‘Strik(e)’ing Mania

This morning I indeed experienced the bout of Monday Blues as I flipped the newspaper open.  The very first page was populated with the news concerning the increase in the bus fares, the Cauvery water crisis, and the upcoming strike by the petrol pump owners resulting in the mad rush to get the fuel.  By the way tomorrow is Gandhi Jayanti.  The month of September alone has seen a bout of strike in Karnataka alone, what with the 2 day bus strike, the Bharat Bundh, and now the upcoming Karnataka Bandh (Oct 6th 2012).  It is a wonder how the system still manages to work. 

There may not have been a better day to understand the psyche behind this mania of strikes that has gripped the country, than the eve of the Birthday of the Father of our Nation.  For it was Mahatma Gandhi who gave the concept of strike its power that is now wielded unprecedentedly in Indian socio-political spheres.  A Strike as a phenomenon is an act where an individual or a group refuses to attend to their share of responsibilities as a mark of protest against an authority.  It has been a key weapon to get the authority’s attention, and render a blow to the very fragment of a systematically functioning system – such as the one necessary in the administration process.   During the British regime, this was an attack on the very nerve of the administration, as no daily tasks could be attended to without the workforce present.  It is now over 6 decades since the British have left, and the weapon still continues to spew fire, albeit on our own authority.  Thus we have with us one of the key remnants of Indian Freedom struggle movement, with one key difference.  The strike then was a socially motivated political move while the strike these days is politically/individually motivated, socially obstructive move. 

Most of the instances of strike that we see currently are politically arranged (political in my opinion includes not only the elected representation of local/national administration, but also any organized group that manages/represents a homogenous/heterogeneous group of people including but not limited to labor unions, associations for various essential services, etc.).  The motives behind these are factors that are beneficial to a group of people only. However, the impact of the strike is generally felt across the society, especially when it involves essential services such as medical, transportation, or food supplies.  Such widespread impacts are the key factors that add the punch to the strike called by these services, and force the administration to settle the matters.  Thus inconvenient as it is, the general public is made the scapegoat in the process of a strike.  It is such forms of strike that I am more interested in – the ones that impact the daily life of a common man.  One of the chief elements missing in such acts is a proactive involvement of not only the administration but also the groups that have called for a strike.   A Strike, contrary to general perception is not a chaotic act.  It has a definite agenda and a defined process of execution.  It is this order that gives it its strength.  However, in the absence of such process, it degenerates into mayhem that has adverse impact on the lives of common innocent people. 

Damaging public property, attacking individuals, and even causing loss of lives is a mark of hooliganism unveiled during Strikes.  It can ofcourse be (and is generally) a calculated and planned action to augment the adverse impact of the strike, and is a despicable yet common feature of strikes these days.  But what is equally abhor-able is the callousness of the groups that have called for a strike.  For example, the 2 day bus strike in Bangalore left many people stranded with no means of feasible transportation to even basic essentials like hospitals.  To  make hay, the other means of transport services such as cabs and autos were fleecing customers demanding twice or thrice the metered amount.  It is almost tantamount to a criminal nexus between various groups to exploit the common man under the garb of grievance.  The system as well as the administration failed miserably to ensure that atleast the basic needs of the common man would not be adversely affected while they battle out their differences.  Ofcourse, in many cases it is a paradox to expect such consideration from a group that intends to disrupt the commoner’s life through Strike actions.  That there is a grouse in the administration that necessitates strike is an accepted fact.  But whether a strike is absolutely necessary or is it an arm-bending tactic is a question usually left to the conscience of the group.  The frequency with which it is resorted to however, confirms a supposition that it is turning into a dangerous habit.  What is gravely missing in such instances is the transparency of the issue at hand and the resolutions being worked.

The strike that was called for by the pourakarmikas and the contractors in charge of garbage handling has left Bangalore in a stinky hole of its own making.  The civic sense aside (that is a totally different topic in itself), the magnitude of the problem it will lead to seems to have completely escaped the mind of the authorities as well as the groups that called for the strike.  The strike called by the Lawyers’ association to protest against the media bias and the subsequent violence is still fresh in the mind of Bangalore’s citizens. Is shortsightedness so rampant among the administrative as well as government employees?  What is seen in a country is but only a manifestation of what is observed amongst the leaders of that nation and vice versa.

The shameless manner in which BJP held the parliament session to ransom, disrupting the entire monsoon session over the Coal scam is just another instance of governing bodies resorting to imposed political inaction.  This brings me to the second point I would want to draw attention on.  “Strike” need not be an active disruption of responsibility; it can as well be a passive process.  When the governing body or authority does not exercise his or her power in an optimal manner, which is an act of Strike too.  The ruling party may do that by not checking the rampant corruption among its agencies, and the opposition may do the same by actively disrupting the parliamentarian process.  Either ways it is the society that shall suffer at large due to the political and economic stagnation that follows suit.  Instead of actively involving the ruling party in debating their faulty performance and policies and offering a counter option not only to the administration to adopt but also for the country to opt for, it has resolved to act like an unruly partner set to sink the ship as it did not sail the desired course.  Even if the opposition were to come to power, with this attitude, there cannot be much expected of it.  If anything, they’ll continue to blame the policies of the previous administration for the problems being faced. 

I can only go back to the Indian Freedom Movement and the doyen of this – Mahatma Gandhi to fetch the answers.  “Strike” cannot be an act of mere emotional impulse.  Whether it is a local agitation or a nationwide strike, unless the groups will pause to understand the impact and the necessity for it, Strikes shall lead to long term harm on the administration of the country.  It sets a bad precedent for future generations to resolve to such arm twisting tactics to meet their demands.  The marked lack of social involvement and awareness sets the current habit of Strike apart from the freedom movement era.  The strikes were regarded as days for peaceful meeting, prayers and awareness generation among the people.  The instances of violence were far and between.  All of these aspects turned the Strike into a powerful social movement instead of a crippling blow.  There was consensus built for the need to be met by the authority.  If this need could not be attained through negotiations, then and only then was “Strike” seen as a last option.  But even in such instances, there was care taken to ensure that the common man was not bearing the brunt of the agitation.  If anything, the cause for the Strike was a reason that the common man could associate himself with.  (The nationwide strike against FDI may be considered one such reason).  Though the Supreme Court had ruled that strike by government employees were deemed unlawful, the emphasis was placed for it to be the last resort.  Whether there really were other means adopted to resolve the conflict has largely been masked from the public before giving a call for Strike. 

India is a democratic country where the right to express, including the expression of dissent is upheld.  But this expression should follow more mature means than take recluse in the jungle law of service disruption.  The growing instances of such behaviors are an absolute cause of worry for the normal functioning of the administrative processes of a large democracy such as India.  If the collective consciousness of the elected representatives and associations representing various classes of services cannot be awakened to forego their short term selfish gains in return for a stable, socially beneficial pattern of agitation and conflict management, India shall be reduced to a state of anarchy by one of the most powerful tool that was instrumental to bring her the freedom she coveted.  This is the process of how the mythological boons turns into a curse and destroys the bearer. 

Timeless Beauties of Silver Screen – 1

Dedicated to the one n only RCB – my buds from CTS!

Movies and Me – It is a rather strange relationship we share! What was once upon a time amongst my favorite pastimes, (what with the wonderful innovations called VCP, and the VCD, DVDs) has now degenerated to an estranged companionship thanks to the cr**$ that the likes of KJ churn out these days, not to mention the over-acting Khan, strip-teasing Khan, Someone-teach-me-acting kapoors, and the boom-busty figures who have clogged the silverscreen. The fact that Himmesh doesn’t seem to realize which anatomical part of his body must be exactly used for singing hasn’t been a big help either! To sum up, well, its just pathetic! Now before you write me off as being impulsive in drawing conclusions, I must concede that there has been some pathbreakers off late too, and I guess, that is what remotely still sustains any remaining soft feelings!

But time and again, I fall back on my collection of movies, with those immensely likeable songs over which I can dedicate entire blogs and those timeless beauties on whom, I want to make these series of posts.  And so here’s a rehash of the series that I had originally started when I was with Cognizant ofcourse.

MADHUBALA:-  Born Mumtaz on Feb 14th, rechristened Madhubala by the legendary Devika Rani (she also gave her the first filmy break when Madhubala was 8 years old!), hers was a fairy tale story, albeit with a no-happily-ever-after ending. “Accha ji mai haari chalo maan jao na” – one look at the innocence brimming from her soulful eyes, and the enchanting smile; forget Dev Anand or Kishore Kumar or Gurudutt or Dilip Saab, I still flip over and go all woozy!  And who wouldn’t?!! Shooting to fame from “Mahal“(remember the song –

Madhubala

aayega aayega.. aayega aanewala’?), she went up the ladder with her charm and enchanting smile leaving millions of hearts aflame! A bit of a digression here, this song from Mahal has continued to be one amongst my favorites for the simple reason of how much fun my friends and I had translating this to English during our school days! (He’ll come.. He’ll come.. He’ll come… He’ll come the one who has to come! He’ll come.. He’ll come) not to mention that we were actually crooning it much to the chagrin of our teacher Mrs. Lata.  Now ofcourse when I think back about it, the translation seems more like a desperation than anything eerily romantic!!

So eeenyways, “Chalti ka naam gaadi“, “Mr. and Mrs. 55“, “Kaalapaani“, “Mughal-E-Azam“, “Howrah Bridge“, “Half-ticket“, ”Jhumroo“, “Phagun“ were movies that sky rocketed her fame establishing her in the heart of the millions for decades even after her demise. As memorable as her comic sense was in “chalti …. gaadi”, so also were the soft sighs she took as Anarkali in “Mughal-E-Azam” – “yeh chiraag bhuja dijiye aalampanah…

While it took Marilyn Monroe her flying skirt stunt, Madhubala however, could effect the same by just flapping her rain drenched pallu dry, while Kishore crooned – “ek ladki bheegi bhaagi si…” or by tantalizingly swaying to “aayiye meherbaan… baithiye jaane jaan.. ” (how I wished I’d have been the mic that she was holding and gently swaying!  ). The contempt and disregard for the royalty was amply displayed as she proclaimed her love fearlessly with – “…purdah nahin jab koi khuda se.. bandon se purdah karna kyaa..” even as thousands of mirrors of sheesh-mahal revelled with her figure dancing in front of ‘em! Few others of my favorites of hers include – “thandi hawa kaali ghata aahi gaye jhoom ke“, “main sitaron ka taraana”, “haal kaisa hai janaab ka…”, “ek pardesi mera dil le gaya” “piya piya piya na lage mora jiya” “udhar tum haseen ho idhar dil jawan hai”, “Zindagi bhar nahin bhoolenge“, “Mohe panghat pe nand laal”.

The ethereal beauty that nature seemed to have bestowed her with, however did prove rather effervescent, with her sad and early demise at the age of 36, due to a heart ailment (which indeed did cast dark shadows over Kishore Kumar too!).  However, I guess even nature couldn’t repeat this wonder once again, which still leaves her a towering Masterpiece.

NARGIS:- Whether it was her pristine face, or the rather dreamy eyes, or the soft shy smile, Nargis was indeed worth her name. In a career that gave India its first ever entry into Oscars through “Mother India“, Nargis’ acting skills had created wonders that very few actresses could even dream of matching, let alone surpass. To this day the slight fear, withdrawal, and yet the willingness to submit herself as Raj Kapoor brought his lips close to her, amidst the echoing thunder and flashing lightning, remains evergreen in the minds of her fans – “pyaar hua ikraar hua hai.. pyaar se phir kyon dar ta hai dil“. Her sporty tom-boyish look that she wore with the characteristic bob-cut, though not uncommon, had a uniqueness of its own. “Aah“, “Shri 420“, “Mother India“, “Andaaz“, “Barsaat“, “jaagte raho“, “chori chori“, “Aawaara“, were some of her noteworthy movies. She was born Fatima Rashid, and was the first actress to be conferred “Padmashri” award and also given a Rajya Sabha seat. She was married to Sunil Dutt and eventually lost her battle to Cancer and succumbed to it. Some of the memorable tunes from her movies include

  • Raja ki aayegi baaraat rangeeli hogi raat
  • Ee chak daana bee chak daana
  • Ghar aaya mera pardesi
  • Duniya mein hum aaye hain toh
  • Nagari nagari dware dware
  • Dum bhar joh udhar muh phere
  • Jaane na nazar pehchaane jigar
  • Panchi banu udti phiroon mast gagan mein
  • Aaja sanam madhur chandni mein hum
  • Yeh raat bheegi bheegi
  • Jahan mein jaati hoon wahi chale aate ho
  • Rasik Balma

NUTAN: Very few actresses take to the aspect of aging gracefully. When one talks of grace, the first person who comes to my mind is Nutan. Even after getting the roles of a Mom, she essayed them with such demeanor as to cast a cloud on the various actors and actresses who still continued to prance around with kids!  Grace indeed!!

The first time that I recollect seeing Nutan was in the famous song – ‘Mora gora rang lai le‘ (debut song of Gulzar Saab as a lyricist) from the movie Bandini – clad in a chiffon saree, with her dusky color, she seemed like simplicity personified. Her exemplary acting skills

Nutan in “Anari”

worked wonders in several well acclaimed movies such as Milan, Seema, Tere ghar ke saamne, Anari, Main tulsi tere aangan ki,Meri Jung, Karma, Saraswati Chandra, Chhalia, Paying Guest, Sujata, Bandini (her greatest performance) and even a brief stint on the TV serial – Charitraheen. And before long I had become a fan of her (as also several others.. out to be listed here). Guess it must take a special mentioning here that she had won Miss India contest during the 1950s!!!

Be it prancing around with Dev Anand in Tere ghar ke saamne for “yeh tanhayee haaye re haaye” or trying to learn a song from the village lad in Milan “saawan ka mahina pawan kare sor…“, or the ever loving mother singing “zindagi har kadam ek nayee jung hai“, Nutan was a charisma at work on the silver screen. It still remains a wonder to see how beautifully she carried on with her stature down the decades of her association with Bollywood, during which time she won 6 Filmfare awards.

Coming to songs that have regularly featured in my playlist down these years include :-

  • Yeh chand khila woh taare hanse
  • Ek ghar banaaunga tere ghar ke saamne
  • Dekho rootha na karo baat nazron ki suno
  • Dil diya hai jaan bhi denge e watan tere liye
  • Main tulsi tere aangan ki
  • Chand phir nikla magar tum na aaye
  • Chor do aanchal zamaana kya kahega
  • Tum hi meri mandir
  • Dil ki nazar se nazron ki dil se
  • Ruk ja o jaanewali ruk ja
  • Jalte hain jiske liye

Ofcourse the list is one that is going to grow, but lemme not flood you with all of the details. It is but only a start, and this is but only one of the sections! Isn’t it?!  Now our esteemed self will get back to enjoying my vacation, and humm the timeless tunes thinking of the beauties.. and dont’ forget to check back in as we start scaling up the decades till 2007. Sakkat ala! 😉

Note:- pics are courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki and the videos are ofcourse from youtube! 🙂

The Dynamics of (Im)migration

Assam has been a state that has seldom made news on a National scale.  Personally speaking, Assam for me gave the picture of the Kaziranga, the Brahmaputra, Bhupen Hazarika and the tea estates. That’s as far as my knowledge took me, till in the past one week it has seemingly captured the attention of the entire Nation, albeit for all wrong reasons.  Barely has the brouhaha over the molestation of teenage girl settled, parts of Assam are up in flames over a fresh round of violence that soon turned ethnic in nature. With over 50 deaths and lakhs rendered homeless, the state is all set to write down one of its blackest moments in History (atleast for the next few years).   Not wanting to only go with what the media seems to be telling me, I preferred to hear right from the horse’s mouth andBodos Affected by Violence so pulled my Assom friend – Binod into conversation.  “This was a bomb that was ticking. Forget an ethnic war, the root cause of this whole outburst is the illegal immigrant problem.  One look at these pics and we can easily say that they are not from Assam, and hence they are being targeted, since they are usurping the livelihoods of the local population.” That pretty much summarized his reaction, and set my mind on a ride, about the whole issue of migration and immigration.

So what’s the difference between Migration and Immigration?  It’s a straightforward answer.  The simplest difference being that migration often ends with the group returning to its home base.  Immigration on the other hand is a complete relocation from one location to another.  Migration as a phenomenon is present as an integral part of the environment and nature that surrounds us. From birds to animals (including humans) migration is demonstrated annually.  Be it over worked husbands taking off for a month every summer, or Wildebeests moving across the African grasslands, nature has devised mechanisms well enough to direct the motion; the trigger ofcourse can be weather, food, water, or life itself (procreation).  This gives the seasonal flavor to the act of migration.

Immigration on the other hand is a ‘unnatural’ phenomenon.  Unnatural because inherently for any organism the change in its environment is the least preferred option, and certainly a highly stressful experience to go through.  Usually rather cataclysmic events would force an animal to relocate completely to a different environment.  However in a societal setup the socio-economic, religious and political factors are the chief causes for immigration.  Though natural disasters are another cause, they are not the most frequent reasons and the sheer nature of a natural calamity makes immigration seem the only option at hand.

But what I would like to look at is man-made causes that lead to legal or more importantly illegal immigration of a large population.

Affected people from the violence

Political causes – warfare, local unrest, and political mismanagement (bad governance) are some of the chief reasons that lead to large scale immigration of the affected groups.  These groups may either be provided political asylum by some nations or usually end up immigrating illegally across the border to the nearby stable regions.  Immigration hence, can be both within a country as well as between different nations.

The economic factors encompass the financial benefits that spur large scale movement of population.  Jobs, better economic opportunities, trade and financial benefits are at the crux of such movements.  It can happen from rural to urban areas, or from one nation to another.  Brain drain – the factor that lures some of the best minds away from the country of their origin in pursuit of a better standard of living, has been a classic example for such immigrant activities. Usually such acts are legally authorized – by the host country’s immigration policy and eventually these individuals are absorbed into the Nationality of the host country.  This whole process gets a murky hue when the immigration is illegal.  Individuals through nefarious means end up with in the host country and blend into the local population.  Often times, doing odd jobs and remaining inconspicuous, they manage to hoodwink the authorities and in due time, generate records and start owning property.  One of the oft sidelined issue is the underhandedness of the local administration – be it vote-bank politics or plain monetary corruption, several local authorities or even state administration may encourage such illegal immigration by covert offers in exchange of their support during the elections.  And the end result?

Man, at his basic level, is still an animal.  In that he is very territorial and this concept of territory isn’t only about a geographical demarcation, but also encompasses, his social, emotional and economical boundaries.  And anytime there is a stranger who is laying claim or offering competition on these haloed fields, there is inevitable conflict.  What happened in Assam, is but a manifestation of a the underlying problem of conflict between the immigrants and the local indigenous populace – the Bodos. Kokrajhar one of the prominent places where the riot had its epicenter, had long since been part of what is considered a Bodo-land.

A bit of history here, the British rule had seen many people from the Greater Bengal region (which they eventually bifurcated into East and West Bengal)  brought into Assam in order to work in the rough environments prevalent there.  During their exit, this region (East Bengal) was allocated to Pakistan and marked East Pakistan.  Post independence, India had taken up the cause of East-Pakistan and in the resulting war, ensured the liberation of this region and its subsequent development as Bangladesh.  During this time, there was heavy infiltration into Assam. These immigrants were mostly with an agrarian background and ended up as workers on the field or daily wage earners.  Eventually, they bought plots and lands in these regions and settled in these heartlands.  Needless to say, there was always the seething cauldron of unrest lying underneath – it was an economic and social conflict of interest between the local population and the immigrants.  This led to an agitation by the Bodos demanding for a separate state, since the Central Government had clearly failed in protecting the interests of the indigenous people. They perceived the immigrants as unnecessary competition for an already limited resource available – chiefly the land.  These immigrants were considered to be a primarcy force to ensure power in Assam, given their large numbers, which also explained the apathy of the Government to the demands of the Bodos.  The numbers infact surged since the Indo-Pak war of 1961.  The cause of the localites was taken up by a student organization and soon turned into a violent movement.  A peace accord was finally reached under the prime ministership of Late Rajiv Gandhi.  Accordingly for 10 years, the immigrant population was demarked from being included in the voters list.  This was initially thought to erode the political support for these people.  If they couldn’t vote, they had no discernable use for the political class.  However, this has clearly not solved the problem for the indigenous population.  The claim is that there is continuous infiltration that is happening and given the already existing base of immigrants, more rampant inflow goes unchecked.  This is a major grouse for the Bodos. Killing of members belonging to either of the groups is only a superficial reason, the proverbial nail to the coffin of peace, the true cause however is the festering anger between both the communities.  While the indigenous population may rue the fact that their land is being snatched away, the immigrant population would feel equally outraged at their perpetual state of misery even after years of residence in a region.

India, has often raised a large hue and cry with developed nations whenever laws were made by the countries to tighten the visa norms to prevent extensive immigration/migration of people to their lands.  Everytime there was an attack on Indians settled abroad, Indian Government has made it a point to remind the administration of its duty to ‘protect’ against atrocities and discrimination.  It surely cannot adopt any double standards in the treatment of the immigrants in Assam either.  It is afterall a frankenstein growth fuelled from this very system.  But the recent events must surely ring a warning bell for the state as well as the Central Government – not only the state of Assam, but every state across the country.

In an era of globalization, limiting the movement of people is not an option.  As we saw, there are several factors that drive such behavior and they are far beyond the control of any individual.  It is eventually a priority and right of an individual to sustain his life and livelihood in a manner that does not intrude on another’s right to do so.  Competition however does not believe in such niceties.  It is here that administration shall have to come in to regulate and control the movement so that one does not end up being a threat to the other.

Refugees

Nature has always ensured this control through various means.  It is high time, the Government too, developed measures to ensure that immigration, especially through illegal means is strictly prohibited and curtailed.  Deporting illegal immigrants is not only necessary to avoid such tensions, but also important for National Security.   There has to be a new line of thinking that can view the people outside of their voter-value, and understand the importance of cultivating their potential and in turn increase the productivity of the resources and the state.  This step requires the assistance of not only a local population but also foreign expertise and support wherever necessary.  This collaborative step will surely help in fostering a co-habitative environment that reduces competition and tension between the groups involved.

The basic needs of food, clothing and shelter is a powerful driving force that can push any individual to extents even he cannot fathom.  By neglecting the immigrant problem, the government of the state of Assam as well as the Central Government has time and again burnt its fingers.  It is a shame that they have not learnt their lessons yet.  It takes a lot of clout and grit to accept the screw up of the past years, and work towards a fix.  Unless the government proactively moves in this direction, they shall only allow the giant to continue to grow, a price that shall again have to be paid through blood.  Use of the military or force can never provide a solution for what is essentially a livelihood and opportunity issue.  This is true for both the Government as well as the residents/citizens.

Instead of coloring the issue in the hue of religion, if the parties involved can try to bring an amicable solution, it shall ensure peace and prosperity that is so rightfully deserved to a state so beautiful and with a rich culture such as Assam.

 Pics Courtesy: timesofIndia, Indian Express and Center-right.in

Changing Landscapes: In Memory of a City

I have often described myself as a Bangalorean at heart. Having been born and brought up in here, it has certainly become an integral part of my identity as has the fact that I am a kannadiga. Born in and spending nearly 11 years in the waft of pristine Malleshwaram air with green parks and beautiful spacious roads, moving to Banashankari 3rd Stage (about 20 years ago), was a quantum shift.  It was so because, for as far as my eyes could scale, I found only green fields, hills, small hillocks on top of which adored temples – some as small as just a roof over the idol.  It seemed as though I was cutoff from the city, and even a trip to Jayanagar was like a journey from nowhere to a dazzling town!  Our high school treks with my classmates were a nice cycle ride on deserted roads to the Hanumagiri hill (which I always believed was the border between Bangalore and Andhra! This again is a testimony on how geographically challenged I was!).  Even an evening stroll to the hillock right across my house was an adventure, for everyday by evening hordes of mongooses could be seen running along the pathway.  Amazing discoveries were to be made – some snakes, weird reptiles that I had never seen in the locales of Rajajinagar or Malleshwaram, and once, a 5 foot long snake skin.  I considered myself a character right out of Enid Blyton, or even better, one of the Hardy Boys. Countless evenings were spent, sitting on the rocks of the hillock, alongside a small temple of Lord Krishna and gazing at the setting sun.  The acres of green fields and coconut groves in the distance that my eyes surveyed seemed to be there to please my eyes. Getting my first cycle – Hercules MTB, was the most momentous thing to happen as a teenager. As I cruised on it to my early morning classes at Vijaya High School, barely avoiding running into early morning walkers, as I tried various stunts on it – my fav being singing “Pehla Nasha.. Pehla Khumar” while letting my hands off the handle! By 8:30, the 100 Ft Ring road wore a deserted look, and we were safely perched in our houses, warmly tucked into bed, and a cool breeze wafting through the windows.

The full moon nights have always been a part of my fond memories in Rajajinagar.  About 4 families living in our streets, would gather on our terrace – food was prepared from all the houses and all of us would feast under the cool rays of the full moon.  Mommy dearies would discuss the household affairs, while father-figures – politics. We kids would be busy gobbling up the home made ice cream and custards, while gossiping about the latest movies of Dr. Rajkumar.  The favorite pastime between the members of our group was to figure out who recited the most number of dialogues from the latest Dr. Rajkumar movie, and not to mention sing the songs accurately.  Needless to say, the biggest contenders were me and my elder brother. 😉 The theatres in Bangalore were a few in number – the movies were a pleasure to watch. The melodious songs, that were diligently committed to memory, still linger there even after decades!

It has been barely a decade now and already everything seems so foggy.  There are angry frustrated faces that stream out of the houses every morning. Horns blaring, and abuses flying around.  After nearly 8 years, I spotted sparrows at the Bangalore International Airport!  These sparrows that were our early morning wake up calls.  The cycle was sold years ago, and now I fear to even drive our car on the streets of Bangalore – let alone ride a bike.  There is affluence that is pouring out of the city’s glamorous malls and hotels that are churning out Rs. 1000 worth Masala Dosa, that is covered with a 24 carat gold foil!  And there is also apathy vested in the heart of people, who did not even get up to offer seats to 2 blind students, traveling in the Volvo 500C bus the other day.  Pubs, Multiplexes, roads growing wider, trees that have been chopped down… the hill in front of my house has one of its portion cut off to make way for a school, where children will learn of the importance of environment.  The wild growth in the other portion has been cleared off to make way for a park, where people will stroll to breathe in clean air, next to the busy 100 Ft Ring road clogged with vehicles.  The sunset view is now masked by the high rises, and the mongooses no longer stroll on the steps of the temple.

Change is constant – be it a city or life in general.  I shared my identity with the city I was born in, and I’ve known the change my identity has also undergone – much like Bangalore.  This is a city that is groping to find the Bengaluru within it’s Bangalore identity.  Probably there are questions that the city would ask of itself? Would it indeed?  I don’t know! But I do know that there are questions am asking of myself.  But I have no answers to them right now.  Just questions…. tormenting and pouring down like a catacylsmic rain, that wants to sweep everything in its way.  Alas! This monsoon, my city has been cheated of its share of rainfall too!  Afterall, it took years for the greenery of Bangalore to be nourished.  It took years for me to understand my identity…and just when I got around to it… everything is changing… I do not recognize myself.. nor do I recognize this city.  So here’s a Good night.. from a stranger… to an unknown city..

Dear Nora Ephron…

Dear Nora,

It is so unfair that you had to be taken away so soon! It seems so sudden and unexpected that I still am struggling to come to terms with the fact that you won’t be making movies anymore! They anyways have not numbered many, but whatever you made has stayed in my heart for decades!

Nora Ephron

I have to confess to you candidly that I watched “When Harry Met Sally..” when I was in my high school! It was played late in the night and I had to sit real close to the TV so my parents wouldn’t discover that I was watching a late night movie!  And I swear, I had to stuff the edge of the blanket into my mouth to keep myself from laughing! You made me fall head over heels in love with Meg Ryan (or was it the character of Sally??)!

When I watched “Sleepless In Seattle“, I was convinced that you are not just any writer, but a magician with words.  You knew how to give letters the power that could moisten even a dry eye! You did not merely put words into the script or your characters, you had mastered the style of weaving a life – one that many would’ve dreamt of! That movie did give me sleepless nights!  You also gave me my initial ‘myths’ of romance! Ofcourse you had your share of heart break too! It’s not easy being cheated upon! But yet, your movies never extinguished the hope! I have lived by that hope! 🙂

I was jumping with excitement when I heard about your comeback with “You’ve Got Mail!” Tell you what? It was everything I expected it to be, and more.  Oh! Nora!! It was the best you could’ve ever given me! From my favorite species of dog, to my favorite songs and locales, you had filled the movie with everything that would keep me in love with it even after more than a decade! You gave me the hope to dream of love! I have lost the count on the number of times I’ve watched that movie. Studying in US, struggling with my research and dealing with a demanding Professor wasn’t easy! Everytime I felt dejected or lost, on the verge of giving up, and struggling to stop the flow of those decapatitating thoughts, I found solace in your movie. All I had to do was put it on the player, and sink into the couch, wrapping a warm blanket around me.  And before long, there was a feeling that everything would be ok! Every mp3 player I owned, every single model of the smart phones I bought, have the OSTs of “You’ve Got Mail” in them.  You made it so perfect for me! Sure, it was dreamy! If only love could be tailor made or soul mates would always meet! But the beauty of your creations lay in the fact that you made it all seem so possible and so real! The words your characters used on the screen, were the words I had groped for, searched for in my moments of need!  The void, the helplessness, the hope and happiness, it was all related! Infact I felt I owned them!

I always did have a grouse though – that you never made a good movie with Meryl. She is a diva. Isn’t she? And then came “Julie & Julia”.  I love cooking! There was just no way I could’ve missed this movie.  I didn’t! I still have it with me.  The fourth movie of yours in my collection!! Every movie of yours have spoken to me, related to me and formed a part of me.

But I never thanked you for any of these! Nyah! I guess it never really mattered!  Isn’t that how we usually treat our friends or loved ones? We don’t thank them! Not that we don’t care! Hell!! No! But we delude ourselves to believing that what we have is forever! I never for once thought of a day, when I’d wake up to find out that you wouldn’t be making movies anymore!! I guess its too late now, even for a thanks! I feel like such a jerk! Would it’ve mattered to you? Possibly not!

But you know what? If it weren’t for your movies, I cannot think of an alternative, that would’ve made me smile during all those years in US. So much so, that my friends and room mates were tired of me playing “You’ve Got Mail!” 🙂 I owe those wonderful memories to you!  Tonight I shall watch “You’ve Got Mail” once more.  And I shall be thinking about you and those days. Even if its late, I don’t want to miss thanking you. So thank you my dear friend! You are being missed… rather badly.

Rest in Peace.

Pics courtesy: New Yorker.

Hrishikesh Mukherjee: A magician close home

A Note of thanks:  My first professional stint in India was with Cognizant Technology Solutions.  One of the most memorable aspects of CTS was Channel One- An online blogging forum.  It provided me the window of opportunity to interact with several of them, and thus forge some of the most precious connections that I cherish to this day.  After quitting CTS, I had almost given up on ever getting those posts back, till recently, my knight in shining armour – Ravi Bhagavatula (Or as I would like to dearly call him, the only worthy RCB) took the enormous effort of sending me the posts.  I shall forever be indebted for this gesture and I dedicate these series of posts that I am reproducing here, to Ravi.  I have ofcourse taken the liberty of editing some of them, having gained some more knowledge about the matters presented, but if not for Ravi, these may have never found a space here.

Arrey O! Babu moshay….!” is an addressing that not many Indians are unfamiliar of. The movie is Anand. The director – Hrishikesh Mukherjee.

In an era of film making where a hotch potch of branded tag wears, phoren shooting, andHrishida flashy numbers with the whole family dancing and prancing around in picture perfect sync is essential for a movie to be a blockbuster hit, one cannot but miss the simple, refreshing and rejuvenating movies that were churned out with magical perfection by the school of Hrishida. His movie was devoid of all the glitz and glamour, much closer to the common man and his life. They did not need complexly intertwined affairs of an ultra-modern, filthy-rich-guy-who-flies-home-in-helicopter-family, but captured the hearts of millions by focusing only on the simple psychology of the mundane man, whose only concern was to live a simple and satisfied life.

Be it Anand (played amazingly by Rajesh Khanna) or Ram Prasad (Amol Palekar in Golmaal) or Amit (Amitabh Bachan in Abhimaan), each of these characters were in turn a facet of human psychology! As gravely as he could direct the story of “Abhimaan“, so also, with the fervor of a jester, he wove – “Golmaal” that even to this day, has the viewer in splits. The influence of P G Wodehouse and Shakespearean comedies were rather evident in some of his movies. Nevertheless it had a characteristic Hrishida’s touch, that so ingeniously made them endearing to millions of his fans all over the nation. The havoc caused in a marriage by the ego of a person was superbly captured in “Abhimaan”, where the key roles were essayed by Amitabh Bachan and Jaya Bhaduri (who was incidentally brought to the filmdom by Hrishikesh Mukherjee himself through the movie Guddi). He deftly showcased the talents of the both the protagonists making it absolutely realistic. To this day, the silence of Jaya in the movie after having lost her new born, is heart wrenching.

Anand” on the other hand was amongst the movies of the Millenium. Rarely has a movie been made that would melt even the most stone hearted person to tears, even after decades of its production. Tears well up in the eyes of any viewer as he watches Rajesh Khanna fight for his breathe, trying to snatch a few moments of life, so he can meet his Babu Moshay. The angst of Amitabh as the doctor desperately trying to save the life of a person, who was so much in love with life is unforgettable! It established his role as an actor par excellence in the Hindi filmdom. The story was infact written by Hrishikesh Mukherjee himself, associating the character of Anand with Mr. Raj Kapoor (who always addressed Hrishi da as Babu Moshay!).

Coming to some facts and figures,  Hrishikesh Mukherjee started his career as a camera man and went on to essay the roles of an editor, assistant director and eventually director. Trained under Bimal Roy, he had the opportunity to work on milestone movies such as Devdas, Do bigha Zameen, Madhumathi, etc, till he decided to venture out as a director from the movie Musafir which received a rather damp response. Not to be undone he unleashed Anari (casting Raj Kapoor and Nutan) which was a run away success, heralding the arrival of a master film maker. What followed was a plethora of box office hits including Sanjh Aur Savera(with Gurudutt), Anupama, Satyakam, Anand, Guddi, Buddha Mil Gaya, Bawarchi, Abhimaan, Mili, Chupke Chupke, Golmaal, Khoobsoorat, JhoothiNamak Haraam and finally Jhooth Bole Kauva Kaate.

He is credited with giving path breaking ventures and roles for the then upcoming actors thus helping them establish a foot hold in Bollywood for the years to come. Apart from introducing talents such as Jaya Bacchan, he groomed several others including Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Bachan, Amol Palekar, and Rekha. He never adorned his actresses with flashy glitzes but showcased them in their true, natural, raw beauty, that instantly enamored the viewer. The stories were devoid of bloodshed, violence, and were never far fetched. He even directed a few TV serials, noteworthy among which is Talaash (it had casted Moushumi Chatterjee, bringing her back to the tinsel world after a long break) & Hum Hindustani.

The one feature that made me an all time fan of Hrishida was Music. All of his movies gave a huge prominence to music, even to the extent of having one of the main protagonists in them inclined towards music. And needless to say, songs from his movies have still sustained their magic even after decades of their making. To list but a few of ‘em:

  • Woh chand khila woh taare hanse (from Anari – Nutan is but a diva in this song!)
  • Tujhe jeevan ki dor se (Asli-Naqli starring Dev Anand)
  • Bole re papeehara (Guddi – Vani Jayaram won a National Award for best female play back singer for this song!)
  • Kuch dil ne kaha (Anupama – Lata Mangeshkar’s voice is absolutely haunting)
  • Hum ko mann ki shakti dena (Guddi- cannot forget Jaya sneaking into the prayer hall, and saintly singing the song!:) )
  • Zindagi kaisi he paheli haaye (Anand sung amazingly by Manna Dey)
  • Kahin door jab din dhal jaaye (Anand – sung by Mukesh)
  • Teri bindiya re (Abhimaan – sung by Mohd. Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar)
  • Lute koyi mann ka nagar (Abhimaan)
  • Piya bina piya bina ratiyaan (Abhimaan sung by Lata Mangeshkar)
  • Raat kali ek khwaab mein aayi (Buddha mil gaya)
  • Bhali bhali si ek soorat bhala sa ek naam (Buddha mil gaya)
  • Ab ke sajan saawan mein aag lagegi (Chupke chupke sung by Lata Mangeshkar)
  • Chupke chupke chal ri purwaiya (Chupke Chupke)
  • Badi sooni sooni hai (Mili)
  • Aanewala pal jaanewala hai (Golmaal – Kishore Kumar’s amazing rendition pictured on Amol Palekar)
  • Sun sun sun didi tere liye (Khoobsoorat – One of Asha Bhonsle’s best songs, absolutely chirpy and uplifting, its wonderful the way, she has given a very personalized touch, pictured equally superbly on Rekha)
  • Piya banwari .. Piya banwari (also from Khoobsoorat)

The list is as the cliche would go, endless, and I could go on and on about the songs and his direction, and the stories of the movies. Hrishikesh Mukherjee was awarded with the much deserved Dadasaheb Phalke Award, in 1999. After setting a niche for himself, one that shall remain unsurpassed by anyone, he passed away in the year 2006.

Pic courtesy: The world wide web ofcourse 😉