Sunday, May 28, 2006

An evening with friends, carnatic music and parathas!

Yesterday was one of those really good days I’ve had in recent times. For starters, though I did go to office, I didn’t have much to do! Then I went and met a dear friend of mine, Jyotsna, who has come down from Bombay. She has been a real inspiration for me in recent times. I was meeting her for the first time in person and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

My friend, Bala, and I went to a Ganesh-Kumaresh concert titled Xpressions at Narada Gana Sabha later in the evening. These are guys whom I’ve been following for the past twenty years or so and who have been principally responsible for my love for Carnatic music! Of course I have also had the experience of learning carnatic music (though I never appreciated it at that time). Trust me; this happens in almost every tam-bram household (or atleast, used to happen when I was young)! The moment a child is five or six, he or she is promptly packed off to Paattu class, whether they like it or not!! And so, I used to lug a shruti box to my teacher’s place three days a week! Later on, I decided to bunk one class every week and so, used to spend those days playing gully cricket, gilli-dhanda, goli and the like [though my folks believed that I was in Paattu class!] :) Finally, my tonsils came to my rescue and so, the Paattu class came to an end! These days if I sing, my audience seems to be, almost exclusively, of the four-legged kind! Hence, I’ve stopped singing for the greater good of humanity :) Nevertheless, I love listening to Carnatic music, especially the instrumental kind!

The concert began with a wonderful piece in Ragam Hamsadhwani, which really brought the whole audience to life. The next piece was on “anger” in Ragam Vasantha and was the one I liked most, probably because of my current state of affairs. The third one was a tamil composition by Gangai Amaren set to Ragam Dhanyasi, the lyrics of which weren’t to my liking. This was followed by Nagumo in Ragam Abheri and another piece in Ragam Kalyani, both of which were quite enchanting! At this point, some guy in the audience asked for rock n roll! Don’t know why he asked that in a carnatic concert but he must have been stunned by the response he got from the musicians! What followed was an awesome rendition in Ragam Bahudhari! Keith Peters in the bass guitar came into his own in this, as did Patri Satish Kumar on the mridangam and Arun Kumar on the drums! The evening ended with a lovely piece in Ragam Desh, which left us wanting for more! Ravichandra on the flute and Shyam on the keyboard provided good support, although Shyam seemed to be enjoying the music more than us all and was swaying quite a bit precariously perched on a stool and I actually expected him to topple over any moment!

While this concert would not have appealed to the purists especially since there was no long winded alapanais and in any event, they will never approve a carnatic violin concert with drums, keyboard and a bass guitar as accompaniments! However, this concert was introduced as contemporary carnatic music and it was just that, contemporary and carnatic! The fact that a majority of the audience comprised of youngsters only goes to prove that such concerts are here to stay!

Having written this far, I realise that I have actually been praising the concert (albeit pathetically!), which is nothing less than blasphemy in my philosophy of critiquing anything and everything. So, here goes…. To begin with, the concert started more than half an hour late. I don’t get the point in advertising a particular time when you do not have the intention of keeping it. The acoustics in Narada Gana Sabha is pretty poor and they would do well to revamp the whole thing. The audience also seemed over anxious to applaud and in their enthusiasm started clapping even before the piece was completed. Worst still, some of them chose to whistle as well! The most important grievance for me was the cameraman from SS Music. It appears that SS Music was one of the sponsors and so had placed couple of cameramen at strategic positions on the aisle. Unfortunately, one of these happened to be directly obstructing my viewing Ganesh, resulting in my craning my neck a lot to catch a glimpse. My friends know that my neck and I share a rather precarious relationship and this craning yesterday has left me very sore in the neck.

After the concert, we went to this place called Khana Khazana in Besant Nagar opposite Elliots Beach. They make some of the most wonderful parathas in Madras. The only drawback is that one has to sit on the pavement and eat or get a takeaway (which is what we did)! While we were waiting for them to get our orders, I saw a really pretty girl coming down to eat there. Of course, she was accompanied by two rather severe looking guys, either of whom would have got placed as bouncers in any of the pubs!! This girl looked quite uncomfortable at the prospect of sitting on the pavement and eating. Obviously she was one of those who didn’t approve of kaiyendi bhavans (road-side eateries!). Nevertheless, the two bouncers started cleaning the pavement in right earnest. I felt fairly sure that neither of them would have done any such cleaning at home but here they were cleaning the pavement with gusto!! That is chivalry, I guess :) By the time they were done, our orders had arrived and so we left.

Thus ended a very pleasant evening :)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Bengalooru and beyond........on vacation!!

Disclaimer: This is a rather boring account of a week long break! you read beyond this point at your own risk and peril :)

Went off on a vacation for a week which would explain the break from cribbing in this space! To tell you the truth, I just ran away from work and landed up in my brother’s place in Bangalore (Bengalooru as its being renamed!) late on 13th evening. The vacation began with my brother, sister-in-law and me going to Forum on Sunday afternoon for a movie titled “Darna zaroori hai”! As the title suggests, one presumed that it was a horror movie but unfortunately it is anything but that. At best it can be described as a pathetic attempt at humour. Those of you who have not watched this movie can take the hint and avoid going anywhere near the theatres in which it is playing and as for those who have had the misfortune of watching it, my sympathies are with you. Met up with two of my friends in Bangalore Central in the evening and chatted up with them and window-shopped a lot! Monday was also spent oor suthing (roaming around!) Bangalore and generally picking up lot of fights with the auto fellows!

A little about the autos in Bangalore now… while I have always believed that the auto guys in Madras are the worst, these guys aren’t far behind. To begin with they are very choosy about the places that they will go to and from around 7.30pm onwards, they start demanding for one and a half times normal fare. Most fellows don’t even stop to answer you if they are not interested in the place you want to go to!! So you just stand in the pavement and keep shouting the name of the place at the top of your voice like a hawker and hope that one of these guys would stop! Nevertheless, these fellows have to learn a lot more tricks to catch up with their Madras counterparts :)

As for the city of Bangalore itself (which they choose to call “Garden city”), I would rather refer to it as a city with a few gardens! It appears that somewhere in the process of development, they were faced with the choice of having either a city or a garden and seem to have opted for the city, at the cost of the garden! But it does have a lot more greenery than Madras. As for the traffic, the less said the better. In Madras I usually go from Thiruvanmiyur to Anna Nagar and back and then go to Courts in Parrys Corner or Nungambakkam and in between go to my office at Mylapore as well, all on the same day!! But nothing of this sort is possible in Bangalore, as a major part of your day is spent in the traffic jam. I actually saw an ambulance wailing in the midst of traffic one evening but making no progress. While the other motorists on the road did try to give way, they couldn’t do much thanks to the traffic jam. I just said a silent prayer for the person battling for life in the ambulance.

One other thing which one noticed is that the buses in Bangalore don’t carry any signboards in English and its quite an ordeal finding the bus which you need to take. The consolation for me was that my friend Wooster, who is a bangalorean, also doesn’t read kannada and so, has the same drawback as me in reading these sign-boards :) I had always thought that tamils were the worst language chauvinists but I have now revised my opinion! In fact I even saw a bus stop with everything written in Kannada except the words “Bangalore Forward” in English!! If that is the way forward why write that alone in English? Reminded me of some signboards I’ve seen in Madras with the inscription “Long live classical Tamil” written in English!!

Moved on to Mysore on Tuesday and generally roamed about and landed up at the Jungle Lodge resort at K-Gudi – B.R Hills Wildlife Sanctuary the following morning!! What followed was one and a half days of absolute bliss. Living in a tented cottage with just the sounds of nature and a lot of insects for company was quite an awesome experience! The fact that there is electricity only for about 4 hours in the evening adds to the thrill. And of all persons, I meet another lawyer from Bangalore with her two kids in the resort! As she put it, we lawyers don’t even leave the jungle alone :) And as if to prove it, none of the predators ventured out in the open while we went on a safari!! Only the elephants were brave enough and made an appearance :) Nevertheless, I had a wonderful time and have memories, which I’ll cherish for long!

And here's a video clip of a herd of elephants

The return trip from K-Gudi to Mysore proved a lot more eventful than I had bargained for. My cab driver, on a sudden whim, decided to test the strength of the car with that of a stationary lorry and came out second best!! Thankfully, both him and me got out of the car unscathed but it was quite a shock for me! The car got badly damaged though. And much to my dismay, the cab driver was more interested in getting compensation from the lorry fellows than seeing if I was dead or alive! And I was so vetti (jobless!) standing on the road that I actually took a photo of the smashed up car!! Don’t know if I’ll get to wear a diamond crown ever, but on this day it appears that I did resemble a person wearing such a crown and got a lot of odd looks from passers by! The reason, I realized subsequently, was that my head was full of shards of glass!!

Went to a movie on Saturday at Inox alongwith Raaga and Wooster! The movie was Poseidon and I didn’t think it was great. Had lost interest in the movie quite early and so, indulged in my usual pastime of criticizing each and every scene, much to the discomfort of both my friends :) At the end of it, both of them were ready to wring my neck or massage my neck, as they put it :) The evening saw more mall hopping and window-shopping! I haven’t window-shopped as much as I did last week, ever before! The whole of Bangalore seems to descend on these ubiquitous malls during weekends, especially the ones referred to as “pretty young things”! Personally, I would rather leave out the “pretty” part and just refer to them as “young things” :) And as usual, I found myself the odd one out, as far the dressing goes!

Finally and rather reluctantly, I returned to Madras on Sunday. It was a week which I enjoyed thoroughly, a week without any work and totally cut off from the cyber world and most times from the cell phone as well! Wish this could be the routine and not just a vacation. Wishful thinking, I know :) And I do owe a lot of thanks to Raaga and Wooster and of course, my brother and sister-in-law for tolerating me for a whole week :)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Supreme Court again!

Landed up in the Supreme Court again on Tuesday morning! It was the Indian Airlines flight at 6.40am and it was delayed as usual resulting in my boss and me just about managing to reach the court before commencement of proceedings. As it turned out we needn’t have strained too much to reach the court on time as our case was not taken up at all and our wait till 4pm was futile. Worst still, the case was posted for hearing on Thursday! I returned back to Madras the same evening (or rather it was midnight when I reached home thanks to yet another delayed flight) and I’ll go back again on Thursday morning. Quite the jetsetter I’ve become :P

The weather in Delhi was quite awful with temperatures hovering around 44-45C. It was quite humid as well, so I can’t complain that I didn’t sweat like I did last time :)

Coming to Indian Airlines (they call themselves “Indian” now!), I noticed that they seem to employ quite a few Mamis as flight attendants, who look at you with a stern eye like a school teacher, whenever you ring the bell!!! This is very much in contrast with the male flight attendants, many of whom are quite smart which seems rather appealing to the female passengers! Now, isn’t this a case of gender discrimination with respect to the male passengers? I was rather perturbed by this and induced my boss to get the client to book us in Jet for Thursday :)) And to those of you who may come to certain conclusions about the kind of person I am after this, I would like to clarify that I have always been, and will always be, a chamathu Tam-Bram boy :) I was purely making a point about the gender discrimination and you are to read this in that light :)

P.S: Those of you who have read my
earlier post on Supreme Court would know that this is one of my cheap tricks to draw attention to my profession!! So, I will understand if you don’t leave a comment here :)

P.P.S: I know this is probably the most pathetic piece I’ve posted and to those of you who are getting more and more bored with my writing, I can only say this – the worst is yet to come :)

Sunday, May 07, 2006

An uneasy calm and a decision to make...

Campaigning for the polls came to an end on saturday evening! I’m sure most of us heaved a huge sigh of relief that the noise and mudslinging has come to an end. A period of uneasy calm would prevail on sunday when political parties would sit and analyse if they have done enough to entice the people! And in less than a week’s time they will also know if the campaign was money well spent or not, having employed film stars and all! As for us, the People, it is the time to sit and ponder over all that has been dangled before us in the name of election manifestos and separate the wheat from the chaff, so to say. But going from past experience, do we actually ponder and decide?? The answer seems to be negative.

In a democracy, people are powerless between elections. Election Day is the only day when we have real power in our hands and we seem to be so overawed by it that we mess up the whole thing and have to suffer the consequences for the next five years. Lets hope that we make a considered decision this time, despite the limited choices on offer!

Democracy, as my civics teacher used to say, is of the people, by the people and for the people.

Of the people
– yes, we do elect one among the people.
By the people
– yes, after all, we do elect them, don’t we?
For the people – this is the most difficult one to accept…….but lets hope that one day it becomes a reality!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

a Photo ID!

Got myself photographed for the elector’s Photo ID card recently. The whole exercise was done in a most unprofessional manner leading to quite a few amusing incidents. Prior to the issue of the ID cards, a door-to-door enumeration of voters was done and subsequently the draft electoral rolls were published. Many of us took the trouble of verifying the draft rolls and also made requests for corrections in the same, wherever necessary. Having done all this, one expected things to go smoothly at the photography session but in reality, it was anything but smooth.

To begin with, the intimation of the photography session was given to us just the day before. And contrary to press reports, it mentioned that the photography would be done only on one day at that particular centre. So, a friend and I set out on the appointed day to the centre, which happened to be a Corporation Elementary school, where the kids were yelling at the top of their voices after the teacher!! My friend’s endeavour to find out if the photography would be done only on one day or would it go on for a week (as per press reports) resulted in the following conversation with the persons in-charge:

Friend: Saar, photo innikku mattum thaan eduppeengala? (sir, will you take photos only today?)

Person checking our ration card: illa saar, oru vaaram eduppom (no sir, we’ll take for one week)

Then we go inside and my friend asks the same question to the fellow taking the photo

Photo chap: yaar sonna?? Innikku mattum thaan eduppom (says who? We will take only today)

Friend: saar, veliya irukkaravar appadi sonnarey (sir, person sitting outside says so)

Photo chap: yaar adhu? Ingey vandhu solla sollu (whos that? Ask him to come here and say that)

Friend now goes outside and relays the sentiments of the photo chap and then gets the following reply -

Chap outside: Veliya vara sollu anda aala, ingey vandu sollattum (ask that fellow to come out and let him say it here)

This was red tape at its best and my friend realized that this was becoming futile and dropped his efforts to mediate between the two.

Considering that even our neighbourhood grocer asks for a photo ID these days, the voter’s ID card is one of the best proofs that one could have. Thus it was all the more essential that all the details were correctly printed. Hence when we found that there were quite a few mistakes in our addresses, we requested them to correct the same. But we were told that this was not possible now and if we want to make corrections, we have to approach the corporation office. Having managed to get a couple of hours break from work, I wouldn’t be able to get time off for getting the photo ID done on another day. So, I just decided to get myself photographed and get the ID card with the mistakes.

If I thought that my case was worse, I was quite mistaken. The following instances would show why!

M, a neighbour of mine, had turned 18 in September last was quite elated about the fact that she would be voting for the first time. Unfortunately, both she and her mother were shown as aged 43 years!! Once again, they refused to change her age in the records and she posed rather glumly for the photo. Her enthusiasm for voting had come down quite a bit.

Worse still was the case of another person whose gender was shown wrongly but was told that it could not be changed! In this age, when sex change is quite a reality and we have even movies being made on transsexuality which are nominated for the Oscars, here was a case where this fellow refused to key in the correct gender. Another neighbour found that according to the voter’s list there were two other people living in his house without his knowledge and to add insult to injury, his wife’s name did not appear in the list! The best goof up of all was one where the name of a voter was printed differently in English and Tamil! I wonder whether he will vote in the name printed in English or in Tamil :-)

And finally, the quality of the photo itself left a lot to be desired. Most people couldn’t recognize themselves in the photos!! As for my photo, suffice it to say that it looks straight out of India’s Most Wanted list!!

Having cribbed enough about the photo ID cards, one must also look at the positives. How many of us have had the disappointment of going to the polling booth on election day only to find that some good samaritan has already cast our vote? I hope the introduction of photo IDs will bring down this, unless of course, those good samaritans have also obtained photo IDs in our names!!

P.S: This was written a few weeks back but I had forgotten to post it before!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Akshaya Tritiya

Akshaya Tritiya is considered a very auspicious day wherein we invite Goddess Lakshmi into our homes and seek her blessings for everlasting prosperity and wealth. Although Akshaya Tritiya has been made really popular in recent times, most people wouldn’t know the actual significance of the day. Under Hindu mythology, Akshaya Tritiya is the birthday of Parashurama, the sixth avtar of Lord Vishnu and also marks the beginning of Treta Yuga. The word “akshaya” means that which does not diminish and thus the theory, all new beginnings made on akshaya tritiya would be everlasting. This year, Akshaya Tritiya fell on 30th April.

Until the World Gold Council came up with a brilliant marketing coup a few years ago, Akshaya Tritiya was quite unknown to us. However, it is now accepted by all and sundry that one must purchase gold on Akshaya Tritiya day at all costs!! This year too, jewellers came up with ingenious schemes to lure people to buy gold on Akshaya Tritiya day! Not to be left behind, the World Platinum Council came up with an advertisement extolling the virtues of platinum and calling attention to the fact that platinum was also referred to as “white gold”! Diamond merchants weren’t far behind in trying to extract their pound of flesh, so to say. Worse was to follow, when cellphone companies started offering discounts in gold purchases to those who bought a life-time prepaid connection! Thus, when one was convinced that Akshaya Tritiya was all about buying gold and other precious metals, consumer durables dealers like Viveks and Jainsons came up with the scheme of giving one gram gold coin free with purchases of various consumer goods! This, if one may say so, is totally against the “spirit” of Akshaya Tritiya!

On the D-day, the police literally cordoned off the whole of T.Nagar in anticipation of the crowds (and their vehicles!). However, they forgot to do the same in one another area which abounds in jewellers namely, Cathedral Road and more particularly the stretch between Stella Maris College and Woodlands Drive-in. Traffic on this stretch was quite chaotic on this day especially since most of upper-middle and upper class members of society choose to shop for their gold here rather than drudge along the crowded roads of T.Nagar. It appears that the lure for the yellow metal is quite strong despite the fact that gold prices shot up considerably [quite conveniently for the jewellers!] on the day before Akshaya Tritiya.

At the end of the day, most people were happy that they bought gold on Akshaya Tritiya and the jewellers were also happy that they’ve made a huge profit and the only person who seems to crib over the whole issue is Me!!!