Thursday, November 30, 2006

people in workplaces - the office, the factory and the institute

yesterday the office at mmrda where we had gone for a vajreshwari meeting. dingy lobby spaces with pan stains and peons in white uniforms. the tube lights stick to the grid of beams and the offices are whitewashed and covered with plans of the city. the open office systems have push back chairs but the tables have white sunmica and rusted iron details.

in the afternoon, at veera desai road, i had to go to a gala in andheri industrial estate to pick a printed circuit board for my father. the dark grease stained space was just a few doors down sen kapadias swanky white office but could not be more different- an iron framed false ceiling, an ips floor, huge machines to cut beautiful glowing plates of copper plated plastic.

two men in their undershirts were pushing and pulling levers- using body weight and brute strength, slicing sheets with a loud ‘clak’. in the visitors room - a narrow slot below the staircase to the mezzanine - an old computer sat on a metal table. above our heads laminated cupboards made a canopy of folded plates.

today, exhausted dealing with the multiple dramas that any day in school throws up, rupali lies down nursing her bad back on the sofa in pauls lounge while kaushik waits patiently as i try and type the fourth year brief. meanwhile in the background rumors are flying about riots and stone throwing all around the city.

i got home easily with no trouble at all in a car full of kids - nisha, dishita, shetty, saurabh, ninad, sonal and me

the deep end of the ocean

in america it seems like all bad thigns can be explained away by armchair psychology. here, a family loses a child to a kidnapper, who incidentally only steals the kid to complete her own longing for family, and breaks down when guilt and frustration take over. a sadness envelops everyone and even the teenage angst of the eldest child is traced to the inadequacy he feels in holding on to the hand of his brother. needless to say it all is resolved in a tidy ending where everyone comes out smelling like roses and the kidnapper has conveniently killed herself off screen. a movie meant for the small screen. a hallmark channel film with a big star – michelle pfeiffer. from purring as catwoman in leather tights to a dowdy housewife- a comedown if ever there was one.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

dhoom 2

so then - suckers like we all are for the hype – there we were paying 180 bucks for 2 and a half hours of excruciating pain. the less said about abhishek bachchan the better. being a self confessed fan for a while of his ubercool drawl and stubble, now the same annoy me no end. he seems smug, self satisfied and an awful actor. the big fm radio ads all over the city add to this effect. and in the movie, whats with his clothes? – who chose those floral prints with lapels on the shoulders?!

and then there is hritik- smooth oily tanned bare chested. like aishwarya rai in drag. same hair color and eyes. and the irritating thing that happens to his jaw when the director gives instructions to look hot. there he goes jutting it out and clenching his cheeks in.

then that buffoon of a chopra who gets the funny lines because it’s a family outing. bul
ging in all the wrong places and with probably a large muscle between his years. comedy is what he tries. that’s what they call it in some circles.

how can i forget the ‘babes’. aishwarya rai, if you please, undressed. as if nudity equals sex appeal. she struts and preens about like a kitten in heat and ends up looking like an idiot. she stands awkwardly and has that catwalk walk perpetually that makes my stomach turn. if sex appeal is to be found anywhere in this overstuffed undercooked star vehicle it is in bipasha basu whose wrist oozes more charisma than all of la-di-dah miss world. and i don’t even like bips.

but i cant stop without carping about the awful music that goes ‘dhoom dhoom dhoom dhoom’ as if forgot what the disaster was called and the camerawork that is over treated and constantly zooms in and out and cranks around without reason- or the editing that thinks that going fast motion / slow motion any time one feels like and / or split screens are so ‘happening’. it’s a movie made by mtv delinquents for more of the same.


congratulations to ranjit, saurabh and aditya for winning a majlis fellowship. here they are celebrating with jayesh yesterday at a screening of dhoom 2.

Monday, November 27, 2006

nostalgia - o.t.t.s.

i love the darkness on the edge of the city where the moon hangs over emptiness and the city lights are distant hallucinations.

yesterday saurabh, ranjit and me drove to ‘o.t.t.s’ – ‘one tree and temple spot’ as we had, like the silly boys we were, christened it when i was in school after the only two landmarks there. the tree being a scrawny twisted piece of work and the temple a small shrine at its feet. besides this, around us were only mangroves that bred mosquitoes and in the distance the shimmering lights of esselworld at gorai.

john, isaac, rajiv, babu-sometimes shyam; and if they felt up to it some of the girls - mamta, usha, renuka, sangeeta used to follow us there. but it was distinctly a male space. we used to sit on the dry gutter there and stare towards the west as the sun set and a darkness enveloped us. lovers found their way into the shadows of the night and everyone appeared only as silhouettes against the sudden flash of the headlights of a passing car. though where the car went to was always a question as the new link road that connects runs all along the western and northern periphery of the city was not yet complete though segments of it were 4 lanes wide.

these unfinished dead ends and flashes of urbanity cut into the emptiness all around. somehow we always found our way up to the very brink of it and rarely ventured beyond. i still don’t really understand why. it was enough for us merely feel the headiness of being on the edge of a safe space surrounded by darkness and the soft moonlight but with our feet firmly on the tar road. only once or twice did we venture beyond the line of the road – and that too for the sake of adventure. did we imagine there to be strange man-eating creatures in the mangroves?

if an arc was to be traced about the conversations they always began with frivolous banter and flirtation and somewhere along the way as the light dimmed found their way to graver and more' profound' topics. from movies and music and cars to love affairs, heartbreaks, parents, the politics of friendships, professional choices and more love affairs and heart breaks.

yesterday as saurabh, ranjit and me traced the same route as my gypsy used to – past 'silver coin' and 'royal towers' to the right which leads to the slum to the north and ic extension memories came flooding back. the mangroves that reached up to the road have been filled up and destroyed wiating for the development thats bound to happen. the area is still wrapped in darkness though a few more people have found it - more lovers and more groups of young men as outlines in headlights talking about their possible futures.

i miss the darkness on the edge of the city. the only consolation i have is that no matter how much the metropolis expands there will always be an outside to it- and in between there will be a boundary half lit and enigmatic. at least for a while.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

'the great indian school show'

dad and me watched incredulous as in ‘the great indian school show’- a documentary that mukul gave us to watch we saw a power mad principal install 185 cameras in every nook and corner of his school. technology is deployed as a tool in the hands of big brother to make sure than nothing untoward happens. the rationale for this surveillance (like almost any other) was discipline and safety. ‘good behavior’ . to compare it to a prison is not only obvious – it is the very intention of the project.

what was irritating but not surprising was the way in which the teachers and the students too like zombies mouthed words of praise and approval for this most despicable of techniques to iron out individuality, analytical thought and creativity. that’s what a good school or a good education unfortunately has ended up being understood as. perhaps this school (ironically the name of the school is the mahatma gandhi school.) is only the logical extreme of technical institutes all over the country where we make skilled hands with no brains attached. note to many of our own faculty here.

the end of the film where a singing teacher sings ‘happy birthday to veena’ (‘v’ is for victory / ‘na’ is for knowledge) over the intercom to the tune of ‘you are my sonia’ was hilarious and sad at the same time.

nostalgia - sonals big birthday

sonals birthday party at home –when she went and excitedly invited the whole lane that actually turned up much to my mothers bewilderment. in this photo sonal stands with her besssst friends from the building – sapna, vridya and roshini – and the guys are me and ganesh- faculty members in the school.

Friday, November 24, 2006

birthday lunch at mahesh

happy birthday paul

three days of school

ah.. the madness of the school. the first three days and already i am tearing my hair out – almost. making the time table has to be the most thankless job of all. juggling the schedules of visiting and part time faculty members, catering to the egos and eccentricities of everybody, and then there are always the people who think that they could have done it better. good luck to them. poor sunita keeps typing out newer and newer versions of it. mane keeps xeroxing them and putting them up. everyday it changes at least thrice. i am looking forward to some more complicated maneuvers today.

kaushik has been trying to get me to write a few lines for ‘reflections’ and i don’t seem to find the time in between the fourth and second year design studios, planning for the annuals, the dharavi project of the design cell and other administrative stuff. yesterday was perhaps a little too much and my brain feels a little fried right now.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

nostalgia – my room

at the age of 14 or so my pop obsessions took over my room. there was not a single wall not plastered completely over by photographs of pop stars from the thumbnail photo to the life size. they were methodically cut out from any source i could lay my hands on – sun magazine, archies posters, newspapers.. besides my bed was the madonna shrine, opposite the prince wall and then the bruce springteen door. in between these were a-ha, wham, sigue sigue sputnik, paul young, culture club, cyndi lauper, tina turner, linel richie, michael jackson.. it’s a wonder my parents tolerated this. this photograph taken by sonal as i pose in what i think i assumed to be stylishly. i think i wanted to be part of the wall. damn! and i never even got my 15 minutes!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

the departed

this was a crackling good crime drama where parallel moles infiltrate the police and the mob in boston. i hated ‘the aviator’ scorcese’s last film with its pompous nostalgia for a pain-in the-ass who i could not care less about, but this was so much fun. the drama of deception and secrecy goes by so fast i did not have any time to even consider the plausibility of it all. as if it mattered. from the recruitment scene in the beginning to the crazy betrayal shoot out at the end the movie was relentless- not letting go of the tension even for a moment as men get brutally shot in the head, cell phones form part of complicated strategies and the two central figures fall for the same woman. matt damon as the slimy mole in the police and leonardo dicaprio as the police agent in the mob are both great to watch, but jack nicholson as the gangster reprises his leer and snarl and hams it to the hilt. and will it not stop shocking me that mark wahlberg can act?

Monday, November 20, 2006

nostalgia – family portrait

my mothers side of the family in the mid 1960s. my grandparents baba and aaji along with hemant mama in the front row while mom and her sister usha maushi stand behind them. i miss the old fashioned family portrait - too much of the digital everyday. i miss the making of an image that signifies stability of lineage and generational clarity in a well formed pyramid. the men flank the mother and the sisters stand behind. such beautiful people.

me and you and everyone we know

films on american suburbs films specialize in quirks. every one has one and somehow they seem to stem from the odd domestic loneliness that is claimed to be hidden under the mowed lawns, picket fences and island kitchens of suburbia. in this one a digital video artist finds love with a shoe salesman who has just separated from his wife and lived with his two sons. as they move into the new neighbourhood they encounter a series of odd people of all ages- each with their particular eccentricities. somehow thugh the film manages to save itself from the clichés by embracing them without ridiculing them. the movie ends up being moving in spite of sometimes self-consciously attempting profundity constantly in the everyday- like the scene where a goldfish is caught on top of a speeding car. another staple of the american suburban film is the sex – preferably pre-teen sex. eric fischl painted these scenes – gruesome and fantastical – like they were the archetypes of a civilization. in this movie there they were - the older woman, the young virgin, the adolescent male and a child who can hardly spell who has the most depraved cyber sex with an unknown stranger.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

nostalgia - the last day in the states

so, here is a new series of posts for the blog. since many of my old friends are keeping in touch with me through it i thought that it might be nice (and scary) to use some old photographs to rouse some nice and not so nice memories. all who are sickened by this sudden turn to sentiment – sorry.

its almost 9 years since i left the usa. this photo was taken on the day i was leaving at washington dc airport. most of my american family is here. missing though is mani who was in minneapolis already and laurie who is taking the photograph.

on the two sides are mohua and fau to whose place i used to walk to on the long boring days after my masters, then besides mohua are the genius computer boys and my roommates - rohit and shamik, then venu who had driven to dc from tennessee with laurie (his wife taking the photograph) and then me with my thankfully long-deceased moustache and stubble look and then the lovely liji.

the inheritance of loss

the fact is that the two central figures of the book – the teenager sai as she lives with her grandfather and his cook in kalimpong falling in love with a young tutor who ends up as part of a liberation army; and biju – the son of the cook who having found his way to new york works as illegal labor in the back kitchens of many shady restaurants; are so empty that you end up inhabiting them. somehow through them we enter a narrative about the hunt for ones identity in a world where every single version of it is uncertain. the language sometimes did seem to me to be forced and clunky- but rarely. more often becasue of my american experience, i was taken in by the acuteness by which she was able to look at the longing for acceptance and family that plagues those far away from home; and the struggle to be free for those trapped in patterns that repeat endlessly . to break away and yet belong. or belong by breaking away.

photo post- singing programme at hemant mamas

it has been a long time since we held one of those singing programmes at hemant mamas house where mom, sonal and all of padmatais other disciples sang until padmatai finally ended the proceedings with a flourish. these photographs are from the last one – more than two years back, i think. in the first anand listens to sonal – hand on forehead – rapt in attention or with a massive headache. in the second, mom ends her set with her typical hand gesture. i found these photos when i decided to spend the sunday evening sorting photographs.

casino royale

since its all about hot bodies for the past few days the series continues with the new bond. granted, not a conventional beauty by a long shot, but a body taut with tension and gritty – and its good to see a famous dandy get a little dirty. daniel craig brings to the franchise what it has been lacking for a long time- a shot of testosterone. i have nothing against brosnans smooth sophistication but wasn’t he always a little to much of remington steele. instead craig is hard edged and a much more human- if bond can ever be human. the action sequences too rely far more on his bodily skills than the high tech gadgetry that seemed to be getting more and more silly every film. it is a paring down of everything- even the villain is a broker and not a cackling madman wanting to take over the world - after austin powers i don’t think we can ever take one seriously- and this is a serious film- an action film with a very sexy leading man who oozes machismo and makes himself lustable by undressing in every alternate scene. the love interest (and it is a ‘love’ interest) is far less oomphy and much more dignified – if that is the word- than any other bond chick.

i liked it a lot. i don’t know whether he is the best bond ever- but he sure is the best bond for this film at this time. cant imagine any other version that would not feel silly or dated.

Friday, November 17, 2006

murder . no entry

'murder' was surprisingly not bad at all. granted the end is predictable and the acting is awful, but there are three great songs ‘bheege hont’, ‘dil ko hazaar baar’ and ‘kaho na kaho’. the storyline does not suck either - an extramarital love affair, an obsessive lover, a disinterested husband and one fairly ugly woman who gets by pretending to be sexy by extracting hotness from every pore of her being. emraan is oh so slimy and gruesomely male and mallika exudes womanness like a stench - ashmit blends into the bangkok landscape. its no wonder that emraan and mallika became stars after this one while ashmit…. who?.

as far as unadulterated ugly but still fascinating hotness goes though there is always bipasha basu.

ninad and me in our lilac room in bangalore saw ‘no entry’ late into the night where anil kapoor makes an ass of himself over her particular kind of florid and pungent sexiness over the far more desireable (at least according to me) lara dutta. the movie was again all right for what it was trying to be – a sex comedy. lots of silly coincidences and misogynistic humor.

in both the bloody films the shaadi ka pavitra rishta comes in and waters down all the edginess of illicit lust into a happy family ending. damn.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


a bangalore rickshaw with the strange breast like backrests for the driver

study trip to bangalore this time. same class different place. last years amritsar was gorgeous. this year… well.. lazy.

the journey to bangalore-- the highlight was the impromptu movie that the kids decided to make- or was it a tv serial? 'naye krrish ki khoj'.. where chachi sawant, the old krrish and a bitchy judge were choosing who is to be the new krrish, and the contestants were a ektaa kapoor heroine, thakur from sholay, himesh, bobby darling and more. mad mad fun.

'krrish ki khoj' - the judges

'krrish ki khoj' - the contestants

we lived in a seedy joint near the railway station with lilac colored rooms and a five storied atrium organizing the interior. i shared a room with ninad on the second floor with a used condom decorating the window sill much to our disgust. besides that the hotel was all right really. mahaveer it was called and being close to the railway station and the theaters at least when you got out of it there was a chance of getting a rickshaw- which is more than one can say about some of the other parts of the city.

the 'atrium' in the hotel

ridhima on the fountain

meeting in the basement

rupali and ninad in the lilac room

film posters and cut outs - a man, a hot chick and another man with a building between his thighs

bangalore as a mini new york - on cubbon park. vijay mallya as donald trump

gateway to an older community in whitefield

the first two days we spent in a bus with the kids driving around the city, looking at some of the different landscapes that the ‘it revolution’ is leading to. the whitefield and infotech ring towards the east, the inner city markets, mg road (of course), some of the older suburbs like malleshwaram and russel market. after the first two days the students chose their own paths to follow; and we were free (almost). some chose flower sellers in kr market, some peripheral villages in the power loom industry, some film posters and cut out makers, metro lines, policies and imaginations for the new city, etc. they are compiling it all into a book. it might be interesting.

kr market

kr market below the mysore road flyover

tipus palace oustide the old town

'rural restaurant' at malleshwaram

scrap dealers - russell market

russell market

russell market and the church

whitefield - hi tech city

bangalore is about three cities – i think. it was once a divided city in terms of the native town and the cantonment- but now has a third city coming up in the east- the city of glass clad buildings, malls and residential complexes with names like ‘palm meadows’ and ‘italiana supreme’. in the development of this third city the older two have been ripped into and overturned. but yet in the landscape of the city very little violence is seen. its as if it has all been repressed under clean and green roads. and it is beautiful – though a little - how should i put it- tedious. this domesticated city makes it perfect for the moral and aesthetic value system of the large middle class who crave the sanitized and pristine prettiness of the city, and soak in the aura of it being the most ‘western’ city in the country. it is. it must be nice to live in.

rupali, ninad and me spent our three days lounging in tourist destinations of the city. on the first day the garden of lalbaug where we sat at the foot of the enormous tree, walked on the edge of the lake, took photographs of the crystal palace, until we found suitably tribal performers dancing folk dances among the trees. horticulture and anthropology side by side, in the confines of the park. while some of the dancers were obviously proficient, others looked like they were picked up from some random village and asked to recreate dance steps of long forgotten rituals and were inventing them as they went along. i liked the fact that none of them were in costume. they were wearing the cheap terrycot checked shirts and trousers that are really the clothes of rural india now.


bull temple

then there was the vishvewarya museum of science and technology. one old fashioned modern building with mosaic floors and ceiling fans. after a long time i found a museum that actually made me excited about the subject matter- from the lower floor with the amazing mechanical toys inviting you to touch them and play with them to the top floor with the sophisticated but tactile electronics gallery. there were kids all over the place as it was a saturday and the building was thankfully untouched by the characterlessness of the infotech bangalore. the balls on the tracks doing their crazy antics was probably the highlight of the trip.

vishweshwarya science museum

the next day was rupalis birthday and unfortunately for her the most mind-numbing day of all. the bangalore palace is a bizarre tudor styled atrocity in a large lawn with horses where you pay 100 rupees to browse through the leftovers of a dynasty who must have licked many a white ass to ride horses and kill elephants for footstools out of the elephants feet. chandeliers and 350 cameras along with many a naked woman’s portrait on the hand painted walls… wallpaper from china, weighing machines like horses for jockeys.. the palace was under renovation and the unrenovated rooms with their piles of dusty furniture were far more interesting than the recreation of the grossness of the past.

bangalore palace

an elephants foot as a stool

for some reason that day we decided to also go to forum mall at koramangla… stupid move. sunday at a mall and that too that mall. people all over the place watching and staring. terribly overcrowded and nouveau riche brand of tacky. well ironed t-shirts and jeans with sneakers on and baby in tow. there was something so yuppy about it that it made me quite unhappy- such a world away from the lanes and markets of cottonpet and chickpet that we had visited two days before.

koramangla mall

on our final sightseeing day in the city we settled for a long morning read in the enormous cubbon park. huge trees, dappled light, a cool breeze and the clear sunlight. the public space of the old bangalore- so much more than the atriums that claim to be those of the new. i was reading the new booker winner – the inheritance of loss- because one has to.. it really is not as bad.. so far.

cubbon park - monday morning

after that we all went our separate ways to meet our respective friends. me to richards town to meet vidura where i saw the first trailer of his chinese indian film and then bharat with whom i had a coffee at café coffee day. following a failed attempt at a class late night kannada picture show i took a rick to venkas where i met his wife and sweet children. i ate too much tomato ki subji there and was puking all night so that the next day i had to abandon any plans beyond going to the indian institute of science to walk down the same tree topped avenues as my father had.

iisc - main building

ninad at iisc with knowledge coming out of his ears

we had also met gada and gaurav in bangalore at pecos’- one of the few remaining pubs in the city. i couldn’t meet either shibani or mihika though i spoke to each once or twice.

bharat, gada and gaurav at pecos with jimi hendrix and bob marley looking on


venka, sarita, mohit and medha

back in bombay now after a go-air flight that dropped us unceremoniously into the speed that is mumbai, while the kids are off to hampi and then goa. they’ll be back on the weekend and then college begins again. it has not been a bad month.


bangalore airport