Sunday, November 22, 2015

Delirious depressions

About a week ago when I started off with this book, there was a cyclonic depression that developed in the Bay of Bengal.  The city of Chennai, about 300 miles from where we live has had an unprecedented downpour and the city is flooded. The city’s lakes have overflown,  storm water drains have choked and the sewage drains are overflowing, causing the otherwise drought ridden city’s urban infrastructure to crumble down.  The Indian Air force has been summoned to ensure that the casualties are reduced and the city survives the deluge.

Relatively speaking Bangalore, experiences its seasons very mildly.  Situated, probably equidistant, from the bay of Bengal and the Arabian sea and elevated at about 360 feet from sea level, the weather here is just beautiful. 

We are a country blessed with abundant sunlight and we do not appreciate a sunny day like many other ‘English’ speaking countries do.  The sun, for us, is always scorching hot and makes us tan.  In our country where 'fair and lovely' skin whitening cream sells like hot cakes tanning is known to cause serious self esteem issues. 

Ah … here I digress.

I was telling you how Bangalore feels beautiful at this time. It is getting a little nippy, but then a sweater and a monkey cap is all we need to keep ourselves warm. 

Small talk about the weather is just so un-bangalorean. Because we know, not too many cities in our country are blessed with weather like ours for most time of the year.  So we would rather count our blessings and pity the rather unfortunate ones.

Our small talk is usually about traffic.  It is rather always about the traffic. Because the infrastructure for our public transport system is still being built, and money is so abundant with the multinational companies who have set up shops in our city that as a part of our benefits package we get chauffeur driven cars to come to work.  It is beside the point that about 90% of those who come by these chauffeur driven cars earn nothing more than the chauffeur himself does, if not much lesser. But what they do is so crucial to the MNC’s day to day running that they would much rather ensure they are at work come-what-may and therefore send them a chauffeur driven car to get to work on time.  

Our cabs are no limousines.  Most of them are second hand or  third hand hand-me downs that have been dumped because they are no more road-worthy.  But then our roads are not any more  worthier. With a little under the table money at the RTO ( Road traffic office or something like that ... ) you can easily get a road-worthiness certificate. 

Our chauffeurs are nothing like the Jeeves in P G Wodehouse novels. Or was he a valet or a butler ... anyway chauffeur, valet, butler… does not  matter as long as you get the drift. 

As I was saying our drivers , chauffeurs  … they are betel leaf chewing, beedi smoking, toddy drinking ( mostly off –duty)  macho men from the most poverty stricken rural parts of the country.  When on duty these frustrated souls  sometimes swear,  spit and hit ( other vehicles, cows or people ) inorder to get their indispensable passengers to the work place on time. If they get late by a few minutes, their salaries are proportionately cut. 

When that happens at a large scale, then the rural Indian economy suffers.  And that is not at all good. This actually is the fundamental theory behind the urban traffic chaos.  

Our public transport system is still being built and in some places being rebuilt. So then it is no surprise that our roads have to carry the load of  cars and vans who ferry their very crucial passengers  to their work place.

When incessant rains lash over the bay of Bengal or the Arabian sea we do experience our showers. Sometimes light,  sometimes heavy.   But irrespective of whether they are light or heavy, our fragile roads built with fragile materials bear the brunt.

Our roads are currently in such a state that if you were a damn good photographer you could take close-up shots of our potholes and they could pass off as the  arial  view of the grand canyon shot from a helicopter.

I call up my cousin in Chennai to check if all is well, what with all these floods and water logging. Her's is a very demanding job. She works for one such company where she maintains the daily feed and updates from the websites for a client who is America's leading cosmetics brand. Their online portal  has recently been launched. They recently published  a press release that said they 'plan to penetrate aggressively into the Asian markets with a focus to capture 6-8% of the competitor's marketshare by the end of this year'.  

 Which essentially means that atleast 6-8% of housewives from Kanpur to Kualalampur, Behrampur to Beijing and Tiruchy to Thailand will soon be made to realize it is too downmarket to use anything from freshly ground turmeric powder to raw papaya fruit peels picked from their backyard for a facial scrub and would soon go on to buy the latest 'acai berry facial pack with anti-aging properties' made from hand picked berries grown in the amazon rain forests.  Atleast that is what the Television ad that repeatedly blares during the commercial breaks between the afternoon soap operas has been trying to convince them. If the cost seems to make them or their husbands have second thoughts, then it has reassured them that afterall they are ‘really worth it’.

My cousin from Chennai whose daily job it is to track their sales and ensure technical support for their portal says that the BCP ( business continuity plan) has been invoked through a world wide call tree yesterday and her counterpart in Manila will be taking charge tommorrow. For someone whose Monday blues start normally from Friday evenings, she is ecstatic about this unexpected holiday. 
It is on days like these that we, Bangaloreans wish we had rains like our coastal cousins. 

On Sunday evening when we, Bangaloreans are going through their our monday blues, In Chennai, they are worshipping their weatherman.  He appears on television channels in his safari suit with a long stick in his hand pointing to a black and white satellite picture showing the storm  clouds looming over the Bay of Bengal and grimly announces that they would cross the city in the next 24-48 hours.  Yippee ...take your own sweet time, you hear the chennaite screaming with joy.

 When it is monday morning the schools will be closed, the colleges will have postponed their exams indefinitely and the IT/ BPO companies that are so essential for the survival of the US economy will have invoked their business continuity plan.

Invoking BCP means the minions in other alternate locations like Pune, Poland or Philippines are doing a 16 hour work day and picking up the workload so that the likes of our Cosmetics giant who contributes to the health of US economy feels none of the effects of the deluge caused by the depression in the bay of Bengal that has brought one of its offshore location’s daily grind to a complete standstill.

Those working 16 hour days in Pune, Poland or Phillippines will hardly complain. They know Chennai will generously reciprocate the next time when there is a shoot out in Pune or a typhoon in Philippines. After all this is not like cyclone Sandy or the 9/11.   

Things like that happen all the time in third world countries.   

Here I shall pause as I need to pick up my cup of ginger tea and onion bajji  that may soon get cold, given the weather.   

And then I will get a little serious and write the book review of Hanya Yaganihara’s grim book 'A little life' that was in the booker shortlist for 2015 which I finished just this afternoon.  

They grey overcast sky, the incessant drizzle and the depression  provided the perfect backdrop for the novel.  I could not have chosen a better time to read / listen to the book.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Shakespeare - Wallah

It is one of those rare movies where the actors enact their own life story (in most parts) and as themselves.

In real life Geoffrey Kendal playing Tony Cunningham in the movie arrived in India in 1944 along with his wife Laura Liddell, playing Clara Cunningham, and was the Actor – manager of the theatre troupe Shakespearana that toured the length and breadth of India playing mostly Shakespeare plays at palaces of Maharajas, Boarding schools, in local town auditoriums and even in street corners or wherever else they could put together an interested audience who could cover up the costs. 

Theatre as a performing art, at all times has never been a very lucrative profession. Some of today’s talented and successful actors try and manage that delicate balance between theatre their first love and its cash rich cousin the movies in order to pay the bills and yet continue to pursue their passion.

Struggling with the onslaught of Bollywood allure as well as the dwindling popularity of Shakespeare plays in a newly independent India from where the English as well as the Anglo Indian patrons of Classic Shakespearean English theatre were fast leaving the country, Geoffrey Kendal and his troupe struggled and yet passionately toured the country through the 1950’s imprinting an indelible love for Shakespearean theatre among the boys and girls educated in the 1950's boarding schools in India.

Set in that backdrop, the story is partly reel but mostly real depiction of that deeply passionate love story of how the Suave Shashi kapoor, fell in love with Jennifer Kendal, 
(played by her sister Felicity Kendal in the movie) who toured with her parents playing young female roles in Shakespeare plays as part of the theatre troupe - Shakespearana.  
Madhur Jaffrey plays the role of Miss Manjula a successful, sought after and famous Bollywood heroine, unappreciative of the subtle nuances of the Theatre art, much to the annoyance of her rich lover Sanju, played by Shashi Kapoor in the movie. 

It is at this point in time that the real and reel stories diverge slightly.   
The movie ends as we see Lizzie Cunningham played by Felicity Kendal leave India to go back home, to England (where she has never been to ) because that is where her mother thinks her future lies.

And true to the story in real life, Felicity Kendal made a successful career as a theatre and movie actor in England.

In real life, Jennifer Kendal went on to marry the handsome Kapoor (possibly breaking the hearts of millions of women not only of her generation but of generations to come), shaped a successful Bollywood career for him, raised a family of three children who grew up to be people in their own right and most importantly gave a fresh lease of life to the modern Indian theatre scene through Prithvi theatre.    

All before Jennifer Kendal succumbed to cancer in 1984 leaving behind her parents, sister, three young children and a devastated husband whose personal and professional life went on a downward spiral from then on.
Shakespeare wallah is a unique movie in that respect. At least three out of the many characters are playing their real life stories in the movie.  It is a shame Jennifer’s real life role was played in the movie by her more glamorous sister Felicity younger to her by 11 years.  Jennifer herself plays a small and insignificant role as Mrs. Bowden, owner of the boarding house - Gleneagles.

Written by Ruth Prawer Jabhwala, directed by James Ivory and Produced by  Ismail Merchant this Black and white classic was released in the United Kingdom in 1965.

Satyajit Ray composed the music for the film.  
You cannot help but bow down to the sheer magic of Subrata Mitra’s black and white photography especially the breathtaking misty hill station of Kasauli where a good part of the film has been shot.      

If you appreciate classical movies of that genre  you can watch this movie’ free ‘on you tube.  

P.S :Yes, the best things in life mostly come free. 
For everything else there is the overpriced  multiplex at the mall nearest to you. 

 P. P. S: Jennifer you lucky woman … just how, just how ... did you manage to keep that fellow so resolutely a one woman man !!! … pchhh… :(



Friday, November 06, 2015

The incredible joy of being the SantaClaus

This is a submission for Thursday photo challenge where the theme for the week is

"TREATS" (Candy, Chocolate Bar, Cake, Pie, Ice Cream, Comfort Food,...)

Lessons in Humility at the Golden temple

To call it a structure symbolizing classic minimalism would be an oxymoron. The Harmandir Sahib or the Golden temple of Amritsar...