Friday, December 14, 2007

The Importance of Being a Mindblowing Mahiyah…

This is a question for the ladies. (Though of course, there might be some gentlemen who would like to be included as well, if yer know wot I mean.)
When was the last time you watched a member of the Indian cricket team and felt a gusty (lusty?) sigh escape from your lips as a large, purple, throbbing….(no, sorry boys, but it’s not what you are thinking) thought blurb balloon over your head with just one word in neon lights.
No, don’t answer just as yet because here’s question number 2.
When was the last time you spotted the aforementioned member (sorry again, fellas but not what you’re thinking) and wanted to tear out your kurti/hair/Wonder Bra in ecstatic handfuls and then faint dead away because you could not for another minute stand how utterly, devastatingly, to-die-for cute he was? Or because you couldn’t bear the delicious shivers of God-alone-knows-what doing the rumba-salsa-watusi up and down your spine (and whatuchmacallits) whenever he smiled that slow, lazy, doozie smile?
Don’t answer anyway because I know the answer.
You can’t remember. Nor can I.
But do not despair because the long, dark night is over. And as dawn gently breaks over the barren acres of the cutie-pie-less cricketing green, a single brave, blade of hope sprouts…

I have to admit though that the first time I noticed him was because of his name. It reminded me of a song, an old favourite….
“English people sleeping in the sun to get a tan,
Pouring oil upon their faces like a frying pan,
Funny thing about it is they all go rosy red,
Next day when the peeling starts they're crying in their beds.
Oh to be in England
Now that spring is here,
Oh to be in England, drinking English beer.”

After which the singer breaks into a delightful Anglo-Carnatic-gamaka refrain, which goes something like this.

“Dhani-dhani-dhani Dhoni-dhaani dhani-dhani-Dhoni-dhaani…”

So, every time the name cropped up – and it started to do so with increasing frequency because the chap seemed to be some sort of a rising star - that refrain would start to play inside my head and wouldn’t stop. So I thought to myself, who the heck is this Dhoni fellow…
(Blasphemous, you shriek. But I’ll have you know that small as our numbers may be, there are people in this country to whom the word “cricket” first means an kind of insect and then everything else.)

Anyway, I started looking out for “Dhani-dhani-dhani-Dhoni”, which wasn’t hard because he was all over the place. And I tell you, it wasn’t love at first sight.
You see, it was the hair, about which – Mushy’s remarks notwithstanding - I had very mixed feelings. Which were mostly “yuck” (those dirty-gold highlights always make me break into a rash) mixed with a few pinches of “okay-yuck-but-maybe-not-so-bad-and-anyway-it-grabs-your-attention”. But, even then, there was something about the fellow that was….
I couldn’t put my finger on it because the hair really did come in the way.
Meanwhile, the dratted refrain continued to warble in my head.

Then, one hot summer’s night, it happened.
Not quite like the movie, but as far as I was concerned, what was draped so casually on that bar stool could give Clark Gable a run for his money, yumminess-ly speaking…
Oh dear, I’d better begin at the beginning, shouldn’t I?
The barstool was… no, not Saturday night at the Fire&Ice and no, I was not the gorgeous bar butterfly on the neighbouring stool that he couldn’t take his eyes off.
(In any case, I’ve heard the chap gets high on milk.)
It was on the sets of “India Questions”, Prannoy Roy’s show on NDTV on which the fellow was the guest and I was one of the thousands of potatoes watching the show from the comfort of my couch.
Roy’s introduction was gushing. There were comparisons to Sachin. (Just so that we are all on the same page, that would be Sachin, the cricketer, not the actor) There were grand references to the man changing the tide of the game. There was talk about a strike rate that would make even Adam Gilchrist blush.
Gilchrist who, I’m thinking. Isn’t he some Aussie batsman-type? And strike rate would be the number of times you hit the ball?
Just as I was sinking deep in vexed puzzlement and also wondering why the girls in the audience were simpering and fluttering excitedly as if Brad-Pitt-rolled-into-Matt-Damon (the latest Sexiest Man in the World) had just walked in, the camera slowly zoomed in on the Barstool….
To cut a long story short, lightning struck.
And the earth didn’t just move but for the next 45 minutes, it damn near did a cha-cha-cha to the 78-piece orchestra playing somewhere in the strawberry-cream-soaked distance.
It’s difficult to decide what is the sexiest thing about Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Because he’s not the handsomest of men, nor does he have the greatest body (but more on that later), or the most money, power or any of the other blah-blah-blah that turn women on.

So, maybe it is how easy and comfortable he look in everything.
Jeans (well-worn, workman blue and no-fuss, just the way I like it…)
Female fans.
Acne scars. (Beats John Abraham’s by points.)
Jharkand-English accent. (I can’t decide which is cuter - the way he says “wut” for “what” or the way he peppers his sentences with “ki”.)
Or just in his skin.
Maybe it is that he sounds so real, such a regular guy, even when he’s dishing out those careful, politically correct answers at interviews.
Or that he likes bikes (he owns seven) and chocolates and ice cream. (Move over, all you metrosexual sissies. Mahisexual is here.) And subscribes to Gandhigiri – what else would you call looking Shoab Akhtar straight in the eye and giving him a big smile every time he tries to intimidate you on the field?
And talking of smiles, maybe it is that lazy, shy-cheeky, I-know-I’m-kinda-killer-cute grin that would melt Hitler on a bad moustache day.
Or maybe it’s that cool, clear, straight gaze which seems to unerringly home in on parts which other men don’t even know exist.

There comes a moment in a relationship when in a sudden, searing flash, you have a startlingly clear idea of how completely hook-line-and-sinker you have fallen. (But of course Mahi and I are in a relationship – that Padukone babe is just to keep the paparazzi at bay.)
For me, since that Barstool, there have been two.
The first was when he took off his shirt just after winning the Twenty20 finals. No, it was not because he took it off to give it to that little boy and made the entire female half of the nation swoon into an ecstatic “Cho-chweet!”. (I did too, but mine was a more restrained “Awwww!”). It was also not because shirtless, he confirmed what was hinted at in that biceps-hugging T-shirt on Prannoy’s show - great body. (Eat your six-pack, Shahrukh!) It was because he looked so completely unselfconscious about it. As if it was the most natural thing in the world to do your victory lap with your shirt off in full view of a 100 million people. (Give or take a few million.)

The second was at the felicitation ceremony at Wankhede stadium
Everyone including Sharad Pawar had just done their number in aamchi English or Queen’s Marathi. (In most cases, you couldn’t tell the difference.)Then, up walks our dashing lad and when Harsha Bhogle starts to trot out his questions in shudh Angrezi, don’t you know old sock, he announces that since he is a Hindustani, he’d like to answer in Hindi.

Clean bowled.

The ultimate measure of my goner status is that I recently shelled out 199 whole rupees to get my year’s subscription to the Neo Sport channel on my Tata Sky. And life in now jhingalala. In case you’re scoffing, “Piffle!”, I’ll have you know that this is from a person who last watched cricket when “match fixing” was something that Bishen Singh Bedi did to his beard. To whom ODI is something which Britney Spears lost the custody of her sons for doing and who thinks that mostly, cricket is about as riveting as a documentary on the dating habits of an amoeba.
Finally, I thought it might be worth mentioning that there was another Indian wicket keeper who was also famous for his pizzazz, hair (our first Brylcreem model), high cute-pie quotient and love for bikes.
Farokh Engineer.
I tried to make something deeply significant and meaningful out of that but couldn’t. Except, I’d like to say this much.
Man cannot live by bread alone. At least, woman can’t. So, every now and then, we need to have a fella around us who fills us with the insatiable urge to break through security cordons, fling (would “throw” be a more wantonly appropriate choice, I’m wondering?) ourselves on him and kiss him madly, deeply, thirstily before we are dragged away and thrown back to our ho-humdrum lives. More so if we are constantly going to have our KSBKBT’s interrupted by our Bonny Babas in Blue peddling champi-sabun, chaddi-baniayan and danth-manjan. So, you’d better make them cute and the cuter the better and I have to say this.
As far as Mahi goes, I can’t complain.
Gotta go now. Have to figure out what exactly it is that a wicket keeper keeps. I mean, I don’t see him watering those wickets or feeding them biscuits or anything….

Friday, December 07, 2007

Chalat Musafir

"It is one of Indian Cinema's tragic ironies that a sensitive and poetic film like Teesri Kasam sank without a trace indirectly leading to its producer lyricist Shailendra's death due to stress of financial problems caused by the failure of the film. The irony is even more so as today the film is recognised as one of the the all-time great films of Indian Cinema."

Many, many years ago BCP (Before Couch Potato), the BBC World Service (radio) had a superb program show called Desert Island in which one Person of Consequence would put together a complation of music ( I think the list was limited to 10) that he or she would take with them if they happened to be marooned on a desert island
Teesri Kasam would definitely figure on my list. Sajanre Jhoot Mat Bolo, Sajanwa Bairi Ho Gaye Hamar, Duniya Bananewale all sung by Mukesk's difficult to choose which makes my heart ache more.
But this delightful song, along with "Pan Khaye Saiyyan Hamaro" is one of the film's happier moments.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Crazy Kiya Re….or Heroes I’d write letters in blood

What would you say are the chances of women writing thousands of these letters to a short, stubby man with pimples and a haircut that looks as if it is from New Paramount Haircutting Saloon?
My point is this. We ladies are a picky lot. After all, there’s blood involved here. So, you may be the greatest superstar, an acting legend; your films may have raked in gadzillions, declared as immortal classics, your waxwork might be rubbing bottoms with Cary Grant’s at Madame Tussauds. But if you don’t make our hearts (and other regions too) throb, go boompity-boom and dhak-dhak, if the knees ain’t turning to delicious moony mush, if you don’t start a conflagration in our sweet, womanly jigars that would light a million beedis, if there isn’t a sudden and insane urge to rush into our boudoirs (yes, we all have one) and slip into something more comfortable at the mere sight of you, then sirjee, we ain’t wasting a drop - forget blood, not even drool.
Also, beefcake palls after the first two nibbles…
Now I’m not one of these khoon-bhari-khat (KBK) types. (For one, e-mail doesn’t fell any trees. For another, I can’t stand the sight of blood.) But if I were, there is only one man to top my list. Vinod Khanna. Even now, pushing sixty-two, on the wrong side of burly, thinning hair et al. They say that if he hadn’t suddenly taken “sanyas” in 1982 at the peak of his success, Amitabh Bachchan would’ve had serious competition for the post of Uberstar. Well, I for one am glad he did because otherwise, I’d be writing so many of dem damn letters - all the way from Reshma Aur Shera to Leela and Risk - that I’d have needed blood transfusions by now…
And his most gasp-‘n-reach-for-my-khoon-bhari-pen moment? Well, I’m going to skip the obvious one - which is the kissing scene in Dayavan because according to me, there’s almost no one who can fill a uniform quite so, er shall we say, satisfactorily as Vinod Khanna. (I take a moment to compose myself and wait for knees to solidify.) So, for me, it’s Achanak (the entire film) and of course, the scene in Amar Akbar Anthony when he and Amitabh Bachchan meet for the first time. When Khanna starts unbuttoning his shirt and growls, “Dekhte hai tum main kitna dum!“? ….. Oh my goodness gracious me. (I take 5 minutes to compose myself.) Did I say “uniform”? Make that dhoti, lungi, shorts jeans, tuxedo, bath towel, bandit jewellery, shorts, Rupa baniyan…. Oh, the heck with it. The man would make lace garters look like regulation jock wear. Not to mention orange caftans with rudraksh malas. On any other man - even Vincent Chase - you’ll bust your boob job laughing. On Vinod Khanna? I need a whole week off to compose myself…..
(Vinod Khanna’s other KBK films - Mere Apne, Hera Pheri, Mera Gaon Mera Desh, Shaque, Rihaee and Imthihan)
And coming a very close second to the Sexy Sanyasi is Jackie Shroff. Even now; fifty, silly pudding-basin hair-weave et al. And I don’t care how many of you jeered, “wooden! Wooden!”. And it’s not what you are thinking though how many men do we know who can make a bandhini dupatta look as macho as …well, as Vinod Khanna in an orange caftan? You see, it’s like those liqueur filled chocs. What separates mere beefcake from a prime cut of KBK is a soft, delicious, heady centre that makes every woman feel that she is this maddeningly irresistible goddess-sex-kitten-houri….. and reach feverishly for her trusty blood-dipped-nib. And we always know. With just one bite…er, I mean one look into the fella’s eyes and by the feeling of a 60-piece orchestra playing somewhere our nether lumbar regions.
And our Jaggu Dada has that stuff by bucketfuls. Just watch him in Parinda, Gardish, Aina, Kaash, Saudagar (to name only a few) and even as the utterly ch-se-chunky-hunky “Chunnilal” in Devdas, even though he ch-se-hammed it to the hilt. But the highest point of our Shroff‘s KBT-ness was (and is) as the swoon-a-licious “Raj Kamal” in Rangeela and what on earth was that Urmila thinking?! I mean, Aamir was cute but if I wanted cute, I’d get myself a Care Bear.
That’s just Jackie on screen. Off screen? The man should ring a warning bell or something five minutes before walking into the room. Because when he does, there isn‘t be a dry female saliva gland inside a 10 mile-radius. Sigh
Now I know I said “list”, but I’ll have to stop here because after Vinod Khanna and Jackie Shroff, I‘m almost clean out of blood and what’s left I have to save for the man who really did get KBK’s by the sackfuls. Sada Jatin-Kaka a.k.a Rajesh Khanna. Pimply, yes. Stubby, short body, yes. Haircut from New Paramount Haircutting Saloon, most definitely. Guru kurtas, retch-yetch-yes. But the eyes, oh the eyes. Look into them and you feel you are drowning into a tub…no make that a jacuzzi full of that soft, delicious, heady stuff that makes you feel that you are this maddeningly… get my drift. Baharon ke Sapne, Aradhana, Khamoshi, Kati Patang, Amar Prem, Mere Jeevan Saathi, Daag, Aap ki Kasam, …. so please don’t ask me to pick the most KBK of this lot because ….
Oh wait a minute.
There is one - Aavishkaar. For weeks, nay months afterwards, there was nothing I wanted more than be “Mansi”, married to “Amar” and live in a house outside which a lamp glowed this message of conjugal bliss - “Ghar Mansi Amar ka”.
And I can’t think why I didn’t dash off a KBT….

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

dark and lovely

I made this video as a tribute to all the lovely dark skinned girls and women whose beauty has not only gone unsung but even scorned.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Goddess Flower

Once again, it is that wonderful time of the year...when we celebrate the Devi Festival - Durag Puja to some, Navratri to other and in my part of the world, Dussera.

So, this is a piece about Her favourite flower

The Goddess Flower
By Ratna Rajaiah

It’s rare that someone so gorgeous is also so easy-gping I mean, it grows just anywhere, needs no mollycoddling other than large splashes of sunshine and water, flowers spectacularly and lavishly throughout the year and because of that, attracts lovely birds and butterflies. And if all that wasn’t enough, it is an ancient and legendary cosmetic, medicine and is currently being researched to possibly become India's first herbal contraceptive! (More on that later.) I speak of course of the hibiscus. Cousin to cotton and lady’s fingers (bhindi), there are around 2200 varieties of this gorgeous flowering plant and the variety that grows in such abundance in our country is the Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Or the hibiscus that is the rose of China, probably because its association with China is a very old one. But no less than it is with India…

The Goddess flower
“Swargapavargada shuddha japapushpa nibhakrutih….”
This is the 147th stotra of the Lalitha Sahasranama which roughly translates as “Who bestows the eternal bliss of Swarga, Who is pure, Whose colour is of the nature of japa flowers…” So, it is but natural that the hibiscus (japapushpa, japakusuma, japaphool or the prayer flower) is the primary flower of worship for the Devi. (In many places like Maharashtra, it is also the flower most offered to Lord Ganesha.) And equally naturally, one so favoured by the Devi is blessed with much goodness and healing, which is why the hibiscus is also called “rogapushpa” is Sanskrit! So, for centuries, in almost every continent, almost all parts of the hibiscus plant has been used as medicine. In Bangladesh, China, Peru, Trinidad and Vietnam the flowers are used to regulate menstruation, in Malaysia the roots to treat venereal diseases, in Fiji and Japan for diarrhea and in Kuwait, it is even used as an aphrodisiac! In Ayurveda, the flowers, roots and leaves is used in pancha karma therapy, the flowers as a blood purifier and according to the ancient Indian lexicons on medicinal herbs (Nighantu Granthas) like Raja Nighantu, Bhava Prakasha Nighantu and Shodala Nighantu, to treat a whole host of ailments from coughs and fevers to insomnia, even hypertension.
But its most popular use, both in Ayurveda and traditional medicine, is in the treatment of gynacelogical problems like excessive and painful menstruation, vaginal and uterine discharges, menstrual irregularities etc. And the hibiscus’ greatest significance and one that has serious long-term implications for women the world over is its potential as the world’s first herbal oral female contraceptive! Research carried out in the last 10 years, initially at the College of Ayurveda and College of Medical Sciences at Varanasi, and later by the ICMR Task Force on Anti-Fertility Plants has given clear indications of this. Not at all surprising because the Yogaratnakar says, "The lady who takes the paste of the Jabakusum in rice water mixed with molasses for three days does not become pregnant” and in traditional medicine, it has been used as a contraceptive for hundreds of years in many places in India like Kerala and Assam.
Actually, the hibiscus’ healing powers may not be all that surprising if you consider the fact the hibiscus flower is good sources of beta-carotene and flavanoids (flagged by its gorgeous colours) and also contains calcium, phosphorus, iron, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin C. Which is why, apart from being a medicinal plants, the flowers are made into drinks, salads, teas, curries, pickles and the leaves are even used as a substitute to spinach!

Crowning glory!
The hibiscus flower, seemingly sent by the Devi on a special mission to look after us women, has also quite a reputation for making hair beautiful, black and healthy. So, loaded with all those nutritional goodies and natural emollients which makes the hair soft and promotes hair growth, the hibiscus works its wonders as shampoo, hair oil, hair tonic, hair conditioner, hair dye, as treatment for all kinds of hair problems including premature graying, dandruff – and since we don’t want the men feeling left out - even balding. So, as you can see, there’s not much that the hibiscus can’t do, hair wise. Which is why every grandmother has her own favourite hibiscus hair oil recipe and many Ayurvedic hair oil formulations contain hibiscus including the famous brahmi amla hair oil. Incidentally, the reason why hibiscus flowers are used as hair dye is because when crushed, they yield a dark purplish dye. Which served as not just hair colouring but also as shoe polish (hence the hibiscus’ other name- shoe flower!) and as mascara, darkening the eyelashes of the ladies all over the Far East, where the hibiscus occupies ancient place of honour…..

Asia’s darling
The hibiscus is truly a flower of the Orient, making its presence felt not just with its glorious colours beautifying every countryside from China to Hawai but also as trusted medicine, cosmetic, even symbol of statehood.
Chengdu is China’s 4th largest city, capital of the Siachun province and an ancient administrative and cultural center, tracing its existence back to at least 3000 years ago. It is also famous for Chinese brocade….and hibiscus! In the 10th century, the then ruler, Mengchang, ordered the planting of hibiscus on the fortress wall surrounding the city. The walls have crumbled but the hibiscus remain and ever since, Chengdu is referred as the City of Hibiscus with the hibiscus still its symbol. The hibiscus appears on famous 14th century Ming dynasty Chinese porcelain dynasty (1368–1644) and on ancient Chinese silk tapestries.
The hibiscus is also is the national flower of Malaysia. Like China, India and many other Asian countries, the flower grows in abundance throughout Malaysia So, in 1960, when Malaysia's first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, looked for a flower to be the appropriate symbol of his newly independent country, the hibiscus was a natural choice. And he chose not just any hibiscus but the scarlet five-petaled Hibiscus rosa sinensis or Bunga Raya (our very own Goddess flower!) because the colour red represented courage and the 5 petals symbolized the 5 principles of nationhood for Malaysia – unity, democracy, justice, progress and secularism. The official crest of Sarawak, one of the states in East Malaysia features 2 beautiful scarlet hibiscus.Two other varieties of the hibiscus are the state flowers of of South Korea (Hibiscus syriacus or "Rose of Sharon") and Hawaii (Hibiscus brackenridgei).
The curry leaf, the neem, turmeric, coconut, amla…..and the hibiscus. In India, we are so blessed by Mother Nature that we often take much her wonderful bounty for granted, often forgetting their fabulous healing powers are just there in our gardens and backyards. The hibiscus is such a common sight in our countryside, growing so easily and eagerly that we almost pay no attention to it. But as you can see, it is no ordinary flower….
I end with the story of Harriet. Last November, she celebrated her birthday, which was a milestone of sorts. You see, though it is rude to tom-tom a lady’s age, especially one of such vinatge, it seems the birthday was Harriet’s 175th! Which even by tortoise standards is a great age to achieve and makes her the oldest living animal in the world. Did I say “tortoise”? Yup, Harriet is a giant Galápagos tortoise and lives in the Australia Zoo in Queensland, Australia. But it’s not just Harriet’s age that makes her famous. In 1835, when Harriet was just 5 years old, Charles Darwin visited Isla Santa Cruz, Harriet’s home in the Galapagos Islands. So fascinated was he by her and her tribe, that when he left to return to England soon after, he took Harriet and two of her friends with him as subjects of scientific research. It is said Darwin’s observations about Harriet and the Galápagos tortoises contibuted significantly in his formulating that his theory of evolution! (Harriet left England for Australia two years later and has lived there ever since.)
Why am I telling you all this? Because as part of her birthday celebrations, the zoo had a giant tortosie shaped cake (naturally!) and Harriet was fed a lavish helping of…….bright pink hibiscus flowers!
"We gave her hibiscus flowers because that's her favourite food," said the zoo's Laura Campbell. "She's in fabulous health and there's no reason to think she can't live to 200." (Apparently, the hibiscus is not just Harriet’s favourite chowder, but all tortoises’!)
Sources: Medicinal Flowers by Gyanendra Pandey, Ayurveda, the Secrets of healing by Maya Tiwari, Wikipedia, the HumanFlower Project and other websites

Hibiscus hair oil
Over low heat, warm 150-200 ml of coconut or gingelly oil and add 10-12 freshly plucked red hibiscus flowers. Simmer until all the water from the flowers evaporates making sure NOT to let the mixture boil or burn the oil, as too much heat will destroy goodness in the hibiscus. Remove from heat - the oil would have turned a dark purply-pink. Cool and store in a clean dry jar.

Hibiscus Cooler

30-40 single red hibiscus blooms
1 litre/2 pints/4 cups boiling water
freshly squeezed lime juice
sugar to taste
Take about 30 freshly picked single red hibiscus flowers, preferably from your own garden so you know they are not contaminated by chemical sprays. Remove the calyx and the centre pistil and put only the petals into a heatproof bowl. Pour 4-6 cups of boiling water over the petals, cover and leave to cool. Strain and discard the petals - the liquid will be a pretty, clear pink. Add strained lime juice and sugar to taste and serve as a refreshing beverage. Said to have blood purifying properties. It may also be served as a hot drink after a shorter steeping time.
From Charmaine Solomon's Encyclopedia of Asian Food.


The red flag of romance!
In ancient Egypt, hibiscus flowers were associated with lust so much so that the Egyptians believed that tea made with red hibiscus flowers and sepals could induce licentious cravings in women. As a result, for many centuries Egyptian women were forbidden to drink hibiscus tea!
In some Caribbean countries Hibiscus flowers are often carried as wedding bouquets because they are believed to ward off bad omens. “The flowers of the brilliant Red Hibiscus native to Hawaii (Hibiscus kokio) were worn by men to send messages to women. Worn behind the right ear, they meant, “I am married”; behind the left ear, “I am single and looking for a lover.” If a flower was worn behind both ears the message was clear: “I am married, but looking for another lover”! (Flowers are for Love by Kathy Lamancusa.)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Find Yourself - Cars

The words of this song are almost more beautiful - if that is possible - than the film - Cars"! This is a film that everyone must see and maybe own!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

In Celebration of the Real Woman

This is for every single sigh that you have heaved evertime you have looked at an ad for L'Oreal or Clinique or whatever and wished why God didn't take a little more time making you up. The answer is because he was too busy planning the Photoshop!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

What if you said you loved me....

What if you said you loved me….
Ache for ache
Measuring your longing
Against mine
Sigh for sigh

What if you said you loved me….

What would I do for dreams
Day and night
What would slip under my eyelids
Open and shut
And fill my soulscape
With the 70 mm, Technicolor impossibility
Of you and me?

What if you said you loved me….

Would it pall

If I had on call
Your arms to wrap around
And lose myself in that urgent tenderness
Your face to nuzzle
Any leftover nook that your arms overlooked?

If I had on tap
The taste of you to dreamily lick off my lips
And savor in some vacant reverie
Your head to fill
My lap?

What if you said you loved me

Would I tire,
No more desire
To claim you in every public place
With my eyes, my thigh
Proprietarily ranged so warm, so close
Against yours?

Would it be a bore
To know that you adore

After, for me

Just the way,
(Will you say?)
I am
Ever will be

Hangnails, varicose veins and all

For the way
(Will you say?)
my skin spills, satin
over my shoulders
And disappears to some undisclosed destination
That you

To find…..

What if you said you loved me?

What if then
We reach Happily After
And have sipped the welcome gin
Settled in
Walked hand in hand
Over the indulgent, insouciant sand
Traced the rest of our lives
On each others’ bodies, breaths,

What then?
What would we do for afters….

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Ella sings

My all time favourite

Friday, June 22, 2007

Tales From A Celphone

I shot these pics while fooling around with the camera on my Nokia 6070 celphone....and then since they were all flowers, i thought i'd put some music to it and what better song than Kishore Da's beautiful "Phoolon ke Rang se...'

Sunday, May 06, 2007


Er, firstly we liked to apologise. In Mysore we no have acres of golden beach to loll around on. sip chilled beer and pig out on chili crab. (There are a few little rivers but I’m not sure how they’re stocked up on crabs). No healing hot springs, no exhilarating mountain views, no night spots, no shopping worth talking about and to top it all cuisine that has as its star performers a dosa and a not-very pretty looking sweet called Mysore pak. But – and this is where we stop apologizing – we do pack in a wallop of centuries in pedigree. Mysore is most likely the “Mahishamandala” mentioned in the ancient Buddhist texts, the place to which the emperor Ashoka sent the monk Mahadeva to propagate Buddhism. And that fact that we were till recently the capital of a kingdom ruled by a 600-year old dynasty of Lord Krishna’s Yadu vamsa shows. A clutch of fabulous palaces (at least 2 of which you can stay in) and royal mansions in the pink of health scattered around nonchalantly like so much chopped coriander on bhelpuri. (Every government office worth its weight in red tape is housed in one). Naturally, with such ancestry (how many can claim to have a throne which, as one story goes, once belonged to the Pandavas?), we don’t forget easily. That we were once terrorized by the terrible demon Mahishasura and that the Devi took it upon herself to liberate us. Who then, because we have such pretty weather, decided to take up residence atop a charming little wooded hill as the goddess Chamundeswari, a sobriquet acquired because her habit of slaying demons had made short work of 2 other fearsome demons, Chanda and Munda. So, in gratitude, we named the hill Chamundi in her honour, built her a fabulous temple with a 120 ft high gopuram that you can see from almost any point in Mysore. And in case the demon had any ideas of resurrecting himself (demons are known to do such things), in a cunning sleight of hand, we put up a massive likeness of him on top of the hill so that he’d scare himself away. We also called ourselves Mahishasura Ooru, now corrupted to Mysore, because in a way, we’re indebted to the demon too. After all, he did bring us the attention of the Devi!
So, first to the palaces. Now we Mysoreans are a modest lot and bragging doesn’t come easily. But, I must say, we’re rather good at palaces. Of the two most spectacular, the first one is simply called – what else, the Mysore Palace. When the old palace was partially destroyed in a fire in 1897 just after his elder sister’s wedding, the then heir to the throne, Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV was just 15 years old and his mum, the Regent Queen decided that if they had to build a new one, it should be something fit for a er, king. So, what began in 1897 finally emerged in splendid glory 15 years later, its massive central golden dome imperiously poking the azure blue Mysore sky. With five imposing gates, the largest 45 feet in breadth and grandly called the Jayamartanda Gate, and in the protective embrace of 8 temples of varying antiquity, the oldest more than 6 centuries old, the palace itself is a stunning example of Indo Saracenic architecture. (Which is a politer way, perhaps, of saying a khichdi of Western, Indian and Moghul architectural styles). Three ceremonial halls, the first for the royal weddings with a ceiling made entirely of stained glass with a peacock motif and a floor to match. The second reserved for private audiences by the Maharaja with 3 massive doors, 2 of them silver. And the third, a magnificent 155 ft by 42 ft Durbar Hall or the Diwan-e-Aam in breathtaking turquoise and gold arches and columns, lined on one side with paintings, many of them by Raja Ravi Varma, framed in semi-precious stones under a painted ceiling depicting amongst other things, the 10 avatars of Vishnu. This was the astonished comment of a British visitor. “No short description, if any, can do justice to the beauty of line, wealth of material, blaze of colour and exuberance of decoration in the great Durbar Hall…” And in case you don’t get the point, we light up the palace on Sundays, government holidays and festivals with 97,000 light bulbs.
The thing is, when you build a palace like this on, it can become a habit. So, the maharajah decided that the Mysore palace was all very well, magnificent seat of power and all that, but even a king needed a bit of privacy now and then where he could potter around in peace and quiet, undisturbed by pressing matters of state. Besides, there was the British Viceroy to also keep happy. So, away from the heat and the dust of statesmanship, nestling cosily at the feet of Chamundi Hill, he built another palace. Nothing very posh, mind you, just a little summer cottage, a cross between an English stately home and an Italian palazzo (with marble imported to match) with a piffling 54 rooms, a ballroom and a viceroy room (whatever that is) on an estate that sprawls over lush acres of land and situated so that when he could keep a longing eye on it whenever he held durbar in the Diwan-e-Aam. Lalith Mahal Palace. Which it is called to this day, except that now it is a 5-star hotel, with the original stunning architecture and interiors beautifully preserved. Naturally, the prices match. So stay there if you don’t mind paying upwards of 6000 rupees a night to find out what it is to live like a king and if you really want to go all the way, plum for the turret rooms at the top of the palace.
Now if staying in palaces are a turn on but your pocket isn’t of kingly proportions, then there is the Chittaranjan palace, a beautiful little mansion which the maharaja built for his princesses, now called the more prosaic “Greens Hotel” to cue its eco-friendliness. Ergo no telly, telephone, elevator, air-conditioning and no mosquito repellant, just small ponds stuffed with tilapia, the mosquito-eating fish. If you can afford it, stay in the main building where the tariff is a stiff upwards of 3750 rupees but the rooms having been painstakingly restored to their original beauty; their names should give you a clue - Marigold Room, Rose Room, Princess's Room and The Honeymoon Suite complete with a 4-poster bed! And if you can’t, there is the “garden block” with rooms rather less well, princess-y but nice all the same (1300Rs. a night). Whatever you stay in, make sure you take a peek the Bollywood rooms (large and small!). And the hotel has one other thing that gives you an idea of what kind of holiday it expects you to have – a quaint little library complete with stained glass window, easy chair and R.K. Narayanan. Rated by the Independent newspaper as one of the best 50 budget hotels in world, the hotel is run by a UK charity that donates all profits to charitable and environmental projects in India. Two other ex-royal residences - one on top of Chamundi Hill and the other at Brindavan Gardens - used to be hotels but have since been closed down. (The one at Brindavan has a view of the garden from all the rooms!) The good news is that there are plans to revive at least one of them, together with the very elegant Hotel Metropole, which used to something of a landmark and a must-stay in Mysore.
But if you really want a great getaway, your best bet is the Village. At the base of Chamundi Hills, it’s an exquisite property, winning it the both the National and South Asian Award for excellence in architecture. Sprawled around a perfectly manicured, emerald green expanse of lawn, the rooms are large and beautifully airy with French windows that overlook this or the other verdant patch. Some of the rooms even have their own little sunny terraces. Bamboo, guava, grapefruit, frangipani, acra and coconut palm jostle hundreds of little flowering and other plants and shrubs. Brick and wood and terracotta blend simply and beautifully into the gorgeous surroundings. A gym, a tennis court, a bright blue jewel of a swimming pool with a little Jacuzzi and here and there, garden furniture inviting you to do nothing except soak up the sun. Actually it’s all there in the self-effacing little tariff card – “Work out, chill out. Dive or dream. Walk, jog, saunter or swing. Feast on a morsel, a hug, a book, a game or just on the smell of fresh earth...”
Right. So you’re all settled in, the free welcome drink is down the hatch, now what’s to do?
Well, apart from palaces, we’re pretty good at gardens too. (We have something of a reputation in flowers, growing a jasmine so sweet-smelling that it is named after us. Mysore Mallige.) There’s one called Brindavan – if you can call an acre a garden – complete with dancing fountains and lights. A garden so pretty, it used to be the favoured location to shoot Hindi film songs (remember “Kehna hai” and a besotted Sunil Dutt serenading the pertly pretty Saira Banu in Padosan?). Till Yash Chopra discovered Switzerland. We must warn you though - to get to it, you have to walk a 3km stretch over spectacular cascading waters across India’s very first irrigation dam. The Krishnaraja Sagar Dam which tames and harnesses the waters of 3 rivers - the Kaveri, Hemavati and Lakshmanathirtha – all in one masterly swoop. Then there’s the Mysore Zoo. Or rather a zoological garden that houses animals in what would be more or less their natural habitat. It’s over a century old, some of the trees are older, but newborns really in comparison to the tree stump, carbon dated as having been around since a few million years ago. Zoo or garden, it’s the perfect place to lazy day, strolling around and looking at the spectacular display of both flora (85 different species of plants and trees) and 35 species of fauna –, everything from king cobras, tigers (Royal Bengal and white), elephants (Indian and African), lion-tailed macaques, Australian emus, giraffes, Himalayan black bear, Indian bison, Egyptian baboons and a rather boastful bunch of peacocks; about the only unashamed braggarts in Mysore…..
Which leaves the art gallery, studded with Titian and Rubens and Roerich and Raja Ravi Varma, housed in yet another palace (I told you, this palace thing can be catching) the Jaganmohan Palace, which the maharaja built because he was in between residences and needed a place to crowned and married in. And if by now, you’re not yet suffering from an overdose heritage buildings, there is the St. Philomena’s church, said to have been modeled after the Gothic cathedral in Cologne, its exquisite twin spires delicately stretching 165 feet up. And if you are, then you can take off. To Srirangapatna, to visit Lord Vishnu, taking time off from the increasingly difficult job of Divine Preserver for a well-deserved lie-in under the protective hood of the mighty Anantha in the fabulous Ranganatha Temple. Or Tipu, perhaps still dreaming of battles yet to be fought, lying buried near his gently dilapidated but still beautiful summer palace, the Dariya Daulat. . “It’s better”, he said, "to live once like a lion, rather than have ten lives like a sheep". Or then to one of the 2 national parks, (Nagarhole or Bandipur) to check out what the tigers and bison are up to. Or to the Ranganathittu bird sanctuary where after peeping at egrets and kingfishers and ibis and whistling teals (some of them coming all the way from Siberia and Australia), you can munch on a picnic lunch and drift dreamily down the river in charming round boats made of cane.
That’s the lot then. And now that I have done my bit as a tourist guide, dutifully selling palace-temple-garden-bull ( oh dear, I did forget the bull-on-the-hill; name - Nandi, 48 feet high of undiluted black granite, preferred wheels of Lord Shiva.), I’ll let you a little secret about Mysore. Don’t get fooled by the odd glittering showroom or Johnny-come-lately supermarket or the gaggle of excited, rickety mopeds rushing to Nowhere. Remember, as you watch that shiny-rude Santro trying to overtake that bullock cart, that in these parts, the bullock cart has right of way. In the fast lane. What I mean to say, me darlings, is this. When you’ve been around as long as we have, you kinda figure that a century is just an apologetic drop in Time’s backwaters. So, more than anything else, come to Mysore to learn to just be. Twine the scent of a Mysore Mallige around your nostrils and listen to your thoughts thinking. The air is air-conditioned, the sunshine just hot enough to lovingly toast your skin and ….. well, let just say it’s all there on the signboard outside a nearby Tibetan monastery. “It’s better to be 15 minutes late in this world than be 15 minutes early in the next. Speed 10kms per hour.” Our sentiments exactly.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Money Talk!

Money talk

It’s a man’s world honey
Cause he’s got the money
And you don’t

Think about it

Why its Mister Money Bags, sweetie are you surprised
When the only bags you’re allowed are those under your eyes?
Why pretty girls have sugar daddies
But there ain’t seem to be no sugar mommies

It’s a man’s world honey
Cause he’s got the money
And you don’t

Think about it

Why a lakh or a crore is always gotta be a pati
And a patni’s just a dharm or sometimes a sati
Why “Play” plus “boy” equals to lots of lolly
And “Play” plus “girl” is just a centrespread dolly

It’s a man’s world honey
Cause he’s got the money
And you don’t

So that’s the bottomline

He’s got the paisa so he’s the boss
The sooner you get that the more you’ve got
So bindiya chamka ke kajra those eyes
It’s time to take my advice

Bank balance ko dekho, bas yehi hai khaas
Gun aur gotra, yeh sab hai bakwas
Lav-shav ko chodo, say bye to romance
Dulah-mia’s the one with lots of finance

So chodo liberation aur sambhalo choola
Hubby khush hoke dega tumhe lotsa moolah
Then kya jodi banegi uski tumhari
Tu roop ki devi, who dhan ka pujari

It’s a man’s world honey
See, he’s got the money
But now it’s your world too
Cause he’s attached to you!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Thoughts of a Water POTS

We are reeling in the throes of a very severe crisis of water.
“We” as in all of Karnataka, the thumb rule being, the poorer you are, the more “wrong-side-of-the-Cauvery” your address and the smaller your town, the less water you get.
Yesterday, the front page morning news said that 3000 villages in the state have “severe shortage” of drinking water. That means we won’t even talk about how much water they get to bathe, cook and ablute…
Naturally, the Chief Minister, always sensitive to such situations, immediately sanctioned 50 crores of rupees to “tackle the problem”. I know that I should have been impressed but since I am a foolish, uninformed, naïve “Person On The Street” (POTS ), I can’t help wondering about a few things.
So, here’s my Naïve, Foolish Question No 1:
If there is no water, how do you “tackle” the problem of water shortage?
Maybe we could take a leaf out of Marie Antoinette’s book and give people…let me see, now….if she suggested cake as substitute for bread then could it be cola for water? And how many villages can be cola-fied for 50 crores? (I’m told that Hrithik Roshan’s current fee is 10 crores per film. So, how many “Sabka Thanda” films would Aamir do for 50 crores?)

More importantly, the Chief Minister also “endorsed the idea” of opening 24/7 (no relative of the TV news channel) control rooms to repair water pumps and such like things.

Naïve, Foolish Question No. 2 : Why weren’t the pumps repaired earlier – like say before the onset of summer?

Naïve, Foolish Question No. 3 – If there is no water, what are they going to pump?
Cola, maybe?
Or better still, Eau De Cologne? Which, if you think about it, will be great because it will cool you down AND tackle the stink of unwashed bodies, stagnant drains and toilet cooking in 35 + degrees heat. And it will also put Karnataka on the global map because “Eau” is water in French…
(Though I’m not sure of the Eau’s properties as a thirst quencher even though it means water in French.)

Now, fortunately for me, I don’t live in one of those 3000 villages but in Mysore - a city that is flanked by not one but two rivers – the Cauvery and the Kabini.
So, obviously we don’t have a water problem, right.
Let me answer your question like this.
As of this Saturday, we get water once in every 2 days. And we live in one of the “righter” side of the Cauvery areas – not posh, but getting there. Now, the critical word in that statement is “day” - which can be a tad misleading because most POTS will assume that “day” means what is also called “waking hours”, stretching from about 6.30 am to 11.30 pm. (Those were my waking hours.)
For the Water department of MCC (which does not stand for the Marleyborne Cricket Club but the Mysore Municipal Corporation), “day” begins roughly around 3 am and ends at around 6.30 am. I know. You’re thinking that’s only 4 hours. Well, these are difficult times you know and everything is rationed. Water. Daylight hours.
So now, I have turned into a water POTS, sleeping deeply by “day” and napping fitfully at night, leaping up at the faintest sound of drip-gurgle-goosh-drip-gurgle-goosh-goosh-goosh (the sweetest sound in the world), so that I can hunt water in the stealth of the dark, trap a few bottles to drink, prowl and prey on a few buckets to cook and bathe with.

And so, my day begins at 3.30 am…
But only on alternate days, I must add and marvel at the thoughtfulness of the MCC. Because on the days when there is no water, I get to slumber on, nary a care in the world, not a drip-gurgle-goosh-drip-gurgle-goosh-goosh-goosh to disturb my sleep.

Now if this sounds like I am cribbing, I’m not. I am just counting my blessings, because you see, we are the very, very fortunate ones. There are places not so far away from here where water comes only once a week, maybe even once in ten days….And places where they may not even know when the water will come and all they can do is call the 24/7 control room to repair the water pump to pump the water that isn’t really there…

I have devised ingenious methods of conserving water – nothing that will fill the KRS, mind you, but gargle 3 times after brushing my teeth instead of the usual 6 and have perfected the art of bathing with ¾ of a bucket of water. (Not that difficult if you concentrate and pour right) We choose the lunch menu based on what takes the least amount of water to cook with and clean up later and we aren’t encouraging guests.
Don’t laugh. If shutting off a tap that drips 10 drops of water in a minute can save 270 gallons a year, my cutting my morning gargle by 50% should amount to something, is it not?

And in the 2 inches of brackish water that sloshes around in my water-deprived brain, more Naïve Foolish Questions bob around like so much jetsam…
• Last night, I was reading William Dalrymple’s book, “The Age of the Kali”. Pages 165 to 173 are devoted to Bangalore and I quote: “ The government of Karnataka, which has proved itself adept at attracting foreign investment, soon showed itself to be wholly unable to cope with the massive expansion that it was able to generate. Suddenly there was never enough electricity….it was the same with water, which was usually available in taps for less than an hour a day…” The book was written in 1998. Nine years later, the morning news says “40% of Bangalore are getting water once in 3 days”. When will we ever learn?
• What is it like to have a 2 month old baby, not be able to afford disposable diapers and manage to have clean nappies using water that arrives once in 3 days for 4 hours?
• Why is it that we always wake up to a water crisis when the “water level in the KRS is 12 feet lower than it was at the same time last year”? Shouldn’t alarm bells start ringing much earlier? When the water is 3 feet lower, maybe?
• Don’t the Municipal authorities know how to do simple math? I mean, how difficult is it to match the amount of water needed by a city with the amount of water available in the reservoir? By how many feet does the level of water in the KRS have to be lower than it was last year before this happens?
• Why is water – or any other civic issue for that matter – always only a problem for the authorities to solve? How come in all the caterwauling and screaming about the incompetence of the authorities to manage the “water situation”, there is not a single drop of a suggestion from “concerned citizens’ groups” about we can do to help? For example, in Mysore, most people live in independent houses and wash their compounds every single morning, often with the tap running constantly. How come we aren’t rallying together to tell the MCC that we will was our compounds only once every 3 days until the water problem abates?
• All over Mysore – and I am sure it is the same in Bangalore – buildings of all kinds are continuously under construction. If there is such a water crisis, where are these builders getting their water from? Or are they simply using cola (or Eau de Cologne) to mix the cement...
• How many gallons of water would you need to run a hotel with 200 rooms, 4 fancy restaurants and clientele who are paying upwards of 5000 rupees a night as tariff? Of the millions of gallons of water being pumped out to a city every day, a fair number must be going to hotels. So how about the hotel industry in Bangalore chipping in and announcing that for one day of the week for the next two months, the hotels remain closed in order to do their bit for water conservation?

And here is my final Naïve Foolish Question….

What if the monsoons fail this year?

Picture :

Friday, March 02, 2007

Colours of Joy

The Colours of Joy
By Ratna Rajaiah

Or then, simply Holi.
Tomorrow, much of India is going to be drenched in riotous colour and music and dance as we celebrate what is popularly known as the festival of colours. And no, I am not going to talk about the health hazards of coloured powders that are used these days to play Holi.
Nor rave and rant about the rude, impolite, often nasty practices that have crept in like using mud and cow dung and oil paint, even sewage. Nor hold forth about celebrating Holi the organic way. Though being a die-hard New Age type, I will touch upon the subject!
Instead, I ask you to walk with me and discover the many wonderful and little known aspects of Holi, in the hope that we will thus capture the magic of one of the happiest, most joyous and glorious festivals that dot our calendar.
Phagun aayo re!
“ketaki gulab juhi champaka….”
Phalguna. One of Arjuna’s many names because he was born in this month - Phalguna or Phagun.
And what a month! When the earth, getting ready for summer, shrugs off the last remaining sluggishness of winter and sidles up to the sun. Who, rather pleased by this attention, warms and coaxes everything to lustily, merrily sprout and bud and flower and hatch and breed and turn from withered ol’ brown to lush new green. A heady, rapturous, enchanting month, where mango blossoms burst forth like torches of lace, kissed here and there by tiny green baby mangoes.
So Phagun marks the beginning of what they call spring. But we have a much better name for this season in India – Vasant or Basant, a season so heady that we even have a couple of ragas dedicated to it! And Phagun is also the month when we celebrate Holi because of which it is also called Phagwa or Phalgunotsava. Or then, more appropriately, Vasantotsav - the festival of spring.
Colour me Red!
Think about it. Holi is the only festival which we “play”. And so, how can we speak of Holi and not talk about colour? Colours that we steal from Mother Nature, decking herself up in her spring finery, to joyously splash each other with.
Scarlet from the hibiscus, purple from the jamun fruit, yellow from the lemon and the sun, blue from a hot summer sky, and green from the parrot’s wing and the cheeky green chili. And saffron from…..
Actualy, Nature was the source of the colours with which Holi was played in ancient times. “Gulal”, the Hindi word which today refers to all the Holi coloured powders, was originally the kesar (saffron-colour)coloured powder made from the dried flowers of a tree.
A tree appropriately called the “Flame of the Forest”, because its velvety flowers (shaped like a parrot’s beak which is why it is also called the parrot tree) are a breathtaking, blazing orange that virtually “set light” the place where they grow. And with Nature’s impeccable timing, the trees burst into flame…er, I mean burst bloom flowers, in February, staying on nearly to the end of April!It is said that Lord Krishna played Holi with this very same "gulal".

But the Palasha tree (as it is called in Sanskrit and Hindi) is not just a pretty face.
First let me tell you the rather charming legend about it. Considered sacred to the moon, it is said to have come to life when the feather of a falcon was dipped into soma, the nectar of the Gods. And so, it came to be considered is a sacred tree, an integral part of many Hindu religious ceremonies, the trifoliate formation of the leaves said to represent the Holy Triumvirate, Vishnu in the middle, Brahma on the left and Shiva on the right.
But legend apart, this tree (botanical name : Butea Monosperma and Butea Frondosa is the rare Indian variety with yellow flowers), also called the Dhak or Bastard Teak, has many uses. The tree acts as a host for the lac insect which produces lac, the base ingredient for shellac and varnish. All parts of it are used in Ayurveda for panchakarma therapies and in Unani medicine. The dried leaves are used to make plates and cups and for wrapping tobacco to make biddies.
And of course, come the month of Phagun, thousands of the flowers are dried and then ground to produce the gorgeous Holi powder called ‘gulal’…..
Ancient Holi
A spring festival has to be as old as…well, as old as spring itself, but Holi is celebrated for other reasons as well. Here are two of the most popular ones:
The demon king Hiranyakasipu’s hatred Lord Vishnu for killing elder his brother Hiranyaksa was so great that he wanted to destroy his own son Prahlad. Because despite his father’s best efforts, he had turned out to be Lord Vishnu’s most ardent devotee and continued to be so despite the most terrible tortures heaped upon him by his father. Hiranyakasipu’s sister Holika had been given the boon that fire could not destroy her. So, Hiranyakasipu ordered that Holika sit with the child Prahlad in a huge bonfire. When she did, the fire destroyed Holika and the child was unharmed. And so Holi is celebrated – like so many other festivals– as the triumph of good over evil.
One of Holi’s lesser known names is Anangotsava. Ananga means “without a body”. When Kamadeva, spurred by Lord Indra to make Lord Shiva fall in love with Parvati, shot an arrow in Siva's heart as he sat deep in meditation, the enraged Maheshwara opened his third eye and reduced poor Kamadeva to ashes. And so, Kamadeva got another name - “Ananga”, and the occasion is celebrated as Kamavilas, Kaman Pandigai or Kama-dahanam (or Madanamahotsava meaning the Festival of Kama), especially in many parts of South India.
I know. We’re all thinking - is being reduced to ashes is a reason to celebrate or a reason to mourn? Well, it is said the festiva honours Kamadeva’s selfless sacrifice for the cause of true love! And the traditional offerings to this God of Love are sandalwood paste to soothe the agony of his burns and mango blossoms which apparently are his favorite flower.
Incidentally, the story also has a happy ending because after he was so devastatingly incinerated, Kamadeva’s wife Rati, prayed to Lord Siva to restore her husband to life. Siva was placated by Rati’s prayers and arranged so that Kamadeva be reborn as Lord Krishna’s son by his wife Rukmini.
Krishna’s festival
No discussion on Holi can be complete without talking about Lord Krishna. Because, the most evocative, sensuous, rapturous, enchanting images of Holi are that of Lord Krishna playing Holi with his beloved Radha and the gopis. In Mathura, Holi festivities, even to this day, extend over 16 days and are centred around Lord Krishna’s birthplace, Nandgaon and Radha’s birthplace, Barsana.
There is even a beautiful lake called Gulal Kund!
These images have been repeatedly captured and celebrated in art and poetry and theatre and dance. And been the inspiration for the genesis of a very beautiful genre of Hindustani classical music called hori or compositions about Holi, sung in a very ancient style of singing called dhamar, dating back to the 13th century. When the great musical geniuses of Swami Haridas, Baba Gopal Das, Tansen and Baiju Bawra were taking dhrupad singing to its finest glory, the hori was also coming into its own.
In fact, hori songs were performed with great gusto in the court of that famed royal patron of music, Emperor Akbar. And typically, all hori compositions are about the mischievous, irresistible Krishna, cavorting with his Radha, among the gopis, drenching them not just with his favourite colour, kesari, but also with love!
“Khele shyam sangh hori aaj, bhar pichakari rang bhar kesar ke” .
And so, befittingly, the last words on this festival of colour must be those of that other ardent devotee of Lord Krishna, Meera Bai. This is one of her compositions and depending on how you want to look at it, it’s a bhajan or a hori geet, or a romantic song or then an impassioned cry of a beloved’s heart describing the colours of love.
Because, at the end of it, that is what Holi is – a celebration of love. Happy Holi!
Syama piya more rangade chunariya
Aisi rangade ke ranga nahi chhute
Dhobiya dhoye chahe yeh sari umaria
Lal na rangaun main, hari na rangaun
Apne hi ranga mein rangade chunariya
Bina rangaye main to ghar nahi jaungi
Beet hi jaye chahe yeh sari umariya
My beloved Shyam, color my dupatta
Colour it so the colours will never leave
Even if the dhobi washes it a lifetime
But I won’t be coloured red
Nor green,
Colour me in only shades of you
Without being thus suffused by you, I will not leave
Even if I lose a lifetime….

Hori or Holi?
The musicologists say that the word “holi” got corrupted to “hori” because it is easier to pronounce while singing. Lord Krishna’s bhakts say it was originally “hori” or happiness in Brajbhasha, a dialect of Hindi.

In Bengal and Orissa, Holi is celebrated as Dol Jatra or Dol Purnima to mark the birth of the great singing saint, Mahaprabhu Chaitanya


Thursday, February 22, 2007

How the Abhishek-Aishwarya wedding may save the Ridley Turtle

Question : - How many times can you run the same 15 second post-engagement footage of Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai before the dumb-sucker audience figures out that there isn’t anymore? Nobody has been able to answer that question as yet, but whoever does will inherit the Earth, not to mention the entire Imelda Marcos shoe collection.

Phew. I tell you, the timing couldn’t have been better. I mean, when the tickertape running at the bottom of the screen of your favourite news channel screams, “Just in - 40-year-old woman molested on Antop Hill!”, we know we’ve begun to scrape the bottom of the dog-licks-man news stories barrel. (They were seriously thinking of throwing another prince down a tube well, this time a real one. But real princes are hard to come by these days – at least ones that will fit into a tube well - and the original prince-down-the-tube now probably charges 4 million rupees for every tumble.) But we’re now safely home and dry, thanks to Shilpa Shetty’s thoughtful housemates on Big Brother who came up with those lovely racist remarks.

(We’re hoping Prince Philip will chip in and do his bit for the cause…)

And of course, there is the Marriage of the Millennium.
(Whoever just asked, “who’s getting married?”, has to immediately stop reading this and drum themselves out of known human civilization. Which we all know stretches across the length and breadth of one Page Three.)
Now some celebrities are so sweet and considerate. For example, when they hook up, it’s always sparing a thought for the hard lives of Page Three writers. So everyone knows that Tom hooked up with Katie just so that we could call them Tomkat. And Brad with Angelina which so seamlessly became Brangelina.

But there are others that just don’t care. Like what on earth are we going to do with “Aishwarya” and “Abhishek”? “Abhiwarya”? That sounds like Shakuni’s sidekick and till Copplola makes Mahabharat, we aren’t going there as yet. Or “Aishek”? Puhleez. That’s more like the name of a milkshake that you’d get in Outer Gummidipundi. I mean, these bachcha-log should’ve learned a thing or two from Papa Bachchan. See how nicely he slipped into “Abby Baby”, then so thoughtfully named his son Abhishek so that the little tyke could be Abby’s Baby. And now that the baby is all grown up and ready to have his own babies, he is Abby Baby, mark II.

But what on earth are we going to do with “Aishwarya” and “Abhishek”? It’s enough to make one tear out one’s hair weave in despair...

Anyway, till someone comes up with something better, we will just have to sprain our tongues and make do with “Abhiwarya”. Besides, we have no time to waste because there is so much to be done. Again, the considerate celebs would have given us at least three months to get this shaadi-show on the road.

Wait a minute, isn’t what the Bachchans and the Rais are supposed to do? No, you silly, naïve thing, you. They have to just organize the wedding.

We – as in the Page Three public - are the ones that have to do all the real hard work. For example, we have to get together all the experts who will spend every waking minute from now till the wedding (and if we are lucky, till the first Abhiwarya baby), on every available public forum (barring the inside of public toilets), predicting, analyzing, forecasting, estimating.

For example, they will tell us the political implications of who is given the prestigious job of designing the presiding pundit’s gamcha. And would it topple the UPA government if it is picked out in Swarovski crystal coconuts instead of zardosi zucchinis? And if the colour of the pagdis worn by the baratis is the same shade as the flag of the Communist Party of India, would that mean that it is now cozying up to Bade Bhaiyya? (Mulayam Singh to you.)

Experts, national, international even extra-terrtrial( for after all this is a marriage made in heaven), will tell us what will happen to next years’ rabi crop if the nail polish of the hairdresser doing Aish’s chachi’s best friend’s hair does not match the epaulettes of the trumpet players in the baraati’s band.
(They are having a raja-ki-aayegi-baraat band and everything? Ooooooh…isn’t that just darling!
Er, we don’t know but our experts are already on job predicting the possibility)

And even as we speak, meteorologists and weather expert are setting up special satellite-powered weather bureaus to tell us the likelihood of the colour of the skies on the wedding day matching Aish’s eyes….
There will be live, round-the-clock debates on all kinds of things. Whether Karan Johar’s driver will attend if Shahrukh Khan’s cook isn’t invited and how that will impact the size of David Beckham’s er, annual fee with LA Galaxy. And what will happen to the Sensex (not to mention Monica Lewinsky’s chances of getting a job on Hilary Clinton’s presidential campaign team) if Mukesh’s manicurist and Anil’s numerologist are housed in the same floor of the chateau.
(Mukesh is invited?! Really?!!
Er, we don’t know but our experts are…..
And the wedding’s at a chateau?! Ooooh…the same one as Laxmi Mittals’ daughter?! Dunno but once again, our experts…).
The breaking news just in is that there may be a terrorist plot to have Karisma Kapoor’s daughter’s nanny share the same maalishwaali (masseur) with Shweta Bachcchan-Nanda’s daughter’s governess. But since these are unconfirmed reports, we will keep you updated on that story.

We are trying to invite Miss Manners and Martha Stewart to debate on how many times the guests should change their underarm deodorant during the pheras and whether that will be any different from the number of times they should change their underwear during the wedding ceremony.
(Why? Dunno but our experts….)

We will try to predict whether 100 will be number of varieties of kebabs served at the reception or the pieces in the orchestra playing at the pre-wedding, post pre-nuptial- agreement- signing- cocktails. And whether the entrée at the mehendi dinner for the guests’ pooches will be oysters on ice or lobster Thermidor.
(Dogs can eat oysters? Dunno but our experts…..) Incidentally, a debate is already raging about whether the mehendi will have 289 ingredients according to the secret 547-year old recipe or 547 ingredients according to the 289-year old recipe
And that’s only the tip of the tip of iceberg lettuce salad...
Did someone ask, “what about the actual coverage of the wedding?
Well, let me answer it like this. There are two reasons why we need to know all this.
Firstly because an event of such earth-shaking proportion cannot but effect all the things I have already mentioned plus global warming, the size of the next Miss Universe’s breasts, Oprah’s net worth, the sex life of the fruit bats, whether by “WMD”, Bush was referring to the Big Mac, the outcome of the World Cup, the design of the next Play station, the chances of finding the yeti in Lower Parel Basin and also determine which will collapse first – Michael Jackson’s nose or Donald Trump’s marriage.

Dunno really but don’t worry because we are having a whole other 37 panels of experts to tell us….

The other reason is that when the wedding day actually arrives, hopefully we will all be so exhausted and sick to the gills reading writing, watching, debating, speculating and generally gnashing our teeth about the whole thing that nobody will really care how many magazines and newspapers and internet sites will be circulating the same 3 and a quarter pictures and how many times all the news channels are replaying the same 8.35 seconds footage which could well be the footage of the wedding of Ram Khilona and Chameli for all that you can make out of it.

Which leaves us with one last question. Am I invited? In reply, I narrate an anecdote about the delightfully irrepressible Art Buchwald who died recently and left a hole in the stratosphere of the world’s greatest humourists more dangerous as the one in the ozone. On the eve of what was billed as the biggest wedding of the previous millennium, i.e. the marriage of the breathtakingly gorgeous Princess of Hollywood, Grace Kelly to Monaco's Prince Rainier, Buchwald wrote that the only reason he wasn't invited was because of a 500-year old feud between the Buchwald family and the Grimaldi dynasty! In Buchwald’s case, his invitation from the prince was hand-delivered the next day.
I'm still waiting for mine.....

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Ode to Talcum

The talcum powder ads have got it all wrong.. They show secret, delicious, crevices being powdered with it; emitting fragrances so enchanting, it can do almost anything. Clinch the deal, stop the traffic, and/or hook the man, in one Dreamflower-scented swoop. But they’ve got it all wrong. Talcum powder isn’t about coming out smelling like roses. It’s not a blotter of sweat and BO. The true meaning of talc is known only to a South Indian.
Let me explain.
You’ve to understand one thing about these people. Their skins may be black….. sorry, melanin-challenged, but their souls are dazzling white. Unfortunately, that’s not how the world sees them. Where they’re just a bunch of kaalias, so what if they’re very clever at two-plus-two and put us on the world map with Idli-Dosa and the Raman Effect. If your skin’s not the right shade of Aryan, your life’s over. So, to compensate, God gave Southies talcum powder. To slather their faces with it and let its ethereal translucence allow the pure, white depths of their souls shine through. In other words, to be a good Southie, talc is mandatory. Not in the armpit or the cleavage. On the face. An un-talced face is tantamount to indecent exposure and you get drummed out of Southie ranks if you’re caught. Never mind if a dusting of the pearly-white magic turns your black skin into a interesting shade of pearly grey. Remember, grey is white with a dash of black. Or black with a splash of white. Depending on how strong you like your coffee. What matters is the white, in however minuscule a dash-splash.
India produces about 21,000 tons of talcum powder annually and about half of this is consumed by the Southies. Remember the story of Sleeping Beauty? The Southie version’s a bit different. One day, Mrs. Wicked Step-Amma, freshly triumphant from having sent S. Beauty to the Permanent-Swapnalok-in-the sky (or so she thought), stood in front of her beloved mirror and asked, “Mirror, mirror….” Before she could finish, the mirror shattered into a gazillion pieces! W. Step-Amma had forgotten to talc her face! Poor Mirror. Shocked and horrified at having to see naked, un-talced Southie skin, it cracked up. And Mrs. WS did what any self-respecting woman-without-a-mirror would do. Shriveled up and died. Meanwhile, S. Beauty, having waited for her man, like all good Southie girls, with her face well-talced, was kissed and woken up by P. Charming (also well-talced) and lived happily ever after. Moral of the story? Beauty is talc-deep.
For Southie women, talcum powder is what turns frog into prince and kaddu into Mercedes Benz. Good Southie Ammas whisper this mantram in their daughters’ ears as soon as they’re born. When in doubt, talc. When your husband leaves you, talc. When his wife refuses to leave him, talc. When the idli batter fails to rise, talc. When other things fail to rise, forget Viagra; just talc. Nothing like a puff of the ol’ Dreamflower to sizzle the fizzle. In other words, when all else fails, talc.
Ask Amma. Who, by the by, doesn’t throw tantrums, she throws talc. It’s rumored that the only thing she took with her to prison, takes to bed and to all her guftagoos with Atal-Anna is her tin of talc. We can’t, due to national security reasons disclose the brand , but it’s talc. And if you’re a scoffing skeptic, smirking at this panegyric, look at Amma’s skin. Flawless alabaster. Or look a little further. At Hema-Amma’s. Or Vijayanthi-Amma’s. All exquisite testimonials to the power of the powder. The magic that turns duckling into swan. At least inside the Southie’s head. Or to put it another way, talcum powder is Southern Comfort.

The Southie’s dhoti and how to rattle it ( Or how to diddle your mundu)

Photo Courtesy Wikipedia

Etymology of dhoti: Hindi dhot , from Middle Indic * dhautta, *dhotta, cloth, probably from past participle of dhauvati, he washes, from Sanskrit dh noti dhau-, he shakes

Other men gird their loins, Southie men gird their dhotis. Underestimated by the rest of the world as a mere garment, a foolish extension of the loincloth, it’s only the Southie male who knows that the dhoti can be much, much more. (Bringing to mind the opening line of Love Story. “What do you say about a one-and-ahalf-metre tundu ….”)
Well to start with, the Southie’s dhoti is a piece of minimalist art. No clumsy acres of cloth to be feverishly gathered and pleated, no frenzied crawling between and around the legs. Just a pithy bit of pristine whiteness, enough to go around the waist once, with some left over for the two ends to overlap - barely. It’s also a free spirit, secured by just one firm tuck at the waist, the rest left to hang free, unrestrained. Because the Southie knows that a dhoti is not just something to wear but to wield, much the way a skunk does his stink or a bimbo her cleavage. And so as Time dawned on mankind (somewhere between Mohenjo and Daro), the art of dhoti rattling came to be, the art of how to swagger, strut, scare, conquer and tame - all with a piece of cotton as bland as your granny’s khichdi. Which is why, like Sharon Stone’s hemline, the Southie’s dhoti is built to have the unfettered freedom to rise or fall, fold over or flap across, even cleave open to lay bare the magnificence of Southie machismo.
Naturally, this means that the Southie dhoti spends very little time being full length - i.e modestly covering its wearer from waist to toe - and a lot of its time being folded up to reveal calves, knees, thighs (and sometimes – gasp! – even more) depending on how things are going. Now before you leap to any rash conclusions about the Southie male’s secret exhibitionist tendencies (“we’d have never guessed with all that vibhuti!”) let me tell you that without knowing how and when to fold or unfold your dhoti (while wearing it, naturally) there’s no way you can rattle it. (Nor diddle your mundu.) It’s a bit like trying to wrestle without a partner or to tango without feet. And depending on your dexterity and timing, you can deploy your dhoti to play popular male sports like mine-is-bigger-than-yours, my-daddy-can-beat-up-your-daddy-not-to-mention-what-he-can-do-to-your-mummy and you-can-take-it-and-stick-it-up-you-know-where.
Needless to say, the art of dhoti rattling has been stitched into the Southie’s Y chromosone and there was a time when every good Southie boy worth his weight in mulgai pudi learnt it much before he learnt how to manage rasam on a banana leaf. Alas, with the invasion of the pant and the pyjama, it’s now a dying art in the cities, but is still alive and well where paddy is lush, the coconut tender, the jackfruit ripens like prickly, pregnant hippos and the air is laced with the fragrance of black hair gently wallowing in coconut oil.
Now though it is said that there are as many ways of diddling a dhoti (or wiggling your veshti) as there are recipes to make your idli batter rise, here are the few basic moves common to all schools.
1. The Buffalo Bhoothalingam Draw (Inspired by the Bucking-Bronco Kick.)
Used to answer the Call of the Testosterone. And when the call comes, to the swelling of the chest and the quivering of the moustache, (maybe even the clash of a few cymbals), in one lightning motion, you shoot out a leg backwards to kick the lower end of the dhoti upwards into a waiting hand. And before anyone can say Karaikudi Kunjukunju Mudaliar, the dhoti will lie trussed up at loin level and you are all set to defend the honour of gramam, gotram or garage mechanic. Can be accompanied by dialogues like “Yenna da, rascal!” or words to that effect, but the more stylish practictioners prefer to let the dhoti do all the talking.
(If your dhoti is already folded up, just go in reverse making sure that when you unfold it, you don’t yank the whole damn thing off. It requires years of practice to know and find the location of that little bit of dhoti that will do the trick.)
2. The I’m-the-King-of-Kondalampatti Klutch. Equivalent to pissing on territory and therefore normally used to fix who is the dominant male in this part of the jungle. At the sight of a threat, shoot out leg (always backwards), kick dhoti (always upwards) and instead of folding the whole thing up around loins, just hold up one end (sometimes both if the threat is severe) in hand to part the dhoti like the waters of the Red Sea and make way for two hairy (hopefully), muscular (hopefully), mard-key-bacchey legs which will then proceed to walk all over everybody. In days of yore, this was much more effective when done striding through paddy fields with a minion scurrying behind holding aloft a huge black umbrella to protect your beautiful black complexion from being ruined by the sun.
3. The Gird-of-the-Loin. Used before the commencement of anything from climbing a coconut tree to signing that corporate merger. (Also very useful while riding anything with two wheels – other than a woman, that is.) It signals that you’re now open for and mean business. A variation the B. Bhootalingam Draw, minus all the thunder and lightning and how high you fold the dhoti is determined by the complexity and seriousness of the task at hand. (WARNING: To be deployed without underwear only when unaware of presence of polite/female company and/or when answering an urgent call of nature.)
Which leaves us with just a couple of unanswered questions. The first - if the Southie’s dhoti spends so much of its time aping a miniskirt, what comes to mind is a question has so often haunted humanity about the Scottish kilt. What underwear? Well let’s just say that it has never been Venky’s secret. Because the Southie, never knowing how high his dhoti may ride, chooses his under-the-dhoti-wear remembering the Girl Scout motto. “Be prepared”. Hence the popular choice – despite the invasion of the briefer VIP or the even more dashing Jockey - continues to be what is called “drayers” - knee-length kacchas in dashing stripes or shorts in basic khaki – covering all matters that must remain private no matter what your dhoti may do in public.
And the second question is…. You know what they say about the Southie’s dhoti - that it’s like a coconut. Known to fall off but no one has ever seen one do so. So the second question is - how does it stay up? There are many whispered rumours. (And there are those who have been known to use a belt, but they are charlatans really, shunned and denounced by the real Makappuwamis) Some say that it is coffee, strong enough to put the hair on your chest and keep your dhoti on. Some say a daily dose of rice and buttermilk, enough to just distend your stomach to the required rotundity. Others say it’s avvakai pickle, hot enough to sear your dhoti into your middle….The truth is no one knows. My bet? Testosterone…..
(FOOTNOTE: Now there may be some of you whose brow may be furrowed on account of my not having mentioned the lungi. I have just one word for it. Disgusting. A raucous, loutish, revolting genetic aberration that will never be recognized as a legitimate relation by any true aficionado of the Southie’s dhoti.)

Fear Of Flying


“You can’t pull over at 35,000 feet.” Aretha Franklin.

Fear of flying. It’s the irrevocability of it that’s so petrifying. Of getting into that flashy-looking pile of aluminium (all that vroom-vroom and them posh birds in uniform plying hot towels don’t fool me) and allowing a complete stranger who doesn’t know how much of living I’ve still left to do (all the men i haven’t loved, all the shopping I haven’t done) to launch me into nothingness (barring a few silly clouds and some really vicious air-pockets), without having the option of saying, ”Stop, let me off!”.
A typical flight goes something like this. At the departure lounge, the next day’s headlines screaming in my head (“AIRCRASH!”), I check out my co-passengers. First to see if there’s somebody famous. That way, at least when the Big “C” happens (CRASH, if you sadists must have it spelt out), I’d have the posthumous pleasure of derived fame. Then, to see if they’re the kind of people I’d like to share my “C” with. Since this kind of thing is like loosing your virginity. You get only one chance. Once aboard, I listen with catatonic attention to the “Kursi-ki-peti” routine, first in Hindi and then all over again in English. (I’d listen to it in Swahili if necessary, to make sure I’m fully briefed to “saans-lete-rahiye” when there is “hawa mein kami”.) I’m the only one doing so. I’ m also the only one reading the safety instruction leaflet, cover to cover. I glare at the geeks sitting near the emergency exits. They look like irresponsible nerds who’ll bungle the act of whipping the door open and letting me be the one to leap out first. I panic, wondering how to inflate the life-jacket with the oxygen mask strapped across my mouth . Some fear-of-flying friendly airlines have found a neat solution. You now just have to whip out the seat from under you and clutch it to float back to the nearest shark.
We take off and the cabin crew try to lull me into a false sense of security with an unending stream of stuff. But they don’t fool me. (One steward’s cute. I check him out and go back to hyperventilating). I stuff each ear with a kilo of cotton wool, so that, any moment now, when the engines starts spluttering, I won’t hear them. I sit in an aisle seat so that when the engines burst into flames, I won’t see them. We hit the first air pocket. I sink my nails into the metal armrests. In between each wave, I uncross my eyes and make wild promises to God in exchange for this plane landing in one piece. I crane across to see if the wing’s still there. It is. Suspicious whiffs of vapours ooze out of the air-conditioning vents. Smoke. We’re going to go up in flames. We don’t. Call buttons go off all over like a bad rash. Each ting-tung’s a gong of doom, heralding the pilot telling us that we’re going down, down, down. He doesn’t. The aircraft bounces like a happy baby. I clutch the hand of the strange man sitting next to me and see my life flash past me. (That part gets a bit tiresome sometimes. Even “Sholay “ palls after the 85th viewing.). The floor tilts down 60-degrees and my lungs whoosh out of my ears. We’re nose-diving into oblivion. We don’t. There’s a hideous thud-and-crunch from under the floor. As I brace myself for the final blinding flash, an angel’s voice warbles about bahar ka taapman. I realise we’ve landed.
In one piece. I stuff my heart back into my mouth and think, it’s a fluke. It’s going to happen the next time.
Bon Voyage.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

O Ye of Litle Faith

He stood awe-struck, staring pop-eyed at The Thing. It blinked little green and red lights and mysterious little beeps, burps and disembodied human voices floated out of it. “Didi! Kee bhalo! Kee aschhi? Baba re!” My answering machine had just met Gopal. A little brown man with the blackest, widest, shiniest eyes of a little child and a huge grin whose hopeful intensity never faded no matter how half-hearted my greeting or how grudgingly narrow my door opened for him. Gopal, the little Bengali who had come to Bombay with nothing but bits of his beautiful Bengal in his luggage. With which he planned to lure the gold out of a city whose the pavements they said were lined with it. Having left behind one wife, one old mother and one little son in a little village near Calcutta. And having squashed himself with six other men into a tiny, hot, airless room of a Bombay chawl where he dreamed of bright-green paddy laughing crystal-cool raindrops all over him.
Gopal sold Bengal sarees. Which he wrapped in a huge, dirty-white cloth and carried door-to-door. Sarees that were gossamer, iridescent breaths of his Shonar Bengal. Vermillion of Ma Durga’s tongue splashed with the glittering black of her beautiful eyes. Fluffy-white rice laced with the hot, haldi curry of maccher jhol. Brinjal purple, studded with little gold specks of mustard. Jasmine-fair feet flashing the crimson seduction of alta. Burnt-pink misthi doi wrapped in the fragrant brown embrace of a little mud-pot. A swollen-gray Hoogly, pregnant with rain, dotted with delicate pink lotuses. Six yards of enchantment. Saree lengths of sorcery. And they never failed to bewitch me. In spite of my almost rude declarations of no, absolutely no intentions to buy, Gopal would grin his hopeful, little-boy grin, ask for a glass of water, pretending to drink it, slowly, surreptitiously unwrap the dirty-white cloth and let the magic out….
“Didi, dekhen! Bahut shoondor. Aap ko bahut suit karega!”
“Bhalo. Lekin nahin chaiye. Zari border? Office mein nahin chalega…..”
“Didi ab bhi service kaarta hai? Shaadi nahin karega?……….”
That’s when, sarees forgotten, we’d swap bits of our lives like two school kids sharing their lunch boxes……a bite of paratha from mine, a sliver of pickle from his. Life was a bitter-sweet, khata-meetha packed lunch. And Gopal never failed to humble me with his uncomplaining, unwavering faith in it. No matter that five years of pounding the mean streets and he wasn’t earning anymore than he did when he first came here. Or that his pathetic little client list never grew. Or that he was not any closer to going back to his little family. One day he’d make it, he told me. One day the worm would turn, didi. I couldn’t take it anymore. Go back, I told him. Be poor but in the free, happy air of your village. Eat a little less but with your wife and son. Go back. This place will swallow you up in one merciless gulp. Go back before it’s too late. And as I spoke, his eyes would glaze over and the grin would fade a little and sadden….. Then suddenly - snap! He’d be back. Full of hope. His eyes shining with dreams of the golden tomorrows which he was sure would come.
And before long, there’d be two more sarees in my cupboard and his grin would’ve changed from desperate hope to contented satisfaction. Then, he’d once more lovingly wrap the dirty-white cloth around his beautiful bits of Bengal and set off again to pound his sweetness into the mean streets. And long after he was gone, his shining black eyes and little-boy grin would linger in the air, gently mocking me and saying, “Oh ye of little faith………..”

Monday, January 08, 2007

The 10 most popular songs of Lata Mangeshkar

Of the thousands of songs that Lata mangeshkar ahs sung over the last 60 years, these are perhaps her 10 most popular songs....

1. Yeh zindagi ussi ki hai[ANARKALI 1953 C. Ramchandra/ Rajinder Kishen]
2. Pyar hua ikraar hua hai[SHRI 420 1955 Shankar-Jaikishen/Hasrat Jaipuri]
3. Ayega aanewala[MAHAL 1949 Khemchand Prakash/ J. Nakshab]
4. Aaja re pardesi [MADHUMATI 1958 Salil Chowdhury/ Shailendra]
5. Naina Barse [WOH KAUN THI 1964 Madan Mohan/ Raja Mehdi Ali Khan]
6. Inhi logon ne[PAKEEZAH 1971 Naushad/ ]
7. Man dole mera tan dole[NAGIN 1954 Hemant Kumar/Rajinder Kishen]
8. Aaj phir jeene ki tamana[GUIDE 1965 S.D. Burman/ Shailendra]
9. Bindiya chamkegi[DO RAASTE]
10. Tujhe dekha toh [Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge Jatin-Lalit/ Anand Bakshi]
11. Jiya jale jaan jale[DIL SE A.R. Rahman/ ]
12. Radh Na Bole[AZAAD 1955 C. Ramchndra/ Rajinder Kishen]
13. Aapki Nazron Ne Samjha[ANPADH 1962 Madan Mohan/ Raja Mehdi Ali Khan]
14. Sawan Ka Mahina [MILAN 1976 Laxmikant-Pyarelal/ Anand Bakshi ]
15. Kabhie Kabhi Mere Dil Mein[KABHI KABHIE 1976 Khayyam/ Sahir Ludhianvi]


Yusuf Khan, Devika Rani and the matter of a name

It was Devika Rani who gave the man who become one of Indian Cinena's greatest actors. She cast him in the film Jwar Bhata in 1944. His name was Yusuf Khan but Devika Rani wanted him to chnge his name and offered him 3 choices:-
Dilip Kumar
The rest is history

Thoughts of a Middle-Aged Romantic

“When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now,
Will you still be sending me a Valentine, birthday greetings, bottle of wine?
If I'd been out 'till quarter to three, would you lock the door?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four?”

Is there romance after 30?
You’re thinking - isn’t the answer obvious? I mean, there is a time and place for everything, isn’t there, and if you haven’t found love when both the waist and the age are still under 30, then when? All the same, the question still passes through the mind like a restless breeze through the trees. And one that has haunted mankind since the dawn of time. Ever since the Neanderthal man first felt his bald spot and watched his fat, frowsy wife grumpily slap the breakfast fried brontosaurus eggs in front of him. Ever since the Hindi phillums chocolate box heroes of our yesteryears were sucking their middle-aged bellies in to playing college kids long after they had celebrated their 40th birthday for the 5th time. And it’s the question that all those who cross over into the twilight zone of After-30 – and alas, we all will - sadly shake their heads, bite into their soggy bread pakora, sip their tepid tea and mutter to themselves…. “Is there romance after 30?”
Because, the thing is that just because the middle starts spreading, just because the only time love now figures in the conversation is when they’re talking about your love handles doesn’t mean that Ye Ole Dil stops yearning for a spot of pyaar-mohabbat. Just because you’ve seen the wifey in cold wax and colder cream, just because you’ve watched the patidev pluck his nose hairs and belch beer-‘n-biryani just before kissing you, doesn’t mean that your heart doesn’t crave for a dollop of moonlight and roses.
Wot I mean ter say, me munchkins, is that as far as romance goes, the dil never stops saying, “More!”
And if you don’t believe me, ask the Internet. Dunno about all you slaving away at those blogs and dunno about all you hunting the virtual waves for the mating habits of the Northern hairy-nosed wombat but if there’s a place where you go if you want to poke and prod at the underbelly of our innermost desires, it’s the Internet. So, perhaps you’ve noticed no self-respecting will be seen in public without a dating-mating section. That there are entire websites devoted to promising you that you’ll find true love – or at least your dream sado-masochist orgy mate – in just 5 quick clicks of your mouse. Yeah, yeah but that’s for the millions of garma-garam blooded, romance-crazed Under 30’s. Maybe but as we watch all the Hum Tums and Main Hoon Na’s and Dhoom’s and all those music videos stuffed to the gills with disgustingly luscious, sometimes barely clad NYT’s (Nubile Young Things) – I mean, even a 38- year old Shahrukh Khan is forced to play an army major who can pass off as a college brat - look a little closer at these websites. Which is what I did.
And found that the world is crawling with grizzled After-30’s geezers looking for….er, what are they looking for? Romance? Well, in a manner of speaking – going by some of the e-mail ids. For example what would you say a gent who calls himself boobsmaniac (aged 50 and in case you didn’t get it, his brief but searing bio-data is titled “big boobs lover”) is looking for? Then there was willmakeu2wet (aged 30), wet69 (aged 35), a hotparag and the gent to whom my heart went out to with the wistfully yearning sobriquet of whenwilligetmyhoney (aged 38).
So what, you scoff. One website doesn’t make a whole nation of Over-the-hill-30’s craving for romance. I mean, let’s face facts. The average marriageable age in India for a woman still hovers around 21, over 95 % of women are married by the time they’re 35 and divorce, though rising steadily like the nation’s blood pressure, is still down at healthy single digits. So by thirty – okay we’ll push that to 35 – you’re done with romance, found your soul mate, kindred spirit, for-better-or-for-worse half and have now moved on to other things. Bacchey-kacchey, Saturday night housie at the club, agonizing about hair tints, your cholesterol and what to do with those Wipro shares.
And romance? Ah, it’s there somewhere, fading like the upholstery on the drawing room sofa, often forgotten like that vegetable chopper that promised to mince anything from the onions for your do-pyaaza to your ma-in-law’s pinkie, a trifle moth eaten like your college year book and not even a very good a fit like your shaadi-ka-sherwani. But it’s there and we aren’t looking to redecorate, thank you.
I kinda guessed you’d say that. So I went to a few more “legit” websites, the kind boobsmaniac would shun, where intentions seemed more honourable and the handles a tad more respectable if a little less honest.
And the first indications were encouraging. The search thingie accommodated anyone from ages18 to 99 to search for anyone (man, or woman or both) from age 18-99. One website generously extended that to age 119 to cover all possibilities. So I searched for a man between 30 and 50. (As you can see, I’m not too picky but that’s one of the things that happens to you After 30. Pickiness plummets in direct proportion to the rate at which your craving for romance soars. By 50, you’ll settle for a 4-legged Martian with green skin and one eye, as long as he’s clean and can read the label on your bottle of medication for hot flushes.) I got 80 web pages of possibilities – er I mean men; most of them married and all with pics. So I narrowed it down to a man between 40 and 55…and still got 37 pages of men. Most of them married and all with pics.

So what, you scoff again. We already knew that the world is full of Over-The-Hill-of-Thirty married men looking to scratch that seven-year itch (thus labeled because it happens after 7 years and stays on for 7 years) one last time before everything droops and sags. True. But my point is. Are there enough women to match that demand? To find out, I swiftly transformed into a man looking for my Over-40 hot leg of baa-lambkin, my warm slice of sweetie-pie. (On the Net you can become anything - Elizabeth Hurley on a bad Arun Nayar day, the cigar on a good Bill Clinton day – anything). Alas, only 5 measly pages and …. I don’t want to be rude but let me put it like this. If the 37 pages of men are looking for matching Over-40 romance partners, they ain’t gonna find it on these 5 pages. Besides, most of these ladies wanted marriage and love. I know – we women always bay for the moon and that’s when the garden manure hits the ceiling….
So are we saying that after 30, women are done with romance? I think maybe not. It’s just that we ain’t tom-toming it from the rooftops. We may tightly scrape and pin our romantic yearnings into that super mum bun, we may smile brightly and stuff them firmly into the evening’s dum aloo, iron them away with the creases on hubby’s shirts but deep down inside somewhere, something still thrills at the thought of being tenderly treated like a rare hot house orchid. Look at the diamond ads, at the libraries still stuffed with Mills and Boon and you’ll know. Look at a film like Mr. and Mrs. Iyer and you’ll know that for us women, being “happily” married to a good, decent man isn’t inoculation against romance. Look at Leela and Dil Chahata Hai and Freaky Chakra and you’ll know that even at the doddering old age of 40, we aren’t ready yet to hang up our foolishly hopeful, hopelessly romantic little hearts.
So, is there romance after 30?
Well, I guess all that we can say is that the question is a bit like, “Is there life after death?” And the answer is – who knows, dearies, who knows? But we’re hoping like hell there is….
“Aayega aane waala, aayega aayega aayega
Bhatki hui jawaani manzil ko dhoondti hai
Maajhi bagair nayya saahil ko dhoondti hai
Kya jaane dil ki kashti kab tak lage kinaare
Lekin yeh keh rahe hain dil ke mere ishaare
Aayega, aayeg, aayega…..”

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