Farewell…Capt’n! Oh My Capt’n!

Today, this post will be just one among the many that may be written around the world – one of the many that have been written to express the deep anguish, shock and loss over the death of the genius comic icon – Robin Williams.  I usually try to avoid writing about “breaking news” events. But this was one event that I did not want to refrain from.  This was personal for more reasons than one.

My Dear Capt’n,

I don’t know where to begin! Watching Jumanji in a shack that passed off as a ‘movie theatre’ near my house, I marvelled at the wonder that was unravelling before my eyes.  It was much later that I comprehended the sheer fame of your name.  I had already watched Mrs. Doubtfire, but relating to you as a wonder took a while.  That was when you came hunting as Sean Maguire.  I watched the movie as though I was growing with it – scene by scene, sequence by sequence.  You made me do something I hadn’t done in a long while. I broke down and cried inconsolably for a long long time.  That was when I acknowledged you, and surrendered to your genius.  You helped me come to terms with many things in that movie. But to acknowledge pain with laughter, that was the big stroke of gift that you gave me.  You were a phenomenally soulful actor for me and then I saw the comic in you.  Who were you? I really wondered!

Patch Adams - Robin Williams

Patch Adams – Robin Williams

I have let down my guard so often whenever I was watching you turn into something that I guess, we all have dreamt of.  I hoped that I would meet my John Keating, I hoped that I would meet my Patch Adams.  Irrespective of whether I met them or not, I knew I could always fall back on you.  And I did fall back on you – time and again. I can’t count the number of times I have visited you as one of your patients or students. Put myself on the screen of my mind and heard you talk to me – the script transformed into something that was personal.  I guess that is exactly what distinguishes great movies from the rest.  They become personal – to one and all.  I know you have been personal to millions of viewers around the world.  You have made them laugh and cry just like you made me.

I wouldn’t call myself a great fan of yours! I don’t know your birth date, I don’t know your filmography or your career path. I have no knowledge of the number of movies you have made or the way your career took off.  I have only now heard the news and had a glimpse of it all.  But that is probably because, I seldom looked at you as an actor. Therein again lies your brilliance!  You were so many characters to me! Each one genuine, real and as fleshy as the other.  You weren’t all good either! I know that! I could see the brilliance of your darkness in Insomnia.  I acknowledged it just as well. You showed you were human.  I have learnt to accept just as well that I am human too. I came to terms with the greyness inside me too.

It was much later that I understood how you had touched almost every aspect of my intimate life.  While I was working as a Radio Jockey, I saw your portrayal in “Good Morning Vietnam” and I am still looking for a word to describe what I felt! When I write, I can hear your words from the Dead Poets’ Society whispered into my ears. There are countless hours of darkness that I have spent sitting on the chair across you Sean.  So thank you for being all of these.

Your movies left a message, your life left a message and so did your death. You were more human in all of these, than we could be.  Maybe that is the real tragedy.  I wonder how it came to be that a person who touched millions around the world through so many decades, remained untouched by hope!  Were there no hearts around you that could ignite the flame of life inside you, the way you did? Genius comes at a huge price! I have always heard people say so. You’ll also go down the pages of history as a great genius of an actor who suffered from depression, addiction and who took his life – unable to come out of it.  Creativity and talent wins a lot of admiration but few friends may be. I don’t know! I hope I am wrong.  So today, as I bid farewell to you, Robin Williams, I bid farewell to the actor, the talented, funny, warm and successful genius of the film industry.

I also thank you, because you stayed back with me.  You shall remain with me as Sean, as John Keating, as Patch Adams and through all of these, as an example to what a human can be.  We are all as fictional as those characters in our thoughts.  We are all in an attempt to make that fiction a reality.  I acknowledge the fiction of your roles as well as the reality of your absence today.  But I will always choose to cherish those fictions and I shall always strive to make them a reality.  Hopefully that may be a meaningful tribute to you and the genius in you.

Farewell, Capt’n Oh My Capt’n….

Updates from Dublin…

That’s right! Yours truly is in Dublin! Well its just for a couple of weeks time and I’ve already spent a week from the quota. As can be inferred it is work related. But the travel has helped on many fronts. For one, it showed me just how much I love my own company! One of the best advantages of being in a place all by yourself is that you can really be yourself! Well, I’ll get into other aspects soon. But before that, more updates!

Prior to leaving to Dublin, I had been on a Vipassana retreat! Now, for those of you who may wonder what it is – its a 10-day silent meditation retreat.  There are Vipassana centres all over the world (including Bangalore) and the wanderer me, chose to go to Nashik. I am really happy I did that too! It is definitely one of the most memorable experiences of my life.  Though in all honesty, my vow of silence got compromised due to unforeseen circumstances, most of the time I did remain silent. Nearly 100 hours of Vipassana meditation opens up such avenues to your mind that you’d wonder who you really are!  Sitting cross-legged for 1 hour, 3 times in a day, with a vow taken not to move was a killer! This vow is administered on the 4th day – whichever position you choose to sit in, the seeker must try as hard as possible to remain in that position for the entire duration of one hour.  By the 6th day, this became quite effortless for me.  Nashik is a beautiful place – the green surroundings and the myriad birds that visited the Centre there, all made it worthwhile. The conditions of the room where I stayed were not particularly great – fungus infested walls were a scare – not to mention the many lizards.  But when you are on a pursuit to delve deeper into yourself, I guess the first thing you have to do is turn your mind off from the external conditions. I did just that, and was able to really enjoy my stay there.  Contrary to what my populist ego-centric self had thought, inspite of being away and completely cut-off from all modes of communication, life around me as I knew it, still sustained and flourished! 🙂 Lesson learnt? Get away from everything regularly.  Recharge and rebound.  And above all, “‘I’ am at the ‘root’ of all my experiences”.

A week after I returned from Vipassana, I was packed my bags again to leave to Dublin.  The evenings here are spent in exploring this lovely city.  It is not really huge to be honest.  But whatever there is, is very charming.  My favourite part is of hunting for restaurants. This is one time, wherein I can try different cuisines of the world – as long as am taking the vegetarian options. And its amazing just how many options there are !!!  From a traditional Irish cuisine to the Vietnamese, my spectrum has spread across the globe.  I must however confess that it was the Vietnamese cuisine that completely won me over! I am in love with those wonderful people and their food! Apart from this, the other highlight of my visit, I must say, was the visit to Bray – a seaside point along the southern tip of Dublin.  This simple, serene and beautiful sea shore or beach if you prefer, felt so peaceful and soothing that I was dreaming of settling down there some time! It was like a typical countryside life one may imagine to experience towards the later days of one’s life.  I soon realized that I should head back to some feisty civilization before I start to brood over other matters and return we did!

Having got back from Vipassana and again being away in Dublin, I can see the amount of influence solitude has on me.  I have been cherishing these moments thoroughly and infact hoping that I’ll get them regularly year-on-year.

Well that’s that from my end. A quickie of a post. I’ll be returning to Bangalore next week and hopefully even more rooted and grounded in my mind than when I left. 🙂

Curtains Open!

And for the umpteenth time…. I am so so so so sorry!!

I know I know…even the semblance of readers that may have been hanging around have now finally retired.  I can almost see the cobwebs gathered on this page.  The website has become so dormant that Sajid Khan’s movies have started to seem more dynamic and innovative! And it is solely my cross to bear!  And I am sure that you have all (I mean the spiders, non-existent readers, bored I-dunno-how-I-got-here-internet-junkies) by now either known or stopped caring about the reasons (did I hear someone say excuses?) for my absence.

Well, there are aplenty. Not that I haven’t been writing! (Gosh! I almost feel like a cheater!) It’s just that my arena of writing was shifted to other areas – what with the articles to Hindu becoming a regular feature (Did you visit the collection of my articles here?)  I am also extremely happy that I have been able to contribute to my language through the means of translations. I contributed a couple of translations of portions of works by famous and renowned Kannada Authors, which would be published in the Sahitya Akademi Journal.  YogaKshema Rehabilitation & Wellness Center, that I am a part of, started its publishing activities and I was also involved in translating some of the handbooks into Kannada and also creating a new handbook in English.  All of these, apart from the usual work-life ensured that inspite of my best efforts, I just did not get around to publishing anything new here.

That doesn’t mean that I was completely oblivious to the environment here. I cannot confess on the number of drafts that have been left incomplete.  The happenings in the past few months have strongly prompted me to write, and write I did.  I never got around to completing them and now am wondering if I should publish them at all. While I am in dilemma over the issues, their relevance cannot be denied.  I may have to still rework on it and publish it. Having said that, lemme not promise that I will be more regular.  However, I’ll definitely try to be more consistent. 🙂 The key, me dearies, is to set the expectation so low, that anything better would always seem a welcome output! 😉

My Fav Musicals from Hollywood

Music – that enchanting and captivating melody that has encompassed every form of art and transformed them within and without.  I cannot conceive of anything around me which isn’t touched by sound – the sound of music. Movies are the one form of medium where the role of music had rendered itself essential even during the days preceding the talkies!  Even when talkies came, they were more of ‘sing’ies than ‘talk’ies really!  In India, there were movies done with nearly 72 songs!  Even if it were a couplet or a sentence, it wasn’t worth conveying unless it was through crooning.  Hollywood could certainly not have been left out of its grasp!  They may mock the Indian cinema for its sheer number of songs and the camera work, but Hollywood itself had its own bout of The Sound of Musicexperimentation with the musicals that has now spanned several decades! This post is an exploration of some of my favorite musicals from Hollywood. 🙂  I am not limiting them on the numbers (no top 10, no top 25, no tops! 😉 ) and the order of their listing certainly doesn’t mean that one is better than the other.  It’s just an unraveling of my memory – a travel since my childhood that exposed me to ‘The Sound Of Music’.

The Sound of Music: The Mountains, the woods, the lakes, and the beautiful Salzburg scenery – Julie Andrews as a boyish wannabe nun, 7 kids and a handsome Christopher Plummer.  There hasn’t been a magic similar to this that has been woven since!  The songs of this wonder have been etched in my memory since well over 25 years now!  And this, when I can’t even remember what I was doing during those days! The most endearing aspect of the songs in this movie was its sheer simplicity.  Some of these songs could’ve easily passed on to become children’s rhymes! “Do Re Mi Fa..”, “I am sixteen going on seventeen”, “Edelweiss”, “The Hills are Alive”, “These are a few of my favorite things”, “The lonely goatherd (Yodley-hoo)”, “Climb every mountain”, “So long, farewell” – these were but a few songs that I had religiously memorized with more vigor than my multiplication tables! Inspiring Gulzar’s “Parichay”, this movie has continued to remain one of the most favorite and evergreen movies since well over 4 decades now!

Mary Poppins: Julie Andrews’ debut movie produced by Walt Disney Pictures, is a must watch for every child!  TheMary Poppins picture of Mary Poppins flying with her umbrella has been endlessly used down the generations in various avatars!  This movie was sufficient in itself to make me want to have the Poppins peppermints every time I had a chance to! For some reason, it was my firm belief that, that was how I could get Mary Poppins to visit me!  For some unknown reason, I also believed that it was manufactured by her! Eeenyways, we’ve grown since, but never grown enough to not jump up for joy when something “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” happens!  Many “a spoonful of sugar” has made the medicines of life go down my throat, and the “Chim Chim-ney Cheree”  has brought a smile to me even when I was feeling like the bottom-most rung of a ladder! The laughter of “I love to laugh”, the desire to have “a perfect Nanny”, the playful “Jolly Holiday” – oh every song of this movie makes me wanna go back to my childhood!

Singing in the Rain:  No matter how much Hollywood may revel in its technologically superior movies and brazen Singing In the Rainplot lines of the recent years, the movies that have survived the erosion of time are the ones that have a heart warming plot line and when it is a musical, “Singing In the Rain” is one movie that will always feature amongst the best.  The film featured the talented Gene Kelly as a silent movie star coming to terms with the popularity of “Talkies” and the travails he encounters making a talkie movie with his lead female star with a horrendous voice (played by Jean Hagen) ! He falls in love with another struggling stage artist (the pretty Debbie Reynolds) and eventually after a whole lot of hilarious sequences, they come together and their talkie movie becomes a grand success.  “Singing In the Rain” is a sensational musical – making one want to literally dance and sing; rain or no rain! 😉 The title track, “All I do is dream of you” (Why can’t they keep this,  as a rhyme for kids!!!!), “You are my lucky star”, “Good morning”, “You were meant for me”, “Beautiful girl”, are some of my favorite songs from this movie.  The tap dance sequences used to make me wanna do that all the way through the singing – one thing that has stuck through with me all these years. The fun of wearing a new pair of shoes and tapping away… ah! simple joys. Isn’t it? 😉 Oh if you haven’t watched this movie.. watch it! For its sheer simplicity, humor and liveliness!! 🙂

My Fair Lady:  I cannot think of anyone who’d not wanna go down on their knees for this flower girl who eventually My Fair Ladyturned out to be such a Fair lady, that even the Buckingham palace was fooled to believing that she was a duchess! And it was Audrey Hepburn who carried it off with much aplomb! Based on George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion”, this is an evergreen movie for more than one reason. Peppered with humor, irony, sarcasm, and brilliant acting, this movie won rave reviews.  In certain scenarios the setup is almost like a theater play – with people freezing to create a picture of London’s daily life. Interestingly enough the role of Eliza Dolittle was essayed by Julie Andrews in the Broadway version. But because Julie Andrews wasn’t an established star (she hadn’t started her film career by then) Jack Warner didn’t want to risk casting her in the main role, and instead it was Audrey Hepburn who received it.  The movie won 7 Academy awards including best picture, best costume, best original score, best actor and best director. However, Audrey didn’t win the best actress award as the songs were sung by Marni Nixon.  The movie ofcourse has a whole treasure of unforgettable songs including the heart warming – “All I want is a room somewhere”, “Rain in Spain”, “Am just an ordinary man”, “I could’ve danced all night”.  Songs such as “Why can’t the English learn to speak”, “Just you wait ‘enry ‘iggins” are funny and littered with sarcasm! With rich costumes and camera work (the scene of the flower market with arrays of fresh blossoms has been my favorite aspect of this movie) the movie was a visual treat!

Gigi:  Another memorable Leslie Caron musical, this movie was about Gilberte (known shortly as Gigi; and what a Gigitricky pronunciation!!) who is an unassuming lass being groomed to become a courtesan by her aunt Alicia. Gigi’s fumbling during her training and her relationship with the handsome Gaston (played by Louis Jourdan) form the crux of what is indeed a must-watch funny and warm musical.  Incidentally the theatrical version of the movie (The movie was itself based on a novel by Colette which was adapted to stage first, before being made into a movie) was the debut for Audrey Hepburn on stage!  She had played the lead role of Gigi but however she wasn’t cast in the movie.  An interesting thing about the songs in this movie was was that they were all first recorded in the original voices of the actors along with the piano accompaniment and later on dubbed by the actual singers.  One of the chief aspects of movies like Gigi and My Fair Lady was costume and indeed this movie too won an Academy award in that category as well as in others including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Score.  The songs include some memorable ones like “Say a Prayer for me tonight”, “The Night they invented Champagne”,  “I’m glad am not young anymore”, “Gigi”,  “Thank heaven for little girls”, and “I remember it well”.

All that Jazz:  Wichita State University had a small but a wonderful collection of movies in its library.  It was in there that I discovered this wonderful movie. It was smart, touching,AllThatJazz poignant, musically brilliant and a very thought provoking movie. An outstanding example of Bob Fosse’s brilliance, this semi-autobiographical movie has been amongst my most favorite movies for very many years now. The movie is about workaholic director Joe Gideon (played brilliantly by Roy Scheider) who due to his vagabond life is at the brink of death.  The entire movie turns into a reflection of his own self, and his fascinations. It’s a journey through his life and his mind – his hallucination wherein he conceives of death has a beautiful lady (played by the brilliant Jessica Lange) he flirts with.  Even in his death, he imagines a magnificent show put up to bid “Bye Bye (to) Life”.   The movie had what seemed a very rich and jazzy (true to its name) setting and some memorable musical numbers. “Bye Bye Life”, “A Perfect Day”, “After You’ve Gone”, “Sing sing sing”, “Some of these days” are some of the regular features on my playlist.

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers: Remember “Satte pe satta”? Amitabh Bachan and Hema Malini with their Seven_brides_seven_brotherstroupe of 7 brothers falling for 7 girls and the hullabaloo that it all leads to?  Voila! This is the original version for you! Unlike the bollywood version which had a couple of croonable songs, this movie has been ever listed amongst the top musicals over several decades.  The songs not only taught us the basics of dating and wooing, but many basic dance steps too! The movie had beautiful scores like “Wonderful Wonderful day”, “June Bride”, “When you’re in Love”, funny ones like “Goin’ courting”, & “Bless your beautiful hide” and some foot tapping numbers too.  The songs by June Powell are particularly very memorable as also was the song “Lonesome polecat” the tune of which lingered on for many days in my head.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: Much before the time of “Tarzan” cars, and Fast and Furious four wheeler, there was a Chitty chitty Bang Bangsweet car that could communicate, fly and float too!!! This was a car that was made for children! It was one of my most memorable movies as a kid! This was the movie that opened me to the world of Roald Dahl which ofcourse led me to the chocolate factory of my dream! The story is about an eccentric scientist, his children, a sweet upper class lady and ofcourse the wonderful refurbished Grand Prix car – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! The adventure they embark upon in the imaginative land of “Vulgaria” fighting the evil Baroness and the Baron was a fantasy that was relived many times in my mind.  Then ofcourse there were the songs – “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, “Hushabye Mountain”, “Choo-chee face”, “Doll on a music box”, “Toot Sweets” – all of which are absolute fun.  It certainly has a strange comic feeling to be seeing people talking one moment and instantly break into a song in the same breathe!

Most of these movies listed so far (and more yet to come) had a very simple story – one that touched the chords of our heart, or the fantasies that we had as children.  There wasn’t too much of technological spell that was cast with giant autobots nor were there sexy babes in swanky cars totting guns at everything.  And yet, its these simple movies that have sustained in my mind for all these years! Maybe its because of their connections with my childhood and school days, or maybe it’s just me! I dunno.. nor do I care.. as long as the happiness they give me, and the memories they bring are cherished.

The Wizard of Oz:  There used to be a children’s magazine called “Misha” (published from Russia) that my father Wizard-of-Ozhad subscribed for me.  This was the greatest highlight of my school days from 3rd to 5th standard. I was so much in love with this magazine, that I’d religiously save every copy of it and send my paintings/drawings to them hoping they’d publish it someday! Anyways, that never happened. But what did happen was I came to know of a quaint little place called Kansas in the USA, where tornadoes blew so hard, that people got transported to fairy lands – the land of Oz for example!  And so it was that I first read about the Wizard of Oz!  And after a few years, when I realized that there is also a movie done on this story, the only logical thing to do was to watch it! The rest as they say, is history.  The beautiful Judy Garland singing “Somewhere over the rainbow”, the funny little munchkins (the song “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead”), the unforgettable “Precious” remark by the wicked Witch (decades before Gollum!)…Oh!! I can watch this movie (and I have) hundred times and over! Those were the days I had made up my mind to name my first dog Toto (never happened) and embark on a journey to Oz myself! Oz didn’t happen either, but Kansas certainly did! 😛 The sheer brilliance of the camerawork, the rich settings and a story that every person could relate to, this movie has singularly been amongst the most spectacular movies of the last century!

P.S: When I first decided to write about this topic, I thought I could cover it all up in one post. As I began listing out the movies, I realized what a mistake that assumption was!  So the list shall continue on to a second part too, where I’d want to talk of the movies that set my heart racing as a teenager! Movies such as Grease, West Side Story, Cabaret, and many more all the way into this year.  But all of that for the next post! ;)

Videos courtesy: Youtube and Posters: Several sources!

Jayakka and Govindamma…

“Had I seen those two <bleep> guys, I would have taken my slippers and beaten them black and blue for doing this to you! Since you were a child, I’ve seen you grow in front of my eyes! Look how they’ve hurt you! I curse them! Oh how much badly did you suffer my child!”  Govindamma held my face and did a small gesture symbolizing the removal of any evil eyes that were presumably cast on me!  She had come yesterday evening on her usual rounds to give flowers.

Govindamma is our florist. She has been giving flowers to our house ever since I remember moving to Padmanabhanagar.  She has indeed seen me grow from a lad of 14 years to the mammoth I am now!  As she held her squinted eye brimming with tears, I could sense the unadulterated concern she had about my accident.  I remember her suffering a fracture and how mom had helped her with some finances time and again.  Even a couple of hundred rupees, given to her, would elicit long lasting gratitude.  There have been countless evenings when she’d finish distributing flowers to all the houses and finally come to our house and spend some time with mom – exchanging stories (mainly complaining about her worthless son but loving daughter-in-law).  Invariably mom would complain about how far strung the flowers are, and she’d fake an angry remark, saying, that she had preserved the best only for our house!  I’d either be sitting near my mom or between them, playing with her huge round bamboo basket.

It seems to me that she had already reached her maximum age, and couldn’t get any older!  Govindamma, has remained the same, perhaps a tad thinner now, but it seems as though her age has a pause button!  She now brings the flowers in a plastic bag, instead of the huge basket.  “I can’t carry it like I used to my boy!” she quips, if I ask about it.  Apparently its been passed on to the third generation – her grandson uses it now! On the days that Govindamma doesn’t show up, its her grandson who delivers the flowers to us.  Her grey hair is the only testimony for her age, for she doesn’t know how old she really is!  I smiled at her concern, and gave her the money that was due.  She received and asked mom if she needed flowers for the day – “It’s fresh jasmine and I’ve saved the best for you!” she yelled from the gate. Mom replied that she didn’t want it that day. “What a woman! It’s friday evening, ask her to wear the flowers! It’s always auspicious for a sumangali” she told me as she cut a length of the strung jasmine flowers and handed it to me.  I asked how much it costs and she said, “I am giving it! It’s evening time, ask your mom to wear it! I don’t need money for this!’ and once again asking me to be careful she went her way.

When people talk about how the globalization kills the local vendors and brings in a destructive competition that the local vendors can’t match up to, I am always reminded of people like Govindamma. Her association with people wasn’t merely commercial.  She went beyond and established a personal contact and relationship with her ‘clients’.  Though it wasn’t about sharing personal issues or concerns, there was an inherent trust that was built and sustained through out.  Govindamma may probably be amongst the few vendors who are not mere vendors but an aspect of a social relationship that is built in an economic environment that is governed by humane values instead of the monetary profits alone.

Some of my most fond memories of childhood are related to being with Jayakka.  Jayakka was our maid, cum my aaya, cum my playmate cum my ‘transport co-ordinator’! 😉  She was incharge of getting me to the school and back.  Jayakka was basically a tamilian but spoke fluent kannada, & telugu like most of the maids in Bangalore.  Her chores in our house began with finishing some basic cleaning, and then dropping me off to the school.  She’d pick me up and bring me back and later on continue with some other chores.  After her afternoon meals and a cup of strong coffee, she’d then return to her house.  On certain days she would be accompanied by her daughter Jyothi, and those were the best, because I used to get a playmate!  I remember an incident where I happened to slip into a drum filled with water while trying some gymnastic moves in the backyard of the house.  Thankfully, Jayakka who was washing the clothes nearby rushed and pulled me out, giving an already wet child a complete water down! When she got angry, her decibels could make the loudspeaker run for cover!  I was ever guarded after that! Jayakka probably dropped me to school and brought me back till the time that I got to 3rd standard.  What was impressive was that, all through that time, she used to always carry me!  I cannot figure out the amount of strength her figure may have had.  The cynosure of her eyes was her son Igesan.  He was a resourceful lad.  He was always against his mom working as a maid but since there was no other way to sustain the familiy, he had resigned to the inevitable – atleast for the time being. With a sole purpose of enabling himself to earn enough, he pursued his studies very well and eventually was able to land a good job.  The most happiest moment in Jayakka’s life was when Igesan landed a well paying job as a medical representative. She came to our new house in Padmanabhanagar with sweets, and informed that she doesn’t have to do work as a maid anymore as her son is taking care of the family now.  Jayakka had to part ways from our family when we moved to our new house.  What was endearing was that, till the time that mom was able to find a new maid, Jayakka used to travel all the way from Rajajinagar to Padmanabhanagar to help mom with the chores.  And one thing I can never forget  was the fact that she used to bring a “kiss me” toffee bar whenever she used to visit us.  She’d lovingly sit me on her lap (even as I squirmed awkwardly) and give me the chocolate watching the happy glow on my face.  It was Jayakka who had bought me my first kite (she got scolded by mom so much for pampering me! 😛 ).

Jayakka and Govindamma together represent a class of vendors/service providers that are a vanishing race in the present times.  Their motive went beyond monetary interests.  They knew that the benefit of money is assured once they establish the trust with their customers.  And trust was something that was built over a period of time by rendering timely and quality service.  Both Govindamma and Jayakka were watchful of their quality.  Irrespective of how much my mom may contend with them, she would always remark that they were amongst the best florists and maids she had.  Her faithfulness with Govindamma is so strong that on those days when Govindamma may not come on her rounds, my mom goes to the place where she sits and buys the flowers from her.  When Jayakka wouldn’t come home due to sickness, I remember mom sending me to check on her health!  This mutual bonding of a service beneficiary and a provider is getting severely dented as financial benefits super cede the humane qualities required to underline the connection.  With a change in the economic currents, appreciating values of every commodity from vegetables to real estate, the agonies of the serving class is only mounting leading them to take on more than they can handle.  This clearly impacts the quality of work which in turn leads to a strained relationship between the households and the serving communities.  Unless there is a balance that can be developed between the financial benefits and the quality of service, there’ll be a persistent tug of war.  Probably its to their advantage that Govindamma and Jayakka represent a class of people who are having to experience this change of air towards the end of their lives.  But what’s tragic to me is that some of us, who had experienced the best, may have to resign ourselves to the mediocrity that may be served in the coming days.

The Great Indian Nautanki – Part 2

The verdict is finally out for Karnataka.  On the positive side, there is a clear mandate given for a single party which means there won’t be any scope for the multiparty fiasco as well as poaching and horse-trading.  The winners as well as the losers now need to do a lot of soul searching and tap into the nerve of this verdict to truly benefit from this.  Congress does not really have many reasons to celebrate because this mandate isn’t so much for Congress as it is against corruption and instability.  If one can protract this sentiment to the National level, the UPA regime has some serious miracles to perform in the few months left before the Loksabha elections.  There in again, if Congress loses, BJP also would need to understand that the verdict was mostly against corruption and inefficiency than it was pro-BJP.

I have during the course of viewing the upcoming elections and options before us, expressed my opinion on the many factors that are being portrayed by the parties vying for National attention.  In this final part, I would like to explore if we really do have any options to look for and vote for the best amongst the worst. But before that some more thoughts:

Misplaced calculations:  Every major party, infact the whole nation at large, has been talking for change.  From the  deflated hysteria for Anna Hazare to Kejriwal’s histrionics – the focal point for the country in the past 2 years has been a makeover.  For Congress, this seems to have given a different message.  While the grand old party partially understood the importance of roping in the youth and making them inclusive, it seems to have gone all out to the extreme and showcasing a novice such as Rahul Gandhi as the candidate for the top post.  The only point of grouse for me is that he has only a negligible involvement at the National level.  Rahul may have rightly decided to focus on understanding and connecting with people at grassroots level and that is a noteworthy decision, but somehow, everyone in the Gandhi family seem to succumb to the pressures of having to act as “saviors”.  I couldn’t understand what stopped him from stepping up and stopping this whole razzle-dazzle around his name and say clearly that he still needs experience.  Why not take a cabinet rank? So far, apart from the name, there is nothing to his credit that deserves any semblance of attention!  With sycophants like Digvijay Singh, they’re veritably heading for their doom.

BJP has turned out to be just a spoilt-brat crying over missed opportunities and political seclusion.  Every opportunity that they could’ve utilized to grill the ruling party in the parliament over the many many scams that were unearthed, they lost blatantly due to their obstructionist behavior.  This current parliament session has probably been the most useless one, with more disruptions in its register.  The limited number of sessions they had was squandered with the legislators hindering the proceedings of the house.  Rather than actively involve the ruling party in a debate and tear down their defense, and thus appear more capable of administering, they’ve often essayed the role of a sour kid hell bent on spoiling the whole game for everyone.  This may work out for their advantage, but it has cost the nation a huge price.  Unfortunately, that is not a concern for them.

Media:  Amongst the biggest threats that are currently seething right here on Indian soil, one worthy of mentioning is our media.  While on one hand we have home grown terrorists, on the other, we have home grown elegant opportunists who use verbiage, videos, vitriolic and loud remarks to stir emotions like never before.  Is it truly the common man’s good that underlies this imagery? I beg to differ.  Whether it was the anti-corruption movement, or the heinous crimes on women, or the scams, they were all just feeders for them to boost their TRPs.  The lightning speed with which every story that is more than 2 weeks old is thrown out of the window and a new sensation created is baffling to say the least.  We have a media that cries foul about the crimes on women on one hand and on the other, showcases ads to restore virginity to retain the spark in the marriage.  The women in the serials are stereotyped suhaagans kowtowing to their pati-parameshwars or vamps who stop at nothing to destroy the peace of the household.  If one has to see a chameleon in action right in the comfort of one’s home, please do look at Indian media!  From Barkha Dutt to Arnab Goswami, we have the nadirs of journalism feeding and ruling the minds of the people.

Nowhere is this true than in the way these channels and their presenters work with the political establishment.  Given that many of these are owned by political families, the stories are wonderfully crafted and tailored to showcase only certain aspects of the issue, rather than provide an unbiased and objective journalistic information.  But then, such an information would barely attract any viewership!  How many of us really watch DD News?!  With millions of Indians having a mindset that would rather be fed, not many would really dig deep into exploring all facets of a story that is being discussed on the media.  They’d rather be TOLD what to believe, than be allowed to interpret by themselves.  Media, has hence, taken the role of being the matron of the society.

So, does all this sound like we are in deep s#**?

It’s Us!: It’s Me! It’s you! It’s all of us.  The first basic tenet of democracy is that, it requires active and effective participation of the people, for it to be a success.  And what defines effectiveness? When the collective good overcomes personal betterment, we’d have achieved a huge milestone in terms of being effective citizens of a  democratic country.  This is in my opinion, an essential benchmark, no matter what we may be involved in as citizens.  From a mundane act of driving to work, to the all important – casting the ballot, if we pause to think whether the act being committed would further the collective good or harm it, I am sure that a lot of the problems we are in currently would be effectively addressed at the grassroots level.  This community cannot be based on religious, political, social, economic or gender based classification.  It has to be the collective betterment of humanity.   In simplistic terms, it is about making – knowledgeable choices.  I am not talking about educated choices, but instead, choosing through the right knowledge. And there’s a huge difference between the two.  Surely, I may be sounding utopic in my thoughts, but even if 20% of the country would work bearing this in mind, it may offset the 80% of indifference.  Currently, the indifference of the 20% of knowledgeable and efficient individuals has put the country in dire straits by handing the reins over to the 80% who really don’t give a damn!  And it is not about a momentary flash of awakening that I am referring to, but a consistent, determined and focused action.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be on a magnum scale, but even small contributions – cleaning our surroundings, educating adults and children, supporting social causes, standing up for the environment, effective garbage disposal, rejecting vote-bank politics, creating social and health awareness, working towards harmony and efficiency in every aspect of our individual and collective lives – if we start moving towards this, there will be a turn around eventually.  The good of the collective cannot be forever submerged under the auspices of a few!  We learnt this lesson during our freedom struggle! The collective good of India, couldn’t be suppressed by the interests of a few British administrators.  It was comparatively easy to fight them, since we had the alien factor.  But what we are pitched against today, is ourselves!

Look Out!  How is an individual supposed to make a difference? Would it really matter if one person does not vote for a corrupt politician, who however will win – thanks to his dubious methods and means? Do we have to see scams amounting to multi-crore rupees before the people shall become enraged?  How ironic is it that we don’t mind giving few hundreds of rupees as bribe to get away from a fine for violating the rules but fume when we hear of politicians receiving kickbacks amounting to lakhs of rupees?!  Is it that, while we feel our cause is genuine, they don’t really need that moolah?  Why do we break the traffic rules? Why do we skip the queues or try to put others down? Why do we take advantage of the innocence or simplicity of another person?  How different is this than what our political establishments do to us? Just because the magnitude varies, it doesn’t make it any lesser of an evil! Does it?

How many of us can confidently vouch that we tried to atleast find out some credentials about the candidates we voted for?  Have we tried to use the available resources to see the developmental work carried out by a candidate, before deciding whether he needs our votes? What interests us more? Which species of dog Siddharth Malhotra owns, or voicing our opinion about the anti-rape law to be formed?  Why do we hesitate to opt for the option to not vote any candidate, if we feel that none are good enough?! Have we really gained enough knowledge on our own democratic system and set up? The biggest obstacle to the development of this country is thus, ourselves!  We conveniently elect representatives who we feel will further our community, our religion, our sect or our group, even if it’s at the cost of the whole nation.  But we forget that they are infact a mirror of our own selves! Hence they will obviously try to forward their own group, family, community or establishment! When Gandhi said, be the change you want to see in others, he gave one of the most essential mantra for an effective democracy.  If every citizen of this country tries to be the sort of person he wants his politicians to be, then,  we’ll see the curtains falling on our Great Indian Nautanki. Till then… well the show’s on.. and popcorn is tasty!