December 31, 2007

2008








Peace and happiness to you all, through 2008, whether your new year starts on Bohag Bihu, Nabo Barsho, Baisakhi, Gudi Padwa, Navroz, Losoong,
Puthandu, Ugadi, Vishu, 1 Jan...or any other day.

December 27, 2007

Please see 'Taare zameen par'

If you are/were a child, if you are a teacher, if you are a sensitive person, if you are a father, if you are a mother...oh, if you are a mother...please see Taare zameen par.

A beautiful, sensitive film that tugs at one's heart, again and again and again.

And, it is an honour to have Aamir Khan and Darsheel on my blog. Now I just have to go and paint. See the film and you'll know why I say this.

December 17, 2007

Excitement of the week — big baobab tree near Golconda!

I first came to know about the Baobab tree when I read Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry’s delightful book The Little Prince. I have known about , and have seen, the baobab tree in Nanakramguda, a small village off the old Bombay-road in Hyderabad. But last weekend, I was elated when I discovered this massive tree, near the Golconda fort. Just look at its girth!

I especially liked the landscape from the top of the fort wall --- the tree against the backdrop of the Qutb Shahi tombs (last photo), a popular tourist spot.


Some facts from Wikipedia: Baobab is the common name of a genus (Adansonia) containing eight species of trees, native to Madagascar, mainland Africa and Australia. Other common names include boab, boaboa, bottle tree and monkey bread tree. The species reach heights of between 16–82 ft (exceptionally 98 ft) tall, and up to 23 ft (exceptionally 36 ft) in trunk diameter. They are noted for storing water inside the swollen trunk, with the capacity to store up to 120,000 litres of water to endure the harsh drought conditions particular to each region.

Interesting trivia
- The baobab is the national tree of Madagascar.
- Baobabs are also used for bonsai.
- The baobab is occasionally known colloquially as "upside-down tree" (from the Arabic legend which claims that the devil pulled out the tree and planted it upside down). This is likely derived from older African lore. The story goes that after creation, each of the animals was given a tree to plant and the hyena planted the baobab upside-down.
- The Little Prince describes the baobabs as "trees as big as churches". The Little Prince is worried that baobabs would grow on his small asteroid, take up all the space and even cause it to explode.
- There is an important baobab tree in Kunta Kinte’s village in The Gambia from Alex Haley’s novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family.
- Rafiki, in The Lion King, makes his home in a baobab tree.

December 10, 2007

Dream homes/home dreams

Luxury villas, gated communities, bungalows, NRI cities, elite residencies...these are the names one sees being used for dwellings that would become someone’s homes. Houses that sold for some lakhs are now being sold for some crores. This business of ‘property’ is far, far from the reality in which I live, and I get perplexed by how much money people are willing to pay for a home.

When we got our flat done in 2001, it was under the most unexpected of circumstances. Having been cheated by the builder, we were forced to complete the flat ourselves. We had not saved for this, but since we had to do it, we started with idealism and dreams. Very soon we had to come back to reality...every time we went to buy anything for the house—whether it was wall tiles, a wash basin or a switch board—we had to make an agonising choice between what we wanted and what we could afford. Invariably we compromised, and got the one that was not the cheapest but not top of the line either.... again and again we were put firmly into a place that spelt middle class.

In our house, there are no fancy fittings nor is there the best in technology...taps look like taps, doors and cupboards don’t have a brand name, and our bathrooms are wet...and not like those carpeted glamour rooms most people seem to want. But over the years, our house became a home. It reflects us...our children’s paintings adorn the walls, we designed our furniture from teak wood from the doors of our old house, there are plenty of books and paper, paints and music, and a happy mess. We love it, we try our best to maintain it well, people come and go.

We went for the grihapravesam of a high-end flat recently. The top-of-the-line in 2001 seemed bottom-of-the-line when I saw this house. It came fully furnished; everything was shining, impeccable, futuristic. In spite of my cheerful personalised home, I felt jealous as hell, and terribly ashamed that I felt this way. I felt jealous because, all said, the flat was fantastic, and I knew that this was, for the likes of me, simply unattainable. The fine drapes, the plasma TVs, sleek kitchen, glamour bathrooms...they were everything I could never afford. But I asked myself honestly, if I could afford it, would I have chosen a house like this? The answer was no...if I had the money, I would buy a small house with a sloping roof, and a little garden all around...

...Much like the home I grew up in, and like the home I was welcomed into after marriage. Both ordinary but large houses with greenery all around...with mango, guava, badam and sapota trees, Ashokas and bougainvillas along the compound walls, with the sweet smell of Bakula and tree jasmines, raat-ki-rani and din-ka-raja. During my childhood, rainy season invariably found my mother and I digging, preparing plots to plant seasonals that would burst into beautiful bloom. I used to study on the terrace, with my desk in the half-sun, half-shade of a woodrose creeper. The house I grew up in, and interestingly, the one my husband grew up in, were shelter, not just for the people it belonged to, but also for many others who needed to be there for study or job, or for child widows to simply spend all their lives in because they had no other place to go to.

I realise now that I spent my childhood in a ‘luxury villa’...where my parents still live, and where my children have the good fortune to spend their holidays in. However, 25 years back, if someone had told me that we were living in an ‘elite residency’, I would have just laughed and dismissed it away. Such a thought never occurred...one just lived in large spaces, among ‘unbranded’ surroundings in a house full of people, chaos and laughter.

November 22, 2007

We went, we climbed, we admired...

They stand silently, and like clouds, lend their shapes to imaginative interpretation. Like the rivers, the seas and the mountains, how much these Telangana rocks have witnessed... before them, we are but a speck of dust that blows away in the wind.

These rockscapes are from Devarakonda in Nalgonda district of Andhra Pradesh. The walls and other structures like a granary and gateways on top can apparently be traced back to the 15th century Kakatiya/Bahmani/Qutb Shahi rulers.

We were part of a monthly trek organized by Hyderabad's Society to Save Rocks.

Up on the rocks, and surrounded by them, I was happy.

November 15, 2007

New look...didn't work

Lens and Sensibility didn't feel the same with the new colours, so I changed it back!

November 12, 2007

A work of art

I am inspired to post this link here beause the animation movie to which it will take you is... just brilliant.

Made by Michael Dudok de Wit, Father and daughter is a sad story about the relationship between a father and a daughter, but what's important is the effect this 'simple' animation has on the viewer.

https://vimeo.com/89589981

Thanks to our friend Sukanto who sent me the link.

November 08, 2007

November 01, 2007

Garba - a riot of colour, song and dance

Navratri in Gujarat. I had heard about it, but had never seen it. In fact, it was my first trip to Gujarat, the state mostly in the news for the wrong reasons. I went there for the ‘right’ reason: to see the garba Gujarat is so famous for, and to see a few places that interested me.

Garba is Gujarat’s best-known folk dance. Its name comes from a Sanskrit word "garbha deep" which refers to an oil lamp placed in a perforated earthen pot. The dance is performed around a pot in a circle to celebrate the festival of Navratri, which honors Goddess Amba and the nine nights she fought to defeat a demon. A form of worship offered by women, the dance consists of clapping hands and moving feet in various combinations and speeds, according to the rhythm of the song. (India Guide Gujarat, 2007, Anjali Desai, ed.
I carried this invaluable treasurehouse of information with me).

One finds signs of Garba everywhere. Colourful shops selling chaniya cholis and chunky silver jewellery, and accessories in rainbow hues...we saw these both in Law Garden in Ahmedabad and in several places in Vadodara. We were told that the girls wear nine different dresses, one on each night of the navratri.

As it nears 8 pm, the roads are full of scooters being driven by men/women, decked up in kurta-pyjama-dupatta/chaniya cholis respectively. Many scooters have two women, one driving and the other on the pillion...both in colourful garba garbs. Lovely! Unfortunately I couldn’t get a proper shot of this.

The Garba is held in many places all over the city, much like our Ganesh pandals. The biggest one in Vadodara was organised in a huge ground; there was a kind of a flower-shaped, brightly lit podium erected at a height. Around this were lamps hanging across the entire area. On the podium were the singers and the orchestra; and the dancers—thousands of them (yes!)—danced all around, in concentric circles. There was one old man dancing very elegantly and energetically...apparently he is a regular, and is well known.


There are prizes (sponsored by corporates) for the best male dancer, best female dancer, best dressed dancers, best couple, and so on.

The dance itself is very traditional and graceful, with 4-5 steps forward and then 3-4 steps backward, but the dancers surely move forward—much like the Indian economy, as my friend Mira commented! The girls dazzle in their chaniya cholis and colourful ornaments. Some of the men too were dressed in gorgeous costumes, like the ‘peacock man’ (see photo). The dance begins at about 9 pm and goes on till about 1 am. There are a few breaks when the dancers sit around in circles and have some refreshments. The songs are in Gujarati, at least where we went, but I am told that Bollywood has entered the Garba scene in a big way.

The next day we went to a children’s garba, which was similar, but on a smaller scale. There are only-girls garbas too. The newspaper supplements and the TV were full of garba scenes, and there were hoardings everywhere, showing garba and dandia. But I was disappointed that I had not seen any dandia...perhaps it is reserved for the last 2 days. I left before that.

Our hosts---Mira, Nandini and Indira---gave us a great taste (as on palate and otherwise) of Gujarati culture. There was a garba in their home too, where women danced around in a circle clapping their hands. The steps were much easier, and we happily joined in. And when they asked kem cho?, we heartily replied majha macho!

Among the interesting things I heard was that the dancers lose about 5 kg by the time navratri is over! Also, that many dancers attend practice sessions before the season begins.

I am quite sure if I lived in Gujarat, I wouldn’t be part of the garba, just as I am not an intrinsic part of the Bathkamma festival in Telangana where I live. I have unfortunately travelled away from certain simple delights...

October 23, 2007

In a small village in Gujarat...

We walked down this lane in a small village called Sankheda in Gujarat. This village is famous for furniture. We walked past the small houses looking at the process of how the wood was shaped, polished, painted and fitted to make swings, sofa sets, chairs, stools, and other articles.





Then suddenly, a bandi wheeled into this narrow lane. On it was a PC, yes, our very own Personal Computer --- monitor, CPU, keyboard, et al. We watched in disbelief as it was carried into the home of one of the artisans.

He told us he would use it to do his accounts, advertise his wares over the internet, write letters...

We listened dumbfounded.

October 10, 2007

Oh, the magic of nature!

I found this beautiful green caterpillar on a crape jasmine plant (Tabernaemontana divaricata; nandivardanam in Telugu) in my balcony. He had finished half of the leaves on my plant, and was still eating hungrily. I had always wanted to watch the life cycle of a butterfly/moth. Here was my chance! My friend Kobita had successfully reared this very caterpillar recently, and I thought I’d do it too. If I could pull it off, it would be the best botany lesson for my children, and the other kids in the building.

I put him along with the branch into a bottle with holes on the lid. We named him Bakasura...the rate at which he was eating inspired the name! There was a steady input/output, actually...he ate and he pooped seed-like black droppings, sometimes simultaneously! (I had earlier sowed these droppings, thinking they were seeds!) This went on for one whole day.

The next morning, we were startled to find that Bakasura had turned into a brown-black larva, with silvery white dots. This amazing transformation happened overnight! He continued the input-output, but not as much as the previous day. After a day or two he stopped eating completely and stopped moving too.

Bakasura became a familiar name in my house...he was our pet. My children’s friends came to see him, my friends and family called to ask how he was! On day 10, I gave him a ride to my children’s school, where I showed him to a group of children I work with once a week. They were excited and I promised that I would show them the moth after it hatched. Over the next few days, the outside seemed to harden, and became more black than brown. He also shrank and curved somewhat.

Well, Baks stayed like this about 14 days. I was beginning to get worried that something had gone wrong...I hate to interfere with nature, and just didn’t want him to die. We watched him on and off, for signs of change.

On the 16th day, around 8 pm, he came out of the pupa. Suddenly, there was the pupa shell as usual, AND this green moth with a lovely pattern on it. We were overjoyed..it was like childbirth! The next morning, after showing him to the children in school, I left him on the Oleander plant (Nerium oleander host plant for this moth; ganneru in Telugu) in our backyard.

Our Bakasura is now an Oleander Hawk-moth. Isn’t he gorgeous?

October 01, 2007

Practice, don’t pray

One thing that people do regularly every year, in the complex I live in, is to install a Ganesha (a NON-ecofriendly one that contributes to the pollution of our Hussain Sagar). Every day one or more families do a puja, and serve prasadam, which actually defies the definition of this word, and constitutes our dinner. We also make polite conversation with people we see in the lift every day, play games that the children of the building conduct, eat and go back home.

Which is okay, maybe.

But it is not okay when there are things we don’t do. Such as meeting to clean up a certain mess that surrounds us, to improve facilities, to plant trees, to find more parking space so that everyone has one allotted, solve problems bothering us since years...

What I would love to do is to meet to have a discussion on the necessity for 2 or more than 2 cars per family, especially because several cars are not even taken out once a week...they just occupy valuable parking space, that could well be used for a table tennis table or a play area for children, or even a gym.

All kinds of complexities have prevented me from doing something about this. So I come to this space and scream. And sprinke quotations here and there...such as this old African proverb.

"When you pray...move your feet"

Isn’t this so true? Doesn’t real prayer lie in service, in being able to help oneself, and others?

September 24, 2007

Bravo, India!












Monday, 24 September 2007.

India won—actually won—the Twenty20 finals against Pakistan, in South Africa!

• As soon as this happened, the skies lit up with fire crackers.
• The Hyderabad roads came alive with wild revelry.
• Groups of people, young and old, began to dance on the road, waving Indian flags, stopping traffic in jubiliation. It is now 11.20 pm, and they are still dancing to the sound of drums.
• Motorcycles, scooters and cars drove past, shouting and madly waving flags of all sizes!
• The stationery shop wallah on the main road began to do brisk business—selling flags!
• TV channels are full of this victory - ah! sweet victory, after a long gap of 24 years! The last was the World Cup in 1983, where Kapil Dev became a hero.
• Headlines Today went berserk...all the staff began dancing as Kapil Dev entered the studio. He too joined in and for a good 10 minutes, all we saw in the news bulletin were the journalists dancing with Kapil Dev!! It was the best form of communication...no words could have expressed gladdened hearts better!

I wonder if this was what it was like on 15 August 1947---at least in some parts of India. I am witnessing a nation drunk with happiness. One cricket victory is all it takes to make this happen? Are we a country full of carefree, immature children?

Suddenly I worry, as I usually do when there is too much happiness. Be careful, my dear people...we live in times of bomb blasts.

I look out of the window to see another frenzy of dancing, more flags waving, hear more shouts and screams.

I tell myself to throw all serious thoughts and analysis out of the window. Perhaps I should go out and buy a tricolour and go for a spin on my scooter.... ?!
Photo from The Hindu 25 Sep 2007

September 12, 2007

An animation link

This link was sent to me by my friend Giridhar. Anyone interested in animation will love this. Have fun!
_______________________________
Animator vs. Animation
Alan Becker

Artist's Comments: An animator faces his own animation in deadly combat. The battlefield? The Flash interface itself. A stick figure is created by an animator with the intent to torture. The stick figure drawn by the animator will be using everything he can find --- the brush tool, the eraser tool --- to get back at his tormentor. It's resourcefulness versus power. Who will win? You can find out yourself.

http://www.deviantart.com/deviation/34244097/

This took three long months.. i think it's worth it.

September 04, 2007

After an year of blogging...

It was in August 2006 that I hesitantly started blogging. I was not sure I would have the courage to write frankly, week after week. But I have written a lot – 20 posts in 2006, and 25 in 2007, so far, which is way more than what I had expected to write.

What has my blog given me?

Lens and Sensibility has given me a space to celebrate, a space to vent, a space in which to react to situations, a space simply to go to, at the end of a tiring day. It has given me an expression, an outlet for my creative energy…an outlet, where, unlike in the physical world, I do not feel constantly judged and assessed. I love freedom, and I cherish the freedom blogging allows.

I do not get too many comments; nevertheless, I thank the people who have communicated to me through their comments. Some people I know tell me they regularly read my blog and I tell them, Thank you. I love people who read my blog!

There is one person who almost always leaves a comment: Dharmabum from Pondicherry…I do not know him, yet he now seems like a friend, because of his regular comments, and because of his own blog (http://www.debum.blogspot.com/), which I read regularly. The famous Bishwanath Ghosh (Journalist, New Indian Express), who I admire, has also visited my blog, and left a comment, and I feel thrilled! Sometimes, there are comments from total strangers, and that is a reward in itself.

I always give credit to people to whom I owe something in life. I was inspired to start blogging by my friends Buchamma and Usha, and Bishwanath Ghosh’s blog http://www.bytheganges.blogspot.com/, which I discovered through his Sunday Express column. Thank you, friends, for this invaluable gift, and of course, to the best thing that happened to us in recent times: The Internet.

Lens and Sensibility has also made me discover who I am. Sometimes my writing disgusts me and I am very unhappy with myself; yet there are times when I am pleased with the reflection I see here.

And yes, my blog is also a place that allows me to dream. And that is important to me, because I believe that I dream, therefore I am.

August 20, 2007

Goodbye dear Kodak...

I saw this beautiful snail in the park. It was really big and walked slowly but majestically on the wet earth. I stopped in my tracks when I saw it, just to admire it and to take a picture...

This photo is also special because it is the last I took with my Kodak...a companion since the last 3 years. Someone decided they needed it more than I did and took it away. I lost it.

Well...what can one do? Nothing.

August 12, 2007

India 60

As I read the several articles on India completing 60 years since 1947, I ask myself why 15 August makes me feel nostalgic and proud. I have listed 12 reasons from my heart --- two for each decade:

1. It is because I grew up listening to the tales my parents told us about the freedom struggle, and their own participation in the movement.
2. It is because my grandmother wore khadi, always.

3. It is because of the Independence Day celebrations in school for which we polished our shoes and wore impeccable clothes, and sang Vandemataram and Jana gana mana.
4. It is because I admire Mahatma Gandhi and never cease to be amazed at the unique way in which we achieved independence.

5. It is because I recited the Pledge ‘India is my country…’ every day in school, all through my school years.
6. It is because we saw patriotic films like Manoj Kumar’s Purab aur paschim and Kranti, Raj Kapoor’s Jis desh mein Ganga behti Hai, the Telugu film Alluri Seetarama Raju, more recently, Lagaan, and invariably cried, and hated the British…

7. It is because I feel protective of my country and all that it represents.
8. It is because India excites me… to me it represents life itself --- in a million different hues.

9. It is because I am proud of a certain spiritual outlook that is there by default in Indians at all levels.
10. It is because I do not look at India as different from myself…I am part of India, good or bad.

11. It is because I believe that India has a unique character and place in the world, and we must do everything we can to preserve this.
12. And it is because I have never been able to question or doubt, as do many others, my Indianness, for I belong completely to the place I was born in.

Happy 60th birthday, India, even though you are many centuries old!

July 31, 2007

In criticism of Airtel...

Friends, Hyderabadis, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to criticize Airtel, not to praise it.
The evil that Airtel does lives on and on;
The good is oft interred with their schemes;
So let it be. The noble Airtel
Hath told us their schemes were just:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault;
And grievously hath I answer'd it.
By dumping Airtel and their schemes, --
Airtel seemed an honourable company;
So are they all, all honourable companies, --
Airtel, Hutch, Tata Indicom...

Come I to speak about Airtel and the rest.
They pretend to be our friends, faithful and just to us:
But the world says they are righteous;
And the world is full of honourable men.
Airtel hath brought many hapless people into their schemes.
Whose pre- and postpaids did their general coffers fill:
Did this in Airtel seem righteous?
When that the poor have cried, Airtel hath laughed:
Markets should be made of kinder stuff:
Yet they say the rates are competitive;
And they are all are honourable men.

You did see that there seems to be no relationship
Between recharge, talk time and validity
Any which way we look at it, we lose: is this justice?
Yet our leaders say this is righteous;
And, sure, they are honourable men.
I speak not to disprove what Airtel does,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
We all did love Airtel once, --not without cause:
What cause withholds you, then, to criticize them now?
O judgement, thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason! --Bear with me;
My heart is in the right place and my head too,
And I must pause till things get better with the wired world.

(With due apologies to William Shakespeare, and thanks too, for the inspiration)

July 10, 2007

Earth sold out, now for the sky…

The new buzz word in Hyderabad is Lanco Hills, a futuristic ‘world in itself’, with residential flats, malls, entertainment centers, et al., much like what one hears about Ambi Valley near Mumbai. There are hoardings everywhere showing something like the New York City skyline, newspapers are full of ads, you sit in a restaurant and you hear people talking about how quickly property in Lanco Hills is being sold out. How residential flats were sold for Rs 15 crore for floors 1-5, and get lesser as one went up, and how a flat on the 60th floor was sold for Rs 80 lakhs…you choke in disgust.

Lanco Hills seems to represent the final blow to ordinary citizens like me…people who have been living a reasonably comfortable life in this city for the last 30 years. There have always been roads on which one could drive, there have been convenient galli kirana shops for provisions; there have always been interesting theatre and art activities to satisfy one’s soul, there have always been good eating joints, parks, movies…

Suddenly, the roads are too difficult to handle; galli kirana shops have been replaced by impersonal supermarkets with complex computer software that makes billing extremely time-consuming; plays are staged in five-star hotels and cost the sky; suddenly everything is so much more difficult. Something as simple as going to a movie…the multiplex is convenient, but you pay so much more and end up in row 1, 2 or 3. Never in my life have I seen a movie sitting in the front of the theatre, that too after paying the highest price. And this seems to be the accepted thing; no one seems to find anything wrong with it.

I just read an article in Outlook (16 July 2007) titled, “That side of the street” by Jeremy Seabrook. Talking about the trend to “bring Manhattan to Marine Drive, reshaping Bangalore or Hyderabad as Singapore”, he says, “It seems a pity that India, land of villages, cannot invent or imagine a city that is Indian, without reference to some gilded outstation of fantasy.”

Much as one wants to take change in one’s stride accepting it as inevitable, one does wonder, should change necessarily be in the direction of Lanco Hills? Is there no other way to do it?

Who is Lanco Hills for? Why does it make me feel that I am being driven out of the city?"

July 03, 2007

Madhumalai in April














I took this picture from the car, as we drove up the Mysore-Ootacamund road. The first sights and sounds of the Bandipur/Madhumalai forest, even though it was very dry, were exciting. And to spot an elephant walking on the road or a bison suddenly cross the road before you are worth the effort one puts into travel.

There are plenty of guest houses in this area, and it was difficult to choose one. We found one on the internet – Forest Hills Farm and Guest House, off Masinagudi in Madhumalai (http://foresthillsindia.com/). A little distance after Masinagudi, we took a right turn from the main road (there are signboards) and then drove deep into what was actually the jungle. There were large patches of emptiness, and other guest houses here and there as we drove closer and closer to the Nilgiris. Then suddenly everything was green, as we neared Forest Hills Farm.

We did not quite like the idea of going to a place not ‘tested’ by someone known to us, but the place turned out to be great – very homely atmosphere, with the owners, the Jains, coming over to talk to each of their guests, a bonfire in the nights, table tennis, swings, trekking guides, friendly dogs...and the food! I would go back there just for the food…it is awesome! Not five-starish, but delicious in a homely kind of way; the menu as though lovingly planned out by the wife/mother for her family.














We saw animals on and off, on the main road as we drove up, and during the safari we took – peacocks, deer, langurs, a bison and a family of elephants (these belonged to the Forest department).
The trek was great fun, and a bit scary too. We first saw a family of wild pigs. Then as we walked along, we kept spotting elephant dung here and there...immediately arose the question in one’s mind, ‘if there is dung, can the elephant be far ahead'?! Much as we were animal lovers, the thought of coming face to face with an elephant in the wild was not too welcome.














Then we came to a water point…it was a gorge, green and shady, and since it had rained the previous night, there was a small trickle of water coming down the rocks. It was beautiful. We rested there for a while, taking in the fresh air and the quiet, and then began climbing up the rocks once again. And then, suddenly, a carcass of a bison all eaten up, the hide hollowed out, with just the head, horns, legs and hooves intact. Again the question, ‘if there is a carcass, can a tiger or a panther be far ahead’? Our guide gently told us that the bison must’ve been eaten by a tiger…that it could be around somewhere, but since tigers were shy animals, nothing to worry. What?!!

We trekked back, sweating it out as the sun went higher, seeing nothing else as exciting as the dead bison, but spotting a porcupine quill, animal scratch marks on a tree, a lot more elephant dung and yes, even tiger dung!

The elephants and the tigers were, however, far far away…I guess.

June 09, 2007

Absence

Absence from my blog makes me restless. I become impatient to get back to Lens and Sensibility, and communicate. With whom and for what, I do not know. But it seems to be important to me. Some part of me seems incomplete without this self-imposed regularity of expression.

Here I am, after a break from Lens…, during which I worked through pages and pages of text, design elements, photographs, figures, racing against time, trying desperately to meet deadlines. Working with various people who helped me get to the finishing line, I discovered once again that wonderful dedication by simple, unpretentious people, who have much more professionalism in them than several others parading around in business suits, lap tops, and a style that has an impression value of about 5 minutes.

Sharp-eyed workers in the printshop, spotting errors, which, even the most discerning editorial eye has missed after reading a page for the eleventh time; involved artistes working day and night to get something just right; young beginners with burning ambitions and a desire to do their best…these are the people who make a difference. These are the people who make every deadline a challenge that will be confidently met.

I salute these professionals who often go unrecognized (and who are used to non-recognition)…for in the long run, it is they who realise that it is the process and not the reward (or an award) that makes work enjoyable.

May 15, 2007

Summer

Summer can be this:
Or this:
It depends on what one prefers to look at!

April 22, 2007

Life

Isn't this like life itself?
The thin lines between
hope and despair,
happiness and sorrow,
health and sickness,
today and tomorrow,
them and us?

April 09, 2007

Getting philosophical about virtual reality

I haven’t written anything of substance in recent times. Doesn’t always happen. Doesn’t just happen. Very often it takes experience, and perhaps good writing comes out of agony and suffering.

Agony? Suffering? No...no, I am not talking about anything very serious. Or maybe it is. I am talking from experience about what happens when you come face to face with a computer crash, AND the possibility of losing all data.

This happened a year ago. One not out-of-the-ordinary morning, my PC refused to come on. The previous night it had happily purred to life as usual, the in the morning, when I switched it on, it showed no sign of life. None at all. Just a cold message about some error number something-or-the-other, before Windows was supposed to start. I tried again and again, and recived the same treatment. Okay, I decided, it is probably overworked and needs some rest. So I regretfully abandoned it for a while, and resisted the temptation to check my mail at the neighbour’s.

Afternoon, the same treatment.

Evening---the same cold message stared at me.

I went to bed, and woke up in cold sweat after a nightmare.

A new morning dawned, and as with all mornings, HOPE. I rushed to my computer. Error number something-or-the-other once again looked cheekily at me. Suddenly, fear. I picked up the phone and called the computer doctor. "Please, please, PLEASE...come immediately; don’t delay...I have a deadline".

The minutes and hours seemed to drag. And then he came. One look at the message, and "It looks like a...hard disk failure"...he mumbled casually as only computer docs can mumble, even while I groped for oxygen. (At that point I realised that computer doctors’ speech = human doctors’ handwriting).

And then I gathered by his actions that he needed to take my hard disk away, to test it in his office. I felt as though he was literally snatching my heart away from me. "But, but, but..." I stammered, as I asked him all the questions that came to my hysterical mind. He casually mumbled a few incoherent ‘answers.

In the days that followed, I felt as though I was down with some terrible ailment. I did not have any appetite, I couldn’t sleep, I perhaps hallucinated because all the data I had NOT backed up swam before my eyes, creating interesting shapes and colours I had never seen before. The publication with 250 graphics and near-final layouts...I had done the last backup 3 months back! And a lot had happened since. I would have to recreate all the pages from the printout I had. And then all those precious emails I had wanted to copy on to a CD, or even print out...and then, oh my god, my photos! I had not backed them up in the last six months. And I had erased everything from my camera too (why the hell did I buy a digital cam?). And then my personal folder...letters to my children, my diary...how much of me was in the little piece of metal the comp doc had casually flung into his bag...

Now I felt really sick. I called Him (henceforth ‘Him’ = comp doc). His mumble sounded like, "we are trying, madam." I tried to impress upon Him the importance of my files. They were not just personal...my computer was my professional tool, and I had deadlines. "We are trying, madam", He mumbled again, vaguely.

A week passed. I felt more and more sick and nervous. The suspense was killing. I remembered trivial stuff that was on my PC, which mattered a great deal to me. Things I had done many years ago, but never bothered to back up. Things that gave me great happiness each time I read them.

Two weeks passed, with me calling Him every two days or so, trying not to sound anxious, but gently reminding Him that it was important to recover my precious publication files. All the while I was unhappy, restless, angry, couldn’t concentrate on anything and wanted to get violent...
***
And then He called to mumble He was coming over and perhaps, the files could be recovered after all. Or something like that. I waited, holding my breath, pacing the floor. He did not come at the time promised. He came many hours later. I was sitting listlessly in a chair. He put the hard disk back into my PC, put it on...voila! it came on! I saw my good old screen, wall paper and all.

Visions of fire crackers in wild colours on a Deepavali night flashed in my mind’s eye, but I changed the visual from colour to b&w, told myself to wait before jumping to happy conclusions.
***
I’ll fast-forward here. After three or four attempts at looking normal, my PC flashed the same cruel message again. My heart sank, I lost all hope, it seemed like the end of the world.

And then suddenly it came on again...it did. The comp doc mumbled, "can you make a backup now?" I said an emphatic "yes", and quickly started backing up...when it went off yet again.

Disgust, dismay, anger...I knew the tears would come soon. I looked away. And then He mumbled, "Madam, try to back up the most important files quickly". It had come on again. I began backing up. It seemed stable, and I copied the very-important files first, and then slowly, other files. In about 2 hours, I had backed up everything. As soon as I had done this, it crashed again!

I had backed up EVERYTHING!!

Visuals of rice fields in Ghanpur, happy multi-coloured faces on holi, rustic rangoli, even tulips in the Netherlands...accompanied by sounds of birds chirping, gurgling water, and a burst of music of joy and celebration, composed by all the great musicians of the world...

I smiled a smile of relief. I wanted to give the comp doc a big hug. All was well with my world.

My virtual world.

***

It has been a year since this happened. I thought a great deal about what I went through. And was disgusted with myself for feeling those feelings. Even as my colleague and friend told me repeatedly, "I told you...you should back up regularly. Start doing that at least now", I came to one definite conclusion as to what I would do if this happened to me again. What do you think? Chalk out a timetable for periodical backups?

No! I decided to get philosophical about my virtual world.

If data is lost, let it go!
If photos are lost, no big deal. You do have wonderful memories of your vacation, don’t you?
Okay, you need to recreate a publication. Do it. A crash doesn’t happen every day.
You lost emails? FINE! Let them go! Don’t be too sentimental and cling on to words, that too in cyberspace. For...

When real life itself is maya...what of the virtual?

Jaane bhi do yaaron...

April 02, 2007

White tiger in green water

I took this picture in the Hyderabad zoo. There are also three cubs...active little things prancing up and down, jumping on their mother, pretending to be grown-up and ferocious! They are a real treat to the eye. Two of them have been named Bunty and Babli.

March 25, 2007

Women and dabbas

What’s it with women and dabbas? Any shape, any size, plastic or steel, glass or brass, single or box in box in box in box , plain or colour coordinated, ordinary or microwave-able…women (any shape and size) simply love boxes!

I remember woman vendors carrying stainless steel vessels in baskets on their heads being called by my grandmother and sometimes my mother. I could see desire in their eyes when they saw those steel boxes. I always wondered why they needed more steel vessels, when the kitchen was already so full of them. But there was always one box or vessel with a different shape, different size, that they wanted, and they always managed to find a use for it.

It was a barter system---steel vessels for old clothes. Out came the old sarees, shirts and pants, and then began the bargaining. My mother would give them a HUGE pile of clothes and the woman would offer a tiny vessel in return! My mother would casually ask for a large box; the woman would say, “no, no…I cannot give you that one; you must be joking”. The woman would then ask for sarees with zari (gold work) on them My mother would not give her any zari sarees, but maybe add one more old saree and shirt, and finally, after about two hours of haggling, the woman would walk away with the basket of steel vessels on her head, and in her arm, the pile of old clothes wrapped in one of the sarees.

As she walked away, she left behind two women overjoyed with the new dabba in the kitchen, perhaps triumphant too, that they finally got what they wanted!

Here’s another scene. Just watch a woman walking around in a supermarket or a mall. Watch her as she nears a shelf with boxes on it. She will slow down…oh yes, she will! She will pick up a box and hold it lovingly, turn it around, try to open it, look inside…if it is a box in box in box, she will open all the lids and put them all back, caress the box, sigh (thinking of the number of boxes she already has) and place it back with great reluctance.

She will similarly pick up the other kinds of boxes that are there, again touch them, sigh, and put them back. Sometimes she will walk away from the shelf with a stern resolve, pick up other things she had actually gone there for, but slowly return to the shelf with boxes, hesitantly pick up a box, put it in her basket. Sometimes she will put it back yet again, but pick it up, as she is suddenly convinced that she really and truly needs that box!

So what’s it with women and dabbas? Simple…as I said earlier, women just love boxes. And it is a harmless love affair, best left alone and not reasoned out, and most important, not questioned!

March 15, 2007

The Waiting Place

Dr Suess’s book ‘Oh, the places you’ll go!’ is one of my favourite books.

As the jacket says, this book is ‘for out-starting upstarts of all ages...a wonderfully wise and blessedly brief graduation speech. In his inimitable, humourous verse and pictures, he addresses the Great Balancing Act (life itself, and the ups and downs it presents) while encouraging us to find the success that lies within us’.

Oh! The places... is about making choices, about going into the wide world, about great things happening to you, about flying high; it is also about great things NOT happening to you, and about being left in the lurch. It is about fear and confusion, about being in the slump and about the Waiting Place, where people are just waiting...

Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.


Simple words, but oh, so true. How many times one lands up seriously in this dreaded Waiting Place, not finding the way out. But...Dr Suess says there is an end to this waiting. He talks about ‘unslumping’ oneself, about moving on, about going places, having fun! And will you succeed? Yes! You, will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.) So ends the book, on a note of hope.

I seem to be in the Waiting Place, yet again. Now is the time to remember and be thankful for all the speed breakers I crossed earlier in life, and get myself to once again believe in the 98 and 3/4 percent guarantee!

March 08, 2007

Lambadis on Holi

We were driving back from Srisailam (Kurnool district, AP; famous for the Siva temple, Nallamalai forest, River Krishna) on Holi, and were stopped by groups of revellers asking for inam. While it was irritating to stop every now and then, we were also in for a treat: these lambadis (a nomadic tribe) stood right in front of the car and started dancing, and thus walked straight into my Kodak.

March 01, 2007

Of a slug and its silvery trail


Some things bring back memories. It could be a song, it could be a smell, it could be a place or an ambience...it could even be an insect!

A slug brings me many happy memories. Memories of a special time, a special place, a fun-loving group of friends, picnics, fooling around. Somewhat like in Shaan’s Tanha dil... whenever I see a slug, I visualise green lawns, my friends and me relaxing during lunch break, talking, joking, one naughty friend pulling another’s leg, giggling...and slugs in the grass!

What amused us were the silvery trails they left as they moved ever so slowly on the grass! Every time we saw a slug leaving a trail, we would stop and watch, as fascinated as we were the first time we saw it.

At that time, I never bothered to read about why they left this trail. I did, now. See below, the explanation. Lots of interesting details and all that...but all I want to say is that this little insect has left a silvery trail, not just in the grass, but also in my heart! And it always does, and always will remind me of that special place, a special time...and a special moment.

___________________
According to Wikipedia, slugs produce two types of mucus (the silvery trail): one which is thin and watery, and another which is thick and sticky. The thin mucus is spread out from the centre of the foot to the edges. The thick mucus spreads out from front to back.

Mucus is very important to slugs as it helps them move around, and contains fibres which prevent the slug from sliding down vertical surfaces. Mucus also provides protection against predators and helps retain moisture. Some species use slime cords to lower themselves on to the ground, or suspend from them during copulation.

February 23, 2007

They also matter...

I felt very touched when I saw this father-daughter* combination working together, playing the melam beautifully at a wedding in Vishakapatnam. There was a certain dignity, a certain reverence to their craft, and a naturalness as they played their music.

There are not many women who play the melam, that too at weddings, so that makes this scene unusual. Yet, it was accepted as matter-of-fact, no one stared, there was no extraordinary curiosity. Except for my Kodak.

Unsung, unpublicized, there are ever so many genuine artistes in small corners of the world. One only needs to be sensitized to observe, and not necessarily comprehend or analyse.

Yet it is only a miniscule percentage that makes it to the magazine sections of newspapers, and a smaller percentage still, that has a claim to fame...and if one is not alert, one can very easily get brainwashed into thinking that it is only those few that matter.

_________________
*Sri Balasubramanyam (a lecturer in a music college), and his daughter Kumari Lakshmi Suvarna.

February 16, 2007

Oh...the balloon-wallah!
























My children's eyes always opened wide and their faces broke into cheerful smiles when they saw him. Actually they saw only the balloons and other colourful stuff that he had. They never really saw him. But he has been there...dependable, an unseen constant, sure to bring a smile to a child's face, sure to wipe many a tear.

He must have job satisfaction.

I cannot help wondering...if he sold all those balloons, how much would he make? I also cannot help wondering...how long before he is replaced by a vending machine at a mall?