragic ones I watched involved a lower-middleclass family, where the father was presumed dead in a train accident. They get his insurance money, and their standard of living suitably improves. But then, the father comes back, and the rest of the movie is about the shenanigans that result from trying to hide him from the rest of the world. It could have been a nice comedy, but it mainly involved the family politics, grinding poverty, maintaining self-respect, and endless mother-in-law daughter-in-law shenanigans, apart from the mother not being able to wear her mangalsutra and sindoor even though her husband is alive. It sapped the energy out of me.
Then there was this seemingly normal movie where a boy with a widowed mother falls in love with a girl with a widower father. The girl’s father suitably opposed the match like all movie dads, but then he went one step further. He spoke to the boy’s mother, saying there’s only one way we can stop them from marrying and making the biggest mistake of their lives. And the mother agrees. They both get married, and then he snidely tells the boy, now since I’m married to your mother, Heroine is your….? . Mindblown, simply mindblown.
And I saw this one clip of a movie and couldn’t bear to watch it any more. So this guy has a rather cold wife who’s not being intimate with him. He takes her to a movie one evening. And from her horrified shrieks on watching it, we infer that it was an adult movie, and she is thoroughly disgusted and limp from shock. He tells her in a confrontational tone that he did that just to loosen her inhibitions after which she’d fall limp into his arms. Oh. My. God.
On the other end of the spectrum, there was this sweet movie on Young Love called Panneer Pushpangal. The western world (and the Star World-watching world) may have had its Wonder Years, and Kollywood had Panneer Pushpangal. It starred Prathap, who I used to confuse for Kokila Mohan, as a cool and with-it teacher at an Ooty boarding school, where the lead pair were students and fell in love. Of course, the girl’s mom was a witch and locked her daughter up, but the ragtag bunch of friends help her escape. She meets the boy, and then everyone wonders what to do. And then the movie ends. I rather liked this movie, I’ll admit, and wished my school had a teacher like Prathap. And I mention that movie here mainly because it has this wonderful, wonderful song.
Radhika (of Chitthi, Annamalai and Arasi fame) starred in a few more mindblerg movies I watched. First was this one where she woos Sivakumar as a village girl, going as far as getting each others’ names tattoed on their arms, after which he is transferred to the city, where he meets another Radhika who is a modern-dressing rich daughter of his boss. She keeps aggressively pursuing him, and he never gives in because he loves only the villager Radhika. He goes back to the village to find her, but she isn’t there and the whole village blames him for her disappearance. And then comes the shocker. Both the Radhikas are the same! It was an experiment where the rich girl was testing a potential suitor to see if he was only after her money. Oh, what problems rich girls have. Anyway he takes offense and spurns her, and her own father says while he supported her through this endeavour, he feels this sort of test insults any self-respecting man. Then both Sivakumar and Radhika down sleeping pills separately. After appropriate edge-of-seat shenanigans, the director makes sure both lives are saved and that they live happily ever after.
Another one was Meendum Oru Kaadhal Kadhai with Radhika and Prathap. They are two mentally-ill kids in an asylum, and are supervised by a progressive doctor played by Charuhaasan. Radhika is from a rich family who all don’t really like her, especially her scheming brother and brother’s wife, while Prathap has no one. They fall in love, get married and move to some new village with the doctor to have a new life. The village had a slew of quirky characters I don’t really recall, but most of the movie was pitiful while not being slapstick. Radhika ends up pregnant, and dies when Prathap is making her laugh or something…. most mindblerging natal death EVER. I didn’t follow what happened after that, but it might have involved the doctor dying after killing Prathap.
And then. This is the first mindblerging movie I watched, and the one which I was thinking about and then remembered all these movies I’ve talked about. I saw it first on DD one Sunday afternoon when they’d show regional-language movies, which meant this movie had subtitles. It starred Mohan as a Hindu boy, who falls for his sister’s Christian friend. She keeps away at first, actively asking him to get lost, but he persists and they end up in love [Aside: it never fails to blow my mind how easily couples before the Noughties fell in love in movies so quickly and based on so little! He saved my life, so I'm going to spend it with him! Or, she loves animals, so I'll love her]. His mother and her father can simply not submit to this match. They chain Mohan to a small room in their terrace, while the girl (who could have been called Julie and could have been played by Radha) is locked in her room, while presumably her wedding to a Christian boy was being planned. The separation proves too much for her, and as Christ is the reason she can’t be with her love, she hammers a nail through her palm, like was done to Christ. And obviously dies. He escapes from his shackles and comes to help her escape, but he only sees her little neighbour boy (every heroine in every movie before the late ’90s had one) standing in line for her funeral. He runs to the graveyard as they are reading out hymns before burying her, sees her dead, kisses her prone body and dies right there. Lovers dying, okay, fine, but nail through palm? That made my eight-year-old self squirm a whole lot when I saw a crucifix after that, and I took special care to never hold a nail in my hand, and was very edgy around hammers.
I’ve been wondering what the name of this movie is. Does anyone know? Please please tell me… I want to watch it again, this time with new eyes that are cynical about such dated movies.
But…. that might be jumping the gun. These movies were definitely cheesy. But they were gritty. And original. And had an honesty and creativity to them which is missing in later suave movies without bright lights and item dancers in shiny costumes. They had some really good music, and I don’t know how popular they turned out in their time, but their actors gave really wonderful performances in these movies.
The themes were bold and original. The filmmakers might have been wacko jerks with too many rich uncles, or they might have been thinkers, I’ll never know. But I’m glad these crude movies that lack even an ounce of finesse and subtlety got made. They were like alcohol experiments in undergrad where you experiment with a wide range of quality and quantity of drink before you figure out what works for you. The makers of these movies might have hit bull’s eye with exploring early-teenage love and jealousy with a Panneer Pushpangal, and I might be glad for that, but I’m also glad that they got the scenario of ‘What if a guy likes a girl but his mother marries her father?’ out of their systems so that none of us needs to explore that again.
I watched Rockford a day after I turned 14 and loved it. It was cheesy, it had hammy acting and dialogue delivery, the lead protagonist seems foolhardy now that I think of it, and Nagesh Kukunoor was a jerk teacher who I’d now never let near a tween. And the drama in that hostel there dwarfs all the drama I have in my life right now. The movie doesn’t age well.
Still, it was one of the many coming-of-age dramas we watched, and it was refreshing to see Nandita Das in a vaguely glam role, given that all she did before that was Art cinema. [Imagine, this movie's most glam component was Nandita Das]. It felt good to see kids on screen your age and having crushes on people twice and thrice their age. You knew people like that, you thought it was cute in a stupid way. And at that age, I was blissfully unaware of the more-suitable-for-adults disgusting bits in the movie, so it thankfully wasn’t where I ‘grew up’ out of disgust.
The girls in the movie were totally nothing compared to the ‘hottie’ kinds from Bishop Cottons and Frank Anthony and Sophia’s who your male classmates drooled over at Paulfest, SEEK, Manav and the other zillion fests you attended (while you passed snide remarks to them and teased them to no end while you and your group of girls sneakily checked out the college-age fest organizers) that you didn’t believe someone’d buy a rose off them, and you wondered where Nagesh Kukunoor had picked them. Surely it can’t have been for their acting abilities… they hammed their way through the few lines they had, and their expressions were as convincing as a Congressman.
Anyway I looked up the girl who played Malathi in the movie. Her name is Ulrika Krishnamurthy and she seems to have a lot more about her on the Net now, including model-looking pics… just goes on to show ‘beauty’ is something made, not what you’re born with.
But heck, I’ve not been able to find anything about the two boys who played the leads – Rohan Dey who played Rajesh Naidu, and Kailash Atmanathan who played Selva. Their names are not as unique as Ulrika’s, and Google’s results for them are swamped with ‘actor profiles’ for them on various websites which don’t have anything apart from their names. There seems no tangible results for them on social networking sites either. No news articles, neither from back then nor recent ones where they’ve done something like, say, act in a play and the reporter covering the event points to them as ‘that kid who acted in Rockford‘. What, did they just disappear?
So, um, any idea what happened to these lads? Did they get busy with JEE prep soon after the movie and become Industrial Engineers? Or, like Josh Saviano who played Paul Pfeiffer in The Wonder Years was rumoured to have grown up to be Marilyn Manson, did they lead wild crazy lives which for some weird reason escaped media scrutiny? Did they go into pure sciences due to which they don’t have and don’t need LinkedIn profiles? Or was there a mistake in their 10th standard CBSE admit cards due to which they are now known by different names? [True story, happened to someone a friend of mine knows]. Or did they get famous under a different name now?
If you who are reading this are Rohan Dey or Kailash Atmanathan or someone who knows them, please please leave a comment… I’m really curious and interested to know what’s up with them!
This happened in that moonshiney period between 11th and 12th. You can say it happened in the holidays after the 1st PU exams, but then given that I was going for JEE coaching, there was a holiday to all my holidays.
So I used to go to this PU college which was a good distance from where I lived, solely because this bunch of JEE-coachers would conduct classes on campus. That was a novelty back in the day, and the only other alternative was to go to a PU college closer home, and then do the commute to BASE which was a much longer way off.Plus, I wasn’t so keen on BASE back then.
I wasn’t the only one doing this. There were plenty of others too. And there were a few of us in my JEE class who shared part of the route back home. More so when we commuted by BMTC. It was a pretty messy route – college to Banashankari, where a few people would split, Banashankari to Checkpost (via the famous 201 series), and then we’d all go our own route.
So one morning, we all turned up as usual to class at 7:30 am. (Hard to believe I was that person). We were supposed to have classes till a little past noon. Wonderment, it turned out that day that two of the three classes we were supposed to have that day stood cancelled. Which would mean we’d be off at 9 am, given that it was still breaktime, and we didn’t have college classes.
So at 9 am, we began walking to the BMTC stop. ‘We’ were five of us – me, and folks who I’ll blur names of thanks to privacy concerns – three other girls S, L and V. And there was this guy, who I’ll simply call The Guy, because there’s very little else about him that’s relevant.
L and I lived close to each other. Our mothers were friends. S would split at Banashankari, and The Guy would split at Checkpost. And V? She lived way off. So um, what was she doing with us? Well, she had a massive crush on The Guy and had taken to haunting him like a spectre. I think it was because he saved her life during a trek or something, I’m not too sure. The memory is hazy. I found it mildly amusing while also thinking she’s being stupid about it, and L found the whole deal supremely funny, while S would pass sarcastic comments every once in a while. And The Guy? He had no clue.
V tried to hang on to us for longer, but it soon became imminent that the route we’d take would be too round-about for her, and so she left in a rick, asking The Guy if he wanted a ride halfway to his place till the last minute. He kept saying no, so she gave us those secret smiles and glances and left.
So, um, the task was upon us. To find out if he was single. To find out if he had any old flames from school. And also, I think it involved finding out his phone number, being as this was in the pre-cellphone era. It also involved finding out what his likes and dislikes were, given that this was also the pre-Orkut/Facebook era. It sounds pretty straightforward now, but back then, it felt like the most daunting task in the history of man, cracking JEE included. And none of us really knew the guy.
And all this was supposed to be accomplished in the half-an-hour-fortyfive-minutes between now and Checkpost.
While waiting for the bus to Banashankari, we tried making the usual small talk, which involved whining about class, making fun of our instructors and saying how horrible the chemistry paper was (even though I really liked chemistry back then, I had to nod in agreement when he whined about chemistry).
Soon we found out which school he was from, which was not in South Bangalore, so it destroyed any chance of us knowing anyone from there to ask about him. And then it was about movies and music and all that random stuff. I was taking the long route here, not making it too obvious that we wanted to dig up stuff about him. So far, it was all of no use, and the only positive fallout of the whole conversation until then was that I heard about Gloria Estefan.
Soon, three buses had passed us, and the only reason we’d not got on was because the buses were too crowded. I didn’t know back then that was the default state of buses going from the outer edges of the city to the center during peak hours. And then when we finally did realize what was happening, we got into the next available bus.
Only after getting in did we realize it doesn’t go to Banashankari. And that apart, there were gropers at work there, taking advantage of the general crowding… and The Guy being a scrawny sixteen-year-old, couldn’t manage to ‘protect’ us all. So we got off at the very next stop. ‘We can always find a bus to Banashankari from here’, we thought.
But nope, we couldn’t. And we couldn’t even make conversation. Finally, The Guy said ‘Let’s go to Monotype’. Now this was a whole new universe for me and L. The Guy reassured us that he knew the routes from Monotype to Banashankari well. Impressed by his chivalry already, we agreed.
Short ride to Monotype, with gropers again, but this time we were well-prepared with dirty looks that surprisingly worked. And then I don’t know what happened clearly, but all I remember is a long, long walk from Monotype to Banashankari, while wearing a salwar-kameez with an unruly dupatta, and carrying a heavy JEE Math book – Gupta&Gupta, I think.
Now L took over. She was sick of my namby-pamby attempts at conversation, and took a slightly more direct route. Which meant she began pulling my leg about random fellas, as schoolgirls in pigtails are wont to do. And I played along, pulling hers, and then finally we ganged up on The Guy, and asked ‘So how ’bout you, who do they tease you with?’. And by the time we’d arrived at Banashankari, L had managed to elicit from him his entire romantic history (or lack thereof). And then we found a 201, and then The Guy impressed us with his giving-up-seat-for-us routine, and we finally took back our Gupta&Guptas which he had so sweetly carried for us during our long walk.
By now it was 11:30, and L and I weren’t expected home until 1 at the very least, so we were expecting to give our mothers a pleasant ‘class got over early! yay!’ sort of a surprise. When I reached home, Amma was on the phone, and was giving me glances as she was talking. I didn’t realize who or what, and didn’t much pay attention.
And then she finally got off the phone and I said “We didn’t have Maths and Chemistry today!’, and instead of ‘Oh what a relief it must be for you, you poor thing’, I got a ‘So where were you from 9?’. Least expected.
Then she proceeded to say V had called up at 9:30 (presumably in anticipation of hearing what dirt we had on The Guy), first L and then me, startling both my mother and L’s mother.
Oh, and it gets better. V even mentioned that L and I were with The Guy, who had hitherto been unheard of. And back then, your daughter-at-impressionable-age hanging out with unheard-of-guy-also-at-impressionable-age could mean a variety of things, all of which were worst-case scenarios if you were a parent. And L’s mom and mine had gotten talking on the phone, compounding each others’ worstcase scenarios with every passing minute.
I stood my ground, put the blame all solely on BMTC and gropers and rush hour, and said I’m off to rest now because my body’s aching from all the walking I’d done. And I guess L did the same. And when V called us both up later in the day, we pretended to have nothing to talk about other than this week’s homework and Coke [V] Popstars despite her best tries to get us talking. And we gave her a sound shelling the next morning and threatened to call her folks up and say awkward things.
There. Feels good to get it off my chest now.
Epilogue: It took V a long while to get over her massive crush on The Guy, who said no to her repeatedly, and went on to have a string of girlfriends. I have since vowed to never try hooking people up, for reason not connected with this incident. L on the other hand would get a kick out of it for as long as I knew her; we haven’t been in touch for years now. I also became slightly more regular in calling home and informing them I’ll be late, before any jerk would call home and mess things up for me. And most importantly, when I’m travelling by BMTC during rush hour, I make sure to avoid the middle of the bus and stick to the front end, and in general turning extremely violent when faced with gropers on the bus.
Long time back, about ten or twelve years ago, I saw this song on Door Darshan. I think. One of those sunday morning old movie song programs. Nutan and Dev Anand sing a very pretty tune, as they climb down the stairs of Qutub Minar. At that time I had thought it to be a very good idea to film inside Qutub Minar.
While I have listened to Dil Ka Bhanwar Kare Pukar, a gadzillion times after that, on my computer that is, it never occurred to me that it was the same one.
Every time a conversation about old hindi songs popped up, I have asked which song that was with Qutub Minar in it. This has happened with more than a dozen people. Every time the answer has been “What song?” or “Oh! that? Oh Damn! I dont remember it” or “Qutub Minar? nice”.
Today on a lark, I searched for “dev anand qutub minar” and there it was, staring at me!
Your impression of people are mercurial.
It depends on the how you met, when you met, your mental state, their mental state. It depends on events that took place subsequently, how each event went, who were present there how influential they are to you and to the people around you. Then there is how close you are to each of them, and how that changes with time. There is also how often you meet, what kind of interactions you have. You can also bring your own mental makeup into the picture.
Now mix all these together, in no particular order, and in no particular quantity. Then you may get the reason for the particular impression. You may also get the impression that there is no reason at all. You could also trace the impression change with time, or any other aforementioned variable.
Impressions. They are not state functions.
Expectations really change the way you perceive an experience. And I mean really.
A couple of years out of school, I sort of began losing touch with my schoolmates, me being at NITK, and they all in Bangalore, and their not being on Orkut. And then we had a reunion or two, which I attended expecting everyone to have undergone sea-changes and all. But no, the only shock I got was my diminutive fellow first bencher was now a venerable Petronas tower. No, actually, the bigger shock was that everyone seemed pretty much the same. My close friends were still my close friends. The class tensionParty was still the class tensionParty. The eternal star-crossed couple we giggled about was still the eternal star-crossed couple we giggled about. The class poet still wrote poetry about nature and beauty. And a friend I previously mentioned on this blog as Pink was still wearing the same top she was wearing when I saw her last.
As for those who couldn’t make it to the reunions, I kept meeting them off and on every now and then. They didn’t seem to have changed much, except maybe when they acquired fake accents and awesome degrees.
Even our teachers treated us the same way when we ran into them once in a while. They still called us by our old nicknames, pulled our legs about the same old jokes (they remembered!)….
Our ragtag bunch of thirty-nine still seemed to be much the same, the eight years notwithstanding. And so it seemed too with my friends from school who were a year or two older or younger than me.
So I basically assumed that everyone I knew from school would be pretty much the same, no changes whatsoever. I obviously was setting myself up for a big shock. And how.
I think Facebook is the biggest time-sink there ever is, even including Reddit or Google Reader. And my saying that certainly is something. So I don’t know what I was thinking one fine day when I decided to look up my schoolmates on Facebook.
The sleek handsome head-boy was now a teetering-towards-middle-age doctor in Boston. The head-girl in that batch, that doe-eyed girl we all aspired to be like, was now a pleasantly plump homemaker in Leeds. Some topper dude was now a professional photographer…. aal izz well, I suppose. Many more of those much-older kids had (obviously) undergone a sea-change.
So, hell, let’s turn to the juniors, shall we? Those kids who used to wet their pants when we were responsible middle-schoolers.
Big mistake. The girls all looked like Heidi Klum, the boys like Justin Timberlake (You know you’re getting on in years when your pop culture references are so yesterday). Their photos oozed so much oomph, it was hard to believe that this was the same kid who used to cry all the time for his mommy, and who would be placated with a pineapple-flavoured lollipop.
So anyway, let’s check out the teachers, shall we? That timeless bunch who stay the same, batch after batch, who narrate the same jokes year after year (and every class will have someone with an older sibling who had told them the joke), including the ones that start with ‘Last year, you know…’.
They were all Farmville-crazy!
One of them wrote a blog which had horrible, horrible grammar. Thank god she was the one who taught chemistry, not the one who taught English. I swear to god I’d have thrown myself off a cliff with disillusionment if she was.
And one more of them, the one who wore those prim sarees which established her as Martinet supreme, who used to regularly upbraid high school girls for our short skirts and too-tight uniforms (she said we looked ugly, it didn’t suit us, and a variety of other things that a thirteen-year-old feels horrible, horrible about), and said segregation of the sexes was good…. she had uploaded a few photos of herself posing in front of various European monuments wearing various forms of tight, revealing clothes. And she looked ugly, it didn’t suit her.
After that, I haven’t logged into Facebook, and don’t feel like for some time to come.
About an year ago, Soaringheights and I, hit upon this brilliant plan of training lab mice to navigate a maze. We (Read she) even convinced the organizers of Micromouse at IITB’s Techfest, to keep the circus going before the actual event started. Yes, we were supposed to make a mouse go searching (for a piece of cheese perhaps?) and reach the centre of the maze.
We did manage to get a couple of albino rats (the cute little white ones with ruby eyes) from a vet somewhere, in a bird cage. Three and six months old she-mice. After much deliberation we decided to call them Pinky and The Brain, for an hour. Then decided on Sample 1 and Sample 2. Then again decided to call Gangu Maushi (Commom name among kaamwaali bais). But well what really stuck was just mouse.
After the first day of terror that the mice would escape and run around the whole place (which did happen the next day), we figured caged mice did not mean we could take it to the maze and train them. There was a whole prequel to it. MOUSE MAINTENANCE!
- These creatures take as much space as they can. They can run around a whole house turing up at the most inconvinient places. Implied, we needed a bigger cage.
- They love to hide. They love to play. They love to go through empty tissue paper rolls, and tissue paper pieces.
- They are fussy about what you give them to eat. “I wont eat this. I wont eat that. I’m bored of this. More Cornflakes, please!”
- They don’t mind dirty surroundings. Until the stench starts to bother you.
- Its true. They have really really sharp teeth, and have a immense need to keep biting even if it means the other mouse in the cage.
- Don’t underestimate them, they know of ingenious ways of getting out of the cage.
- They run really fast, even if it means on you. (No. I could never muster the guts to touch them ever).
- They are not as bad as I make them sound.
Then came the incident where, one fine day I wake up to hear “mice running lose”! to see white things running helter skelter. And before I knew sample 2 died by the accidental-being-pushed-by-a-suitcase-while-trying-to-retrieve-it. Very delicate things. <mourn>.
Mice are social creatures. So, we got another one, sample 3. At this point we realised that that there are different kinds of mice. docile. meek. sane. wild. really wild. really really aggresive. Now the alpha, beta hierarchy exists in a mouse colony. What happens when you let a really aggresive mouse into the territory of a sane mouse. Thats right. 3 bit 1. 3 bit 1′s eyes. 3 bullied 1 to shiver. And we sat there watching, not knowing what to do. Seperation does not help. Thus, 3 was let lose into the wild.
Now we had had enough. Me watching. Soaringheights struggling to take care. It went to her house. And then was given away to a little boy who adored the thing.
Micromouse was all forgotten.
It took me a week to give up on taking care of them. And soaringheights a month. Her sister and dad a bit longer. And a little guy who loved it until it died.
PS: This blog hits 100,000 hits a few days ago. Nothing much. Just another milestone. Thanks for stopping by. We love you all!
I was watching some Youtube clip of Ocean’s Eleven, and the next one on the playlist was A Little Less Conversation with clips from the movie. And the next related one was the Elvis vs JXL version of A Little Less Conversation.
And sadly, the next one wasn’t the MTV India version of the same thing.
Yes, there was one.
I think this came out in 2001 or 2002. MTV used to make their own videos of popular international hits. I don’t distinctly remember any others apart from this one, though. It had a shadow of Jailhouse Rock in it… the setting was a prison with the cells arranged like it was in the original video. Cyrus Broacha was the jailor, and there were several inmates. All with their own dance styles.
One I remember was Kareena (lookalike, obviously) in her red You are my Sonia costume [Oh What The Hell, all I can find is a low-quality Youtube video of the song, and NO shots whatsoever on Google Image Search for Kareena in that costume. Was it really from some other era or what?]. Another was a pair of Chandramukhis doing a mujra just like Madhuri in Devdas, only, twice as fast. I think there was a Hrithik too, doing his famous step from Ek Pal Ka Jeena.
I think this video was more vivid and colourful than the original. Maybe it was the rather in-your-face popcul references that did it… the original showed dance styles, not personalities or caricatures.
Thing is, I’m not able to find a video of that. I haven’t tried really hard, though. If you’re able to locate it somewhere, please, pretty please share it with me. And it’s really worth the hunt… it’s a damn fine video, one of the best to come out of MTV. It’s pretty cool and slick for a parody.
So what are you waiting for? Go memory-lane tripping! And get back to me.
S and I have known each other ever since we can remember. We were in school together, from kindergarten to tenth. We grew up together, more or less… went through ego battles together, began sighting guys together, joked together in the middle benches (not the backbench… teachers wise up to it pretty much) whenever I could manage it (my height made sure the teachers always put me in the front bench)…. and then we lost touch in the middle, during our engineering. And got back in touch just as I was leaving for Irvine…. for which I’ll be forever thankful. It turns out we turned out more similar than we ever thought we’d be, having quite a few aspects of our lives turn out very similar, including our job profiles, and heck, we even started on our first jobs on the same day! And… we also complete each others’ sentences now, can totally understand what the other person says…
The best bit was not meeting up for the first time in four years and feeling not a day had passed since we met last. The best bit was that we ran into two of our school teachers when we met. One of them was the much-chronicled-on-this-blog Naughty Nallu, who treated us just like we were two errant schoolgirls giggling in the middle benches, and not at all like two adults…. somehow, the more things change, the more they remain the same
So now that the background has been established that we are in regular touch, let’s get to business.
We also had another classmate, who also studied with us from first to tenth. I’ll call her Pink for reasons I’ll explain later. She was the class darling, as well as the class hottie. S and I killed many trees just by making lists of the many boys who had approached us about how to win this girl’s heart. Every damn teacher hated our class, and every damn teacher thought the only redeeming feature of our class was Pink.
Being together for so many years, your differences start becoming insignificant. You get used to Pink’s total lack of interests in books outside of schoolwork. You get used to her primness and properness. You all have fun together, that’s all you end up keeping in mind.
And then school was out; we kept in touch on and off after that. We more or less lost touch with Pink, though she was just a click away. We rather joked about her in her absence…. I have no idea why we began doing that.
One of those is why I call her Pink here. We had a get-together after AIEEE. She was wearing a pink top, and brown jeans. And then a while later, we watched Main Hoon Na. She was wearing a pink top, and brown jeans. A year or so later, we had a class reunion.She was wearing…. you get the drift. And then one of us met her at an intercollegiate fest. No prizes for guessing what she wore there. Basically, this was during all the very few times we met after school. Hence the inside joke, and the silent chuckle whenever she was mentioned.
A month or so back, another friend told me Pink was engaged. My first reaction was “Was she wea..”, when I was promptly cut off by that friend who dismissed my doubts and said, no, she was wearing a dark-coloured saree for the occasion.
S told me a common friend of hers and Pink’s told her that Pink got married yesterday. I just was beginning to think about her wardrobe, when S brought my attention to the fact that both of us hadn’t been invited. When the common friend (who had been invited, hopefully?) asked, she was apparently told by Pink, “Jana jaassti aagtaare“. There would be wayyyy too many people at her wedding if she had called S.
Oh, dear dear S… what are you, an amoeba that splits to form too many people when given enough food? And keeps consuming more and more and make more and more people?
And Pink, do you not remember all the occasions we fended off valiant young men intent on winning your hand? The times when we played throwball? The times you sucked up to teachers and we didn’t laugh? The times when we agreed that you had been sinned against even when it was so clear you had sinned? All the maths we did together? All the games we used to invent together to rid the monotony of a meaningless class? All the outings you used to plan so painstakingly?
I don’t care if you’ve forgotten us. School was a long time ago, and we all move on. You need not invite us if you don’t think we aren’t important enough to be there. We knew each other long ago, and priorities have changed since then, and we acknowledge that. And it’s not like we are all that free to take a break and come off to whichever faroff place your wedding is being held at. This is not about us. But er… jana jaasti? Isn’t that a bit cheap? At your wedding, of all days? Especially when we _know_ you don’t have a restricted guest list or any such.
S and I were wavering between choosing to invite her or not for our respective weddings when they happen, when I remembered one tiny memory that put things in perspective for us.
“Not much has changed”, I said. “Remember the time she used to write with your pen in class because she didn’t want her ink to get over?”
And Pink, we both heartily wish you a very happy married life.
It was when I was twelve or thirteen, I think. I wanted nothing more than to be a journalist. An investigative journalist, if I was lucky.
And there were a few inspiring people behind that ambition. No, Barkha Dutt wasn’t really one of them. Maya Sharma and Jennifer Arul could have been, but seemed rather regionally restricted. Sreenivasan Jain was a major one.
But I didn’t really like journalism on a national level for some reason. And this was when Times of India was entering the Bangalore market, and was marketing itself as the newspaper that could read the pulse of Bangalore just as well as the nadi astrologers of Vaideeswaran Kovil were reputed to. And having a piece or two published in Offspring [the school section of ToI, which we were introduced to through Newspaper In Education] made sure I was a ToI loyalist back then. I read every word of every article back then.
And the city-specific reporting captured my heart. It really felt like this is what I wanted to do… I’d religiously go through each column. Some names stood out more than the others. HS Balram was too serious for my taste.
And so it was Allen J Mendonca, in his avatar as Chief Reporter of the Times of India, who proved to be a major inspiration for me.
His writing style was a tad quirky, quite informal, his bylines hard-hitting. His movie reviews were a treat. His sprinkling of Kannada words in what would otherwise be an elitist newspaper article made it all the more endearing to me.
At first, I was content just reading newspaper and watching news channels, but when we got our dial-up connection, I acquired a bit more nerve.
I first mailed Sreenivasan Jain, a long garrulous mail describing how awesome I find him on TV, how I admire his ability to ask the right questions, how insightful I thought him to be. [Back then, his email ID was available in the newspaper, or when he wrote a column for The Week... not like now, when we had to really HUNT for his email ID when we wanted to contact him for something related to Engineer, NITK's Techfest]. And all I got was a one-line reply, in SMS lingo. End of an infatuation. I’d had it with television reporters.
I don’t know exactly why I mailed Allen Mendonca… other than maybe I imagined he was a nicer person not prone to SMS lingo and incredibly more loquacious, and… the name sounded like he’d be quite a looker. But it remains that I did, and got a nice reply to all that I’d asked him. I don’t remember the exact contents of that mail, but I’d asked him about how you go about being a journo, what do you need to study in college, and…. that ONE question. Did he think I had it in me to be a journo.Of course, the answer to that one was that I was too little and I had it in me to become anything I wanted. But oh, the inspiration that one provided back then!
The exchanges continued. I’d been on a holiday to Coorg, and going through the guestbook, I discovered he had holidayed at the same estate bungalow I was staying in, just two months before! Boy, did that put a smile on my face! And his detailed description of the estate and all that it offered, and how well he’d enjoyed the whole deal – the walking trails, the books in the library about the history of Coorg, the ponds, the coffee plantations…. I’d previously been rather sulky throughout the holiday, but just reading that made me realize I was missing out on stuff. And I instantly cheered up!
I wrote to him mentioning this, nicely omitting my sulkiness from the whole story, and right after, he began feeling like some friendly uncle. I stretched my boldness far enough to send him samples of my childish verse… and he actually went through fifty lines of my random thoughts, and said it was rather good. Was I on top of the world or was I on top of the world. And he said I should write more often, and needed to ‘develop a style of my own’, which would come by regular writing.
Not very long after that, he stopped responding. I consoled myself saying he was probably undercover on some story, or was incredibly busy, or some such thing. Besides, his stories stopped appearing in ToI.
And then he replied from a different mail ID, after almost months together, saying he’d quit ToI, over some disagreement with his bosses, about political favors and exposes or some such thing… I don’t remember the details. He said he was writing a book, and that he’d send over an invite for me and my family for the opening.
We stopped corresponding after that, given that I was grappling with increasingly challenging academics, swimming practice, emotional upheaval on shifting my house to seemingly the middle of nowhere, ego tussles, multiple crushes, and similar stuff.
When I was in the tenth, or eleventh, I saw a news article about his book coming out. “He didn’t invite me as promised”, I sulked. There was an interview of his on RadioCity, where he was just as upbeat, funny and full of life as I’d thought he would be.. and I wondered if I should mail him…. but stopped short of hitting send, wondering if he would still remember me, or reply, or anything at all.
I got over wanting to be a journo, thanks to the JEE dream, and quit mailing people I hadn’t met in person thanks to all those newspaper articles about some weirdo trapping kids…. basically, just switched tracks. And I saw less and less of news about Allen [Oh yes, he'd said I needn't address him as Mr. Mendonca, and Allen would do, and I used to feel a thrill whenever I typed "Dear Allen"]… given that the Times wouldn’t mention him for all the world, and my not reading the Asian Age or Vijay Times.
My opinions of other journalists might have changed, my opinion of ToI has certainly changed, but of Allen, nope…. whenever I came across any reference to him, I still get the image of a lively man who peps up his radio interview with stories about his ‘three weddings’, who had a very vivid, visual way of writing, and who was one of those down-to-earth people who still bothered enough to humour an awestruck little girl, correspond regularly with her, and actually give her feedback on her writing.
So this morning, when I came across this Churumuri post about his sudden, untimely demise, I was really shocked. I was also overcome with a whole lot of memories… surprisingly clear for ten-year-old memories that aren’t regularly thought about. Thinking back, I realize the ideal I was using to model my writing style was his – show don’t tell, local flavour, seeming stream of consciousness. I’m amazed at how such small gestures had such a big impact on my thoughts, dreams and aspirations for such a long to come. Even when I wasn’t thinking of the correspondence with Allen, I used to think of how to ‘develop my own style’. Still do. That phrase has stayed with me for a long time. And will do for a long time to come.
Great Soul. May he rest in peace.
Conversation on meeting a random person yesterday:
Me: Hi I’m Priya
Person: I’m X
Me: Where from in India?
Me: Me too! South Bangalore?
Me: 4th Block
X: Ohh… 8th Block.
Me: We shifted to Bannerghatta Road, though
X: Vijaya Bank Colony.
Me: Studied at Oxford School
Me: Oh, did you know Y, Z and A?
X: Course I did! You must have had Mrs. SD teach you at some point?
Me: Yeah, heard you guys drove her out? Good job!
I keep finding folks from South Bangalore wherever I go. And we normally have a dozen common friends. Remember, this was in Irvine, on the other side of the world from Bangalore.
And this is not the only So.Ba. meeting so far…. There’s this other So.Ba. guy, and it turns out I’ve throughout studied with one or the other of his cousins, through school, through PU, through NITK. And the cousins were all from different branches of the family, and never knew each other.
Over the years, I discover that me and any other South Bangalorean have less than three, or even four degrees of separation between us. It’s amazing, shocking, brilliant and scary all at the same time.
Like this time when I quoted something random at office from a friend’s status message, and two-three others around me were like “I’ve seen this recently…. on my friend’s status message….”, and we found that we all knew the guy in question.
Or the time when this guy in some Phoren Univ was too scared to hit on a So.Ba. girl because it transpired that she knew his ex (also So.Ba.) rather well.
Or the many times when I find that some commenter on this blog and I have a dozen common friends from our school days, and/or have met at one point or the other much earlier on, and live in the neighborhood of each other, and frequent the same hangouts. And also have a dozen people in common to gossip about.
Or the time when I was speaking to a college friend and she had to cut the call short because her schoolfriend R was frantically calling on her mobile. And the next day when I met up with my schoolfriends, they were telling me a story about a girl called R who broke up with her boyfriend just the previous day.
Or the time when my friend A had a crush on someone in her college, and the news travelled all the way to Mumbai, Surat, Rourkela, Chennai and back to her college, where the crush in question was the last to know.
Or when someone I know travelling to the UK for higher studies happened to come in contact with a long-lost schoolmate of mine who happened to be his senior there… and tried putting us back in touch.
Or when I went to write the Manipal entrance exam and met every friend of mine and her secret crush, and at one point sat down gossiping silly about everyone I’d ever known.
Or my father’s colleague’s daughter and I putting two and two together to make five – piecing together different sides of the story of my (rather er.. reputed) neighbour who happened to be her classmate.
In my office, there were four of us, three of us from South Bangalore and the fourth one who’d lived in Indiranagar for the most part. The three of us had never met before, but had enough common friends to gossip about, while the fourth person would stare blankly during these conversations.
I really wonder if this is normal; if this is a common feature of most places. But then, I don’t find others picking common threads with new people as easily as I do. I don’t see such a connect within the network of others as I see with mine… all my friends seem to know each other one way or the other. And it’s not because I call them and say “X, Y, Meet each other”.
I remember reading on some other blog that the North and South of Bangalore were two totally different cities, with even a toll gate between them, and so the cultures are very different. I have no clue about the rest of the city, but folks from my part of town tend to be very similar. Somehow, the upbringing, the values, the language, the backgrounds were similar enough to hold us together, and varied enough to keep us from getting bored. And most of us seem to have grown up the same way, and the same middle-class motivations behind our ambitions.
We’ve all gone to the same schools, the same tuition classes, and the ubiquitous BASE and ACE, apart from Gopu Tuition, Venky Tuition, and a million others… and most of us tend to have similar career paths. We know each other, and each others’ friends from one or more of these places. And it’s not just friends… uncles, cousins, siblings… our network extends that way, too.
Like, I have my schoolfriends, my playhome friends, my tuition friends, my Gopu tuition friends, my PU friends, my ACE friends, my NITK friends, my office friends… and from a dozen other things I’ve done, and it turns out atleast one friend from each stage of my life knows atleast one person from one of the other stages.
It all seems to fit in so well, I really wonder if other cities/regions have similar phenomena… I mean, of course there must be. I would generally expect this from some smalltown where everyone knows everyone else. But then, does South Bangalore fit into the notion of a ‘Small Town’? I should think not!
Or is this restricted to me, and a few of my friends who are as talkative as me? Or have I been too restricted in my horizons?
I don’t know what explanation fits this best. It would be an interesting experiment in social networking and all that, or maybe not. But I sure do know that we spread our tentacles all over the globe. Be it some semiconductor lab in Seoul, or a software development center in Seattle, or a university in Singapore, we are there. And so wherever I’m going, I’m pretty confident my Class III classmate’s TuitionFriend’s Cousin, who is also my sister’s maths teacher’s son/daughter will be there, to give me company when I want to reminisce about the perfect Ganesh Darshan Masale, or Subbamma’s Sandige.
Bad-bad words: “Bleddy Bhaskar! Thisis your Last Morning! I’ll hit you meeeans you’ll go fall in foreign”
So there was this tag on Twitter called ThirdStandardClassics. It reminded me of some of the misconceptions I had in those glorious days.
First, I wondered where exactly this place called “Forin” was. Uma Chithi went to America, and she was supposed to be from Forin. Raju Thatha was from London, and he was also from Forin. Vadi Mama was said to be in this place full of kangaroos called Australia, and he too was…. From Forin. And Sidhart’s father got chocolates from “the Gulf”, also known as Forin. So confusing.
All I knew was Forin was really far away (I wondered if it was Far-in, and that my granny was actually pronouncing it right when the rest of them were merely ignorant), because Hemant in my class threatened me with “If you actoff meaaans I’ll kick you and you’ll go and fall in Forin”.
Right from Class 1, we got various threats of “This is the last morning* I’m giving you”, “This is your last morning”. Given that corporal punishment wasn’t exactly banned then, and Mrs. Meera Sarkar was one crazy female who slapped you if you lost your water bottle, I assumed it meant she’d hit you so badly, you wouldn’t live to see another morning. *Shudder*. [Aside: I had a phobia for the name Meera and always imagined witches to be dark-dark-skinned people with black curly hair and black lips so thin they'll give a Motorazr a complex, because Meera Sarkar looked like that. Thankfully I didn't have much of her, though my sister suffered like crazy with her].
And then, the bad-bad words. The usual ones – kaththe, kothi, naayi, handi were staple, and we routinely looked up words in other languages. I remember my friend Thrilok being in demand for bad-bad words in Tulu.
But once, there was a fight in class 1 where one boy called another a “Bleddy Bhaskar” [Someone else on Twitter said "Bledy Basket"]. They both had to kneel down for an hour or something.
At around the same time, there was this family friend called Bhaskar. I didn’t like him very much… he didn’t seem to like children. He gave the five-year-old me a formal smile instead of the usual ragging reserved for little children. It didn’t go down well with me, though I really detested the leg-pulling some of my parents’ friends indulged in.
So I assumed when someone yells “Bledy Bhaskar”, they are referring to this frown-faced guy. That he was such an evil person (when you’re a kid, you only have extremes) that his very name was a badword. I wondered for long why parents still continued to give their kids such names, inspite of this glowing example of a man who visited us every Friday. [I also used to assume that everyone had the same set of relatives you did, only they looked different. In my world-view, it was okay if your parents and grandparents had different names, but I assumed everyone had a Krithika-akka, a Vinu-anna, Seenu-mama... until I finished kindergarten. Hence, I assumed everyone would have a frown-faced Bhaskar-uncle who visited them every Friday. When I was in primary school, this notion stopped persisting, but at the back of my mind, I had a notion that adults knew everything]
For a very long time, I kept away from people named Bhaskar.
*It turned out to be ‘warning’. Such a relief that was.
So this blog officially turns four today, the 10th of May. This post is written to commemorate that. And reflect.
At this particular moment, my mind is a mire of chaotic thoughts all of which are competing to be penned first… I’ll start at the beginning.
Firstly, I’m rather surprised I’ve managed to sustain this blog this long. I don’t have a track record for sticking to what I start. But thinking again, probably it’s not all that surprising.
For starters, to stick to something, you need to be able to see rewards or potential rewards from the activity. And you also need continuous feedback on your performance. Blogging here is plentiful in both.
Feedback… we got a great amount of that in our first year of blogging. Not all of it was favorable, but it was fun. Atleast someone was reading us. The momentum sustained through the following year, and a sort of community of regulars began to build here. Over the course of time, some quit blogging, some quit reading us, some quit knowing us, new folks came in, we made new friends, old friends discovered this place… somehow, continuous feedback keeps coming in. The knowledge that someone is out there reading, that someone subscribes to us keeps us coming back and posting here. It doesn’t feel like a holler into the darkness.
And there’s other sorts of feedback too… blog stats. We notice uptick of hits for certain search terms and are amazed people google for images of cats scratching or coucals and end up here to look at my sad bits of photography, or folks wondering if India is a sec_u_lar coun_try and ending up on my description of an incident that took place in school almost seven years ago. And a good amount of folks end up here googling for our Alma Mater! That along with Search Engine Optimization drives us to tag our posts appropriately, to attract the sort of audience we want… I don’t know how successful we are there.
Looking at the post about Ra_hul_ga_n_d_hi’s g_irl_fi_end, I don’ t think we are very successful on that front. We get atleast 20 hits for that post from search engines alone everyday. Those stats overshadow my other posts… I’m wondering in what way this is going to affect things.
Occasionally, I curse the fact that family members, friends and whoever else who knows me personally knows of this space and checks it… due to which I can’t write bright bitchy posts on how irritating a particular person was or why I’m feeling down at a point in time… and thus I write rather obscure posts just to vent my frustrations… after a couple of months, even I can’t make out what such a post was all about!
No, I don’t mean I’m irritated with the whole deal… not when I bask in the adulation of a ‘nice post!’ or ‘hilarious!’ comment. The medium is such and I’m aware of it. But the fact that I choose to vent the frusts here too along with a dozen other more personal spaces, says how much this place means to me. It’s somewhere where I’m a slightly exaggerated me, where I play to (some of) my strengths and pretend the rest don’t matter. It’s one of those incredibly few places where I call the shots and can say ‘Respect Mah Authoritah’. It’s somewhere where I can write long drawn out descriptions of a rather boring day and in the same breath nonchalantly put in what I think is a major achievement. And on an especially bad day, I can even say “Screw you all, I don’t need you. I have my blog”.
Bleg: Some people tell me I’m a rather different person online than offline… is this true?
The rewards have been many. They might not be as attractive as a job at Live Labs, but do manage to keep me in the zone… the same sort of zone that keeps gamers addicted to gaming.
I write better now. I subconsciously maintain correct punctuation and spelling to some extent. My grammar is a lot better. My choice of words has improved.
And I’m a lot more logical. My arguments are better structured… atleast better than when I started off. I react less negatively to negative feedback. I don’t anymore give a WTH reaction when I’m corrected with condescension. I’ve learned to separate the style from the substance… to some extent atleast. Atleast to the extent I can say Shashi Tharoor and Arundathi Roy talk crap.
I also review movies and music better now. I know now what people like to read, what’ll provoke a flamewar, what’ll go unnoticed.
I react better in writing, I find. I sure hope I’m someday able to optimize that good enough for realtime reactions.
I’ve also read a lot of blogs, some good, most bad. I thank god I don’t get mindless adulation like folks like Silverine and Sidin on every post I write… And for that I have you to thank, dear readers and commenters, for setting the tone of the discussion here.
And… this blog is a sort of an online personality for me, better than Facebook or Orkut. I’m glad this is not an anonymous sort of an effort despite my paranoia about this. It conveys better information about what my interests are than any other slice of me. It’s also a good conversation starter.
This year is not without its highlights… First, we got DesiPunditted. Then Bejoy Nambiar, the winner of Gateway on Sony Pix, which I’d mentioned, mailed me saying “Glad you wrote about me” or equivalent… for a while after that, I toyed with the idea of getting a speaking part in a Hollywood movie. A while later, Ann Anra, the child star of Avvai Shanmughi who went on to become Miss Chennai, left a comment. A month or so back, I discovered on this blog that one of the folks who comment on this space was someone I’d been acquainted with seven years back.
Apart from all that, it’s the people I’ve come across through my blog which I’m most glad for. Friends I got to know better and who got to know me better, folks who know me but who I don’t know and who inform me of their existence one fine day to my face, folks I’d've never met otherwise… friends of friends, folks who live ten minutes from where I live, folks who frequent the temple I frequent, folks I don’t know about but who tell my friends they know me through my blog, folks from a past life I regained touch with, folks I hold in awe of some sort or the other, folks who validate my beliefs, folks who expose me to a totally different train of thought…
It’s the readers who decide the tone of the discussion that goes on here, and I’ve rather enjoyed the discussions that crop up, be it about books or movies or something I thought was funny… I’m glad to come in contact with a dozen different sorts of views, a good many links relevant in some way or the other to something I wrote, and bouquets and brickbats and ayes and nays.
And every year I write the HappyBirthdayBlog post, I customarily go into a link frenzy, mentioning all those folks here who had added their two paise on this page in the past year, with links to their blogs, so here goes:
- Logik who shares my Internet addiction-of-sorts and whose set of interests has a considerable overlap with mine, and who’s a goldmine of links to webapps and quirky news, and who gives good movie, music and other recos.
- SG aka Bond… ex-neighbor to me and ex-classmate to Tuna, and says things with that characteristic nonchalance of hers, like only a wingmate can.
- Ego, fellow Rightwinger, with more clarity and passion than I can aspire for.
- TheG who’s all but quit blogging and commenting here, but who gives me rather honest feedback when he does, off this page.
- Swati, who I wish would blog
- Harish, BJPFan like me and Advani impersonator, unlike me.
- Arjun, fellow AamirHater and fakeNewsWriter.
- Shreevatsa, who has a relevant link, apart from something to say, for everything I write.
- Karthik, who leaves a lot of slice-of-life comments.
- KarthikRam from Down Under who begins quite a few debates here.
- TheMonk with the very interesting contrarian tone.
- Nitin who LetsUsKnow. Used to.
- Vishwas, who occasionally takes time off from his rather long list of activities to drop an insightful comment here.
- Vada, who Penns and hence hasn’t penned (or punned) anything in ages.
- Dushy who seems to have been rather busy over the past year.
It’s been a great four years, but what’s next?
For one thing, we aren’t NITKians anymore. But we’ll still continue to care about NITK and all that that happens there. Sure, we won’t be bothered too much about who is doing what or who else, but we’ll check every college ranking that ever gets published and proudly circle NITK’s name in it. We’ll publicize NITKSIP, sing paeans about the IT department attracting employees of Adobe and suchlike yada, we’ll attend alumni meets. We’ll dash into the campus every single time we’re in the area and take photographs just like it was just one of the days between August 2004 and April 2008. We’ll follow Inci and Engi like we have a personal stake in it, and I’ll fervently pray that the folks who set Virtual Bounty know search engine usage better than I did. I’ll continue to end any “My college is bestest” argument with “Par hamaare paas private beach hai”. I’ll always have higher expectations than usual in the fields of humour, ability to survive in harsh conditions, and cool geekiness from anyone who claims to be from NITK… Nowhere else are students so resilient to bad food and bad living conditions, that they top it all off with a good dose of bad jokes and show you a few jingchak tricks with a computer while at it.
NITK Numbskulls isn’t named so because we were a part of NITK, it is because NITK was and is and will continue to be a part of us.
And I don’t think I’m stopping updating this page anytime soon. That’s not because of an altruistic need to inform and entertain others… if you gained anything from this page, it’s merely incidental. This blog has a more selfish motive for its existence. It’s been an integral part of this journey of self-discovery which is still underway. It preserves an image of who I was at different points in my life, it helps me collect my thoughts, analyze them… and keep me sane and knowing who I am despite the chaos in my mind.
Here’s a prayer to Goddess Saraswati who has graced me enough that I could see this day, and quite a few other important days in the past year for which I will be eternally grateful. May we see more such days in the coming years.
Tuna, Bond and the rest of the Chem bunch left for a trip.
Mal, Pub, me, Bond and Tuna simultaneously got teary-eyed.Saranya was stoic as usual.
And after the ‘byes to this bunch, Logik and I had a cuppa at F&H.
Then I got senti with Pragu.We went and had a final mess dinner.
Began burning movies. And Mahi and Devika were leaving then, began lapsing into flashback and all that.
Then Tata-’Byes to Maloo and Bigshow. And found Vada had disappeared.
I’m not sure if it was this night or what, but I remember spending a drizzly night on the pavement expounding to Poonam the theory of the Life, Universe and everything else.
I distinctly remember the sentiness with Shruthi… speaking in half-sentences and choking on emotion.
Bugged Pubali for a while. And then went to extreme nostalgia with my roommate of four years. And some more teary-eyed-ness with Pubali. Some more last-minute movie-burning.
Then had last few chats on the NITK LAN. Played the last strains of Ella Fitzgerald my room would hear.Shut down my laptop one last time at hostel.
Found it was 4 am. Took a bath in the Old Block…. man, last day at NITK and it had to go without water in the blocks.
Came back and got supremely senti with Shruthi. Eyes full of tears, both of us.
Just as I was moving my stuff out, I exchanged the last few words of gossip I would exchange at NITK. And looked back at the room, the cupboard, under the bed, on the table, on the shelf one last time.
And then the farewell hugs. Each one made me more emotional than the others.
My mother had never seen me tearier. And that is saying something.
My last night-out at NITK. Feels like yesterday.
A hard day’s night, spent in fitful slumber. The morning after, spent in some more fitful slumber. Woken up to shouts of “If you remain sleeping like this, how will you vote?”.
I seem to have come a long way from since I was a kid, when elections were a source of endless joy to kids.
My center was a bit of a distance from my house, and man! you wouldn’t know there was an election going on. No sign absolutely, except for traffic jams on the narrow approach roads to the school.
A few tables under a few trees had folks who gave you your serial number. You took that and went to the relevant voting booth. They checked your photo ID and inked your finger. You went behind a cardboard screen and pressed a button. You heard a beep. It’s all over.
Hardly any sign that an election was on, save this fat youngish man who jumped in front of you and said “Naane Krishna Byre Gowda, medam, nannige vote haaki. Candidate #2 medam”. And young men in orange shirts saying ‘Saar saar, BJP-ge vote, saar, Ananth Kumar-ge vote maadi, saar’. And one ingenious guy who’d procured a model EVM panel from somewhere with Ananth Kumar’s name marked on it and showed you which button to press.Random kids running around with Congress flags. One of the ran upto my mother and said ‘Aunty, aunty, vote for Congress, aunty’. She said they had to be studying, not doing this sort of a job. They gave back a cheesy ‘aadre ivattu school illvalla aunty?’ That was about it.
And man, how many independents! The list of candidates was crazily long. I could have taught my two-year-old neighbor names of all the fruits and flowers just by showing her the EVM panel. No one seems to have cared about most of them… and hell, I didn’t even know Vatal Nagaraj was standing for elections till then!
A long long time back, when I was not old enough to vote, I used to live rather close to Vijaya Junior College, an election center. So you’d have folks coming to your door right from 7:30 am, exhorting you to vote. Not that anyone in our street needed it; every house had atleast one politically-aware member, in most cases, a grandfather, to drag the whole family off to vote even before the booth opened.
And that was a necessity…. someone else’d vote in your name if they could.
And the crowds! People thronged the place to vote. My uncle would check out the booth numbers well in advance just so that the rest of the family wasn’t caught in confusion and crowd when they went to vote. And maybe that’s why you hear stories only of families being separated at the Kumbh Mela and not at polling centers.
The path to the election center was lined with posters and buntings and whatnot. So many party symbols, so many colours. Bright orange ones for the BJP with Lord Ram posters, green-bordered ones with a wheel for JD, and… funnily, I don’t remember anything from the Congress campaign… maybe they thought they were beyond advertising, being so famous and all. You’d have partyLeader lookalikes, huge cutouts of politicians, and people shouting out slogans on microphones. And then you reached a desk which would mostly be manned by a volunteer you happened to know, and who wouldn’t wait until you told him your name to look it up and give you your booth number. And then you stood in queue with a gazillion others. When your turn came, they’d look at your ration card copy, make a mark against your name, a mark on your finger, and give you a ballot paper and point you to behind a cardboard screen. You stamped the paper and came out.
My grandfather took me to watch the fun, and the lady with the indelible ink very kindly obliged us by inking my finger as well. And I could show off in school the next day that I had ‘voted’
Talking of which… the indelible ink back then was some variant of ballpoint ink, and stayed where it was put for a week or two. Not like the ink now, which flows all over your hand and can be erased within minutes.
And enthu levels ohmigod…. all the old-timers on the street had taken it upon themselves to keep the poll fever on. They discussed, canvassed, volunteered, watched the news… and basically set the atmosphere. Even the oldest, senilest, illest folks turned up to vote, propped up by their sons or daughters-in-law. I remember this really ancient man on our street who went about telling the whole place to vote for BJP, vote for the lotus. And then comes out of the polling booth with a grin on his face, and when someone asked him who he voted for, he said with a twinkle in his eye, ‘Naanu chakrakke haakidini ‘ (I voted for the wheel (JD)).
Now my neighbors can hardly be bothered to get off their seats and trudge all the way to a center a kilometer away. There are no enthu old-timers either, to initiate conversation and discussion.
But most of all, I miss the entire election atmosphere. Even without the exit-poll gag, or saree and TV distribution, there should have been more of an atmosphere. I feel this is important, because it makes you feel like election is some sort of a ceremony, like bursting crackers on Diwali. Not some boring ‘fundamental duty’ you need to perform and get little in return, like paying taxes.
It should feel like it’s worth going back home after going half the way to the polling booth just to get your voter ID and come back, to vote. [For once, it wasn't me who forgot an all-important document before leaving the house.... it was my mother]. It shouldn’t bite that you are but one insignificant bit of a billion, and your vote is just a .000001% (figures not accurate) of the electorate.
And for that, nothing helps better than arrangements that look elaborate, and the infectious enthusiasm pervading the atmosphere for weeks before the polling date. It makes you feel like you’re doing something that matters, not like you’re wasting precious hours of work-free existence to take part in an activity from which you don’t get anything in the short run, a thankless job.
I don’t get why there’s a ban on offering voters TV sets and sarees. Or even cash. It’s all an incentive for people to come out and vote. Anyway it’s just one vote they can cast, great if they get something for it. Secret ballot is still guaranteed in this country for those who ask for it, so it’s quite a possibility voters take the saree/TV/cash and still vote for whoever they want…. atleast that’s what the flower-lady, the fruit-lady and all those folks I know who are lucky enough to get an incentive for voting do. I hate this mai-baap attitude of the government which presumes people are dumb enough to vote for anyone who gives them a saree.
My relatives in the US were talking about how during their presidential elections they don’t have any indelible ink, or extreme security measures, or loud campaigns which disturb their sleep…. the whole election process they said was so civilized, a far cry from the chaos in their homeland. [Aside: It brings to mind an image of folks walking into an election booth Apple-1984 style chanting "Obama, Obama".] Folks, don’t worry so much, we’re moving towards there.
Now if there was one aspect in which I’d beg people to not ape the West, I’d not talk about pub culture, or broken homes, or unhealthy food, or materialism, or capitalism or whatever crap… I’d just say leave our election fever be!
Bleg: I was wondering about ways to subvert the poll process, cast ultiple votes, capture booths and things like that. What are the chinks in the system? How do you sneak in votes in a number significant enough to make a difference? How much is possible without the compliance of the folks on election duty? How many folks on election duty actually subvert the process? What are the checks for the same? Someone kindly enlighten me.
You are warned. Long Post Ahead.
I’m pretty sure every urban South Indian has one of these. Quite obviously… Rahman would score music for all those feel-good flicks that would be megahits. And even if they were not, the music would be a superhit for sure… which meant you’d hear of them. And hear them over and over again. Either on the radio or in the interval at the movies, or in weddings, or in someone’s car, or on TV…. basically there was no escape. And no one wanted one either… the music was different, and good. So you end up having a lot of memories tangled with quite a few of these songs. Some of these songs manage to stick with you through the ages and enter the hallowed portals of what you consider ‘alltime great’ songs. Here are mine:
- Mettu Podu from Duet: A very nice fusion-ish song. I suspect the lead character was made a saxophonist just so that ARR could use nice sax melodies for the songs in the movie. It’s a nice idea to have a wedding musician who plays the sax (in the movie)… it just sounds like the nadaswaram with a more fusion-ish feel. The same movie had some really soulful songs like En Kaadhalae and Anjali, all rendered awesomely by SPB. But Mettu Podu is the feel-good song in the album, and no matter how many times I listen to it, it only seems to get better.
- Margazhi Poove from May Madham: Sonali Kulkarni’s debut. Movie’s about a young girl yearning to be free from her overbearing father and a stuttering fiance. And this song is where she talks about all the things she’d love to do, while on a morning walk. This song had the suprabhatam as its opening…. gives the song a really good feel. The whole zest for life and freshness Sonali Kulkarni is supposed to have in the movie is reflected in this one song.
- Signore Signore from Kannathil Muthamittaal: People might like Vellai Pookal for its social message about peace and all, or adore Jayachandran’s soulful rendition of the title track. I however can’t get this song out of my head. The baila tunes and Sinhalese words demand to run through my head atleast once a day. It’s stock baila, just like Surangani, and possibly many other songs in the genre, but the cheerful mood of the song stands out against the serious mood of the rest of the movie. It’s the current song stuck in my head.
- Pettai Rap from Kaadhalan: This song needs no introduction, does it? I like the lyrics too… deep philosophical ponderings about life and death… appropriate for a song to be sung at a funeral procession. And I have fond memories of this song from school when our seniors choreographed it awesomely for the annual day, transvestite and all.
- Allay Allay from One Two Ka Four: Sad movie, sad SRK, boring Juhi Chawla, irritating kids, silly villain. And this cute song comes along. I’ve never watched the video ever. Just as well, I guess… I’ve had it upto here being disappointed by insipid videos for great songs.
- Paarkaathey Paarkaathey from Gentleman: Yet another let’s-live-life-and-have-fun song sung by a funloving girl. And this singer was called Minmini – with such a cool singer with such a cool name, which teenaged girl wouldn’t love this one? Turns out my bathroom-singing-neighbor-akka definitely did. I hadn’t met this much-older girl ever… she stayed in the next street, her house was behind mine, and I could hear her sing in the bathroom. I used to hate this girl because she sang classical songs in the bathroom very well, prompting mom to begin comparisons… and then one day she begins to sing this song… and thus became my first pop idol. I don’t think I’ve seen her, ever. But her 8 am voice singing Mangta Hai and Maragathavalli manasasmarami with the same zest continues to be an inspiration, more than a decade since I heard it last.
- Nila Kagirathu from Indira: Suhasini Mani Ratnam’s directorial debut. It had some extremely Suhasini-ish lines in the screenplay. And no, that is not a compliment. The tagline was very Suhasini too: Idhu peNNin kadhaialla, idhu maNNin kadhai – This isn’t the story of a girl, it is the story of the land. I didn’t much understand the movie, but the music was godawesome. Back then, Arvind Swamy was still goodlooking, if a bit chubby, and his intro song was good enough to keep humming every now and then. And then there was one patriotic one picturized on Anu Haasan and a bunch of schoolchildren. But Nila Kagirathu was the one that made the most impact. The more famous version was a little girl singing it.. on her own, and not because a band of aunts and grannies tempted her with promises of chocolates, unlike me. I dreaded being in the room when the song/video played – some or the other adult would invariably compare the girl singing with me and say ‘You should also sing like her’. My biggest doubt back then was how could this little girl, all of six years old, manage a tanpura without letting the whole thing fall down with a spectacular crash that left its bottom broken and top mutilated.
- Strawberry Kannae from Minsara Kanavu: Known to some as Strawberry Aankhen from Sapnay, but I listened more to the Tamil version. It sort of reminds me of Bohemian Rhapsody… is this what is opera? I liked the video, too. Kajol never looked more beautiful and more confident when she was listing out to Prabhudeva why she’d rather be a nun than be married and baked in an oven. And never more pissed off than when he makes a comment about her nose. I preferred this one over Kajol’s intro track where she’s trekking and having some girlie fun… the song wasn’t so awesome, or Vennilavae…. though that’s a fine track.
- Aye Ajnabi from Dil Se: Flawless. The title track comes close, but I don’t like the ending chorus…. I totally hate the ending chorus that Rahman adds to his songs when he can’t think of a decent way to wind it up. That apart, apparently Mani Ratnam made Priety Zinta a Malayalee solely because Rahman was hearing some awesome Mapilla tunes in his head… and there you go, you got Jiya Jale.
- Veerapandi Kottayile from Thiruda Thiruda: Folksy song with a Rahman feel. The background instruments, and Chitra’s strong vocals make this song awesomer than the others on the soundtrack – Thee Thee and Chandalekha.
- Ishq Bina from Taal: Anuradha Sriram did an awesome job here. Actually, the whole arrangement is so awesome, and all the instruments and vocalists seem so perfect – be it the solos by Anuradha Sriram (who sings impromptu in her interviews for the silliest of reasons even when no one asks her to, so much that you feel like asking her to just shut up for godsake… and you don’t for once feel like asking her to shut up in this song) and Sonu Nigam, or the chorus by Rehman and some others. And they didn’t mutilate the video, thank god.
- Dheeme Dheeme from 1947-Earth: One of the best romantic songs I’ve heard. Made better by the soundclip of a bird singing in the background. Of course, it was all integrated into the song and all that – there’s a musical instrument synchronized to play when the bird stops to breathe. Though… I like birdsong in a track better in Blackbird by The Beatles… the bird just sings in the end, it’s not synchronized and all.
- Des Mere from The Legend of Bhagat Singh: It really sounds patriotic, the tune atleast. I don’t know how he does it. I like this track much better than Maa Tujhe Salaam, maybe because I hear Maa Tujhe Salaam so much and so often I’m tired of it. Or maybe because Des Mere is a much better track. Just listening to it gives me goosebumps. I also liked Jogiya Jogiya from the same soundtrack – it was much better than the Jogiya Jogiya in the Deol version of Bhagat Singh.
- Dol Dol from Aayutha Ezhuthu/Yuva: You can’t do anything with this song except listen to it. Which makes it a perfect song for a montage. It might initially sound jarring on the nerves, but if you watch the video, it seems to fit it very well, like nothing else could have. Which is a lot more than I can say for Fanaa in the same movie – awesome song, awesome beats, and it’s ruined by the video which is too slow and can’t seem to keep up with the pace of the song and the passion it conveys. Plus, in the Hindi version, you had Kareena and Vivek Oberoi, who don’t look like teenyboppers and that ruins the whole song for you. Though if you want to go by video alone, Hey Goodbye Nanba is the best of the lot… man, does that even look like Marina beach?
- Yaaro Yaarodi from Alaipayuthey: So artfully out of tune – it’s actually quite in-tune, but sounds like it’s being sung out of tune. So much that people actually think it is meant to be sung out of tune, and mangled beyond recognition. By the time this soundtrack came out, Rahman was pretty famous even outside South India… I was pleasantly surprised when, on a train to Delhi, I found this five-year-old Bihari kid singing this song.
Uh…. don’t I seem to have missed out something? I can see purists and Rahman devotees going “How Could You?!’. No, I haven’t forgotten or overlooked it. I was merely saving the best for the last.
- Chinna Chinna Aasai from Roja: When this came out, it was the only audio tape I possessed, and I listened to it till it wore out. And I used to wait all week for Chitrahaar and a couple of other shows, waiting through all the tacky songs of those days, just to watch the video of this song. Somehow watching Madhoo talk about all her little-little wishes made my day a bit better. And the colourful video with no overweight hero-heroine attempting to tease each other silly or make out in secret was so refreshing… maybe it was all the natural beauty. And the cute things they showed Madhoo doing was so new to us – playing in water, holding a baby goat… and then the video has this shot of a little boat floating in the stream, with a little light in it. I don’t know what it was, but I totally loved that particular shot, and wouldn’t take my eyes off the screen till I saw it. Even now when I watch the video, I wait just to watch that particular shot.
So what is it that sets Rehman apart? He experiments and innovates. Which you don’t see very often. He takes bits and pieces from everywhere and puts them together and packages them in a way that most people find very appealing – all of them have a yuppie ’90s feel alongside which they also sound new and futurish – which appeals to the looking-to-get-globalized generation of the ’90s who wanted to break free from the mould of tacky Indian film music while not really wanting to listen only to Indian Classical or sticking with only Michael Jackson and GnR. His compositions favored singers with younger, lighter voices over the heavy-voiced singers Bollywood had seen till then, and as a result, the youth identified more with these songs.
And Rehman was also at the right place at the right time. Other composers might have innovated, or introduced new sounds in the past, but they weren’t equipped with a Moog Synthesizer (his father owned the first one in India) back then. Cable television was breaking ground, thus making any and every sort of film music accessible to everyone who owned a TV set. And the music video was beginning to take shape. Which meant, Rehman’s songs were also nicely picturized, and more appealing. People also had more money to spend on music and movies.
And this was also the era when the Western world began to see India as a hot market and so all of a sudden, you had India all over the globe – beauty queens, films winning international awards, or atleast getting worldwide attention – mostly thanks to the diaspora abroad, and… our composers getting to make music with Andrew Lloyd Weber. I don’t mean to trivialize the achievements of ARR, but it was more a question of being at the right place at the right time than most other things. Talent did matter, of course, coz otherwise you’d also have Harris Jeyraj or Yuvan Shankar Raja or Jatin-Lalit attaining the same level of fame.
This was an era when we were gaining self-confidence as a nation, and who better than Rahman to serenade us through it, and provide us our clairon calls, our march songs, our war-cries, our wake-up calls, our joyous shouts when we win and our inspiring power ballads to not give up when we lose by a whisker?
He was our official provider of melodies for all occurrences from waking up (Margazhi Poove) to going to bed (Rukmani Rukmani), all occasions from weddings (Mangalyam Thanthunanena) to anti-wedding requests (Kariye na) to funerals (Pettai Rap, or if you prefer mellower, Luka Chupi), realizations of love (Kandukondain Kandukondain) or cries of desperation (Evano Oruvan), secrets to success (song of the same name from Boys) or when you’ve lost everything (Vidu Kathaiyo), dancing in the rain (Thenmerku paruvakattu) or dancing in expectation of rain (Ghanan Ghanan), frustration with the system (Break the rules) or praying for good luck (O Paalanhaare) gender war (Boys-a yaenga vekkadhey) or cheerful rebellion (Paarkathey Paarkathey), flirty serenades (Signore Signore) or serious declarations of love (Nahin Saamne)… he’s such an integral part of our lives and everyone loves him for that.
If you don’t believe me on the last one, google for “I hate AR Rahman’ or variations of that, and all you’ll get is stuff like “I hate him because he doesn’t compose music for all movies’ or “I hate him because his music is so lovely it makes me cry’.
A long time back, I had expressed concern at what kids would do after Rowling outed Dumbledore. But a while later, it struck me children have their own ways of filling up gaps that result from grown-ups not telling them things… like this little girl I know who came across the term ‘sugar daddy’ in a TV review of Cheeni Kum automatically assumed that the term meant a dad who got his kids lots of sweets.
When grown-ups grow tired of the constant barrage of questions, they simply quit trying to make answers up and ask the curious kids to “go study”, or “check on the dog” or “see if the front door is latched and the stove is turned off”.
This creates a mystique around the grown-up facets of life.The sort which begets a sneak-sneak-giggle-giggle reaction.
I find kids can’t quite resist a smile when you say you’re going to teach them mensuration. Back in the HIV scare years in ’96 and ’97, a teacher just had to mention the word ‘aids’ (even hearing-aids, or teaching aids) to have meaningful looks pass around the classroom. So I don’t quite know what one lady was thinking when she said to a class full of curious pre-teens that she would start the new topic once Sir who taught the other section passed her the aids.
And the news channels talked about prevalence of HIV among sexworkers. For some reason I confused it with social workers and was perplexed because I thought the virus didn’t spread through casual contact, and was shocked that it spread to people who took care of patients, too. And what’s more, spread THROUGH them.
And disambiguating between the two was another issue…. when there were interviews of social workers on NDTV, I marvelled at their bravery at coming out on TV when the very thing they did was illegal.
And this mystique makes kids wonder if everything around them has a double meaning, and if everything in the world was in some way or the other related to procreation.
Like I was reading a book review in The Hindu (I must have been 11 or so then) where I came across the phrase, “a seminal work”. In that environment where the current topic of discussion was the truth about the birds and the bees, curiosity knowing no limits, and newer facts and phrases being unearthed everyday and shared, irrespective of the grown-ups’ indifference, I naturally assumed it must have something to do with bodily fluids. And passed on that piece of wisdom to others who promptly added it to the list of nudge-nudge-wink-wink words. And no, I never did refer to the dictionary, as one English teacher of mine said it was a bad habit to constantly keep referring to the dictionary while reading… and you should derive meaning from context. Though.. it was much beyond me to understand whether the word was a compliment or not.
But I guess that was a one-off incident. There was a grown-up conversation going on around me once between my mother and an uncle, about the Tamil movie Mahanadi. Now I hadn’t seen much of this movie, coz it being a Kamal movie with grotesque theme as usual (this was wayy before his bunch of family-oriented comedies), my mother would not let me watch it. She mentioned that Kamal Haasan goes away to jail, and his daughter becomes a woman-of-ill-repute to sustain herself. “Great career choice, no?” I brightly asked my uncle. “Why do you think so?”, he asked… evidently there was more to this. “What are you saying?” asked mum. “I think it’s a great career choice… you need so much of skills. My friend XYZ is thinking of becoming one herself… she’s so good at debates and arguing. Ma, you might be prejudiced, but you’ve got to admit it’s a necessary profession. I’m pretty sure you can be one without resorting to underhand techniques… all your nonsense about lawyers being liars…”
And they burst out laughing… I’d confused the word ‘prosecutor’ with the similar-sounding word my uncle had uttered.
Have you ever had something with you, so close that you never noticed it? Something whose value you realize just when you have had lost it? I never thought this would be the case, but yes, the loss of my backpack, forgotten on a train, is causing me enough trauma, that I need to write about it.
I bought it just before I entered undergrad in NITK, mostly because it was different from the black ones I had till then. A khakhi colored chic bag with leather trimmings. With only one huge compartment. One smaller in the front. And a few side pockets. Pull the string to close it. And flip the flap to cover that. Now I realize there was a pocket on the flap that I never used.
A bag for all occasions. To the class, even when I had to take one book. On treks and long trips, as a suitcase. My laptop bag. The bag for shopping. Something that went with every clothing.
My favourite one till now, not even my Winnie the Pooh high school bag can beat it.
I miss the feel of its straps on my shoulders. Its eternal presence on my table. The fact that I dont have that place where I put everything that I dont want to forget. To tune out of where and what to put in it every morning, Im finding that tough.
I lost more stuff, my shoes, and a brand new pair of jeans, many more along with it. But that doesnt seem to bother me.
But bag, wherever you are, RIP.